Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I'm just playing around with them.
Lots of thanks to MelissaMargaret for making this pretty, and to anhanninen and xxluvCarlisleEsmexx for prereading. And thank you WhisperingWolf for the title suggestion.
I stepped outside the door of the warm bakery, only to be immediately assaulted by the biting Chicago air. It was still early. Too early to be awake, let alone walking outside, but the snow was already falling steadily. And even worse, the never-ending wind was never-ending as it whipped snow into my face and hair, the only parts of my body I was stupid enough to leave uncovered when I left the house this morning.
"Stupid snow," I grumbled, kicking the feet along the sidewalk. "Stupid wind. Stupid bagels. Stupid mom."
I pouted as I walked even though I knew I was acting like a bratty kid. I really couldn't help it today.
Of course my mother came into my office on the coldest day of the year and forced me to get breakfast for the family. And of course she only wanted a specific kind of bagel from a specific bakery six blocks away.
I didn't get it. There was a café in our building. Why did I have to suffer through this cold and wet shit for these particular bagels?
But since I was a sucker for my mother, I was stuck doing this. All I knew was that these cinnamon raisin bagels better be the best damn bagels on Earth.
Thankfully, I didn't have to buy any coffee so I shoved the bag of bagels under my coat and used my free hand to wrap around my body, lowering my head as I began my trek back.
It was just too cold. The sidewalks weren't even that crowded which said a lot about how horrible this was. Usually, I couldn't walk five feet without bumping into or having to dodge someone.
Four blocks to go, and I was practically sprinting as I mumbled as many adult words as I could think of. Mom's "no foul language in the office" policy hit me hard last week after some dumbass transposed some numbers, leaving me to sort everything out. I didn't have enough spare cash for the charity jar with everything I wanted to say.
After going through every adult word in my vocabulary, I raised my head. The wind blew snow into my face, but I sighed in relief since I could finally see our building. The central heat was calling my name, and I couldn't wait to answer.
I had to slow my pace slightly since more people appeared in my way. I was too pissed to offer any fake apologies when I bumped into a few people, but they could just get over it.
One block away, and someone bumped into me. I was pushed into an alley between two buildings, dropping the bagels into a pile of snow in the process. I nearly growled as I snatched up the bag and prepared myself to go after the fucker, but something stopped me.
A sound kind of something. I wasn't alone here.
I tried to listen closer as I stood still. It was a cry. A soft cry…and maybe singing? I shook my head to get rid of the snow in my ears because I had to be hearing things. No one was supposed to be crying or singing in an alley at seven am in the middle of a snow storm.
Not knowing what to do, I turned slowly and scanned my surroundings.
Snow pile, dumpster, dumpster, newspaper, trash, a huddled form.
My eyes widened.
That was a person. Sitting in an alley. Possibly crying and singing.
I swallowed forcefully, now really not knowing what to do. I was catching hypothermia, but I couldn't exactly abandon this person without knowing if he or she needed help. On the flip-side, this could be a psychopath trying to mug me or turn me into an episode of Law and Order.
The person cried out again, this time moving slightly. With the movement, my eyes widened further. The huddled person was actually two people. A little girl and an even littler girl. The littler one was the one whimpering while the bigger little one rocked back and forth. Even from my spot from a few yards away, I could tell they were dirty and probably colder than I was.
Alleys shouldn't contain crying little people.
Shit just got real.
My feet moved forward without my permission. At least now I was fairly sure I wouldn't be inspiring a TV episode.
What could these two little people do to me?
I walked softly but then realized that I needed to do something to make my presence known because neither of them seemed to hear me. It wasn't my goal to scare them, not that I knew what my goal actually was.
I cleared my throat. "Um…hi? Are you…uh…are you okay?"
The bigger little girl's head jerked up, and I immediately stopped moving. A chill ran up my spine, but this time, it wasn't from the weather.
I was twenty-five years old. I'd been to college and seen some pretty fucked up things at frat parties.
But I had never seen that much fear on someone's face before. It surprised me, and I had no clue what to do.
"Whoa," I gasped, raising my hands defensively. "I'm not gonna hurt you or anything."
The girl wrapped her arms even tighter around the littler girl and turned further from me, using her body as a shield but never taking her eyes from mine.
I stayed still, waiting for her to calm.
Now that I had a closer look, I realized my first impression wasn't accurate. This little girl probably wasn't really a girl. Based on her face, she was at least a teenager, but definitely not as old as me. And the littler one was…well, really little. I wasn't good with estimating ages, but she was somewhere between a baby and a kid. She was still crying but softer now, as if she shared the opinion that I was dangerous.
I didn't understand.
I was wearing a five hundred dollar suit, for God's sake. How could I be dangerous?
I took a tentative step forward. "I won't hurt you," I repeated, hoping she'd believe me.
She didn't move again, but I didn't get too close either. I wasn't sure why this mattered to me, but I didn't want to traumatize her or anything. I just needed to make sure they were both okay so I could go inside.
"I'm Edward. Edward…Cullen. I work down the street." I wasn't not sure why I was telling her about myself. Casual conversation didn't belong in an alley any more than crying and singing did. "So…yeah. Are you okay?" I asked again, and this time, she gave me a small nod.
"Okay. Good. That's…good." I looked down at my feet.
What was the protocol for finding girls in alleys, anyway? They looked like they hadn't had a bath in a couple of days at least. And based on how many layers of clothes they were wearing, homeless seemed to be the right description. As far as I knew, normal people didn't dress like that no matter how cold it was outside.
I only saw one large backpack beside them, stuffed so they obviously have some possessions. I'd never seen a homeless person this close before so I wasn't sure what the standard deviation was. These two could be outliers as far as I knew.
I looked up, meeting the girl's eyes again. She was watching me curiously now, probably wondering what I was doing. Hell, I was wondering the same thing.
Suddenly an idea hit me, and I quickly reached into my back pocket. The movement made her gasp and cower against the wall of the building. But when she saw that I was just getting my wallet, I saw and heard her relief.
What did she think I was going to do?
I searched through my wallet even though I knew I didn't have much cash. There was my change from the bakery and a few other small bills. Nothing substantial. I was hesitant to go to the back section of my wallet where I kept my emergency cash, but this might qualify as an emergency.
Pulling out a fifty, I slowly reached my hand out. The girl's eyes went back and forth from watching my face to watching my hand. As much as I wanted to shove it at her so I could go inside, I remained patient.
Finally, she made up her mind and reached out her hand, snatching the bill from me before hiding her face on top of the smaller one's head.
That was disappointing. I didn't expect a thank you from this mute girl, but some kind of acknowledgement would have been nice.
I sighed as I backed up slowly, watching these girls as I went. The littler one started crying again, and the bigger one started singing. It was so soft that it couldn't be heard once I was back on the sidewalk, and for some reason, that made me feel better.
Now that I was no longer between buildings, I was subject the wind's abuse once more.
"Stupid wind," I muttered, my head down again, still freezing.
I felt…different though.
Maybe it was the knowledge of my good deed. Charity never really appealed to me before, but now I felt something because I helped those girls.
Maybe I liked this feeling. Maybe. Definitely not enough to shell out fifty dollars every day, though.
And when I walked through the doors of Cullen Family Designs, I felt even more, including my fingers, nose, and ears.
I was never going outside again.
I rode the elevator up to my floor.
Well, it was actually the family floor. All of our offices were on the sixth floor. I would imagine that in most buildings, the executive offices were at the top. Ours were in the middle.
It was Mom's idea. Apparently having our offices in the middle of the building promoted employee unity or something. And since there were six letters in our last name, that only solidified her plan. What Esme Cullen wanted, Esme Cullen received.
Our floor was quiet as I walked down the hallway. I wasn't sure where everyone was, but I knew better than to question a good thing.
I dropped the bagels on Mom's desk, and after grabbing one for myself I made my way to my office. Everything was exactly the way I left it an hour ago – dark. I hadn't even managed to turn the light or computer on before I was cornered and ordered to go get breakfast.
Still cold, I left my coat on as I attempted to organize my desk. On a good day, it was a disaster area. Today was not a good day, so I finally gave up and let the papers do as they wished. As long as nothing useful landed in the trash can, everything was fine.
I took a bite of my bagel just as Emmett walked in with two cups of coffee. I nodded in thanks as I chewed, hating admitting to myself that it was one of the best bagels I'd ever had. This didn't change the fact that Mom was insane for making me walk six blocks in the snow and wind, but at least they were tasty.
The coffee was decent too, and I nearly chugged it while finishing my bagel. Emmett talked about his weekend plans, but I didn't really listen. I couldn't stop thinking about those homeless girls. Yeah, I was happy that I did a good deed, but shouldn't all thoughts of them have left me now? It wasn't like I'd ever see them again or anything.
In the middle of his yammering, Emmett finally noticed that I was eating in front of him.
"Hey, man. Where's breakfast?"
I focused on him long enough to roll my eyes. "Mom's office."
He nodded and quickly left the room. I was sure Rosalie already gave him breakfast before he left this morning, but Mom would never deprive her firstborn. Even at the expense of her baby's life. I could have been murdered by a psychopath, so she was lucky I only discovered two homeless girls.
I shook my head and frowned, not liking how every thought went back to those girls. The money I gave them could buy food or shelter or something useful, so I was sure they were fine now. Even if they weren't, it wasn't my problem and I had to focus on work now. As much as I wished nepotism was involved here, it wasn't. We all had to pull our weight regardless of last name. And Girl 1 and Girl 2 were not helping.
Emmett came back into the room, crumbs falling out of his mouth as he inhaled a bagel. "What's got you in a pissy mood?"
I didn't want to talk about this right now or ever, but it seemed I had no other options. Emmett didn't know how to let things go.
"When I was getting breakfast, some fucker pushed me into an alley and I found two homeless girls. So I gave them fifty dollars, but now I can't stop thinking about them."
"Girls?" he questioned, raising his eyebrows. "How old were these girls?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. The big one looked like a teenager. Maybe a little older. The little one was…little. How old is Brady? Three? She was probably younger than that."
"Dude, what the fuck were you thinking?" he said loudly, banging his fist on my desk. "Why didn't you help them?"
His tone caught me off-guard. "What are you talking about, Em? I did help her. I gave her fifty dollars. What else was I supposed to do?"
"Ed, I thought you were the smart one. Use your brain! It's freezing outside, and this girl has a kid with her. Practically a baby! You could have brought them inside to sit in the lobby with G."
"Why would Gianna want to sit with some homeless girls?" I asked. She was a receptionist, and I didn't think that was in her job description.
Emmett looked at me like I was crazy. "That's not the point, Edward. You can't just leave them out there."
"Leave who out where?"
"Great," I mumbled, rubbing my face with my hands.
Mom was here, so now it was a party. And if Emmett was mad, I didn't want to see how Mom would react. Apparently I did the wrong thing while thinking I was doing the right thing. I probably should have just stayed in bed this morning.
"Thank you for getting the bagels, dear. Now what are you talking about? Leave who out where?" she asked with a smile, turning to Emmett. She knew he'd give her any information she wanted.
Emmett was an even bigger sucker when it came to our mother. Yeah, she was awesome, and we all loved her, but Em took it even farther. Even when he moved out, it was only five hundred feet away. Of course, I couldn't say anything because I hadn't even made it that far.
"Edward saw some homeless chick with a baby outside, and all he did was give her fifty dollars. Aaannnnd…punish away!"
I wanted to wipe the smug look off his face, but right now, another face was taking priority. I wasn't sure if I'd ever seen Mom this angry before. I was almost worried that she was going to have a brain aneurysm.
Her jaw clinched as did her fists. "Edward. Anthony. Cullen. What the hell were you thinking?"
Whoa. Now I was positive that I'd never seen her this angry before. Esme Cullen didn't curse. This would not end well for me.
"Oh, son. Told you so." Emmett whistled as he stood and reached over to pat my shoulder. "Good luck with that." He turned and walked toward the door, stopping to kiss Mom's cheek. "I love you, Mom. Don't forget to put a dollar in the charity jar, okay?"
As soon as she turned her rage face to him, he laughed and ran out of the room. He was lucky he can take cover in his office. I was stuck here. It was possible I might die here.
"Mom," I started softly, but she cut me off.
"Why didn't you bring them inside? I thought we raised you better than this."
"But I don't understand, Mom. I wouldn't have even noticed her if some jerk hadn't pushed me and the kid hadn't been crying. They can get food with the money I gave them." I shrugged. "I thought I did a good thing. I don't see what the big deal is…"
By the time I was finished, I wanted to hide in the closet. Mom's rage face transformed into something calmer and somehow even scarier. Her green eyes narrowed and pierced mine, her gaze relentless. She was studying me, and I kind of didn't want to know what she was looking for. I tentatively smiled, testing the waters, but she didn't react.
Suddenly, she gestured to me with her index finger. I immediately stood and start to shrug my coat off.
"No, leave your coat on," she commanded. "Come on. Let's go."
I had no idea where we were going, but I was too afraid to not follow her.
As soon as I was right in front of her, she grabbed my ear and pulled me toward the door.
"Oww, Mom, stop. Where are we going?" I thought this only happened in movies or TV, as if my life wasn't crazy enough right now.
She paused and turned to look at me. "You are going to find this girl again and invite her into the building. I'm just going along to apologize for my son being an insensitive moron. Now, you better hope she hasn't gone very far or you will not be sleeping under my roof tonight."
I gulped and nodded, and she resumed pulling me. She pulled me to her office to grab her coat, scarf, and gloves, and once she was bundled up, she pulled me to the elevator. I was so glad the building wasn't busy yet because this was by far the most embarrassing moment of my life.
Going back outside was the last thing I wanted to do today, but for some reason, I wasn't dreading it. Maybe now I could finally get these girls out of my head. One way or another, I would do a good deed.
Mom would make sure of it.
A/N: Welcome to my new adventure! To any of my C/Es readers, I hope you'll stick with me with this. And to any new readers, I'm so happy to have you along for the ride!
This fic will mostly be self-serving and not heavily researched, so please forgive any inaccuracies.
The next update will be after the weekend, and then updates will probably be every two weeks or so. I'm going into my last two semesters of nursing school which doesn't leave me much free time, but I will do my best to update regularly.
Thanks again to Mel and Ash. This fic wouldn't exist with them, and their encouragement is invaluable. ILY guys.
Anhanninen and I had a deal to post together today, so go check out her new fic, Just Breathe. Her daddyward is lovely, and you definitely won't regret it!
And to end this epically long A/N, I'm on twitter as KelleyRachelle. I complain about school and other boring stuff, but I enjoy the company. =)
Thanks so much for reading!