Author's Notes: Someone requested this story via PM earlier today. Honestly, I had completely forgotten about it. This was originally written for a Valentine's Day contest back in 2009 and it's just this little one-shot.
As always, thanks to Shug for beta-reading, and being like the bestest friend ever.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
I sat back in my chair, rocking it backwards slightly as my head hit the high back, and ran my fingers through my hair. It had been a long day. Then again, when one was a teacher, most days were long.
Overall, I loved my job. Teaching music at Forks High School may not be the most exciting career out there, but sharing my love of music with my students was rewarding.
I rolled my eyes at my own corny and ridiculous thoughts. Yeah, I admit it—I really am a total sap. Some people would consider me a classic romantic, but I think that term only applies if I were in a relationship with someone. Or hell, even if I were actively pursuing someone. I don't think that admiring from afar quite qualified.
With a quick glance at the institutional clock over the door, I gathered my things to head for home.
It was exactly four o'clock, and it was Friday afternoon.
I counted to ten before leaving my classroom and stepping out into the hall to walk toward the main doors of the building.
And just like clockwork, five doors down from the music room, another door opened, and out she walked. Long dark brown hair that hung loose around her shoulders, dark brown, expressive eyes, pale cheeks, and…
Wait for it…
There it is!
The most beautiful pink blush that covered her cheeks.
"Miss Swan," I said with a nod.
She pulled her stack of homework folders closer to her chest as she smiled. "Mr. Cullen."
"May I walk you to your car?"
She rolled her eyes at me and began walking toward the doors. I wasn't sure if it was because I asked her the same question every afternoon or because she knew that I was using the term "car" loosely. Her old, beat-up, red pick-up was really not what most people would refer to as a car. It was more like a barely moving hunk of metal. And I'd shamelessly teased her about that on more than one occasion.
Our daily afternoon walk out to the parking lot together had become a ritual after the first week of school. Miss Swan was the newest member of the teaching staff at Forks High School and had only filled the position at the beginning of the school year. After casually bumping into her several afternoons after I'd finished with marching band practice, I'd decided that I liked the small break in my dull and boring afternoons. When marching band season was over, I couldn't help but keep the pattern going. I stayed after school, grading papers at my desk and going over music for upcoming performances. I'd even considered forming a jazz choir that could rehearse in the afternoons, but there hadn't been enough interested students. Usually, I just listened to music and counted the seconds until it was four o'clock when I knew she'd be leaving. Then, I'd time it so that I was walking past her door when she'd been exiting. We would exchange pleasantries, and then the walk would begin.
It took exactly six minutes and eight seconds to walk at a leisurely pace from her classroom door to her truck. Those precious minutes were often spent in silence, as we walked side-by-side with a respectable distance between us. Miss Swan would clutch her books and papers tightly to her, almost as if she were trying to maintain control over her hands. I had bought her an attaché case for Christmas, but when I'd gone to wrap it, I'd realized that she would probably find it odd that I had purchased something so nice for someone with whom I wasn't even on a first-name basis. Of course, what she didn't know was that if I thought she'd allow it, I'd lasso the moon for her. Yes, I can already hear people singing "Buffalo Gals" and calling me George—just add classic film lover to my list of attributes.
We had never once stepped beyond the formalities of "Miss Swan" and "Mr. Cullen." The only times we touched were the days that I caught her when she nearly fell. I found myself wishing that she was even clumsier than she already was, just so I had an excuse to touch her, even if for only a few moments.
"How was your day?" she asked, the click-click-click of her shoes on the linoleum floors echoing down the hall.
"Good, thanks. What about yours?"
Mundane pleasantries. I lived for them, because some days, they turned into so much more and every conversation gave me more information about her. We'd already discussed our favorite things with each other. Those conversations had taken place over the months of November and December.
I was sure that to the average outsider, I either sounded like a hopeless romantic fool… or a stalker. Neither option was my intention. Even I knew how pathetic it all sounded. But I had my reasons for why I hadn't asked her out yet. Though the reasons were falling away faster and faster with every passing moment, and each day I would spend a good twenty minutes after leaving in my car kicking myself for not having asked her yet.
In the beginning, she had been in a relationship. That had been the reason for her move to this rainy, little town in the first place. We had made the transition to almost friends when she'd confided in me how upset she had been with her boyfriend one afternoon. Though, the next afternoon it had been as if none of the conversation had taken place when she'd commented on the weather and the upcoming basketball game. Then had come the messy break-up with her lying, cheating, son-of-a-bitch boyfriend. I'd had to force myself not to find the guy and either punch him or shake him, because only an idiot would do that to such an amazing woman. Even more than that, though, I'd wanted to comfort her, but she had girlfriends for that. Then, she'd commented on how much she appreciated the fact that I was the only person who didn't walk on eggshells with her, the only person who treated her like a real person and not a fragile flower. She'd told me that she liked that I had given her the consistency of our daily walks together as if nothing had happened.
That had been when we'd climbed up to that next step of "friend", which was definitely a step-up from "random guy I walk to my truck with every day".
After that time, I'd been left with the ever-present question: What is the acceptable time to wait after a break-up before asking a woman out?
All of that seemed far too soon. She had obviously cared deeply for him. Hell, she'd moved to Out-In-the-Middle-of-a-Forest-Forks for the guy.
But now it had been ten weeks since her break-up, and I feared that I'd tipped from "too soon" to "waiting too long". Had I already missed the window of opportunity?
I opened the door for her as we continued out into the cold. "Damn, it's freezing!" she said, squeezing her arms even tighter around her torso. The frigid air whipped sharply around us, and I was thankful that there was no moisture falling. It would've surely been in the form of sleet or snow.
As we walked, each step heavier with the knowledge that I would once again leave her until Monday. Most normal people would rush as quickly as possible to their car to get out of the cold. However, Miss Swan really was incredibly clumsy, and we both knew it. Therefore, we maintained the same pace we always did.
I ran through several scenarios in my head of ways to expand our time together, a chance to lengthen those six minutes to seven or even eight…. Another glance at her, though, and I knew that it was unlikely to happen this particular day. It had to be 20 degrees outside, and she needed a warmer coat. I soon found myself in silent prayer that today would be the day that her beast of a truck wouldn't start so that I could drive her home.
But I already knew that her truck would start, just as it had every other afternoon. Not for the first time, I kicked myself for not having come out to the parking lot earlier and tampered with it.
Shit, I really am a pathetic stalker.
"So, is anything exciting going on this weekend?" I asked as we avoided the few patches of ice on the sidewalk. It was a typical question. On Mondays, we always discussed our weekend, Tuesdays and Thursdays were when we talked about our favorite television shows, and Wednesdays about lessons and classes. On Fridays we often discussed what we were doing with our friends or family over the weekend.
She bit her lip and shrugged while she carefully watched each step she took. "Alice and Jasper are driving up to Seattle tomorrow for dinner and then a show. They won't be home until Sunday."
Jasper was Alice's boyfriend, and Alice was Miss Swan's roommate. I'd gleaned that much information from our many talks. For the briefest of moments, I dared to hope that had told me that she was free for the weekend intentionally. "So, do you have anything planned?"
Her cheeks, already pink from the cold air, reddened further as she kept her head down, cautiously watching each step that she took. "I hope to."
"Oh?" I asked, attempting to downplay my curiosity.
"There is this guy I've been hoping would ask me out," she said quietly, staring intently at her feet.
Forgetting that she wasn't looking at me, I nodded stiffly as my lips formed a thin line. Her words had been my confirmation, I had indeed waited too long.
If I had ever even stood a chance.
When she noticed I hadn't replied, she raised her head and looked up at me with her bright brown eyes and then opened her mouth as if to speak—just as we were stepping off of the curb to the asphalt.
Her ankle twisted, while the other began to slip underneath her. My arms instantly shot out, and I pulled her to me in a firm grip. Somehow we managed not to drop any of her papers.
I inhaled deeply, allowing her scent of vanilla and lavender to wash over me, and tamped down a groan as I held her firmly to my chest. There were so many things about her that completely awed me to my very core, and her scent was just one of those things.
"Thank you," she said, craning her head back in order to look up at me.
I grinned down at her, my disappointment in the fact that she was making plans for the weekend dimmed simply by her nearness. "You're welcome." Then, I held her to me for two beats longer than were truly necessary, before ensuring that she was steady and grudgingly removing my arms from around her.
We resumed walking out to where our cars were parked, and I wracked my brain for something else to say. We'd long ago discussed our favorite things with each other. And my plan to ask her dinner had fallen by the wayside when she'd mentioned her plans… or non-plans… or whatever one called sitting by the telephone waiting for some guy to ask her out. I hoped that he knew what an amazing woman she was and that he wouldn't let her sit around too long. I found myself clenching my fists in irritation at this man who obviously didn't appreciate how wonderful she truly was.
Before I could think anymore on it, we were at her truck. It was an old red Chevy that belonged in a museum instead of on a school parking lot. However, I couldn't deny that it suited her. Simple, no nonsense, with a classic draw—just like her. Leaning around her, I opened her driver's door, just as I always did. She never locked it… really, there was no point. Who in their right mind would steal it?
She smiled up at me as she placed her file folders on the bench seat. However, instead of climbing up into the seat like she usually did, she turned back and looked at me.
I raised an eyebrow at her in question as she began to fidget with her hands now that her arms were empty. She finally pulled her arms back around herself and began to rub her arms vigorously.
"Have a good weekend, Miss Swan," I told her with a small smile before I reluctantly turn to walk to my car. I might have been a bit of a masochist, but I didn't feel the need to kick myself while I was already down by staying in her presence any longer than necessary.
"Edward!" she called from behind me, and I snapped my head back around in surprise. To my knowledge, it was the first time that she'd ever used my first name.
This time when I looked at her, I saw determination in her eyes. Maybe I was more of a masochist than I'd realized—I was more than happy to stand out in the biting cold just to spend a few more minutes with her, and at her summons, I took the two steps back toward her.
She tilted her head up toward me and jutted out her chin. I felt myself smile at her again. There was just something adorable about the way she stood there, as if trying to find the nerve to do something.
"You didn't tell me your plans for tomorrow," she said.
"Oh." I shrugged. "I don't know." It sounded very boring. Lately, I'd been keeping my options open in hopes that a certain brunette would want to get together. Perhaps I needed to go spend the weekend with my brother in Seattle.
"Would you…" she began, her voice trailing off when she pulled her lower lip into her mouth and bit it. She took another breath. "Would you like to have dinner with me?"
I stood there, my eyes wide in surprise, as I tried to decide whether she had actually said those words or if I had hypothermia and was hallucinating. I must've taken too long to reply, because by the time I finally decided that she had indeed invited me to dinner, she was shaking her head and then moved her gaze back in the direction of the school. "Never mind," she mumbled as she placed her foot up on the step for her truck.
"Wait!" I took another step and reached for her shoulder, encouraging her to turn back toward me. My heart instantly lurched when I saw her face fall. "Bella. Bella," I said, hoping that she'd turn and look at me. "Bella, please."
She turned her head and looked up at me, and my heart broke at the sadness and disappointment on her face. "Never mind," she repeated. "It was a stupid idea."
"No. No, it wasn't." I waited a moment until she was able to meet my gaze again. "I have wanted—I would love to have dinner with you."
Relief washed over me as her expression brightened and her lips quirked up into a small smile. Bringing my hand to her cheek, I gently rubbed my thumb against the soft skin of her cold cheek. "Tomorrow?" I asked her.
"I'll pick you up at six."
With my hand still cupping her cheek, I was unable to help myself. I leaned over and kissed her forehead, before stepping back and reluctantly dropping my hand.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Bella," I said, enjoying the way that her name rolled off of my tongue.
Her smile grew a bit wider as she climbed up into her truck and closed the door. I could feel my own grin as I turned around and walked quickly to my car. A covert glance at my watch confirmed my suspicions… we'd spent exactly eight minutes together.
I wondered how long our walk would be on Monday.