A/N: My never-ending thanks to Midnight Cougar for her help with each chapter. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” Foreigner
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond own the adorable little mouse whose needs inspired this very adult version of their story. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
I beat Emmett to Sam’s Diner, grab a booth for the two of us, and wait for him to arrive. Picking up a menu already on the table, I look over the selections to keep me busy, even though I know most of the possibilities.
“Good morning, Edward.”
I smile. “Hey, Emily.”
“Are you finishing or getting ready for your shift?”
Emmett and I are semi-regulars at the diner, so Emily is familiar with our all-hours shifts.
“Neither. I’ve been awake all morning after an emergency call for one of my neighbors, and I can’t sleep. I’m hoping a full belly will do the trick.”
She grins. “We have pumpkin-pecan pancakes for our special today. Are you ready to order?”
“Not yet. I’m waiting for Emmett. He should be here soon.”
Emily nods, removing two of the napkin-wrapped silverware sets preset on the table and leaving two. “Can I get you started with a cup of coffee or a glass of orange juice?”
“I’ll go with a coffee while I wait.”
“Sure thing. No hurry.”
The diner isn’t busy at this early hour, and Emily has my coffee and a glass of ice water in front of me in no time at all. I remove a few ice cubes, adding them to my coffee, and look out the window, watching for Emmett’s Jeep. An older red Chevy truck turning into the parking lot gets my attention, but it pulls around to the side of the building and out of view.
I have very few memories of Grandpa Cullen, but I remember him having an old white Ford truck when they were living on the farm outside of Forks. I was probably five or six at the time, and he would let me sit on his lap, steering the truck while he worked the pedals, as we drove over the gravel roads and between pastures on their property. When I was a little older, he taught me how to operate its stick shift. Not long after that, he passed away and Grandma sold the farm, moving into town, where I have most of my memories of visiting her every summer during my childhood.
I blow on my coffee, taking a careful sip, as I watch a full logging truck slowly make its way through town and past the windows of the diner. Emmett catches my attention pulling into the parking lot and parking his Jeep next to my car.
He gives me a chin jerk when he sees me in the window and walks toward the front door. I can hear him speaking with someone as the ring of the bell announcing his entry fades and Emmett holds the door wide open. They walk inside, both smiling. My recognition is immediate, and my heart takes off beating at a frantic pace.
Even as I think of her name, I can feel my entire body tense—as if this is the moment I’ve been waiting for after almost ten months of not seeing her. I scrub my hands over my face, rubbing my eyes, because it’s difficult to believe I’m not dreaming or hallucinating from lack of sleep. Another glance and she’s nowhere in sight, but Emmett is walking toward our table.
He grins, sliding into the booth. “Hey, man. I’d ask how you’re doing, but you look like hell.”
His brows furrow in confusion. “That’s not a compliment. You need some real sleep or those dark circles under your eyes will be permanent.”
I ignore his concern and ask a more pressing question. “Did you hold the door for someone when you walked inside?”
He nods and we say her name simultaneously.
He’s surprised, but I’m relieved I’m not seeing things.
“Where did she go?” I wonder, and look around the diner as the ding of the bell on the entry door brings more customers inside, filling several spots at the counter and the surrounding tables.
“I don’t know. The back? She was wearing a uniform like Emily’s, so maybe she works here and went to hang up her jacket.”
Bella is working here—at Sam’s Diner. I wonder how long she’s been here. It has to be a recent development, or I would have heard something around the station.
“Good morning, Emmett. Can I get you something to drink?” Emily asks.
“Coffee would be great.”
“Are you both ready to order?”
“Yeah, I’ll have Big Mama’s Breakfast—over easy, links, and wheat toast.”
My mouth goes dry when Bella finally returns to my view behind the counter, and I quickly shift my eyes to the menu on the table, not wanting to draw any attention by staring. She looks as good as I remember—maybe even better. I sneak another glance as she fills the coffee cup of an older man sitting at the counter.
I look up to find Emmett’s and Emily’s expectant faces.
“Right. We need to order. You go ahead.”
Emmett nods. “I did. You’re up.”
“Okay…” I glance at the menu, but my focus is shot, and I can’t settle on one thing. At this point, I’m ready to order one of everything, which would keep me here until my shift. It’s a good plan. Maybe a great plan. I wonder how long she’s working today.
Emmett’s voice breaks through my rapidly shifting thoughts. “Edward, we came for pancakes…”
“Pancakes. Right.” I select the first item in the pancakes section of the menu. “I’ll have three pancakes with a side of sausage.”
“Links or patties,” Emily asks.
As if she can feel my eyes on her, Bella looks over in our direction and our eyes meet. I force myself not to look away and give her a small smile that she returns, and the butterflies fluttering in my stomach at her arrival are stirring once more.
My eyes shift to Emily, but I can’t recall her question. “Uh…”
“He’ll have links.” Emmett’s voice gets my attention as he returns my menu to the middle of the condiment holder near the windows.
“It shouldn’t take long. I’ll be right back with your coffee.”
“Thanks, Emily.” Once she leaves with our orders, Emmett’s questions begin. “What’s going on with you?”
He can read my mind.
Emmett shakes his head. “I can’t read your mind. You’re babbling crazy—out loud.”
I take a deep breath and lower my voice. “Bella Swan.”
“I think we’ve already covered that.” He thumbs over his shoulder. “I held the door for her, remember?”
“I met her last year at the Post Office and now…” I wave my hand. “She’s here.”
“Okay…” Emmett looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Maybe I have. “What am I missing?”
“Here we go.” Emily interrupts our conversation, dropping off his coffee and a glass of ice water. “Not much longer on your breakfast.”
Emmett smiles. “Great.”
When she’s gone, I choose my words carefully, not ready to share the entire story, but hoping to find out if he knows anything else.
“I’m—” in love with her but not sure my heart can take another disappearing act.
I wait to see if I’ve spilled the truth out loud, but my filter appears to be back in place when he waits for me to continue.
“I’m… surprised, I guess.” I nod, thinking he’ll believe this explanation and give me time to pull my thoughts together. “I didn’t know she was back. I hadn’t heard anything around the station.”
“Oh. Well, Chief Swan mentioned something last night during our shift about her agreeing to take over for Jessica when she goes on maternity leave. I think he’s excited to have her home.”
“But she’s here.”
“I don’t know.” Emmett shrugs, looking around the diner. “Maybe she’s filling in for someone.”
First, the Post Office. Now, the diner, and she’ll be working next door to me for probably three or four months. I think my head’s going to overload with this information, and I’m not sure I can play it cool if she comes by our table. If I can’t win her over in that timeframe, I don’t deserve her.
Suddenly, a thought occurs to me. “Do you think she’s dating anyone?”
A huge grin spreads across Emmett’s face. “I don’t know. Let’s ask Emily.”
“No!” I whisper-yell, but Emily is already walking toward us with an overflowing tray full of food, and Emmett isn’t to be derailed.
“Okay, guys. Here we go. Emmett you have three eggs over easy, sausage links, bacon, and ham. Here are your hash browns, pancakes, and wheat toast.” She pauses, sliding plates in front of Emmett and turns toward me. “Edward, you ordered three pancakes and sausage links. I think that’s everything. Syrup is on the table, and I’ll have Bella stop by to re-warm your coffee as she’s making the rounds.”
My stomach drops and my eyes find her on the other side of the room, laughing with customers and slowly making her way in our direction.
I’m not ready for this.
Emmett’s eyes lock with mine, nodding his head slightly. When I fail to speak, he doesn’t miss a beat. “Actually, there is, Emily.”
“Oh?” Her eyes search the table, probably wondering what she could have possibly forgotten from Emmett’s feast of food.
I blow out a breath and run a hand nervously through my hair. I’m torn with not wanting to reveal too much, but dying for the answer to Bella’s dating status.
“Just between us.” He waves her closer and lowers his voice. “Do you know if Bella is dating anyone or has a boyfriend?”
“Bella?” Her eyes meet mine, and I can’t stop my head from giving her a subtle nod.
A small smile tugs at the corners of her lips, as she leans a little closer in my direction. “She’s single. As far as I know, she isn’t dating anyone and doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
I’m filled with a mix of relief and excitement.
Emily raises a questioning eyebrow. “Good?”
“Great.” I can’t keep the growing smile off my face. “Don’t say anything, okay?”
“Your secret is safe with me.” She winks. “Let me or Bella know, if you need anything else. This was supposed to be her table, but she was late this morning. So, I’ve been covering for her. I’ll let her know that she can have it back.”
I unknowingly picked a table in her section.
As Emily leaves, my eyes shift back to Bella, then Emmett, who is busy turning his eggs into tiny pieces of egg whites covered in runny yolk.
After a couple of deep breaths, I rub my palms on my jeans and pick up my fork. “Thanks, Emmett.”
“You’re welcome.” He grins. “Best wingman in the business, right here. I got you.”
“I owe you one.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. We’re good.”
I stare at my pancakes, dragging my fork through the melting butter, while the rest of my body is well aware that Bella is getting closer to our table. Time is running out with every cup of coffee she refills. I shift my focus to my own cup, downing it with large gulps and burning my tongue.
“Damn, Edward.” Emmett watches me with amusement dancing in his eyes.
I switch to my glass of ice water, soothing the pain of my tongue and offering immediate relief, just as Bella takes the last steps toward our table.
“Good morning, more coffee?” She holds up a half-full pot.
I look at Emmett who raises his eyebrows, waiting for me to respond.
I clear my throat and move my empty cup closer to her. “Sure. Thanks.”
She refills it and her eyes pass over the table. “Everything tasting okay?”
I wait for Emmett to respond, but suddenly, he’s taken a vow of silence for this conversation. Even though I’ve yet to take a bite, I manage a soft, “Great.”
“Thirsty, huh?” she asks.
I look at my nearly empty glass. “Uh…”
Bella smirks. “I’ll be back with the water pitcher.”
“Thanks,” I utter.
After Bella departs, Emmett shakes his head. “You’re going to have to do better than that, buddy.”
My body sags with the realization that I’m messing this up. “I know, but I don’t think she remembers me.”
“Then introduce yourself again.”
“I know. I know.”
He points his fork toward my plate. “And start eating or she’s going to think something’s wrong with you.”
“Right.” I grab the maple syrup pitcher and drench my pancakes, then focus on taking a few bites.
“Here we go.” Bella grabs our empty water glasses and refills them.
I take my time to watch her perform the simple task, my eyes passing over every inch of her face, trying not to miss a single thing. From her hair pulled back into a ponytail, to the mischievous smile always gracing her lips, I can’t get enough, and too soon, she’s finished and ready to move to the next table.
Emmett taps my foot under the table, getting my attention and pulling me from my thoughts.
“Thanks, Bella. Um…”
“Yeah?” She pauses, waiting for me to speak.
“I’m Edward Cullen.”
She steps closer, and her smile, that I’ve been missing, widens. “Hello, Edward Cullen.”
Reaching out to hold my offered hand, she gives it a gentle squeeze, but instead of sliding easily apart, I can feel our hands cling or actually stick to one another. I want to believe it’s a sign, but know better.
I chuckle. “Sorry, my hands are sticky from the syrup handle.”
Her laughter joins mine. “No worries. It happens. How’s the stamp collection?”
“Good.” My smile widens that she remembers me. But a snort from my breakfast companion pulls me from my Bella trance, and I try to think of something else to say. “This is Emmett McCarty.”
“Hello again, Emmett.”
He gives her a salute between bites.
“Bella! Order up!” Sam shouts from the window, drawing her attention away from our table.
“I have to get that, but did you want separate checks or all on one?” she asks, looking between us.
Emmett’s still silent, so I volunteer to pick up the tab. “Uh, all on one.” Maybe it will impress her, because for the next handful of months that’s part of my plan—impress Bella.
“You got it. I’ll be right back.”
After she leaves, Emmett clears his throat and wipes his mouth with his paper napkin. “Thanks for buying.”
He lowers his voice. “You’re going to ask for her number, right?”
“Don’t you think that’s moving a little too fast? I don’t want to come on too strong. I’m seeing her for the first time in what seems like forever.”
Emmett chuckles. “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem in this case.”
He has no idea how forward I want to be, but I don’t want to scare Bella away. I have to pace myself. When Bella stops back by with our bill, I take the opportunity to confirm her stay in Forks.
“Here we go,” she says, leaving the bill in the middle of the table.
“I-uh… I heard you’re going to be filling in for Jessica over at the Police Department.”
Surprise flashes over her beautiful features. “That’s right. She’s training me over the next month.”
“I’ll probably see you around then, you know…” I wave a finger between Emmett and myself. “…since we’re next door.”
She nods. “It seems likely, unless you always work the overnight shifts. I’ll be working mostly regular business hours.”
“Can I get either of you anything else? More coffee or water? A to-go box?”
I glance at the table and Emmett’s plates are all empty, while I’ve had only a few bites of my pancakes.
“No. I’m still working on these.” I point toward my plate with my fork, suddenly hungry as my nervousness fades.
“Okay, pay me whenever you’re ready.”
“Thanks. Have a great day, Bella.”
She has no idea how great this morning is for me. I look down at our bill after she leaves our table, and there’s a smiley face in the “O” of her handwritten “Thank you!” with a curly mustache.
I’m unable to keep the smile off my face as I recall the last time we were discussing the mustaches of evil villains.
“What is it?” Emmett’s voice startles me from my thoughts. “Did she leave you her phone number or a love note?”
At his words, I wonder if she still has the love note I wrote for her or has figured out I was the author. I didn’t sign my name because I thought I would be the one giving it to her, but it didn’t work out that way. Regardless of how that transpired, I’m determined to ease into her life and hope she’ll plan to stick around Forks for much longer than the last time she was here.
If you give a postal worker a love note, she’ll wonder about the identity of the author when it’s delivered by an unintended mail carrier.
After a visit from a sexy firefighter, the mystery surrounding the note will add to her curiosity, but it won’t be solved any time soon, when she has no choice and accepts another job far from home.
Her secret admirer will hold on to hope for their paths to cross again, and when they do, he will find that being near her again is better than he ever anticipated.