Chapter 27 walk on water

I’m gonna walk on water
And you can’t stop me.
You may have me behind the throat
But you can’t drop me.
I made it through the rain
I made it through the fire
I fought a thousand battles
And I won’t tire
And now I put on my Jesus shoes
And walk on the water.

Excerpt from “Walk on Water” by TMBG

BPOV

My life was happening in reverse.

I sat in the middle of my bedroom, clothes strewn everywhere, books stacked up on dusty furniture, bed unmade.

Where am I supposed to put all this shit? There are only two rooms and hardly any furniture to speak of: my bed, a chest of drawers, a couch, a twenty-four inch TV, stand, and a small round table and a couple of chairs.

Oh, and six bookcases, four fewer than I started with. Four of them were still at my parent’s place, full of books I couldn’t bear to part with. Everyone complains when a box of books have to be moved.

I had taken them all out, but they were still stacked everywhere, while I decided where to put them. Usually, I’d think about alphabetical order, start going through them, get bored, and start stuffing them in shelves.

Incidentally, I had several copies of my favorite books.

After putting all my clothes away, I decided to take a break from unpacking. I turned on my laptop and ordered a pizza.

This was not what I was supposed to be doing. I’d promised Dr. Cullen that I would try to interact with people more.

I tapped my finger on my lips as I thought about what I could say to the pizza guy.

Only forty-five minutes to come up with something, surely I could handle that.

I flopped down on the couch and stared up at the ceiling, wondering what Edward was doing. Was he packing? Would he call me tonight?

My cell phone buzzed loudly, and I almost fell off the couch to get away from it.

Petite evil with a goofy grin and a red bandana headband stared back at me from the screen.

I rolled my eyes, but decided to answer. Better to talk to her now, than have her ruin my dinner trying to converse with a mouthful of hot cheese.

“Hello, Alice.”

“Do you like the picture I put on your phone? I admit that’s the only reason I called. I wanted you to see it.”

And to get a compliment. She paused and waited for my response.

“It’s cute,” I said.

“I know!” She giggled. “I look really good in casual wear! So. I guess there’s another reason I called. Do you remember that guy I told you about that I was going to set you up with? Darren Miller. Remember, his mother’s family has all that money from oil in Texas.”

I slapped my forehead with my hand.

“I have a boyfriend.”

“Are you exclusive? Because I don’t remember you saying that you had found “the one,” Belly.”

I held the phone out in front of me and loudly mouthed obscenities at it, then brought the phone back to my ear and said in the most pleasant and rational way possible, “Please stop calling me that.”

Alice missed the mime and the request, detailed his many accomplishments, most of which included sales pitches for international security contracts for billionaires. Apparently he liked sports, hunting, and periodically singing tenor solos in his parents’s church in Dallas.

Finally, a variation on “not interested” filtered through the din.

“But he’s artistic!” she insisted.

I pulled my phone away and shook it as though it were defective.

“I have no idea what you mean by that.”

“I told you! He sings!”

“So?” I said.

“So…you seem to be into that kind of…artsy-fartsy guy.”

A list of synonyms for stupid were all I had, so I just kept my mouth shut.

“Anyway, he’s coming to your apartment—”

“WHAT?—”

“to pick you up for dinner tonight—”

“No! Fuck—”

So, you’d better get ready. He’ll be there in an hour.”

“NO! Alice! No! Call him and tell him ‘no’!”

“Now, Bella, that would be very rude.”

“Is that a joke?” I knew it wasn’t. “You didn’t ask me, Alice! I told you what I needed: for you to stop making decisions for me!”

“I made these plans weeks ago!” she said.

I cradled my precious brain container with one hand, while the other tried not to break my phone. “Alice! That’s even worse!”

“There was a LOT of drama going on, and I was hoping you’d change your mind about the apartment.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” My throat was starting to hurt with the strain of yelling at a high pitch. I cleared my throat.

“Alice, while I appreciate that you are trying to help me, I need for you to call Darren right away, and tell him it was a mistake. That I’m not interested in dating anyone else right now.”

“I refuse.”

I took a deep breath. Here it comes.

“Fine. I’d like his number.”

She scoffed. “No way would you call him yourself.”

“I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”

“You’re serious.”

“I am.”

The line was silent. I wondered if she’d hung up on me.

“Alice?”

“You really don’t need me anymore, do you.”

Fuck. She was going to make this about her, again.

“I don’t need you to find me dates. I don’t need for you to buy and sell apartments for me. I don’t need for you to make decisions for me. No, Alice. I don’t need you for those things anymore. But I would like to need you for support as I make my own decisions.”

I bit my thumb as she wept loudly on the other line. I heard Jasper talking in the background. She related the weepy jist of our conversation, blaming it all on me, of course.

Suddenly Jasper was on the line. “Bella? She’s had a rough day, today. I know that has nothing to do with you, and I’m sorry that she took it out on you.”

“Not your fault.”

“Yeah, it kind of is, but I’ll not get into it. Do you need for me to call Darren and break the date?”

I thought about that. On the one hand, it would be good for me to manage some things on my own. On the other, this wasn’t my responsibility. I wasn’t sure what Dr. Cullen would say.

“I’ll call him,” I said, after an uncomfortable pause.

“You sure?” Jasper said.

I’m sure I’ll hate every moment.

“Yup!” I said.

After promising to text the number, he hung up.

I sat down on the floor in front of the bookcase by my bedroom door, and picked up a small stack of hardback books, and shoved them on the shelf.

I had almost cleaned out a full box of books when I heard the buzzer.

Shit. I’d forgotten about the pizza. I hopped up and grabbed a sweater, because it’s quicker than a bra. I opened the door, and there was a stranger with an attaché, black trench coat across an arm, and an unsettling buck-toothy grin.

No pizza.

My mouth opened and I blinked. Who the fuck is this?

He drawled, “I’m so sorry I’m late Miss Swan. I’m Darren…Miller. Your sister told you about me?”

He grinned and held out his hand.

Oh my god, he was an executive Howdy Doody.

I made some kind of incoherent noise and shook my head, no.

“She didn’t? Oh my lord, no wonder you look so scared!” He continued to grin and I had a hard time taking him seriously.

“She did…you’re…early,” I managed to say.

“Early?” he asked, incredulously looking at his massive gold wristwatch. He wiggled it around to get the face where he wanted it…or maybe to show it off…maybe both. “Oh…I’m still on Texas time. I just flew in about thirty minutes ago. I can go down to that bar I saw down the street and wait for you to get ready.”

He grinned.

I leaned back from his high wattage smile, and managed to pull up one side of my mouth in a patronizing smile that didn’t reach my eyes. I was very tempted to let him sit in the bar all night, but he knew where I lived so eventually he’d be back.

Better to take care of it now.

I stepped back from the door and invited him into the entryway.

“Mr. Miller…I’m afraid there’s been a kind of…misunderstanding. Just…wait here a moment.”

There was no way I was turning a guy down on my doorstep without a bra on.

I closed the door behind him, gestured to couch with a hospitable smile, then excused myself and went into the bedroom, closing the door before I silently freaked the fuck out.

“Alice is so fucking dead,” I mumbled as I pawed through the drawers, slamming them when I didn’t find any underwear.

I snatched up the laundry basket with clean clothes off the floor and set it on my bed. After upending the contents, I finally uncovered a bra, panties, and an old white T-shirt.

My favorite blue skirt was the first thing my hand landed on in my closet. I stepped in, and my foot caught the hem. As my sinking weight pushed the rug along the hardwood floor, I finally joined it in an inelegant superman pose.

I pulled myself up by clinging to the bed, then flopped face down on the mattress like a sea lion on the beach. I managed to pull the skirt up while clinging to the mattress with my chin, as my feet and knees continued to stir the rug around on the floor.

Once the waistband found its proper position, I used my hands to push myself up enough for my naked feet to find purchase on the now bare floor.

The slippery evil rug cowered in the shadow of the chest of drawers. Mumbling “I’ll show you,” I picked it up and tossed it onto a box of trash under the window, then straightened my shirt, and walked to the mirror on the back of the door.

Puffed up from showing the rug who was boss, I stared at myself sternly in the mirror.

“Bella. Don’t be an idiot. Be nice, but firm. Tell him you are sure he’s great, but you have a boyfriend, and you are not interested in dating anyone else. Then escort him to the door and wish him a good night.”

I rubbed my rug-burnt knee petulantly, then nodded and reached for the door.

I took a deep breath and opened it, finding Howdy missing from the couch where I left him. I heard a familiar voice and headed for the front door.

He was standing in the entryway, holding the door, blocking an irate and dishevelled Edward from coming in.

Wedged between the door jam and a bookcase, Edward struggled to get past Darren, while not getting too close.

I flashed back to the presentation, the handshake, the restroom, and the ride to the hospital.

“Edward!”

In response to my voice, he managed to press his body close enough to Darren to get past the door and a bit closer to me. As I reached for his hand, Darren backed away from us.

“You know this guy?” Darren asked.

“Of course she knows me! I’m her boyfriend!” Edward said, squeezing my hand.

“You have a boyfriend?”

“Of course she does! Look at her!” Edward said, eyeing me from head to skirt.

“Bella?” Darren asked.

“Yes! That’s what I was…trying to tell you!” I said, glancing apologetically at Edward.

“Then why did I come here to take you on a date?” Darren asked.

“You’re going out on a date with him?” Edward released my hand leaned a bit away from me.

“NO!” I yelled at Edward with hands on my hips. “How…? Why…? How did you…?” I couldn’t decide which question I wanted to ask first.

“Now wait just a minute, here. I was promised a date,” Darren said, his lips trying and failing to cover his teeth.

I spun and focused my incredulous fury on Howdy Doody. “No, you wait. You show up to a date an hour early, and didn’t give me time to cancel!”

That…didn’t come out right.

“Bella?” I could hear the pain in Edward’s voice.

“Fuck,” I said covering my forehead with my hand.

Right now, I could really use Alice to fix this.

Of course, she would have kicked Edward out and dressed me up and sent me out with the ridiculous millionaire, so…no joy there.

What would Dr. Cullen do?

I put my hands up and backed away from the door and into the living room.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but…can someone take this pizza and sign this receipt so I can finish my deliveries?”

We all turned to see the pizza guy in the doorway.

“Go have a seat. And we’ll talk in a minute,” I said to Edward and Darren, then grabbed the pizza, signing against the doorframe and adding a generous tip.

“Sorry,” I said.

“No big,” he responded. “I wish I could stay. This is more entertaining than The Bachelor.”

As I closed the door, he called out, “Hey!”

I opened it a crack and waited.

“Can I guess which one you’re going to choose?”

I rolled my eyes and slammed the door in his face.

After setting the pizza on the table, I looked up to find Edward standing near my bedroom door, one hand fiddling in his pocket, his hair sticking out all over, his shirt untucked from his pants.

Darren was sitting at my dining table, lifting the lid of the pizza.

“This isn’t a date,” I said to him.

“Can I at least have a piece of pizza? I’m starving!”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine.”

I walked up to Edward and raised my hands to touch his shoulders. He shied away from me and went to sit on the couch, getting back up immediately when an old bag of popcorn spilled kernels out toward him.

“Bella. I don’t know what to say about this date…business,” he cut his eyes at Darren who was helping himself to a second piece already, “but I am not comfortable right now. And I’m disappointed because it was hard to get here, and now this,” he gestured to the couch and—”

I held my hands up, like Dr. Cullen and said, “I know. And…I’m sorry. Will you let me explain?”

I cut my eyes at Darren.

“Just. Hang on a minute.”

“Darren. My…sister set this up without asking me.” I squeezed my fist and released it, shaking my head. “She knew that I had a boyfriend. I know you are disappointed, but…it’s just not going to happen so…please…have another slice of pizza if you like, and go.”

Darren looked up at me, cheeks squeezing orange ooze from the corner of his lips as he struggled to chew up the bite and respond.

‘OK. But,” he swallowed and made weird sick face as he hit his chest with a fist. “Can we go out if he decides he doesn’t want you?”

I barely had time look surprised before Edward had Darren’s shirt in his fists, picking him up from the chair.

“Edward!”

“This man needs to leave now!” he shouted.

“Sure, but not like that. Let him go,” I said, hand on his shoulder.

“He insulted you.”

I sighed, nodding. “Let him go. Now.”

Edward released him and stepped back, going to the door and opening it roughly and loudly. “I think I have a lot of testosterone in my system right now, so…I’m sorry for gripping your shirt.”

In the sudden uncomfortable silence, the sound of the chair scraping the floor was jarring. Darren put his coat on, picked up his briefcase and walked to the door. Before he reached Edward, he turned and opened his mouth to speak.

I held my hand up.

“Darren, I don’t know about the future. There’s no way I can know if Edward will want to be with me a month or ten years down the road…or hell,” I said, cutting my eyes to Edward, “if I’ll still want to be with him in the next ten minutes. But one thing I know for damn certain is this: I don’t want you. Not even a little bit. So, just take your fancy watch, and your ridiculous grin, and get out of my home. Right the fuck now…M’Kay, thanks.”

I smiled as I watched him leave, not because Edward was aggressively following him with the closing door and not because he stood up for me, but because I wouldn’t be playing this in my head tomorrow, regretting that I didn’t do the right thing.

For myself.

The FUCKING End. :)

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