After realizing I didn't even have my keys on me, I ran upstairs and changed my clothes quickly, grabbing my purse and keys and flinging myself back down the stairs. I was strangely excited at the prospect of going to get lunch with James. I scribbled a short note to my father about going out for the night with a friend, knowing he'd be pleased I was socializing, and left it on the fridge for him. I flew out the front door and nearly collided with a very patient, suddenly fully clothed, James. His grin spread across his face as he saw my different outfit and, I'm sure, my frantic expression. I flushed and looked down, using the task of digging for my keys as an excuse. Shoving them at him, I shot him a quick half smile and walked to the truck, getting in the passenger side door and hoping my raging blush would subside shortly. He climbed into the cab and buckled his seat-belt, tossing a strangely expectant look at me. When I caught on and buckled my own seatbelt, he seemed pleased enough to start the engine and fiddle with the radio until something I vaguely recognized as Beethoven came out of the speakers. He slipped the truck into reverse and easily maneuvered it out of the driveway.
He didn't drive like Edward used to. He was calm and didn't seem to have any need for excessive speeding. He took care to abide by the traffic laws and speeding limits and I simply could not express how grateful I was for that. Not even if I wanted to. It was getting close to four o'clock and I was wondering where we were going when the comfortable silence was broken. His voice was soft, delicate in the air between us.
"I was thinking perhaps we could go up to Port Angeles? There is more of a selection there, and I'm sure you don't want the entire town noticing that you're out with a strange man and having it get back to your father." I hadn't even thought of that. His presence did odd things to me. Or perhaps it was simply how I was finally stumbling out of the hazy depression I have been in for so long that was leaving me, in essence, dazed and confused. I found that it was hard to think around him, as if I was wading through palpable fog. I nodded and turned back to the window, watching as the road flew behind us. I remained quiet but it was far from incommodious or awkward. The symphonies that played from the speakers were soothing me into a sedated state of mind as we entered Port Angeles. Parking with ease, James got out of the truck and walked over to my side to open the door. I expected, at most, his hand waiting to help me out and was surprised when his cool fingers curled around my sides and simply lifted me right out of the truck and placed me down beside him. Dangerously close to him. I let my gaze linger on his chest, on his partially opened button-up shirt, on his neck, on his lips. When I met his eyes, I realized he had probably been doing something very similar to me.
"Shall we?" He was so close that as he spoke his breath cascaded across my face. A feeling of familiarity washed over me and I knew exactly why. His breath smelled very much like Edward's. To my surprise, it didn't bother me. It didn't trigger any waterfalls of tears or emotional breakdowns. My breath hitched slightly, overwhelmed with the scent, but picked back up shortly thereafter. He didn't wait for my permission as he took my hand and led me down the sidewalk towards a quaint little Thai restaurant. We walked in and were immediately seated near the back, in a cozy little booth. The waitress took our drink orders, two Cokes, and walked off without saying much at all. Apparently James seemed more normal to everyone than Edward ever had. While he gave off an air of being dangerous, he also seemed completely at ease, which in turn relaxed those around him and made that light flavor of danger something you simply didn't think about.
When I finally looked down at the menu, I realized that none of the titles were in English. In fact, neither were the descriptions. I looked up at him in panic but he was simply smiling at me.
"I think, perhaps you would like the Satay Gai. It is a chicken satay with a delicious peanut sauce and many spices, none of which too strong, along with some coconut milk." He glanced up to me after reading, in English, what the menu described. I nodded softly, not really having any complaints about it. It did sound rather good. The waitress returned shortly and James smiled up at her. Gesturing to me he said "She will be having the Satay Gai with a side of white rice and I will have the Larb Gai, please." The waitress wrote everything down quickly and nodded at him, taking our menus with a light smile and walking off.
"A spicy chicken salad with toasted rice."
"You're going to eat it?"
"But... I thought you couldn't eat?" His laughter was louder than it had been, but it radiated from him and I found myself grinning stupidly while I watched.
"Your friends cannot eat, no. I can. As I said earlier, there are just some things that, as an ancient, I am able to do simply because of adaptation. Your old friends could eat, yes, but they would end up regretting it later with intense nausea. I do not have that problem. I can consume all forms of human food, but it does nothing for my body. I get no nutrients out of it, but I lead a much less conspicuous life and find that I fly under the radar with a lot more ease than most."
For the rest of the meal, which was really rather fantastic, we chatted comfortably about nothing in particular. Movies, books, music. James never mentioned Edwards name and we didn't talk about how he'd essentially stalked me for the past few months. We didn't talk about how he'd clearly been witness to my depression. He didn't pressure me to talk. I watched silently, a bit in awe, as he ate easily. We had something called fried ice cream for desert and I loved it. When we left the restaurant, it was twilight. James held my hand as we walked back to the truck and he opened the door for me once again.
The ride home was worse than I expected. Mostly because I was afraid of parting, which was a little odd for me to admit to. I found having James around came easily to me. Everything was natural, familiar. I enjoyed having him around. Maybe it was because he reminded me of what I lost, maybe it had something to do with how the longer I was around him, the smaller the hole in my chest became. Perhaps it had something to do with the way he spoke, always careful to choose his words and never be rash. It could have been a lot of things, but mostly I think it was simply because James made me feel like I wasn't dying. He eased the pain in my chest and he held my hand and he made me feel like I had my old life back. Just for a little while.
I wanted to keep driving, under the cover of the darkness just slip away. Not stop until we were far away from Forks and responsibility and my old memories. Just drive into the night and never look back. I held my breath at the red lights, hoping it would never change and we'd sit there at the intersection for hours. I did not want to go home. I didn't really want to go anywhere. I just wanted to go. To stay in the warm confines of the truck with his cold fingers entwined in mine between us on the seats. Alone. At peace. I think James knew somehow, because he drove slower on the ride home. Or maybe he wanted it too.
We pulled into the driveway of my house nonetheless. James slid out and stayed behind the shield of the truck as I slipped over the seat and got out the drivers' side also. Charlie would wonder. James grinned at me as I nearly toppled over forwards as I climbed out, steadying me with his hand. I stood there awkwardly for a moment, just looking up at him. I desperately wanted him to stay close.
"Would you stay with me tonight, after Charlie goes to bed?" I blurted. I froze, shocked at myself, and fought back the urge to cover my mouth with my hand. His smile ate up his face for the hundredth time tonight as he lifted my hand between us. He leaned down and kissed my palm.
"I'll be at your window as soon as he shuts his eyes tonight."