Chapter One – 8th April 2004 – Holy Thursday Hello

The radio blared it's chronic disparity with the governors of the economy as the kitchenette's windows fogged against the warm heat emanating from the pan on the stove. The rashers of cheap stringy bacon and sausages were well on their way to becoming overdone by the time they were taken off the heat.

"C'mon Pops," Edward called as he dropped the pan back onto the stove and turned off the gas. He tossed his Grandfather's Chicago Tribune onto the tabletop and placed his dosette box next to his glass of OJ; Edward Senior would moan about it but he'd eventually listen to reason and swallow the pills back.

"Pops, it's getting cold!" he tried again and flinched as the hot pan brushed his wrist, "fuck."

Ed Senior still hadn't arrived by the time he'd finished plating breakfast so he wiped his hands on the nearest dish towel and made his way to Ed's bedroom at the other end of the apartment. Ed's door was slightly ajar and Edward knocked courteously before pushing it open at his Grandfather's irritated response.

The closet door opened a fraction.

"What're you doin' in there?" Edward asked and laughed as his Grandfather peeked out from behind the wood.

It was the third time this week – Ed was, as of recent, convinced he was in a constant state of being robbed.

"I should be askin' you the same question, Sonny! This is my property, Punk!"

"C'mon Pops," Edward coaxed him out of the closet with a leading arm on his shoulder, "It's me, Junior – go and sit in the kitchen before I finish your breakfast for you."

Ed shrugged him off.

"What're they servin' up today, Boyo? I swear they're putting steroids in the food, make us stronger an' that – I won't have no steroids put in my bacon for the sake of Vietnam!"

Edward chuckled and led Ed to the table; getting Ed to do anything without suspicion lately was like trying to find water in the desert; as Ed had recounted many a time - "You can take the man out of the navy, but you can't take the navy out of the man".

"What's all this about Iraq then?" Ed mumbled as he forked scrambled eggs into his mouth and scoured the headlines from the paper, "they fire our squadron and then go and start up another operation? These governmental whackos -"

"Think you're fifty years too late, Pops," Edward informed him, "it's 2004, remember?"

"If you say so," Ed shrugged and returned to his paper.

Edward smiled and returned to squeezing the last of the ketchup onto his bacon sandwich.

"I'm working until late tonight so Mrs Cope said she'd come and keep you company until I come back – you want a prayer saying at Mass?"

"You say one for my Charlotte," Ed nodded.

"Alright, Pops," he agreed, knowing the answer was the same every time he asked, "TV remote's on your chair, lunch is in the refrigerator -"

"I know, Junior," Ed gruffed from his seat.

Edward snatched his tool-belt from the edge of his kitchen chair before doing the morning rounds; he unplugged the phone from the socket -Ed had an annoying habit of using the dial for Morse code- and collected the mail from the mat, ignoring the blaring red lettering that was stamped on the envelopes.

Mary Cope was fully aware of having to entertain Ed for the afternoon and was planning a night of scrabble for the pair which immediately set Edward at ease; Ed was difficult enough at times without the added pressure of being called home halfway through a job because he'd hidden Mary's credit cards.

"Seeya later, Pops!"

He got off the bus somewhere in the middle of the Back of The Yards, a couple of blocks from the gates to the Union Stock Yards and walked the three blocks south to the contracted site where he was roofing the new housing project. Volterra Constructions had been the contracted company granted the development project back in '03 and Edward was lucky to have been accepted as an apprentice under Garrett Anderson; by all rights he should have been flipping burgers for the Tavern on West 43rd; college had been out of the question for a retired grandfather living off his social security checks.

"Edward!" Garrett boomed as he pushed through the card-operated turnstile, "nice of you to show up this fine morning!"

"Sorry," Edward breathed, tightening his tool belt around his waist, "Ed was having another episode this morning-"

"S'alright, Edward," Garrett waved a hand in dismissal, "I just needed a quick word before you joined the boys."

Edward eyed Garrett with a wary glance, he couldn't count the number of times he'd been late over the past month and management were busting his ass left, right and center about his tardiness; he couldn't afford another dock in pay.

"Don't look so glum," Garrett chuckled, "I'm just giving you some fair warning," his tone became serious, " –Volterra might not be contracting with the new developments in Pilsen. It might be wise to start looking for employment just out of state-"

"They're making cuts already?" Edward hissed.

"It didn't come from me," Garrett warned, "rumor has it Indiana's the next place for investment, get yourself contracted out there and you've hit a goldmine – J. Jenks takes boys right over to the Big Apple."

"Fuck," Edward gripped the back of his neck, "what about Ed? Volterra's not even considering the proposal in Chatham?"

"It's not worth the financial risk, management says the areas stable enough for a few more years until profits can be seen from the Yards project."

"Shit," Edward cursed, "have you told Ben? He's got a kid on the way-"

"I'll make sure to give him a heads up."

"Thanks, Garrett-"

"No need," Garrett held a hand up, "you just get yourself out there pronto."

Edward made his way over to the main site where the guys were already putting down the corrugated iron roofing under a heavy-duty tarpaulin. Some of the guys he worked with would probably never find out about the rumor until they were handed a two-week end of employment notice and a severance check. The guilt in swift pursuit of this knowledge was unsettling but Edward was rather selfish in that it gave him ample time to fight for work with less competition. He punched himself in after changing in the box-car 'staff-room' and grabbed a hard-hat and a fluorescent vest before joining the other roofers sixty feet up.

He mulled his way through eleven hours of grueling work before finally clocking off sometime around seven; Ben and the boys were talking about gathering for a drink over at McCarty's later that evening but Edward knew Ed was probably giving Mary the Spanish inquisition back in his coveted closet.

With a heavy sigh, Edward tossed his protective gear into the equipment compound and joined the queue for the 47 back to Canaryville. Just as he stepped off onto South Wallace, the skies opened and pelted him, dousing his threadbare jacket in freezing rain until he managed to skip the steps of St Gabriel's.

He took a seat at one of the back pews and shook the rain from his unkempt hair before settling back and allowing Father Hughes to take over the service. Edward never really minded the tradition and sanctity of the church, especially since Ed had brought him up in a strict Catholic household, it was one of Grandma Charlotte's final demands ever since he was reprimanded at school for having won a punch-out with Mike Newton.

"No grandson of mine is going to become some loose-fisted hooligan! You let him get away with murder, Ed!"

"Kid's gotta stick up for himself, Lottie – if they don't learn at five, they end up dead at twenty-!" Ed had defended him.

"Do you want him to end up like his father?"

Ed hadn't a comeback for that one. Grandma Charlotte had won outright.

It was Holy Thursday that particular night in April, the congregation were dressed to the nines and Edward felt a little out of place in his stone-wash jeans and work- mandated Carhartt jacket. He tucked the beanie he'd been fiddling with into his pocket and tried to straighten himself up as Mrs Banner waved from a few pews in front.

Spending time in church and attending mass was difficult as of recent due to Ed's deterioration; people were usually accommodating of Ed's involuntary behaviour, but the pitying glances and the several stops in the Father's service due to his enraged outbursts had been the last few straws for Edward.

He stood to his feet when Father Hughes mentioned they would be singing the Gloria alongside the ringing of the bells before the Easter Vigil. The congregation was never in tune, how Edward knew this he would never know, but his ear for musical cadence and harmony was particularly astute for such a musical amateur as he – or so his high-school music teacher had expressed.

Had he not sat at the back of the church, in the furthest pew from the pulpit, he would have never registered the clicking lock of the entrance door. He instantly bristled when somebody tripped into his pew and his voice cracked momentarily as he turned his head to observe the latecomer.

The hymn died on his lips.

If it weren't for the heaving of her breast; the jarred intake of her breath, alongside a hairline splice in her cheek, he might've rejoined the congregation and paid no further heed to the young woman on his right. He tried to ignore her fidgeting as Father Hughes began a reading, but she was a wrench in his usually concentrated system.

She was red.

Apple'd cheeks foregrounded by a bloody trail, figure clothed in a draping of carmine – a sore thumb in a sea of plum and ivory.

Her body curled into the book-end of the pew, arms pulled around herself. Edward imagined she was probably just sheltering from the rain – caught in a shower just as she was making her way to the local bar; St. Gabriel's would never say anything untoward, the congregation were - for the majority of the time – very welcoming and considerate.

"O good Jesu, listen to me;

In Thy wounds I fain would hide;

Ne'er to be parted from Thy side;

Guard me, should the foe assail me;

Call me when my life shall fail me..."

He was somewhat unnerved by her lack of attire – a mini dress and de-threaded nylons, cheap to the eye and ill-fitting for the occasion. If Ed were beside him as per the norm, he'd have made a snide few comments a little above a whisper to ensure the girl heard, and Edward couldn't tell whether he would have agreed with that very thought or been righteously indignant.

Something nagged at his gut and he felt almost obligated to offer her something to wipe the blood from her cheek, yet his pockets were empty and neither Ed or Grandma Charlotte had instilled the need for him to carry tissues for precautionary purposes.

He was ill- equipped to deal with the girl and after a few deliberating moments, returned his attention back to the pulpit. Father Hughes had previously nominated twelve members of the congregation to have their feet washed in a reflection of the twelve apostles. Edward was pleased to note that Mr Banner his old biology teacher had made the cut for the year.

He was startled once again by the girl at his right when she dropped the bible she had begun to flick through; the thump on the concrete floor turned several heads including his own. The girl's cheeks flared to almost the same color of her dress and she shoved the bible unceremoniously onto the pew ledge and fumbled with her hands instead. She didn't seem to care for the service and remained silent through the hymns, yet constantly fidgeted and drew attention to herself when the rest of the congregation silenced.

She was starting to grate on his nerves.

"You know," he whispered in her direction, "you don't have to be here – this isn't jail."

She turned and eyed him with considerable offense, her cheeks never receding in color. She stopped biting her thumbnail long enough to snip back a retort.

"Go fly a kite, Altar Boy."

He was interrupted by the distribution of holy communion and pretended not to be aggravated when she waved the offering away.

Why even be here at all?

When the service had finally ended and he'd knelt to pray for Ed's requested persons, he was surprised to note that the sullen figure in red was still slumped in her seat with no indication of leaving like the rest of the congregation.

"Why do you kneel down like that?"


"On the floor," she motioned, "why can't you just pray on the bench?"

"It's a pew – but never mind, it's a sign of respect and reverence to kneel before God – hey, it's not funny," he frowned, noting the giggle that she choked back.

"I'm sorry," she crossed her arms over herself again, "but it is a bit, c'mon, admit it...kneeling to this invisible guy in the sky."

"It's not funny in the slightest," he deadpanned, irritated by her brash approach to his devotion.

"Oh, you're one of those people."

"Come again?"

"Y'know – the Lordy types."

"And I suppose you're one of those people?" he retorted.

"Jedi though and through."

"What? That's not even a religion-"

"I think you'll find it is-"

"Star Wars is not a religion," he argued with a sense of just finality.

"Wanna bet?" she raised her brows.

He decided to manoeuvre away from the topic of religion – always a point of argument – and raised the question over her being in the church in the first place. Who walked into a church, bloody and frantic and then blatantly laughed at it's traditions and customs?

"Oh," she brushed her fingers over the cut on her cheek, smudging the congealed blood with her fingertips, "I didn't know it was there – don't we have to, like, leave now or something?" she began to fidget again and looked towards the priest who was clearing the area where he'd washed the feet of the congregation.

"St Gabriel's stays open for a few more hours yet," he informed her, a little perturbed by the calm that washed over her at his supplied information. He glanced at his watch and blanched at the late hour -Ed would be going frantic right about now.

"Do you have to go?" the girl suddenly asked, "I can move – here," she stumbled out of the pew and made a pathway that he could walk straight through without tripping over her legs. He eyed her warily and noted how she seemed to curl into herself as she stood; she was freezing.

"Look," he sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, "I think we got off on the wrong foot earlier-"

"Forget it," she shrugged, her eyes never leaving her feet, "I get it all the time."

"No," Edward replied, "I'm sorry, I didn't have to snap at you like I did – it's just been a long day and I thought coming here would give me a bit of a breather."

"So I invaded your space?" the girl asked, irritation evident in her voice, "well, sorry, but this is a free country and the last I checked the church was, like, sanctuary or whatever -"

"We're not a place for bar stops and shelter from the rain – people here actually come because they care about-"

"Oh save it, Canary," the girl hissed, "save the good boy act for someone who cares," she said as she brushed past him and headed for the church entrance.

He drew a calming breath before leaving the church and pulled his hood up against the lashing rain as he stepped to the edge of the curb.

The girl had gone.

Ed had never lived more than a five minute walk from St Gabriel's and Edward was thankful for that as he ambled home, head ducked and shrouded by his Carrhart hood; he didn't expect to stumble upon someone considering the late hour and the weather, yet he tried to stand his ground as he collided with a stationary body at the corner of the block.

"Oh, sorry – wasn't looking where I was goin'," he steadied the person in front and took a step backwards.

"Now we're even," a familiar voice deadpanned, snatching her arm away from Edward's cautionary hold.

"Christ," Edward breathed in annoyance; she was everywhere.

"Are you even allowed to say that?" the girl in red raised a brow, "pretty sure you're breaking a rule or two there, Altar Boy."

"Oh, I think the Lord will understand," he snarked back – since when was he easily irritated? Edward liked to think that he wasn't so much of a hot-head as this girl made him out to be, "what're you doin' just standing there?"

The girl looked a little flustered at his question and shrugged a little before taking off again with only her red dress to protect her from the rain.

As much as Edward was frustrated by the girl, he couldn't allow her to walk the streets without a jacket or even some accompaniment – Canaryville was a progressive neighborhood but it was still Chicago; he didn't want to have to question his morals when he woke up to a new homicide on the nine am news.

"Hey, can I walk you home?" he jogged to her side and fell in line with her hurried pace.

"I'm not going home," she said and continued her power walk to some unknown destination.

"At least let me give you some bus fare so you can get out of the rain," he offered, immediately reaching into his pocket where his fare for the next morning rested. The girl groaned and jarred his pace when she stopped ramrod in the middle of the sidewalk once again.

"I don't need charity, Altar Boy," she fisted her hands on her hips and squared her eyes in order to impart a bravado bigger than her small frame let on. He was somewhat amused by her stance; barely five foot four and a hundred and ten pounds, body angled towards him in an authoritative lear.

"Don't laugh at me," she hissed as he allowed the laughter to spill from his lips. She tried to look unmoved by his attempt to bite back the uncontrollable urge to laugh at the absurdity of her lamb-like presence by swatting away a piece of damp hair that was plastered to her wounded cheek.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't laughing at you," he lied, "c'mon, it's not charity if I walk you home now is it?"

"I told you, I'm not going home."

"So you're walking the street for what?"

"A bar."

"So you're just making random stops to Canaryville's highlights?"

"What's gotten you so interested?" she snapped, "you couldn't wait to get rid of me earlier."

"I'm not, I'm just not willing to let another psycho -"

"Oh boo hoo, he'll be doing me a favor," she interrupted him and swiped another smattering of dampened hair from her face.

A favor? What kind of person wished to be the victim of a potential killer? Edward swallowed thickly and tried not to make it obvious that she – although highly annoying – was a lost and lonely young woman; he pitied anyone who welcomed death with such ease.

She'd been wearing a considerable amount of mascara Edward noted, her eyes were ringed in charcoal black which only served to highlight the pallid complexion of her skin; she had been made up for somebody and yet here she was, walking the street with nothing but a red swatch on her frame and a cut blazoned on her cheekbone to signify her seemingly rough night.

"Just tell me where you're going so I can see you off safely," he sighed – this girl would be the death of him if he wasn't careful, "or I'll just follow you," he warned as she turned to set off again.

"Eugh," she threw her hands up in defeat, "you're just so – eugh!" she gritted through clenched teeth.

"At your service," he smirked, "where would the lady like to go?"

"You're not some psycho yourself are you?"

Edward bristled, more than a little offended.

"How do I know you're not the psycho, eh?"

"Because I'm vegetarian," she answered smugly.

"That doesn't mean you're not a killer," he shook his head in disbelief.

"Hey, if I care enough not to want to harm bunnies and piglets, I sure as hell don't have any interest in slaying the human population," she countered.

"You're seriously defending yourself with that?"



"As a heart attack."

"I guess I'm safe then," he answered in mock satisfaction.

"It's a sin to kill people, right?"

"Oh, I see where you're going with this," Edward rolled his eyes.

"So, direct me to Platt House, Altar Boy."

"Wait," Edward furrowed his brow, "Platt House?"

If anything stood out more in his childhood than volunteering with Grandma Charlotte at the women's shelter, he would be damned; every woman in the nearest vicinity had pinched his six-year old cheeks until they were raw, and eighteen years later he still felt the burning sensation wash over his cheeks at the mere memory.

Platt House. Women's shelter.

He glanced back over at the girl who had suddenly recoiled from her lioness bravado and curled back into herself. There was a silence that lingered between them for an uncomfortable few moments until the girl began to fidget again and brushed her hands up and down her goosed skin to strike warmth into her bones. It wasn't his place to ask about her circumstances he told himself but he felt strangely obligated to help the young woman out even if she had presented herself as an annoyance only half an hour before.

"Wear this," Edward suddenly volunteered, stripping himself of his jacket and holding it out to her; why she didn't own a jacket in the first place was something Edward couldn't comprehend, but her desired destination didn't leave much to the imagination.

"You'll get wet," she answered quietly; tentative. He shrugged and proffered the jacket closer to her body until she finally took it from him and allowed it to envelope her rawboned body.

"My beanie is in the pocket, that's if you want it – your hair..." he trailed off.

"Thanks," she murmured and dipped her hand into the jacket pocket. The beanie was elasticated enough to accommodate the makeshift bun she wrapped her hair into and she flashed him a hesitant, appreciative smile before presenting herself with open palms.

"How do I look?"

"Cosy," Edward nodded, "a damn sight better than the drowned rat look you were going for a few seconds ago."

"You're a terrible Catholic," she teased at his light curse and he shook his head.

"I'd like to say I'm a progressive Catholic," he admitted, "a few slip and slides here and there as long as you have the right intentions at heart."

"Okay, I take that back," she chuckled and allowed him to set the pace of their newly adopted stroll, "you're a Lordy type through and through."

"Well you're a terrible Jedi, anyway," he teased, "I think you left your lightsaber back at St Gabriel's."

"Is that the name of the church?"

"Yeah," he nodded, "how come you were there if you aren't religious?"

"Woah, wait a second," she halted, "do I have to tattoo Jedi on my forehead or what?"

"Come on," Edward shot her a no-nonsense look.

"Sorry, but you're so easy," she took a step into the road without looking for oncoming traffic, "I like churches, what can I say?" she flipped over her shoulder as Edward held back to check both left and right. She was being coy and deviating from the truth again and Edward accepted that she probably wouldn't give him a straight answer even if he tried to beat it out of her; she was a riddle within a riddle, and he guessed that she was rather in tune with that knowledge, using it in a slightly flirtatious, enigmatic sort of manner.

He sidled back up to her after crossing the street and fell into a relaxed jaunt beside her, smiling inwardly at the way his work jacket drowned her small frame so that only her head and calves were separate from the russet colored fabric.

"This is it," Edward motioned towards the shelter with a curt nod, it didn't look as though the reception was open and Edward glanced back at his watch. Mary was going to kill him.

"Do you know what time it closes?" he turned to the girl expecting her to know the ins and outs of the place; Edward hadn't volunteered since Charlotte had taken ill and he'd never returned to the shelter in all the time since she had passed.

"My friend never told me it closed," she sighed, "I thought it was a 24/7 kind of place."

"I'll go check," Edward offered and skipped up the steps to the front door. His attention was immediately drawn to the laminated notice taped to the wooden slats – no entry after nine pm.

She'd missed intake by seven minutes.

He cursed and tripped back down the steps to the girl who was glumly kneading the toe of her sneaker into the sidewalk.

"I guess St Gabriel's isn't a 24/7 place either, huh?" she attempted to joke but Edward could see straight through the thin veil that was her nonchalant exterior.

"Is there anyone else you can stay with for the night?" he pressed, unsure of what type of place or environment she was looking for.

"No," she sighed dolefully and slumped onto the edge of the sidewalk, supporting the side of her head with an elbow balanced on her knee as she chewed her lips in thought.

"What about your friend?"

"She's not my friend, not really" the girl scrunched her nose in obvious distaste at the memory of her so-called 'friend', "she just moved out of state anyway."

Edward grimaced at the frantic way in which the young woman chewed at her lip until the fragile, pale skin was coated in a rubious layer of fresh blood. She mirrored his expression once the metallic taste of her torn flesh registered on the tip of her tongue; she really had nowhere else to go. He had no obligation, no impetus to help the girl who had been finicky for the majority of the night, choosing ambiguity over clarity, drawing him no closer to understanding her underlying truths and strife. He rotated his wrist once more and panicked at the lateness of the hour; he'd never left Mary this long with Ed and she had no way of contacting him if Ed was being difficult, he had to get back to the apartment quick.

But the girl.

Ed always said he was weak-willed when it came down to a pretty face - it ran in the Cullen genes; Edward was beginning to feel completely powerless in the face of the girl's plight.

He sucked in a labored breath and offered a hand out to the girl on the curb.

Her eyes flickered to his and he understood the terrified, questioning look that pinched at her brow.

"My place isn't much," he explained with a sigh, "and my grandfather is a bit of an imposition, but there's a warm bed there, a roof and some food – I don't know how much of its vegetarian though."

"You don't have to be nice to me, Altar Boy," she looked away from his proffered hand and across the street.

"It's Edward," he informed her, " Edward Cullen – and I'm not being nice, well, I suppose I am, but it's just a bed and a roof-"

"I don't know you-"

"I don't know you," he countered, "we're even, I promise not to extort you or keep you hostage if you promise not to rob me blind. Deal?"

She looked up at him as though he had a screw loose.

"I really have to get back," he warned her, "but you're making it harder for me," he admitted, shuffling his feet at the anxiety brought on by the lateness of his return to the apartment.

She ran the tip of her tongue over her bloodied lip, then drew her teeth over the wounded flesh as she mentally weighed over her options.

She looked back up at him with a bleary, bloodshot stare; exhaustion at its finest.

"Just for a night," she warned,"I don't do this whole friendship, polite thingy – by the morning I'll be gone."

"Fine with me," Edward replied, "you wouldn't want to stay and chat with my grandfather longer than necessary anyway," he smiled.

"Okay," the girl clambered to her feet.

"You good?"

"Yeah," she nodded, "I'm vegetarian, you're Catholic and we're good," she recited, seemingly trying to justify the safety of her actions.

He lead her back up the street and followed the highly lit areas home to ensure she felt a modicum of safety. She followed him silently up the three flights of stairs to Ed's apartment and held back as a few gruff shouts echoed from behind the door. Edward fumbled for his keys a little more frantic and shoved the door open as Ed's shouts continued to ring throughout the kitchen.

"I told you to get off of my property!" he raged, frying pan in hand as Mary Cope begged him to drop the weapon from the living area.

"Pops!" Edward admonished as he entered the apartment. He stormed right up to his grandfather and wrenched the frying pan from his fist, "I told you not to touch stuff in the kitchen!"

"You tell her to get out!" Ed pointed to Mary.

Edward rolled his eyes and grabbed the TV remote, handing it to Ed as he maneuvered him to his favorite chair.

"Stay there," he warned his grandfather and went to meet Mary who had stalked over to the coat rack to collect her belongings.

"Mary, I'm so sorry-"

"Don't," Mary held a hand up to stop him, "you can't keep doing this Edward," she told him as she wrenched her bag over her shoulder, "he's a very, very ill man and he needs assisted living if you're going to be away for long periods of time."

"I can't afford-"

"You need to do something, Edward. Look into Medicaid, sell the apartment – Ed can't stay here like he used to, it's unfair to both him and you, and I can't look after him if he's going to draw a frying pan every time he has a moment. I won't do it anymore."

Edward nodded glumly and saw Mary out of the door before turning back to Ed.

"You just had to blow it, didn't you?" Edward muttered in frustration. Ed continued to watch a re-run of a '78 White Sox game and ignored his frustration as though the past five minutes had been a figment of Edward's imagination.

"Shit," Edward turned around and faced the girl he'd brought home, "I'm sorry you had to see that," he apologized.

She shrugged as though the whole situation hadn't phased her, "my grandma went completely batty before she clocked it."

Edward chuckled at her blunt explanation and motioned towards the kitchen.

"You hungry?"

"Starving," she nodded, following him to the counter.

He checked the cupboards and was a little embarrassed to find that he had little offer apart from some pasta and tomato sauce.

"It's not the most gourmet meal but it'll see us through the night," he said as he dumped the pasta into the boiling saucepan, "do you want to watch this while I go and get you something warm to wear?"

She nodded and took over the cooking as he went to find some old clothes that might fit; he couldn't wait to see the back of her ragged nylons. He flicked through his meager belongings and snapped a t-shirt and some sweatpants from the hangers in his closet, he barely wore either item that hailed from his sophomore year in high-school and he was pretty sure if she curled the waistband of the pants that they would be a snug fit. He changed out of his sodden clothes and chucked them into the bathroom hamper to take to the launderette later in the week.

He was perturbed to find that Ed was reprimanding the girl back in the kitchen when he returned and was about to intervene when Ed's words stopped him dead in his tracks.

"What are you wearing, Lizzie?" he admonished, "go and change right now, young lady," he ordered, trying to take over the cooking that he'd left her to do.

"Pops," Edward pulled himself from the sharp shock, "this is-" he turned to the girl a little embarrassed that they were still technically strangers.

"-Marie," the girl answered quickly.

"Yeah, this is my friend Marie," Edward told him.

"I told you to get changed young lady, if your mother were home to see this she would throw a fit," Ed ignored them both.

Edward knew it was fruitless.

"Okay, Pops, Lizzie will go and get changed," he motioned to the clothes he had placed on the counter-top, "first door on the left," he turned to Marie.

"If Lottie had seen her in that," Ed stated dramatically.

"I know, I know," Edward calmed him.

Marie returned a few moments later and hesitated in the hall between the bedrooms and the kitchen. Edward had taken the pasta off the stove and was serving it up on the plates with sauce, he caught Marie in his peripheral and allowed her a few moments of solitude to take in her surroundings before calling her for dinner.

"I, uh – didn't have anything to wipe my face," she explained as she accepted the plate from Edward.

"I'll get you a washcloth after dinner," Edward offered and led her to the two-person couch next to Ed's chair.

"Good game, Pops?" Edward called to Ed as he slumped into the chair, Marie following close behind.

"No, I already know what happens," he muttered.

"Suppose that's the downside of reruns," Edward turned to Marie with a laugh; she forced a smile.

"You okay?" he whispered.

"Who's Lizzie?" she asked while pausing the movement of her fork.

"My Mom," he told her truthfully, "I guess you look like her, so it triggers something with him-"

"You guess?"

"I don't remember her," he explained.

"Oh, I'm sorry-"

"Don't be," he encouraged, "It's her own fault, Pops is enough for me."

They ate dinner in silence after that, the din of the TV filling the void as forks scraped across the plates and Ed's snores sounded from his chair. Edward took Marie's plate from her once she had finished eating and moved into the kitchen where he flicked on the radio and washed the dishes to the sound of an acoustic melody. He washed and dried the cutlery and returned Ed's frying pan to where it belonged.

Once everything was clean, he grabbed a washcloth from the linen closet and the first aid kit from under the sink before returning to Marie who was half asleep on the couch.

"Here, let me look at your cheek before you go to bed," he motioned to the crimson streak down the fleshy curve of her cheek. He cautiously brushed away the dried strands of her hair behind her ear and gently pressed his fingertips to the wound to check that it was merely superficial. It was a shallow cut and he wiped away the blood before dabbing some salve onto it to prevent dirt and bacteria from infecting it.

"Can I ask you something?" he asked as he pulled the cloth away from her face.

Marie seemed to hesitate, uncomfortable with the possibility of questions, but nodded all the same.

"Are you safe?"

"From what?" her brows furrowed.

"From whatever did this to you," he showed her the washcloth tinged with russet tones.

"This was an accident," she giggled nervously, pulling her hair from her ear and concealing the wound, "who knew tripping over a coffee table could cause so much damage?" she smirked as though it had happened many a time in her life.

Edward didn't believe her; cover stories like hers were rampant throughout the city and he was well aware of some of the vulnerable women and what they would lie for just for the sake of a loved one.

"Feel free to take a shower in the morning," Edward offered as he went to return the fist aid kit under the sink, "my bed has new sheets on as of this morning so you're all set – towels are in the closet opposite my room."

"Where are you sleeping?" Marie frowned.

"I'll take the couch."

"I can sleep here," she offered, "I'm smaller and it'd be a nicer sleep for you – I'll be gone really early anyway."

"I've already set up camp," he motioned towards the blankets and pillows he'd dumped next to the couch. He also didn't want to mention that he didn't fully trust her and the TV was Ed's pride and joy- if they lost that, the apartment would be but a box that they slept in.

"Enjoy a bed for the night," he smiled, "it won't be much comfier than the couch anyway – the frame broke last year and it's just two mattresses piled on top of one another."

"Better than nothing," she shrugged and stood to her feet, "thanks for this."

"No problem," he nodded, "have a nice sleep."

"Night, Altar Boy," she teased before making her way to his bedroom.

"Night, Marie."