Several weeks ago, I got wind of an angst contest, and because I like a challenge, I said to my dear friend and most wise pre-reader, Intricacy, "I think I'd like to try that." She rubbed her hands together across the Atlantic, and I'm sure her eyes lit up with glee, because she's a true angsth00r of the highest magnitude. In fact, she has a scale from one to twelve with which she measures angst because ten just isn't enough! Well, the deadline came up on me and this thing wasn't scoring high enough on either of our angst meters (nor my trusty friend/beta/inspirator Chaya's), and frankly, I needed more words than the contest max allowed (SHOCKING, I know). So, even though my sweet French friend (and my sweet American friend) had literally spent HOURS helping me angstify and pare the story down, we all agreed it was for the best to shelve this story until I could fully explore the plot and the relationship and yes, the angst.
Little did Alterite know that I pulled this sucker out last week and started reworking it for her birthday (although she did a fair bit of digging and prodding and trying to get me to write some slash thing about a guy all tied up to a chair, and that was compelling, lemme tell ya, but no I'd already gone down this road) This time, I've got shellshock putting her angst-loving eyeballs on it 'cause she was supposed to read it last time but then it got nixed (see above). And of course, I wouldn't cross a "t" without chayasara, let alone attempt this madness. So here's to Team Angst, and Joyeux Anniversaire, mon petit chou d'amour! xx bisous
~ PROLOGUE ~
When I look back on my Summer of Edward, I can almost see the bold dividing line between the purity that came before my mechanic and the gritty reality that followed. The truth is, Edward marked me with that very first look, weeks before his greasy fingerprints stained my clothing. I was soiled from the inside out, my unclean thoughts setting off the chain of events that tarnished everything like a tornado tearing up the midwestern countryside.
I suppose it was predictable that Edward would be the one to sully me, but none of us anticipated that he would also be the only one who could clean me up again.
~ 1 ~
Ahh, it was nice to be home.
My own bed in my own room without anyone else's stereo blaring. No more classes, no more finals. Laundry machines I didn't have to feed with quarters or stand guard over while my underwear spun around. Mom's lasagna and fresh cherry pie.
Best of all, I had a summer job that required no interview, paid as much as my friends busting their butts as lifeguards, and offered the opportunity to work for the best boss in town—Charlie Swan, a.k.a. my father.
I loved that Dad was beside himself that I was coming to work at Swan Motors this summer. After Mom and me, cars were his life. Well, not cars exactly, but the business—his employees and his customers—and rightfully so. He literally built the dealership from a mound of dirt. He was bold, too, putting a foreign car dealership in the middle of the Made-in-America automotive belt. Foreign cars were better-built in the eighties, and Dad could give you a hundred reasons why. "Detroit could do to learn some lessons from Japan," he loved to say.
That was Dad, and I kind of loved seeing him in action, watching people adore him. Our little family could hardly go anywhere in town without bumping into someone who wanted to gush over how Dad went out of his way to help.
"Bella, did you hear how Charlie got me a brand new engine from the factory?" or, "The man's a saint, Renee! He took my 1973 Thunderbird in trade at twice the Blue Book!" His deals were legendary; people would tease that they didn't know how he could afford to send me to "such a fancy shmancy college." Though his friends loved to make used-car salesman jokes at his expense, Dad's integrity was a given. It was God, the American flag, and Charlie Swan—at least, that's the way I always saw things.
My brief visits to the dealership in the past always left me oozing pride at being the boss's daughter. Let's face it—princess of the realm was a sweet deal. I knew this would be different, that meeting Dad for a "cavity-sized burger" at Thacker's Pub was not the same as plunking my purse in the file cabinet drawer and spending the work day at SM as an employee, albeit one with "most favored nation" status.
Truth is, I was nearly as excited as Dad when we backed out of the driveway that first morning. Mom waved from the doorway with a quivering lower lip, and I rolled my eyes.
"I think your mom wishes she could come, too," Dad observed with a wistful smile.
"I don't think the university would appreciate that too much."
"No," he answered with a soft chuckle. "I'm not sure the Music Department could survive the summer without a level head among those self-important, faculty blowhards. And frankly, I can't afford your mother anymore."
"Oh. I see how it is," I teased him. "I'm just here because I'm cheap."
"You're here because I was smart enough to snap you up before someone else did, and I don't expect to be this lucky again. So I am planning on getting my money's worth out of you this summer, Miss Swan."
His grin was so wide it made me blush. "Sure, Dad."
I was grateful—for once—for the distraction of Dad's favorite easy-listening station. We could be alone with our thoughts without it feeling heavy between us. Dad, with his enormous expectations and unbounded pride; me, with the excitement of something new on the horizon and a real chance to finally prove myself. Dad motored us quietly through the sleepy streets of West Akron, ever careful of staying within his pre-ordained seven miles per hour over the speed limit.
I think I'd have to worry about Armageddon if my father ever pulled onto a highway without running through the patented Charlie Swan five-point on-ramp routine, a set of procedures as familiar to me as putting on makeup: left turn signal, rear-view mirror check, side mirror check, uncomfortable craning of the neck, and finally, blessed acceleration. The Cressida found its opening and melted into the eastbound traffic on Route 76. While weary morning commuters all around us rode the conveyor belt dragging us all toward the brown clouds of burnt rubber hovering over downtown Akron, Dad looked for all the world like a guy heading home for a long weekend in the country.
As soon as we hit our cruising speed, Dad leaned forward to turn up the stereo. We were trapped together in an elevator-music missile shooting forward in space but backward in time. For some reason, the pop songs that were "easy-fied" were worse than the ones that were just written that way, but Dad loved them all. I don't think I'd ever seen him happier than this moment—rolling down the highway and humming along with Karen Carpenter, waiting patiently for her to get to the chorus so they could belt it out together.
"Just like me, they long to be . . . close to you."
"Ohmygod, Dad, the Carpenters, really?"
"Wah-ahahah-oh, cuh-lose to you-hoo."
You had to laugh. Or die.
I felt like there should've been trumpets heralding our arrival as the Cressida slid under the colorful string of pennants strung across the Swan Motors driveway, but Dad brought her to a rest in a humble parking spot at the far end of the lot.
The good spots are for the customers, Bella, he'd taught me from an early age.
I gathered my new Coach clutch, feeling all grown-up and professional, and we marched side by side toward the door. I was nervous, not gonna lie.
Ever the classy gentleman, Dad pulled open the door for me and ushered me through with a hand at my back. Clearly, my arrival was not a surprise; I knew Mrs. Cope had been saving up projects for me since February. I shuddered to imagine how he'd built this up with the rest of his employees. My cheeks were already burning hot, but that didn't faze Dad one bit.
"Everyone, here she is, my little business girl!"
I wanted to hop into one of the cars on display and drive as far and as fast as I could. I would've settled for disappearing into the concrete floor—anything but stand there in the spotlight. And yet, through all my mortification, I couldn't help but be warmed by the bright beacon of his pride.
A/N: Hi! *waves* I know, pretty short, huh? These chapters are going to be somewhere between 700-1000 words, and I'm planning to post more than once a week, not on any particular schedule. In case you haven't guessed, I sure was the boss's daughter in this very place in the world. Not all of the story is autobiographical (because I already told you the juicy bits when I wrote Comp Sem, REMEMBER?) but much of this IS true. Fair warning: this IS an angsty story, but it's only somewhere between 5 and 8 on Intricacy's 12-point scale.
Thank you, you lovely sweet wonderfully supportive readers who make me want to stop what I am supposed to be doing and write fanfiction again. Your reviews make me super happy. If we're not already friends, come find me on facebook (just be my friend OR join Born's Pumpkin Patch OR BOTH!) or visit my blog (where the hot stuff is!) or shoot me a PM here so we can chat. All the links are in my profile.
Much love, once again, to TEAM ANGST: Intricacy for inspiring this (i.e.- cracking her whip over my sorry ass and then spending hours trying to teach me the difference between angst and sexual tension and demanding FEELINGS!) and for Shellshock and Chayasara for reading and taking over the whipping and keeping it classy. Mostly.