Gigantic thanks as always to my lovelies Chrissy, Landdownunder, and Ordinary Vamp. Their help with this little story is invaluable.
Suggested Listening: 'The Only' by Lykke Li
'D' is for...?
"Unit 12 requesting a 10-27."
I'm spinning around in circles on my desk chair, thumbing through the pages trying to find the corresponding code.
Are you fucking kidding me?
I put my feet firmly on the ground to stop my motion, and wait a second for my brain to realign itself with my body.
A licence check?
It's been over a week and not one single bulletin or lead on the scanner about the Quileute case. The first murder in Forks since fuck-knows-how-long, and the local PD are running around like headless chickens, wasting time with shoplifters and pranks.
It's embarrassing, frankly.
Frustrated, I flip the scanner off and resign for the morning. I'm gonna have to re-think its whole 'pride of place' on my desk. Grabbing my bag, I open the bedroom door and spy Bella across the hall. Her door is slightly ajar and she's sitting on the edge of her bed, biting on her thumbnail anxiously.
I always wonder how- or rather when- she gets home in order to avoid detection from my parents. Every night she slips away, but in the morning she's right back here, showered and perfect.
Okay, that's a lie; she's not always showered, and she's definitely not always perfect. Case-in-point: last week she showed up at school in the same set of clothes for two consecutive days. Needless to say, Jessica and Alice were mortified, and the rest of the student body were a little irked.
Personally? I have to commend her stunning lack of giving a shit. It certainly puts my own to shame.
Yeah, don't bother telling her that.
I observe Bella for an extra moment while she's lost, oblivious in her own thoughts. She's clothed in her usual uniform, and the image spawns more questions for my list: Does mom actually let her buy this stuff? Or is Bella getting her supplies from some poor dude's closet?
As is always the case, unanswered questions only lead to more questions. Is said 'dude' her boyfriend? And if so, is that where she goes at night? It would make sense, I guess.
I let out an involuntary chuckle at the prospect of Bella having a secret boyfriend. Not to be a jerk or anything- because I can absolutely see how guys would go for her- but the girl is so fucking withdrawn and stuck in her own head that I find it hard to imagine there's someone with the patience.
I realize that I've made my presence known when I catch her gaze across the hall. I also realize I didn't notice because I was busy doing the exact same thing I was just criticizing her for- floating in my own mind.
I feel awkward, even though I know she can't read my mind, so I decide to cut it with something simple.
"What's wrong?" I ask, trying to sound genuinely concerned.
"Nothing," she mutters, as she stands from the bed and begins to move toward me. Anyone else and you'd assume they were engaging in the conversation, but this is Bella, and I already know she's just coming to shut the door in my face.
"Is that why you look like you're gonna puke?" I tease.
Bella places her palm flat on the door and leans her head against its edge lazily, "Please… just-"
"Chop, chop, kids!" We hear mom yell up the stairs. We both turn our heads to the sound.
Bella doesn't finish her sentence, and instead uses the interruption as an opportunity to retreat inside her room. She swiftly pushes off the door and closes it behind her. It's a silent 'fuck off' that rings loud and clear.
Suit yourself, I think.
I turn and make my way down the two flights of stairs into the kitchen. As I walk, I debate the possibility that Bella could, or would, sneak into my room while I'm downstairs. She probably won't, but I make a mental note to ask dad for an external lock. I pat the keys in my pocket to make sure.
"Morning, darling!" Mom greets enthusiastically with a smile when I enter the kitchen. She scruffs my hair affectionately, and I swear dad's got her on something. No one should be this fucking perky in the morning. I spot Emmett pacing on the porch through the large kitchen windows, probably arguing with his spectacularly possessive college girlfriend, Rosalie. Alice isn't around.
"Morning, mom," I mumble.
"Here," she says, placing a glass of orange juice on the breakfast bar while I slip into my seat. "Drink up- and I need you to take Isabella to school with you this morning."
"Why can't she go with Alice?" I whine.
"Don't argue, Edward." She pours the milk into my bowl of Fruit Loops like I'm six years old again. "Alice and Bella are having... communication problems at the moment, so I need you to help out, okay?"
"Communication problems?" I enquire, looking up from my bowl.
"Yes, but that doesn't concern you, so just do as I ask." She doesn't even bother to pose the demand as a question.
Mom might be a pushover when it comes to dad, but not so much with us.
"Fine," I grumble, "but I'm not bringing her home."
"Her case worker is coming this afternoon, so you'll do whatever I need you to, Edward… and in a timely fashion." She smiles warmly at me on her way out the kitchen to let me know she's not genuinely annoyed.
I finish eating breakfast at a snail's pace to put off school and the ride I have to take to get there.
Coffee, I need coffee.
~ X ~
"That's what you're wearing?" I ask Bella as she closes the front door and shuffles along the gravel toward the car where I'm waiting.
That sounded way too much like Alice.
"What?" Bella asks, looking down at herself with her brow furrowed. She's holding her bag and hoodie in one arm whilst she tugs awkwardly on the hem of her dress with the other. She doesn't look bad or anything, she actually looks great and just… I don't know… different. Although she's still casual as ever, the sight of her in something feminine like this blue patterned dress is kind of weird. Her hair is tied up for once, showing off her features, and despite her clothes, she manages to still look tomboyish, with her worn sneakers and bare skinny legs.
"You just look different is all," I clarify as she frowns at me over the roof of the car.
Easy there, Captain Charisma.
Ugh, I learned a long time ago that you never fucking comment on a girl's appearance, unless it's entirely complimentary. Leave the slightest hint of doubt, and you'll have to start entertaining the prospect of corrective ball surgery.
"Crap, look, now my ego won't fit in your precious mom mobile," Bella deadpans with a roll of her eyes.
Relieved I didn't actually offend her, I let the Volvo jab slide, and watch as she puts on the grey hoodie before getting in the passenger seat. I join her in the car and start the engine.
"Seatbelt," I remind her with a nod when she doesn't reach for hers.
Bella complies, but lets out a petulant sigh as she does.
"What? You're too cool to keep your head out of the windshield now?" I tease again as we start to pull down the drive.
I hear the seatbelt click and wait for her imminent retort. She considers her options for a moment before throwing a curveball.
"You know what's fucked up?"
Here we go…
"A lot of things, Bella, but enlighten me."
You included, I add in my mind.
"Well, we avoid all these risks in life… just so we can make it safely to death." She frowns again.
Note to self: Inform mom and dad she needs a name change on the adoption papers; something along the lines of 'Sunshine' or 'Hope'.
"Wow, you're a real fucking upper today."
"You disagree?" She asks openly.
"I didn't say that. I just think it's a little early for philosophical debates, don't you?" Clearly I just don't want to admit she has a valid point.
"I guess," she sighs, turning to gaze out the window.
I take my eyes off the road briefly and see that she's gnawing on her lower lip again. "What's up with you today, anyway? You're more… whatever it is you are, than usual."
"Well, I have this horrible dilemma," she sighs, pausing purposefully. "Some asshole keeps asking me what's wrong, and it's really fucking irritating."
I chuckle despite myself. "Wow, that's truly awful, but I think you need to look up the definition of 'dilemma', smart ass. It's in the dictionary. Under the letter 'D'."
Bella turns to face me fully, drawing her legs up and resting them sideways on the edge of the seat. I have a feeling it doesn't bode well for me.
"I already did. It's right next to the definition for 'dickhead'," she smirks, "and if you'd let me finish, my dilemma is whether or not to believe he actually gives a shit, or…" she trails off.
"Or…?" I prompt.
"Orto fashion a shiv out of his stick shift and relieve his shoulders of that giant ego he calls a head." She looks pointedly at said stick shift.
I can't help but laugh. I know Bella has developed some misconceptions about me since we met, but this one is my favorite.
"Well, you still wouldn't get to use his car," I taunt.
My laughter quickly dies when I see her expression is completely serious. I acknowledge the fact that she might not be entirely joking, and that I shouldn't be putting shit like that in her head when I know how desperate she appears to be for a car. I also remind myself that she's spent a significant portion of her life in group-homes, and so she's probably pretty handy with a shiv.
"Relax, dude," she smiles, "I'm kidding."
"I know. I just realized it wasn't that funny."
"You'd make a terrible lawyer," she muses.
I don't bother to deny it, and we enter another of our patented silences for the remainder of our journey.
The parking lot is bustling with hormone-fueled activity when we pull in. I spot the usual crowds, and idly wonder which one Bella will eventually join. I'd figured it'd be Jessica's, but that's not going to happen if she has a problem with Alice, that much is certain. Maybe the stoners? She skips class enough.
"What's up with you and Alice?" I ask while I still have her cornered.
"Mom said that's why I had to give you a ride; communication problems?"
"Oh," she sighs, "her weirdo boyfriend kept eyeballing me yesterday. Some hippy shit about a dark aura."
I raise an eyebrow in confusion. That doesn't sound like the lovesick Jasper I know, although he is an unashamed hippy kid.
"Yeah, I have no fucking clue either," Bella concludes, getting out of the car. I grab my bag and follow her lead. Apparently I'm not the only one intrigued by her improved appearance this morning. Heads turn to stare.
"And what's up with the dress, too?" I ask, leaning down to her level as I walk by her side to the entrance.
She smells good.
"It was my mother's. It's her birthday today. Is that okay with you?"
Oh god, I instantly feel like an asshole.
"Er, no. Yeah. It's nice. You look nice," I blurt, trying to backtrack, but her expression remains blank as she stares straight ahead. We climb the stairs and I hold the door open for her as she dips under my extended arm. I'm about to ask if she's actually coming to biology today, when she turns left into the corridor without a departing word.
Oh yeah, thanks for the ride, Edward. I think dryly as I watch her legs carry her toward her locker. I continue to stare after her as she fumbles with the combination.
"Eddie!" I feel a hand clap me on the back, and turn to see it's Mike Newton and his obnoxious fucking face again. "How you doin', man?" He asks with a forced smile that looks physically painful.
"So, er," he continues when I regard him with only a condescending scowl. "Isabella. She seems pretty cool." He nods in her direction. "I was thinking, maybe… well, you live with her, right?"
I remain silent, making him stew in his awkwardness.
"You have her ear?" He asks, hopeful.
"Her ear?" I chuckle. "Yeah, it was a bitch to get the formaldehyde, but I scored this lovely antique jar for it."
I watch on, mildly amused as his lonesome brain cells struggle to keep up. He appears suitably disgusted when the penny finally drops.
"Ha! You're funny, bro." He grimaces. "Well, er, there's this bonfire down at the res this weekend, and I thought, y'know, maybe you could mention it to Bella?"
"You want me to hook you up?" I scoff.
"No, no! It's just, she's a little… hard to pin down, and just… could you warm her up for me?"
"Warm her up?" I ask, being purposely obtuse and thoroughly enjoying how uncomfortable it's making him.
"Yeah, y'know…" he trails off, nodding his head to the side suggestively like I'm supposed to know what that means.
"Sure," I laugh, but he doesn't seem to get that I'm laughing at him.
"Awesome! Thanks, I owe you, man!" He smiles in victory, before raising his fist in the air for me. I stare at it blankly, not willing to engage him further, and sidestep around him to go find my own locker.
"Awesome!" I hear him repeat after me.
Obviously, I have no intention of following through, but I deliberate whether to call Jess later and inform her of her noble prince's plans. I decide against it. I haven't gotten any action since the start of summer and saying 'I told you so' isn't going to garner any sexual favors from her.
I make it to my locker and I'm busy stuffing my bag inside when I feel a presence lingering at my side.
"Hey, Edward." I turn absently and see Tyler Crowley stood grinning to my left. "So, you and Isabella talk, right?"
~ X ~
A few long hours and requests to help get in Bella's pants later, and it's finally the end of biology.
I've been chomping at the bit to reveal my CSI escapades to Mr. Banner, but I'm wary he might be obligated to inform the authorities if I do. A few details have been leaked to the press, so we've at least been able to discuss those. Even with his insights and my own supplementary knowledge, I've yet to gain any kind of upper hand on the police. The incomplete shoe prints have been gnawing at my mind in particular, and so I decide to bounce it off Mr. Banner.
"Hypothetically," I begin.
Shit how do I word this?
"Well, you know when you get out of the shower?"
He nods, and I'm sure he thinks I'm going to ask him something inappropriate.
"Your wet footprints are incomplete, right? The arch of your foot and pressure distribution make them that way, but when you wear shoes, the sole is entirely flat, and so you get a complete print."
"Yes, that's right," he agrees, probably wondering where the hell I'm going with this.
"So, hypothetically, what would be a reason for a shoe print- a boot, for example- to be incomplete? On the toes?"
"Oh." He smiles knowingly. "Well, hypothetically, I'm not sure. I've heard of infants who walk constantly on tiptoe, but never just the heel. I imagine that would be quite painful to keep up." He thinks on this for a moment, as do I. "Hmmm, I suppose…"
"Yes?" I prod eagerly.
"Well, the completeness of the print would depend on pressure and weight distribution, like you said. So in theory, if a person is wearing the wrong size shoe, that could happen."
"Wait, it'd have to be a significantly larger size though, right?"
"Yes," he nods.
"And so it'd be possible to work out the genuine size of the person's feet!" I exclaim.
"Yes," he chuckles at my enthusiasm.
"Thank you!" I gush, "Sorry, I really have to get home now, but thank you!" I feel like I could hug him or something, but I'm know neither of us need the lawsuit.
"Anytime, Edward, and just to let you know, I'll be taking the liberty of informing your parents of Miss Swan's absences, since the office is paying it no mind. I apologize if it'll cause any tension at home for you."
"No, that's fine. Thanks for the heads up, Sir. See you tomorrow!" I jog quickly down the hall to the exit, aware that I'm fifteen minutes late and Bella is gonna be pissed.
When I let myself out through the double-doors into the chill, I see my car is one of only three left in the lot. Bella is nowhere in sight.
I pull my cellphone from my jean pocket, before remembering she doesn't actually have a phone of her own that I can call her on. I take a left and head toward the back of the gym where I found her before. I pray she's just having a smoke while she waits, but I find she's not there either.
Shit, shit, shit.
I run a hand through my hair in frustration. Would it really have been that fucking hard for her to just wait by the car? Walking back to the lot I stare at my phone and consider my options. Mom and Dad are gonna shit if I go home empty handed again.
"Bella?" I call out when I reach my car. "Bella!" I look around the campus grounds.
Maybe Alice took her home after all? But if I call to check and find she's not there, I'll be busted and-
Fuck! The social worker!
She's coming today! Of all the days Bella could disappear on me, and she chooses today.
Oh god, I'm in so much shit.
~ X ~
Thank you so much for reading. I can't wait to hear your thoughts, if you decide to leave them :)
Bella's dress from the chapter: