*****Author's note: Hello everyone! For those of you who celebrated the Fourth of July as I did, I hope you all had a safe an happy holiday! This chapter would have been up sooner, however my laptop decided to be a devil and update in the middle of, well, my update. There's a small moment of a possible sore spot for some so please read with caution. I do so hope you enjoy, and thank you all for the reviews. They mean more than you know!
As ever, none of these characters belong to me. That's all S.M.'s doing. I just like to place them in different situations. : ) ******
I was vacuuming the living room when Charlie walked in the next morning. He probably knocked, but when I didn't hear him her must've used his key.
I was around 10:00am Sunday morning and my house was close to immaculate. I had been up since 5 or so after a lackluster night of sleep and had begun a cleaning frenzy.
I held up, a finger to indicate to Charlie I was almost done and he nodded as he headed into my kitchen. I finished sweeping and almost tripped over the cord in an attempt to put the vacuum away. I wiped the imaginary dirt off my hands by way of my pants and headed into the kitchen myself. Charlie had already fixed himself a cup of coffee. I went to the fridge and got myself out a bottle of water. I already felt like a live wire and had discovered earlier this morning that coffee was not having its normal calming effect on me.
"House looks nice." Charlie observed.
"Thanks." I told him while unscrewing the cap off the top of my water and taking a big gulp.
"Your mother always cleaned when she was under a lot of stress." Charlie hedged.
"Yes, I remember very well." I replied.
"You going to tell me what happened last night?"
Why did you just read the report?" I asked him, amazed he hadn't thought of it.
"Sam assured me it was nothing serious, so I decided to wait and hear it from you."
"No one was changed with anything." I stated.
"I'm aware of that, thank you. Bella, I am your father. Quit skating around the issue. You asked me to wait till morning and I did. Out with it." He said in a no nonsense voice. I sighed and decided to see if he would take the abridged version.
"Edward came over. I didn't want to talk. He didn't want to listen. We yelled. End of story." I explained turning to look out the window over the sink. Maybe I could get some yard work done today…..
"What did Edward want to talk about?"
"Nothing I wanted to hear."
"Funny. I thought you just said he didn't want to listen."
"No. I didn't want to hear anything he wanted to say. He didn't want to listen when I told him to leave.
"That really clears it up." Charlie said making a face at my back. "No what aren't you telling me?"
I kept my eyes focused on the yard. "Edward invited me over for dinner yesterday."
"Ok…"he said gesturing with his hands for me to continue.
"I thought it was like, uh, like a date? Maybe?" I said. Why was it so hard to talk to my dad about this?
"And it wasn't?" He asked.
I snorted and shrugged my shoulders. "No, I guess it wasn't."
"Did he tell you that?" He inquired.
"He didn't have to. His fiance's introduction spoke loud and clear." Charlie made a choking sounds while trying to take a sip of his coffee turned me around from my window daydream.
He was red in the face and I beat feet over to pat him on the back.
"So you haven't talked since then?" He asked, still clearing his throat and wiping his mouth on a napkin with a final cough.
"No, and I don't want to." I told him.
Charlie sat silent for a moment and then placed his hand over top of mine on the table. It was such a simple gesture, but felt very reassuring.
"You and I are a lot alike honey, so can I give you a piece of advice?" I cocked my eyebrow at him and nodded once.
"Don't be so stubborn you start to stand in your own way."
"Jesus, no one is on my side here." I said turning away from him once again.
"Now you wait a minute pumpkin. Hear me out. Since you moved here all those years ago you and Edward are like some kind of magnets. You know it's not my nature to interfere, but you're both so busy pushing and pulling you don't even pay attention to the mechanics behind it. "He said.
"He lied to me, dad." I said, shaking my head at him.
"And what about you Bella?" He asked me "Did you ever lie to him?" He finished, already knowing the answer.
I walked back to my window and stared idly at a bird hopping through the grass searching for worms. His question had hurt. Yes. I had. On more than one occasion. And, yet it seemed, he had forgiven me my worst moment. Maybe I did owe it to him to hear him out.
After a trip to the grocery store I had decided to make a pot of Chili and read. The time spent in the kitchen preparing was very therapeutic. I was as my phone lit up and random from an array of people, though since I had it on silent I didn't pay much attention. A few times when Edward called I considered picking it up, but I hadn't formed what I wanted to say, and wasn't yet ready to talk. I picked up my worn copy of Sense and Sensibility and a bowl of my chili and snuggled down on the sofa. The hours passed in peaceful silence. I found my home in Eleanor's steadfast nature. She seldom let her emotions override her brain and I was envious. When I arrived to the portion of the book where Eleanor believes Edward has married Lucy Steele I had to stop and set t down.
Eleanor had been wrong. Had she stopped to ask….but all the evidence had been there? Even so, she had been wrong. And maybe I was too.
Monday morning still carried a slight chill and I dressed in layers hoping for an eventual warm up later in the day. I had still yet to return calls or texts. This was my way though. I stressed over the decision, because once it was made it was final. Therefor I always over thought.
By mid morning I had just enough customers to keep me up and moving and little time to contemplate, which was fine by me. It was just before 11 when my UPS guy, Bryan headed in the door.
"Morning Bella." He said with a smile pulling a Dolly behind him.
"Hey good morning. How's your day so far?" I asked him.
"Can't complain, no rain and it's not freezing." He said. You had to give it to him. He was the kind of guy who wore shorts year round, even though he rode around in a truck that basically had no doors.
"Very true, whatcha got?" I asked him, leaning over the counter to look at the boxes that were loaded on the dolly.
"These had your home address on them, but since I knew you were in the store today I figured better bring them here then leave them out on the porch." He told me.
I eyed the boxes. I hadn't ordered anything, but maybe Ang had and had accidentally clicked the wrong shipping address on them. I signed for them and we said our goodbyes. After he had left I sliced through the top box with my box cutters and inspected the contents. Inside was a bunch of composition notebooks. Upon inspecting the second box I found more of the same.
I had a small section near the register with writing utensils and journals and notebooks, but nothing that required this kind of stock, and I didn't remember placing an order recently. With everything else going on maybe I had just forgotten.
I went to the back and looked for my binder with my order invoices. I must have taken it home because I tore my back office apart and couldn't find the red binder anywhere. If it was in there, then a bunch of ninjas must have hid it damn well.
I checked the front sidewalk to make sure no one was headed in before I grabbed the boxes and hauled them out to the backseat of my car. I would check them when I got home.
I was eating a salad I had brought from home and surfing the web with the delivery kid from the other day came in. He was in the same uniform and was carrying a box identical to the one that had held the dead roses.
"Miss Swan?" He asked as he handed me the clipboard. I eyes the box suspiciously.
"I don't accept the delivery." I told him.
"Why not ma'am? It looks to be flowers." He said with his brow furrowed.
"I see that." I told him. "The last delivery that arrived was dead." I explained.
"I don't package them ma'am, I just deliver them. I can let them know they were damaged…" He continued.
"No, no. I think they were dead on purpose." I interrupted him.
"Who would do something like that?" He asked me looking genuinely surprised.
"I think I have an idea." I said, more to myself than to him.
"I'm sorry about that ma'am. I'm just supposed to make the deliveries. If I don't make my stops…"
I took the clipboard from him and signed it in haste.
"Look can you stand here for a minute while I toss these in the dumpster out back? I don't want to have them stink up the shop till the end of the day. If anyone comes in please just explain I'll be right back in?"
"Sure thing, no problem ma'am" He replied exchanging the now signed clipboard for the box.
I walked to the back again and out to the dumpster. I tossed the box in with a loud sigh. I couldn't deal with this happening repeatedly. I was going to have to call dad at the station and file some kind of report.
I took a few deep cleansing breaths and made my way back in again.
"Thanks. I'm good now." I called to the front. When I checked around the corner the kid was already gone. He really was kind of strange.
I picked up my cell phone and noticed I had more texts from Edward, Alice, Rose, and even one from Jasper. I read Jasper's while ignoring the others. He simply said 'Contrary to popular belief, it's not that long of a jump to the wrong conclusion.' I left out yet another long sigh and headed to the front counter.
I began with Rose. I picked up the shop line since it was pretty dead for the afternoon and dialed her cell.
"Hey." She said as she picked up the phone.
"Hey." I replied. "I'm sorry." I told her quietly.
"Yeah me too. I didn't mean to be so rough the other night."
"No, it's ok. I deserved it." I told her.
"Have you talked to him yet?" She asked.
"Not yet. Not sure the best way to say 'sorry I was a bitch but I didn't know you were engaged.' Honestly what am I supposed to say?" I told her.
"Don't talk. Just listen. This thing with you two…never mind. Just listen. Okay? It's not my story to tell. Same as yours wasn't."
"Yeah." I replied lamely. "Yeah okay."
"And don't go shooting Vodka before the conversation either." She chided.
"Kill joy." I whined back at her.
"Love you bitch. Call him soon."
"Love you too hooker. I'll keep you posted." I said before I hung up the phone.
I went about the process of decided who to call next. Alice was bound to be a longer conversation, so I decided on Jasper. I dealt with a customer coming in looking for a new copy of "To kill a mockingbird." Apparently her son had lost his first copy he had been given at school. After that I tried Jasper. His phone went to voice mail so I left him a message thanking him for his advice and told him I would take it to heart.
I helped a few more customers and was about five minutes to closing when I finally decided to call Alice. I dialed her number on my cell and was equal parts praying she would pick up and that it would go to voice mail.
She answered after one and a half rings.
"Isabella Swan, don't you dare do that to me again. You can pull a lot of shit but your silent treatment is for the birds. I have been both worried about you and furious with you! Do you have any idea how frustrating that is?!"
She had every right to yell. I had a bad habit of shutting people out, and she wasn't telling me anything new.
""I'm sorry Al. I wasn't thinking." I replied.
"You're damn right you weren't." She shot back at me. "I hope you've decided to quite that crap."
"I know you're mad. I get it. You've got every right."
"Do you want to explain what happened?" She asked me.
"Your brother invited me over to dinner, and I got the wrong impression. I thought it was a date or something. I don't know. But then when his fiancé showed up I was a little thrown off."
"Have you bothered to talk to him about this?"
"No I called you first."
"When are you?"
"I'm calling him tonight." I said while I flipped the closed sign on the front door.
"Well good. You can't afford to wait much longer." She told me. I wasn't sure what she meant by that. "And when you get a second, call my mom. She was beside herself."
Esme... I had run out so fast I had forgotten she was even there through the whole exchange.
"I will." I told her.
"Alright then." She said and took a deep breath. "Don't do that again. I can't stand it, okay?" She said, he voice now much calmer.
"I won't Al. I promise."
"Fine. You had better keep me posted." She told me.
"I'll call you tomorrow. Well go to dinner or something." We agreed and hung up on much better terms.
I finished up closing the store and exited out back. I took my time on the way home and blared some 'Brass Monkey' to help improve my mood. I kept telling myself it was like a Band-Aid. The quicker the better.
The sun was already set by the time I got home, and I let myself in. I carried in the boxes from the store and then grabbed a coke out of the fridge. I walked back out to my front porch, past my swing and sat down on the stoop. Before I could change my mind I dialed Edwards's number.
"Hello?" His voice carried through the phone and I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
"Hey, it's Bella." I said. Well that was as far as I had gotten. Chuck Norris help me because I was on my own now.
"There's this thing called caller ID… I was aware who was calling." He replied. I heard a car door shut on his side of the phone.
"Did I catch you at a bad time? I can let you go." The chicken in me wanted him to say yes. The teenager in me wanted him to say no.
"I was on my way out to the store when you called. Good try chicken little." He said with a small chuckle.
"Look, I'm sorry. Let me talk for a minute and then you can say whatever you want to me, okay?" I asked him.
"Be my guest" He replied sarcastically.
"When you invited me over, I was under the impression….well… okay so I thought it was a date. I know. Stupid. But when your fiancé showed up I was mortified. Your sister kindly reminded me I ran out on your mom too, and don't worry I have every intention on apologizing to Esme for my behavior. But I was embarrassed. No, more than that, I was humiliated, and you know how well I deal with being put on the spot. Fight or flight. It's just, well, it's just my natural reaction."
"Next time try for a little more fight Bella." He said quietly.
I looked up as headlights pulled into my driveway. I didn't even need to look to know it would be Edward's car. I watched as he ended the phone call in the glow of his dome light and stepped out. He was dressed in a well-worn pair of jeans with a hole in the knee and a NYU sweatshirt that looked like it may have seen better days. Nonetheless he was a sight to behold. He ran his hands through his hair as he approached and as he did so his shirt rode up and exposed a small strip of toned flesh. I felt my traitor heart react in double time and I unconsciously wiped my palms on my jeans. My reaction to him was always instant. I wondered idly if anyone would evoke the reaction in me that just the sight of Edward could for me. Sadly I didn't think so.
He sidled up beside me on the stop and sat down on the stoop. He was close enough for me to smell the scent of clean soap and grass and Edward that rolled off him. I inhaled deeply. We sat there quietly for a few moments, both staring down at the concrete.
"She's not my fiancé." He said flatly.
"Yeah. I remember you yelling something like that from the lawn." I said tugging on my ponytail.
"I did date her." He said in the same voice.
I made a noise in my throat acknowledging his statement, waiting for him to continue.
"It was during my second year. It wasn't anything serious. Well not to me anyway. But after a while she started showing up everywhere I went. Calling all the time. It started to get ridiculous." He continued. I nodded as he spoke, even though he wasn't looking at me. "You warned me something like that would happen and I always thought you were crazy." He said shaking his head.
"After I told her I wouldn't be seeing her anymore, she made an attempt at suicide. I felt guilty about that for a very long time." And I could hear the sorrow in his voice. "Anyway, after that it got to the point of me having to get a restraining order. Let me tell you what a pain in the ass process that is." He said with a sad short laugh. "I had to change some classes, get a new phone number, but in the end it was worth it. When Alice and I left to come back here for a visit she must have found a way to track me down. Someone who wasn't aware of the whole situation probably helped, but there isn't much I can do about that. She showed up about 10 minutes before you did. I had already called the police, but you managed to arrive before your dad. And you just took off. I didn't even get a chance to explain."
"I'm sorry." I told him. I sat processing the story. It wasn't much, but an apology was all I had.
"You got to stop running from me." He said turning his green eyes on me and I felt like I was being burned from the inside out.
"I thought…."I began.
"You thought wrong. Too many times. So have I." He said sadly staring at my hands clasped in my lap.
We sat in a mutual silence for a few moments watching a car make its way up the street.
"Do you want something to drink?" I asked making a motion towards the front door.
"No, I'm good. I have to run to the store and get home for some sleep." I remembered something suddenly.
"When I talked to Alice, she made it seem like if I didn't talk to you tonight I might not get the chance." I said by way of asking.
"Oh. I've got a job interview down in Aberdeen tomorrow." He replied. Aberdeen was about two hours south of Forks, and my heart began to slow. He may be going for good. And soon.
"Wow. Well good luck." I told him, trying to inflect some enthusiasm in my voice.
"I'm not looking forward to the drive, but the starting salary would be hard to object. I figured why not."
"Why not." I echoed his last statement and he gave me a funny look. Edward leaned sideways and knocked his shoulder against mine. I looked at him and gave him a weak smile.
"You better get on your way then." I said sadly.
"I'll call you when I get back tomorrow night." He said and I nodded.
He leaned over and very gently kissed my temple. I shut my eyes and relished in the feeling of the whisper of his soft lips. Without another word he stood and wiped his hands on the back of his jeans. I watched as he made his way back to his car, and then he turned to me before he got in.
"Ms. Dashwood?" He called to me.
"Yes, Mr. Ferrars?" I replied.
"Let me know if you do any good reading. I'm running dangerously low on book recommendations." He said with a small smile.
"Will do." I replied with a small salute. I sat watching him pull down the driveway, and waited till I could no longer see his taillights before getting up and going in the house.
I set about making myself a small dinner. I wasn't very hungry but I knew I needed to eat. Thankfully I found my red binder in the kitchen next to my recipe binder. I really must have been out of it the past few days. I took it, and my dinner into the living room, and turned on the TV to some reality trash show. Now that I had my binder, I should be able to locate when I placed the order that arrived today.
Reopening the first box I began to dig for the invoice slip that should be inside. I hit the bottom before I ever found an invoice. I began loading the notebooks back into the box, figuring the invoice must be in the other box when something caught my eye. There in the corner of the white label on the very front were a set of initials.
I quick inspection confirmed they were on each of the notebooks in the box along with a series of numbers. There must be 50 in the one box in front of me alone. I dug through until I found the one labeled "E.C. -1". Slowly opening the cover to the one in my lap, I was greeted by the sight of handwriting I could recognize as easily as my own. I brought my hands to my mouth and my breath caught as I read the first passage.
"Today turned out a lot better than I had thought it would. We got a new student at school today. Her name is Isabella Swan, and I don't think I've ever met anyone like her."
*****So now, tell me what you think my loves!*****