Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended. I don't own these characters. This story is not meant to violate the rights held by Stephenie Meyer.

I'll post often. The chapters will be short.

Break in the Clouds

Facing the ceiling, hands resting under his head, Edward fired off a muttered question that he already knew the answer to.

"Wanna fuck?"

His wife shifted in the darkness of the bedroom, facing away from him. "I think I'm getting my period in a few days. I feel all bloated."

Edward nodded a little to himself because he wasn't surprised.

But wait for it. There's more.

". . .And I have a headache."

There we go. Lauren's excuses weren't complete without the infamous headache.

Edward fell asleep, and there was no dreaming. Dreams died once you got out of college, and that time had long since passed for this thirty-six year old. Almost thirty-seven.

If he were to describe his life, he'd say okay. Not that it really was. Dull, gray, and monotone were more fitting words, but after a while you simply forgot what good was. Everything became . . . eh, okay.

Then the morning came, and Edward woke up to familiar sounds. The coffee was brewing in the kitchen, Lauren was in the shower, the news was on in the living room, and the toaster soon popped up four slices of charcoal.

Scrubbing his hands over his face, Edward stumbled tiredly into the bathroom where his wife was humming tunelessly in the shower. He pulled up the toilet lid and took a leak, then yawned and told Lauren to flush when she got out; if he flushed now, he'd have a woman screeching about the water turning cold, and he wasn't in the mood.

Next was breakfast. The burnt toast, strong coffee, and the sports section.

"You could use a shave." Lauren joined him in the kitchen a while later and poured a glass of tomato juice. Fucking disgusting, in Edward's opinion. "It's been a while, hasn't it?"

Edward grunted, scratched his scruffy jaw, and didn't look up from the paper.

"Don't forget we have dinner with my parents this Sunday," she added.

"I won't." Edward checked the clock on the microwave.

It was time to head off to work. Another day at that godforsaken mall where he was a security guard. Talk about unfulfilling. The only action he saw was when some snooty little bitch shoplifted or when some high school rebel thought it was cool to use his skateboard on the escalators.

Since Lauren worked at Grove Mall, too, they carpooled every day. She worked in a nail salon, which, Edward mused wryly, maybe had something to do with the "headaches" she suffered from so often. But it was weird she only complained when Edward put sex on the table.

What had it been now – three months?

"Oh, turn your phone on around noon," Lauren said with a nod as Edward drove. "There's that hoopla, remember?"

Edward rolled his eyes to himself, and yeah, he did remember the hoopla. It was some feeble attempt by the management in an effort to come off as nice leaders. The words in the announcement letter had been "nice" and "strong leadership" and "we look after our Grove family" and "close-knit."

Heaving a sigh, he made a turn and pulled in to the employee parking lot behind the three-story mall. Hideous building, too. The architect must've been drunk when he thought red brick and blue-tinted glass would be a cool combo. Because it really wasn't. The solid brick structure looked like a rusty frame around the massive royal blue window walls.

It was like working in a fish tank.

Edward hated it.

One of the few okay things about the place was the occasional glance he caught of his cousin's wife. She was this chubby little chick who'd moved here a few years ago. But she had some major flaws, too, and that was why Edward only used her sometimes in his mind when he rubbed one out in the shower. In other words, he didn't speak to her. Ever.

The biggest flaw was of course that she'd married his asshole of a cousin – Carlisle Cullen, larger than life.

The girl obviously has a shitty taste in guys.

Carlisle also worked at Grove Mall, but he was in management. He put on a suit every day and had his own office hidden deep within the rabbit warren of corridors behind the stores, whereas his little wife worked in a smoothie shop on the third floor here at the Grove – right next to the movie theater, actually.

The resentment between the two Cullen brothers had been passed down to their children without much effort. Edward's and Carlisle's fathers hated one another, and once their kids started high school the same year, the hatred continued on with the younger generation. Edward's side was mellow – all working class – and down to earth.

Carlisle's side was . . . not.


Lauren went inside first since Edward wanted to grab a smoke before work, and it was when he stood outside the employees' entrance that Jasper arrived.

Edward wouldn't call the man his best friend, but they were close enough, and they happened to like the same music. Coincidentally, Jasper owned a record store at the Grove – one that was dangerously close to bankruptcy. They could thank Apple and Pandora for that. No longer was it common to collect CDs or records. It was all about iTunes and free streaming.

It was with great reluctance the Texan sold iTunes giftcards in his store, and he hated that they sold so well.

"Mornin'," Jasper drawled quietly and leaned back against the brick wall. As always, he was dressed in holey jeans, a ragged t-shirt, and a sweat-stained baseball cap. He lit a cigarette, too, and exhaled heavily. "One more day – then the weekend."

Edward nodded and looked up at the sky. Gray. Cloudy. Maybe it would rain. "You seein' your kids this weekend?" His buddy had twin boys two towns over. Jasper's ex-wife – Maria – used to work at the Grove, but when they got divorced, she moved to be closer to her parents.

"Yeah," Jasper sighed. "It's their birthday."

"Cool." The polite thing was probably to ask how old the boys were – Edward guessed six or seven – but he couldn't find the will. He didn't really care. How sad was that? "Time to head in, I guess." He stubbed out the smoke, and after making plans to grab lunch together at Brandon's Burgers in the food court, he went inside.

There were two guys working security at Grove Mall: Edward and Emmett. Emmett McCarty was a withdrawn character with hunched shoulders and a constant frown. He was tall, a couple inches taller than Edward's six two, and broad, yet he carried himself like a quiet mouse.

Speaking of mice…

When Edward and Emmett had changed into their uniforms and were about to split up on the first floor, ready to start their shifts, Edward saw Bella Cullen going up on the escalators. She was another quiet one – mousy in her own way.

Whenever Edward observed her, he witnessed silent suffering, dull eyes downcast, and clothes designed for hiding. It was as if someone had sucked the life out of her.

What a bitch.

Fanfiction written by AnotherPen, beta'd by InFlight75, pre-read by LAchick85 – we usually go by other names in the fandom.