Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight nor any of its characters, settings or plot lines. I am not intending to pass off any part of the Twilight universe as my original work nor am I seeking to profit from this work. It is a fanwork intended only for the free (sometimes sexy) entertainment of other fans.
AN~This story begins about three years later than Twilight did. It is distinctly AU as almost nothing from the real Twilight plot remains aside from some unavoidable Bella-meets-vampires-in-Forks parallels and the characters, settings, various hotnesses of people, and awesomeness of Charlie. I was happily busy editing several other stories when this one attacked me one morning and I had to grab my phone and start writing it down before I was even awake. I'm glad I did because it's been completely delightful. I truly hope you find it so as well. ~KKC
EDIT: May 2013. I just want to thank new readers who are picking this up after its completion and leaving reviews. It's nice to get reviews any length of time after a story ends. Since I can't respond to most, just know I love them still and they're a great motivator.
He was there a lot later than usual, reading and ignoring everything around him like he always did. Nearly everyone in the restaurant was gone and as they left, and there were less eyes around to notice me, I was free to glance at him more often than I usually could. As much as I usually would if I were able to.
He looked up from what he was reading the way people usually did when they were needing their check or a refill of some kind. Andrea and I were the only servers left and she was, of course, missing. Probably out smoking with her lumberjack boyfriend. I didn't know if he really was a lumberjack, but he looked like a cartoon version of one. And his name was Jack. It was too much to not make a joke of it although I never shared it with her.
He probably wanted his check this late at night but I took a coffee pot anyway. I was vaguely daydreaming about having an excuse to go to his table more than once if Andrea hadn't reappeared yet since he was seated in her section as usual. It was almost like he avoided my tables intentionally but I'm not sure how he could possibly know which were mine on any random day since we rotated.
I knew it was stupid to go anywhere near him with a glass jar full of flaming hot liquid, especially since my hands were suddenly very sweaty, but I was feeling especially stupid this evening after spending the last hour staring at him unchecked while pretending to do other things.
When I got to his table, he looked up at me and I almost dropped the coffee pot right then. This was the closest we had ever been to each other. His face was as startling and unnaturally perfect up close as it appeared from far away. He was watching me with disproportionate interest, as though I were about to say something more important than any of the possible questions or comments a waitress could have. Most people just nodded or ignored you when you refilled their cup. Unless they wanted to yell at you. Or hit on you which was almost invariably worse.
"Hi. Um, do you need a refill or . . . ?"
'Or what, Bella? Someone to brush your unbelievably pretty hair?'
I actually started to step back before I did say something so horrifying. His hair was pretty. It was long, which wasn't unusual around here next to a reservation, but a little different for a white guy. I think he was white. He was pale, but his features were . . . foreign. Strange. Almost like a person of another race who was albino. But his eyes were dark. And his hair. He was just very pale. And he was just staring at me for so long that I almost thought I must have said something inappropriate or maybe I hadn't said anything at all? Maybe I had just walked up and stood there! I had opened my mouth to try to speak, hoping whatever came out wasn't as embarrassing as what I was already doing when he spoke finally.
"No, thank you, Isabella. I only need my check."
"You know my name!" I blurted, followed by a mortified blushing spell which exponentially increased my anxiety at being so close to him.
"Yes, it's there on your name tag," he said. He pointed in way that looked like he was offering me his hand but with all of his fingers curled in except for the index.
I grabbed at my shirt where he'd pointed, encountering my ugly red name tag. Of course I had known I was wearing it but it only said, "BELLA," and people never called me by full name when they saw the tag.
"It's—it just says, 'Bella' . . ."
"But that's short for, 'Isabella', isn't it?"
I always corrected anyone who said it, sometimes rudely, as I hated my name. But I didn't correct him. It was like I had never heard it before. He had a soft, alien accent I couldn't place. It wasn't the name I had hated my whole life when he said it. It was some exotic word in another language that I didn't know the meaning of but sounded far too elegant to be applied to me.
"Uh, yeah. I mean, yes, it's Isabella. It's just no one calls me that."
"That's too bad. It's pretty."
"Is it?" I sounded idiotic. I needed to get away from him fast before I said something disastrous like, "No, you're pretty and I kind of want to kiss you on the mouth . . ."
"I think so. But the opinion of a stranger carries less than monumental weight I am sure."
'It's fine to think your name is pretty? Bella, what the hell are you saying!? Stop now.'
"I mean, thanks. That's nice."
"I didn't say it to be nice. I said it because it's true."
"It's just nice that you think so, I guess." Dear. God. This was the worst conversation of my life.
"I've made you uncomfortable, I think. I apologize."
"It's okay. I'm pretty much always uncomfortable. Born in the wrong skin maybe." Now I was picturing myself wearing another person's skin which didn't fit right and I was seriously hoping he wasn't thinking the same thing because it looked disgusting.
"You seem okay to me."
I almost thanked him again and luckily stopped myself and instead said, "Well, I should get back we're going to close soon so I need to finish some things . . ."
"Of course. Sorry to have kept you."
I smiled awkwardly and started to turn, then spun back, making the coffee slosh a little. A small amount spattered onto my bare arm and I forced myself not to grimace as it burned my wrist.
"Do you, um . . . ?" I held up the pot instead of trying to speak more. No! I had already asked him that! Dammit!
"No, thank you. The check will be fine." He looked amused. I was pretty certain I had thoroughly embarrassed myself now and he thought I was part of an outreach program that gives jobs to social rejects with no recognizable skills.
I forced myself to walk very carefully back to the counter and replace the pot on the warming plate. I knew if I hurried I would trip or crash into some unmoving object that somehow managed to jump into my path unseen.
Andrea appeared then and even though I had originally had a little scheme about going back to his table, I was glad I didn't have to because I'd almost died the first time. And burned the hell out of my arm as well. She had the pad with his check in her apron pocket anyway.
"That guy wants his check," I said calmly, impressed with my apparent nonchalance.
"Oh, right, he's still here," she said and then whispered, "He's really weird. Have you ever had him at one of your tables?"
"Um, no. He's seems pretty normal though." Hah! What a stupid lie. One which I regretted right away. He was weird, no doubt about it and it wouldn't do for anyone to even guess at my fascination with him.
She eyed me strangely. Yup, I should have just said he was creepy because now I seemed weird for not thinking he was. Great.
I tried to make the fact that I was watching her take his check seem casual, a product of boredom. I noted, with an odd swooping sensation in my stomach, that he only glanced at her. Still polite, but not like he had looked at me.
Andrea wasn't particularly gorgeous but she wore tight clothing and had that kind of long blond hair which looks infuriatingly effortless and makes you feel frumpy no matter how good your own looks. By Forks standards, anyway, she was hot and used to male attention everywhere she went. He did not watch her walk away even though I could tell she was swaying her hips a little more exaggeratedly than necessary as she did so. She might have claimed she thought he was weird, but she was bothered by his indifference. She wanted to be wanted by everybody even if she didn't want them.
"He's a total homo," she said grumpily, slapping her pad on the counter and ringing up his check with quick, violent stabs on the key pad.
I looked up as she said this and saw him smirk at the exact moment when it might had been appropriate had he been standing where I was.
'He heard us!' I thought ridiculously. That was crazy, he was way too far away. But I watched him as I responded, keeping my voice low.
"I don't know. He seems kind of European . . . "
"Europeans can be homos, too," she said, losing count of his change and having to start over.
He smirked again and I inhaled sharply.
"Well, I saw him flirting with some girl earlier . . ." I tested, watching him carefully. He had his eyes directed at the book open on the table in front of him but he cocked his head as I spoke, in the universal gesture of subtle eavesdropping. He was smiling now. This was madness, he couldn't possibly hear us!
"What girl?" she demanded.
"Oh, um, some customer. Didn't look local."
She humphed and slammed the cash drawer closed before stomping back to his table to hand him his change with distinct coolness in her manner. She was always nice to customers, obsequious even. He took the change from her in such a way that made it necessary for her to touch him but he wasn't looking at her. His eyes flicked to me for an instant as this happened and he smiled slightly the way you do when someone has just told you an interesting secret.
After she walked away, he rose and I turned away quickly, suddenly busy doing absolutely nothing but trying to look like I was doing something vital. I wasn't going to watch him leave.
'I won't be creepy. I won't be creepy. I won't be creepy . . .'
I was listening for the hushed whoosh of the door opening and closing so I knew when I could turn around safely. There was a longer pause than I expected but finally I heard the door swing back into place and I breathed out shakily, laughing a little bit at how ridiculous I was being.
When I turned around again, I saw that it wasn't him leaving, it was Donny bringing in the wooden open sign from out front. He was standing right in front of me, smiling pleasantly.
I jumped, dropping the handful of forks I had picked up while I was looking pretend busy. They bounced onto the thin carpet in a clattering, silver halo around my feet. 'Well, at least it wasn't the coffee . . .' I dived to get them, somehow avoiding hitting my forehead on the counter on the way down but not the back of my head on the way up. I decided to pretend that hadn't happened as I reappeared, smiling painfully, a few moments later.
"Is your arm all right?" he asked.
"What?" Oh, right, the burning myself! I had almost forgotten that the head wound I now had wasn't my only him-induced injury from the night. "Um, yeah. It's fine," I said, holding it up. But it didn't look fine. It was bright red and I could see a blister forming already. Nice and gross. This was awesome. I hid it below the counter. Then I realized this would be situation in which it would actually be appropriate to thank him but he spoke first.
"Do you work on the weekend?"
"I mean this weekend."
"Oh!" I laughed nervously. "Uh, no. Not this weekend. Why?"
"Because I would like to take you somewhere."
"Oh, um, are you talking about like a date?"
"I believe that's what you call it here, yes."
"Well, you should learn to ask in a way that doesn't make it sound like you're going to murder me when we get wherever we're going." Wow. Smooth, Bella. I was a social reject with no skills.
But he laughed, showing unusually neat stark white teeth. Was everything about him perfect? I knew I had taken this extra shift from Danielle so I would see him when he came in but actually agreeing to go somewhere with him was a far more deliberate and possibly dangerous action.
"Sass. Interesting. Well, while it isn't my intention to murder you, Isabella, I can't make absolute promises about it in case you turn out to be excruciatingly boring and all you talk about are the birthday parties you throw for your cats or how much you hate your sister's new boyfriend. But I think in those cases it would fall under the heading of Justifiable Homicide anyway."
I wanted to laugh but I saw that Andrea was watching us closely from the other side of the dining room while she cleared the dishes off her last table. It would be extremely bad for someone like Andrea to get the idea that I was flirting with him. I forced my face to stay politely neutral.
"Well, I don't have a sister and I'm allergic to cats . . ."
"Then there's almost no chance I'm going to kill you if you go out with me so unless you have another reason for saying no . . ."
I looked him over carefully, pretending to debate his offer. It was wholly unnecessary as I knew exactly what he looked like and what I was going to say but it was a chance to see him up close like I had been wanting. He clothes were immaculate, his skin was unrealistically smooth and unblemished, and his hair was the kind of beautiful shade and texture you never see outside of magazine ads. His eyes were strange though. The irises were very dark and just a little too large giving him the appearance of one of those unsettling antique Kewpie dolls. They made him look very young but I knew he had to be quite a bit older than me. I hadn't been able to decide how much though. All of this made him sort of ageless. He could have been twenty years older or only ten.
"I'm actually with someone," I finally admitted reluctantly and somehow managed to be brave enough to look at him while turning him down. I was sad that he would leave now and I would most likely not see him again but I couldn't carry my daydreaming about him any further into reality without hurting real people. He didn't appear disappointed though.
Because it turned out he wasn't done.
"As friends then?"
"This must be a pretty impressive place you have in mind," I said. I was stalling now because I didn't know how to react to his extended invitation. Dating someone so much older was unconventional but just on the acceptable side of shocking. Somehow though, being friends with him was an even stranger idea.
"It could be if you agree to go with me."
"So it's a place for which its awesomeness is dependent on the people present?"
"Probably not prison. I'm guessing it sucks no matter who is there."
"You're funny," he said, smiling at me fondly like I was an adorable zoo animal.
"I guess." His compliments where so unusual that I didn't really know how to react to them. Not necessarily the content, but the way he said them. Like, I had taken the name thing as a compliment but he said it wasn't. It seemed like this was the same type of thing.
"So, Isabella, are we to be friends then or should I leave you to your passably happy life as a charmingly klutzy waitress and bother you no more?"
The bizarrely strong attraction I had to him made the charade of us ever being "friends" laughable but I inadvisably chose self-delusion and did the very wrong thing by not declining his offer.
"Yeah, it's probably okay, I guess," I said, guilt flooding me immediately.
"I will call you then to determine the specifics of our outing." He was backing away toward the door as he said this.
"Wait, don't you need my number?" I had to say it a little loud because he was further away and the people sitting at the last table in the deserted dining room turned to watch us. I felt my face warm again and knew I had to be an awful shade of Hello Kitty pink by now.
"It's a small town. And I do know how to operate a phone book, Miss Swan," he said with an odd grin I would have taken for giddiness in a younger or less confident person. I had no idea what it meant coming from him. I waved as he departed, watching as he passed by the front windows. He was almost unsettlingly graceful and seemed to sort of float rather than walk.
"He's cute, but a little old for you, Sweetie," said a rusty voice next to me. I started. It was Sherry, the owner. I loved her but she was a bit nosy. But then, everyone was. There wasn't anything else to do here but know everyone's business. I wasn't innocent of that crime myself. "Was he hitting on you?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," I said evasively, focusing far too intently on rolling silverware into napkins and sealing those little paper straps around them.
"Really? Because it looked like he was asking you to the prom by the way you two were acting."
I was dumb to think she would let me get away with that inept sidestep.
"Okay. He asked me out and I told him I had a boyfriend. I would just prefer if not everyone knew so it doesn't become a huge deal. People already treat him differently and it's really unfair. It would probably be worse though if they knew about this so just yeah, don't say anything, okay? He's nice, people should leave him alone."
She raised an eyebrow at my unnecessarily extended defense of him.
"Hmm, well, Jacob's a nice boy, you know. You're lucky to have him."
She knew I wasn't being totally honest. Sherry often knew more than it seemed like she should. A few times I actually wondered if she was supernatural. She patted my arm and started to walk away. I couldn't help myself. I glanced around to make sure the gawkers had gone back to their own conversation before I said, "You think he's cute?" I wanted to know if it was just me.
"Well, he's no Brad Pitt but he's cute enough do a little more than hold hands with. If you're into that tailored type. And he has a nice butt, in case you haven't looked, because I did!" While most people would have said this last part quietly, Sherry pitched her voice higher and then laughed loudly so that everyone was looking at me again. Luckily, I think my body had used up its quota of blushing for that day and I didn't change color dramatically, further betraying my feelings about him.
"I hadn't noticed," I mumbled.
"Uh huh," she said skeptically, and vanished into the kitchen.
Truthfully, I had tried to look but he was always sitting down or wearing a jacket when I saw him. I knew I could trust Sherry though. She was a connoisseur of butts so to speak. She checked out everybody. Particularly my boyfriend who she felt it was her right to touch as much as she wanted because he happened to be my boyfriend. And who was walking through the dingy glass doors just as I was thinking this.
Jacob would have undoubtedly been considered more attractive than my mystery customer by most people but I had honestly never spent a lot of time thinking about the way he looked. We were friends for a long time before we started dating and somehow he never crossed the friend barrier for me in that way.
He also had long dark hair, which uncomfortably brought someone other than him to mind now. He was nearly always laughing or smiling. Which made me feel awkward sometimes as I was more straight-faced, gloomy even, much of the time. I didn't really like living in Forks and it was difficult to be upbeat in a place that was so dreary both in weather and the general disposition of inhabitants.
He grinned at me now and I was struck by how white his teeth were, so similar to . . . him. I realized that I did not even know his name. And I had agreed to go somewhere with him. Having Jacob, my age-appropriate, utterly normal, not-at-all creepy boyfriend standing here in front of me made the madness of this whole thing suddenly very real. This was wrong. It would hurt Jacob. I would just say no when he called. If he called. It made me illogically sad then that he might not. I don't know why I was hoping he would when I was just going to turn him down.
That was a big fat lie. I was hoping he would call because I wanted to hear his voice again. And the way he said my name.
Sherry reappeared, like she had been summoned and immediately started flirting openly with Jacob. She was purposefully over the top and we both laughed. For me at least it was a welcome bit of levity to break the tense knot I'd had in my chest since the minute I had made the decision to insanely make contact with my completely unsuitable crush.
Sherry slapped Jacob on the butt, declared loudly that it was, "still nice," and then disappeared again.
"She is getting more handsy all the time," he said, but he was smiling. "You almost done?"
I had forgotten he'd come to walk me home. My truck was dead today when I'd gone out to come to work and he wouldn't be able to look at it until tomorrow.
"Um, yeah." I looked around. All of the side work was done and the last table was Andrea's. They were just drinking coffee now and would probably stay there until kicked out. I was holding a final, crumpled napkin in my fist. I let go and saw that there were soft ridges from my fingers imbedded in it, sealed in place by sweat.
I shouted into the back that I was leaving and when I turned around, Jacob was holding my coat. He handed it to me. One time he'd tried to hold it for me while I put it on but my impressive lack of coordination, even while not talking to beautiful, intimidating strangers, made trying to put on a coat I wasn't in control of practically impossible and he never did it again.
It was cold outside but not freezing. The pavement was wet and I could tell it would rain again. Hopefully we could get a couple of minutes closer to my house before it started. Jacob took my hand and the guilt I had about whatever-his-name-was flared again momentarily. He smiled at me sweetly. It was pretty clear that he was in love with me but had thankfully not gone so far as to say it out loud. Yet. We hadn't really been dating that long and I was unsure about how I felt. He was definitely my best friend and but I didn't feel that overwhelming feeling of intense stupidity that I had been led to believe you feel when you're in love. Sometimes, when he kissed me I got a little dizzy, but it couldn't possibly be what everyone was always writing songs about and and killing themselves over. I thought it was probably something which had to develop.
Sometimes it was hard to have your boyfriend also be your best friend because then you had no one to talk about your boyfriend with. And no one to talk about mystifying things like that guy with either. And if you broke up, you had no more best friend. I had almost broken up with him once and that was one of things which stopped me. It wasn't bad being with Jacob because he was wonderful and I certainly wasn't interested in anyone else around here so I'd had no valid excuse to end our relationship. Which was a pretty bleak situation I realized with an unhappy jolt as we crossed the highway together and I found myself wishing I were alone.
We talked about various superficial things on the way to my house. When we got there I could tell he wanted to linger. We often sat on the porch talking for a long time but I didn't feel up to it tonight. All of the various emotions that had swept through me in the last hour had drained me of the ability to have a coherent conversation about anything meaningful. He was disappointed but I told him I was just tired and might be getting sick. His demeanor changed immediately to concerned.
I was a terrible person. I should break up with him just because I didn't deserve him. Maybe he could find someone who did then.
He bent to kiss me, despite my warning that I may be getting sick. I closed my eyes. This was better. It didn't require thought. I slipped my hands into his hair and then immediately wondered what his hair, so similar to Jacob's, felt like. I pulled away abruptly before I started imagining kissing him also. I was becoming obsessed and by extension, traitorous. It hadn't been as bad before, when he'd just come to the restaurant. Now that we had spoken, it had sent my preoccupation with him into overdrive.
I apologized to Jacob and went quickly into the house leaving him standing, confused, on my porch. I called a hello to Charlie and tried to dash straight for the stairs.
"There's a message by the phone for you, Bells."
I froze with my foot in the air, hovering over the bottom step for a few seconds, then turned and made myself walk as calmly as possible back to the kitchen. I could see Charlie's uneven scrawl on the top piece of paper on the pad by the phone. I was afraid to get close enough to read it. It had to be from one of my friends. There's no way he would call tonight, not when he knew I was definitely at work.
I leaned over it from a comical distance, afraid to touch it like it might be dangerous. It was simple and disjointed the way all of Charlie's phone messages were. He often got details wrong which sometimes ended amusingly but more often was simply baffling and indecipherable. I'm not sure how he didn't know how to take down accurate information after being a cop for so long but maybe he just switched off when he got home. I thought that he had to be wrong this time for sure after reading the few words scrawled on the paper:
Someone named "Arrow"
Arrow. His name was Arrow? That was an improbably wacky name for someone like him. It didn't fit him at all. Unless he was a villain in a James Bond movie. He did look a bit like a villain actually. One of those really pretty, smooth villains. No, do not think about him being pretty.
I took the note off the pad. Charlie was in the doorway now.
"He asked for 'Isabella', I thought it was a telemarketer."
"Huh, yeah, weird."
"Strange name," he pressed. He was inordinately paranoid about unknown males. Why couldn't he switch off that cop trait when he came home . . .
"Oh yeah, might be one of Jacob's friends," I said, extremely grateful to live next to an Indian reservation, making somebody named "Arrow" sound totally plausible. Maybe. I realized I actually didn't know anything about Native-American naming practices aside from what I'd seen in movies which were surely cliches. I held my breath and hoped Charlie was as uninformed as I was.
But it turned out he wasn't particularly concerned about that part and I fervently wished we could go back to why there was a person with a noun for a name calling me at ten pm because the next line of questioning was far more perilous.
"He didn't sound like a kid."
"Yeah, well, Jacob sounds like he's thirty-five on the phone." It was true and I was relieved that it had the effect I wanted. He started to relax incrementally.
"Thinking of going down to La Push this weekend?" Now he was casual, just being curious rather than suspicious.
"Yeah, well, the rain could let up." Excellent answer. Utterly vague about intent.
He shrugged and went back to the TV. I went upstairs to my room where I closed the door and took what felt like the first real breath I had taken since I picked up that coffee pot a little over an hour ago. I reread the note again carefully, like there could be some more revealing meaning hidden there. But it didn't tell me anything I didn't know. In fact it created questions. Like why he would call during a time when he knew I wouldn't be home and if he expected me to call him now. It just said "call tomorrow". Charlie must have understood him wrong I decided because it was better than thinking he just didn't record a number and my one chance to talk to him again was gone.
I carefully folded the note and put it on my desk in the corner, out of sight, after talking myself out of setting it on my nightstand. I changed quickly and got into bed. I was tired after two shifts at work but as soon as I lay down I realized I was tired but not sleepy. The darkness felt private and safe though so I didn't turn on the light to read the way I usually did when I couldn't sleep. Instead, I let myself go over our encounter in my head. I dwelled on the most vivid points.
When he said my name and the way it had sounded.
His laugh when I asked him if he planned to kill me.
How pissed off Andrea was when he didn't check her out and how he had looked at me.
And asked me out.
And when it seemed like he could hear our conversation from across the room.
His odd giddiness when I told him I would go wherever-it-was with him.
He was almost absurdly excited. He was definitely strange. Thinking about everything that had happened made me feel an uncharacteristic desire to giggle behind my hands like I was a Japanese school girl. I had finally seen him up close. And I would see him again. No, talk to him when I told him I couldn't see him. Oh, but I wanted to see him. Maybe it would be okay one time. He seemed like he had something planned and I was interested to know what it was.
And I wanted to be near him.
That was a very solid reason to cancel right there because those feelings were way past friendly.
I tugged the sheet over my head like I could hide my own dumb expression from myself.
So, so not friendly . . .
End Notes: Okay then, kids. Intriguing enough for you, I hope. I think it's fairly obvious that I am guilty of adverb and italics abuse. And, in this chapter only, of extreme forms of punctuation abuse. I am unapologetic about that but I will apologize for the number of times I use the word weird in this fic. It's actually weird that I did not notice how many times I was using it in the first draft because I'm generally very conscientious about word repetition. There are some issues with tenses in this chapter as well which I was too tired to fix. I've gotten impatient here and decided to post this earlier than I'd originally planned, meaning it got like three or four edits instead of six or twelve.
Lastly, as a reader, I am criminally bad at reviewing stories because I get very caught up reading and forget. I implore you to overlook my own deficiencies and let me know what you thought. I even have a suggestion:
I have noticed when writing AroBella dialogue that they tend to say hilarious things to each other that I do not even feel I can take credit for because it literally feels like they're coming out of nowhere and I seriously laughed hysterically throughout the writing of this story. So, at the end of each chapter, I will be putting my favorite line here, and I would love, love to know what your favorite line/scene was as well. From this chapter I chose a Bella line:
"Well, you should learn to ask in a way that doesn't make it sound like you're going to murder me when we get wherever we're going."
Thank you for reading! Future end notes will not be this long.