Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Twilight, it all belongs to Stephenie Meyer - bless her
On a warm summer evening in the heart of central London, at the rear of a grand five-star hotel, a narrow door leading to a cluttered courtyard slowly opened and a tall figure emerged from the shadows into the twilight. The young man who stood there looked cautiously beyond the line of refuse containers and stacks of cardboard boxes that were piled haphazardly against the surrounding walls of the yard, and paused for a moment before taking his next step, allowing his eyes the opportunity to scan the quiet street in front of him.
He pushed the door further open and dropped one foot onto the step below, hesitating briefly before his other foot followed, then he stopped completely and listened carefully to the sounds around him. He could hear the constant hum of the city traffic, mixed intermittently with police sirens. Above him was the pulsating throb of a helicopter moving slowly through the air. To his right, he could hear muffled laughter coming from the open doors of a pub on the corner of the next street and in the distance, the unmistakable sound of Big Ben chiming seven o'clock.
There was no evidence of the sound he was listening for; the sound that pursued him almost every day of his life. So he quickly crossed the courtyard with his head down and collar up, turning left onto the pavement, then left again around the corner of the hotel and into the shadow of an adjacent building. He leaned against the dirty brick wall and took a deep breath, shutting his eyes tightly and putting his hands up to his ears to block out the noises of the city. Without the distraction of his senses he contemplated what he had just done and why, but could find no other reason than he couldn't go on living the sham that was his life any more.
The enormity of the impulsive decision he made just a few minutes ago in his hotel room caused his hands to fly to his head to grab handfuls of his hair. He knew well this was a sign of stress and desperation but he also knew in his heart that if he decided to carry on walking there would be no going back. His mind was made up though; he was getting away from this wretched place before he lost his mind completely.
He could hear and feel his heart pounding frantically in his chest, so with his back to the wall and knees bent he allowed his body to sink slowly to the ground and hunched himself into a ball to obscure his face from view. If there had been any passing pedestrians they would have taken him for a down-and-out and would either have hurried past or paused to drop a coin into his hand if they were feeling generous. With his scruffy hair, worn jeans and turned up collar, they would not suspect for a moment he was a fabulously successful Hollywood actor, loved and admired by millions, whose face currently adorned acres of advertising space across the city.
The young man raised his head, ran his hands through his tousled mane then rubbed his eyes. His fingers were damp; evidence of the tears of anger and frustration he had been shedding in his hotel room just a few moments ago. He slowly stood up, straightened his jacket, took a deep breath and began walking in the direction of The River Thames which he knew was very close to the hotel. From his penthouse suite he had a spectacular view downstream to Waterloo Bridge, the London Eye Wheel and the imposing government buildings that lined the Embankment opposite the South Bank, and he was now feeling again a long-forgotten 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 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 his own, watching the brown water following its ancient course to the estuary; the gentle movement of the flowing stream gradually soothing his adolescent temper.
This river had been his teenage 'drug of choice' as it had helped him cope with the traumas of his unhappy childhood and adolescent years. As he left the hotel he had considered, for a brief moment, that a trip to the water's edge might help him find some solace like before, but, laughing grimly to himself, he knew that it would take someone wiser than Old Father Thames to sort out his problems this time and deal with the shit-storm he had just left behind.
He carried on walking with his head down, watching his footing on the uneven London pavements. As he turned the next corner he was immediately aware of the sound he had been listening for in the hotel doorway; the sound that plagued his 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; quickly disappearing into the shadow of a nearby alleyway between two buildings then out into the next street. He was young and fit with long legs and even though he was not a sportsman per se, he could set a pretty fast pace on a treadmill which meant that his speed and stamina was 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 the parasites. As he was running, he imagined he was running for his life, away from all 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 gasping for breath.
He put his hands on his knees and drew a long breath, allowing himself a smile of satisfaction as he couldn't hear any sounds of pursuit. "Fat useless bastards," he said to himself. "Hope they all have fucking heart attacks!"
Now totally lost, he looked around for a street sign or any familiar landmarks but found himself in a crescent of pristine, white-fronted Georgian houses with iron railings and window boxes full of summer flowers. A memory of his beloved grandmother came into his head and he smiled. She had spent her early childhood in this type of house in the 1930's, before her parents left England to live abroad taking her with them. Edward 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 house in Richmond. Unfortunately she hadn't lived long enough to see his success, which was one of his many regrets.
"I can't do this anymore," he shouted to the empty street. "What do these assholes want from me? Haven't they got enough fucking pictures?"
He yelled at the world in exasperation, not expecting to hear a reply.
There was no-one around to ask where he was and out of desperation he put his hand in his pocket for his cell phone. 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 cell next to the bed in his room.
"Crap!" he said out loud.
He walked away from the immaculate street with his head down and his jacket collar turned up, hoping not to be recognized. He felt tears of anguish and frustration starting up in his eyes again 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 actually walked the streets of London when he was twenty-one, which was just before he left England to try his luck in LA. He would either have been trying to find any sort of paying work during the daytime or spending the evenings going to gigs, or drinking with Jasper and other friends, 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 crappy 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. He looked across the street to where the sound was coming from and was surprised to see the noisy pub behind his hotel was straight in front of him, and the realization hit him that he had been walking and running in a circle. He looked cautiously along the familiar street and saw the huddle of Paparazzi at the end of it, waiting like vultures for him to return to his hotel. Cursing under his breath, he turned around to escape in the opposite direction again, silently screaming in his head.
Glancing over his shoulder to see if he was being followed and not looking where he was going, he sprinted across the road straight into the path of a 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 she gripped her bag tightly to her chest and looked up fearfully at her assailant.
"Jesus, I am so, so sorry," he said dropping to his knees. "Are you okay, can I do anything?"
The woman was well dressed in smart black jeans and a leather jacket and he guessed she was aged about forty.
"Should I call an ambulance, do you live nearby?" He put his hand under her arm and helped lift her into a sitting position. "Are you injured at all?" he asked, panicking, looking for evidence of cuts and bruises.
"No, I'm fine," she said, as she brushed her clothes 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 bag that had fallen into the road. She was average height, small build, with expressive green eyes and brownish auburn hair, almost the same shade as his. Her clothes were casual but very stylish and he noticed her bag was a Mulberry.
"God! Am I becoming so shallow that I'm already checking her out and making assumptions?" he thought to himself.
The woman took her car keys from his hand, then looked up at his face as if to say something, but instead, she gazed intently into the eyes of the stunningly handsome young man before her and 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 touched his shoulder, then she raised it further up to his face, delicately brushing her fingers over the dark shadows under his red-rimmed, but still beautiful, grey-blue eyes.
"I'm fine," she said in a soft whisper, "but I would guess you're the one here who is 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. He looked down into this strange woman's eyes 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.