Someone's review of this story (coughnatcityjpcough) reminded me that I never really finished it... so here's an update for the select few who are actually still interested. Maybe if you're lucky I'll finish it before 2020. :P
As usual, I own nothing and Stephenie Meyer is credited for just about everything.
Chapter 11: Decisions
The familiar feeling of breath leaving Bella's lungs was comforting in the midst of her utter boredom. In the three months since she left Alice, Bella had thrust herself back into her old life of partying and women. She made sure to spend every possible moment with a different person, with the exception of the time she needed to hunt. She had even found a job as a bartender at one of the local clubs. Since it was midday on a Tuesday all of her friends were at work, which left Bella with nothing to do but read and listen to music.
She didn't try to hide herself from the love of her life like she had in the past. She knew Alice wouldn't search her out, not after the way she ran this last time. Edward's words had hit their mark and they had run to her very core. She had jumped into the relationship with Alice, if one could even call it that yet, much too quickly. Granted, they had agreed to go slow but her fear of being left had been magnified by her conversation with Edward.
He was still very obviously in pain from their separation but she could hear the tenderness in his voice. Even though they were not together anymore and he was still hurting from it; Edward cared about her.
His motives may have been twisted from wanting her back and his words malicious but Bella knew he was trying to show her what would happen to her should she stay with Alice. She would end up alone and in more pain than she had been before this whole ordeal. She would have two Cullen's who wouldn't want anything to do with her. The rest of her family would probably fall in line with her ex-husband and Alice.
The dead heart in her chest still ached for the shorter woman. If she tried hard enough, Bella could still feel those perfect arms wrapped around her waist.
No, she told herself. This is for the best. It wouldn't have worked out.
She physically shook her head to mentally rid herself of the thoughts that were threatening to spill over. She was done thinking like that. She was done thinking.
She had given things a shot with Alice but she knew that things would get ruined eventually – that she would ruin them. Bella realized that she had a habit of ruining good things. Alice was a very, very good thing. She didn't want to damage the pixie with her philandering ways. She was also terribly afraid of being left. It was only logical to leave the shorter woman alone so she could have some semblance of a normal life.
Better to be the one doing the leaving rather than the other way around, she thought wryly.
Ridding the depressing thoughts from her mind, Bella got up from her sitting position in her living room and walked down the hallway, stopping in the bathroom to turn on the shower to warm it up. Closing the door behind her, she continued on toward the bedroom. The brunette rifled through her closet and drawers until she found a suitable outfit to wear. Satisfied with it once it was laid out on her bed, she grabbed two towels from the linen closet and proceeded into the bathroom.
The brunette immediately shed her clothing onto the tile floor and placed her clean towels onto the counter next to the sink. When she stepped past the plastic barrier and directly into the hot spray Bella's heightened senses were assaulted with the amount of moisture in the air. She allowed herself a moment to just soak of up the heat of it and breathe it in. She braced her hands against the cold tile opposite her body so as to direct her face under the spray of the water.
Showers were always comforting to her especially since she had been turned. Bella always felt a connection to something larger than herself. She felt at peace when her naked body stood under the water and her lungs absorbed the moist air with every inhale. Inside those walls she could slough off all of her problems and just…exist.
In her human days she would cry within those walls and no one would be the wiser. As a vampire she was left to dry sob until the water turned chilly against her ice-cold skin.
There in that moment Bella recalled the times she had spent curled up on the floor of the shower at Charlie's during the dark period that the Cullen's had been out of her life. How utterly preposterous she had been. She shook her head. Damn dramatic teenage hormones, she thought bemusedly. Here I am again though.
She felt the water begin to cool so she washed her hair quickly and lathered her body up in a mango body wash. She rinsed off, turned the water off, wrapped a towel around her body and began drying her hair with the other.
The brunette took her towel-clad self to her bedroom, where she proceeded to get dressed. Her boss hadn't given her a set uniform, but rather told her that as long as she "attracted the customers" she was free to choose her own clothes. She chuckled at that thought. She didn't need fancy clothes to attract customers.
Smirking to herself, Bella put on a casual pair of dark-washed skinny jeans and a grey top cut low enough to tease onlookers with her cleavage but not enough to be distasteful. She pulled her hair into a messy up-do and applied some light makeup before putting on some black Converse and putting her things into her purse. Double-checking that she had everything, the brunette walked out the door, locked it up behind her, and set out for the club. She glanced at her watch and noticed that the club would be just opening up for setup when she got there.
When she walked in she observed that her boss had all the liquor lined up on the bar with a clipboard in his hands.
"You know Mark, if you had told me you were going to do inventory today I could've saved you the trouble." Bella said. She swung the door to the bar up and walked behind the counter, pulling a sheet of paper from seemingly nowhere.
"Here," she said, "I took inventory last night before I closed up. Oh, and FYI we're going to need an extra case of the Bacardi. Seems everyone's favoring that one lately."
Her boss looked at her with a blank stare. He shook his head slightly. "Damn Cullen. Keep it up and you're going to put ME out of a job."
She smiled at the compliment. "No way Mark. You couldn't pay me enough to take your job. I'm happy just making sure I get to keep the one I have."
He gave her a stern look. "Good. I like that. Keep it up. You're closing tonight too so make sure you lock everything up. Since you've done what I came here to do today I'm going to head home. The missus wants me to take her out on a 'date.'" He rolled his eyes.
The brunette rolled her eyes in return. She knew he acted all tough towards her but outside of the workplace Mark was a big softie. He adored his wife and would do anything she asked him to. Not unlike Emmett, she though sadly. Her family probably hated her now for breaking up Alice and Jasper. No. None of that tonight Cullen. You're working. Focus.
That's what Bella did – focus. She made sure she had enough clean glasses for opening up. Tuesday's were their £1 shots and discounted entrance nights so they were always busy. She ran through the shot list in her head to decide which one she wanted to make her specialty tonight. Once she decided the brunette began collecting the ingredients into a small group under the bar. She smirked again at herself. Oh, she was so getting laid tonight.
As the night waned on Bella was indeed busy as anticipated - the patrons, as always, found themselves parched after a few rounds of dancing to the loud pop music. One woman in particular had been eyeing her all night and Bella had noticed.
She was about Bella's height with medium length black hair that fell in waves, light blue eyes, and ample curves that her blue halter top and dark jeans clung tightly to. She had walked in with a group of girls, presumably friends.
Said woman was making her way to the bar now. She raised her hand (filled with cash) to Bella, who motioned with her head to wait while she finished filling another customer's order. Once she was done putting the money in the register she yelled out to the woman. "What can I get you?"
The woman gave her a very obvious once-over and shouted over the music in response. "What's your specialty shot tonight?" She asked with a smile. Bella smiled back.
The blue-eyed woman's smile widened. "I'll take 5." She placed five bills onto the counter.
"You got it." She lined up the shot glasses and poured in the necessary ingredients. Once she was finished Bella looked over to the woman. "You want them on a tray so you can serve them?" The woman shook her head.
"I'll take these here," she grabbed three, "and I'll be back for the others." Bella nodded that she understood and watched the woman's hips sway as she strutted back to her friends, no doubt knowing that golden eyes were watching her every move.
While the woman was occupied with her friends Bella set to attending to the few customers that had been vying for her attention. She must have been working longer than she thought because she heard a distinct clearing of someone's throat and she smiled to herself. She turned around to face the woman sitting at the bar with her remaining shots in front of her.
"Yeah?" Bella said innocently. The woman looked at her from behind light lashes with surprisingly sharp eyes. She must still be sober, Bella thought idly. Oh well, having the raven-haired woman sober or intoxicated made no difference to the brunette. Remembering to inhale regularly to assimilate, Bella noted that even in a crowded room of sweating bodies she could note that the woman in front of her smelled like a hint of cucumbers and melon.
The woman slid one of the shot glasses toward her. "I know it's terribly cliché but I thought we could share a drink together before I go all out and ask for your name. Liquid courage, so to speak."
Bella chuckled at that. She liked the girl so far. She used the age-old vampire excuse, "I would but I'm allergic to gluten. I can't drink."
The other woman eyes narrowed. "Sure, I bet you say that to all the prospects you want to put down politely."
Bella shrugged. "If that's what you want to believe then yeah, but I didn't ever say no to anything else." She finished with a wink.
The raven-haired woman grinned. "All right," she said, downing both shots down in sequence. Shaking her head at the potency, she asked "How about you tell me your name then?"
The brunette smirked. "I didn't say I gave anything up easily. If you want something then you're going to have to work at it."
If possible, the woman's smile widened at the statement. "Is that a challenge?" She said saucily.
Bella just smiled genuinely. "Not at all. That was a general statement that happens to apply to me."
The woman faltered, if only for a moment, at hearing the words of sincerity coming out of the vampire's mouth. This was supposed to be playful bar banter, but instead the bartender was being a smart-ass.
"All right." The woman said. "So the bartender has a deep soul. Who would have thought?"
Bella chuckled at the retort. "Apparently not you. Now I know you came here with people, so why don't you go hang out with them so I can do my job? Unless you're going to sit here and continuously order drinks, that is. If not, I'm going to have to kindly ask you to pause this conversation while I attend to my other customers."
The stranger looked mock offended. "Fine. I'll be over with the raucous women in the corner if you get a break and want some company." With that she sauntered away. Bella's eyes followed the sway of her hips again as she walked. That woman had some fine curves. Not nearly as fine as a certain amber-eyed immortal I know, but still fine.
The rest of the evening was spent in a repetitive manner; making drinks and getting tips with occasional flirty banter from a random customer. Eventually the crowd thinned out enough that Bella could sense that she had time to take a quick break. She shouted for a coworker to take over for her and headed out the side door to the patio where mostly women were alternately inhaling their precious tobacco and making out with each other.
She sat down on the bench that was in the furthest corner of the patio, leaned her head against the fence behind her and closed her eyes. Taking slow and steady breaths Bella felt herself fall into a trance for a few moments until someone shuffled their feet directly in front of her. Using her heightened sense of smell she could sense that the individual smelled of cucumbers and melon.
Eyes still closed, Bella called out. "You going to sit down, Panty Dropper, or are you going to stand there all night, unsure of what to say?" She smirked and opened one eye to confirm her suspicion and then closed it again. She heard the woman give a little huff of frustration and nerves and then felt movement to her left.
"You're making it pretty bloody hard for me to ask you out, you know that?" In the quieter patio area she could hear the woman's voice even better. It sounded like wind chimes. Bella opened her eyes as she smiled.
"Who said you had to ask?" She said playfully.
The raven-haired woman's lips turned up in an equally playful manner. "Touché, miss…?" She faded off questioningly, urging Bella to give her name, to which said brunette rolled her eyes and replied. "Bella. Bella Cullen."
The blue-eyed woman smiled even wider and responded, "A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Cullen. I'm Whitney Gilmer." She offered her hand out to formally introduce herself. Bella chuckled despite herself and clasped her hand gently in Whitney's warm embrace. Instead of shaking like Bella thought they were going to do, Whitney intentionally brought her hand up level with her face and softly brushed her lips against the ice-cold skin on her knuckles.
The raven-haired woman didn't jump at the temperature difference. It was chilly outside and there was a bit of a breeze that added to the crispness of the early morning hour. Bella remembered where she was and swore lowly.
"What time is it?" She asked urgently. The woman pulled out her cell phone from between the valley of her breasts and told her. The vampire shook her head and stood.
"Look, I'm sorry but I have to get back to work. I've already been out here longer than I'm usually allowed." She made for the door but a warm hand wrapped around her wrist. To keep up with appearances she stopped as if the grip actually impeded her movement. She looked back at Whitney with an imploring look.
The woman in question looked anxious. She looked into swirling golden orbs and hesitated briefly before seemingly putting on a confident look. "Could I get your number then? My friends are looking to leave soon and I'd like to see you again."
Bella smiled again at the woman. "How about this?" she said. "Pass me your phone."
When the device was in her hands she maneuvered to the text messaging application and texted herself from the woman's phone.
"There. Now you have it. Just text me whenever you'd like to get together, but I really have to go now. I'm sorry." She smiled apologetically at the woman. Whitney nodded, a smile of her own on her face, and let go of the brunette's wrist.
"Have fun. See you around." She said. Bella winked and turned back to make her way back to the bar.
Her coworker threw a dishtowel at her once she got back behind the bar for taking too long of a break. She just laughed and shouted at the man to get back to work.
Hours later the bar was closing down. She was cleaning up the last of the glassware when she heard it. To any human it would've appeared as if Alice materialized from nowhere but Bella heard her quiet footsteps approaching. It took all of her willpower not to sigh at the intrusion.
The raven-haired vampire replied with a hello of her own but she sounded tired.
"What can I do for you?" Bella asked while finally sparing a glance in the direction of the little pixie. She was trying to sound indifferent, like she didn't care about the shorter woman down the bar. Ha. What utter crap. You couldn't care MORE for her if you tried, you idiot.
The shorter woman was standing next to the bar, watching the brunette work. "We need to talk, Bella."
The woman behind the counter tried her best to not look directly into those amber eyes. If she did then she would surely forget the entire argument with Edward.
"You're going to get hurt and it's going to be excruciatingly painful."
She blinked back the memory, still too painful to relive, and instead took a deep breath to steady herself. Clearing her throat softly, she said, "I can't think of anything we need to discuss."
She finished cleaning the last shot glass and began drying each piece off with a towel, careful not to apply too much pressure, lest she break one. She was still young by vampire standards and prone to occasionally forgetting her own strength.
Alice practically growled in frustration and rested her hands against the bar top. "Really? You can't think of anything we need to talk about? Not even a conversation you had with a certain immortal, infuriating brother of mine?"
Here was where Bella made her mistake. She glanced up at the sound of wood straining under the pressure of lithe fingers and pools of liquid gold trapped her where she stood. She couldn't look away.
Alice was equally entranced. Being in front of Bella always had this affect on her, this inability to focus on anything but the woman in front of her. Remembering herself and the cause of her visit, she shook her head quickly to clear her head.
"Why did you let him get to you, Bella? Why would you even entertain any of the things he said to you as the truth?"
Snapped out of her own daze, the taller vampire took a shaky breath and looked down. "He may have said some hurtful things that weren't honest, but he was telling the truth on a couple of things."
"Like what? What could your ex, who's still in love with you and thinks being gay is a sin, possibly have said that could be true?"
Not wanting to admit anything out loud, Bella shook her head. "Nothing. Forget about it."
In the blink of an eye Alice was standing in front of the taller woman, her hand cupping a pale cheek, lifting her head up in order to look her lover in the eye.
"Whatever it is, we can get through this." She pressed.
Bella turned out of the woman's grasp and sighed. "No. No, we can't."
"Unless he has something terrible on you, Bella, yes we can. Even then, you know the kind of connections our family has."
"Just drop it, okay?!" The taller woman shouted exasperatedly. She stepped back to get some distance between them. "What's done is done."
Alice looked at her pointedly. "Really? You're going to use that line on me? 'What's done is done?' What about when Edward left you under whatever savior complex he had at the time? Do you remember that? I sure as hell do. It was torture. Having to sit and not be able to run, drive, fly, something to your side was worse than anything I've ever experienced. All because Edward thought it was best. And here you are trying to do the same thing to me."
The younger vampire scoffed. "This is a totally different situation."
"How exactly is it different?"
"It just is!"
"Why? Because this time it's you leaving someone without a reason instead of the other way around?"
"Yeah it is, okay?! It's easier to be the one leaving instead of being the one left behind." The brunette's eyes started darting between the counter and the towel she was desperately trying not to rip in two, clenching her jaw. It was one thing to say it in your head, but it was even tougher to admit it out loud.
Alice looked at the woman in front of her sadly. "Oh, sweetheart…" She began to take a step toward the brunette and then thought better of it. Bella looked like she would run any minute so she had to say something quickly to convince her to stay. "I'm not going to leave you behind." She immediately wanted to smack herself in the forehead. Smooth, Alice. Seriously, where do you come up with these lines? You're over 100 years old and that's the best you had. We're doomed.
Bella took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in her throat. She might not be able to cry but for whatever reason her throat could still close up as if the tears were threatening anyway. She hated talking about this stuff with anyone, let alone someone she cared about.
"Yes you will. You Cullens always do. So just save me the speech, okay? I'm tired of it. I'm tired of all the freaking theatrics and emotional roller coasters you guys are so fond of. It's ridiculous. I'm tired of being so unstable all the damn time. Us being together would just cause more drama and create more of a rift in the family, so let's just steer clear of each other. Maybe I'll eventually get over you, you'll get over me, and then we can go back to normal." She busied herself with mopping the floor while she spoke to give her hands something to do. When she finished, though, she realized that the bar was fully cleaned. Helplessly, she fumbled for her keys and began locking up the emergency exit and smoke lounge. Alice would've laughed if not for the conversation topic.
"Seriously, Bella? That's such an immature statement I would've thought I'm talking to a teenager instead of a grown adult. Did it ever once cross your mind that you might be unstable because you're fighting this? Were you ever seriously happy with Edward? Let me answer for you: no. You had some years of contentment because Renesmee was in the picture, but that's not what life is supposed to be about. That's not what love is supposed to be. You deserve someone who will bring out the best of you and be good to you, who will live passionately with you – not someone who is happy with you being Suzy Homemaker. The problems in our family were already there because we weren't happy and making everyone else around us miserable." She stood up quickly, too angry to care that she sent the barstool crashing to the floor.
"And another thing? You're delusional if you think I'm going to get over you anytime soon. I've been in love with you for years. Yeah, maybe I didn't really think about it or recognize it until recently but that doesn't make it any less real. You're it for me."
The raven-haired woman took a deep breath to steady herself and looked into the amber eyes of the person who meant more to her than anything.
"You've always jumped at every opportunity for us not to be together, so you know what? This is the last time I'm asking you to give this a chance. You need to stop acting like a child and make a decision on whether you want a real relationship. I'm tired of you pushing me away and pulling me back in whenever you feel like it. I know how I feel, and I know what I want. I'll give you some time to think about it though. If you decide that you want this, then meet me at 5:00 at the Red Roaster coffee shop in Brighton on the 22nd."
Alice held her gaze for just a moment before deftly turning around and walking out of the bar. Bella could only stare at the place where the pixie had just vacated. Her butt is ten times better than Whitney's. That thought brought her out of her daze.
Well crap, she thought. I'm screwed.