Suggested Listening:'Daydreaming' by Dark Dark Dark
The caseworker's visit means dinner is later than usual. Save for the time- and Dad being kind enough to grace us with his actual presence of course- everything is the same. The same candles, the same noxious food, the same stilted conversation.
People really are predictable, but I guess I'm kind of relying on that fact tonight.
I think my plan is pretty decent, and Bella is sweet enough to help it pan out as I watch her sit across from me, courteously sticking to her routine of rushing dinner. Alice and Emmett are chatting shit about their various afterschool activities, whilst Mom listens intently, and Dad feigns interest. I absently push the food around my plate, smiling a little as I consider the reaction I'd get if I decided to divulge my own extracurriculars to the table.
"Find something amusing, son?" Dad asks, taking me off guard. I hadn't realized I was under surveillance.
"Yeah, actually." I lift my plate to reveal the goofy face I've made in the spaghetti sauce.
He shakes his head in admonishment. "It's about time you grew up, Son."
"So are you coming to the bonfire this weekend?" Alice inquires brightly, cutting off Mom's defense and thankfully nipping what was sure to be an argument in the bud.
"No, he's grounded. Indefinitely." Dad interjects.
News to me.
Man, I feel so honored to be Bella's fall guy. What a privilege.
"Maybe Bella would like to go?" Mom not so subtly encourages, taking a large gulp of her wine.
Awkward silence ensues as Alice grimaces and Bella attempts to discretely roll her eyes. Their 'communication issue' clearly hasn't been resolved yet. It doesn't take a genius to work out that Alice at the bonfire means Jasper at the bonfire, which equals an unwelcome Bella.
"Would you, dear?"
"Um, maybe next time, Esme," Bella mumbles, plastering on a weak smile, avoiding Alice's gaze at all cost.
Emmett manages to break the tension with talk of his whiny-ass girlfriend, and eventually we finish the main course- or not, in my case- with Bella and Alice dutifully helping Mom clear the plates.
Around now is where Bella usually excuses herself from dessert, but Dad halts her exit, standing to wipe his mouth with his napkin before discarding it on the table.
"That was delicious, sweetheart," he thanks Mom with a quick peck to her cheek. "Isabella? A word in my office?"
Mom appears mildly surprised by his request, so I'm guessing he didn't bother to run this by her beforehand. Bella replies with only a meek nod, following him obediently from the room and up the stairs. Maybe he saw through her bullshit excuses after all? I seriously hope so, although grounding her seems pretty redundant at this point. She never actually goes anywhere, not anywhere they know about at least. I'm confident I'll be able to rectify that tonight.
I move to excuse myself so I can follow them, but the opportunity to use my amazing eavesdropping skills again is swiftly snuffed out as mom insists I stay seated to try the pecan pie.
Foiled by pie? Astounding.
I make a half-hearted attempt to try and finish the revolting desert. It's practically impossible to keep the sour look from my face as I chew, but my effort is rewarded when she finally excuses me from the table. That only happens, however, after she elicits a promise to engage in 'family time' later in the evening.
Ascending the stairs to my room, I chuckle quietly to myself, overhearing Mom questioning my siblings about a certain missing porch chair.
When I reach the bedroom I eagerly begin to set my trap; just wishing that I had a Dali-esque 'tache to twirl to complete my mood. Pulling the beloved Volvo car keys from my pocket, I place them down on my bedside table, directly underneath the light of the lamp. I hope, or figure, it'll act as a giant neon arrow for her, yet not be too obvious.
Adjusting the bedroom door so it's as wide open as possible, I slip inside the bathroom that connects to my room and roll up my sleeves to turn on the shower. I'm completely skeptical that it'll actually work, but I tip the toothbrush and paste from their glass container into the sink, placing the empty glass between my ear and the closed door.
I sit there for what feels like hours, but holding the glass against my ear like that eventually begins to hurt. I discard it in favor of just leaning my head and back against the door, knees drawn and bent.
More time passes, and I'm sure that if anyone could actually hear the shower they'd be certain I was attempting the record for 'Longest Wank Ever'.
~ X ~
You're supposed to wait two to three minutes before rinsing conditioner? Huh.
Bored to tears and having thoroughly read the back of every hygiene product in the bathroom, I reluctantly give up. The watch on my wrist says it's almost eight, and I'm due downstairs.
Accepting the complete failure of my plan, I sigh and replace the various shampoos and shower gels, opening the bathroom door to stroll toward the bed.
I go to pick up the keys and really can't help the giant smile that creeps across my face as I do. I hold the keys up in the air for inspection, tilting my head to the side as I take a mental inventory. Still smirking, I run the tip of my tongue over my teeth as I note the discrepancy.
Oh, Bella. I shake my head.
I think maybe this is where I'm supposed to clap my hands together with evil glee, but I refrain myself.
With my mood thankfully out of the shitter, and honestly, feeling rather smug with myself, I make my way downstairs. I begin to wonder why I didn't hear her take the keys. I know that room inside and out, and there are at least two creaky floorboards in the space between my door and the nightstand.
Well, she'd make a stellar cat burglar, I muse.
Once in the living room, I decide it's beside the point and try to wipe the victorious look from my face. I spot Alice and Jessica curled up on one of the couches together, thoroughly enthralled by the images playing out on the TV screen. I'm beyond ashamed to admit that I know they're watching 'Gossip Girl' without being told.
Jesus, I need to get out of this house; preferably before I start menstruating.
"Hey," I greet them out of necessity as I take a seat on the opposite couch. I stretch my legs out to rest on the coffee table, crossing them at the ankles, groaning as I do. Sitting on that tiled bathroom floor for hours wasn't the best idea I've ever had.
Alice and Jess can't bring themselves to look away from the screen, but do manage to muster a half-hearted 'hey' in unison.
Long minutes pass in silence as I stare at the surrounding forest through the floor-to-ceiling windows behind them. It's almost comical to watch them snap out of their aforementioned trance when the commercials come on.
"What's up, Eddie?" Jess asks, lazily sitting up from her slouch against Alice.
I narrow my eyes at her.
"Nothing, as usual. You guys seen Bella around?" I ask the question as casually as possible, wary of showing too much interest.
They share a knowing glance before Alice answers, "why? Don't tell me you actually want to be around that weirdo?"
"Weirdo?" I ask, although I'm totally guilty of referring to her as that in my head a few times.
"Er, yeah!" Jess exclaims, like I'm mentally impaired.
"You haven't noticed?" Alice adds. "That girl is Loony Tunes. She flipped out and threw a mug at Mom while you were upstairs hiding in your lair."
"Yeah, a mug full of hot tea, Edward! She, my dear brother, is completely fucked up. She could've really hurt Mom."
"I don't understand."
"Well, she was just trying to be nice, y'know? Making us some herbal tea? Bella flipped out and launched the cup straight past her head. Ugh! I know we're supposed to feel sorry for her and everything, but really?"
I nod noncommittally. I guess this is what the social worker was talking about with the whole 'violent outbursts' thing? But she's supposed to be on medication, right? And my mother is the least threatening person in the world. I can't imagine what she did to incite that kind of reaction from Bella.
"Is mom okay?"
"Yeah, I guess. She brushed it off and is 'talking it out' with Bella in the kitchen." Alice makes those stupid finger quotes, nodding her head back toward the kitchen entrance.
Great. Now it'll be obvious if I get up to investigate.
"I'm telling you, Al, if you'd known her before she went AWOL you wouldn't even recognize her. I mean, I played in the sandbox with that girl, we had sleepovers! And now she's like, this whole other person."
"You mean she had a personality?" Alice snickers.
I just sit in the chair, silently judging them both as they throw out conflicting names like 'zombie' and 'psycho'. I'm not about to jump to Bella's defense any time soon- Lord knows she's a pain in my ass, but I also know Alice and Jess too well. Their aversion to Bella is no doubt rooted in the fact that she didn't scream her gratitude from the rooftops when they invited her to sit with them for lunch. The attention Bella has been receiving from the general penis population doesn't exactly help either.
I notice the TV ads have finished whilst I was thinking, and the girls have their heads fixated back on the screen. My problem is solved and so I stand, convinced they won't register my exit as I make my way toward the kitchen.
"… remember, Bella? Something that brought this on?" I overhear my mother plead.
I linger behind the doorway, not willing to make my presence known. There's a brief silence before she tries again. "I know what it's like to lose someone, Bella. To have them taken from you and for it to leave a hole in your heart."
"Is that a question or a monologue?" Oh, the claws are out. "Did you even read my file? I've told you and a million others, I don't remember." Bella's reply is delivered with more collective emotion than I've seen her exhibit the entire time she's been here.
"We're just trying to help, sweetie. You can't heal if you don't confront it."
"There's nothing to heal, nothing to confront. I don't remember."
"Okay, I understand that." Mom pauses. "And It's difficult to face what you've been through-" The sharp sound of wood screeching on tile reverberates from the walls. "Bella? Bella, please don't run, I'm-"
My mother's sentence is cut short as her attention is diverted to my presence in the kitchen doorway. Mine is focused to the right, on the garage door swinging shut.
"Edward, dear," she says with a sigh. "I'm sorry, would you fetch Bella back for me? Your father had to go to the hospital and-"
"Of course," I acquiesce without a second thought, although how I'm going to do that exactly escapes me. She's in the garage and has my car keys in her possession.
Fuck, can you say backfire?
I'd planned on taking the spare key to Dad's Mercedes from his office to follow her later, but I hadn't accounted for the possibility of him being on call.
Taking brisk steps, I jog down the stairs into the garage just in time to see Bella making her escape on my bike.
It's absolutely beyond me why she chose to take the bike when she could've easily taken my Volvo instead.
Confused as shit, I consider my options. She'll be long gone by the time I run upstairs and ask Alice for the keys to her car.
I reluctantly eyeball my sister's old bike that stands propped in the corner.
No. I argue with myself.
With a sigh, I give up all sense of pride as I grab the tiny bike and sit upon the saddle, setting off behind Bella. I wobble all over the place at first, struggling to get my balance as the image of a clown on a tiny motorcycle makes its way into my brain.
I gain some distance on her and desperately try not to think about how pink the bike is. How the front basket is full of Barbies. How it has glittering tassels on the handles. How fucking mortified I'd be if anyone spotted me riding this monstrosity.
Taking deep breaths, I follow behind Bella down the dark, deserted roads, for once thankful that we live in a Podunk town and everyone seems to hit the sack early.
Given her speed and the specific turns she makes, it becomes apparent that Bella has an actual destination in mind, eventually slowing her pace as she pulls out of town and onto a residential street. I struggle to slow down in time at the end of the road, but I do, managing to evade detection.
Intrigued, I watch on from the shadows as she hops off the bike and haphazardly lets it fall against the sidewalk. The house she's stopped in front of is creepy as hell, all boarded up with peeling white paint.
I belatedly connect the dots, realizing that I know this house. This is the 'Swan House'. The house that kids now tell horror stories about. The house where her parents were fucking bludgeoned to death.
I can't even begin to comprehend why she'd come back here. Then again, this is where Carlisle found her, right? On the porch? But why the fuck would she come back again?
I slip off the bike saddle and steadily guide it down the road, closer to her. Bella strolls across the drive, and I watch as a small, grey cat seems to appear from nowhere. It skips up to her, curling itself around her bare legs affectionately as she tries to walk.
My brow furrows. It's like it knows her or something. My suspicions are confirmed when she reaches down to pet it, actually smiling and saying something I can't hear. Bella disappears around the side of the house, and I run to catch up.
Discarding my own pathetic excuse for a bike next to hers, I follow around the side of the house. The path is seriously overgrown with weeds, and the further I walk, the harder it is to see and not trip.
Eventually I make it into the backyard and see that the house is also boarded up at the back, as you'd expect, all but for one window on the left.
Utilizing my newly acquired Hamburglar crawl, I make my way as quietly as possible to underneath the 'open' window. There's a wooden board that has clearly been removed from it, propped up against the side of the house next to a crowbar.
I raise an eyebrow.
Oh, I see.
I try to push all Peeping Tom-type thoughts from my mind as I peer through the half-open window.
It's pitch black, and there isn't a sound to be heard.
I begin to think I might've been led on a wild goose chase, that I've lost her, but my fears are allayed when the room suddenly becomes illuminated. I watch, my eyes adjusting, as Bella lights a few lanterns scattered on various surfaces. There are some on the floor, and a couple higher up. They're the kind you use for camping, and I have to wonder where she got them all.
As more of the room is engulfed by a warm glow, I realize it's actually a kitchen I'm looking at as I spy a sink and oven to the right. The cat now sits high on one of the counters, meowing at her loudly.
"Shhhhsh," Bella soothes, petting it on the head whilst she moves to open one of the cupboards. She frowns as she reaches in and pulls out a small, metallic package.
"Sorry, dude, this is the last one."
I continue to watch as Bella empties the food onto a plate that she grabs from the cupboard, placing it down on the floor for him. While the cat tucks in, Bella leans her back against the counter, gripping it with both hands behind her. She takes a long, deep breath as she slides down to sit on the floor next to him. "We fucked up, huh?"
She draws her legs up to rest her head upon them, effectively hiding her face.
Bella sits like that for a few minutes, rolling her head to the side occasionally, and I really couldn't feel like more of a creeper right now. I move to go, but at that moment she decides to stand and turn to open a different cupboard.
Okay, I promise myself, we'll see what she's doing, and then we'll go.
Bella reaches up on her tiptoes and pulls out a pack of smokes, lighting one and leaving it to hang from her lips. She reaches back into the same cupboard again, bringing out a small bowl this time and placing it on the counter.
After staring for a long moment, she grabs a couple of what looks like pills from the bowl, and quickly places them on her tongue, confirming my suspicion. She swallows them dry, making the requisite face and shaking her head side-to-side.
The cat doesn't acknowledge her troubles, and continues to scarf down his dinner.
Clearly this is where she picked up her table manners.
Bella watches him with an increasingly vacant expression, and I just watch her watch.
"You done?" She asks the cat as he licks the empty plate incessantly. "Okay, you're done," she chuckles, picking up the plate and putting it in the sink.
The cat follows the line of her arm, hopping back up on the counter to peer into the sink longingly. She pets him and he purrs, rubbing up against her arm affectionately. "I'll remember to bring you something special next time, promise." She smiles sweetly at him as he nudges his face under her palm, clearly demanding more petting.
I feel myself smile a little as I watch. Man, I don't even like cats. They're so superior and moody, but in ten minutes Bella has paid more attention to this stupid animal than she has to any of us in three months.
"I have to go, little man, before they send the fucking cavalry or something. I'll be back tomorrow."
I think I'm safe in assuming Bella has been squatting here or something, which makes no sense at all. That's like staying in a shitty motel when you could be at the Four Seasons, expenses paid. From what I can tell, she doesn't even have water or electricity here.
I might be confused about its appeal, but at least now I know where she's been coming, and finally have something I can use.
I turn to leave before she's given the opportunity to catch me lurking, managing to make it all of two steps before freezing instinctively.
There's a vibration in my pocket, followed loudly by the opening strains of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
Really, Dad? You had absolutely nothing better to do than to call me right this fucking second?
~ X ~
Kind of a cliffie, I know, but the next one is already written ;)