Well, shit. I can't believe I burned the damn muffins. I grab a glass out of the cabinet and walk to the fridge. I pour myself a glass of apple juice and look through everything in the fridge to figure out what to make Seth now that he has no muffins to eat. I pull out the ingredients for stuffed French toast, figuring he needs more food than just a muffin anyway. Today, we are going out. Well, let me rephrase that. I am going out, he gets to follow. I am going to the park, Central Park to be specific. It is one of my most favorite places to go and just forget everything. My first day of vacation and I can't wait!
I can't believe that I have a whole week off! Seven days in which to lose myself in my favorite city in the world, doing whatever in the hell I want to. I am going to eat what I want, sleep as much or as little as I want, watch what I want on TV and for damned sure I am going to wear what I want. All day, every day…for seven days! Have I said that already? Seven fucking fantastic days! I can't even begin to tell you the last time I had that much time to myself. Well, I am always by myself, with Seth of course, but it's not the same thing. I am always going from one thing to the next, to a meeting or catching a plane or making an appearance. It's always something.
I am so tired, so very tired. I am tired of being alone, I am tired of a job that I hate with the intensity of a thousand suns, I am tired of always looking over my shoulder or having to hide behind Seth. I am just tired, so damned tired. If you were to ask a hundred girls, hell a thousand girls if they would want my job, I will pay you a million dollars if you can find more than five that would say they wouldn't. I am a sportswear model for Twilight Sportswear. And yes, that includes bathing suits. In fact, I am unfortunately on the cover of this year's Sports Illustrated's very famous swimsuit edition. How the hell that happened I will never know, but it did. If you asked every single person I went to school with in Forks, they would all tell you there is no way that Bella Swan would ever be someone like that. Well, everyone except Jasper, Rose, and Seth, but they don't count. Of course it might help that no one knows Bella Swan. No, the world knows Isa. Yep, just Isa. No last name, no full name, nothing. Just Isa.
I can't really explain that one either. Like I said earlier, I have no idea how I got here. Not literally, of course, because I do know, but I also know this is not what I imagined or wanted my life to be like. I am not going to pretend I don't think I am attractive, because I know I look pretty damn good. Women would kill for my below the shoulder, perfect shade of mahogany hair with awesome and totally natural red highlights. Yep, I love my hair, can you tell?
I also have been told a time or hundred that women would kill for my perfectly shaded skin. Not deathly pale, but not unnaturally dark either. Just a perfect shade of natural, healthy skin that due to some freak of genetics is free from blemishes, except for the freckles across my nose. Those usually get airbrushed out of pictures if you were wondering.
Bright, clear brown eyes with long, dark eyelashes and a nose that somehow escaped being broken finish up the face. I am 5'6ish. Actually closer to 5'5" but Twilight thinks 5'6" sounds better for some reason. Perfect B/C cup boobs and totally natural. I like them, too. I know they are great and I guess luckily they look amazing in a bathing suit. I guess you don't get the cover of Sports Illustrated without them. I have great legs, comes from playing soccer for so long.
Like I said, I know I am attractive. I won't go so far as to say I am beautiful. I have seen more beautiful women than I can count so I know what I am talking about. Besides, in my expert opinion, Rosalie Whitlock is the most beautiful woman on the face of the planet. Like seriously, stop traffic beautiful. She knows it, too. Uses it when she needs to, but never abuses it; that's my LeLe.
God I love her, and miss with an intensity that makes my heart hurt. She and J are in California. Jasper is my agent and Rose is his assistant. She also owns a car shop, but not just any car shop. No, our Rose rebuilds classic muscle cars. She also, for a few select people like me, customizes cars as well. Don't ask me why the Suburban Seth drives me in has missile proof glass and can go faster than I can blink or has tires that are bullet proof, but it does; thanks to Rose. I miss them both so much, I know Seth does, too.
Seth and I have lived in New York City for almost a year now. I love it here, I really do. There is so much to do and for a closet nerd like me, there is never a shortage of libraries or museums to wander through at any given time. But, I miss my family. Jasper and Rose are all I have left, besides Seth and his mom Sue. Sue comes to visit when she can, but getting her out of Washington is like pulling teeth I tell you! I want them here, I need them here so much. Seth keeps telling me it's only for 6 more months, just until I turn 25. I know he's right, but it doesn't make it any easier.
Seth is my bodyguard. A more technical term would be my everything. He's my brother, my best friend, my cuddle buddy and my very own personal sounding board. I can and do tell Seth everything. Any thought I have, whether it makes sense or not, gets bounced off him. He has never judged me, not once in our entire lives.
Now that my dad has passed away, I have known Seth longer than any other person on the planet. He is the first person I remember knowing and my first word according to Charlie was Seth, not dada. I love him so much it scares me sometimes. No one believes that we have never had "those" kinds of feelings for each other, but we haven't. Never kissed in any way that wasn't purely platonic, no extended hugs or hand holding, nothing like that. Just constant companionship and acceptance rounded out with unending love and adoration.
Our relationship has caused problems for each of us over the years. Not really surprising when you think about it. I can't even begin to count the number of girls that Seth has gone out with over the years that have broken up with him because of me. I feel bad about it, honest, but not bad enough to give him up. He is gorgeous; any girl would be a fool not to want him. 6'3" with short brown hair, the bluest eyes you have ever seen besides Jasper's and Rose's, totally buff and wicked smart. Like totally genius smart. And funny, oh my God is he ever funny! If you get him started, you will be rolling on the floor for hours laughing and if you ever get the chance to be around him when he is drunk…not gonna lie- you'll have tears coming out of your eyes and alcohol out your nose you'll be laughing so hard.
I am not stupid, there will come a time in the future where one or both of us meet "The One" and we will be separated, but hopefully whoever those "one's" turn out to be will realize that Seth and I can't function without the other. We can be apart, we've done it before. We just have to be a part of each other's lives; we won't be able to be whole if we're not.
Speaking of Mr. Wonderful, I can hear him in the elevator on his way up.
I just finish plating his breakfast, my famous stuffed French toast with cream cheese filling topped with strawberries and homemade whipped cream. A side of bacon and a hot cup of coffee and it's waiting for him at his spot at the island when he comes barreling through the front door.
"Morning Shortcake, you ready for your day out?" Seth asks me as he's shoving a forkful of food into his mouth.
Ugh! He sure doesn't eat like a 24 almost in 6 months 25 year old. He's hardly even had time to sit down and he's eating like he hasn't seen food in days, which certainly is not the case since I fed him last night.
"Damn, Seth! Would please slow down and at least chew the food? You're going to wind up choking to death if you don't knock it off. And, I'm sure as hell not big enough to give your giant self the Heimlich maneuver! I can barley even get my arms around your waist to give you a hug you big oaf!" I laugh at him.
Love him to death, seriously I do, but I swear he's worse than a little kid sometimes. I would never make it without him, and he knows it, too.
"But, Shortcake, it's just soooo good! You know your stuffed French toast is my favorite breakfast food you make! I can't help that I am a growing boy, you know," he pouts at me.
"Yeah, right, you'll be growing all right, but not in the way you want if you don't knock that shit off. We'll go downstairs to the gym when we get back this afternoon and help you work off some of that food," I tell him.
Working out, so not on my list of favorite things to do, but it has to be done. Six months I keep telling myself. Just 6 more months and then I can decide if I want to work out or not, not do it because someone is making me. God, I can't wait.
"Sure Bell, sounds like a plan," Seth tells me.
Just as he putting the last bite of food in his mouth and taking the last gulp of his coffee the doorbell rings.
I look up at Seth who has a smile on his face a mile wide. Oh oh! This cannot be good. Nothing good ever comes when Seth looks like that! And more often than not, it's me that is on the receiving end of whatever it is that's not good.
"Seth, what in the hell have you done now?" I growl at him.
He pats me on the head. "Don't worry Shortcake, you are so going to love this surprise, promise!" He yells as he runs to the front door.
"Sure I will," I grumble under my breath.
I finish putting the dishes from breakfast in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters. I take a quick look in the fridge to see if I need to stop by the market for anything on my way home after going to the park. I decide to make some oatmeal raisin cookies to take down to the Women and Children's Shelter tomorrow so I need to get ingredients for that as well as make some extra for Seth.
Jake is off this week while I am on vacation so I don't need to make any for him this time. Jake helps Seth with security for me. I think it's kind of silly to have a guard detail or whatever you call it, but Jasper and Rose insist. It can get pretty scary sometimes when fans approach, but I try to take it in stride as much as I can. It is hard sometimes. I am not shy or timid by any stretch of the imagination, but it is overwhelming to think that 14 year old boys, as well as 40 year old men I am told, have my posters up in their rooms. So weird!
Have I mentioned how excited I am about being on a break for seven days? I need to enjoy these days as much as I can because they will be the last ones I will have for awhile. Being on the cover of the magazine is an honor, I realize this. It also means TV and radio appearances, being followed around everywhere and pictures of me coming and going no matter where it is. It is going to be crazy for awhile, I know this. Today is Sunday, the magazine will debut on Friday and my first interview which will be on David Letterman is on Monday. So, yeah. I need these few days to prepare for that pandemonium.
I hear the front door slam shut followed immediately by a very distinct sound.
What the fuck is that?
"Seth Michael Clearwater, what in the hell have you done now you jackass?" I scream at him walking around the island to see him standing by the front door.
Standing there by the door and looking nothing like the innocent little boy he is trying to get to come across is Seth holding, and I shit you not, the cutest fucking dog I have ever seen. It is a golden brown and white Bulldog puppy with a tiny, red bandana tied around its neck. The puppy is wiggling and wagging its tail trying to get down.
"Um, Seth, what is that and what is it doing in my house?" I ask him, trying to keep my temper under control.
Of course, I am also trying to keep the laugh that I am trying to hold in from bubbling out of my chest, too.
"Bella. Baby. This is for you. I hate that you are by yourself up here in your apartment all the time. I thought this little guy might be able to keep you company." Seth tries to tell me over the damn puppy licking all over his face.
I am quite literally shocked by this. Speechless. Well. Damn. Now what do I do? It is the cutest fucking thing I have ever seen in my life and it would be nice to have company up here sometimes.
"Seth, really? You got this for me? Why? I mean, thank you, honestly. I don't get it, why now? What brought all this on?" I am throwing questions at Seth faster than he can blink.
"Shortcake, hold it. Just wait a sec ok?" he puts the little guy down and the puppy immediately starts barking and running through the house.
Seth looks at me and walks towards me, reaching out to take my hand. "Bell, you are alone entirely too much. I know we spend time together and all, but at night, it's just you. I worry. I know you are a big girl, but you will always be my little Strawberry Shortcake and I can't help it. I think this will be good for you. You love taking care of everyone, now you can take care of this little guy, too. It will give you an excuse to get out of the house when you have to take him for walks and to potty. Please, just try it. If you don't want to keep him, I'll give him back, I promise. My friend Vince breeds them and he has a waiting list, so if you decide you don't want him, he will find the puppy a good home. Please, for me?"
"Seth. Did you really just use the word potty in a sentence?" I blurt out at him. "What am I going to do with a dog when we have to travel, Seth? I am not carting a little puppy all over the country or across the world, that would really suck. But, he is pretty damn hard to resist. Ok, I'll try it, but you are going to help with the potty duty as well as the walking, buster." I tell him as I stand on my tip toes to give him a kiss on the cheek.
"Thanks, big brother, really. I love him!" I squeal to him as the little guy comes running back into the room, sliding on the paws that are too big for his body.
I squat down on the floor, reaching to pick up the puppy as he starts licking my face.
Laughing I ask, "Well, little guy, what are we going to name you, huh? "
I look at him for a moment and say, "Rufus, your name is Rufus. What do you think about that?"
I look at Seth, who is smiling. He reaches over to pet Rufus on the head, "Bell, I think he likes it!" he says.
"Ok," I tell them both. "It's time to get dressed and go to the park. Oh my God, Seth!" I yell. "What am I going to do, I can't take Rufus to the park, I don't have a leash or anything?" I panic to him.
"Relax, sweetcheeks, I've got it covered. I already bought a few things for the little guy. They are downstairs in my apartment. You change and I'll take Rufus with me and get his collar and leash. We'll meet you downstairs in 20 minutes, ok?" Seth tells me.
I roll my eyes at the sweetcheeks comment, he just grins at me. "Ok, that sounds good. I just need to brush my teeth and grab a few things for the park. Thanks again Seth, honest. This is a great surprise, and you know I hate surprises!" I say to him.
"No shit, Sherlock. I have known you your whole life you know. You wouldn't be Bella if you didn't get your panties in a twist at a surprise. But, thanks, for accepting this one so graciously. Rufus will be a fun addition to our little family, I think," Seth tells me as he turns to walk out the door to go downstairs.
Deep breath Bella. Yes, our little family; so small now compared to what it used to be. Seth's dad Harry died of a heart attack when we were 13. Seth was of course devastated. So was Charlie for that matter. It came out of nowhere. We were at school one day and the principal, Mrs. Cope called Seth and I down to the office.
Walking in and seeing my dad there, with tears in his eyes, we knew it was something bad. It took Seth three days to cry after Charlie told us and took us home, but when he started, I wasn't sure he was ever going to stop. We had just come home from the burial at the cemetery and Seth, J, Rose, and I were up in our tree house. Seth took one look at the three of us and started sobbing, uncontrollably. We all held onto him and stayed up in that tree house with him until he was ready to come down. The parents left us to ourselves, too, just coming out periodically to check on us and bring food. No complaints or anything, just the space we needed to help Seth.
Peter and Charlotte Whitlock were killed in a head on collision with a drunk driver when we were 17. Charlie again had to come get us and tell us bad news. We were at the Friday night football game watching Seth with Sue. As soon as I saw my dad, I started crying, knowing that there would only be one reason he would come to the game in his uniform with that look on his face. Seth was just coming off the field when he looked up and saw Charlie beside us in the stands. He was the quarterback, and we had just scored and he looked up into the stands like he always did after every time he scored or came off the field. He didn't even stop walking once he saw us. He walked over to Coach Banner, handed him his helmet and walked off the field to us.
Charlie and Sue handled all the arrangements for the Whitlock's. We were only able to have a memorial for them because the accident was so horrific. Jasper and Rose didn't have any other family so they moved in with Sue and Seth. Sue didn't even bat an eye. Charlie helped with the legal part of it all and it was done. I can't even begin to imagine my life if they would have had to leave for some distant relative somewhere.
A sound from downstairs pulls me from my memories and I finish putting on my favorite pair of black Converse, grab my baseball hat, throw a few bottles of water and a book in my backpack and I am out the door to meet Seth and our little baby Rufus. God, please don't let me be one of those people that talk to their animals like they are children! No offense to them or anything like that, but I can't fucking stand to hear grown men and women talk to dogs like they are babies.
I meet Seth and a very excited Rufus downstairs and we all head out of the building. Seth already has Rufus attached to a leash. I take the leash from Seth, give him a kiss on the cheek, and begin my fifteen minute walk to the park. I know this does not make Seth happy, and J and LeLe will shit a brick when they find out, but I am going to walk by myself. I don't ever get to do this, but it's the middle of the morning on a Sunday in March, the sun is shining and I am almost 25 years old damn it and I can walk to the park without an escort if I want to.
The only way I got to take this little adventure and was allowed this tiny bit of rebellion was if I agreed to let Seth be at the park with me. I won't know he's there, or so he promises, but he adamantly refused to let me go by myself. I see his point, to a certain degree. My assistant Angela has spoken with both Jasper and Seth. Apparently, I have been getting some sort of stalker like mail and everyone is a little on edge about the whole thing. Even my management company, Volturi's has met with J and Seth. With the magazine cover about to come out, I guess it is not difficult to imagine that obsessed fans will become more prevalent, but I refuse to cower in a corner and hide. I have promised to take extra precautions, but in return I was promised my week off, and I am going to enjoy every second of it.
I enter the park and the first thing I notice is the people. I love to people watch, especially when no one is looking at me or knows who I am. There aren't a whole lot of people at the park today. It is a bit cool outside and it's still early in the day. Rufus is going nuts with all the stimulation around him; joggers running by, kids playing on the playgrounds, birds flying around, ducks in the water. So much for his little eyes to take in. We just wander for about 45 minutes when I notice he begins to slow down a bit. He is so cute, but he's just a baby; only 8 weeks old. I walk him towards a bench so I can sit down. Holding onto his leash, I let him wander off a bit by himself, and pull my book out of my backpack to start to read. I notice that the leash has stopped moving and glance down to see he has fallen asleep beside the bench.
About an hour later, I hear a little giggle off to the side of me. I peek up from my book and see the most adorable little boy making faces at Rufus. He looks like he's about 7 years old and has the greenest eyes you have ever seen. His hair in an unruly mess and is the strangest color. It's not red and it's not brown, but somewhere in between; like a bronzeish color. It reminds me of a penny. He has the biggest smile, and is missing at least 2 teeth. Dimples to die for and the cutest pair of Van's on his little feet.
He hears me laughing at him and looks my direction. He's sitting on the ground next to Rufus, petting him and letting him lick his hand. When he sees me look at him, he looks scared, like he's done something wrong.
"It's ok, little guy. He won't bite. You can pet him if you want to," I softly tell him.
There is something about this little boy that is just pulling at my heart. He doesn't look sad exactly, but he's not overflowing with happiness either.
"Thanks," he tells me. "What is his name?"
"Rufus," I tell him. "I just got him today as a present from my best friend."
"Wow lady, you sure are lucky to get a puppy! I wish I could have one, but my Daddy says we have to wait until me and my sister turn 8 before we can get one," he tells me.
"Well, little guy, you can play with Rufus all you want for right now, ok? Speaking of your dad, are you here at the park all by yourself. You look pretty small to be running off all alone," I tell him, looking around to see if I notice a man looking for a little boy.
I can just picture some dad running up to me thinking I'm trying to lure his little boy with my puppy. Great job Bella! I smack myself in the head. Now I have to figure out how to get this little boy back to his dad without causing a big scene. That, I do not need. I know Seth is around here somewhere, just waiting for me to mess this up somehow.
I put my book back in my backpack and stand up, grabbing the leash for Rufus. I look down at the little boy, who is staring at me by the way.
"My name is Bella," I tell him. "Let's see if we can find your mom and dad, ok buddy?" I try to cajole him. "What is your name?"
"Um, I'm not supposed to tell strangers my name," he mumbles to me. "I don't have a mom, just my Daddy," he says quietly.
Oh God, kill me now. No wonder he doesn't look happy. I wonder what happened to her and what he means by not having a mom.
"Well, let's see. I don't think I am a stranger, so you can tell me. Besides, Rufus will need to know who you are if you want to play with him another day," I say trying to get him to tell me so I can stop calling him little guy and buddy.
"Oh, I guess that's ok. My name is Masen Cullen and I am 7 years old, how old are you?" he sweetly asks me.
"Masen, I like it. Ok, here's the plan Mase face. I'm going to let you hold the leash for Rufus as long as you hold my hand in the other and we are going to try to get you back to your dad before he sends a search party for you," I tease him. "Oh and I am 24, old huh?"
He laughs at the Mase face comment. "I like you Bella smella."
"I like you, too, Mase face. Let's hit it," I laugh back at him.
We start down the path towards the playground and as we get closer I see a little girl that looks almost exactly like Masen. That must be the sister, which means that a very angry and scared dad is not too far away. I take my sunglasses off with the hand that is not hanging on to Masen and put them on my head. I look down at Masen to ask him if the little girl is his sister when I feel something slam into me, knocking me to the ground.
"Oh shit!" I hear as I fall.
God, that voice, I have never heard anything like it. It sends tingles up my spine and down to my toes. What the hell is that?
I feel warm hands reaching for me, trying to keep me from falling. I hear Rufus barking and Masen squealing. I know I am on the ground, but my brain can't seem to catch up with everything going on around me.
"Bella smella, are you ok?" I hear Masen yelling at me.
Laughing at the insane situation I have just found myself in I tell him, "Yeah, Mase face, I'm fine. Are you and Rufus ok, you're not hurt are you?"
"Nah, we're ok Bella, promise," he tells me.
I hear a throat clear from above me and turn my gaze from Masen to look up. Bracing for the worst, I find myself looking up into the same eyes that I saw 30 minutes ago in his son. I notice that instead of a scowl, I see the sexiest smirk ever. The sun is shining so I can't see all that great, but from what I can see; Masen Cullen's dad is without a doubt the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Ever! My heart is beating so hard in my chest, I am sure everyone in Central Park can hear it, my palms are sweating, and I feel this weird electric current all around me. What the hell is that? I shake my head to try to get my bearings, when I hear that voice again.
"Here, let me help you up. You look like you could use it. My name is Edward Cullen."