Monday, August 24, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 4 & Pics

Chapter 4
My heart was pounding in my chest as I slammed my car door. Unable to stop myself, my eyes immediately found Edward’s tall form walking away from the boardwalk back toward the school. I’d just spent the most amazing yet tiring afternoon with him.
If I thought he was gorgeous sitting in the library, nothing prepared me for actually having a conversation with him. I’d been prepared for smart – if only because my handsome Library Guy studied endlessly – and I was right about that. I’d been prepared for aloof, because guys with faces that pretty usually knew it, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t conceited or cocky or anything most guys were. He was shy – painfully so, actually. He’d been nervous, self-deprecating, and holy shit, the smile on that face could light up the entire state of Florida with its power.
Watching his form finally disappear around the corner, I reached for the car’s ignition, only to yank the keys out at the last second. I got out of the car and locked it, storming back into the coffee shop.
“Oh, hell,” Tanya muttered with wide eyes as she watched me cross the sitting area. “What’d your cousin do now?”
She grinned evilly. “Not buying it, but if you’re gonna kick his ass, he’s in his office.”
Chuckling, I high-fived her on the way by toward Jasper’s office. When I burst through the door, he glanced up from one of the open filing cabinets.
“Oh, busted. Mess that up again, and I’ll—”
“I’m not!” He shut the drawer and backed away like it was on fire. “I just was lookin’!”
I narrowed my eyes at him and then at the stapler I’d threatened him with when Edward and I had started to get to work, which brought me back to why I was back inside Jasper’s office. I sat down hard in the chair in front of his desk, looking at my cousin.
“What do you know about Edward?” I asked him. I sighed deeply when his fear turned into a slow, crooked smile and curiosity practically oozed out of him. “I’m serious. I… I’m… I think I just really messed up, Jasper.”
His brow furrowed as he took a seat in his desk chair. “What do you mean?”
“I…I just… I mean, when you said hit the beach, I didn’t think twice. I was thinking ice cream at O’Malley’s, you know?” I rambled, shaking my head. “But Edward, he… He just about panicked on me at the sight of that water, Jazz. Who does that? Who moves to a beach town if you’re afraid of water? What… What happened to him?”
My cousin was the first to make a joke on just about any occasion, but his brow furrowed as he set his elbows on the desk. “He’s brutally shy, Bells. And I think there’re some family issues, but… He’s pretty tight-lipped about it. He busts his ass around here. He’s perfectly polite, almost too polite, which you saw thanks to that asshole boyfriend of yours.”
“He’s not my boyfriend, Jasper!”
“Whatever. Keep Alec away from my shop and away from you.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Never seen anything like it. Edward didn’t even flinch. He wasn’t even mad, Bella.”
“I think… I think he’s been through something pretty bad,” I whispered, and the thought of it hurt, because Edward was so sweet and smart, but I’d seen what my cousin was talking about. Edward had simply accepted Alec throwing a drink at him. He’d been more upset that I’d mentioned it again than what had actually happened.
“You like him,” Jasper stated, and normally he’d tease me about my crushes, but he wasn’t this time.
Groaning, I hid my face in my hands. “I… I’m…” I pulled my hands away and met his gaze. “Oh, God! I thought he was this…hot guy who chose to do his homework in the library. I…I just was enjoying the scenery, but working with him today, Jazz… He’s so…sweet. Like too sweet. And oblivious. Oh Jesus, he has no idea… And…And…we worked seamlessly together today.”
Jasper grinned. “I had a feeling you two would hit it off. He’s a neat freak like you are.” When I laughed softly, he sat back in his chair. “What do you mean, oblivious?”
I giggled, simply because I couldn’t help it. “You should see it. Honestly, he’s like this…this…magnet for girls. They sit around him in class, they work in the library at different tables, and they ask him for his class notes – all to get his attention, but… He doesn’t see a bit of it. He has no fucking clue as to how handsome he is. None. And some of his reactions today…” Groaning again, I looked pleadingly at my cousin. “I really like him, Jasper, but I’m afraid I’m too honest and outgoing, and he’s way too shy. I don’t want to screw it up. I want to get to know him, but I don’t think he’ll let me.”
Jasper laughed, his head falling back. “Now who’s blind?!” He was still chuckling when he added, “That boy was like a puppy for you today. Why do you think I left you two alone?” His humor melted away. “Ah, Bells… He’s very timid. Maybe not timid, but introverted? Which means, he’ll never be a party kid or like crowds – hell, I can see that when he’s here – and you’ll have to be patient. He’s obviously better one on one, so…use that.”
I started to stand up, but he stopped me.
“Cousin, it wasn’t that long ago that you felt like the shy, nerdy kid. Try to remember that.”
I nodded and smiled his way. Jasper was right about that. Being homeschooled didn’t exactly put me in any social scenes, and for a bit, I lived to lose myself in books – which I still did – but Jasper had taken over his mother’s coffee shop just two years ago, and he’d asked me to help him, so we’d gotten close. Dealing with customers all damn day one summer caused me to shed my shyness, if only because I’d had no choice – flirting for tips, dealing with assholes, and even meeting new friends.
“Okay,” I sighed with a nod. “I’ll try. He said he’ll be back in the library Monday, so…”
“I said be patient, Bella. I didn’t say to ogle him from afar. He may need a push here or there –just light ones – but if he’s as oblivious as you say he is, then you’ll have to show him.” Jasper chuckled again, saying, “You know, I told Edward he was gonna be knockin’ the chicks off him with a stick before the semester was out, but I didn’t know it was gonna be you.”
Smirking, I rolled my eyes. “Oh hell no! If anyone is swinging a stick to get girls off him, it’ll be me!” I stated, walking out the door, and Jasper was still laughing when I made my way down the hall.
Monday’s classes seemed to crawl like molasses. Even my dad’s class was dreadfully slow, and my attention was drawn to the person sitting across the aisle from me more than one time.
Long, strong legs covered in dark denim were spread open to accommodate the small space in front of him. Edward took meticulous notes, and I smiled at the fact that today he was wearing glasses. They weren’t the fashionable hipster-like shit – all dark plastic rectangles. They were just simple wire oval frames, and for a moment, I wondered if his eyelashes were so long that they brushed against the lenses. From where I was sitting, it looked like they did.
His jaw was sharp, so masculine that it was easy to forget just how unassuming he was. And there was an innocence to him, too. Long, nimble fingers toying with his pen, pink tongue dragging slowly across his bottom lip, and short, dark hair with reddish tints to it giving off the impression of someone’s hands having raked through it – and I had to shake my head to clear it of thoughts I shouldn’t be having, especially in my dad’s class.
I also took note of who was around him. A girl behind him – long, blonde hair and big tits – staring at his back like she could force him to turn around; a girl beside him – red hair, pale skin, long legs – who seemed to be lost in fantasies about his hands; and then there was me – basic brown eyes and hair, several inches shorter than the two girls ogling him.
I wanted to take solace in the fact that he wasn’t paying attention to the two hot girls, but he wasn’t really paying attention to anyone but my dad at the front of the class.
Sighing deeply, I sank a bit in my seat, but when I looked over again, I fought my smile. Bright-green eyes, magnified by clear lenses, met my gaze, but it was that powerful smile that made my heart just about pound out of my chest.
I only see…you.
His words from Saturday afternoon echoed in my head, making my breathing stop momentarily.
“Oh, God, he wasn’t kidding,” I murmured under my breath, my brow breaking out in a sweat.
I looked over at him again, and his brow was furrowed, his head tilted just a bit, like he was asking if everything was okay. I smiled a little with a nod of my head.
When class was over, I packed up my things as everyone made their way outside.
“Edward, Bella… Would the two of you hang back a second?” my dad requested from behind his desk up front.
I stood up in the aisle to make my way down the steps at the same time Edward did. He smiled again, gesturing toward the front.
“Ladies first,” he said softly.
“Thank you, sir,” I teased him back with a giggle, which earned me the reward of his sweet chuckle. After a step or two, I shot a glance over my shoulder. “Likin’ the glasses, Edward.”
He groaned, shaking his head and pushing said spectacles up on his nose, which looked like a habit more than something needed. “I ripped a contact this morning,” he said through a disgruntled sigh. “I didn’t have time to fumble around for another pair.”
Smirking, I nodded. We stepped to my dad’s desk, and he waited for the last of the students to leave before facing us. His smile was warm as he looked at us, lifting his trademark mustache up on each side.
“You!” He pointed to me, raising a teasing eyebrow at me. “Your mother wants you home for dinner tonight, so make sure you’re there.”
“I’d planned on it,” I told him. “Are Jasper and Aunt Jane coming?”
Dad waved a hand. “I assume so. I let you handle Jasper.”
Grinning, I nodded but eyed his hand when he lifted a thin stack of pages to Edward.
“Edward,” he started, handing him the homework. “Here’s your work back.”
“Sir? Did I do something wrong?” Edward asked, his voice different, unsure.
“Quite the contrary, Mr. Cullen. You exceeded my expectations by a mile. How long have you been writing?” my dad questioned him, and it had been a long time since I’d seen him so surprised.
“Oh, um…” Edward swallowed nervously, giving me a quick glance.
“I can go…”
“No, no, no… It’s okay.” He turned to my dad again. “My whole life, I think. M-My mother was a writer, and an English teacher, so I learned from her. I…I used to make up stories for my little sister when she couldn’t sleep or was sick. Fairy tales. My mother taught me to write them down.”
“Is your mother published, son?”
“Yes! I mean, she was. She’s… Um, Esme Cullen…” Edward shifted nervously, and if I wasn’t crushing on him before, I was simply done-for now. “Short stories, poetry, and a series of children’s books.”
However, I gave my dad a stern look and a shake of my head not to push the subject of Edward’s mother.
“Well, this is superb writing, Cullen. Almost flawless. Are you… Is this something that interests you?”
“Yes, sir! Very much!” Edward gushed, smirking when I giggled. I couldn’t help it. It seemed we’d finally found Edward’s passion, his happy place.
“Sorry.” I glanced down at my sneakers.
“You keep up writing like this, Edward, and I see you following in your mother’s footsteps,” Dad praised him.
I glanced up when Edward went quiet. Tears welled up in my eyes at him, at his body language. I could see that no one had ever told him he was good, except maybe his mother, but she’d died when he was a kid. I could see he respected my father’s opinion, but he was unsure as to what to say. And I could also see he was just a little heartbroken over his mom.
Slipping my arm into the crook of his elbow, I started him toward the door, glancing back to my dad. “I’ll see you tonight, Dad.”
“Sure, kiddo,” he murmured back, his brow furrowed just a little. “Hey, son… Edward!” he called. When Edward stopped and looked back, my dad added, “Why don’t you come with Bella tonight? I’ll let her give you the details, okay?”
When Edward looked to me, I asked, “You gotta work?”
“No, I’m off.”
“Good, you can come, then,” I stated firmly, shaking him a little to let him know that my bossiness was teasing. “When was the last time you had a home-cooked meal?”
He grinned, shrugging. “I don’t remember.”
“Then you definitely need to come. My mother is really good.” Waving a hand to my dad, I tugged Edward out of the class room. “Library?”
“I, um… I always go to the dining hall first,” he said, nervously rolling up the papers my dad had given him back. Roll up, squeeze, unroll – over and over. “You… Would you…”
Smiling, I nodded. “Lunch with you? Absolutely!”
He blushed, letting out a nervous laugh. “It’s the least I can do for my behavior on Saturday.”
“Edward, stop,” I said softly, pulling him to a halt in front of the dining hall. “Look at me. You don’t owe me an apology.” I sighed, shaking my head and looking away from him for a second. “I’m loud and way too honest, and I tend to do things without thinking. I didn’t stop to think you wouldn’t want to go with me…”
Edward sighed, his shoulders curling in on him a bit. “I swear it’s not you, Bella. Y-You’re perfect. It’s me. I’m…”
When he trailed off, I could see his struggle to open up.
“Edward, just…tell me we are okay.”
“We?” he asked, and his voice cracked a little, his eyes widening.
Jasper’s advice rattled around in my head – to push yet not too hard.
“Yeah, we. I mean, I really liked talking to you Saturday. And we obviously have the library in common. I just… I thought…”
Oh, my God, if his smile didn’t shine brighter than the sun right there on the sidewalk. But he shifted, rolling that homework up over and over, tighter and tighter, until I reached out to stop him.
Finally, he stopped fidgeting, pointing toward the door. “You want something?”
I nodded, and he walked to the door to hold it for me. We stood in line together, but he wouldn’t let me pay for my order, and he carried the tray, too. But when we aimed for the tables outside, he paused.
“Do you…mind? It’s just… I like it better…”
Smiling, I shook my head, and he led the way to a table just under a large oak tree. He set the tray down, and we divided up everything. He was quiet for a moment, and his paper caught my eye. I could see a bit of my father’s red pen, and I reached for the now tube-shaped homework.
“May I?” I asked, holding it up, and he nodded, adjusting his glasses.
Sipping my drink, I unrolled the pages, sinking deep into a short story about a fairy war and the love between a princess and a simple boy, an archer in the king’s army. It was short, but it was vivid and colorful, not to mention a touch romantic. It was brilliant.
“Wow,” I breathed, looking up to see him more focused on his food than me. “That was amazing!”
“Thank you.”
“I want more!” I laughed when he shot his head up to look at me. “Seriously! This could… Wow. Just wow, sweetie. Do you prefer fantasy, or do you write in other genres?”
“F-Fiction, mainly,” he said with a small smile. “It’s what I liked as a kid. That one was for my sister when she was about eleven. She’d caught the flu somethin’ awful, and…”
“That’s sweet.”
He shrugged a shoulder. “She’s the…strongest person I know.” His phone vibrated across the table, showing a picture of a young girl with darker hair than mine. She was beautiful, with bright-blue eyes and a silly grin on her face. “Speak of the devil,” he said with a chuckle. “Excuse me.” He swiped a finger to answer. “Mary Alice, if you’re skipping Calculus again—”
She was loud, but I could hear her laugh, which made Edward smile. It was a different smile – a warm, giving one – but it fell just as quickly as it came.
“No, I know, Ali. I’m aware… He called me to tell me he was selling it. What am I supposed to do? The car’s in his name. It’s one less thing he can… No, I know that, too.” He sighed so deeply, it almost hurt to hear it. “I honestly don’t care anymore, Ali. I just…can’t. And I have to figure out what I’m telling him about the holidays. I’m not going home.”
Damn, Edward’s voice was firm, and I had to admit a bit sexy, but there was a coldness to it, too. It was slightly unnerving.
When his furrowed brow smoothed out, he laughed again. “Can’t really say, Mary Alice… No, can’t. Gotta go… Love you.”
He was laughing when he hung up, but he looked to me with a touch of red to his cheeks. “Sorry.”
“She sounds fun,” I noted, smiling when he chuckled a bit.
“She’s…my best friend. That probably sounds strange, since she’s younger than me, but we’ve always been close. My…My mother said we were twins separated by eighteen months.” When I laughed lightly, he smiled and nodded. “She was calling to tell me that Dad sold my car. I guess I forgot to tell her he was planning on it. She was pissed.”
“You okay?” I asked him.
He nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay. At least he can’t use it against me anymore.”
My brow furrowed at that, and I saw that, while he was very close to his sister, his relationship with his father was rather strained. And something told me deep down that I was probably putting that lightly.
“Why would your dad invite me to dinner?” he asked suddenly.
“Oh, probably because of this,” I stated, holding up his story. “He usually finds a student once a year who he chooses to guide, push in the right direction. You don’t have to come, Edward, but you’re welcome to join us. We’re pretty easygoing, but we’re loud. We tease a lot, which I’m sure you noticed between Jasper and me.”
He grinned. “Okay, but I need—”
“Right. Library, first. Me too, actually. Then I have one more class. You?” When he nodded, I stood up and offered him my hand. “Then library it is. And I can meet you after our last class to take you to my house.”
He swallowed nervously, eyeing my hand, but he took it after shouldering his bag. He threw away our trash, and again, I noticed that he didn’t pay a bit of attention to his surroundings – or at least to who was around him, who stared at him with lovesick eyes. And now, they stared at me, which would make the library an interesting experience.
“Hey, Edward?” I said, squeezing his hand, and he glanced to them before my face. “Thanks for lunch.”
He smiled and squeezed back. “You’re welcome.”


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