A/N: Thanks to everyone for reading/reviewing/adding alerts for this story. It's so fun to have you all along for the ride!
HUGE thank you to my awesome beta FanpireMama for keeping me in line and to Carenl/Nerac for prereading.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer created the characters, the story is mine. Copyright 2010: BellaMarie117
It was close to seven P.M. when the cab finally pulled up in front of the apartment building. Early enough in the evening but I was already exhausted. And starving; my stomach grumbled audibly in protest to the further withholding of food. The doorman was nice enough to retrieve my bags and help me up the elevator to my door when he caught my struggle to juggle everything with my crutches. Once I finally made it inside apartment three-eleven, my new home, the only thing I wanted to do was collapse. The complete lack of anywhere to do so was slightly problematic.
First things first: Food. Not going out meant that the options were somewhat limited. Pizza it is. After dialing four-one-one to find the nearest pizza place, I put in an order for a large pepperoni and mushroom, breadsticks, and a two Liter of Diet Coke. Frankly, I didn't know when I was going to make it to the grocery store, so leftovers would definitely come in handy.
With food on its way, I moved on to the second thing on my list: check in with Renee and let her know I made it to her hated homeland in one piece. She confirmed that the rest of my belongings had shipped and should be here by tomorrow afternoon and that the car she'd bought for me was waiting at a local dealership. I lasted for twelve minutes before I had to end the call. She knew the basics: I was here, I was alive, and yes, I remembered that I had an appointment with my new doctor on Monday. I didn't need to stay on the line and listen to her lament over my injuries, or complain yet again about my move, or make plans for my future in skating that likely wouldn't happen. I just needed quiet.
With close to twenty minutes to spare before sustenance arrived, I decided to take in my new habitat. The apartment was bare, lifeless save for the three bags and my coat piled by the front door. It was a loft style with high ceilings, hardwood floors, and exposed brick on the outer wall. The rest of the walls were tall, empty, and white.
I don't consider myself high maintenance or overly concerned with appearances, but I could already tell that an apartment full of white walls would drive me slowly insane. Looks like picking out paint needed to get added to the list. After resolving the vehicle situation and shopping for groceries.
I'd ordered the basics for furniture, but the delivery status was saying tomorrow along with the rest of my things from Renee's. I had one night to deal with no bed, no couch, no chairs; no nothing.
At least the heat was on and working. Thank goodness for little miracles.
A quick walk through the space had me feeling slightly more optimistic. The bedroom was fairly spacious and would fit my dark wood sleigh bed and matching armoire very nicely. Once the walls were painted and a couple shelves and pictures were hung, it would be perfect. I didn't need anything fancy, but I was hoping I could pull off 'homey'. The two large windows in the room were fantastic. They ran from about waist high to the tall ceilings and would let in plenty of light when the sun was up; offering me a beautiful view of the Mississippi.
The bathroom was nice enough with its slate tile floors and pedestal sink. No tub, just a shower, but on closer look it seemed to be a very nice one at that with two showerheads. An unnecessary indulgence I was certain I'd become spoiled very quickly.
A closet in the hall housed a front-loading washer and dryer. I had not been looking forward to communal laundry nights so this was a nice surprise.
I guess Renee can get a few things right without completely driving me nuts. She'd insisted on picking out my apartment as her compromise for "letting me go."
The main room was tall and long—plenty of space for the couch coming tomorrow as well as a few bookcases, a coffee table and a TV. I'd put a small table and chairs at the side closest to the kitchen to form a makeshift dining area. At this point I wasn't expecting any company, but it'd be nice to have somewhere to eat dinner besides the couch.
The kitchen was bigger than I'd been expecting; the appliances were modern and there was a center island butcher block. I'd have to make sure Renee sent me more of my kitchen supplies than I'd originally planned. She sure wouldn't be using them; I couldn't remember a single meal that woman had ever cooked. And I of course, had nothing but time on my hands. Maybe I'd take up baking, become a professional cupcake snarfler and gain fifty or sixty pounds. It's a thought.
The real surprise was a small room off the front entrance. Not even a room so much as a little nook. A short set of four stairs led to an enclosed space, no larger than ten square feet. A window seat sat on the far wall with built in bookcases on either side. I could already picture myself curling up there with fluffy pillows, an afghan blanket, some cocoa and one of my well worn books, knowing it would be my new favorite place. I'd cuddle up and lose myself in the pages for hours, the snow falling outside, until the light was gone and I couldn't make out the words on the page any more. With that image in my head, I knew I'd found home, that I'd made the right choice in moving here.
I was abruptly interrupted from my epiphany by a light, yet rapid knock on the door. Pizza. My stomach rejoiced at the thought of food so near. I hobbled my way to the door and after struggling with the unfamiliar latch for a moment, was able to wrestle it open to reveal a tiny, dark haired woman holding my pizza box. This wouldn't really have thrown me off if it weren't for the fact that she was very obviously not a pizza delivery girl. She appeared to be just slightly shorter than my own five-foot-four-inches, but by the looks of her extremely high heels, I'd judge her to be closer to the five-foot range. She wore a black t-shirt dress covered almost completely in gold sequins with leggings that ended just below the knee. Her left wrist was obscured by the insane number of bracelets decorating it. She was pale, just a touch more color than my own pasty complexion. Her dark hair was cropped short and feathered out in soft layers around her face, which held delicate, angelic features. The most prominent of which were a striking pair of familiar green eyes. Eyes that took me right back to the airport and Edward. Aside from him I'd never seen eyes with that intensity of green.
These eyes were currently lit with friendliness, excitement, and a very large dose of curiosity. "Hi! I'm Alice, your neighbor from across the hall. Three-twelve? My friend Rose and I live there together. I was so excited to see they finally rented this apartment out; it's been empty for almost four months now. Ridiculous for this area if you ask me, I don't know why no one snatched it up sooner. Do you live alone?"
"Yeah," I managed to get out, caught off guard by her babbling intro. As a person of few words, I'd always been somewhat baffled by the naturally verbose. "Just me."
"Great! I think you'll really like the building; it's mostly younger people. Singles, newlyweds, not very many kids or cranky old people who are going to complain about anything and everything you know? The communal spaces are pretty nice too, there's a pool and a gym on the main floor and a rooftop terrace. Obviously it's not much use now or anytime soon, but it's great in the summer for those very few months of nice weather we manage. Where are you from?"
"Uh, Florida. Most recently at least. I've lived here before though."
"I'm so jealous. It's only January and I'm already dying for some sun and warmth. I don't know why I stay in Minnesota when I hate the cold so much, but there you have it. Oh gosh, I'm sorry!" She held out the box of pizza to me, "I just get going and lose track of everything. Your pizza came to our place by mistake so I thought I'd bring it over and introduce myself."
"Thanks," I muttered, reaching out for it before realizing that once again, my crutches weren't going to let me get it all. "Um, do you mind just setting it in the kitchen? I'm a little restricted here," I motioned down to the crutches.
"Sure, no problem!" She loped gracefully past me to put everything on the island in the kitchen. How she was able to move like that in those death traps, I will never understand. All I knew was that if I tried, I'd probably need a wheelchair instead of just the crutches. "What happened? If you don't mind my asking."
"This?" I asked, gesturing to my aides once again. At her nod I responded, "Uh, sports injury. I'm not the most coordinated person."
Technically it wasn't a lie. I really was very clumsy, everywhere except on the ice. And it was a sports injury. It wasn't really telling the whole truth either. But at this point, if people didn't recognize me, I wasn't eager to bring the truth of my identity to light right away.
For so many years, I struggled with the celebrity that came with my skating career, never really able to enjoy being the center of attention. The only time I had been able to get past it was during my performances. That was when I truly lost myself on the ice—in the skating, the movement and the music—and was able to completely close myself from the audience and just... do what I did best. Once I'd started becoming a bigger competitor and winning widely recognized competitions, my popularity grew as well. It was no longer just a fun hobby that I was good at—it was my entire life and the only thing I was known for. There were interviews with newspapers, magazines and TV shows. Cameras started following me more and more, especially around the larger national and international competitions, and Renee only encouraged it. She said it was all part of the sport, what was necessary for me to get to the top, to reach my potential.
This time three years ago, I couldn't hide from myself. The Winter Olympics were around the corner and I was America's skating sweetheart; a sure bet to bring home the gold. My face was plastered on skating magazines, Sports Illustrated, tabloids, teen fashion magazines. I don't think I'd ever seen more pictures of myself than I did that winter. Twenty-one years old and right in the prime of my career. I had the best coach, breathtaking costumes, programs that would bring you to tears. Nothing had held me back.
I shook off the melancholy and self-pity that was sure to settle in if I dwelled on the past for too long and brought myself back to the energetic little woman in front of me. "So, Alice, thanks for bringing my pizza over. What do I owe you?"
"Oh, don't worry about it. I've got you covered this time. Consider it a 'Welcome to the building' gesture."
"That's really not necessary."
"I insist," she interrupted, waving me off before I could tell her I was more than capable of paying for my own dinner. I noticed her glancing around my apartment with a confused look on her face. "Where's all your furniture?"
"It's not being delivered until tomorrow," I explained. Her mouth dropped in horror, like this was devastating news to her. "What are you doing tonight? Where will you sleep?" she demanded, a note of irritation slipping into her bell-like voice.
"I don't know. I was going to whip something together; it's only one night."
"Oh no, you can stay at our place. We've got a really comfy couch, you can crash there. No way am I letting you sleep on the hardwood floors in here, you're injured for crying out loud!"
"Alice, really, I appreciate it but I'll be fine."
"Don't even try to argue with me. Grab your PJs or whatever and come over. I'm kidnapping your pizza to ensure your cooperation." And with that, the spritely little woman grabbed my dinner and was gone, leaving me with a dropped jaw and a rumbly tummy.
Did she really just do that? Well, considering the lack of pizza now sitting on my counter, I'm guessing that yes, she did just do that. Well shit. I guess I'm staying at the neighbors tonight.
Groaning just a little at the wrench Alice had thrown in my plan for solitude, I stumbled over to my bags, pulling out a tank top, fleece pants and a track jacket. I changed, grabbed my toothbrush, phone, and keys before hobbling into the hall, locking my door and knocking on three-twelve.
Instead of Alice, the door opened to a statuesque blonde woman. Like Alice, she was stunning, but that's where their similarities ended. Where Alice was tiny, this woman was tall; probably five-foot-nine. She was thin, but curvaceous; definitely a contender in supermodel territory. Her long blonde hair fell in a smooth sweep past her shoulders; her eyes a deep shade of blue. She wasn't decked to the nines like Alice had been; instead she wore a gray long sleeved knit shirt and dark jeans. The simplicity certainly didn't deter from her good looks though.
"Hey, come on in. Alice said you were crashing here tonight," the striking blonde waved me in with a warm, welcoming smile.
"Thanks," I responded as I shuffled past her into the apartment. "I don't mean to put you out—" I started and was immediately cut off.
"Think nothing of it, once Alice gets something in her head there's no stopping her. We've got plenty of room, it's not a bother."
Alice emerged from one of the doors off the main room, dressed much more casually in some yoga pants and a t-shirt. "Hey! I knew you'd give in and come knocking."
"Well I kinda had to; you're holding my dinner hostage," I joked.
"It worked, didn't it? You're here, there are places to sit, eat, sleep. Did you really want to stay in that depressing, empty apartment all night by yourself? Of course you didn't. I can tell you're a smart girl—" Her mouth dropped then and she quickly threw her hand over it. "Oh my gosh, I just realized I don't even know your name! I told you, I just get on a roll and don't even notice!"
"Bella, uh Swan." I mumbled out my last name, being careful not to emphasize it. At this point I wasn't willing to give up the anonymity in case either of them knew anything about figure skating. When neither of their expressions shifted from casual friendliness, I felt the tension immediately lift from my shoulders.
"Well welcome to the building Bella," the blonde said, ushering me to take a seat at the bar looking over the kitchen. "I'm Rosalie and you will get used to Alice…eventually." She gave Alice a teasing wink before grabbing plates and glasses from the cupboard. I noticed more than just my one pizza was set out in their kitchen island. Instead there were three of the same familiar pizza boxes stacked together along with the smaller one for my breadsticks.
"What's all this?" I asked.
"Oh, we ordered pizza too. Must have been at the same time because they all just came to our place," Alice explained as she started opening up the boxes.
Rosalie pulled out the bottle of Diet Coke I'd ordered and motioned toward me. "Ice?" she asked.
The three of us dug into the pizza and conversation flowed easily. I'd never felt so comfortable just sitting around and talking with anyone before. For how foreign the concept of hanging out and friendship were to me, sitting around talking with Rosalie and Alice just felt natural.
I quickly learned that Alice owned her own event planning company where she coordinated weddings, showers, parties and various charity events. From the take charge attitude I'd already seen in her, I had no doubt she excelled at her job as a professional taskmaster. She was a native Minnesotan along with her parents and two older brothers. Apparently, one of which Rosalie had been dating for the last two years.
Rosalie worked in a shop rebuilding classic cars. She smirked at my dropped jaw and said that was pretty much everyone's reaction to hearing what she did. She'd developed a knack for it early from her dad and always enjoyed it, so when she went to college she'd gone into engineering and had been working at the same shop ever since. She'd moved here from Texas almost three years ago. Another surprising fact because her voice held no hint of an accent. She laughed and explained that as soon as she'd left the state, she'd set about getting rid of the accent as quickly as possible, though a few phrases tended to work themselves in every here and there, especially after a couple of cocktails. Her older brother hadn't quite kicked the habit and apparently still held quite the southern twang.
Oddly and interestingly enough, while Rosalie was dating one of Alice's brothers, Alice was inversely engaged to Rosalie's as well. It was easy to see that both were clearly smitten with their chosen partners and I quickly discovered that the fastest way to steer the conversation away from anything about myself was to bring up Emmett or Jasper.
Glancing up at the clock on the stove, I was shocked to see it was inching past eleven. Where did the last three hours go? I'd been so sure I wouldn't last past eight tonight before collapsing from exhaustion, but not once had I felt tired or bored sitting around with my two new…friends? Is that what they were?
If I was being honest, I'd never really had friends before, not since I was very little at least. Renee and my coaches always kept such a strict training schedule that left very little room for socializing. She'd even removed me from school in sixth grade and insisted that tutors would be much more beneficial and easier to work with my skating demands. On the ice hadn't been any help either—the girls were always so competitive and fake, saying nice things to your face and then turning around to talk about you behind your back. I got so tired of trying to weed out who was truly genuine that I just closed myself off. Being here with Alice and Rose was like a breath of fresh air. They didn't know who I was, they didn't want to hang out with me because of my skating or status, they didn't have any grudges or rivalries against me. They were just two normal, albeit stunning, women offering their friendship.
I'd known them all of four hours and could already say they were probably the closest to true friends I'd ever had.
"So, Bella," Alice's voice shook me from my musings, "Any big plans for your first full day in town tomorrow?"
"Yeah, it's going to be a little crazy I think. I've got furniture coming in and the rest of my stuff should be showing up from back in Florida. Then I've got to figure out groceries and the whole car thing. I was thinking of going to pick out some paint colors as well, but that might have to wait for another day."
"Did you want some company? I don't have any client meetings tomorrow and I'm very efficient. You'd get a lot more done with two people, especially since you're down a foot," Alice teased. She looked so excited at the idea that I couldn't find it in me to say no. And really, it would be a lot easier to get things done with a couple extra hands.
"Yeah, actually, that'd be great."
"Don't let her push you too much, Bella," Rose warned, "Once she gets going there's no stopping her. She'll go HGTV on your apartment before you can blink."
Alice tried to look offended, but wasn't able to keep the laugh out of her voice. "Is it a bad thing to want her to have a comfortable, homey and beautiful space to live in? I'm just being a good friend. Really Rose, I don't see you complaining about your living environment."
"Yes, but I've had years to get used to your antics. Go easy on the rookie," Rose threw me a wink before gathering up the dishes and dumping them in the sink.
I couldn't hold back the exhaustion any longer and gave into a massive yawn. Alice giggled and pointed me in the direction of the bathroom so I could brush my teeth and wash my face.
When I returned to the living room, Alice and Rose were both just laying out pillows and a couple of blankets. At the moment, I felt like I'd never seen anything more inviting than that couch. I knew I'd be dead to the world about two-point-five seconds after putting my head to the pillow.
"Thanks again guys, this really does look a lot better than sleeping on a pile of sweatshirts."
"Will you stop? It's no problem Bella," Rose assured me. "I'll be home around four tomorrow and will come by to rescue you from the mini-Martha-on-Prozac."
"Thanks Rose, I get the feeling I'm going to need it," I responded with a cautious smile towards Alice who just laughed.
"I'll give the guys a call—see if they'll be available for some manual labor. I know they've got a game in Anaheim on Friday, but they should be around recovering this weekend. We might hold off on painting until then."
"Game?" I asked.
"Yeah, all three of them, Jasper, Emmett and my other brother play for the Minnesota Wild."
The name sounded familiar, but I didn't pay much attention to sports outside of skating, "Should I know what that means?"
"NHL, Bella, they're professional hockey players," Rose clued me in.
"Oh, right. I thought it sounded familiar," that also explained why I didn't know much about it. Renee detested the sport, always complaining that the local teams were trying to take over ice time. For all the games that went on in the arenas I'd practiced in, I'd never been able to watch one. Instead, Renee would drag me to the gym to work out while those "stupid, sweaty barbarians destroyed the ice."
"We'll have to take you to a game sometime; they're right in the middle of the season and looking pretty good this year."
"Alice, you think they look good every year."
"Yeah, but I have a good feeling about this season!" Alice insisted. "Besides, even if they sucked it'd still be worth it to go ogle the boys. The speed, the stamina…" she sighed with a faraway look.
"Alice," I nudged in, "you are aware that two of them are your brothers right?"
"Well of course, Bella, it's not like I'm giving my brothers the sex eye or anything. There's plenty of other man candy to look at. Besides, even if I'm not ogling them, I can still appreciate that I'm related to two fine specimens of the male species."
"It's true. Alice's brothers are hot. Obviously I think Emmett is, but Edward's pretty good in his own right."
Edward? It had to be coincidence. There was no way that Alice's Edward was my Edward. My Edward? Seriously, Bella, you talk to the man for what, ten minutes and all of a sudden he's Your Edward?
"It's just too bad he hasn't dated anyone since he and Kate broke up last year. It seems like such a waste for a man that hot to be single," Rose continued.
"You know he's not one to date around a lot. When he's ready he'll know," by the look on Alice's face, it was obvious that she loved her brother and felt very protective over him.
"Well," Rose offered in with a laugh, "It's not for lack of trying by the female population of the Twin Cities metro, that's for sure."
"All those Rink Skanks better ease up at the next game or I won't be held responsible for my own actions, " Alice growled out.
"Wow, Alice, killer. I don't think I'd ever want to mess with you," I joked as I eased onto the couch, gathering my crutches and laying them to the side but within reach.
"I can't help it Bells, some of the women at these games are just horrible. And they don't even like hockey, they just come to eye fuck the players and try to sneak into the locker rooms. Is it so wrong for me to feel a little territorial over three of the most important people in my life?"
"No Alice, you're perfectly within your rights to fight off the Rink Skanks," I assured her as I eased back on the pillows, wincing slightly at the pang in my knee.
"Well, I'll see you in the morning, Bella. Let me know if you need anything!" With that, Alice skipped off to a door right off the main room.
"You gonna be okay here?" Rose asked.
"Yeah, this is perfect. Thanks again for letting me crash. It's really nice of you."
"Don't mention it. I'm usually up and about getting ready for work around seven, so I apologize in advance if you're a light sleeper."
"Not at all, I'm a pretty early riser," eight weeks later and I still couldn't seem to sleep in past six A.M. My body was so used to its early wake up call for training.
"Alright then, sleep well, Bella."
"Yeah, you too," I nodded at her before snuggling deeper into the pillow. I didn't even remember hearing her door close; I was out cold before she left the room.
That night, I dreamt of sparkling green eyes and tousled bronze hair.
I awoke the next morning like I had almost every morning for the last eight weeks: to a dull, throbbing pain in my knee. Was it ever going to feel normal again? At this point it really didn't feel like it. It was slightly worse this morning than it had been for the past week due to being stuck in one position on the plane for so long yesterday. Without opening my eyes, I brought my leg up to my chest to stretch it out a bit. Looks like I'd have to break out the mild painkillers today. Getting everything moved around was not going to be fun.
The light stretch eased the throbbing a bit and I opened my eyes. A quick glance at my phone read 5:48 A.M. It was still pitch black outside and the apartment was silent, but for the gentle hum of the radiator. I knew I wouldn't fall back to sleep, but I also didn't see much point in getting up yet. So I lay there on the absurdly comfortable couch, my hands resting on the pillow above my head and stared at the ceiling.
Thinking back over the events of yesterday brought a small smile to my face. Meeting Alice and Rose. And Edward. Even the thought of him brought a ridiculous grin to my face and I lightly rolled my eyes at myself and my silliness.
It's not like you've never met an attractive guy before, Bella.
Though I had to admit that Edward was devastatingly handsome and far surpassed any that I'd encountered.
Ok, fine. So he's sexy and drop dead gorgeous, you still only talked to him for maybe fifteen minutes. Hardly life changing, right?
And again my mind argued right back.
Well, Bella, you've never really had that type of physical response to a man before: heart pounding, out of breath, pure, unadulterated attraction.
Okay, so maybe that's true. Maybe Edward was the first man in my twenty-four years who had brought about that type of reaction in me. It still didn't change the fact that he was completely out of my league. And even if he was interested, doubtful, but for arguments sake, if he was interested, there's no way I'd ever do anything. I had no idea how to be in a relationship, date, engage in a casual fling. The only example I had was my own parents who had only recently reached a level where they could tolerate an occasional phone call if necessary. It helped that they lived half a country apart.
I didn't know if I even really believed that true, lasting love existed. The concept seemed so foreign to me. Sensibly I knew that my parents loved me, but Charlie had been no more than a fleeting figure in my life for the past fifteen years since my mother had packed us up and left. He'd tried his best, and was always supportive of me. He'd even taken up texting recently in an effort to communicate with me more.
In Renee's case, ninety-five percent of the time it seemed that her affections were strictly dependant on how satisfied she was with my training and performance level. Words of praise and tender gestures were few and far between in the Swan household.
With the lack of physical contact, I grew to feel a level of discomfort at any signs of it. I didn't casually touch people other than a courteous handshake and tended to flinch away from the touchy feely types on the rare occasion that I encountered one, and I didn't hug. I'd always been okay with that level of detachment, but now thinking about it, it just felt wrong. How could I even think about being in a relationship with a person when the very thought of kissing and cuddling and caressing seemed more a cause for anxiety than excitement?
God, Bells, maybe it's about time you shook off the Ice Princess routine. It's not like you have any cause to shy away from attention. It's not like you went through some traumatic event or anything that would cause you to fear a guy touching you. So maybe you haven't had the closest relationship with your parents. Maybe you haven't grown up with a huge circle of friends. You've never lacked for anything and you've always been free to pursue what you loved most. Stop bitching and moaning and get over yourself!
The inner voice was out for blood this morning, and was on a bit of a cranky streak at that. Rather than lie there and listen to the inner rantings any longer, I got up in search of caffeine. I didn't know where they kept their coffee and wasn't about to go digging through their cabinets, so instead I pulled out what was left of my two liter and enjoyed the jump start provided by the jolt of sugar and caffeine.
The clock on the microwave read 6:04 A.M. I had no clue what time to expect Alice to be up and about, but didn't anticipate seeing her anytime soon. Rather than bum around their apartment waiting, I opted to head back over to my place. I'd grab a shower, go through the light stretches my doctor from Jacksonville recommended, and make a plan of action for the day.
Two and a half hours later, I was much more alert and ready to face the day. The stretches and Tylenol had done wonders for my knee and I was feeling a lot better about what I'd get accomplished today.
Alice came knocking at about eight-thirty bearing coffee from the shop on the corner and it appeared that she was both a morning and an evening person. I tried not to sound accusing when I asked if she was ever not a little ball of energy; she merely shrugged cheerfully.
"So, what's the plan?"
"Well the furniture is scheduled to be delivered around nine. They should be able to put everything in place, so there won't be much to do with that. The rest of my stuff should be coming in from Florida, but I'm not sure when. I'm guessing we'll probably have to wait around here for that to show up before we can go out and get the other stuff done. I started making a list of the basics that we'll need to search out," I offered her the sheet of paper I'd been scribbling on for the last forty-five minutes, listing out everything from milk, bread and eggs to Swiffer dusters and toilet paper.
"Well, I think Super Target's going to be our best bet to get the most stuff in one spot," she reasoned. "You should be able to find almost all of this there."
While we waited around for the delivery truck to show up, Alice dove into redesigning my entire apartment on a scrap sheet of paper, throwing out colors and accents that were 'completely necessary' for me to live in this loft. Rather than be a killjoy and argue, I decided to sit back and go with the flow. It wasn't all going to get done in one day and I'd certainly have time to insist that eight coordinating throw pillows on my living room couch was just a smidge overkill.
The furniture delivery was surprisingly on schedule and Alice got to work ordering the two poor men around on exactly where each piece needed to go for optimal flow. Luck appeared to be on my side for once as the Fed Ex truck with my nine cardboard moving boxes showed up just as they were finishing. This day was going to run a lot more smoothly without having to wait around half the day to sign for them.
I ushered the movers out the door and turned back to find Alice surveying the boxes with a frown creasing her forehead.
"You've got more coming don't you?" she asked, like there really was no question that the few parcels couldn't possibly be all I'd brought.
"Nope, that's it I think."
"But— really? A third of your belongings are books! How could you possibly fit everything in here?" she asked incredulously as she examined the labels.
"I have my bags from the plane too," I offered. "I don't know, I don't keep a lot of stuff. I'm more of a minimalist. Less hassle."
"Bella, minimalist doesn't even begin to cover it. Emmett's college dorm had more than this!"
I simply shrugged. I really didn't keep a ton of belongings around and I opted to leave all my costumes and the majority of my skating paraphernalia with Renee. I wouldn't be using it any time soon and I certainly didn't need it staring me in the face reminding me every day of what I no longer had.
"And your furniture," Alice continued ranting as she gestured around the room. "I mean, what you have is nice, but it's so Spartan in here Bella. We're really going to need to find you a few things to spice this place up a bit."
"I can already see diabolical plans for décor takeovers forming in your head, Alice. How about we take care of the essentials first—like toilet paper—and worry about the spiciness of my living arrangements later, okay?"
"Spoilsport," she muttered. "Fine, but you can believe that this will be coming up later. And not like two months from now later, like this weekend later. I refuse to let a friend of mine, who is so cute and adorable, live in a bland apartment that could pass for a bachelor pad."
"Sheesh, Alice, you've known me for all of fifteen hours and you're already taking over my life," I joked with an exaggerated sigh.
"I know! Just imagine what it'll be like in a couple weeks when you've gotten to know me better."
"I don't know, I can't imagine it'll be much different."
"You're probably right. I won't hold back as much though."
"This is holding back?" I mocked. "You're slightly terrifying, Alice."
"Only in the best ways," she persisted. "Now, do you have your list ready? We can go hit the store and get that taken care of before digging in here and getting things organized."
"Sounds good. Uh, I don't have my car here yet, it's waiting for me to come by and pick it up at a dealership."
"That's not a problem—let me call Jasper and see if we can borrow his truck for a bit, there won't be enough room in mine for everything."
After a quick call, we were off and running. Alice wasn't kidding about her lack of trunk space. Turns out she drove a ridiculously impractical canary yellow Porsche. She also drove like a Formula one driver for the five short minutes it took to pull up to Jasper's place and I was overwhelmingly grateful that the roads were clear and dry.
Alice pulled into the driveway next to a large pickup truck. Apparently there was no need to approach the door as we quickly transferred cars. A quick kiss blown towards the house on Alice's part and we were back on our way.
Two hours later I was certain of two things. One, I would never willingly shop with Alice again, and two, I kinda loved the girl. I never would have expected we'd get along so well. She was peppy where I was dry, energetic and in your face where I was laid back. She wore designer heels on a daily basis and I was comfortable in my One Stars. Yet the more time we spent together, the more we got along—the more I realized how much I'd missed in having real friendships in my life.
I'd always been so busy that I'd never really had time to stop and think of myself as being lonely. Renee had always been there—along with an array of coaches, trainers, choreographers and tutors—so that I was never really alone. But, the past twenty-four hours with Alice and Rose, less than that actually, had made me realize what a void I'd had without the simple companionship that friends offered.
Glancing down at my phone to check the time while we pushed our two loaded red shopping carts out to the truck, I noticed it was just past noon. I was completely exhausted.
"I'm telling you, Bella, those shirts were completely necessary. And really, when you find one that looks that good, multiple colors are the way to go!"
About three-fourths of the way through our shopping excursion, it had slowly started to dawn on me that Alice could talk me into anything, and in her own subtle way, had been doing so for the entire morning. Really, it didn't bother me so much. I was a stubborn girl, if I really didn't want to do something or buy something, I wouldn't. The eye opener had been when I found a Converse button up shirt in my cart; in three different colors. Don't get me wrong, it was a cute shirt, and 100% my style, but was it really necessary to buy three of essentially the same shirt? According to Alice: yes.
Honestly, I wasn't really sure of half the stuff she threw in the cart. I got the feeling she snuck a lot of things past my radar. It would be a little like Christmas when we got back to the apartment and started unloading everything.
"Ok, I give. The shirt's cute," I conceded. "Now can we please find some food? Gimpy remember? I need to keep my strength up."
"Alright, alright. Hey, do you like Chinese? We can grab some on the way back."
"Sounds good," I said as we loaded the last of the bags into the truck and were off once again.
On the way home, Alice wanted to call Jasper in to help. She was insistent that the walls needed to be painted before anything was unpacked. After some reasoning, and then shameless pouting when reason didn't work, I managed to defer her. At least for this afternoon.
Back in the apartment we managed to get everything in and the refrigerated and frozen items put away before collapsing on the couch with our containers of greasy Chinese food and some chopsticks. I managed to stumble three times between the kitchen and the couch, snagging my crutches on the newly placed furniture. Alice threw me a look of baffled amusement and asked "You okay there, Bella?"
My response was simply to nod and engage in a dramatic eyeroll. I was so ready to get rid of my damn crutches. Like it wasn't hard enough for me to get around on my own two feet without inflicting danger on myself and those around me. I was desperately hoping my new doctor would give me the okay to lose them on Monday.
Feeling sufficiently gorged, I noticed that Alice seemed occupied with a magazine that had been in her mail, so I took the opportunity to snuggle in with my pillow and get lost in my thoughts.
And of course, like every other time I'd found my mind wandering that day, my thoughts immediately drifted to him.
I didn't even know his last name. Really, I knew nothing about him other than he lived in the area and was completely gorgeous. Oh, and that he and his buddies hung out at Billy's on Tuesday nights.
Today was Thursday, which meant I had five full days to muster up the courage to actually go. I wanted to go, simply to see his face again, to hear his smooth voice once more. But what if he was just being polite? He didn't technically ask me, more like hinted that I might check the place out sometime. Maybe he just liked the bar and thought it was a good recommendation for someone new in town? Hell, for all I know he could work there and was just trying to up their revenue in hopes of a pay increase. But if he didn't want to see me again, he wouldn't have told me a specific night that he'd be there, right? Ugh, this was all so confusing. I almost wished that it could really be like that country song: Do you like me? Check Yes or No.
After lunch, Alice was called away for a bridal emergency. I'm not sure exactly what that meant, but I do know it involved a lot of high pitched squealing from the other end of Alice's phone. She made me promise to just leave everything and that they'd be by later to help get everything into its proper place. For once, I decided to be lazy and rather than hustle to get everything organized on my own, I fell asleep on my new couch with my iPod.
After two successful days of holding Alice off, she stopped listening to my excuses of jetlag and handicap when she showed up at my door on Saturday morning with coffee and muffins. She proclaimed it 'Divine Design Day' and said she'd already called in reinforcements. Jasper and Emmett would be showing up at 10:00 A.M. to help paint and set up my loft. Though I'd grumbled at the thought of another exhausting day, I was excited to meet the guys that Alice and Rose were so obviously crazy about.
Apparently she'd tried to get her brother Edward to come as well, but he would be spending the day with the team doctor and a trainer after taking a bad check into the boards during the previous night's game. I'd heard Rose and Alice screaming from their place across the hall, cheering when there was a good play and swearing at the refs when they made a bad call. I'd begged off from joining them and settled in early with a book instead, but after hearing their excited play-by-play recap I'd promised myself I'd join them next time.
"Let's move it, Bella, we've got to hit up Home Depot for paint and supplies before the guys drag their butts out of bed," Alice clapped her hands at me in an effort to scoot me out the door. I groaned dramatically, grabbing my coat, purse and crutches before following Alice out the door.
"Isn't Rose coming with us?"
"Nope, she said if I woke her up before nine she'd start spiking my drinks with tranquilizers. She'll be up and about when we get back."
"Let's not go too nuts here, Alice. My apartment does not need to be a contender for Better Homes & Gardens, okay?"
"You just refuse to let me have any fun, don't you? How about I give you veto power, will that make you feel better?"
"Fine. You won't need it, but if it stops you from griping so be it."
We headed in the direction of Rose's BMW, Alice explaining that it had slightly more trunk space than the Porsche. As we climbed inside, I was reminded that I still needed to get to the dealership to pick up my own car.
"You know, Alice, I do have access to a vehicle. I should probably stop by the dealership and pick it up sometime."
"Well it's not like I'm going to make you drive yourself around with those pesky crutches."
"I'm hoping the doctor lets me lose them on Monday."
"That'd be nice. You have an appointment set up?"
"Yeah, my doctor in Jacksonville gave me a recommendation. Renee wanted me to meet with him as soon as possible."
"Where's it at?"
"St. Joseph's Hospital I think it was."
"Really? My dad works there; what's your doctor's name?"
"That's him!" she squealed.
"My dad, silly. My last name's Cullen," she clarified.
"How did I not know that?" I asked, a bit incredulous about the fact that I felt like I'd known her forever when in fact I was just learning her last name.
"You can probably blame that one on me. Word vomit and all. I forget those pesky little details. Well, imagine that," Alice laughed. "It's a small world after all."
"Well, you're in good hands. He's been fixing up two hockey players for the last twenty-five years; he knows his stuff."
Shockingly we were in and out of Home Depot in less than an hour. Alice had astounded me by pulling out a clipboard in the store complete with measurements, diagrams, and color swatches for her plan of attack. Seeing one of Alice's checklists in action cemented my impression that Bridezillas everywhere would cower in her presence. The woman was a well-oiled, list-making machine.
Like she promised, I was allowed full veto power on her ideas. And like she'd predicted, I hadn't needed it once. I loved the paint colors we'd picked out and was so excited to see the bareness of my walls disappear.
It was just before ten that we pulled in front of the building to unload our supplies.
"Oh, good, the guys are already here," Alice commented at the sight of Jasper's truck and a brawny looking Jeep parked in the visitor spots. "Let me just call up and they can haul all this stuff. No protests, Bella," she cut me off before I could say a word.
"I didn't say anything," I held my hands up in defense.
"No, but I know you enough by now to know that you're not a fan of asking for help. Tough cookies, you're just going to have to get over it because you're not lifting a single paint roller all day."
"Oh, come on—"
"Uh, uh, uh," she said, shaking her finger at me. "This is why I called in the muscle. They do the manual labor, you rest your leg, and your apartment still ends up looking fabulous without you straining yourself."
"Alice, I thought your dad was my doctor, not you," I teased her and she answered by sticking her tongue out at me while dialing her cell.
"We're out front, come unload," she said before disconnecting and tossing her phone back in her purse.
"Aww, Alice are you always such a sweet talker?"
"He likes it when I'm forceful," she lobbed back with a bobbing of her eyebrows.
Less than a minute later Rose and two guys walked out the front door. One of them was immediately obscured when Alice took a running leap and threw herself around him. By his laugh and the fact that he didn't budge an inch at her enthusiastic tackle, I guessed this was a common greeting for them.
The one I could see and assumed was Emmett by the proprietary arm slung over Rose's shoulder was nothing short of enormous. The man seriously had to be closing in on six and a half feet and was a pure wall of muscle. I'd probably find him intimidating if not for the boyish smile on his face, complete with dimples. His eyes were an icy blue and filled with a look of mischief. Like Alice, his hair was dark, almost black, and shaved down to almost a buzz cut.
Rose tugged him over to me. "Em, this is Bella; Bella, this meathead here is Emmett."
"Rosie, you know I love it when you call me names," he teased, ruffling her hair. Though she tried to glare at him, I could see an adoring smile peek through her expression before she smoothed her hair down again.
"So, you're the fresh meat, huh?" Emmett addressed me.
"Yeah, that's me. Straight off the butcher block."
"I like this one, babe, she's sassy. Can we keep her?"
"You're such an idiot," Rose swatted him over the head.
"What's with the wingmen?"
"Huh?" I returned, completely confused.
"The crutches. Wingmen," he clarified like this should have been obvious.
"Oh, sports injury."
"Ah, a player are you?" he with a light hearted smirk.
"Not quite," I laughed.
"I don't know Rosie, Gimpy here might not be able to keep up with us," he poked at me, ruffling my hair in a similar fashion to what he'd done with Rose.
"Please, at the rate you're going I might dump you and keep her," Rose goaded him. "Go put those beefy biceps of yours to good use and start bringing stuff in," she said, lightly shoving him away.
"How about Jasper does all the heavy lifting? I'll haul in the cripple," he said, swiping me right off my feet, laughing heartily at my embarrassingly girly squeal of surprise. "Oh, whoops. Goose and Mav take a nose dive," he exclaimed as my crutches crashed to the sidewalk with me no longer there to prop them up. "Man down!"
"Emmett!" Alice scolded, finally extracting herself from the other man and joining us. "Can't you see she's injured? You can't just go tossing her around."
"But, Alice, she's almost as small as you. Besides, she's going to have to get used to it if she's planning on sticking around."
Alice rolled her eyes at him. "Well she won't stick around for long if you scare her off by manhandling her within five minutes of meeting her."
"Aw, come on, she likes it. Don't you, Bella?"
I was still slightly dumbfounded by finding myself suspended four feet off the ground in the arms of a complete stranger and it took me a second to answer hesitantly, "Uh, sure Emmett." And when I spoke I realized that it was true. Emmett struck me immediately as a big teddy bear, all fuzzy, soft and warm underneath his massive exterior. I liked that he was unflinchingly friendly and didn't hold back at all. I didn't even feel a twinge of my regular discomfort at being held.
"See? Bella's my homegirl."
"Oh, you know it, G," Rose teased with a puckered smirk and weird hand gesture.
"Woman, why you gotta be all up in my flava?" Emmett laughed back at her and swung me around so I could see Alice and the man next to her.
"Jazz, man, extract yourself from my sister and say hello to my little friend," Emmett said, finishing his statement in a perfect rendition of Al Pacino.
"Dude, you got your make out session in already this morning, I get to at least get a hello smooch from my fiancée."
"Yeah, yeah, just keep the hands where I can see 'em, Hale."
Jasper reached out to shake my hand. "Pleasure to meet ya, Bella," he said and boy were the girls not joking. The man had a Texas drawl to rival any country singer, and was even wearing honest to goodness cowboy boots under his dark wash jeans. Alice was tucked under the arm not holding my hand and stared adoringly up at him. It was easy to see why she was so infatuated. While Emmett was a solid mass, Jasper was long and lanky. His dirty blonde hair was pulled back in a stubby ponytail and his eyes were the same royal blue as his sisters. I shook his hand timidly. While Emmett had made it impossible for me to remain reserved, I was still slightly uncomfortable with meeting new people, but then Jasper squeezed my hand and gave me a charming smile that put me instantly at ease.
"Don't you fret, Bella," he said with a grin. "You'll get used to this bunch of yahoos in no time."
I giggled quietly at his assurance, already positive that he was right.
"Enough dawdling, guys, we brought you here to work, now hop to it," Alice commanded.
"Yes ma'am," Jasper said, giving her a gentle swat on the butt before he opened the trunk of Rose's car to start gathering stuff up.
I tried to shimmy out of Emmett's grasp, but found myself stuck.
"Where do you think you're going?"
"Uh, down? On the ground? Where people walk?"
"No way little lady, I told you I was hauling you in."
"I'm perfectly capable of walking Emmett," I insisted. "Besides Jasper needs you to help carry stuff."
"Nope, I got the goods right here," he said, patting my leg before tossing me around him so I was piggyback. "Hold on tight there Bella. Rosie, rescue Goose and Maverick there will ya?"
"Who?" I asked.
"Your wingmen, Bella. You can't fly without good ol' Goose and the Mav to cover you."
"You're really ridiculous, did you know that, Emmett?"
"I know, that's what makes me just so lovable," he scooped up the bags of paint brushes, tape and rollers, leaving Jasper and Alice to carry the buckets of paint and Rose to get my crutches and we all trekked up to my place to get started.
The remainder of the morning and well into the afternoon was filled with laughter and the behavior of a close knit group of friends who truly enjoyed each other. Based on what I'd already experienced with them, I shouldn't have been surprised when they welcomed me right into their group. By lunchtime I'd had Emmett laughing hysterically when I'd warmed up enough to unleash my inner snark on him.
Rose, Emmett and Jasper got busy laying out tarps and taping off the walls right away in preparation to paint, while Alice directed them, clipboard in hand. I tried to stay out of the way at first, but ended up plopping in the middle of whatever room they were working on so I could enjoy their company.
By late afternoon they'd made enough progress that I could start unpacking things from their boxes. I knew right away I wanted to start with my books, filling in my nook as I'd been picturing it in my head for days. Jasper lugged my three boxes of books over for me to get started on before joining Emmett in the bedroom to whip through the last of the painting. The fact that they'd finished painting two rooms already and would have a third done by dinnertime was truly amazing to me. I'd always viewed home improvements and decorating as such time-consuming projects, stretching out over weeks.
Truth be told, if I was left to my own devices that's probably how it would have gone…if I'd actually gotten around to it at all. But with four able-bodied adults and Alice cracking the whip, it had been an efficient day.
Opening the first box, I was filled with warmth at the sight of my old favorites. I loved books—the feel of the paper underneath my fingers as I thumbed the pages, the musky scent of the older editions, the crisp edges of the new. I let out a content breath as I ran my fingertips over the bindings lining the box before removing them one by one.
Before long all three boxes were empty, the books scattered around me in piles as I determined how to organize them on the shelves. I'd decided to go for placement by genre and then alphabetized within. When I was content with my groupings, I moved to start transferring them to the empty shelves.
"Hey, Bella?" Alice called from the living room. "Do you want us to get started on the boxes in here? The paint's pretty dry so we can probably start setting things up."
"Uh, yeah, that's fine," I called back. "There shouldn't be much to go in that room actually." Honestly, all I could think of were a few DVDs, a couple of throws and maybe a picture frame or two. I didn't keep a lot of knick-knacks and couldn't remember packing much that would belong in the living room. I had kitchen stuff, clothes, and my books…that about covered it.
"There are a couple boxes left out here."
"What do they say on the top? I thought I labeled them all."
"Um…" Alice paused, looking them over no doubt. "One says Miscellaneous."
"That's the one that should go in there."
"The other one doesn't have any writing on it that I can see."
"Huh, that's weird. I thought I remembered labeling them all so I wouldn't have to dig through everything," I puzzled for a second, thinking back to what I could have packed before shrugging it off. "I don't know Alice, just open it I guess."
I heard tape ripping as I went back to lining the books on the shelves. Moments later, the apartment was filled with a brief high-pitched squeal.
"Geez, Alice," I muttered to myself, "trying to summon every canine within a six block radius?"
"Bella?" I heard once again, though the tone of this particular inquiry sounded different than the first. This one was filled with a blend of excitement and mischief.
"What is it, Alice?"
"Is there something you might want to tell me?" She coyly inquired as she popped her head over the half wall along the steps. I continued placing the books, my back mostly to her as she sat on the landing.
"What are you talking about?" I asked, genuinely confused. "Is there a particular category of information you're curious about? You've only known me for four days, I'm sure there's a lot I haven't told you."
"How about starting off with the reason why there's an Olympic Medal amongst your possessions?" she questioned. My head whipped around, eyes wide as a deer in headlights and saw her holding the plaque my mother had made for me after the 2006 Olympics in her hands.
"Uh…" I stammered, lost as to how to handle this. I'd hoped to have a little more warning and some time to get my game plan together on what to say. Really, it didn't change anything. I didn't know why I was so resistant to these people knowing who I really was. I guess for once I'd just been grateful for the opportunity to get to know someone without having a reputation to live up to, or any preconceived notions about what kind of person I was.
Well, I thought, it's too late now. Alice was sitting there, her brow raised, looking at me expectantly. I could only tell myself that it didn't matter, that it wouldn't change anything and deal with the situation that'd been sprung on me.
"Where did you find that?" I asked. I know I'd left it in my room back in Jacksonville with the majority of my skating stuff. I remember holding it my hands as I was packing, tracing my fingers over the curved edge of the metal disc before tucking it back into the drawer and closing it.
"In the unmarked box," Alice said.
Renee. Just couldn't let it go could you?
"Was there anything else in it?" I started to move past her to check it out and was stopped by her arm barring my path down the stairs.
"I don't think so, Swan. As in Isabella Swan, Olympic Silver Medalist and National Champion Figure Skater," she goaded. "Was that a tidbit you were ever planning on sharing with your new best friend?"
I groaned softly, running my hands over my face before looking at her. She didn't look mad, or even disappointed. She merely looked…amused?
"Alice," I started. "Yeah, okay, you caught me. And yes, I had planned on telling you. I don't know when, but I would have brought it up. Eventually. I just, I don't know. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. I liked being able to get to know someone for once without them knowing who I was already or freaking out like I'm this big celebrity or anything. I just wanted you to know me, Bella—the person—not Isabella the skater," I continued rambling, realizing just how ridiculous the notion was. "It was stupid," I muttered, turning away from her.
"No," Alice reached out and grabbed my arm before I could step away. "It's not stupid, Bella. I can kind of see why you did it. I mean, yes I've heard of you. Rose and I have watched you skate on TV so many times, in fact, I'm surprised one of us didn't figure it out earlier. I'm sure it's not always the easiest to meet new people when they already feel like they know you. I just want you to know that it doesn't matter. To me for sure and I'm certain not to Rose either. And if Jasper or Emmett know anything about figure skating, which is doubtful, they aren't going to care either. You don't need to worry about anyone here going all fangirl on you," she winked and I smiled slightly.
"Thanks," I murmured before adding, "I'm sorry for lying to you guys."
"Well you didn't really lie to us, Bella, you just happened to leave out a lot of information," she laughed, nudging me as we both walked down the stairs.
I dropped the crutches and knelt down to start sifting through the mystery box unearthing a whole trove of my skating memorabilia. Photographs, magazines I'd been featured in, medals, even a few of my more recent costumes. Pinned to one of them was a small note in Renee's loopy handwriting.
Just in case.
I rolled my eyes before tossing the handful of lycra and sequins back into the box, sitting back on my haunches.
"Who's Renee?" Alice asked as she sat next to me. She reached for the box, throwing me a look to ask if I minded. I shrugged and gestured for her to go right ahead.
"I take it you didn't pack all this yourself," she observed as she dug in, pulling out a couple of the magazines and flipping through them quickly.
"No. Definitely not. I'd planned on leaving most of my skating stuff in Jacksonville. There's no point in having it here."
"Why not?" she asked, dangling one of my skimpier costumes at me and wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
"Give me that," I laughed, snatching the material away from her. "There's no point because I'm not skating right now and I probably won't be able to again according to my doctor in Jacksonville. I didn't think it was necessary to have all this stuff around taunting me."
"Bella—" Alice said sympathetically, her hand reaching out to rest on my knee in a comforting gesture.
"And that's exactly why she sent it all here. Because I'm just being overdramatic with this whole 'injury nonsense' according to her and should be back to training by now."
"But, that's ridiculous," Alice scoffed. "Haven't your doctors told her about what's going on? Or your coaches? I mean, doesn't she know anything about the healing process that goes into recovering from this kind of thing?"
"Renee doesn't hear anything she doesn't want to," I sighed, picking at the beads stitched to the fabric lying across my lap. "Don't worry about it," I waved her off along with my annoyance. "I know what's going on with my knee and I'm dealing with it. Renee's not going to push me to do anything, other than maybe jump off a bridge," I added jokingly.
"Well, we're here for you, Bella. Anything you need—just say the word."
"Thanks, Alice," I glanced at her once before looking back to my lap and continuing to pick at the sequins. "Look, I'm really not good at the whole mushy, emotional stuff…but I'm really happy to have met you. And Rose. It's just, nice to have actual friends for once. I mean, I know I haven't known you guys very long at all, but I feel like that's what you are. Friends, I mean," I finished lamely.
"Hey," she knocked her knee against mine. "Best friends."
"Yeah," I nudged her back with my elbow. "Best friends."
We sat in silence for a few moments before I broke it. "Isn't that a little weird?"
"No way," she assured me as she sprawled out on her back. "It's like love at first sight…with girls. But in a non-lesbian way."
I giggled at her depiction of our relationship.
"We're like Romy and Michelle. Or Cher and Dee. Buffy and Willow. Bella and Alice. It's just destiny."
"Well that's certainly one way of looking at it," I laid next to her, our heads together and bodies sprawled out perpendicular to each other as we stared at the ceiling. "You know, as much as I enjoy you, I must admit to being a tiny bit disappointed that you're using up all my destiny and love at first sight mojo. I'd sorta been holding out on the hope that maybe a guy would be the cause of that someday."
"Silly, Bella," she clicked her tongue at me. "I'm sure you've got plenty more love mojo to spare."
"Hey, lazy bums!" Rose emerged from the bedroom where she'd been helping the guys tape off the walls for painting. "Are you just going to lay on your asses all day and let us do the work?"
"Yeah, that sounds about right, don't you think, Bells?"
"Uh, yup, that was pretty much the plan."
"Well at least let me get in on that action," Rose said as she joined us on the floor.
"So, Rose, Bella here is a big time figure skater," Alice threw out, turning to wink at me.
"No shit? Huh, I thought your name sounded familiar. Cool," she added and left it at that.
Alice smirked at me with an 'I told you so' expression and I just shook my head, amused at the both of them.
"You know Bella," Rose started casually, "You kinda kick ass out there."
I let out a short burst of laughter. "Thanks, Rose."
"Seriously though," Alice jumped in, turning on her stomach to face in and propping herself up on her elbows to look down at me. "The things you can do with your legs! Whoo, if I was that flexible Jasper would not let me leave the bed for days!"
I giggled and moved up into a sitting position.
"She's got a point, Bells," Rose laughed as she turned over, mimicking Alice's position. "That's gotta be such a perk in the bedroom. Think of all the positions you could get into. What a turn on."
"Uh, thanks for that, Rose. Glad to know I can arouse you."
"Not me you dork, guys. Men."
"I wouldn't really know," I teased coyly, "But it's very reassuring that I've got a few fall back options—stripper, Kama-Sutra demonstrator, naked contortionist…"
"Wait a minute," Alice interrupted. "Wouldn't know? As in…Bella are you a virgin?" she asked incredulously.
I hauled myself up and turned to limp toward the kitchen and hopefully hide the blush that flooded my cheeks. "I think we've delved enough into my personal life for one afternoon, don't you? Let's leave a little bit to gossip about over Ben & Jerry's and pillow fights."
"Bella, really, we're your BFFs. We will never 'delve enough' as you put it. But fine, you want to be all bashful and secretive about it, you go right ahead. We'll know all eventually. Rose and I are now official, full time Bella Swan spelunkers. No secret is too deep for us, we just keep digging until it's all out in the open."
I couldn't tell if she meant it as a warning or just was stating the facts, but either way I was certain that I'd never be able to hide anything from Alice for very long.
A/N: Again, outfits for this chapter are on my profile.
DizziestDaydream started me a forum thread on Twilighted! I'm excited to chat with you guys there and hopefully share some teasers along the way. Rob porn is always appreciated as well. ;) .?f=44&t=8976