Friday, August 28, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 7

Chapter 7
“There you are,” Alice said through a laugh over the phone, and I couldn’t help but grin. “He gets a girlfriend and suddenly dumps the rest of us.”
I laughed, shaking my head as I walked across campus. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Ah, hell, don’t tell me she’s friend-zoned you already,” she groaned.
“No, no… I don’t think so. I mean, it’s not… Ali, I’ve only been talking to her for a few weeks! Really talking to her, not just…stalking her in the library,” I mumbled.
“But you’ve had dinner at her house…what? Two times now? She calls you, texts you, calls you ‘sweetie,’ not to mention she sits with you in class and at your table in said library,” Alice summed up, like she was calculating what that meant.
What the hell did that mean?
“Edward, it sounds like she’s waiting for you to make a move.”
“I don’t know how to make any moves, much less a move.”
Alice’s giggle was soft and short-lived. “You’re asking me? Maybe you should call Emmett.”
“Shit,” I sighed, gripping my hair. “Maybe. But he’s gonna give me all sorts of hell, Ali.”
I sat down on a bench just outside Sunset Roast. It was truck day, so I knew I had heavy lifting to do once I got inside. But I had a few minutes before I was due in.
“Shouldn’t… I mean, before any damn ‘moves,’ shouldn’t I tell Bella? Be honest, Ali. I mean, don’t you think she needs to know just how…fucked up I am? She’s seen some of it, but… I don’t know. I just think I’d rather be honest.”
All the humor left her voice. “Are you talking…physically or emotionally, big brother? Because really, I don’t think the scars are that bad. I know you caught some shit here, but these people are small-minded assholes, never mind what they thought they knew about our family.”
“I know, but I just think Bella deserves to know the truth about me. That’s all.”
“Can you talk to her?”
I sighed deeply, watching people walk by heading toward the beach or the boardwalk. “She’s…way more than I expected, Alice.”
“Meaning… She’s never once made fun of me or…or…looked down on me, no matter what she’s heard or seen. I just…maybe I need to tell it, but I think I need to write it first.”
Alice went quiet for a second or two, finally asking, “You really like this girl, don’t you?”
“Yes.” My answer came easily and assuredly. “I don’t wanna screw up, Ali. And…And…I don’t want to be something I’m not. I’m… My past makes me…me. But I can’t play games. I’m not a liar or a good-enough actor to play my bullshit off. I can’t hide what I am.” I sighed deeply, gripping my hair in my free hand. “I don’t give a shit about what most people think. I ignored it in Forks, and I don’t advertise it, but this… Bella is important.”
“I don’t want you hurt, big brother,” Alice replied softly. “I don’t want your heart splattered all over hell and back, because then I’ll have to come down there and smack a bitch.”
Laughing, I sat forward on the bench and rested my elbows on my knees. “I appreciate that, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I just have to…find the words.”
“I wanna meet these people. They’ve… You sound…happy.”
Smiling a little, I said, “I could be. They’re like those silly sit-com TV families – all laughing and teasing and just…accepting. It’s different than what we had.”
“And for you, better. Mark my words, big brother, getting out of Forks will be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Have you talked to Dad about the holidays? No, probably not, or he’d be all stompy and pissy around here.”
A laugh barked out of me. “No, but I will. Thanksgiving is one thing. Christmas is another. The dorms close over the holidays.”
“Hmm… Well, shack up with your girl.”
“Jesus, Mary Alice! She lives with her parents…my teacher!”
She laughed. “It’s worth a shot. It’ll make it easier to put the moves on her.”
“Stop it. I gotta go to work. You have homework. Go. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
I ended the call, pocketing my phone and walking into the coffee shop. I knew she was right about a couple of things. I needed to talk to Emmett, even to simply check in, but if anyone could help me with all the things I was feeling about Bella, it would be our oldest brother. I also knew that Alice was right about being happy…or at least happier. Without the constant reminder of my mistakes being thrown in my face on a daily basis, I found I could breathe, make clearer decisions, and relax just a little. However, the future conversation with Bella was niggling at me in the back of my mind, not to mention the looming one I’d have to have with my father concerning coming home.
When I stepped into the kitchen, Jasper looked up from his clipboard, a smile spreading over his face. “Just in time for the fun shit.”
I grinned and nodded, setting my backpack down. Jasper had told Maggie and me a few days ago that he didn’t mind if we did homework during the down times as long as we took care of the customers, so I’d started bringing my books and laptop with me to work.
“Lots of homework?” he asked with a grunt as he handed over a box.
“No more than usual,” I told him.
“So a shit-ton, huh?”
Laughing, I nodded. “Exactly.”
We rotated creamers and milk, unloaded cases of sugar and coffee beans, and broke down the cardboard boxes to take out to the bin. The pastries we sold were brought in every other day from the local bakery, so they needed to be inventoried and rotated, as well. After a few hours, I dropped the last of the garbage outside.
While Maggie took her break, I watched the front counter with Tanya. We had a few people come in, and I was wiping the counter down after the rush when she came to lean against the counter.
“You have an admirer.”
My face must’ve scrunched up in confusion, which made her laugh. “What’re you talking about?”
“Curly hair, glasses…sitting along the wall,” she said without turning around.
My eyes drifted around the sitting area of the coffee shop, only to lock on to Angela. “Oh, hell…” I sighed, going back to my cleaning. “She’s in my class. Physics. And in my study group.”
“She’s pretty.”
I shrugged. “She’s…”
When I trailed off, she finished for me. “She’s not Bella.” She nudged me a bit.
My grin couldn’t be stopped, but I shook my head. “Nowhere close,” was all I answered.
“God, you’re so fucking cute, Edward, I swear to God and all that’s holy.” She chuckled low, finally reaching up to rough up my hair. “Bells is a lucky girl. But what will you do about this one?”
“I dunno,” I answered honestly. “I’ve tried to keep to the project in class. Thankfully, my roommate is in our group, so…Ben helps keep things on track.” I turned to wipe down the front counter, saying, “I’ve never had that sort of attention from girls back home, so…”
“I call bullshit,” I heard in front of me, and I grinned, tilting my head up to see the prettiest of sights.
“Bella,” I whispered, still grinning.
“Knowing you, handsome, I’m willing to bet you just didn’t pay attention,” she countered, leaning on the counter on both elbows.
Tanya cracked up, patting my back. “Now that’s probably the truth, right there.” She shook her head. “Take your break, kiddo. Maggie’s back.”
“Okay,” I said, looking to Bella. “Did you want something before I…”
Bella merely smiled, shaking her head, and she pointed to the table Maggie and I used on breaks. “I’ll wait for you.”
When I came back with my backpack, she was sitting quietly with a cup of coffee in her hands. Her smile at me made me weak in the knees as I slid into the other side of the booth. I took out my notebooks and my journal, setting them aside.
“Did… Are you… Did you come to see me?” I asked her, smiling when her soft laugh and nod were aimed my way.
“Well, I didn’t come to see my cousin. I can pick on him at home.”
Grinning, I shook my head at her sarcasm. “Fair enough, Bella.”
She pulled my journal closer but didn’t open it. “This is beautiful.”
My smile was nervous, but I nodded. “Thanks. My sister got that for me before I left home. I…I’d always used just regular spiral notebooks, but she told me that I needed something more…sophisticated.” I rolled my eyes at the thought.
“So…are there like a billion stories written down in these?” she asked, and her tone was teasing but sweet all the same, which made me laugh. “’Cause if that’s the case, I may run away with it.”
“Um…no. I usually type up stories on my laptop. Those are…” I sighed deeply, looking at the leather-bound journal more than the pretty face that made me nervous. “I…I have a difficult time with words sometimes, or…or…really with hard conversations. I tend to write out things I need to say in order to get it straight.” I tapped my temple to let her know what I meant. When she looked a bit confused, I added, “Umm…like coming to school here, for example. My dad wanted something closer, or something more…Ivy League. I wanted…out.” I grimaced at how that sounded, but it was true. “So I wrote down everything positive that Edgewater could bring to the table so that when I finally approached him with my acceptance letter, he couldn’t argue…much.
“Why would he care? I mean, if you were awarded a scholarship, then…wouldn’t he be happy?”
I was shaking my head. “My dad is…strict? He had plans, and I didn’t follow them, which made him unhappy.”
“Controlling, you mean.” She whispered that, looking at me carefully. “Sweetie, you’ve said more than once that you moved here because it was as far away as you could get, so I mean, it makes sense. I’m beginning to see you and your dad don’t get along.”
“No. We don’t.” I opened my mouth to say more, but I snapped it shut again. I wanted to tell her that he blamed me for a whole lot of things, but I didn’t. And Jasper’s voice carried across the coffee shop.
“Bells! Where’s the file for—”
“Oh, my sweet hell… If you’re filing, nitwit, I’m gonna…” She slipped out of the booth quickly, shooting me a glare when I laughed at them. “Laugh it up, Edward. It’ll be you and me fixing his shit again.”
Grinning, I shrugged a shoulder. “Worse things could happen, Bella,” I told her.
“True, but then…there’s a shit-ton of better things we could be doing besides cleaning up after my alphabet-impaired cousin.”
Smirking, I said, “You win.”
“Damn straight.”
She walked to Jasper, who flinched when she snatched a stack of paperwork out of his hand. She was muttering to him the whole way back to his office, and I jumped when she slammed the door.
I shifted my books around but eyed my journal, pulling it to me. I’d meant what I’d said to Alice. I really wanted Bella to know me. I just wasn’t sure how to tell her about the ugliest part of me, so I picked up my pen.
To my Library Girl,
You’re no longer a mystery to me, and every single fantasy I’d had of you in the library pales in comparison to the real thing. You’re beautiful, yes, but you’re more than that. I’m glad to call you a friend, if only because in the short time of knowing you, your friendship has become so very important. You’re kind and funny. You’re caring and smart. You’re all these things that I never considered you’d be when I was merely looking at you from the outside of things.
You see me so differently than anyone else. Where I came from, I was an outcast. Aside from my siblings, I was this social pariah. I didn’t date. I didn’t go to parties. I didn’t do anything other than study. But you… You’ve forced me to see myself, see what you see. The problem with that, Bella, is that you don’t know everything. And I need you to know it all.
I need you to know about me, because you deserve the truth. You’ve seen my fear of water, and you’ve figured out about my dad, but you need to know the whole story, because if you can’t handle it, I’d rather know that now.
A shadow fell over the table before someone slid into the booth across from me. I expected Bella but smiled awkwardly when Angela was gazing back across from me.
“Hey, Edward,” she greeted softly.
“Hey. What’s up?”
She looked around and then back to me. Her cheeks were pink, and I felt uncomfortable under scrutiny. I didn’t like the attention, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, either. I wasn’t that kind of guy. I knew what it was like to feel something for someone who I was sure didn’t know I existed. How I’d lucked out with getting to know Bella, I’d never know, but I was grateful, nonetheless.
“Um…I just… I know we have work to do on our project, but…” She trailed off a little, her fingers twisting a bit in front of her. “I just… Well, Ben asked me out and…”
“He did?” I asked, mentally cheering in my head. “He’s a good guy, really smart. He’s not a jerk. There are plenty of those…”
Angela smiled, but it wavered a bit when Bella slid into the booth next to me. She leaned over, pressing a kiss to my cheek. It wasn’t the first time she’d done that, but it never failed to make me freeze just a little and break out into a sweat.
Before I could ask her what that was for, she reached a hand across the table. “Hey, I’m Bella. I’ve seen you in the library.”
“Angela Weber.” Adjusting her glasses, Angela shook Bella’s hand.
“Oh…the physics project you told me about. How’s that going?” she asked, looking between us, but there was a small smile playing on her lips.
“It’s good. We’re just about finished,” I explained but then turned to Angela. “If you want, Ben and I can meet you after classes tomorrow to finish everything up.”
“Well, that’s…um, we were wondering if it could be Wednesday. There’s someplace he wants to go tomorrow.”
“Yeah, yeah…whatever. Just let me know. We’ve got until Friday.”
“Okay,” she said softly, getting up from the booth.
I turned to Bella to meet her dark gaze. “What was the kiss for?”
“Originally, it was for keeping up with Jasper’s filing, but when I got out here, I figured you needed help,” she answered with a silly grin.
“My roommate asked her out.”
“Oh? And she just now told you that?” Bella laughed, shaking her head, but she reached up to brush my hair off my forehead when I nodded. “She was trying to make you jealous.”
“Maybe, but… It won’t work. I’m…” Grimacing, I sighed and started to close my journal, but Bella’s hand covered mine. I wanted to say that I only had eyes for one girl – the one currently sitting next to me, all warm and smelling like heaven – so jealousy wouldn’t work on me.
“Edward?” she whispered, looking from me to my journal I was closing up and packing away.
“Did you say you use that journal to sort out hard conversations?”
“Yeah, it’s just easier sometimes. I’m not…always brave enough to just…blurt stuff out.”
She smiled a little, but her brow furrowed. “Did… I saw my name, Edward. Were you writing to me?”
Panic hit me hard like a tidal wave, and I squeezed my eyes closed and balled up my fists for a second. My inability to speak aloud was embarrassing, so I waited for the laugh or for her to reach for the journal. She did neither.
“Edward… Calm down. Look at me,” she whispered, and I felt both of her hands on either side of my face.
When I opened my eyes, I whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she countered softly. “What’s so difficult that you think you need to write it first before coming to me? I…I… Sweetie, I know you’re shy, but I don’t… Please know you can talk to me about anything.”
Swallowing nervously, I nodded. “I know, but I just…”
“Did… Have I done something wrong, Edward?”
My gaze snapped to hers, and I shook my head vehemently. “No! No, Bella. How could you think that? You’re damn near perfect.”
Grinning, she chuckled a bit. “Uh, no, I’m not. But it’s sweet that you think so.”
“Well, you are to me,” I grumbled, which made her smile all the more.
Her giggle was soft. “Damn, Edward, you make it really difficult not to just…kiss you fucking stupid.”
As much as I wanted that, I couldn’t do it. I glanced down at my hands in my lap, fidgeting as I realized just how close we were sitting. “You have no idea how badly I want that, but…there are some things about me you need to know before…or…I mean….” Groaning at my inability to fucking talk, I merely shrugged a shoulder.
“And…And…you were writing it out first?” she asked me, and I nodded. “Every time we’ve talked, you’ve done just fine, Edward. You don’t… You never need to ‘practice’ any conversation with me. I’m rather fond of how our talks go.”
“God, yes! I never thought you’d talk to me to begin with, so this…” She gestured between us, raising a silly but sexy eyebrow at me. “This is awesome.”
I smiled, shaking my head. “How do you do that?”
“Do what?”
“Make me feel…normal?”
“You are normal, Edward. Shy, nervous, smart, and…normal.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “Who the fuck has told you you’re not normal?”
My shock at her sharp temper caused me to gasp a little, and I couldn’t help but think an angry, protective Bella was probably the sexiest, most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
“Everyone?” I answered with a derisive laugh, though it came out like a question.
She studied me for a moment, looking up at the clock over the counter and then finally back to me. “You’re off work in two hours. You have someplace you need to be?” she asked, and I shook my head. “Then I’ll be here when you’re done.”
I started to pack up my things in order to get back to work, but she stopped me again.
“And Edward?” she said softly, sliding out from the booth and smiling at me when I looked up at her. “If you want to write it, I’ll read every word without complaint, but I honestly love the sound of your voice, so I’d prefer it if you talked to me. And I’ll sit with you all night if I have to.”
I stood up from the booth, shouldering my backpack to stash it in the kitchen until I was off work. “Is there… Is there somewhere private we can go?”
She smiled and nodded. “I’m sure we can come up with something. Get back to work, sweetie. I’ve got you.”
Smiling, I shook my head as a light laugh escaped me. Something told me that she meant that, that I could trust her, though it didn’t make me any less nervous.


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