Do you ever wonder if your heart is just not capable of the love you read about in books or see in movies? It doesn't seem possible that people can be so devoted to another person while staying true to themselves. Alice has tried to explain love to me, but I'm not sure I know how to let someone else in without giving up too much of myself. My heart just isn't cut out for that type of sacrifice. I guess this is why I find myself sitting on this beach alone while the only person I ever thought I could share my heart with is standing on an altar pledging his love to someone else.
There are events in your life that change the course of your day; snooze alarms, late meetings, traffic. Then there are events that alter your life. Ironically, they are usually the same type of typical occurrences. Wrong turns. Forgotten jackets. Missed phone calls. Or the decision to go to the soak in some sun before a routine yoga class.
The first time I met Edward Cullen, he was lounging in a pool chair. I think he was wearing wayfarer sunglasses and a blue swimsuit, but I really can't remember because I only had eyes for the guy sitting next to him...
"Peter?" I called without even thinking. "Oh. My. God. Peter Moore!" At this point I had already tripped over my chair and my towel as I made my way across the pool to the threesome of men staring at me - one amused, one confused, and one seemingly annoyed.
"Bella?" Finally recognizing me, Peter stood just as I reached their spot beside the pool. "What in the hell are you doing here?" he asked as he pulled me into a warm hug.
Jesus, he smelled the same. I had known this man longer then I had not, he smelled like home.
"I have a house here," I explained.
"In Black Butte?" he asked, clearly confused as to how I could afford the lifestyle it takes to maintain a second home at Black Butte Ranch, a secluded spot in Central Oregon. The perfect escape from the buzz and noise of Seattle.
"Yes," I said humbly, "on South Meadow."
"I bet you have beautiful views?"
"I do." I smiled. From my back deck, I had panoramic views of a huge glacier meadow framed by the Cascade Mountains. "What are you doing here?" I pushed my hand against his chest. Peter was three thousand miles away from where I last left him.
"I'm building a house here...um, for a client."
I was dying to know more about his life. I hadn't seen anyone from home in years. I had no reason to return, no one to go home to. Seeing Peter made me miss all the parts of home that made me who I am though.
"Wow. In Oregon? I can't even believe you're standing here. Is your family here? Sharon?" I knew that wasn't her name. Her name was on the perfect Christmas card I received every year, but I couldn't help myself.
"Charlotte," he corrected. He looked uncomfortable for a moment. Charlotte was everything I wasn't. A sweet southern beauty. Old money. Junior Leaguer. Ole Miss. I was sure she was once a Pi Phi or DG or whatever. Need I say more? But I was the one who crushed Peter's heart. I knew I wasn't in love with him, but it took him getting down on one knee before I had the courage to tell him.
I was about to ask about his boys (I knew he had a few) when the man sitting to Peter's right interrupted our reunion. "I'm Emmett," he said, pushing his hand into mine and gripping hard. He forced me to break my stare from Peter and glance in his direction.
Yum and ouch. Has he been here the whole time?
He was Adonis in the flesh. All dimples and shoulders, and he was quite possibly breaking my fingers. Laughing, I attempted to tug my hand away causing us to do more of a shake. "Emmett? Nice to meet you."
I don't think I had ever seen a man that perfect in real life. He was built like a Mack truck. I could see every indentation of muscle because he had his shirt off. He was blue-eyed, blond, tan, and just … handsome. I bit my lip to keep from licking it.
Peter's deep southern manners returned as he made the formal introductions. "My apologies. Emmett, allow me to introduce Bella Swan." He smiled warmly at me and gestured to this life-sized Ken who had yet to release my hand before turning to the quiet man still sitting in his chair. "Edward, meet Bella. Bella is a dear, dear friend of mine from Jackson."
My eyes reluctantly travelled from Emmett towards Edward, all attitude and cockiness as he glanced over at me from behind his black Tom Cruise, Risky Business glasses. When did those make a resurgence? He pursed his lips and tipped his chin up. Uh, was that his hello? He was wearing blue board shorts and a ratty black t-shirt with something scribbled across the front. His baseball hat looked like he got it on his 9th birthday and don't get me started on his shoes. His posture and clothing confused me. He was clearly going for the "I could give a shit" look. But he looked phony. His nails were well manicured, his skin is flawless. Flawless. I was willing to bet his teeth were perfect and Clorox bright, but he hadn't opened his mouth for me to judge.
"Hey," I muster after my three and a half second once-over. Another compelling response. But did he deserve more? I grew up in the South and knew better then to waste time on anyone who couldn't spare a greeting.
"I'm working on Edward's home here," Peter continued. I felt Emmett's hand slip from mine. I struggled to remember if he was gripping me or if I had suddenly become the one holding on.
Seeming bored with the conversation or the company, Edward turned his head away. He looked back towards the pool then quickly tucked his chin down like he was reacting to something. I followed his line of sight and noticed a group of girls gathered at the edge of the pool, posturing. I rolled my eyes. Twelve-year-olds obviously thought they were going to catch the eye of a twenty-something man by hiking their swimming suit higher or giggling louder. I looked around the pool, irrationally irritated. Where were their mothers? Unimpressed, Edward remained slouched in his chair.
I looked back at Peter who was still talking and tried to gracefully tune back into our conversation. "I'm sorry, where is the house?"
Before I could hear Peter's reply, two of the children, okay girls, came up to Edward, still giggling and now dripping from the pool. I watched as Edward sunk into his chair while Emmett straightened up a bit.
"Um, hi. Ohmigod, are you Edward Cullen? I can't believe this! Oh! And you're, you're Emmett McCarty!" Her entire body was vibrating.
Edward seemed to tense slightly. He gave Emmett a look before reluctantly turning his gaze to the girls. Then something happened. A switch flipped. His face broke out into a grin that could melt the Arctic. He leaned forward and licked his lips. "I am...and you are?" He extended his hand to her, palm up. What the fuck? I got the chin and silence, and the little girls got that?
They squealed and started embarrassing themselves further as they introduced themselves. I was lost. I looked back at Peter and Emmett, clearly I was missing the boat. "Who are you?" I blurted out to Emmett, who was smirking either at me or the girls. He didn't answer, leaving me in dark.
I could hear the soft, deep tones of Edward's voice followed by screeching giggles from the girls. There was no way that wet rag was witty. Plus, I hated giggles. They just pissed me off. I tried to ignore them and keep my focus on Peter, but it wasn't long before I felt a spray of cool water from the girl who reminded me of Liesl Von Trapp, or maybe it was just my recent Sound of Music moment on the hilltop the other morning. She flipped her long brown hair and threw her head back laughing. I persevered and continued my conversation, somewhat distracted, as Peter and Emmett listened intently with eyes focused on me. Then her wingman, or wing-girl with blonde hair that was bright pink at the ends moved into my personal space, brushing her wet, barely covered, Coppertoned teenage ass against me. I had enough. Emmett saw my fuse blow before the words tumbled out of my mouth unfiltered.
"Okay! You girls are darling. Precious and quite beautiful. You are also at least ten years younger than this man and you are making complete fools of yourselves. Grab your towels and cover ups and move along! You'll thank me later."
Edward and the girls looked at me, mouths agape. The sidekick looked a bit contrite and almost relieved. She knew she was in over her pink tipped blonde head. Leisl on the other hand, was not leaving without a fight. She was sixteen going on seventeen and thought she was all that. Edward, well, he looked shocked to say the least. He had this half-cocked smile, which was a little disarming. My heart hammered more rapidly at my outburst and his stare. I was beyond mortified but held his stare until he looked away.
"It was nice meeting you, ladies," he said, nodding his head. The girls started swooning again and seemed to forget all about me and my tirade.
I just rolled my eyes, swirled my finger in the air, indicating my intent. "Go on ladies. Maybe you should grab an ice cream cone on your way home. You're looking a little emaciated," I admonished. I didn't know who Edward Cullen was, but no one his age should be carrying on with preteens in bathing suits.
I chose to ignore the look he was giving me through his glasses. I figured I would only embarrass myself further if I were to engage with him. Instead, I became overly interested in Peter. In reality, it was great to see him. Still, I was thrown a bit off kilter by running into my past so far from home. I was not readily equipped to be dealing with the situation unfolding.
Peter filled me in on his plans for Edward's remodel; and thankfully, Emmett and Edward began chatting. I was happy for Peter. He was living his dream of becoming a renowned architect. I knew the house he was remodeling. It was huge and sat on a prized lot with a panoramic view of Mt. Jefferson and The Three Sisters mountains. It could easily get him published in Architectural Digest or Veranda. I had photographed the meadow from its porch early one morning, catching the dew rising into a mist. It had been vacant for the three years I had owned my house, and I let him know I was curious to see the inside.
"Anytime. You should come over for dinner. I can show you the plans. But let's hear about you. Tell me about your work. Where you're living. Are you seeing anyone serious?" Fucker. The two E's were suddenly silent, all too interested in my reply.
"Um, so yeah...one at a time." My nerves were still rattled. "I'm here through August. Recharging. I am using it as home base as I tinker around the Cascades this summer before heading East. There are some excellent meadows and lakes on Mt. Jefferson I have yet to photograph."
"Hmm. Still playing shutterbug in your spare time?" he interrupted.
"Jesus, Peter. I was just featured in the Spring/Summer issue of Outdoor Research. Thank you very much. I get paid to use my camera now. This isn't a hobby anymore than drawing is yours," I huffed. Peter used to like me to photograph his work. But he never understood what I saw through the lens, what it meant to me. This baffled me as he was so passionate about his craft. At the end of the day, he wanted a pretty little wife to pick up his dry cleaning, mix a perfect Manhattan, and host backyard parties on the lawn.
Edward leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees and interlacing his fingers. "You're paparazzi?" His grin was gone, the scowl returned in full force. He quickly turned his wrath on Peter. "Jesus, you want to let a pap into my home and look at the plans?" he asked incredulously, his voice rose in unexpected anger. He looked at me, but my brain was beyond scrambled. This man was planters! I think I could actually hear Hitchcock's Twilght theme in my head...
"Wait, what the hell are you talking about?" I stammered, looking down at him like the imbecile he clearly was. This entire encounter was beyond reality. Here I was, continuing my summer routine of working on the tan and thinking about a yoga class; and now, I was facing my past and having the most bizarre exchange of my life with a complete stranger. I was paparazzi and not worthy to see the house of this man who had Jr. High-aged groupies? I felt like I had stepped into another dimension.
Edward stood and addressed Peter. "The house is off limits." He turned to me, but all I saw were the black lenses of his glasses. He opened his mouth to speak, then paused. It was in that pause that something shifted in my head that I felt in my chest. I had no clue what just happened, but I felt it was big and I missed it. "Yeah, so it was a pleasure. Perhaps you need to go get your towel and some ice cream, too," he stated flatly before striding towards the exit.
I looked at Peter for an explanation. "I'm so sorry Bella." He was already gathering his things. "I'll come by and visit this week. I do want to catch up."
Emmett, on the other hand, was just getting comfortable. He slid on his sunglasses and took a long pull from his bottle. "Aaaahh," he said, swallowing loudly. I braced for the certain belch that would follow. "Beer, Bella?"
I couldn't help but smile at him. "Thanks, I'm good. I'm just gonna…" I thumbed back towards my stuff, indicating my departure.
"No, stay. Don't leave me sitting here alone." He pulled Edward's vacated chair a bit closer to him. "Sit. Please"
I laughed at how easily this man's charm worked on me. I had been away from society for too long, my skills were currently lacking. I took a seat as he opened a bottle of Corona and handed to me. "Tell me more about what you do."
Peter scoffed as he threw his towel over his shoulder. "Later, Bella. I'm really glad I ran into you." He bent down and kissed my cheek. Easy. Familiar.
I smiled warmly back at him. "Later, Crackerjack."
Peter laughed out loud at the nickname we once used for each other as he walked away.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in an easy, light conversation, finishing off the contents of the cooler with Emmett. He was charming and engaging. One of seven kids who grew up hiking and camping in and around the Grand Canyon. I shared with him my plans for the fall and the four-week trip I had planned in the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. I had an gallery opening in Seattle this December and hoped to include some pieces from this trip. It was nice sharing my work with someone. I spent so much time alone, I forget how nice the company of good people could be. We ended up spending the better part of the day lounging in the sun. I forwent my yoga class for an ice cream with Emmett. He got three scoops of mint chocolate chip and his skill of keeping the creamy tower on the cone was the highlight of my day.
Walking towards the bike rack, Emmett closed in. "It was so nice meeting you, Bella. I hope to see you around." His lazy grin was sexy as hell, but I was not ready or tipsy enough to kiss him.
"You, too. I had fun today." I gushed and threw my arms around him in a friendly hug, patting his back and then throwing my leg across my bike. I smiled as he laughed at my awkward departure and peddled off.
The next time I saw Emmett around, he was in a heap of trouble. And he wasn't alone.
A/N: I don't own Twilight.
Thanks to my favorite people in the whole world - troublefollows1017 for encouraging me to do this. She's pretty cool sometimes. And she has completely convinced me that R and K have broken up and it's all going to be okay. Also- jawhawkbb for never calling me a self centered biotech even though we both know the truth. And bc she convinced me to give R and K time and I might get my HEA from them after all...because it really is all about me.
Thanks for reading :)