A/N: This is a birthday present for my beautiful friend, TwiSNfan. Make sure you clean your teeth afterward...I'm aiming for cavity-inducing.
Thank you to CrackedFic for betaing. Mistakes are mine. Twilight is Stephenie's.
Things I Lost, Things I Found
My bag bumps against my hip as I run up the ramp to the train station. I glance at my phone and silently curse myself once again for sleeping in. I knew I should have gone to sleep at a decent hour, but my book was just too interesting. Only one more chapter, I'd thought. Of course, I didn't stop for six more chapters...which explains my current predicament. If I miss this train, I'm screwed. I'm already two behind the one I really wanted…
I breathe a sigh of relief as the blue and yellow carriage pulls into the station, and ignore the looks of disdain I receive from other passengers as I hurriedly swipe my ticket. The glares I give them in return pretty much burn with the words, tell me you haven't done it before. One or two seem to agree, because they return their gazes to their phones or obnoxiously-large newspapers.
When the carriage doors slide open, I step through the door and grab the first available, gaudily-coloured seat I see. One of the benefits of missing the peak-hour train is getting a seat on the later one. Securing my earbuds and scrolling through to find my Drown Out the World playlist, I let the music take me away as I flick to the app that will connect me with my people.
As I'm catching up on the world in my pocket-device, the beep-beep-beep alarm of the closing doors filters through my music. I flick my eyes up to the scrolling board that tells me which station I'm at, and sigh in relief to see that I'm on the express—we'll be missing the next few stations. Small miracles for a girl who's already a little late. A moment after I look back at my phone, a tap on my shoulder catches my attention.
I lift my head up to see a stunning looking, suit-wearing man staring back at me. His perfect pink lips are moving, but no sound is coming out.
"I'm sorry?" I say, confusion evident in my voice. He taps at his ear, and I get it. I pull an earbud from my ear, and instantly realise I've spoken way too loudly for the quiet of the carriage. My cheeks reddening, I lower my voice to a more appropriate level. "Sorry." I shrug. "I must have had my music up too high."
"That's okay." Hot Guy shrugs back. He gestures to the seat beside me. "May I?"
"Oh," I mutter, pulling my bag from the spare seat and into my lap. "Of course." Oh god, I silently chastise myself. I'm one of those people. Seat hogging, music too loud…
"It's busy this morning," he says, squeezing into the seat beside me. I can feel that the fabric of his suit is stiffer than my thin cardigan. "There's usually more seats available."
"Yeah," I reply, my voice low. Speaking on the train feels a little like speaking at church—it's just not really done. Nobody seemed to tell this guy though. "I guess people slept in following the long weekend."
His green eyes twinkle at me. "Is that what you did? Sleep in?"
I bite my lip a little. "Yeah."
Hot Suit Guy doesn't seem satisfied enough with the brevity of my response. "Were you out late last night?"
Hitting pause on my music so I can give Hot Suit Guy further attention, I pull the earbud from my still-budded ear and loop it around my neck. It's enough to say I'm interested in what you're saying, but I'm not putting my phone away just yet because I don't want to seem too needy. And then I realise I haven't answered his question. "I had a big weekend. I went away with friends, then had some people over for lunch yesterday." And why am I telling him all this?
He smiles back. "Sounds like fun," he says. "I went into the city. Checked out the festival."
"Oh?" I shift a little in my seat, and my position between him and the window ensuring that my thigh is aligned with his. He doesn't move to give me more room, so I try to fight the flush that threatens to colour my cheeks by being so pressed against him. "Was it good? I haven't been in years."
"Neither have I," he says, his long fingers toying with the handle of his briefcase. "I took my sister's kids." He shakes his head a little, his eyebrows raising just the slightest amount. "What can I say? They wore me out."
I find myself laughing. His face is so open, and he looks as though the memory brings him genuine joy—although tinged with exhaustion. I echo his earlier sentiment. "Sounds like you had fun."
He nods. "Yeah, I did." The edges of his lips creep up. "It would have been nice to have someone else to enjoy it with, though."
The intensity of his gaze causes my heart to stutter. I tear my gaze away—it feels like he can read my mind.
"You work in the city?" he asks.
I nod, my eyes still on my lap. "Yes. Not far from the station. Which is good…you know. For days I'm late." I glance back at him. He's staring right at me, but it doesn't feel invasive—just curious. I find myself smiling.
"Me too," he says. He reaches up to rub his head, keeping his elbow pressed in; there really isn't much room now that the carriage has filled. "I work near the station too, I mean."
Smiling, I think of ways to try and keep him talking. The train has slowed to a stop, which means I've got three stations until I need to get off. I go with the classic. "What do you do?" I ask.
"I audit." He clears his throat. "I mean, I'm an auditor." He shakes his head a little, closing his eyes for a moment. "It's okay. I mean, it pays the bills." When he opens his eyes, he turns his head to look at me. The move leaves little room between the two of us. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a woman who is sitting, knitting. She smirks at me. It's like she's trying not to listen, but because of the Rules of the Church of the Train, it's kinda hard not to. He smiles, and his face is open. When he speaks, he leans forward a little, like he's really interested in my answer. I watch his lips. "What do you do?"
"Spreadsheets," I blurt out. The lips smile, and I try to save my mortification. "I mean, I work with companies on grading their performance. The spreadsheets are…for…" I'm dying "…recording that information…" I let the words trail off because I'm clearly suffering from a strange virus that causes words to spew indiscriminately from my mouth. Knitting lady shakes her head.
A disjointed voice over the speakers announces the station, and I turn my head to see the lights of the underground station come into view. This is me. I stand, and so does Hot Suit Guy.
"This is me," I say, wrapping the cord of my headphones around my phone and looping my bag over my shoulder.
"Me too." His voice is quiet. He indicates for me to get out ahead of him, but doing so would cause me to have to climb over the lap of the passengers on the seats opposite, or rub up against him like a cat. One of those options is appealing, but probably not socially appropriate. Instead, I hold my hand out to gesture for him to go first.
My bag feels heavy as I follow his strong-shouldered form from the train, and a strange feeling flutters in my chest. This man has caused me to break the cardinal rule of the train, and I want that chance again. Rather than do the sweeping, romantic thing that might have been done in one of my beloved books and run, throwing myself into his arms, I watch him walk away. He's about to disappear into the sea of just-past-peak-hour commuters. And I'm never again going to see the suit wearing auditor who takes his sister's kids to the festival on long weekends.
Finding myself engulfed by the stream of people, I step onto the fast-moving escalator and let myself be raised from the depths of the underground into the bright daylight of the city. I swipe myself through the turnstile, and step onto the city street.
Letting my feet drift their own path towards the high-rise office that my workplace shares with numerous other companies, I pause at the small café next door. I put in my order for my usual—a hot chocolate with mini marshmallows—and fish through my bag for my wallet. After paying, I flick through the newspapers on the stand while I wait. When my name is called, I collect my order and without looking up, make my way out into the street.
Giving a small smile to the security guard on duty, I delve into my bag to find my swipe card. I find it easily, but notice my bag is lighter than normal. After few more frantic stabs in the bag, I come up empty handed—I must have left my wallet somewhere. My heart skips—my whole life is in there.
I grumble to myself as I swipe my way through the turnstile, and grumpily stab the button to call the lift. On the ride up to my floor, I mentally retrace my steps for the morning. By the time I arrive at the reception area for my office, I figure I must have left it when I picked up my hot chocolate.
After I stash my bag in my desk drawer, log into my computer, and greet my coworkers, I Google the café's name. A quick call to them tells me that no wallets have been found in the store, nor have any been handed in. Properly frustrated, I let my forehead rest on the desk.
Ninety freaking minutes later, I'm still on hold to the stupid credit card company. If I have to listen to their inane music any longer, I'm fairly sure I'm going to start picking up the pens on my desk and launching them across the office. As my frustration builds, I think about the things I've lost this morning. My wallet, for one, and something as simple as a name. I didn't even get the Hot Suited Auditor's name.
The name I do hear is my own being called. It's not coming through the phone, but from my co-worker, Alice. She's waving at me so frantically that at first I think she's trying to communicate using semaphore. I place my hand over the receiver. "What's up, Alice?"
"There's a guy," she stammers, the waving turning to pointing. "He's at reception. He says he has something of yours." She suddenly slams her hands to the desk in front of me, startling me in the process. She glances around conspiratorially, and speaks in a hushed voice. "And Bella…he's hot."
My eyes widen, partly due to the fact that she's unhinged, and partly because, well, a hot guy has something for me. I've seen Alice's boyfriend—I trust her judgement.
Hanging up the phone, I make my way to the reception. The tall, broad-shouldered, auburn-haired man waiting at the desk turns to face me slowly. The same lips I spent the train ride looking at quirk into a grin. In one hand, he holds my wallet. In the other, he holds a bunch of flowers.
"Hey," he greets, his voice doing funny things to my insides.
"Hi," I reply, trying to sound casual.
He continues to smile. "I lost you at the station this morning."
I give a half-shrug. "It's okay. I figured you had to go." I feel my cheeks flush at the memory of his departing back, and the sinking feeling it had given me. "It's no problem."
"No," he says quickly. "It is. I wanted to ask for your number." Suddenly, his eyes widen. "I probably should have given you my name first. I'm Edward." He shakes his head suddenly. "Ugh! I didn't even ask if you have a boyfriend first. Oh!" He looks properly freaked out now. "You could be married! Shit, I'm sorry! I should go."
"Wait!" I say, my hand reaching up to try and signal him to stop. I must look like Alice. "I don't. I mean, I don't have a boyfriend. I'm not married."
His face relaxes instantly, and he reaches the hand holding my wallet to me. He exhales, and smiles. "You left this at the café."
"You were at the café?" I ask, trying to think of how I could have missed him.
"Yeah." He hands me my wallet. "You left kind of quickly."
"Anyway," he rubs the back of his neck with his free hand. "It was kind of a good thing. Not that you left quickly, but that you left your wallet." He shifts, and the paper wrapped around the flowers crinkles. "Because then I could find you. I mean, rather than stalking the train station for hours after work tonight." For a moment, it almost looks like he blushes a little himself. "Your business card was in there. I matched it to your driver's license."
I giggle nervously, my fingers tracing the familiar embossed design in the leather. When my gaze drifts up, I see that his face is relaxed and his smile is wide. He holds the flowers out to me.
"These are for you," he says, stepping forward and holding out the bouquet. "And I was wondering…" I watch his tongue dart out to lick his lips "…would you like to have lunch with me today?"
I nod, unable to speak. I inhale the beautiful aroma of the flowers, and notice that they smell rather like my perfume. My smile grows wider.
"Great." His voice sounds pleased, and his grin matches. "I'll pick you up at twelve-thirty."
Again, I nod and smile. "That would be great."
"Great. I'll see you then." He tucks his hands into his pockets and heads for the elevator. "Oh, and Bella?"
I look up from my flowers. "Yes?"
His smile is as sweet as the marshmallows in my hot chocolate. "Happy birthday."
Thanks for reading!