Knock, knock, knock...
"Dude, read the sign; we're closed." Tanya sighs and rolls her eyes, the effect dramatically enhanced by the at least four layers of mascara she's wearing (Lash Accelerator, third aisle, second rack, $12.95). Her grimace makes me giggle. That or the beer. Or both? I'm having my second Budweiser (on sale this week, $2.00 a can, instead of $2.10), and I'm feeling a little lightheaded.
Knowing that Edward is having dinner with his parents and won't be back any time soon tonight, I feel like I have no reason to go home today at all. I can't really see myself sitting there holding my breath for any sign of life from him, like a lovesick teenager glued to the phone, and yet this is probably exactly what I would do. Tanya was positively shocked when I actually accepted her weekly offer to buy me an after work drink for the first time ever. But she got over it pretty quick.
So after closing the drugstore and cashing-out, I joined my chatty co-worker in the backroom where I am now listening to her weekend adventures, smoking and drinking and trying to not recollect the feel of Little Green's lips on mine every three or four minutes, for a change. Stressing the word 'trying' here. Yes, that bad!
Knock, knock, knock...
Whoever our after-hour customer may be, he is persistent; I must give him that.
"We're closed!" Tanya hollers, "C. L. O. S. E. D." Then she moans, "Jesus motherfucking Christ – what a moron! Is he illiterate?"
"Maybe it's an emergency? Bad migraine... out of Percocet... who knows? Shouldn't we take a look?"
"Yeah, maybe it's a batshit crazy junkie, ready to slash us as soon as we open the door, who knows? No way, Bella!" She bears her teeth like a chimp and shakes an invisible knife, giving the perfect impersonation of a lunatic serial killer. I almost choke on my beer. Tanya pats my back and grins at me, "Axe murder guy will give up soon, don't worry."
Knock, knock, knock...
I snort with laughter. "I don't think so..." Whether curiosity kills the cat or not, it gets the better of me and I get up to peek through the door crack. It takes me a few seconds to grasp what I'm seeing. My laughter stops with a last embarrassing squeak, and I know this cat is bound to die. It's Carlisle Cullen. Oh my God...
"Oh my God!"
Apparently I said that out loud, because Tanya squeals, "What? What?" She has stepped behind me and tries to look past my head, eager to examine what she believes must be Hannibal Lecter with a really bad headache. But I'm frozen in place, unable to speak. It's like an iron hand closes its cold grip around my heart to keep it from beating.
Dr. Cullen is definitely not here to replenish his aspirin supplies. He's here for me. I bet after hearing the news of the day (i.e. fresh divorcee Bella Swan seducing his barely legal son), he has come to tell me to keep my hands the fuck off of Edward. Probably not in exactly this wording, but anyway... Carlisle leaving the Cullen family dinner and driving all this way can only mean one thing: he is here to tell me that I'm never going to see Edward again.
Knock, knock, knock...
Tanya whisper-screams behind me, "Is that Mr. Cullen?"
"Dr.," I correct her mechanically.
I'm never going to see Edward again!
"Did you not pay your rent or something?"
"Or something, Tanya, yes ..."
I'm never going to see Edward again?
The vise-like grip around my heart briefly tightens once more, before it gives way to something I haven't felt in a long time. Tanya lets go a shocked gasp and steps back as I straighten my shoulders and open the backroom door. In a few long strides I am at the front door.
It's a strange mixture of pride, anger and wild determination that has come over me; it makes my head spin and I know this is not because of the liquid courage (on sale this week, $2.00 a can), but something genuine that has waited inside of me to come out for much too long. And as soon as there's no longer a glass panel in between, I finally let it out, right into Carlisle Cullen's face:
"Isabella, I'm glad I caught..." he starts, and then stops mid-sentence, surprised. "No?"
"That's right, no!" I spit, breathlessly. "I know why you're here, Dr. Cullen ..."
"Carlisle," he interposes weakly. But I'm on a roll, sort of, and damn – it feels good!
"Ok... Carlisle – thanks ... whatever. But don't even bother; the answer is no!"
Dr. Cullen, I mean Carlisle, eyes me with a half-smirk. "I beg your pardon?" He doesn't look mad at all, and I'm confused for a moment. But I won't back down.
I hear the unmistakable click and hiss of another Budweiser being opened behind me, and Tanya cheering, "Go girl!" She clearly has no fucking idea what's going on, but in a silly impulse I kind of appreciate her emotional support.
Exactly, go me! I did nothing wrong. I don't care what it looked like. We did nothing wrong.
"Whatever you're going to say, Dr. Carlisle, I am Edward's person." Dr. Carlisle? Jesus...! "I'm his person, and I. Will. Not. Stay. Away. From him!"
He pouts his lips as if to prevent that damn half-smirk to grow into a full one, and I get even angrier. I suddenly wish Esme was here too, so I could tell them both off at the same time. It's all I can do to not stomp my foot in defiance.
"The only person who can tell me to leave Edward alone is Edward himself. No one else!"
Not going to happen!
There we stand – he in his Armani-Boss-Whatever hundreds of dollar suit, and I in my sweaty tee and the embarrassing, pink drugstore apron with my name-tag on it - staring at each other. I'm huffing, ready to fight. I feel invincible.
Never gonna see Edward again, my Ass! And best regards to your wife, Dr. Cullenlisle; tell her I'm not backing down that easily!
Carlisle is the first to break the eye contact. He is still smirking though, and I have to blink a few times as I feel my temporary superiority waver. His gaze wanders down to my name-tag; he nods a few times and then he speaks my name as if reading it syllable for syllable.
"Isabella," he says softly and looks up again. "I'm actually very happy to hear that. By the way, do you like Spaghetti Aglio e Olio?"
I've been over the top. Recollecting that episode thirty minutes ago, moment by moment, and watching my agitated self from the outside, I can see that now. Over-reaction. Over-action.
I'm better now, but Esme is upset. She hasn't seen my like that in a while, and I regret that she had to witness my... lapse. She is sitting across from me, elbows on the table, chin resting on her clasped hands. She stopped talking a while ago and is probably wearing her best 'I'm worried about you' face now.
I know she is... I know, I know... always Esme, always worried. But I don't look at her. I can't. I'm too busy counting the stitches in the embroidery of the tablecloth. I run the tip of my index finger over the little green leaves of the rose pattern, again and again. Eleven parallel threads, first increasing and then diminishing in length form such a leaf, absolutely reliable... not ten, not twelve... eleven stitches. Every single leaf. I'm grateful for the embroiderer's accuracy, for the symmetry of the pattern. It helps me to stay calm, outwardly at least. It helps me to not overreact again.
I wish Esme would stop burdening me with her worries. Her constant concern for me is building up in the room like a thick fog. I want to tell her to stop. I want to tell her that Bella is not a disease that has come over me, nothing that can be cured... or should be cured. But I'm afraid to overreact again. So I keep my mind on the leaves and my finger grazing, stem to tip, tip to stem.
Esme's phone buzzes. She answers the call and I hear her say 'yes', and 'oh, good', and I focus even harder on the details in the fabric. Five stitches, each one longer than the one before, up to the middle of the leaf. The sixth one is the longest, and I let my fingertip rest there for a moment before...
… I run it upwards to the tip of the leaf... seven, eight, nine, ten...
"Sweetheart," Esme says, and reaches out for me. Her hand on mine keeps my finger from roaming; her words keep my mind from further obsessing with the needlework. "They are on the way; Carlisle has found her and they will be here in a few minutes."
"Eleven!" I say and breathe a sigh of relief.
I wish I had asked Carlisle to stop at my place so I could change into something more appropriate. But I just didn't think of that and now it's too late; we're almost there. I'm still in my drugstore gear and yeah... reeking of booze and cigarettes for good measure, and I'm on my way to what must be one of the weirdest impromptu meet-the-parents events in history.
I briefly consider getting rid of the apron, but as silly as that pink thing might be, it somehow gives me strength... a certain sense of dignity. I look down on my name-tag and think, yes that's me, Isabella, making an honest living. So what?
Yes, I'm still in the mood for a decent fight. Even now that Carlisle has filled me in, sort of, on what happened and I know he came to get me because Edward wanted me to be with him so badly, I'm still shaking with anger. I won't let anyone take away or even belittle what is between me and Edward. He had an anxiety attack in front of his parents' house, for Christ's sake. Carlisle has been trying to downplay it, but I have seen Edward in my bathroom. I know what he can be like when he's upset. He doesn't cope well with the situation at all.
I saw it in his face when I left this morning. He looked like he wanted to run after me, and I almost expected him to. I was a little late for work and we said goodbye hastily. Hells, a girl can oversleep after losing her virginity and making love repeatedly for one day and one night in a row, ok? But I should have called the drugstore and said I'd be there a little later. Tanya would have covered me and... ah, shoulda-woulda does no gooda! No use crying over spilt milk. No use pondering on the fact that I look like shit and smell like a trucker bar. This is about Little Green.
And yet I catch myself stealthily trying to smooth my hair, which is completely futile of course. I realize that Edward hasn't really seen me in my best-looking state yet. I've been in my bathrobe, and in jean shorts that should have gone into the laundry long ago. The clothes I whipped on this morning weren't much better. And in between I've just been naked, no make up, bad hair day and all. How could he even...?
I fight back the familiar self-consciousness that suddenly surges up within me. This is not the time! Carlisle has warned me that Esme might be a little upset, so I cling to that newfound rebellious spark that got me going when I saw him at the drugstore. My hand closes around the name-tag above my heart, searching for assurance. This is about Little Green and I will stand my ground.
"You ok?" Carlisle's soft voice kicks me out of my musings. "You're very quiet."
"Yes, I am. Just thinking."
He hums his acknowledgement ... or whatever. Thankfully he doesn't ask what I am thinking about. Then he says, "Here we are." The car stops, and the next thing I know is the passenger door is opened from the outside, and there is Edward.
He takes my hand and like always with him my body follows his pull of its own volition. So unlike my usually clumsy self, I disembark the car gracefully, while I feel like drowning in his green, northern light eyes. In a distant corner of my mind I barely register Carlisle passing us by and murmuring something like, "Don't take too long, kids." Then he is gone, and it's just the two of us.
Edward and I. Little Green and Easybella.
He smiles at me. I love his teeth, they are kind of cute. And his mouth, oh my... Suddenly he bends over a little and sighs, followed by a quiet whimper. Though his smile doesn't falter it sounds as if he is in pain and I grab his arm, alarmed.
"What's wrong, Edward?"
"Nothing. It's just... you're so pretty it hurts."
I blush furiously, and with a dash of embarrassment I turn away from him to fetch my purse out of the car. "Jesus," I chuckle awkwardly, " I'm in my goddamn apron, Edward."
His arms close around my waist from behind; he nuzzles my neck and his breath is leaving goose-bumps in its wake.
"You're in my goddamn soul," he whispers.
I guess I am.
And isn't that an enchanting place to be?