If Some Night You Are Free


“Is Emmett working on Saturday yet again?”

The bluntness of Alice’s statement didn’t surprise Bella. Over the past few months, she’d gotten quite used to it. There were many words that sprang to Bella’s mind when she thought of Alice’s considerable positive attributes. Subtlety appeared nowhere on the list.

Bella didn’t mind. She found Alice’s ability to be forthright refreshing, especially when compared to the rest of her female friends—well, her former female friends. Still, Bella met Alice through Emmett, and despite Alice’s assurances to the contrary, she didn’t feel it was appropriate to badmouth him to one of their mutual friends.

“Probably,” Bella replied, sipping her latté.

Alice shook her head and pushed a lock of her angular bob behind her ear. Bella had known Alice for almost as long as she’d known Emmett, and there were still times when she was stunned by Alice’s beauty. Like most people of mixed ancestry, Alice had inherited the best features of her Thai mother and English father. The results were striking. She had her mother’s stature, hair and complexion, and her father’s light eyes. If Alice weren’t under five feet tall, Bella was certain she could have been a supermodel.

“I don’t know how you put up with his work schedule.”

Alice’s voice startled Bella, who was slightly embarrassed that she was gawking at her friend.

“Well, in all fairness to him, this morning he called and asked if I wanted to go away with him for the weekend, and I declined.”

“What? You’ve been saying you wanted time alone with him for weeks.”

“I know. And I would have been delighted, if he weren’t offering simply because I told him I wanted to see other people last night.”

“Whoa. Back up a second. What?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I don’t care. Start at the beginning.”

“I don’t want to put you in the middle…” Bella stopped speaking when she noticed Edward walking toward their table, coffee in hand.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he said, smiling broadly. “Mind if I join you?”

Bella wanted very much for Edward to sit down with them. Her only reservation was that she’d never be able to hide her attraction to him from Alice, whose observation skills were legendary.

“Not at all.” Alice answered Edward before Bella could even mentally process his request. “I’m Alice, by the way.”

“Edward,” he said, shaking Alice’s hand before taking the seat next to Bella.

Despite the fact he was not touching her, Bella’s entire body was acutely aware of his presence.

“I’m sorry,” Bella stammered, realizing she had been too shocked and preoccupied by Edward’s presence to remember that he and Alice did not know each other. “Apparently, this…” She held up her cup. “…hasn’t kicked in yet. What are you even doing on this side of town?”

“I just finished up at the Sporting Club.”

Alice snorted. “You work out at the Sporting Club?”

“You say that as if it’s a bad thing,” he said.

“It’s where the wealthy get healthy,” Bella teased.

“They have wonderful amenities, and I play a lot of squash.”

Bella and Alice continued laughing, much to Edward’s consternation.

“Is it that much of a cliché?” he asked finally.

“I don’t know. You tell me.” There was a hint of challenge in Alice’s voice. She pushed up her sleeves and leaned toward Edward. “Where are you from?”

“Princeton.”

Like a weapon of mass interrogation, Alice continued to fire questions.

“Where did you go to high school?”

“Lawrenceville.”

“Undergrad?”

“Cornell.”

“Your major?”

“Civil engineering.”

“Where did you earn your professional degree?”

“Which one?” he smirked, resting his elbows on the table.

“Any and all.”

“My master’s is also from Cornell, and my JD is from Penn.”

“And your trust fund? Never mind, you don’t have to answer that one. Yes, you are that much of a cliché.”

Though slightly embarrassed by Alice’s grilling of Edward, Bella couldn’t help but be impressed. She’d managed to find out more about Edward in three minutes than Bella had during the three hours she’d spent with him the night before last.

“That being said,” Alice continued, “I should get going, or I’ll be late for lunch with my mother. Nice meeting you,” she said to Edward before standing up and turning to Bella. “You’re not off the hook. I’ll call you later, and I want to hear all about it. Bye.” She popped in her earbuds and vanished in a cloud of Coco Mademoiselle.

Bella assumed that Edward would move to the seat Alice had just vacated, so he would be sitting across from her rather than beside her, but he made no motion to relocate. Instead, he angled his body so he could have a better view of Bella without increasing the distance between them.

“Not off the hook from what?” he asked.

“Emmett and I had a bit of falling out, and Alice wants all the details.”

“And you don’t want to talk about it?”

“Not exactly.” Bella fidgeted with the plastic lid of her cup. “It would be good to discuss it with someone, but not Alice. She’s a mutual friend of mine and Emmett’s, but she was his friend first, and it feels wrong to put her in the middle, despite how much I’d love to have an unbiased third-party opinion. At the same time, I don’t really have anyone else with whom I could talk about it.”

“Alice is your only friend?”

“With the exception of Emmett and a handful of work acquaintances that I’d prefer didn’t know my business, yes.”

Edward had a hard time wrapping his mind around this detail. “Are you a workaholic, too?

“No. My friends and I had a bit of a falling out about six months ago.”

The significance of the timing did not escape him. “Over Emmett?”

“Not over Emmett, but he was involved.”

“Are you being intentionally cryptic?”

“No, I just can’t imagine you want to hear to my sob story.”

“That couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s nothing I wouldn’t enjoy knowing about you.” Edward rested his hand on top of Bella’s, and she felt a flutter between her legs. Her mind played images of what it meant to be known to someone, with Edward doing the exploration. Bella’s breath caught in her throat and she felt a bit flushed, yet she kept her hand completely still beneath his lest an unintended motion give him the erroneous impression that she didn’t want him to touch her.

“Oh, I could think of a few things.”

“I’ll make a deal with you then,” he said. “You start talking, and if we enter the TMI zone, I’ll let you know.”

“Okay.” Bella let out a long sigh, wondering where to start. “My friend Maria was supposed to get married, and I was one of her bridesmaids. She’d cheated on her fiancé, Jasper, on a few different occasions in the months leading up to the wedding, but swore up and down that it was just because he was deployed and away for so many months and she needed some kind of physical release.”

“Where was he stationed?”

“Afghanistan. Anyway, the night of the rehearsal dinner, I showed up at her hotel room to help her get ready, and I caught her and some random guy in the act. I told her she had to tell Jasper or call off the wedding. She agreed, and said she’d talk to Jasper later that night. A few hours after the dinner ended, she called me and claimed she’d told him everything, and he still wanted to go through with it.

“Something about it just didn’t sit right with me. I pulled up the email she’d sent with wedding party contact info and called Jasper’s best man. Really, I just wanted to know how Jasper was holding up after talking to Maria. He explained to me that Jasper hadn’t spoken to Maria since the rehearsal dinner, and that all of the groomsmen were out at a bar. I just couldn’t let Jasper go through with the wedding without all of the information. I mean, if it had been me, I would want to know. So I told his best friend what I’d witnessed that morning. He thanked me, and then expressed concern that I would lose one of my best friends over this. I told him that doing the right thing was more important. Anyway, that’s when my girlfriends from college stopped speaking to me and how I met Emmett.”

“Emmett?” he asked.

“Yes. He was Jasper’s best man. Jasper called off the wedding, and a week later Emmett asked me out.”

“What happened to Jasper?”

“Remember Alice?”

He nodded.

“She’s his new girlfriend.”

Edward stared down at Bella and squeezed her hand. He’d never met another person so willing to put herself on the line to spare a virtual stranger pain. It was both an attribute and a flaw, and he wondered how frequently her need to do what she perceived was right eclipsed her sense of self-preservation. Before this morning, he wanted to know her and (as much as it pained him to admit it) touch her. Now he found himself also wanting to protect her—at any cost to him—the way she’d protected Jasper. Moreover, it infuriated him that Emmett obviously didn’t feel the same way.

“See?” He smiled at her in an attempt to lighten the mood. “It all worked out. Everyone got what they deserved.”

“Except six months later, none of my girlfriends are speaking to me.”

“No offense, but it doesn’t seem like much of a loss.”

“As awful as it sounds, I miss them only at times like this. Alice shouldn’t have to listen to me whine about one of her closest friends. It’s not fair to her.”

“Whine to me.”

Bella shook her head. “I couldn’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Well…” Bella squirmed in her seat. “You’re a guy, for starters.”

“Wait, so the fact I have a cock disqualifies me from being your confidante?”

Bella had been having a hard enough time not thinking of Edward’s equipment before he brought it into their conversation. Now that he had, she was having difficulty focusing on anything else. Her eyes fell to his crotch, and she found herself wondering if underneath his jeans he wore boxers or briefs, and if the simple feeling of his hand on hers had his body reacting in the same way hers was. She continued staring at his fly like a diabetic kid in a candy store, wanting to taste it all but knowing it could never be hers.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Come have lunch with me. You can talk about it or not talk about it; it’s up to you.”

“Won’t Rose miss you?”

“No, she’s at work.”

“Okay.”

“How about Italian?” He stood up, lifting his hand from hers in the process. Even though she knew she’d be spending the afternoon with him, she still instantly missed his touch. “There’s this great place in Society Hill.”

“Sounds perfect.” She tossed her empty cup into the trash can and followed Edward up the escalator to street level.

They stepped out into the brisk fall air, and Edward got a taxi. He spent the entire duration of the ride fighting the urge to rest his hand on her thigh, sadly grateful that if he couldn’t be her lover he could be something she appeared to need more—her friend. It would have to be enough.

next





Leave a Reply

One Response

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

  1. on 17 Mar 2010 at 2:37 pmTippyL

    I've been so busy reading the first 4 chapters, I didn't stop to review. I'm loving this story already. You have a real talent for storytelling. In four chapters, I feel that I already sorta "know" the characters. I liked the use of Alice as a device to get background info on Edward.

    I also like the third person narrative, although I've grown so accustomed to reading EPOV or BPOV. It makes sense in this story since there are really 4 perspectives to hear. I'm hoping the Rosalie character gets fleshed out more so I can see why Edward fell in love with her to begin with.

    [Reply]