I hope you enjoy my story, which is set in England and the USA. In England, a 'Counsellor' is not a politician or a lawyer, but a person who is trained to help people in crisis.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Twilight. The characters belong to Stephenie Meyer but this story is for everyone.
Summer nights in England are usually pleasant in a balmy sort of way, but after several stiflingly hot days, the latent heat that radiated from London's over-cooked buildings and shimmering pavements lingered in the murky atmosphere that hung over the city like an unwelcome thermal blanket, causing the stagnant evening air trapped below to remain uncomfortably warm and humid.
From an air-conditioned corridor that served the rear entrance to a famous five-star hotel, and through a narrow doorway protected by fluttering insect-repelling tapes, a solitary figure emerged from the cool shadows into the twilight. Before venturing from the doorway, the tall and slender young man halted on the threshold of the building, giving him the opportunity to quickly scan the area immediately in front of him and then to look further on, beyond the lines of foul-smelling refuse containers and piles of empty tins and cardboard boxes that were stacked haphazardly against the crumbling walls of the untidy yard. The unfamiliar sight that greeted him was a sharp contrast to the opulent and magnificent hotel lobby that was situated less than a few hundred yards away, but what it offered him was exactly what he needed at this precise moment in time; a secret, covert escape route.
The empty street that served the kitchen's entrance seemed deserted at first glance, but the young man still hesitated before taking his next step, allowing his tired and swollen eyes the opportunity to explore every shadow in the yard and every doorway and window in the buildings that overlooked the back of the hotel. He was also listening for a particular sound that would indicate the imminent danger of discovery, but it wasn't there, so he moved forward from the doorway slowly, dropping a cautious foot onto the step below, hesitating again before his other foot followed, then he stilled once more to listen carefully to the sounds around him.
He could hear the distant but constant hum of the city, mixed intermittently with blaring horns from taxis and other vehicles being driven through the late rush-hour traffic by over-heated and irritable motorists. Above him was the pulsating throb of a low-flying helicopter cutting gracefully through the sticky evening air, no doubt transporting a captain of industry to his pile in the country; moving effortlessly above the heads of lesser mortals who were fighting for space on the crowded streets below. To his right, he could hear muffled chatter and clinking glasses emanating from the welcoming open doors of a traditional back-street London pub. And finally, in the distance, the unmistakable sound of Big Ben chiming seven o'clock.
The particular sound he was listening for, the distinctive metallic 'click' that had been part of his life almost every day for the last three years, was not there, so he carefully picked his way through the stinking kitchen detritus, holding his breath until he was away from the confines of the yard. With his head down and jacket collar pulled around his face, he hastily turned left onto the broken pavements of the shabby back-street, then left again around the corner of the hotel and into the shadows of an adjacent building where he exhaled and hungrily gulped in some relatively unpolluted air.
He leaned his back against the grimy concrete wall and took another deep breath, then shut his eyes tightly and put his hands over his ears to block out the noises of the city. Without the distraction of the sights and sounds around him, he reflected on the decision he had just taken and why he had taken it, but could find no other reason than he wasn't prepared to live the dishonest and destructive sham that was his life anymore.
The inevitable fall-out from the impulsive decision he had made just a few moments ago in the bathroom of his hotel suite caused his hands to involuntarily fly to his head and grab handfuls of his abundant auburn hair, tugging at it as though he was attempting to tear clumps of it from his scalp. He recognised this self-harming habit as a sign of severe stress, as he had repeated this action so many times before, but on every previous occasion, after he had calmed down, he had gritted his teeth and carried steadfastly on down the never-ending road that had been laid out before him by others.
But not anymore.
This was the end of the line for him, and also an end to lies and dishonesty, and to being manipulated; in fact everything destructive that was connected with his current way of life.
As he stood in the shadows reflecting on what had happened to him in the last forty-eight hours, he was well aware that if he stuck with his decision to walk away from the hotel there would be no going back. Any bridges that could have returned him to his old way of life would have been torn down and destroyed completely. But there would be no turning back for him. Even though his professional head was still wavering, in his brutally damaged heart the decision had already been made. He was getting away from this wretched place before he lost the last vestige of his free will completely.
He could hear and feel his heart pounding frantically in his chest and he felt incapable of moving from the spot, so with his back to the wall and knees bent, he allowed his body to sink slowly to the ground and hunch itself into a tight ball to obscure his face from view. If there had been any passing pedestrians in that lonely alleyway, they would have taken him for a down-and-out and would either have hurried past without looking, or paused to drop a coin in his hand if they were feeling generous. With his unkempt hair, unshaven face, worn jeans and turned up collar, they would not suspect for a moment that he was a fabulously successful actor, loved and admired by millions, whose air-brushed image currently adorned acres of advertising space across this city and countless other towns and cities across the globe.
After a couple more minutes of unnecessary contemplation about what he had just done, the young man raised his head and ran his fingers through his hair again; this time in a feeble attempt to bring it under some sort of control. His cheeks were damp; evidence of the tears of anger and frustration he had been shedding previously in his hotel room, and then again just a few moments ago. He rubbed his face dry with his hands and slowly stood up, then straightened his jacket, brushed down the back of his jeans and took a deep, calming breath. Now feeling more in control, he began walking in the direction of the River Thames which he knew was very close to the hotel.
From his penthouse suite of rooms in the hotel, there was a spectacular view upstream towards Westminster Bridge, the London Eye Wheel and the imposing government buildings that lined the Embankment opposite the South Bank. As he took his first steps towards his new, self-imposed, solitary but unburdened life, for the first time in years he felt a long-supressed urge to be beside the main artery of this bustling city.
He had been brought up, if you could call it that, not far from this famous river. As an angry and frustrated teenager he had regularly sat on its banks to take time-out, usually after having heated arguments with his abusive and neglectful parents about matters that now seem trivial, but at the time, to him, were a matter of life and death. For hours he would sit on the river wall as evening turned into night; his eyes fixed on the fast-flowing brown water as it followed its ancient and uninterrupted course to the estuary. The spectacle of the city's life-blood escaping from the chaos of London to the wide waters of the ocean had the inexplicable consequence of calming his sensitive heart and pacifying his adolescent temper.
This river had been his teenage drug of choice, as its constancy helped him cope with the traumas of his unhappy childhood and adolescent years. The river was dependable and faithful; it would always be there for him when he needed it, unlike the transient people who moved in and out of his life, including his worthless parents who he hated then and still hated now. There had only been one person in his early years whom he had truly loved and trusted, and now she was gone. Consequently there was no-one left who understood what he had been through in the past and no-one he could talk to about the present and his uncertain future.
He set off in the direction of the river; his footsteps echoing in the dark alleyway that only ever saw the light of the midday sun. He was hoping and praying that a trip to the water's edge might help him find solace like before, but then he laughed grimly to himself as he knew it would take someone a great deal wiser than Old Father Thames to sort out his problems this time and deal with the shit-storm he had just created and had left for others to deal with back at the hotel. He carried on walking with his head down, watching his footing on the uneven London pavements, or 'sidewalks', as he was now obliged to refer to them when he was in Los Angeles, his newly adopted home.
As he left the safety of the alleyway and turned the next corner he froze, as he was instantly aware that the sound he had been listening for in the hotel doorway was there; the sound that had plagued most of his adult life. It was the unmistakable 'click click click' of cameras, followed by the noise of running feet, which meant that a posse of men and women were heading towards him and he could hear them shouting his name.
"Fucking Paps," he growled under his breath as he spontaneously broke into a fast sprint. Even though he wasn't a sportsman per se, he could set a pretty fast pace on a treadmill, which meant that his speed and stamina were more than adequate to outrun a pack of camera carrying, beer-swilling, cigarette smoking Paparazzi.
He sped down nameless London streets, skidding around corners this way and that in an attempt to lose this group of parasites. As he was running, he was imagining he was running for his life, away from the bullshit, lies, corruption, intrigue and chaos that surrounded him, but after a few minutes at full speed he had to stop as he was overheating and gasping for breath. He put his hands on his knees and panted like a dog, but he allowed himself a smile of satisfaction as the sounds of pursuit had faded away and he was able to relax again.
"Fat useless bastards," he muttered to himself. "Hope they all have fucking heart attacks!" he added scathingly.
Now totally lost, he looked around for a street sign or any familiar landmarks that would give an indication as to where he was. He found he was in a crescent of pristine, white-fronted Georgian houses with iron railings and window boxes full of summer flowers, and when he straightened up, a memory of his beloved grandmother came into his head and he smiled. In the 1930's she had spent her early childhood in this type of house, before her Colonial Service parents left England to live and work in India taking her with them. When he was a child he had promised to buy her a house like this when he was 'all grown up', even though she assured him she was happy in her home in Richmond. Now he could afford to buy several of these houses, but she hadn't lived long enough to see his success which was one of his many regrets.
"Christ Almighty! I can't do this anymore," he cried out to the empty street. "What do these assholes want from me? Haven't they got enough fucking pictures?"
He yelled to the air around him in exasperation, not expecting to hear a reply from God, Jesus, or any other deity who may have been listening.
There was no-one around to ask where he was and out of desperation he put his hand in his jacket pocket for his cellphone. He intended to call his friend, Jasper, to try and convince him to come and rescue him, even though Jasper's last text message to him was, 'Fuck You'. Then he remembered he had left his phone next to his bed in the hotel.
"Crap!" he cursed out loud.
He walked away from the immaculate street with his head down and jacket collar turned up again, hoping not to be recognized. Once more he felt tears starting up in his eyes and the edges of the paving stones gradually blurred from view as it suddenly occurred to him that in the city of his birth, he had no-one to turn to and nowhere to go.
It was over five years since he had walked the streets of London and that was when he was twenty-one, just before he left England to try his luck in LA. He would either have been searching out any sort of paying work during the daytime, or spending the evenings going to gigs, or drinking with Jasper and other acquaintances, but always making the most of the diverse London night life. He still loved this city; preferring it to the heat of LA or the brashness of New York. He missed the culture, the pubs, even the depressing weather. London was his home town, but now he felt like a stranger.
He turned another corner and heard the welcoming sound of clinking glasses and laughter again and looked across the street to where the noise was coming from. For a moment he didn't take in what he was seeing, and then he realised that the pub was the same one that was situated behind his hotel and it quickly occurred to him that he'd been walking and running in a circle. Beyond the pub was the alleyway where he had started his journey less than half an hour ago and he instantly realised that he was in danger of being spotted again. He looked cautiously along the familiar streets and could just see the huddle of Paparazzi at the top of the one that overlooked the front entrance, obviously waiting like snipers to ambush him on his return. Cursing under his breath, he turned around to escape in the opposite direction, silently screaming in his head.
Glancing over his shoulder to check whether he was being followed and not looking where he was going, he sprinted across the road, straight into the path of a middle-aged woman, knocking her heavily against a parked vehicle. Almost in slow motion he watched helplessly as her body slid down the side of the car and rolled onto the pavement. The woman lay still for a few seconds then instinctively gripped her purse tightly to her chest and glanced up fearfully at her assailant.
"Oh my God, I am so, so sorry," he cried as he dropped to his knees. "Are you okay; can I do anything to help you?"
The woman was well dressed in smart black jeans and a caramel coloured leather jacket and he guessed she was aged about forty. Her eyes were now tightly shut, almost as though she was expecting to receive the first blow from her attacker, but when that didn't happen and what he had just said registered in her brain, she opened her eyes cautiously and looked up at him.
"Should I call an ambulance; do you live nearby?" he spluttered frantically.
He put his hand under her arm and helped lift her into a sitting position. "Are you injured at all?" he asked, panicking, while looking for evidence of cuts and bruises.
"No, I'm fine," she replied in a soft, reassuring voice, as she brushed her clothes down with her hands. "It's not every day I get swept off my feet by a handsome young man," she added with a grin. "For a second though I thought I was being mugged."
He helped her stand and retrieved some of the contents from her purse that had fallen into the road. She was average height, small build, with expressive green eyes and brownish auburn hair that was almost the same shade as his. Her clothes were casual but classically stylish and he noticed her purse was a Mulberry, so she was obviously quite wealthy he guessed and then he admonished himself for checking her out and making assumptions.
The woman took her car keys from his hand and looked up at his face as if to say something, but instead she gazed intently into the eyes of this stunningly handsome young man who was standing before her looking just as shaken as she was. As she took in what she could see was written in his anguished face and red-rimmed eyes, she gasped. But it was not the gasp of recognition he was used to, it was a gasp of concern and pity.
Her right hand reached up and rested on his shoulder then she cautiously raised it further to his face, delicately brushing her fingers over the dark shadows under his swollen, but still beautiful, grey eyes.
"I'm fine," she said in a soft whisper, "but I'd guess you're the one here who's hurting the most?"
He was transfixed as he allowed her to touch him. The gentle caress of her hand on his cheek and the caring tone in her voice, triggered a long-distant memory of warmth and compassion; something he had not felt since the last time he saw his grandmother about a month before she died. He looked down into the woman's concerned face and said with a voice breaking with emotion,
"I need help; I need to get away from here."
Then he bent his head onto her shoulder and started to sob.
Edward's life has just come crashing down around him and now he has met 'The Counsellor', she will take him away from the people who are controlling him and get him to go back over what has happened to make him walk away from his life, so he can resolve his issues and hopefully win back the girl he loves. This story has laughter and angst, happiness and sorrow, lots of loving moments and quite a few lemons.
In the next chapter you will find out why and from whom Edward is running away.
I hope you enjoy the story x
Joan (aka Michaelmas54)