AN: This is an ~imaginary Forks. Just roll with me, cool?
Disclaimer: All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is mine.
I would kill for a margarita right now.
I suck at moving. Everything's always too fucking heavy, and I'm weak. And I'm usually sweaty, because I'm trying so hard to just get it done and over with.
But I think this place is going to work out all right. It's cozy, and I don't need a lot of space. Plus, it's in a great location. I won't need to drive everyday to work or to the store or my PO Box.
"Where do you want the dresser, Bells?" Jake and Paul wedge their giant frames through the entryway of my new apartment, hauling my mother's antique oak dresser.
Jake is relieved. I think he was worried about where I'd go. It's so hard to find a decent living space in this town for less than two grand a month.
"Uh…" I assess the 300 sq. ft. studio that I will now be sharing with my cat, Angel, and shrug indiscriminately toward one of the four walls. "Over there?"
Jacob Black and I met at Arizona State. I grew up in Phoenix, and Jake is from a small town outside Flagstaff. We hit it off immediately. Jake was funny and warm and an all-around nice guy, and I was weirdly shy. He kinda took me under his wing, I guess.
Jake and Paul deftly place my dresser where I have indicated, and Jake makes his way into the kitchen area to help me unpack.
In the divorce agreement that Jake and I are writing, we have split our material things, like dishes and linens, right down the middle. Jake and I have always been very even and fair with each other.
The dissolution of our marriage has been just as benign as everything else in our relationship. It's been almost simple, and we haven't really argued much about anything.
Jacob gives in and answers every demand I have, just to make me happy. There's a part of me that wants to pick a fight over the stupid, fucking wagon-wheel coffee table or whatever, just to feel something more than ennui in this process. But he doesn't bite, which is unfortunate because I think I might like to be bitten.
Part of me wonders if it's just me. Like, am I so substandard that I can't even form a loving and passionate bond with the man who has cared for me and protected me with all his might for the past 10 years? What a rancid bitch.
"Fuck!" I curse, as I drop the mixing bowls that I'm trying to unpack to the counter, and then the hardwood floor, with a grace that I will never possess.
"Eh-eh," Jake throws his hands out to stop me from moving, as I attempt to clean up the mess that I've made. "I'll get it. I don't want you to cut yourself."
He's always worked so hard to give me what he thinks I need and want. The thing is, that he couldn't possibly know what I want, when I don't even know. Yet, he works overtime to bring it.
For a long time, I thought that was cool. It was like he was bringing me things that I needed and wanted, before I even knew that I wanted them. It was like he was some kind of angel or we were pre-destined or some shit.
"Jesus Christ, Jake," I mutter for the billionth time since I began to realize that I don't need an angel and pre-destiny is bullshit. "I'm not a fucking toddler."
Jacob glares at me for the billionth time since I've so explicitly expressed my disenchantment with us, as he quickly picks up chunks of the shattered bowls, and then sweeps the smaller shards into a dustpan. Meanwhile, I give up and let him think he's saving the day.
I poke around the littered remains of what my predecessor left in the refrigerator in search of something alcoholic in nature. Because I'm feeling sorry for myself, and I need to drown poor, poor pitiful me in beer.
"Success!" I exclaim and pop the top off the Stella Artois.
After taking a nice long pull off the bottle, I cheerfully hand it to Jake, who continues to glare at me but takes it from my hand anyway and sips.
"Ang leave this behind?" Jake asks the bottle.
"She must've." I shrug, as I snatch the bottle back like he's the greedy, selfish asshole here and not me.
"She also left a bottle of Veuve Clicquot." I sigh, as I take another sip. "She must think the failure of our union is something to celebrate."
Jake and I were married in Forks three-years ago. It was small and quiet with about thirty of our friends and family members. We celebrated the nuptials with a stellar meal at my favorite restaurant in town and several beers at the Irish pub, where Jake is the manager. We did not consummate our marriage that night. It was just a day like any other day.
My mom once told me that you couldn't have a successful marriage if the sex isn't any good. She told me that she and Phil, her new husband, didn't even sleep on their wedding night. She said they made love for hours and ate berries off each other's parts, or some shit.
Despite the fact that I was certainly not witness to a happy marriage between my parents, Renee and Charlie, I actually believed her when she told me to expect romance and bells and fireworks. At least, I wanted to believe her.
"Bells," Jacob uses his Daddy-reprimanding-toddler voice, which bugs the living shit out of me. "You know she was just trying to be nice."
"I was joking, Jake." I roll my eyes and finish off the beer, then reach inside the fridge for another. "Lighten up."
Paul enters the apartment with one of the last remaining boxes. I hand him one of the brews and grab two more for Jake and me.
"I hate Stella," Paul grumbles, as he stares at the bottle of Pilsner like it's a bottle full of jizz. "Why can't people just drink regular beer? Like Budweiser or Coors Light."
"Because it sucks?" I suggest, and Jacob laughs. "Just drink it, Nancy. It's free."
"Nancy?" Paul quizzes, as he takes an enormous gulp of his beer and winces. "Isn't that what you call your gay boyfriend? 'Coz I ain't gay, Bells."
"Mary, asswipe." I glare at Paul. "I call Peter 'Mary'. I just referred to you as Nancy—as in Nancy Boy."
"What's the difference?" Paul is dim.
"Besides the fact that they're two different names entirely?" I mumble wryly and set my beer down before turning to the bathroom door. "I gotta pee. You guys talk about what you want to eat."
Paul isn't homophobic or anything. He's just a little slow on the uptake, and I tire of explaining every-fucking-thing to him. Also, I like giving him shit.
I'm done peeing, so I wash my hands and come back out to find that the guys are done with their beers and have yet to decide what they want for dinner.
"So," I sigh and sock Jake in the arm. "I still owe you bitches some food. Sushi?"
"What's wrong with pizza?" Paul groans, as Jake rifles through my bag full of take out menus. "We had sushi on your birthday, Bells."
"Whatever..." I roll my eyes, because I don't care what we eat, I just want to eat for fuck's sake. "Let's just eat. You're getting cranky, you must have low blood sugar or something."
We order a pizza from across the street. It's my favorite, New York Style with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and extra sauce. Mmm…
Paul and Jacob go to pick up the pizza and some Budweiser for Nancy Boy, while I unpack a few more boxes and try to find silverware, napkins, and plates. I text Rosalie to let her know that I'm eating with the guys, but I expect her at my house in an hour, ready to polish off that bottle of champagne.
She texts me back: If P & J r still there whn I get thr, someone's gonna lose a testicle. I'm in no mood.
Ah, Rose… Gotta love her.
When the guys return, we eat our pizza in silence, and they help me clean up the plates and forks when we're done. Paul gives me the one-armed hug, fist-bumps Jake, like a douchebag, and bids us farewell.
"Hey." Jake throws an arm around my shoulders as Paul stumbles down the stairs. "When you come over Sunday to get the rest of your stuff, let's try to finish up on our papers. Leah's been buggin' me about it."
Leah Clearwater is Jacob's girlfriend. She is convinced that my purpose in life is to torture Jacob, and although I do end up hurting him more often than not, I think she should mind her own fucking business. She's a total bitch to me, but she is obviously in love with Jacob, and he's nuts about her.
"Yeah." I try very hard to be pleasant and smile up at him, but the smile feels more like a grimace.
I don't really know how to gracefully say goodbye to my soon-to-be-ex-husband. We haven't been sleeping in the same bed for almost a year, but we haven't slept in a separate house in more than five-years.
"Bells…" Jacob turns me around in front of him to face him. "Things are weird now—and awkward—but we'll be okay."
I nod and feel tears pool in my eyes, as he embraces me in a big, warm hug that almost breaks my heart.
"This isn't as easy as I thought it was going to be," I mumble into his chest, soaking up his warmth and drying my eyes with his t-shirt.
"Nothing ever is, Bells." Jacob strokes my hair and holds me until I stop weeping like a little girl.
We say 'goodbye' and Jacob walks out my door.
"I can make myself come in about two and a half minutes." I'm digging in my freezer, because I know I bought ice cream today when Jake and I went to the store. "So it's not like it's hard or especially noteworthy. What I want is the elusive connection, the intensity, the passion."
Rose and I are in my studio listening to the Latin inspired disco music from the bistro downstairs after unpacking, and kind of putting away, all of my shit. We're drinking the champagne that Angela left for me, and Rose is painting her toenails pink.
"It's fantasy, Bella."
Rose has propped one of her tanned and toned legs up on a throw pillow that I bought for two dollars and fifty cents at a garage sale last fall, as she addresses me like I'm new to the game of life.
"That's why romance novels sell," she continues. "Impractical, desperate women read that shit and dream that one day they will meet their Prince Charming and live Happily Ever After. Pure. Fiction."
Rose and I are perfectly matched. We have the same sense of right and wrong regarding this great big world we live in, we like the same music and movies, and we laugh at the same jokes.
We also have similar professional goals that complement each other very well.
Last year we started an event business together. Rose is a genius with operations and design, and I am a peacemaker by trade. Unfortunately, my peace making skills don't always spill into my interpersonal relationships.
"Dude," I take a gigantic bite of the Karmel Sutra sensation straight from the carton and talk with my mouth full. "I'm not looking for Prince Charming—you and I both know I'm no princess—I'm just looking for something to make the daily grind a little easier to swallow, you know? It's like how I run 20-miles a week, so whenever I want to down a pint of Ben & Jerry's, it's cool."
Rose looks pointedly at me, and then at my caramel, cream, and chocolate treasure, with utter disgust.
"You're a pig," she asserts and returns to painting her toes.
Rose is also the most stunningly beautiful woman I have ever seen in real life. This is where we are opposites; she is 5'9", blond, blue-eyed, and a size 4. And I am 5-inches shorter, brown, brown, and barely-squeezing-my-ass-into a size 4.
Fuck you and the 18" circumference of your thighs, Hale.
"Whatever." I roll my eyes and plop down on the couch next to her, not giving a shit about her pedicure. "Maybe my perfect guy is like Shrek. Ya know, big, dumb, farts a lot, but is totally smitten with me?"
"Shrek." Rose glares at me, as she uses an acetone soaked Q-Tip to repair the damage my fat ass has done to her perfect little toes. "Bella, you're divorcing Shrek."
I stare dumbly at her as she tosses the Q-Tip aside to finish the paint job.
"I will never forget the night you told me about fucking him and how he was all sweaty palms and slobbery kisses… and the farting thing?" She shivers. "I mean… everybody farts, but come on. Every time he comes? Did he not ever think that maybe he was a little too comfortable with you?"
"Yeah," I shudder at the memories flashing in my mind and drip ice cream on my shirt like a fucking slob. "You're right. I need to step outside my comfort zone. Maybe I should be looking for Prince Charming."
"B," Rose has finished the paint job and is now recapping the bottle of polish. "You shouldn't be looking for anyone just now, except maybe yourself. Ya know?"
I look at her in disbelief.
"Don't look at me like I'm a pod person, Bella," Rose snatches my ice cream out of my clutches and takes a bite. "I'm not saying you should set out on a road to self-discovery or start reading Dr. Phil books, I'm just saying… give yourself some time. Take a break."
"You're right," I sigh and acknowledge with a grimace. "I'm just… lonely? I dunno… It's like I spent all that time with Jacob waiting for us to be… more. And it never happened."
Rose nods, and her eyebrows crease in compassionate understanding as she hands the pint back to me in consolation.
"I mean," I sigh and plunk the damned evil confection on the ottoman and grab my flute full of French elixir. "I don't need a man to, like, 'complete me', or whatever—it'd just be nice to know I'm not totally dysfunctional. Like, maybe I can have a relationship and not suck at it."
Rose looks thoughtful for a minute. Then sweeps her gams off the couch and waddles on her heels to the liquor cabinet for the bottle of Stranahan's and two shot glasses. She returns to the couch, pours us each a shot of the fantastically smoky and smooth whiskey, and relaxes back into the cushions, handing one of the drinks to me.
"To conquering expectations." Rose raises a glass and an eyebrow in toast.
I feel my face break into a slow grin, and I turn more directly, raising the delicious whiskey to meet her glass.
"Conquering and redefining," I say with finality, as we toast and shoot.
Rose and I have bonded over many things. A few of those things include our lack of satisfaction with ourselves, in our relationships, and with the age-old demands that society places on us as women.
I spent the better part of my formative years caring for my mother, then my father, in a capacity that no teenager should ever be expected to fulfill. I then jumped into a relationship with a sweet boy who saw that I was dissatisfied and tried very hard to remedy that nuisance by playing the perfect boyfriend and best friend.
Rose was never expected to care for anyone, nor was she made to be accountable for anything. Her family has money, a lot of it, and she sailed through her teen years thinking she would go to college, get her MRS degree, and live happily ever after with a perfect husband, a vacation house on the lake, and 2.5 kids.
No one ever told either of us that life is rarely ever what you imagine.
"Damn, that shit's good," I breathe and lick my lips. "I fucking love whiskey, dude. If I could just drink it all day every day, I would."
And since I'm an ungrateful harpy, I fucked up my shot at happiness.
"Then you'd be what we call an alcoholic, Bella." Rose pours two more shots and takes the bottle back to the cabinet. "Bloated, blood shot, probably not exactly fresh smelling."
And ever since Rose's college boyfriend and three of his fraternity brothers raped her one night before graduation, Rose has a pretty bruised perception of bliss.
"Kind of a female version of Keith Richards," she jokes, as she returns to the couch and sits again, picking up her glass. "And I'm really more of a Beatles fan."
I met Rose three-years ago at the Sojourner Salutes Party honoring the sheriff and three other outstanding Forks citizens. I was representing the film festival that I worked for, and Rose was catering the event. She finished early, and we started chatting over tuna tartar and Mumm's.
Toward the end of the night, Jacob was getting restless and cranky. He came up to me saying that it was time to go. Jake's a big guy - well over six feet tall and built like a linebacker - so I guess if you don't know Jake, and you have a predisposition to not trust men, he can scare the fuck out of you.
"Take your fucking hand off her," Rose growled low and fierce, with panic in her eyes.
Jake was never physically abusive. I knew he would never hurt me. But, like I said, he could be intimidating.
"It's okay…" I shook my head and rolled my eyes in her direction. "He's just –"
"Who the hell are you?" Jacob let go of my arm and faced off with Rose. I thought that he must've been uncommonly pissed off, because he just didn't ever talk to women in that tone of voice.
"I'm your worst nightmare if you even think about hurting this woman." Rose faced him, shoulders squared, look of determination on her face, but she was still trembling.
I calmed them both, reminding them that we'd all been drinking, and it was just a misunderstanding. Jacob said he couldn't believe that Rose would think he would ever hurt me, but he apologized to Rose for being rude and said he'd wait for me in the car.
"Sorry." I set down my drink and turned to face Rose. "He's really not a bad guy."
"Yeah, well, you can never be too careful." Rose glanced after Jacob's retreating form, shrugging. "But… I've been told I have a tendency to overreact."
Rose reached into her bag that was stashed under the table and pulled out a silver business card holder.
"I hope I didn't make a horrible impression on you." She handed me a card with her name and contact information. "I'd really like to get together sometime and talk more about your event planning ideas."
When I looked up from her card, she was contrite. I could tell she felt regret for how she treated Jacob, and I wondered what triggered such a strong reaction. I hoped that Rosalie Hale and I would one day become close enough that she would confide in me, and maybe I could somehow repay her for looking out for me the way she intended to tonight.
"I'd like that, Rose." I smiled broadly and hugged her.
Two weeks later, over chips and cheese and too-strong rum drinks, Rose told me all about Royce King and how he smashed her dreams. How he left her feeling guilty and useless, and how she has looked at very few men with anything but disdain since. Who could blame her?
"Are you seeing Laurie tomorrow?" I ask Rose, as I stand and walk to the sink to rinse our flutes and shot glasses.
Laurie is a shrink, and even though her expertise is couple's counseling, she's done a fucking amazing job helping Rose through her nightmares and insomnia and PTSS. Rose recommended Laurie to Jake and I when I told her we were 'having problems'. Laurie helped Jake and I realize that we needed to split. Laurie rules.
"Yeah," Rose answers, as she stands and stretches. She slips her feet into her flip-flops and pulls her micro-fleece over her head. "You wanna meet up for lunch after?"
"Sounds like a plan." I walk her to the door and hug and kiss her goodnight. "Text me when you're done."
"Ciao, baby." She exits my apartment, and I lock the door behind her. I do a perfunctory job of teeth brushing and face washing before grabbing a pillow and blanket and collapsing on my couch for the night. I have to sleep on the couch because my futon isn't being delivered until tomorrow.
As sleep claims me, I am lulled by the distant sounds of a Latin beat and I dream of a lover who is sensual and reverent, who kisses me with intensity and passion, and someone who calls me baby.
Thank you, MsKathy for encouraging me all those years ago to write this fic, and for the red pen. Thanks also to Moojuicey for the beta work. RME was a blast to write, and I made so many friends in the process. xox