"Bella, what do you think of this one?" my best friend, Angela Webber, asked me. We were currently in Seattle and it was already midday. This was the third store we had visited today. I honestly hadn't known what I was getting myself into by agreeing to go with her. You see Angela thought it would be good for me to get out of town for the day so she asked me to come with her to pick out presents for her younger twin brothers (whose birthday was in a week). It truthfully didn't seem like a bad idea at the time. Picking out presents for two nearly ten year-old boys – I mean it had to be better than when we went to Port Angeles to shop for some prom dresses…
If only I had known that Angela would be like this then I would have said no and stayed home… moping about in my misery… yeah…
No, moping wasn't the word for it, Charlie said that if I was moping then that would mean I was doing something but I was apparently pretty emotionless. I was like a zombie. Whatever. It's not my fault that he broke my heart into a million little pieces. It's not my fault that he stomped on all my hopes and dreams for our future together.
Whoa there, Bella! Rein in those thoughts! There is no need for you to have some sort of mental breakdown in front of all these kids and their parents.
I shook my head and tuned back into what Angela was saying. She was debating on whether or not to give the twins matching gifts or individual ones or both. Honestly, Angela should just be awarded "The Best Big Sister Ever" trophy for all the lengths she goes through every day and on the twins' birthday and holidays. She was a saint.
I sighed before focusing more of my attention onto helping Angela find the twins their presents.
"Let's stop here for some coffee and a bite to eat." Angela's voice interrupted my inner thoughts.
We had finally picked out individual gifts for her younger twin brothers but we had yet to pick out their shared present.
"Bella? What do you think? Here good?" Angela asked, prodding me to pay attention.
I glanced over at the small café that she indicated and gave a noncommittal nod.
"Sure, why not. It's not too crowded." I observed.
I never did like super crowded places in the first place but for some reason, after he left I just couldn't stand being around large groupings of people. The mall was overcrowded with people because Thanksgiving was here and gone and it was now the Christmas season. People were out and about trying to score the best deals. Everywhere I looked shops were trying to attract people with bright displays and holiday cheer. I really should have stayed home.
"Well let's go!" Angela encouraged, happy that I didn't immediately nix this place.
Angela and I had a nice quiet lunch at the café. We talked about school and our families. She carefully steered clear of any topics that she knew could be connected back to him.
We had just finished eating and decided to order another cup of coffee – it was really good coffee – when Angela excused herself to go to the restroom.
As she walked away, I contemplated the person that was Angela Webber. She was definitely an angel in disguise.
Where most of my friends had given up on me after I pretty much shut them out and shut myself down, Angela had not given up. She had been there for me whether I wanted her to be or not. She had let me have two weeks after he had left to wallow in my misery and then she had been there calling me, texting me, emailing me, discussing homework and papers, talking about our families, etc. Angela even got me out of the house on weekends.
And honestly? I was glad that she did.
Even though I was still down on myself because of him, I knew I was doing a whole lot better than I was. I also knew that Charlie was grateful that Angela was there for me – I'm pretty sure if I had gone on the way I was, Charlie would have eventually suggested that I see a shrink – I mentally shuddered.
Briefly glancing around the café I caught the eye of a guy – an admittedly very attractive guy.
An admittedly very attractive guy who kept on glancing at our table – one who was now getting up and walking towards me.
Attractive guy – who my brain immediately renamed Blue Eyes – stood at about 6 foot 2 with dark black hair and dark blue eyes. His features were definitely male model type.
"Hi, I'm sorry to bother you, but do I know you?" Blue Eyes asked me.
I was about ready to roll my eyes and turn him away but Blue Eyes actually looked and sounded genuine.
"Umm… I'm not from around here so…" I shrugged taking a closer look at Blue Eyes. Now that I was taking a better look, I could see that he was familiar looking to me as well.
"But now that you mention it…" I continued after a pause, "You look really familiar to me too." I confirmed. Shrugging, I stuck out my hand and started to introduce myself, "Isabella Swan. But I prefer –"
"Bella." Blue Eyes completed for me while reaching out and shaking my hand, a huge smile spreading over his face. "Aiden Sinclair. We went to the same high school and middle school, and elementary school together back in –"
"Phoenix." I whispered as my jaw actually dropped.
Aiden Sinclair was my first friend after Renée and I moved from California to Arizona when I was around nine years old. When I first moved to Forks I emailed him more frequently than my mother. My mom was my best friend and I did tell her most everything but it was way easier to share my worries with Aiden on account of the fact that I didn't want my mom to change her plans of traveling with Phil on the road. I internally winced as I admitted to myself that I got really lax in those emails as I got more and more involved with him and his family. I shook my head and looked back up at my old friend.
This was not the same Aiden Sinclair that I remembered. Aiden was always the short and scrawny kid that always got picked last for sports – even though he was an avid sports fan, nobody wanted the little guy on their team – and who loved to draw and could have dropped out of school and become an artist and made bank. Seriously, he was just that good.
"Oh my gosh." I muttered silently. "Oh my gosh!" I heard myself repeating louder. Before I realized what I was doing, I had jumped up and wrapped him in a hug. Aiden laughed as he hugged me back.
"You look, you look, well… umm… different!" I exclaimed at last looking up at him but not releasing him from the hug. Aiden threw his head back and laughed just as I remembered he always did, joyous and without abandon.
"Bells, you and I both know that's your nice and kind way of saying 'What the hell happened to the short, scrawny guy who likes to draw in his free time' and 'who's the tall guy in his place?' Am I right?" Aiden asked me laughingly.
"Well, uh, yeah… pretty much!" I exclaimed.
Before Aiden could respond to me, Angela had returned from the restroom. She appeared quietly with a raised eyebrow and a curious expression on her face.
"Hey Bella, what's going on?" Angela questioned cautiously. I knew just by the look in her eyes that she was asking me if I was alright and did she need to get rid of this guy for me. I was once again struck by how lucky I was that Angela Webber was making the effort in being my friend and just being there for me ever since he left.
I smiled as I took a step away from Aiden so that I could introduce my two best friends to each other. "Angela, you'll never believe it! This is my friend Aiden Sinclair. We used to go to school together in Phoenix." I announced excitedly. I saw the brief look of surprise flash across Angela's face before she turned towards Aiden with a warm smile.
"Hello! I'm Angela Webber. I'm a friend of Bella's and we go to Forks High together." Angela responded in that way of hers that made you feel welcome immediately.
"Nice to meet you Angela." Aiden said, shaking her hand.
"I'm sorry if I seem nosy but if you're from Phoenix what brings you all the way up here?" Angela asked with genuine curiosity. I turned towards Aiden and arched a brow, also curious.
Aiden looked towards me when he replied, "My mom passed away a couple of months ago."
"Oh my god, Aiden. I'm so sorry." I responded and gave him a tight hug. I could hear Angela also giving her condolences.
"Thank-you Bells. Thank-you Angela." Aiden responded. "I'm just glad she's not in anymore pain. She's been sick for a couple of years now." Aiden explained to Angela.
"What about Kayla? Who-Where- I mean" I asked while worrying about what happened to Aiden's baby sister.
"Since I had just turned eighteen about a month before she passed, my mom put it into her will that I would get full custody of Kayla." Aiden quickly informed me.
"Who is Kayla?" Angela looked at the both of us questioningly.
"My younger sister. She's seven and well… it was just the three of us after my dad passed a couple of years after she was born. Both sets of grandparents are gone and my parents were both only children."
"I'm really sorry to hear about everything Aiden." I told him sincerely while reaching for his hand and giving it a squeeze before releasing it.
"Thanks Bella. Unfortunately staying in Phoenix wasn't really a great option."
"Why is that?" Angela asked gently.
"Too expensive," He explained and continued, "Even if I had found a full-time job that payed well, there were house and car payments and hospital bills to pay. One of my dad's cousins owns his own company and he offered me a job with more than good pay. So I sold the house and got rid of a lot of stuff, packed up Kayla and myself and moved to Seattle a couple of months ago." Aiden explained easily enough.
"Wow. I don't know if I could have done that." I murmured thinking about everything that my best friend had to do, the decisions he had to make in the past couple of months for both him and Kayla. For the past couple of months all that I've been doing is pathetically wallowing over him.
"Well you did uproot your life so your mom and Phil could travel for his career." Aiden said.
"Not quite the same thing. In fact, nowhere near the same thing." I shook my head. Aiden shrugged and gave me a small smile.
"What about school?" I asked as I looked up at Aiden.
"Independent study. Basically home-schooling. It's a little easier on my schedule, what with working full-time. Because of the advanced program I was in at our old high school, I have more than enough credits, so I'm on track to graduate in the spring." he explained.
"That's really good." Angela told him while I nodded in agreement.
Before we could say more, Angela's phone rang and she quickly excused herself to answer it.
"So what brings you over to the Seattle from Forks?" Aiden questioned.
"Oh, this was Angela's doing. Her younger twin brothers' birthday is coming up and we're here shopping for their presents. We've already got their individual presents. We just need to get their shared present."
"Individual and shared?" Aiden asked incredulously.
"Most people would just get a shared gift - especially for twins."
"Yeah well, Angela isn't most people." Aiden and I shared a smile.
"I should probably let you guys get back to it then." he offered.
I couldn't help the disappointment that was clear in my voice, "Oh. I mean yeah, we should get back to shopping for the twins. And you must have plans so…" I trailed off, really hoping that he wouldn't have to go so soon.
"Hey guys. Sorry about that. It was Ben calling. I had texted him earlier about ideas for the shared gift and he just now got back to me. Video games is apparently the way to go." Both Angela and I chuckled no doubt because of Ben's geekiness for all types of video games.
"I have an idea!" Angela said. "Why don't you go with us to the game store, Aiden? That is, if you don't have to be anywhere else?" Angela asked.
I smiled and looked over at Aiden hopefully. He smiled back.
"No, I don't have anywhere I need to be. I'd like to tag along if that's okay with the both of you."
"More than okay. I would really like a guy's perspective on potential games." Angela assured.
"Alright then. If you're ready then we could head over?"
"Yeah, let's go." Angela said cheerfully. They both started walking towards the door when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
"Wait!" I called out and they immediately turned back toward me.
"What is it Bella?" Angela asked, concern written all over her face.
"My coffee." I said pointing to the waitress who had just walked up to the table I was still standing next to with a large steaming cup of coffee on a tray. My two best friends looked from me to the coffee then each other and back to me before they broke out laughing. "What? It's good coffee!" I exclaimed.
"Oh Bella, never change!" Aiden managed to gasp out.
It was late in the afternoon by the time Angela and I had made it out of the mall. I smiled to myself as I remembered the fun that the three of us had had back at the game shop. We all had a good time picking out Angela's brothers' gift. It was like no time had passed since Aiden and I last saw each other; we joked and goofed around like always.
It took about an hour or so to pick out a video game, after heavy debating over the pros and cons over the top two picks, a decision was made and a game was purchased. The three of us had said good-bye and exchanged phone numbers, promising to stay in contact and even setting up a day for Aiden and Kayla to visit me and Angela in Forks.
"Hey, Angela," I said as we got into her car, ready to head back to Forks.
"Yeah, Bella?" She turned to me after we both got ourselves situated and buckled in.
"Thank-you for asking me to come with you today." I started.
"You're welcome. I'm happy that you got to reconnect with your old friend." Angela said with a smile.
"Me too. I probably wouldn't even have met him again if you hadn't invited me." I said.
"I'm sure you would have gotten back into contact with Aiden someday." Angela reassured.
"Maybe. Maybe not." I admitted before continuing almost hesitantly, "Angela, I just… I wanted to thank-you. Not just for inviting me today but for everything that you've done for me since he… since… since September. It means a lot to me." I said looking over at Angela from the passenger seat of the car.
Angela looked back at me and smiled genuinely before she spoke. "Bella, you're a good friend. You're my best friend. I have no doubt you would do the same thing for me if the situations were reversed."
"Of course I would." I smiled as Angela turned on her car and drove us out of the mall's parking lot and got us back on to the road home to Forks.