KekahJ's Choice: Picture 2
The street was crowded, people bustling along oblivious to others around them as they made their way to their various destinations. He watched from the window of his high rise office building, breath visible on the cold glass, eyes slightly unfocused as he stared at the mass of mostly black and gray trench coats huddled against the chill morning. Several umbrellas, unfurled against the gloomy drizzle that had been teasing and threatening all morning, lent a pop of color among the crowd. His hand moved over his jacket pocket and he forced himself not to fish out the small piece of paper that he knew was there. He could almost feel it, but taking it out again wouldn’t help him.
“Mr. Cullen ...” It was Angela, his secretary. He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath before turning away from the window.
“Yes?” he answered, moving toward his desk.
“Here are the reports you requested yesterday.”
“Thank you,” he said, taking the stack of papers from her outstretched hand.
Angela nodded and left, closing his office door behind her. Edward settled into his chair behind his desk and began to look through the reports. After a few minutes he was forced to admit that it was no use. He couldn’t focus. He couldn’t fight it any longer.Digging in his pocket, he grasped the small piece of paper and pulled it out, unfolding it as his hands shook slightly. He read it again for the hundredth time, the words making him smile. She wanted to talk to him.
The words were so like her too. Spontaneous and fun; everything that he wasn’t. He wanted to call her, but he knew that would be impossible for the next few hours. He sighed and turned back to the window. The rain had intensified and now he could see nothing but a sea of multicolored umbrellas bobbing up and down as people hurried to seek refuge from the deluge.
Suddenly he sat up a little straighter in his chair, straining to catch a glimpse of what he thought he’d seen a moment ago. His breath caught and his heart began to beat a little faster as he saw her. It was impossible to mistake her weaving her way through the crowd, sans umbrella, dark, wet hair streaming behind her as she made her way toward his building.
The elation he’d felt was immediately replaced by dread as he realized where she was going. She couldn’t come here, not now. He silently cursed the spontaneity that had made him smile before. As she disappeared beneath him, he sprang to action.
“Angela!” he called.
“Yes, Mr. Cullen?” She rushed in and he realized his voice must have been panicked. He took a deep breath and worked to calm himself. “I need to go out for a while. Please reschedule all my meetings until this afternoon.”
“Yes, sir.” She nodded, then paused to look at him curiously. “Is everything alright?”
He waved her concerns away as he gathered his raincoat and umbrella. “I should be back after lunch,” he said from the doorway.
He spent the elevator ride to the lobby worrying about whether or not he’d missed her. What if she was already on her way up to his office? What would Angela think about this wild child showing up at his office requesting to see the distinguished Mr. Cullen?
His fears were allayed as the doors slid open and he saw her. She stood, hair dripping, waiting for the elevator. When she saw him, her face melted into a huge grin and his heart sang.
“Edward! I was just coming to see you!” she said.
Quickly, Edward stepped off the elevator, grabbing her elbow and spinning her around. She began to protest, but he cut her off. “Wait please. Not here,” he whispered as he steered her back out into the rain.
Once they were on the street, he fumbled with his umbrella, unwilling to sacrifice his carefully arranged hair. She laughed at him and spread her arms wide, spinning and lifting her face to the sky. Umbrella finally opened, he turned to her and sighed.
“Come on, Bella.” They needed to put some distance between themselves and his building. She allowed him to pull her underneath his umbrella and lead her down the street.
“Where are we going?” she asked, giggling as he steered her by the elbow.
“I don’t know, away,” he grumbled, eyes scanning the crowd, anxious to avoid familiar faces.
When they were two blocks away from his building, they ducked under the awning of an empty building and, dropping the umbrella, he finally released her elbow. Rather than moving away from him, she spun on her heel and wrapped her arms around him, her wet hair and clothes dripping onto his heavy overcoat. Her soft lips found his, and in spite of himself, he found himself wrapping his arms around her waist, breathing in the scent of her. Somehow the rain made her smell even more incredible.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, face buried in her neck.
She pulled back and shrugged. “I missed you. Did you get my note?”
He nodded. “Yes, I did. I missed you too, but we’ve got to be more careful. You can’t just
leave notes like that. What if someone else had found it first?”
She rolled her eyes and tossed her still damp hair. “I didn’t sign it. I didn’t even put your name on it. How would anyone have known?”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. We have to be more careful.” He repeated.
It was an argument they’d been having ever since they met two months ago. It was
inevitable. They were complete opposites in almost every way, but somehow when they were together, none of their differences seemed to matter. If he was being honest with himself, the fact that she was so carefree and different from himself was one of the things that attracted him to her most.
“Well, what did you want me to do? You hadn’t called me back, and I missed you."
Her lower lip jutted out slightly in a pout she knew he couldn’t resist. He hummed in response and reached, taking her lip between his thumb and forefinger. She giggled at him and he kissed her again.
She peered out at the still gray sky. “It’s stopped raining. We can stop hiding now,” she said, punching him playfully.
He grinned and rolled his eyes before he took her hand and led her back onto the street. This time his umbrella swung loosely by his side. The streets were still crowded, but the further away they moved from his office, the more relaxed he became.
“Where shall we go?” he asked.
Bella shrugged. “Wherever you want. I’m yours till tonight.”
It was a subtle reminder, but it was enough to darken Edward’s mood. He cursed himself silently. How easily he forgot about the real world when he was in her presence. Sensing the shift in his demeanor, Bella squeezed his hand. With a slight start, he came back to her, smiling down at her.
She wasn’t fooled. She stopped and faced him, dropping his hand. “What’s wrong?” she asked, staring at him intently.
He sighed and tried to avoid her eyes. It didn’t work. “It’s nothing,” he muttered.
“It’s not nothing, Edward,” she said quietly. “I know what it is. It’s the same thing that always ruins things when we’re together.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I’m trying,” he said honestly.
“It’s too much,” she said, her voice a whisper and barely audible over the sounds of the busy street.
He shook his head. “No, it’s not. I promise,” he said.
She dropped her gaze to the ground and kicked at a rough patch in the cement, silent for a moment.
He sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets. He hated knowing that he was hurting her, but he wasn’t sure how it could be avoided. After a moment, he continued. “Look, I don’t know if it’s too much. I honestly don’t. But I’ll tell you what I do know. I know that when I’m with you I don’t care about anything else. I know that since I met you I spend my days thinking about you. You make me happy.”
“For now,” she muttered.
He sighed again and ran a hand through his hair in mute frustration, destroying its carefully arranged style. “What do you want me to say?” he finally blurted, voice louder than he intended.
She shook her head. “I can’t change who I am, Edward. You knew who I was when you met me. It’s why you met me,” she said, eyes flashing as she lifted her chin in defiance.
“I know,” Edward murmured. He couldn’t forget that. Although it was all too easy to forget about that part of her life when they were together. It was the time they spent apart that drove him to distraction, wondering where she was, who she was with, whether she was safe. “You can stop anytime, you know,” he said quietly. He knew what her response would be before he said it.
“No,” she shook her head vehemently. “I’ll stop on my own terms, not because someone sweeps in to save me. I don’t need saving.”
“Bella...” He trailed off. It was a discussion they’d had a thousand times before. It always ended at the same impasse. “I’m not saving you. I just want better for you.”
“Edward, even if I stopped what would happen? Would we go public? Are you honestly going to tell me that you’d take me into your circle of friends? Introduce me to your work associates?” She paused and studied him for a moment. His jaw clenched spasmodically. She nodded, his silence all the confirmation she needed. “I don’t belong in your world. I never will.”