I’m your only friend
I’m not your only friend
But I’m a little glowing friend
But really I’m not actually your friend
But I am…
Excerpt from “Birdhouse In Your Soul” by TMBG
I read Edward’s letter over and over, skimming the embarrassing parts…and lingering, perhaps too long, on the parts with latex and sex.
I was trying to figure out how I was going to send an email with no computer, when Alice called. I guess Angela decided to spill the beans after all.
“Isabella Marie SWAN what are you THINKING? Are you thinking at ALL? Why would you even CONSIDER selling Mom and Dad’s? How is that even and OPTION? It’s NOT and let me tell you why: that home is OURS, your’s and MINE, and I don’t WANT to sell it. Do you UNDERSTAND? I WON’T sell it. Do you HEAR me?…”
I put the phone on speaker, turned down the volume and left to make a cup of tea. Alice would be yelling for a while.
I turned and looked back at the phone, frowning…She never yells at me.
I guess I can kiss my apartment goodbye. Even if I could convince Alice that she can just have the damn place, she would bring it up all of the time; accusing me of trying to sell it out from under her and other conspiracies.
I’m going to have to play nice, and get some time and space between me and her crisis before I can even try to get out of this mess…if that’s even possible.
After pouring my tea, I pulled out the NYT and started today’s KenKen puzzle (Harder, 8×8, of course). Alice was still shouting. As I worked on a 24+, 4-square cage, I heard the tell-tale sighing that indicated she was winding down.
I selected the last number in the cage, then picked up the phone, ready to start my amelioration. This part would be easy: she would tell me exactly what to say.
Oh, shit, she was actually crying. I take it back: This was worse than baby-talk with Jasper.
“…I just don’t understand how you could be so heartless, Belly. All of our memories are tied up there, you know?…Maybe this is my fault…I didn’t tell you how much it meant to me…You were probably just trying to help out in some way. You just didn’t understand…”
She seemed finished, so I said, “Yes, Alice. I was trying to help. I didn’t understand.”
I became a parrot. A robot. A 1950s housewife without the cool threads.
She sighed with relief. “That’s what I thought. I’m sorry, Belly. I should have told you exactly what I thought…So…” all signs of tears suddenly gone from her voice. “What are you up to?”
Shit. Now she wants me to talk, so she can make sure I’m not mad at her. This is another reason I don’t argue with her: the scream-fest after-care.
“Reading my mail,” I say, deftly jumping onto the next land mine with both feet.
“You need to get your address changed. It’s really inconvenient for Angela to get your mail to you, and she’s going to move out in a month or so. Do you want me to take care of that for you?”
Alice didn’t respond right away. What more did she expect me to say?
“Angela said you got a letter.”
“I got a lot of stuff.” I was suddenly wondering if Angela committed a felony.
“It’s just…Angela said it looked personal, and it was pretty thick for something innocuous like a solicitation for donation or something. There was no business name or anything…What was it?”
Fuck. This is not what I wanted to do right now. I wasn’t even sure what the letter was. This was about the worst time for the Alice Inquisition. Unexpected and relentlessness, it would likely be the death of my calm…torture was a given.
Hmmm. On second thought, the letter was definitely a kind of solicitation…but not the kind that Alice was thinking of. What to say…
“Isabella. Take a breath. It’s just me. I won’t judge you. I promise. Take your time, and tell me: who sent it?”
This I could do. Grapefruits. Easy answers. Ones I didn’t have to think about and analyze and second-guess. “Edward Masen,” I bunted back.
“OK. And is this Edward a friend?”
Friend? Definitely not. Plus, if I answered “yes,” she would to presume that he’s more than a friend. But if I said “no,” then she would want to know what he was to me. I was seriously fucked.
“Did you go on a date?”
Her silence tells me she’s on the scent. “Where did you meet him?”
Obfuscate: “I met him…uh…on my way to your house…uh…a few weeks ago. He was…um…going to a party.” Where I drooled and stared at him, and almost puked on his shoes.
“You picked up a guy on the subway?”
As if I would ever pick up a guy…”No.”
“You picked up a guy on the STREET?”
“NO.” Damn, she was being dense today.
“So, why did he write you? Is he a Luddite or something?”
“No, he’s an IT Consultant. He googled me.”
“Sexy! Wait. What else did he find out?”
“Not much. Work address.”
“So, when are you meeting?”
“I don’t know…” I said, trying to sound non-committal, but clearly coming across as worried.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“He has OCD.”
And then I enjoy the brief silence that precedes Alice’s measured, diplomatic response.
“Only you would find someone like that on the street. Let me give you a piece of advice: he has the wrong address for you. Use that to your advantage. Ignore him, and he’ll go away. I have a much better candidate for you. He’s from a great family, but he’s very nice…maybe a little shy, but perfect for you.”
Read: he’s rich, stupid (and/or ugly), and probably desperate enough to marry you and take this shame away from our family…finally.
And I couldn’t argue with her again. It wasn’t like I would actually call Edward…No. I would never do that. I’ve never called a guy in my life. And I don’t have email. I’d have to put forth a (relatively) great amount of effort just to contact him, and I wasn’t sold on him anyway. Better to just leave it alone. I preferred non-confrontation anyway.
Now, about this other guy…not sure what to do.
“Oh, you’ll LOVE him! Don’t worry about a thing. I have the perfect plan. Just leave it to me. It might take a few weeks, but I’ll set something up. He travels a lot and I want to make sure you have the perfect first meeting.”
I wanted to ask her if he liked latex, but I didn’t.
A few weeks later, I get another frantic call from Alice.
“What the fuck, Isabella?”
“Angela stopped by my office with another piece of mail for you from Edward Masen. And let me tell you. If I had known what kind of guy he was, I would have already taken care of this weeks ago. This is a serious problem!…”
Oh. Kittens. Oh fluffy fucking kittens. What did Edward send to me? Wait. How does Alice know what it said?
“You read it.”
“You bet my sweet ass I read it! As your retained legal representative, I have the right. It’s in that POA you signed.”
I was ruing the day I signed that damned Power of Attorney.
Alice convinced me that it would be an easy way to get stuff taken care of for me. I should have known she’d use it against me.
“Listen. I took care of it. I was just really worried, Sweetie! This guy isn’t just a loser, he’s bad news. Did you know he’s been arrested before? My PI found out that he pulled a gun on his shrink’s office manager!”
I should have been on the same page with Alice. A guy pulling a gun is pretty scary…but in that moment I wasn’t relieved that I had dodged the bullet (literally and figuratively). Right then and there, I decided that I hate Alice. She is all the things that Edward isn’t. He has resources at his disposal that would have allowed him to find out all kinds of things about me. But he didn’t. If he wanted to hurt me, he could have come by my work at any time. He gave me plenty of space, and from where I was sitting, the worst thing he did was write me a couple of letters…
Alice, on the other hand, who is supposed to love me, and be an advocate for me, just waltzes over mine and Edward’s rights like the FOIA. She never lets me decide for myself. She’s like Willow Season 6…which is my favorite dialog-wise, but with severely warped personality issues…but back to my Alice hate-age…
“Alice. What did you do?”
“I put a restraining order on his ass!”
Fuck. I needed to fix this. But, first I had to get off the phone with Epitomized Evil.
“Thank you, Alice.”
Now. I have to figure out how to remove this restraining order.
I’m still mulling over ideas (stalling) about what to do about the restraining order, when Mike comes over to my desk to tell me I have a visitor.
I must have looked like I was setting a trap for flies.
“Zsa-Zsa.” He snapped his fingers at me. “Earth to ee-zsa-beh-la! There’s some guy here to see you.”
I closed my gob and nodded. Surely Edward wouldn’t ignore the restraining order…would he? Hmmm, well, he had pulled a gun on that office manager.
I peered around the corner and I saw the top half of a monstrously large man with dark hair. He kind of reminded me of Frankenstein’s monster. I’d never seen him before. Just as I was considering hiding behind a filing cart, he made eye contact and spoke.
“Are you Isabella?”
Was this the guy that Alice was supposed to set me up with? He didn’t look very shy to me, and meeting me at work would definitely not meet Alice’s idea of “perfect first meeting.”
Nor mine. We should meet somewhere with alcohol and low lighting.
“Yeah,” I managed.
And then he grinned with the most genuine and caring expression I’d ever seen.
“Hi, I’m Emmett Hale.”
He thrust his hand forward across the partition. I approached him tentatively and gave him just the ends of my fingers. He looked like he could be dangerous for my hands.
Then, I nodded, but kept silent. If we were going to go out, he might as well get used to propping up both sides of the conversation.
“I’ll bet you are wondering who I am and why I’m here, right?”
I nod again. Kewpie for the gentleman!
“Well, I want to tell you, but I don’t want you to run away before I say everything I have to say. So…um…is there anything that I can do to put you at ease? Would you be more comfortable if I were…” he looked around briefly for someone to whisper his next line from behind the bushes.
Of course since we were in a law office and he was clearly not Christian de Neuvillette, he was disappointed. So was I. I could use a Cyrano myself.
“…seated? Do you have a chair? I could stay out here and sit, so you’d be, well at least a little, taller than me. And I’ll sit sideways. He pointed to a chair near the door reserved for the desk where documents were scanned. I rolled it to the partition, opened the half door and pushed it out for him. He sat down. I closed it back, staying on the other side in the filing room. It gave me the impression that he was here to confess.
“OK.” He turned his head to check on me. “Are you OK?”
What’s his problem? I nodded once, curtly, raising my eyebrows in annoyance and, hopefully, urging him to continue.
“OK. Like I said, my name is Emmett Hale. I’m here on behalf of my little brother.”
Oh. Now I get it. Alice is my pimp and this is his. OK. I’ll play.
I nod slowly with understanding.
“He’s a really nice guy, and I just think that, well, I have no idea if you would like to meet him or not. I’m guessing that, considering what happened…I guess I’m here to apologize for him…again. He is REALLY harmless. I don’t know what he wrote that would frighten you into getting a restraining order, but…”
He stopped when he saw my expression. Who needed fly paper when I was around? I couldn’t speak, but I needed to get my face under control before he misunderstood. Clearly he would be afraid that I was about to call security.
Silly man, I would never do that, even if he held a gun to my head.
I cleared my throat and prepared to speak.
He saw what I was trying to do and waited patiently (just like his brother) for me to get my shit together. I was determined not to make this speech vomitous.
OK. Let’s clear the air. “I didn’t get the restraining order,” I croaked.
“You didn’t? Who did?”
Thank Hello Kitty! He knows how to lob grapefruits!
“Ohhh. So…” he thought for a minute. He had figured out how to get me talking, but I was sure his mind was full of open ended questions.
“Do you want there to be a restraining order?”
“No, huh? So…I guess she just decided on her own that you needed it.”
I nodded. This man was an angel. My new best friend. My Pimp Kitty.
“Huh. Well, that sucks about your sister. I guess she’s trying to do the right thing for you, but shouldn’t that be your choice?”
I wanted to hug his neck. I lurched forward to do it, but stopped before my arms reached across the divide. If he had issues like Edward, I didn’t want to scare him off.
He seemed to understand what I was getting at, though, because he reached over the partition and patted me on the shoulder.
“I can’t remove the restraining order, but if you do want to meet up with my brother, I can help with that.”
Suddenly, I realized I wanted nothing more than to see with Edward again. I grinned and nodded.
“Do you think you could remove the restraining order, though? I don’t think he would want to see you if it’s still in effect. He’s pretty worried about going to jail. You know. Germs.”
I decided Edward was worth the trouble of having to actually go to the police station and take care of this by myself. “OK.”
On the other hand, Emmett seemed like an excellent wing-man. “Will you go with me?”
“Sure. I’ll go with you. Just tell me when and where.”