A/N – Hey guys!
You may or may not have read my fic, New York, I Love You, but this is a companion to that, from Edward's perspective. I suppose it works as a story on its own as well, so you don't necessarily have to read both to understand what's going on.
Hope you enjoy it!
As always, I own nothing but my dirty imagination ;)
"Are you telling me that you're not even a little bit excited?"
Alice's high soprano voice pipes through the speakers at the side of my computer, and I pause in my pacing in order to throw an incredulous stare in the direction of her pixellated image on-screen.
"Excited? Excited? Ali, I'm moving to Texas. Not just Texas, but small-town Texas! I'm going to be living in Hicksville; population – who gives a flying fuck!" I curl my tongue over my teeth, trapping my tongue bar in-between them and chewing on it. It's a nervous habit I have, and my mom always tells me I need to cut it out, or I'll chip the enamel on my teeth.
Of course, she also suggests – in that polite-but-actually-pissed-off-deep-down way of hers – that I should never have gotten it pierced in the first place. My dad agrees, but seeing as they're adamant on raising me to be 'My Own Man' they don't make me take it out or anything.
Alice frowns at me from the computer screen for a minute. "I really don't see the big deal about moving to Texas. You're talking about it like it's Mars or something. Don't be such a drama queen, Teddy."
I bristle – both at her calling me a 'drama queen' and at her re-iteration of my long-despised family nickname. Teddy. Ugh. It's Edward or it's nothing. Unfortunately, trying to get that through my cousin's little English brain is next to impossible. As is trying to get her to cooperate with anything she doesn't want to. I'm 'Teddy' for life.
"Don't call me a drama queen," I mutter. Then, louder, I say, "I'm not being overly-dramatic. I won't fit in down in Texas, Alice, and you know it. D'you think the Daughters of the American Revolution and their kids are gonna welcome the punk-ass Yankee who also happens to be homo?"
"I dunno, Ted. Maybe they'll surprise you." Alice stretches across her bed, arching her spine like a cat. Her dark eyes meet my green ones – or, at least, the image of my eyes on her laptop screen – sternly. "Or maybe they won't. Either way, it's no use whining like a little bitch over the whole thing. What's done is done. Uncle C has to move for his new job, and Auntie Es, you and Mags are all going with him. End of story. You should try and get on board with it like Maggie has."
Maggie, my little sister, is climbing the walls with excitement about the idea of moving away someplace new. She's never lived anywhere except the city, and she finds the whole process of relocation endlessly entertaining. Of course, pretty much everything is entertaining and novel when you're six. I, being twelve years her senior, am a lot more reticent. I've done this whole 'starting fresh' thing twice before; first when we moved from Chicago to Philly when I was nine, and then the second time was the move from Philadelphia to Manhattan a year later.
This time would be so much worse. I'd liked Philly only so-so, but New York City is my home. It feels right. This is where I belong; in our loft apartment in the Village, surrounded by subway stations and bodegas and fast-paced, ever-changing excitement. I belong here, in the greatest city on Earth.
And yet, I'm kissing goodbye to Knicks games and poetry readings and hanging at the coffee house with my friends. No more of Seth dragging me to Bloomingdales on a Sunday morning because there's a sale on. No more being woken up at five a.m. by phone calls from Leah or Jake or Colin slurring drunkenly and incomprehensibly at me. No, instead, I'll be sitting on the bleachers on a Friday night watching the whole town as they show up en masse to the high school football games, like they're actually important.
"I suppose you're right, Alice." I hear myself saying, although I don't actually believe the words. "Maybe I should give it a chance."
"Besides," she says, holding up one skinny index finger. "You might find a cute boy you like."
In response, I just raise an eyebrow at her.
"What?" she demands.
"You might've met Victoria…" Victoria is Alice's current on/off girlfriend. They met when she moved from Manchester to London when she started university a year ago. "When you moved, but you went from one big city to an even bigger one. I'm going from metropolis to the sticks. I'll probably be the only gay kid around."
Ali rolls her eyes on-screen. "Okay, Mr. Negativity, I can see that I'm really not going to win this argument or convince you of anything. I've gotta go, because Vicky and I are going out to see… um…" She furrows her brow, like she's trying really hard to remember something. "Oh, I dunno, some show or something. I wasn't paying attention when she told me. And you, my darling baby cousin, need to pack your shit. You leave in less than a week, and judging by the state of your room behind you, you've done bugger all so far."
I smile. She's right. That's nothing unusual; the little pixie is always right. "Alright, Ali. Love you."
"Love you, too, Teddy. And call me when you get to Texas. Bye."
My computer beeps as she disconnects and the Skype chat closes down. I walk over and shut down the whole thing. Then I engage in a brief staring contest with my reflection in the blank monitor. My haywire copper hair is sticking up in every conceivable direction today, and I look a little peaky from my nerves.
"You got this, Cullen," I tell myself firmly, and for a moment, I almost believe it.
The trees flash past the car window, occasionally expelling a bird or two from their dense foliage, and all the while, I stare back at them sullenly. There's so much nature around here. Not a graffiti tag or towering skyscraper in sight.
I hate it already.
Instead of voicing my displeasure yet again, I simply slide further down in my seat and yank on the wire to pull my earbuds out my ears. I shut off my iPod and toss it onto the seat beside me, nearly hitting Maggie as she snoozes against the opposite window. Usually, the steady pounding of classic seventies punk music – in this instance, The Clash – calms me down and cheers me up. Not today. I don't think it's humanly possible for me to cheer up.
I'm in fucking Texas, and I wanna go home.
"Isn't it pretty around here?" Mom gushes when we eventually hit what passes for the town in this tiny place. I look at all the quaint, colonial buildings and shrug noncommittally at her. Truthfully, it is pretty. Very pretty. But I don't want to admit that, because I really don't want to give her the false impression that I'm actually okay with living here.
"It's gorgeous, darling," Dad says, patting Mom's knee with the hand that isn't gripping the steering wheel. "You made a great choice when you picked it."
In Dad's posh English accent, anything sounds charming, and even this tiny bit of praise has my mother blushing like a schoolgirl with a crush. I roll my eyes at them both. They're disgustingly in love, still, after twenty years of marriage.
I've never felt what they have, so I don't know what it's like, but from an outside observer's perspective, I kinda want to brush my teeth after spending too much time in their company.
I doubt I'll ever act that way with someone.
"Ted, what do you think?" Mom twists in her seat to check my expression. "Do you think you'll like it here?"
About as much as I'd like an appendectomy without anesthesia, I think, but I say, "I dunno, Mom. Maybe. Maybe not."
Her brow furrows, and she looks kind of upset. "Oh, Edward, please try to make the best of this, won't you? I really want us to make this work." Her voice is so earnest and hopeful that I feel the tiniest twinge of guilt over being such an unbearably moody ass.
"I'll try, Mom," I promise. She beams at me, and her eyes – the same bright green as my own – light up.
Just then, Maggie wakes up with a start, and begins to complain loudly that she's "super-super-extra thirsty" and we need to stop off somewhere for a drink. I don't see the point, myself, considering we're ten minutes away from our new house, but my parents agree instantly, insisting that it'll be nice to 'get a feel of the neighborhood'. I sigh and resign myself to the idea that I'll have to put on a brave face for a few hours longer.
We stop at the only diner in town, and I'm totally dismayed to see that it's packed full of people. An exorbitantly enthusiastic waitress seats us at a booth, flashes me a toothy grin, and then bounces – and I do mean bounces – off to get us some menus. Mom and Maggie are engaged in a game of 'I Spy' and Dad is checking out the surroundings with benign interest. Me? I just stare down at the table, wishing I could just be left alone to wallow in my misery.
I get up to go to the bathroom, just for something to do, and I'm just walking past a table full of girls my own age when one of them calls to me.
I turn. The girl who has spoken has wildly curly dark hair, and is sort of pretty in a country kind of way. She grins at me when I nod a greeting to her.
"I'm Jessica," she says. "What's your name? Don't think I've seen ya round these parts before."
Wow. She actually talks like something out of Dukes of Hazzard. Her accent is so thick that it takes me a second to actually process her words.
"Um, I'm Edward." I turn to walk away, but Jessica reaches out and actually grabs my wrist, locking me in place. My head swivels in her direction again, and I raise my eyebrows.
"Ain't ya gonna come sit down?" she asks.
"I'm here with my family, sorry," I say. I don't want her to think I might actually be interested in her. It'll only lead to the awkward 'I'm gay' conversation, and that's not something I'm looking forward to in such a conservative, Christian town.
"Oh. Well, okay. Are you in town just visitin', or…?"
"No," I say. "I just moved here, actually."
"Oh!" Jessica's eyes go all wide. "Well, in that case, you should come to Lauren's party on Saturday." The girl sitting beside her – a blonde – nods enthusiastically. I assume she's the aforementioned Lauren. "Would be nice ta get your life story 'fore school starts up again."
She and I clearly have conflicting definitions of the word 'nice' but I'm not going to offend her by saying so. I smile and nod. "Sure."
She reaches over and hands me something. Her phone. "Put your number in there, Edward, and I'll text ya 'bout Saturday."
I comply, handing her back her cell and giving her a semi-convincing grin. "I guess I'll see you around?"
"For sure." She beams at me again, and I can't help but wonder if she's really as nice and friendly as she appears.
When I take my seat back at my booth again, Mom looks over at me hopefully. "Honey, look at you! You're making friends already."
Yeah, I think. But for how long? I doubt that the wholesome country folk down here will appreciate the real me. Once the curiosity wears off, I'm pretty sure I'll be on the receiving end of ridicule that I never really experienced in New York.
Still, I hopefully have a little while before that happens.
True to her word, Jessica does text me about the party. Lauren's address is only a five minute walk from mine, so, when Saturday comes around, I decide to bite the bullet, get ready, and just go mingle with the locals.
There's a fluttering of nerves in my stomach as I stand and appraise my reflection before I leave. I'm wearing my usual black skinny jeans and a blue-and-white striped top that almost covers the tattoo on my bicep, and completely obscures the Celtic design on my hip. My hair is artfully rumpled up now, rather than just plain old crazy. I actually look pretty good.
It's a shame that nobody I find hot will ever appreciate it.
Satisfied that I'm as prepared as I'll ever be, I snatch up my phone and my wallet and take the three flights of stairs – I have an attic room in our new house – down to the front door. Yelling a quick goodbye to my parents, I pull open the front door.
And smack straight into the screen door.
"Ow! Motherfucker!" I hiss, rubbing my face. I'm still not used to even having a damn screen door, so I keep doing that. I hear a low reprimand about my language issuing from through the open living room door. Muttering an apology, I carefully let myself out properly.
I jog straight down the porch steps and along the drive, skirting around the end of a silver Volvo parked there.
Then I register that there's an unknown silver Volvo in my driveway and double back. I stare at it for a moment wonderingly. It's new – only this year's model – and shiny in the dying evening light.
"Do you like it?"
I whip around at the sound of my dad's voice, to find him leaning against one of the porch pillars, watching me with amusement dancing in his gray eyes. He's wearing the same smirk that I see so often in the mirror.
"Yeah, it's great. Whose is it?"
No fucking way! I scrutinize his face to see if he's kidding.
"Son of a bitch, Dad, you got me a car?!"
He brushes back a few blond strands from his forehead and gives me an amused grin. "Yes, we got you a car. We figured that you might need one, now that you can't take the subway everywhere."
I nod, turning back to regard my car with wonder. I'd never actually owned one before, even though I'd passed my test at sixteen. Reaching out one hand, I run it along the hood lovingly. "This is… wow. Thank you."
"You're welcome, son. Don't you have a party to go to?"
I think he senses that I'm tempted to blow off the night at Lauren's and just go and take my new wheels for a spin. He shakes his head at me, almost imperceptibly. "Go have fun. You can go driving tomorrow."
I sigh, but I obey his directive. Assuring him that I won't be back late, I thank him again and then set off towards Lauren's place.
It's crowded when I arrive, and I don't recognize a single face here. Teens are hanging all over the porch, clutching onto bottles of beer or each other as they laugh and joke and make out. For a moment, I can almost pretend that it's just another party back home, and that any second Seth with come up behind me, pinch my ass and make some sort of wildly inappropriate sexual suggestion. I smile nostalgically at the thought.
I miss my best friend, and I'm really not in the mood to go and make another one, but I suck it up, square my shoulders, and step forward into the unknown.
No sooner have I made it three steps into the hallway when a girl literally tumbles into my arms. I catch her instinctively, my hands wrapping around her elbows. She tosses back long, mahogany hair and blinks up into my face with chocolate-brown eyes that are hazy from the amount of alcohol she's had. She's too pretty to be so wasted, I think.
"Oh, um, hi." She blushes magenta and gives me a tentative smile. "I'm real sorry for fallin' into ya like that."
The pretty brunette seems sweet enough, so I merely smile at her and say, "Don't worry about it, hon. We all get a bit unsteady when we've had a few."
Her nose wrinkles. "Well, yeah, but I can't really blame it on the alcohol. I'm just real clumsy, anyhow." She sticks out her hand. "I'm Bella Swan, by the way."
"Edward Cullen." I put my hand in hers. We shake. She's all dainty and shit, and there's something hopelessly adorable about her that I instantly like.
"Bella!" A voice booms out, and a minute later, her grip is wrenched from mine as she's lifted clean off her feet by a guy with spiky blond hair. She giggles drunkenly as he swings her around.
"Mike, put me down! You don't wanna keep doin' that. I'll hurl."
The two of them immediately begin to engage in some playful banter, and I watch for a couple of seconds before slipping away through the crowd. Jessica and a few of her friends are hanging out in the living room, and I go through to say hi. She encourages me to down a few tequila shots, which takes the edge off my nerves. All in all, the people I talk to are fairly pleasant. Not as witty as the ones back home, but nice enough.
Maybe Texas isn't so terrible after all.
About an hour into drinking, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. Jessica gives me some quick instructions as to how to get there, and I set off up the stairs, lost in my own thoughts.
About halfway up, I feel something slam into me, hard. I stagger backwards, catching myself on the banister before I end up flying backwards down the stairs. My hand flies to my forehead, and I wince.
That's the second time my head's been bruised today.
"Fuck!" I spit out, I narrow my eyes at whoever has just been clumsy enough to walk into me. "Watch where you're going will you?"
And then I actually focus on him.
My first thought is; Holy. Fucking. Hell.
He's gorgeous. Tall, lean muscles, with short curls the color of honey and eyes that are a deep, dark blue. He's all chiseled and tan, with his angular features and full, pouty mouth. He's so fucking hot that I think I might get third degree burns from touching him. I'd risk it. Thank God for skinny jeans, because they're too tight to display the instant erection I'm now sporting as I look down on him, sprawled out on the stairs from where I've knocked him on his ass.
Every guy I've ever jacked off thinking about pales in comparison to this fucking god among men.
"Sorry," he drawls, picking himself up. He's got the grace of a natural born athlete as he moves, and I don't think he's been drinking all that much. "I didn't see you comin'."
Fuck me. I'm practically coming just listening to his deep, husky accent. Seth's gonna die when I tell him about this guy. Alice, too.
"No," I say, and a slight smirk plays about my lips. "I didn't either." But I will be, later, thinking about you…
He moves past me, not touching, and continues on down the stairs. For a second, I'm tempted to go after him, but I decide that I need to play it cool. I don't really want to come out to my new classmates at a party after being caught shamelessly ogling some guy.
Even though nobody would be able to blame me.
I get halfway up the steps and then turn back to look at him. Damn, he's got a nice ass. He swivels round a second later, like he can feel me eye-fucking him, and glances up at me. His eyes are really fucking blue. Incredible.
"You new in town or somethin'?" he asks.
God, that accent…
My knees are a little weak as I answer. "Just moved here with my parents a couple days ago."
"Oh." He pauses, considering. "Where're you from?"
"New York." And, up until a minute ago, I would've emptied my bank account to get back there. Now, looking at him… maybe I won't bitch so much about sticking around. He's got to be the hottest guy on the entire motherfucking planet. My eyes are drawn to the slight frown turning down the corners of his perfect mouth. I turn away from him again when I feel my dick throbbing painfully against my jeans.
"I've always wanted to go to New York," he blurts out, and I turn back to face him. There's earnest curiosity in his expression, and also a hint of… desperation? But over what? "What's it like? Livin' there, I mean?"
He sounds wistful, I decide. Maybe a little envious. Very unlike everyone else I've spoken to so far. They're all so 'Texas forever' – I doubt any of them have ever even considered going on holiday anywhere else. For them, the whole world is their backwoods little town.
This guy is looking at me like… like he wishes he could swap places. Interesting.
I decide to play with him a little, because I really want to flirt, even though I know it's probably futile.
Mustering up my best imitation of his Texas drawl, I lean against the wall and say, "Livin' there? Well, gosh, darlin', I just don't think it's a patch on this li'l town."
He looks totally confused for a moment. His eyes widen, and his lips part in surprise. I smirk down at him, entertained by his reaction. He doesn't seem to know whether I'm making fun of him or not.
"It was just a question," he says defensively, meeting my eyes in a bold stare. "No need to be so damn sarcastic."
I'm instantly contrite. I don't want to piss off the beautiful boy in front of me. "Sorry, I'm not used to being around people with manners."
Truer words were never spoken. My friends, wonderful creatures that they all are, are about as polite as a punch in the face. Then again, I can't talk. I don't do social graces.
He's still watching me with those hypnotic eyes. "What, didya grow up in the wild or somethin'?" he challenges, and I laugh.
Funny and handsome. Sigh.
"I grew up in the city. It's basically the same thing."
He seems to cast about for something else to say, and I capitalize on his distraction by drinking him in with my eyes. There's something familiar about him, but I can't quite place it.
Then it clicks; the huge picture of the football team in the diner. I'd asked the waitress about it, and she'd talked about how the whole town worshipped their blond haired, blue eyed, 'hella talented' quarterback, Jasper Hale. She'd said his name with a dreamy sigh.
If the Adonis in front of me is the man himself, I can totally understand why.
"You're Jasper Hale, aren't you?" I ask. His eyes widen slightly in surprise, and I take his lack of a correction as confirmation. "Seems like everywhere I've gone for the past couple days, I've heard about you. The golden boy. The quarterback."
He scowls at my words, and once again, I'm struck by what an anomaly he is. Most guys would accept that praise with a grin and a swagger, even if I did say it a little derisively. Jasper looks almost like he resents the label.
His eyes meet mine again, and his lip curls. Yeah, he's definitely annoyed. "That's funny, because I've heard jack shit about you."
I laugh again. I can't help it. He's refusing to back down from my sarcasm, and I really like that. The fact that he's giving me attitude back when everyone else here seems unswervingly polite, is…
Well, it's hot.
"Yeah," I say, nodding my approval at him. "I think you and I are gonna be great friends."
He looks completely bewildered by that comment, and it's too fucking adorable. I shoot him a grin, and then make my way up the stairs again, resisting the urge to glance over my shoulder at him.
Jasper Hale puts New York men to shame.
For the rest of the party, I can't stop thinking about him. I don't concentrate on anything that anyone else says to me. My eyes scan the crowd for Jasper, and I'm disappointed every time when I can't pick him out.
And then I'm walking past the kitchen in search of more booze when I hear his honey voice.
"Well, I dunno 'bout 'dreamy', Bells. If I had ta sum him up, I'd say Cullen's more 'scathin'' or 'cocky'."
I laugh, leaning against the doorframe to watch him. The muscles of his back are visible through the thin fabric of his t-shirt as he stands with his hands braced on the breakfast island, chatting to Bella Swan, the sweet, clumsy girl from earlier. I wonder if he even noticed that she's unconscious, perched on the countertop with her head resting against one of the overhead cabinets.
Jasper stiffens at the sound of my laugh, and immediately whips around. His eyes go like saucers when he sees me, and he gives me a sheepish sort of half-smile. I can tell he's embarrassed at having been caught talking about me.
"Cocky, huh?" I tease, smirking at him. "You don't even know me, Hale."
Jasper leans back against the counter slightly, trying to muster up some bravado. I watch his Adam's apple bob as he gulps. "I'm just callin' it like I see it, Cullen."
"Fine." I say. And then, abruptly, I want to give him my honest observations, too. The way he fits in perfectly, even though he doesn't want to. I don't know whether it's cowardice or expectations that keep him stuck in his little mold, but I want to find out. "Then let me call it how I see it. You are, without a doubt, the saddest person I've met since I got here."
He flinches. "What do you mean?"
I push off the frame and walk slowly towards him. Jasper backs up, but there's not really anywhere he can go. He seems to sense it, too, because he looks faintly panicked when I lean in and brace my hands on the counter, just outside of his. I can feel the heat coming from his body, and our proximity is turning me on so badly that I think I might actually pass out.
"I'm trapped," he says unnecessarily. His voice is kind of shaky, his lips slightly parted. He's breathing kind of fast, and his eyes look darker than they did before.
"I know you are." I murmur. Being this close to him has me straining against my jeans again, and I pray that he doesn't notice. "That's my point. You're trapped in this little life, in this little town. You're too stuck to move, and it's killing you."
He's looking at me in wonder. No, that's not right. Utter disbelief is more like it. I know I'm right, just from the expression on his face. It's like he's worried that I'm reading his mind.
"What makes you think that?" he says breathily.
"It's just this look in your eyes…" And as I regard him again, I suddenly notice that his eyes look darker than they did before. His pupils are dilated. Big time.
Fuck… am I… is this turning him on?
Dare to dream, right?
I continue talking without really hearing myself. I'm more focused on the minutia of his expressions, trying to gauge whether or not it's wishful thinking that I might be having some sort of effect on him, too. "You had it when you asked me about New York. It's like… like wistfulness. Only not. It's more than that…" I trail off. "I dunno, I just got this feeling about you when I ran into you on the stairs. I know I'm not wrong. You hate it here as much as I do."
Jasper sucks in a deep breath. It's ragged, strained. So fucking sexy.
Please be into this. I pray. But it would be too good to be true, surely? No guy gets that lucky.
"I like my life," Jasper whispers. I honestly can't even remember what I said that he's responding to, but I jump on the statement, calling him out on his lie.
"No, you don't." I shake my head for emphasis. "You're bored out of your mind. You're counting down the days until you can graduate, take off and never look back at this place again."
He's breathing really heavily now, but the panic is still in his eyes. There's something else, though, something I can't quite put my finger on.
"Go on," I prompt him silkily. "Tell me I'm wrong."
He doesn't answer, which is really an answer in itself.
"I meant it, Jasper," I say. I like saying his name. It just kind of rolls off my tongue. "When I said that you and I could be great friends. You're the most interesting thing this town's got to offer."
Jasper's reeling from my comment, and he doesn't say anything back. I want to just lean forward and kiss him. I'm starting to think he might actually let me.
Instead, I straighten up. I flash him a crooked smile. And then, because I can't resist, I grip his chin between my thumb and forefinger – which elicits a small gasp of surprise from him – and lightly chuck his chin.
His mouth falls all the way open in astonishment. I hide my smile as I turn away from him, walking towards the door. I can still feel his eyes on me, and I don't have to look to know that he's gawping.
I pull my phone from the pocket of my jeans and open up a text to Seth. I type quickly, and then press send.
The text is as simple as it is true.
I take it all back. I wrote. I think I'm gonna love this town.
A/N – If you're reading my other fic, New York, I Love You, then you'll already know Jasper's perspective on this whole encounter. I'm going to update this almost as frequently as NY, now, so look out for another chapter soon.