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Messaggio  simona80 il Gio 03 Mar 2011, 22:55

Chapter Two
Bella kept right on humming as she reached back into her pigeon hole for a small square of folded white paper. She opened it and read the following,
I‟m sorry.
-Bella Swan
She continued to hum as she puzzled as to what it meant to find her note in her mailbox the day after she had placed it at Professor Masen‟s door.
But her humming finally stopped, as did her heart, when she turned the paper over and read the following,
Masen is an ass.
There was a time when Bella would have dropped to the floor and pulled herself into a fetal position and stayed there, possibly indefinitely.
But at the age of twenty-three, Bella Swan was made of sterner stuff. So rather than standing in front of the mailboxes and contemplating how her short academic career had just gone up in flames and been reduced to a pile of ash at her feet, she quietly finished her business at the university and went home.
Pushing all thoughts of her career aside, Bella did four things.
First, she pocketed some cash from the emergency fund that was conveniently located in a Tupperware container underneath her bed.
Second, she walked to the closest liquor store and bought a very large bottle of very cheap tequila.
Third, she went home and wrote a long and apologetic condolence email to Alice. She neglected to tell Alice where she was living on purpose and sent the email from her Gmail account.
Fourth, she went shopping.
The fourth activity was intended only as a weepy and somewhat heartbroken tribute to both Alice and Esme, because they had loved expensive things and Bella was in reality too poor to shop.
Bella had been poor when Alice met her as a transfer student from Phoenix her junior year of high school. She was poor now, even more so, as she eked out a meager living on a graduate student‘s stipend, without the eligibility to work outside the university to supplement her income.
As Bella walked slowly past the beautiful shop windows on Bloor Street she thought of her old friend and her surrogate mother.
She stood in front of the Prada store, envisioning the one and only time Alice had taken her to go shopping for couture shoes. Bella still had those black Prada stilettos, tucked in a shoebox in the back of her closet. They‘d only been worn once, on the night she had her heart broken, and although she would have loved to have destroyed them like she destroyed her dress, she couldn‘t. Alice had bought them for her as a coming home present, having had no idea what Bella was actually coming home to.
Then Bella stood for what seemed like forever in front of the Chanel boutique and wept, remembering Esme. How she always greeted Bella with a smile and a hug whenever she came to visit. How when Bella‘s mother had passed away, under tragic circumstances, Esme had told her that she loved her and would love to be her mother, if she‘d let her. How Esme had been a better mother to her than Renee ever had, to Renee‘s shame and Bella‘s embarrassment.
And when all her tears were gone and the stores had closed for the evening, Bella walked slowly back to her apartment and began to beat herself up for having been a bad daughter, a lousy friend, and an insensitive twit who didn‘t know better than to check a scrap of paper to see if it was clean before she left it behind with her name on it for someone whose beloved mother had just died.
What must have been running through his mind when he found that note? Heartened by a shot or two or three of tequila, Bella allowed herself to ask that question.
What must he think of me now?
She contemplated packing up all of her belongings into a few suitcases and boarding a Greyhound bus for her hometown of Forks, Washington just so she wouldn‘t have to face him.
To her shame, Bella had not realized that it was Esme Professor Masen had been discussing on the telephone that terrible day.
It should have been obvious, especially to her, but she was so upset about having gotten off on the wrong foot with him. His hostility was shocking. But even more shocking was his face as he cried. All she had thought about was comforting him and that thought alone had distracted her from the source of his grief.
It wasn‘t enough that he just had his heart ripped out by hearing that Esme had died, without having an opportunity to say goodbye or to tell her that he loved her. It wasn‘t enough that Emmett had effectively torn into him for not coming home. No, after being destroyed by grief and crying like a child he had the delightful experience of opening his office door to escape to the airport and finding Bella‘s note. And what Peter had written on the other side.
Bella was surprised that he hadn‘t had her dismissed from the program on the spot.
Maybe he remembered. One more shot of tequila enabled Bella to formulate that thought, but to think no further, as she passed out on the floor.
Two weeks later, Bella found herself in a slightly better state as she checked her mailbox in the Centre. Yes, it was as if she was waiting on death row with no hope of commutation. No, she hadn‘t dropped out of school and gone home.
Sure, she blushed like a schoolgirl and she was painfully shy. But Bella was stubborn. She was tenacious. And she wanted very much to study Dante and if that meant invoking an unidentified co-conspirator in order to escape the death penalty, she was willing to do so.
She just hadn‘t revealed that fact to Peter. Yet.
―Isabella? Can you come here for a minute?‖ Mrs. Cope, the lovely and elderly administrative assistant called over her desk.
Bella smiled cheerfully and walked towards her.
―Isabella, have you had some sort of problem with Professor Masen?‖
―I, um, I – don‘t know.‖ She flushed and began to bite viciously on the inside of her cheek.
―I don‘t understand it. I received two urgent emails this morning asking me to set up an appointment for you to see him as soon as he returns. I never do this for the professors. They prefer to schedule their own appointments but he wanted me to schedule this and have the appointment documented in your file.‖
Bella nodded and removed her calendar from her knapsack, trying hard not to imagine the things he had said about her in his emails.
―So tomorrow then?‖
Bella‘s face fell. ―Tomorrow?‖
―Yes, dear. He arrives home tonight and he wants to meet you at four o‘clock tomorrow afternoon in his office. Can you be there? I have to email him back to confirm.‖
Bella nodded and noted the appointment in her calendar, pretending that the notation was necessary.
―Good. He didn‘t say what it‘s about but he said it was serious. I wonder what that means . . .‖ Mrs. Cope trailed off absently.
Bella concluded her business at the university and went home to pack with the help of Señorita Tequila.
By the following morning, most of her clothes were packed in two large suitcases in her closet. Not willing to admit defeat to herself or to the tequila, she decided not to pack up everything. So she did the one thing any self-respecting, procrastinating graduate student would do in such a situation besides drink and carouse with other procrastinating graduate students – she cleaned her apartment.
It didn‘t take very long. But by the time she was finished, everything was in perfect order, lightly scented with lemon and scrupulously clean. Bella took more than a little pride in her achievement and packed her knapsack, head held high.
Professor Masen, on the other hand, was stomping through the halls of the Centre for Medieval Studies, leaving graduate students and faculty colleagues spinning in his wake.
He was in a foul mood.
These days, he was ill tempered to begin with but his fractious disposition had been exacerbated by lack of sleep. He had slept not at all on the flight back from Seattle because he had been cursed by the gods of Air Canada and consequently seated next to a mother and her two year old child. The child screamed and wet himself, (and Professor Masen), the entire night while the mother slept soundly.
In the semi-darkness of the airplane, Professor Masen had reflected on the justice of government enforced sterilization on lax mothers as he mopped urine from his Armani trousers.
Bella arrived promptly for her four o‘clock appointment and was delighted to find that Professor Masen‘s door was closed.
Her delight soon left her when she realized that Professor Masen was inside his office growling at Peter.
When Peter emerged ten minutes later, still standing tall at six foot three but visibly shaken, Bella‘s eyes traveled to the fire exit. Five steps and she‘d be free behind a swinging door, running to escape the police for illegally sounding a fire alarm. It seemed like a tempting proposition.
Peter caught her eye and shook his head, mouthing a few choice expletives about the Professor. ―Would you like to have coffee with me sometime?‖
Bella looked up at him in surprise. She was already off kilter because of her meeting so without thinking much about it she nodded.
Peter smiled and leaned down towards her. ―It would be easier if I had your number.‖
She blushed and then quickly took out a piece of paper, checked it to be sure it was clean of any other writing, and hastily scribbled her cell phone number on it.
He took the piece of paper, glanced at it, and then smiled and patted her arm. ―Give him hell, Rabbit.‖
Bella didn‘t have time to ask him why he thought her nickname was or even should be Rabbit, because a beautiful but impatient voice was already calling her.
―Now, Miss Swan.‖
Bella walked into his office and stood uncertainly just inside the door.
Professor Masen looked tired. There were purplish bruises underneath his eyes and he looked very pale. His skin was thin and drawn over his cheekbones and angular jaw. All of the colour had gone out of his cheeks and his hair, as always, was a beautiful mess. He tugged at the copper strands, making it even wilder as he pored over a file. His tongue flicked out and slowly licked his red lower lip.
Bella stared transfixed at his beautiful mouth.
She hadn‘t seen him wear glasses before; perhaps he only wore them when his eyes were tired. But today, his penetrating emerald eyes were partially hidden behind a pair of black Prada eyeglasses. The black frames contrasted sharply with the bronze in his hair and eyebrows, making them a focal point on his face. She realized immediately that not only had she never seen a professor as beautiful as he before, she had never encountered a professor who was so studiously put together. He could have starred in a commercial, and that would have been something.
She knew him enough to know that he was mercurial. She knew him enough to know that he was at least recently a stickler for politeness and decorum. She knew it would probably be alright if she sat down in one of those comfy leather club chairs without his invitation, especially if he remembered her. But given the way he had addressed her, she stood.
―Please be seated, Miss Swan.‖ His voice was cold and flinty and he gestured to an uncomfortable chair.
Bella sighed and forsook the comfy leather chair in favour of the stiff Ikea one that sat just in front of one of his massive built-in bookcases.
―Move the chair in front of my desk. I won‘t crane my neck in order to see you.‖
Bella stood and did as she was told, nervously dropping her knapsack on the floor. She winced and blushed from head to foot as several of the smaller contents of her bag spilled out, including a tampon that rolled under Professor Masen‘s desk and came to a stop an inch from his leather briefcase.
Maybe he won‟t notice it until after I‟m gone.
Bella crouched down and began to gather up the other contents of her knapsack and had done so just when the strap snapped on her very old bag and everything she was carrying crashed with a large bang to the floor. She knelt as papers, pens, her Ipod and a green apple skidded across the floor and onto the Professor‘s beautiful Persian rug.
Oh gods of all graduate students and eternal screw ups, kill me now. Please.
―Are you a comedian, Miss Swan?‖
Bella‘s spine stiffened at the sarcasm and she glanced up at Professor Masen‘s face. What she saw nearly made her burst into tears.
How could someone so beautiful be so cruel? How could a voice so velvety and musical be so harsh? She was momentarily lost in the frozen depths of his peering green eyes, longing for the time when he had looked down at her with kindness. But rather than give in to her despair, she sighed and decided that she had better get used to the way he was now, even though it was a grave and painful disappointment.
She shook her head at him and went back to filling her now broken knapsack.
―I expect an answer when I ask a question. Surely you‘ve learned your lesson by now?‖ He studied her quickly and then glanced back at the file in his hands. ―Perhaps you‘re not that bright.‖
―I beg your pardon, Dr. Masen.‖ The sound of Bella‘s own voice surprised even her. It was soft but steely. She wasn‘t sure where it had come from but she silently thanked the gods of graduate students for coming to her aid and giving her courage . . .finally.
―It‘s Professor Masen,‖ he snapped. ―Any imbecile with a four year degree can call themselves a doctor.‖
Bella thought sadly of Carlisle, his doctor father, and tried to zip up her broken knapsack. Unfortunately, the zipper was broken now, too. She sighed as she pulled on it, trying to coax it back to life.
―Would you stop fussing with that ridiculous abomination of a bag and sit in a chair like a human being?‖
Bella could see that he was beyond furious now, so she placed her ridiculous abomination on the floor and sat quietly in the uncomfortable chair. She folded her hands, just to keep from wringing them, and waited with downcast eyes.
―You must think you‘re a comedian. I‘m sure you thought this was funny.‖ He threw a piece of paper at her, which landed just shy of her sneakers.
Bending down to pick it up she realized it was a photocopy of the terrible note she‘d left for him the day Esme died.
―I can explain. It was a mistake. I didn‘t write both . . .‖
―I‘m not interested in your excuses. I asked you to come to the last appointment and you didn‘t do it, did you?‖ He sneered.
―But you were on the telephone. The door was closed and . . .‖
―The door wasn‘t closed. I suppose this was meant to be funny, too?‖ He tossed something that looked like a business card.
Bella held it in her hand and gasped. It was a small condolence card, the kind you would send with flowers, and it said the following,
I‟m so sorry for your loss.
Please accept my sympathy.
With love,
-Bella Swan.
She looked up and saw that he was practically spitting he was so angry.
―It‘s not what you think. I wanted to say that I was sorry and . . .‖
―Hadn‘t you already done that with the note you left?‖ He spat back at her.
―But this was supposed to be for your family, who . . .‖
―Leave my family out of it!‖ He turned his body away from her and closed his eyes, removing his glasses so that he could pinch the bridge of his nose between his thumb and his finger.
Bella had been evicted from the realm of the surprised and transferred right into the land of the astonished. No one had explained. He had completely misunderstood her card and no one had set him straight. With a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, she began to puzzle over what that meant.
After calming himself through what appeared to be a Herculean effort, the Professor closed the file and dropped it contemptuously on his desk.
―I see that you came here on scholarship to study Dante. I‘m the only professor in this department who is currently supervising theses in that field. Since this –― He gestured between the two of them. ―- is not going to work, you‘ll have to change your thesis topic and find another supervisor. Or transfer to another school. I‘ll inform the Director of the Centre of my decision, effective immediately. Now if you‘ll excuse me.‖
He swivelled in his chair to his laptop and began typing furiously.
Bella was stunned.
While she was sitting there, silently absorbing not only his tirade but also his conclusion, the Professor spoke to her again. ―That is all, Miss Swan.‖
She dragged herself to her feet, still dazed, and picked up her offending knapsack. She cradled it to her chest, somewhat uncertainly, and then slowly exited his office, looking very much like a pretty zombie.
As she exited the building and crossed to the other side of Bloor, Bella realized that she had chosen the wrong day to leave home without a jacket. The temperature had dropped and the heavens had opened. Bella‘s thin, long-sleeved t-shirt was soaked only five steps outside of the Centre. She hadn‘t thought to bring an umbrella, so she faced the prospect of walking three long, city blocks in wind and cold and rain to get to her apartment.
O gods of bad karma and thunderstorms, have mercy upon me.
As she walked, Bella took some comfort in the realization that her ridiculous abomination of a knapsack was currently serving a very proper purpose as a covering for her wet and possibly see through t-shirt and cotton bra. Take that, Professor Masen.
As she walked, she contemplated what had just happened in his office. She had prepared herself by packing two suitcases the night before, just in case. But she had sincerely believed that he would remember. She had believed that he would be kind to her. But he wasn‘t.
He hadn‘t allowed her to explain the colossal fuck upppery that was the note. He had misunderstood her flowers and card. And he‘d effectively dismissed her from the program. It was all over. Now she would have to return to Charlie‘s little house in Forks, in disgrace. . .
. . .and he would know that she was back and laugh at her. They would laugh at her together. Stupid Bella. Thought she‘d leave Forks and Seattle and try to make something of herself. Thought she could go to graduate school and become a professor, just like . . .
Who was she kidding? It was all over now, at least for this academic year.
Bella looked down at the destroyed and now soaked ridiculous abomination as if it were an infant and hugged it tightly to her chest. After her horrid display of gracelessness and ineptitude, she didn‘t even have her dignity anymore. And to lose it all in front of him, after all these years, well, it really was too much to bear.
She thought of the lone tampon underneath his desk and knew that when he leaned down to pick up his briefcase at five o‘clock her humiliation would be complete. At least she wouldn‘t be there to witness his shocked and disgusted reaction. She envisioned him having a cow, literally; lying down on the beautiful Persian rug that graced his office and painfully and loudly giving birth to a calf.
About two blocks from her apartment, Bella‘s long, chestnut curls were plastered to her head in stringy sheets. Her sneakers squished-squashed with every step. Rain poured off of her as if she was a downspout. Cars and buses whooshed by, and she didn‘t even bother trying to get out of the way as tidal waves of dirty water crashed over her from the busy street. Like life‘s disappointments, she simply accepted it. At least until she had the time and composure to plan her escape.
Another car drove by, this one slowing down appropriately so that she wouldn‘t be soaked by its splash. A new looking shiny, silver Volvo. Bella had always felt a special attachment to that kind of car, although she could not explain why.
The Volvo slowed down even more and then came to a stop. As Bella walked by, she saw the passenger door open and a musical voice called out, ―Get in.‖
She hesitated.
Surely he wasn‘t calling to her. She looked around, but she was the only one foolish enough to be out walking in a torrential downpour.
Curious, she took a step closer.
She knew better than to get into a car with a stranger, even in a Canadian city. But as she peered into the driver‘s seat and saw two piercing green eyes stare back at her, she walked slowly towards the car.
―You‘ll catch pneumonia and die. Get in. I‘ll drive you home.‖ His voice was softer now, the fire was gone. This was almost the voice that she remembered.
So for the sake of memory and for no other reason, she climbed into the passenger‘s seat awkwardly and pulled the door closed, silently apologizing to the gods of Volvos for fouling their pristine black leather interior and immaculate car mats.
She paused as the strains of Claire de Lune filled her ears and she smiled to herself. She had always liked that tune, but did not know why.
And then she turned to face the driver. ―Thank you very much, Professor Masen.‖


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