As I trudged home from my bus through the snow, I couldn't help but curse the fact that it was January. The holidays were over, the new year had begun, and I was entering my busiest time at work. I loved snow – the way it made everything pristine, the absolute silence that came before the plows – but I could really do without the property owners who didn't bother to shovel or salt their section of the sidewalk.
As I walked and slid towards my apartment building, I made the executive decision that I wasn't going to bother to dig out my car. More snow was in the forecast and the plows would bury it once they came to clear the streets again anyway, so really what was the point? The beauty of taking the bus meant I didn't have to drive anywhere any time soon, so I would just leave it be and let the sun do its thing in a few days. This is when not having a boyfriend really sucked. I'd be happy to do my half of the labor, it would just be wonderful to have someone do the other half. And to kill bugs and spiders, but that goes without saying.
As I rounded the corner and glanced at my car to see just how buried it was, I was shocked to see it had been completely dug out. I grinned at the idea of some kind stranger looking out for me and felt all of the stress of the day fall away.
I finally arrived at my building and unlocked the door to my apartment to find a happy Sam waiting for me. The beautiful thing about having a dog is that to him, me walking in the door made this the best day ever. Which meant, in his world, every day was the best day ever. I grabbed his leash, put on his jacket, and took him out for his walk. Yes, he has a jacket. Not something I thought I'd ever do until the first cold day I took him for a walk and he gave me a pitiful look as he shivered. The next day I ran out and got him a little parka and he'd been happy in the cold ever since.
He loved the snow as much as I did, so as soon as we walked outside he was hopping around, stopping only to occasionally stick his nose in the snow, making it look like his muzzle had a white goatee. After playing with him for a few minutes, I finally got him calmed down enough to actually go for a walk. As much as he loved the snow, he hated getting slush between his paws. Every once in awhile, he would stop and hold his paw up, his signal to me to rub the slush out from between his toes. It was adorable the first few times, but by the seventh time, I let out an exasperated, "Seriously? Oh come on, you big baby. I should have named you Diva."
I heard a chuckle as a bundled up figure passed us just as I was talking to my dog. Of course, the one time I saw someone on our walk, it had to be when I was talking to my dog. I dropped my head and shook it in defeat, picked up Sam, and headed back towards our building to peel my soggy clothes off and curl up in my nice, warm bed.
Work was much the same the next day – too much to do with too little time to do it. Luckily, I had to get home to Sam otherwise I probably would have stayed for hours. Everyone told me I took better care of my dog than I did myself, and they were probably right. As I walked into the building, I briefly debated whether it was too late to make a New Year's resolution. I mentally shook that idea off and decided maybe I would just try to take better care of myself. No pressure and broad enough that I could probably keep to it in some way.
When I got to my door, a little bag from the pet store was hanging from my doorknob without a note. When I opened it up, I started laughing. Four little booties were inside, just the size for Sam's paws. He was unsure when I put them on him, but once we got outside and started our walk, you could tell Sam suddenly understood what those weird things on his paws did and he started galloping around on the end of his leash. The walk took half the time it did the night before. I had no idea who left them – plenty of people had heard about his dramatics in the slush – but I was grateful to whoever had.
My phone rang as I entered the building and was grabbing my mail.
"Hey Mom. Yeah, we got a bunch of snow. It makes me want to curl up with a blanket, some hot cocoa with a little something in it, and a really good book."
I was listening to her talk about how nice and warm it was in Florida, rolling my eyes at her subtle hints that I should move down there, and felt someone brush past me and through the inner door to the building.
"Mom, can I call you back later? I just got home. Yes, I know I work too much. OK, love you too. Bye."
I headed to my apartment and saw my neighbor come out of his door to take his trash to the chute. My very hot neighbor, that is, who was still wearing his snow boots and had flushed cheeks from being outside. I had only seen him in passing and hadn't had a chance to introduce myself. I waited for him to walk back and gathered up my courage. It was the neighborly thing to do, right? It didn't matter that he was gorgeous; I was just being nice. Yep. That's me. Nice neighbor chick.
"Um, hi. I'm Bella. Uh, your next door neighbor?" I have no idea why that was suddenly a question, but apparently it was.
"Hey! I'm Edward. Nice to finally meet you - I've seen you around here and haven't had a chance to introduce myself. And who is this?" he asked as he knelt down and let Sam sniff his hand.
"This is Sam. He can be a little shy." Once Sam's tail started wagging back and forth, Edward started scratching Sam's head and murmuring to him. Much to my surprise, Sam flopped down on his back to get his stomach rubbed. "Or not. Wow. He never does that."
"Really? Well, then I'll take it as the highest form of compliment," Edward said with a little glimmer of pride.
I didn't know what else to say, so I stood there awkwardly while he continued to focus on my dog.
"Um. Well. I'm sure you have things to do and we need to get dinner, so…"
"Oh yeah. Right! OK, well have a good night."
"C'mon Sam. Let's go." I started to open my door when I heard a little laugh from behind me.
"Oh, and nice boots, buddy," Edward said with a little wink.
When I got home the next night, another bag was hanging on the door. I peeked inside and saw a tin of hot cocoa, a small bottle of Bailey's, and a bag of marshmallows. It was still bitterly cold out, so it would be just the thing when I got back from our nightly walk. I looked around, trying to get a glimpse of who could have left me this. Such a small thing, but so thoughtful and caring. It was like having a Secret Santa, but in January. I have no idea what you'd call that - a Snow Elf maybe? Well, whatever was happening, I was just happy to warm up with a nice mugful of chocolaty goodness with a healthy dose of Baileys. Or, in my case, a mug of Baileys with a healthy dose of cocoa.
The next day was… well, it was awful. I fell on my ass on the way to the bus and had to sit in wet pants all the way to work. When I got there, I saw that the salt on the sidewalk had left a lovely white patch right on my butt. I was yelled at for not having a project done on time - no one had given me the pushed up deadline but apparently that was no excuse. All in all, to borrow from a great work of literature, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I slid again on my walk from the bus, but managed to remain upright. Woohoo, the bright spot of my day, I thought sarcastically. And then, of course, promptly managed to get a pile of snow dumped on me from one of the trees I was walking under.
By the time I got to the building, I was cold, wet, tired, and sore, and I just wanted my bed. I tried to unlock the foyer door, but my key wouldn't turn and then got stuck. I heard someone come in behind me and whisper, "Fuck." That just made me feel worse. My shitty day was now making someone else's day shitty too. I could feel the tears forming and tried desperately to swallow them down.
I muttered under by breath, "Dammit, can't I do anything right today?" and then kicked the door. "Son of a whore!" I yelled as pain radiated through my foot.
"Bella? Bella? Are you ok?"
My shoulders slumped in defeat and I leaned my forehead against the door. Of course it had to be my hot neighbor. Of course Edward would come along as I threw a mini temper tantrum. Of course he would - day from hell, remember? I slowly turned around while trying to rein in the tears of frustration that were threatening to spill.
"Hey Edward," I mumbled. "I can't get my key to work. Sorry if I'm holding you up at all." I tried to give him a small smile, but I was pretty sure it came out as a pitiful grimace.
"Hey, look at me." I glanced up at him and saw warmth tinged with a little concern in his eyes. "It's no problem, Bella, I swear. The lock has been sticky lately. Let me give it a try, ok?" He put down his bag from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, wiggled and jostled the key a little, and opened the door.
I rolled my eyes. "Thanks. Sorry I was being such a spazz."
"Really, it's no problem. I was stuck out there for a good fifteen minutes the other night which is why I have the key wiggle down to a science." He reached down to grab his bag while I held the door open for him.
"New sheets?" I asked and mentally facepalmed at my awkward attempt at a conversation. And of course I was now wondering about his sheets… and his bed… and how the bed would feel under us… and…
"Something like that."
"Huh? Oh, of course. Right," I said as I snapped myself out of my musings. I turned towards my door and saw nothing hanging on the knob and sighed. I knew I shouldn't have expected anything, but it would have been a nice end to a shitty day.
"Bella, go relax and have some hot chocolate or something. Pamper yourself a little. Tomorrow has to be better, right?"
I snorted and said, "Riiiiiight." Ugh, I just snorted at my hot neighbor. Lovely.
He chuckled and said, "Goodnight, Bella," as I opened and stumbled in my front door.
I woke up early the next morning to find another light dusting of snow had fallen over night. The white, silent blanket made me smile and lose the remaining tension from the day before. I grabbed Sam and his leash, trying to take advantage of the quiet before the morning hustle and bustle. As I closed my door, I saw Edward come out of his apartment with a snow shovel.
"Good morning, Edward!" I said quietly. He jumped in surprise. "Whoops, sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
"Not a problem. I'll walk you out."
I wracked my brain for conversation as silence fell between us.
"Um. You, um, drive to work?"
"Huh? Oh, no. No, I don't. I take the bus into the city," he said.
"Oh. I just thought because of the shovel…" I trailed off, not sure what else to say.
"Oh right. Uh. I, uh… I wanted to go ahead and dig out in case I needed to drive somewhere tonight?" He didn't seem so sure of his answer, but who was I to push? He quickly changed topics. "You seem to be in a better mood this morning."
"Yeah. The snow helped." I smiled at him. "Just a hard day yesterday where I couldn't seem to be more than mediocre at everything I tried." We headed out from the building and turned to each other before parting.
"Mediocre? You? Nope, don't see it." He winked at me and I felt my cheeks go pink. "Have a good day, Bella." He leaned down and kissed my cheek and then turned and quickly walked around the corner, not even giving me a chance to react. I stood there for a good thirty seconds with my mitten clad hand on my cheek and my mouth gaping open. Today was definitely looking up.
I got Sam back in and settled in the apartment after our walk and headed back out to my bus, still in a state of giddy shock. As my boots crunched along the sidewalk, I was in my own little world until Mrs. Cope from the building pulled me out of my daydreams. "Someone sure does like you, dearie!"
"What? I'm not sure what you mean." Surely she didn't see Edward kiss me this morning.
She started chuckling. "I guess you haven't seen your car yet."
"What? I don't know… wait, what about my car?"
"Go take a look, honey. Whoever he is, he's a keeper!"
I glanced down the street at my car and saw it had been dug out. Sweet, but I suspected that wasn't what Mrs. Cope was talking about since I could see that something was written on the back window. As I got closer, I gasped and put my hand over my mouth when I saw the letters and a heart traced into the pristine coating of snow. The words "You're perfect" were written with precision and care, the dark letters standing in deep contrast against the white fluffiness sparkling in the early morning sun. I stood there in awe, my heart fluttering, and finally made my way to work.
I got nothing done that day. Nothing. Thoughts and memories from the past week started rolling through my head. "Nice boots, buddy"… "Bella, go relax and have some hot chocolate or something"… "I wanted to go ahead and dig out in case I needed to drive somewhere tonight?"… "Mediocre? You? Nope, don't see it"…
I could feel the hope bubbling up and desperately tried to be rational and breathe. I didn't want to get my hopes up that it was Edward just to find I had been reading into things and have it not be him. For all I knew, it could be the creep across the hall who had leered at me ever since I made the mistake of doing my laundry sans bra. Apparently, the laundry room got chillier than I thought. Either that or I really enjoyed folding.
As I walked from my bus, nervous anticipation built as I got to my building. I had no idea what to do if I saw him. Should I just ask him? Should I pretend I didn't notice and try to feel him out a little? Heh heh, should I feel him UP a little? I snorted at myself and shook my head. As I walked into the building, I saw a suspiciously familiar Bed, Bath, and Beyond bag hanging from my door and then a smaller bag with it. I squealed quietly and burst into the apartment, barely stopping to scratch Sam's ears as I put the bags on the hall table, anxiously pulling out the contents of the first. A wonderfully plush blanket and a book that had just been released came tumbling out along with a notecard. These should have been here for you last night, but I hope this gives you everything you need for a cold winter's night. I peeked into the smaller bag and saw a picture frame. I slid it out and read the message on the back of the frame. In case you ever forget what you are… I flipped the frame over and gasped. He had taken a picture of my car with the message written on the window.
I admit it. I swooned. I'm not a swooner by nature, but this guy had turned me into one. I had no doubt that it was Edward who had given me everything. In the span of just a few days, he made me feel more protected and cared for than I had since I was a little girl. I grabbed Sam's leash in a daze and lead him outside, trying to figure out what I should do. Showing up at his door naked and wrapped in the blanket seemed like a bit much, but I wanted to do something to show him I knew. And to show him I thought he was perfect for me too. The more I walked, the more confident I became in what I decided. I ushered Sam inside and then started gathering everything I needed. As the water in the kettle boiled, I changed into a pair of pajama pants and a slightly sheer tank top that hugged my curves perfectly. Definitely comfortable and not overly slutty, but he could see the black lace bra I was wearing under it. I glanced in the mirror and saw that my eyes were shining and my cheeks were flushed with excitement. You could just see my nipples perking up through the tank and I had a goofy grin on my face.
I grabbed two mugs, dumped some cocoa and poured a good dollop of Baileys into both followed by the boiling water. I grabbed the two mugs in one hand, threw the blanket over my shoulder, and then juggled everything as I made my way out of my apartment and over to his. Breathe, Bella, breathe I told myself as I stood on his welcome mat. I squared my shoulders with a confidence that I didn't know I had and knocked on his door.
He swung it open, and grinned at me. "Hey there, Bella. Did you need something?"
I rolled my eyes at him and couldn't help but grin back at the sparkle in his eyes. "Yes. I came to tell you how wrong you are. And maybe to say thank you."
"Oh really? And what could you possibly be thanking me for?" he asked.
I blushed. He was going to make me say it and wasn't about to admit to anything. "Well, either a Snow Elf or just possibly a new neighbor may have been leaving me all of the things he thinks I need for a cold and snowy night. And while I loved all of those things, there is one thing you are dead wrong about."
His eyes softened a bit. "I don't see any elves around here and I think I'm the only new neighbor you have, so I guess I'll say you're welcome, Bella. I'm so happy I made you happy." The mischievous gleam returned to his eyes. "So, do tell… what exactly am I dead wrong about? From where I'm standing, everything is looking pretty right to me. Actually, scratch that. Everything is looking pretty fucking perfect to me." He looked me up and down and I could feel my skin blush and my nipples tighten under his gaze. "Oh fuck," he whispered to himself and then cleared his throat and blushed a little as he realized he said that out loud. "Maybe you want to come in and tell me how wrong I am?"
I took a shaky breath and brushed by him, hoping I could get through this without just dropping the mugs and jumping him. I made my way to his living room, put the mugs on the coffee table and sat on the couch, waiting for him to join me. He sat next to me, and angled his body into the corner so he could face me.
"OK, fine. I give. Tell me what I was so wrong about, Bella."
I curled up to him and then unfolded and pulled the blanket over us. As he put his arms around me and pulled me closer, I looked into his eyes and saw the same mix of heat and tenderness I felt reflected back at me. He leaned down slightly and kissed me senseless. We laid there, making out like a couple of a teenagers, hands exploring, quiet moans escaping, our bodies moving against each other, until I finally realized I still hadn't told him. I suddenly pulled back from him a little. "Oh fuck. Dammit, dammit, dammit… I wanted to tell you… I wanted to say something and then you kissed me… and it was gah… so good… and I forgot… and fuck… I'm rambling…"
Edward started laughing and put his hand over my mouth. "Bella, stop. Are you done?" I nodded my head vigorously and he started laughing again as he took his hand off of my mouth. "Is this about whatever I was wrong about? Because I'm totally fine with being wrong. Absolutely, positively ok with it. I'll be wrong every day if you kiss me like that for each time I am."
And I swooned. Again. I leaned down to kiss him some more because how can you not when someone says something like that to you.
He braced his hands on my shoulders to prevent me from moving closer. "Nope. No kisses until you tell me everything I was wrong about. I want a list. A whole list complete with bullet points."
I started giggling. "There's no list, you dork. You were only wrong about one thing, Edward. You are all I need for a perfect cold winter's night."
This is all because Drotuno posted a photo and said, "I wish someone would fic this." So I did. You can find it on pinterest here: /pin/149885493818746121/
Much love to her for being one of the people who offered me a shoulder to cry on when I desperately needed one and understood all too well why I did. Tons of love to Mel and Dolly - two of my favorite cheerleaders who happily pre-read this. And, of course, big love to Carrie ZM who somehow makes time to beta my little flights of fancy and catches all of the things I miss. Believe me, girl, I do need you and your stellar skills (not to mention your kind words of encouragement). I did some tweaking so any and all mistakes are mine.
I hope you all have a happy (and fluffy) 2014!