The November air had an extra bite to it this year. Apparently it was going to be one of the coldest winters we'd had for a while. I handed the street vender my change and grabbed my coffee before heading down the steps into the station. The heat from the cup warmed my hands; I was almost tempted to hold it against my face, the cold was that bitter. I took a quick sip, the heat instantly warming my insides that little bit. I never used to be much of a coffee person, but I really wanted something warm and lately I'd been buying more and more.
It was still pretty early, and not many people were here yet. I always caught the train to school, and it would always be packed. Because my stop was one of the last, I had quickly realized I had to be here early so I could get a good spot on the platform and grab a seat. In all honesty, I was starting to think the cold wasn't worth the seat on the train.
I leaned against my usual pillar right near where the doors opened and wrapped both hands around my cup for a moment. I got out my iPod and attempted to turn it on when I realized I'd forgotten to charge the stupid thing the night before. I really hated when I did that. Great, now it meant I had to stand and stare at a wall for 20 minutes, fun. I tried a few more times to turn it on like that would make any difference. "Stupid fucking iPod," I muttered to myself before shoving it back in my bag.
"Ahhh technology, don't you just love when it fails on you?" I turned to my right to see a girl sitting on the floor against the next pillar along. She seemed amused.
"Err not really, it means I now have to sit and stare out of a window for 30 minutes, not the best view to be honest."
"I bet there's something else you could do," she reasoned. "Couldn't you read a book or doodle a little?"
"I guess I could read a text book but in all honesty the window sounds more appealing," I told her. She laughed at my reply, it sounded beautiful, it was innocent and happy, the way a laugh should sound.
"But if you read the text book wouldn't that make the work easier when you get to school?"
"Stop using logic on me," I teased. She smiled in response. She was a beautiful girl, especially now she was smiling. She had long mahogany hair that fell straight past her shoulders. Her eyes were wide and framed by thick lashes. Even though they were brown, they weren't as dull as the brown eyes that I was used to seeing. The pale of her skin mixed with her red nose and cheeks made her look pure and sweet. She looked like kindness personified if that even made sense. I could tell she was slim even though she was sitting and wearing a thick winter coat. Her cheek bones were rather prominent and her fingers that were holding her bag in front of her looked dainty and cold. Did she not have gloves?
"Edward," I responded.
"So you come here every day?" she asked.
"Yeah, got to get to school somehow. You?"
"No. I haven't been here before, but I think I might come more often." She smiled and I smiled back.
"Don't you have any gloves?" I asked looking pointedly at her hands. She pulled her hands into her coat sleeves almost like she were embarrassed.
"I lost them yesterday. Haven't gotten around to getting a new pair yet, kind of busy lately." she shrugged dismissively.
"Here," I took off my gloves and handed them to her. "I've got another pair at home and this coffee to keep my hands warm for now."
"Thanks." She smiled again. Something about her smile warmed me. The more she did it, the more I forgot about the cold.
We continued making idle chit chat for a few more minutes as the station began to fill.
"So will you be here tomorrow?" I asked, trying to keep the hopefulness out of my voice.
"Yeah, I think I will be." My train chose then to pull in and I gave her a small wave and went to find a seat. I ended up getting out my English text book and reading over some of the poems we'd be looking at during the next few weeks. I grinned to myself wondering if Bella would feel smug I'd listened to her advice.
The next day I was anxious to get to the station. Yesterday's thoughts about the wait not being worth the cold had been completely forgotten. I bought an extra coffee today, one for Bella hoping she'd like it. Even though I hadn't spoken to her for long, I already knew I wanted to speak to her more and get to know her even better. I was drawn to the girl.
"Hey, I got you a coffee." I handed her the coffee and sat down on the floor next to her.
"Thanks, you didn't have to do that."
"It's ok I wanted to."
"Well, that was really sweet of you, thanks. So how did you manage your journey yesterday?"
"I read an English text book." She smirked at my response.
"Did you get around to charging your iPod in the end?"
"Yeah, I hate when I forget to do it. I feel lost without it."
"What have you got on it?" she asked.
"Too much to bother trying to name." I laughed. I pulled it out and handed her an earphone. I had no idea what sort of music she liked so I just put it on shuffle. The opening of Bowling For Soup's 1985 came blaring through.
"Oh wow, I haven't heard this song in forever! I love it," she announced. I grinned back happy with her taste so far. I was dreading if she asked me to play something like Taylor Swift, I'd have to re think this new-found friendship.
"Ok don't laugh, but do you watch Phineas and Ferb?" I asked.
"No. I don't really watch too much TV these days. What is it?"
"It's this cartoon on the Disney Channel."
"Disney? Really?" she teased.
"Hey, I told you not to laugh! It's a good show! I was bringing it up because Bowling For Soup did the theme song, and the singer Jaret actually does a voice of one of the characters. Heck the whole band actually appears in cartoon form in the one episode."
"Huh, that actually sounds kind of cool."
"The coolness doesn't stop there though, Richard O'Brien actually does the voice of the dad, and people like Barry Bostwick and Malcolm McDowell actually voice small parts as well."
"Richard O'Brien as in Rocky Horror Picture Show Richard O'Brian?" she was sounding impressed.
"Yep, even Tim Curry's voice pops up one episode."
"Wow. Do I want to know how you know so much about this cartoon?"
"IMDb is a powerful thing Bella," I chuckled. "I have also come to the decision we are going to be great friends. Not only do you like the awesome that is Bowing For Soup, but you appear to know your Rocky Horror as well."
"We have awesome taste." She smirked at me.
"Heck yeah we do." We even did a fist bump for good measure.
By the time my train came my sides were hurting from laughing with Bella. I'd been trying to explain how a show on the Disney Channel could actually be funny, for which she continued to tease me.
The next few days went by in a similar pattern. I'd bring her a coffee and we'd sit and, listen to my iPod, and she'd laugh at some of my music choices. Apparently Bon Jovi is for moms not 17 year old guys. But she never had a leg to stand on when she admitted her secret love of Justin Timberlake.
"I can't believe you're mocking me for having Bon Jovi and then you openly admit to liking him!"
"Hey, I 'm young! He was cute, and I'm a teenage girl. What the hell did you expect?"
"But he sings like a girl!"
"He does not, and it's not like it matters what his voice sounds like if he looks the way he does." I shook my head at her and chuckled.
"Oh Bella Bella Bella, what are we going to do with you?"
"Hey, I have hormones; I'm allowed to be a bit shallow if I want."
"Okay, I'll give you that. I have been known to enjoy a Katy Perry music video or two, but it doesn't mean I'd buy the album or anything."
"You've never heard of Katy Perry?" I looked at her oddly. Was she for real?
"Do you live under a rock or something?" I teased.
"Might as well," I heard her mutter. I figured then that she must live some short of sheltered life or something. Maybe she had religious parents that controlled what she watched?
I found that the weekends dragged on longer than usual, and for the first time ever, I was excited for a Monday mornings. The more I spoke to Bella the more I liked her. She was funny and sweet. Our personalities just meshed. I could tell I had a crush on her. In all honesty, I'd realized that the moment I saw her, but I could tell the crush was growing to something more; it excited me.
My family and friends had noticed my change in demeanor since I'd met her. My little sister, Alice, was ruthlessly asking questions. I never gave her answers, though. I wanted to keep Bella to myself for now. My mom was giving me knowing looks over the table at dinner. I had no idea what she knew, though; it wasn't like I'd told her anything either. My older brother, Emmett, had begun to notice I was leaving for the train 5 minutes earlier than I used to. He teased me as always; he'd decided I was leaving early every day to meet up with my "boyfriend." Yeah, Emmett wasn't the most mature of guys, nor the brightest in all honesty.
It only took about 3 weeks after meeting Bella to realize that I'd fallen in love with her. I mean, how could I not? She was perfect for me in everyway. She actually got my jokes most of the time and wasn't afraid to point out when I wasn't funny. She had amazing taste in movies, I wanted to ask her to come to the cinema with me, but so far I hadn't had the guts. It was like the second I realized just how much I liked her, the nerves kicked in. Just my luck right? It didn't help how beautiful she was. She was destined to be with someone that looked like her beloved Justin Timberlake. I was just some random guy with hair that was almost ginger, moldy green eyes and glasses. But the way she looked at me sometimes made me wonder if that was what she saw. I wondered if she could feel it to.
"Hey." I handed her the coffee and took my place next to her.
"Oh God, thanks. I really need this to day," she said, chuckling. I could hear that her nose was blocked.
"Got a cold?"
"Yep, so you might want to stay away," she smirked. "Don't want to get you infected."
"I'll take the risk." I smiled. She instantly smiled back as always, and again that smile warmed me. It was like I was living to see her smile these days.
"So, what we listening to today?" she asked while I handed her the ear bud.
"We're actually going to watch an episode of Phineas and Ferb, I got one off iTunes last night. Don't worry they aren't long or anything."
"Ok cool." She snuggled up close to me so she could see the screen clearly, I could feel the warmth from her, it was making me dizzy.
I couldn't focus on the iPod. All I could do was think about how close she was and how amazing she looked when she laughed at the jokes. I was still staring at her when the episode finished. She turned to me slowly, still smiling.
"Okay, I have to admit, that shit was funny, even if ... "
I cut her off with my lips. I had no idea what came over me, but I couldn't help myself. She was just so close, and I wanted to so bad. I'd only kissed her gently, but she froze for a second. I began to worry before she relaxed. I felt her body melt into mine as I slowly began to move my lips against hers. They were so soft, it was like they were made for me. She tasted of coffee and breath mints. I nervously opened my mouth and licked her bottom lip silently asking her to respond. She slowly opened her mouth, and our tongues met. The kiss stayed slow, but it was amazing. I could have stayed that way for hours, but the loud noise of people bustling around us alerted me to the arrival of my train. I wouldn't be getting a seat today, but it was worth it. I gave her one last peck on the lips and smiled dreamily at her before promising to see her tomorrow and getting on my train.
The next day I greeted her, not only with the usual coffee but a kiss. It felt amazing to be able do it. I realized that I needed to tell her how I felt. I had to ask her to go to the movies or something with me; I wanted to see her outside of the train station.
"Hi," she said timidly.
"Hi," I repeated and smiled back.
"That was a nice greeting."
"It was." I couldn't keep the grin off my face.
"Maybe you should greet me like that more often," she teased.
"Maybe I should. Actually I was wondering if you were doing anything Friday?"
"I wondered if you might want to come to the movies with me?"
"I don't know," she looked down at her hands, and I could feel the rejection wash over me already. "I don't really have money for that sort of thing."
"Oh that's fine. I asked you as, you know, like a date thing, so of course I'd be the one paying."
"Really?" she looked a bit more hopeful which brought me some hope.
"Okay then I'll go," she said and smiled at me.
"Yeah." The smile spread back over my face, and I leaned in and kissed her lips again. Now that I'd started doing this I had no idea how I'd ever stop.
"Errm, how about we meet outside the cinema around seven?"
"Do you have, like, a phone number or something, so I can ring you if I can't find you?"
"Errrm, sure yeah. Hand be your phone, and I'll type it in." She looked nervous as she typed in her number and I caught her counting the digits, most likely checking to see she'd remembered her number right.
"Here, give me your phone and I'll give you my number," I offered.
"Oh, I left my phone at home. I don't use it often, so I tend to forget it."
"That's ok, just ring me or something later." I wrote my number on her hand, her skin there felt so soft and delicate. I almost hated the fact I was marking it with pen, the pen didn't deserve to be there.
We continued to kiss and talk until my train came. I was so that happy I practically floated on to it; I bet I looked like an idiot. I knew I still had to tell Bella how I actually felt, but for now I was just happy I'd actually got to kiss her again and get her to agree on a date.
The next day, I got to the train station 10 minutes earlier than usual. I grabbed the coffees and made my way down to the platform. I walked over to the pillar and was surprised to see the floor was empty. Maybe Bella wouldn't be here 'til nearer the normal time. I sat down anyway and placed the coffees next to me. Bella had given me her cold after all, but it was totally worth it. It just meant I had to carry around extra tissues, which I'd been doing anyway so I could look like the knight-in-shining-armor type and offer them to Bella when she sneezed.
Ten minutes passed and Bella still hadn't shown up. Maybe she was running late. I pulled out my iPod and decided to listen to music alone while I waited. The coffee had gotten cold, and I was still sat alone. Maybe Bella's cold had gotten worse, and she couldn't get to the phone to ring me. I tried to call hers but there wasn't an answer. Eventually my train came, and I got on it with a heavy heart after throwing the cold coffee in the trash.
Bella didn't show up the next day either, and there still wasn't an answer on her phone. My own cold was nearly gone already, so it couldn't have been that bad. I was starting to worry. What if she didn't want to see me anymore? I felt the self loathing sweep over me as I realized that I wasn't important to her. I had nothing that would keep her here. I mean, I thought we had something, but maybe it was one sided. I tried to squash those thoughts. It had only been a day; she probably had good reason for not showing.
Eventually Friday rolled around, and she still didn't show. I was beginning to lose hope. I decided to try her phone again. I was still holding on to some hope that she had a great excuse, and she would still be on for the movies later or something. Also, I just missed her and wanted to hear her voice.
"Hello?" A male voice answered. I couldn't help the panic I automatically felt.
"Erm … is Bella there?"
"Sorry, dude, I think you've got the wrong number," he said briefly before hanging up.
And that was it, the last tiny bit of hope I had disappeared. I realized she wasn't counting digits in her phone number to make sure it was right, she was making sure there was simply enough numbers so I wouldn't notice the number was fake.
The pain was almost unbearable. I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong to scare Bella off so fast. Had I come on too strong with the movies? I didn't think I had. I had already known I wasn't good enough; I just hoped it would have taken longer for her to figure that out.
Another two weeks passed, and Bella still hadn't come back. I was miserable all the time, my family had noticed, Alice still tried to question me about it, but my mom told her to leave me alone. I think mom knew; she could probably tell just by looking at me that I'd had my heart broken. Emmett backed off as well, but that might have just been because he'd gotten himself a girlfriend. Her name was Rose, and she was all he could talk about lately. It was hard to listen to, so I tended to excuse myself during those conversations.
It had been three weeks since I'd seen Bella. I still kept some hope, just that tiny little bit. I still bought the extra coffee each day just hoping she'd be there to drink it, but she never was, and it always ended up cold and in the trash.
My mom tried to get me to do things to take my mind off what ever had me down. She ended up dragging me along to work some charity thing at the local homeless shelter. They were raising money for homeless teens. I wasn't really in the mood to do anything, but mom looked so hopeful, and I figured it was a good cause.
I helped her with her stall; she was selling brownies, and there was some sort of fete thing going on. In all honesty, I didn't really pay that much attention. I just took people's money and gave them a brownie.
"Edward, you could do with a break. Go take a look around, and I'll take care of the stall."
"I'm okay here, Mom."
"No, you're not. You need to move your legs a bit. Just have a wander for five minutes or something."
I reluctantly got up and began looking at stalls. Some were selling things to raise money, and others were giving out information to raise awareness. One booth in particular caught my eye. A man was there alone; there was an air of sadness about him. For some reason I felt compelled to visit his stand.
The man looked in his late 40's with dark brown hair that had a dusting of grey. He had a thick moustache and deep brown eyes ... they almost looked like her eyes, except his were infinitely sadder.
"Hi, I'm Edward Cullen," I introduced myself to the man.
"Charlie Swan. Do you want a leaflet?"
"Sure," I picked it up and looked at him. "I hope you don't mind me asking, but what's wrong?"
"I'm okay. It's just that this recently became an issue very close to my heart. My daughter was a teen runaway."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"I don't need your pity, son. I should have been there for her, but I wasn't. Just make sure you read the leaflet and do what you can to help, it's all I ask."
"Sure." I gave him a polite nod and walked off towards a group of chairs.
I looked down at the piece of paper in my hand and my breath caught in my throat.
In Loving Memory of Isabella Swan.
Each year, hundreds of teen runways brave the cold weather. Some are able to find shelter, however not all are as lucky. This winter Chicago has had some of its coldest weather in years which has meant more and more people have been suffering on the streets. Homeless shelters can only provide so much space and each night hundreds are turned away to find warmth elsewhere. Many of these are teens like Isabella.
Isabella slept in a train station. While this kept her out of the rain, it didn't keep her warm enough. The morning of Tuesday, December 17, Isabella's body was found. She died because she was too cold and there wasn't enough room for her. It was clear she'd been sleeping there a while. She was a strong girl and lasted a lot longer than she should have in that weather. Her coat and gloves were her only warmth, and eventually the elements claimed her.
I couldn't read any further. My eyes filled with tears, the words blurred together and all I could see was a photo of Bella's smiling face looking up at me. Her face was rounder than when I'd known her, and there was even more light in her eyes. I didn't know what had caused her to run away from home. I didn't know why she never told me. Small things began to add up in my mind, like how she hadn't seen TV in a while and wasn't up to date with the latest music trend. The phone number even made sense now.
I felt guilty for being mad that she hadn't shown up. I felt ashamed for not helping her more. I should have known. The clues were there. I should have just been able to tell. My family would have gladly given her a roof. Maybe Bella was too proud or even simply too ashamed to tell me. I sat and cried alone on the chair. The first girl I'd ever loved, and I'd never even got to tell her. She died alone, cold, frightened, not knowing she was the most important thing in my world.
I felt my mom sit in the chair beside me. Her arm wrapped around me and pulled me close. I just held on to her for dear life and cried into her shoulder.
"This was the girl that made you smile wasn't it?" She looked down at the paper I held in my hand.
"Yeah." I cried harder, and she simply held me tighter. "Her name was Bella, and I loved her. I never even got to tell her, Mom." She never asked me more questions. She simply let me cry myself out.
I would always remember Bella. I'd remember her smile, her laugh, the way she made me feel. I figured the best way to honour her memory would be to help others. I've done my best to make sure other's don't lose their own Bellas. I threw myself into charity work, raising hundreds of dollars for homeless teens and helping to build shelters. I helped in soup kitchens and anywhere I could really. Knowing I was making a difference helped ease the pain.
Though the pain never left, it subsided. Eventually, the first woman I ever loved somehow managed to lead me to the last woman I would ever love. I met Angela while helping at a shelter serving food one Thanksgiving. She smiled at me and it made me feel warm. I knew then that everything had happened how it was meant to. Although Bella was gone and wasn't coming back, I knew I had to move on. It may have taken me three years, but when I saw that smile, I knew.
Angela volunteered for a similar reason. She'd lost her best friend, Ben, after he ran away from home. He came out to his parents, and they couldn't take it. He, too, was lost to the cold.
We were brought together by tragedy, but because of it, we came through as stronger people. I still loved Bella deep down, and knew I always would. Now I had Angela, and she became my everything.
We got married 2 years after we met. A year later, Angela found out she was expecting twins. It was one of the happiest days of my life. They were both born healthy and beautiful, and I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be in life. There were no more "what ifs": What if I'd taken more notice of what Bella said? What if I'd taken notice of how thin she was, or how ill she was getting? They weren't really "what ifs" so much as wishful thinking; there wasn't anything I could have done differently. Holding my twins, I knew that even though I would always miss Bella, I was grateful for what she'd brought me. She taught me how to love, and then she led me to my family. It was the greatest gift I'd ever been given.
"I think we should name them Benjamin and Isabella," Angela spoke from the bed. She was tired, but I saw the love in her eyes … and the hope. She was worried how I would take her suggestion. Angela had never felt jealousy over Bella. She'd simply been thankful. Meeting Bella helped me become the man I am today, and neither I nor Angela would change that for the world. I kissed my babies gently on the tops of their heads and leant over to press my lips to Angela's.