Author: ExpensiveTastes PM
Overachieving freshman Bella Swan's world collides with carefree Phi Chi Kappa president Edward Cullen's. Surviving college. Surviving each other. It's going to be quite a year. AU/AH.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 12 - Words: 42,063 - Reviews: 74 - Favs: 101 - Follows: 167 - Updated: 07-04-11 - Published: 03-15-10 - id: 5818526
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Summary: Bella Swan is an overachieving freshman who can hold her own. Edward Cullen is the president of the fraternity Phi Chi Kappa whose idea of 'looking to the future' is ordering a keg for the weekend three days in advance. Both attend Monroe Bradbury University intent on getting the best experience college has to offer - in two very different ways. Can romance and companionship help this unlikely pair find the balance between having fun and taking education seriously? With their friends by their sides they learn that maybe college is about more than parties or grades - maybe it's about growing up. Welcome to Monroe Bradbury University. It's going to be quite a year.
! The more you know !: Monroe Bradbury University is a fictional college. The name comes from a combination of the University my best friend attends (Monroe College in NY) and the fictional college, Bradbury University, from the movie The Butterfly Effect.
Characters belong to SMeyer. Inspiration comes from the Twilight saga and Patrick Sean Smith. Creativity is all I got to my name.
She said all she ever wanted was a safe bet
So she'll never come undone
So if you feel the light under the silver moon
We'll sing the same old songs, just like we used to do
all she wanted - the right coast
Chapter One: The Next Logical Step or Simply Another Relocation
"Bella!" Alice squealed, launching herself across the room with remarkable speed. She flung her body against mine and wrapped her tiny arms around my shoulders. I dropped the bags I'd been carrying with a thud and returned the hug, trying unsuccessfully to match her excessive enthusiasm.
"Alice!" I winced as she tightened the embrace, making it nearly impossible for me to breathe. "You do realize it's been less than twenty-four hours since we've last seen each other." I wheezed dramatically, hoping to alert her of my impending collapse should she continue denying my lungs the ability to expand and fill with oxygen. It was impressive how tightly her small frame was capable of squeezing me.
"I know that!" She laughed lightly and finally released my body from her vice grip, shaking her head. "But, we're here! We made it! We are officially a part of the two-thousand and ten Monroe Bradbury University freshman class."
She bounced around the small dorm room clapping her hands together and I couldn't help but find her energy contagious. Even though I felt my acceptance letter had already served as a true testament to my place at the college, I had to agree that actually being here made everything feel a bit more real. Unnerving, yes, but also real.
There was a deep grumble of someone clearing their throat behind me and I spun around to see Charlie in the doorway struggling with a stack of large plastic boxes containing my things. His face was turning a particularly worrisome shade of red as he gripped the containers precariously by the tips of his fingers and I rushed over to help him before he suffered a coronary.
"Oh!" I squeaked, taking the top two boxes. "Sorry!"
The last thing I needed on my first day on my own, physically away from Forks and emotionally even farther away from Phoenix, was Charlie having a heart attack.
Once I had helped him lower the containers to the floor, Alice skipped back across the room to assault my dad in the same manner as she had done me, wrapping her arms around his mid-section in a tight hug. I didn't miss the way his posture stiffened and his mouth pressed into a tight, white line, though Alice did. Or maybe she just ignored it. Either way, his comically twitching moustache would make anyone believe he was highly uncomfortable, and maybe he really was, but I knew that secretly he loved the doting and the shows of affection.
"Long time no see, Alice," he chuckled, when she had released him, rolling his eyes with exaggeration as he smoothed the front of his shirt. I giggled too, remembering the night before when the three of us had shared a table at the Fork's diner with Alice's parent's, the Brandon's, celebrating our last night in town. We'd definitely been a louder table than the Fork's diner was used to hosting, swapping stories and memories and laughing until the tears rolled down our cheeks. Charlie included if you could believe it.
Alice and I had been friends since the very first day I moved to Forks from my mother's place in Phoenix. I had been relatively unsure of my living arrangement with Charlie considering our preceding time together had been a few weeks per summer back before I'd turned twelve. Those short visits were hardly comparable to moving in completely and claiming permanent residence, but I actually found the transition to be unexpectedly smooth. It helped that on my first day at Forks High School it was Alice who had been assigned to showing me around and helping me get to my classes. I remember finding her absolutely exhausting at the time - exhausting, but also distracting - and I welcomed anything that kept my attention away from the dozens of pairs of eyes curiously probing 'the new girl'.
Apparently, in Alice's world, helping me manage my locker combination was equivalent to pressing our bloodied palms together in a friendship pact, because from that first, not-nearly-as-terrifying-as-it-could've-been day on, we were inseparable. I like to think that I had been proactive in our budding friendship, rather than merely a willing participant, but really, all the credit goes to Alice. Despite the fact that I was awkward and boring by high school standards, Alice never took no for an answer when it came to our friendship, beginning with that first day after the dismissal bell had rung. Instead of skipping off to join one of the groups talking and laughing and socializing in the parking lot, she'd latched onto the sleeve of my dark blue parka and begged me to come over to her house, claiming she needed a fresh eye to judge the outfit she'd picked for the Homecoming dance. Despite my 'eye for fashion' being a little, well, blind, and the Homecoming dance still being two months away, I had little time to argue or protest before she was shoving me towards my truck and instructing me to follow her bright yellow Cabrio home.
Alice and I were opposites in many ways, but somehow it worked. We filled in each other's gaps and maximized the other's strengths. We persuaded each other to try new things and gain new experiences. We kept each other grounded. When one of us was hurting, so was the other. When Alec DeMazzi broke Alice's heart two days before the Spring formal, I'd showed up on her doorstep with a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream and a reluctant, grumbled offer to be her stand in date. When I'd been stuck on the couch for two weeks with three bruised ribs, she'd bought every classic novel available in Port Angeles and hand delivered them with a Grande Vanilla Chai and a bookmark she'd beaded herself.
We weren't always in sync - her breezing through the halls of high school, while I choose to shuffle around quietly, hidden beneath my hoodie - but we were always on the same page, always keenly aware of what the other needed and almost eerily in tune to the others feelings.
That's not to say things were constantly smooth sailing. Alice and I experienced our fair share of rough seas. We were both stubborn and often had trouble seeing eye-to-eye, neither of us ever wanting to be the first to back down. We knew how to annoy each other, just what buttons to push without going too far. We were like sisters in every sense of the word - hair-pulling, screaming matches and crocodile tears included.
Our history both excited me and terrified me for the future. We were now truly testing our bond. Together, we were on our own for the very first time (as much as one can be 'on their own' with their best friend) and attempting to conquer four year college. It would certainly be interesting if nothing else.
Despite our friendship, it was not an easy, cut-and-dry decision to dorm with my bff. Initially, the thought of living with Alice in such small quarters was terrifying, however, after assessing my other options, I found the idea of rooming with a complete stranger even more intimidating
The truth of the matter was that Alice still exhausted me sometimes. Even though I had built up enough stamina to regularly endure her full-throttle personality, I relied on my hours of solitude in my bedroom at Charlie's to recharge. It was nice to curl up on my purple polka dot bedspread with a book and enjoy some serious alone time now and then.
Before taking this leap, the closest experience Alice and I'd ever had to living together was a long and uninterrupted week in California when I joined the Brandon's on their summer vacation. We'd gotten along fine, but I wasn't sure how things would pan out with studying and fixed schedules thrown into the mix. The semester was also roughly four months long, greatly surpassing our one week trial run. I just hoped the arrangement wouldn't sacrifice my studies, or worse, our friendship.
Monroe Bradbury University was a medium-sized college located an hour or so south of Portland, Oregon. It was four hours away from Forks - far enough away for me to be out from under Charlie's watchful eye, but close enough to drive home should I suddenly miss the damp, dreary, green-tinted place I'd come to call home. It was a good enough school with a wide variety of majors and clubs and facilities, but the truth of the matter was that I could have attended a number of prestigious colleges.
I was an intelligent girl and many subjects came easy to me without hours upon hours of effort. Those few that didn't just required more work to pull out the A. My grades were nearly flawless, though my college applications lacked the kind of extra-curricular activities that colleges rewarded with scholarships.
I was uncoordinated and clumsy, so sports were out of the question pretty much since birth. The last organized physical activity I had participated in was ballet when I was seven. During my third lesson, I broke my wrist attempting an extremely simple position which should have required zero hand involvement to begin with, let alone enough to cause injury. Needless to say, I never went back. The cruel and unusual punishment that was state mandated P. E. continually renewed my belief that physical activity just was not for me.
During my first two years of high school in Phoenix, I joined a few after school clubs that pertained to my interests, but I preferred to be a sheep rather than a shepherd and never volunteered for any positions of leadership. Of course, my school in Arizona was three times the size of Forks High and properly funded for extra-curriculars like book clubs and science teams. Forks High couldn't even afford up-to-date history textbooks. There wasn't very much to get involved with and after meeting Alice, I found my extra time filled with things of the more unscholarly persuasion. That's not to say we were off being juvenile delinquents every afternoon after class, just that to Alice 'the Classics' were more along the lines of Sixteen Candles and Animal House.
So, lacking the well-rounded quality of scholarship worthy applicants, my top-ranked college acceptance letters were without monetary assistance. And since Charlie's small town police chief position just barely held steady in the medium-income bracket, and since I had very little savings to my name, most of my preferred schools were knocked out of the running.
I tried not to be angry with Charlie knowing it was completely irrational and selfish of me. Deep down, I knew if he'd predicted there was even a flicker of a chance that I would suddenly and permanently become a dependant presence in his home and life, he would have started saving up some cash to assist me with my future from the beginning. As it was a portion of his pay check had been going into an account in my name for the better part of the past two years, which was a lot more than could be said for my mother. She was a bit of a flake, especially when it came to looking towards the future, which had landed me in the predicament of needing Charlie's help in the first place. It was all very frustrating, but I was grateful for what I did have. However, in the private confines of my mind I allowed myself to be selfish and angry and unreasonable - until the guilt set in - and that never took long. Throughout the entire humbling ordeal, I did hold on to one, nonnegotiable requirement of the college I attended - it had to be out of state.
See, another charming personality trait of my darling mother was her brutal honesty. She rarely spoke about Charlie and when she did it was almost always indirectly. The small remaining percentage of Charlie-centric discussions were always dramatic and desperate and tear-filled.
Bella, honey, never make my mistakes.
Your father who convinced me to settle down in Forks and it is one of my biggest regrets.
That small town crippled me. It ruined my life. It extinguished my spark, Bella. Charlie never thought about what was best for me. He never thought about what was best for us.
Promise me, Bella. Promise me that you'll never let a man trap you in some rinky-dink, dream-crushing town. Be a strong, independent woman.
At the time, I neglected to remind my mom that I was actually conceived and born in that 'rinky-dink, dream-crushing' town and that Charlie's ability to support us as a family was dependent on his position as police chief. He didn't have very many other skills that didn't involve watching football or casting a fishing line, so where were we supposed to go exactly? And since the day I'd shown up in Forks with my faded purple suitcase, he'd thought about nothing but what was best for me, which was a lot more than my mother had managed over the years.
On top of it all, it seemed unfairly critical of her to judge Charlie, especially when I was given the shaft once minor league baseball hopeful Phil entered her life. Apparently my mother, strong and independent woman that she was, desired nothing more than to accompany him on the road. That plan conflicted with her obligation to be my parent and I effectively shipped myself out to Forks so that she didn't have to.
Ironically, she hadn't fought me on the decision despite the fact that I was exiling myself to the very place she repeatedly begged me to avoid at all costs. She did, however, in one final, desperate plea before I boarded the plane, grip my shoulders so hard it hurt. She kissed my cheek then whispered in my ear, her voice thick with desperation, "don't get trapped, Bella. Get out of there as soon as you can."
Not that she ever offered any assistance in that department.
Still, I did love my eccentric, dramatic mother. While our history was riddled with potholes, not all roads had been rocky. There had been good times and I never doubted that she loved me in the best way she knew how. And, because I knew deep down she did want the best for me, something about her words haunted me during my time in Forks.
Charlie's life in Forks - the one that I came to share - wasn't nearly as deplorable as my mother described, but it was mediocre and ordinary. In Forks, there was very little opportunity for advancement or job placement that didn't involve wearing some type of apron. Luckily, a few out of state colleges recognized my potential, namely Monroe Bradbury University who offered me an academic scholarship that would cover two-thirds of my yearly tuition, minus room and board. The remaining fee was doable without digging myself into a massive hole of student loans. The catch was that I needed to maintain a ceiling grade. A sustained three-point-five grade point average requirement seemed fair enough to me and I doubted I'd have any trouble.
Alice's decision to attend MBU was much more straightforward. To put it simply, she followed me.
Alice applied to all the colleges I did, minus those she deemed 'too snooty' for her tastes. Ironically, the 'snooty' schools were the one's I longed to attend, but was unable to because I couldn't realistically afford them without selling my soul. Even more ironic was the fact that Alice's family could.
The Brandon's were not what you would consider particularly wealthy, but they were the type of family Norman Rockwell had in mind when he created his masterpieces. Alice had grown up with two loving parents who mandated family dinner nights four out of seven nights of the week. They sent out Christmas cards signed in delicate cursive by each member of the family and went on vacations together every summer. Mr. Brandon had taught Alice how to ride a two-wheel bike, chasing her down the street yelling words of encouragement and later how to drive, keeping his temper in check even when she backed into the garage door. Mrs. Brandon baked pink-frosted cakes for all of Alice's birthdays and took her back to school shopping every year. And Alice's parents had been putting money away for her college expenses since the night she was merely a pink plus sign on a pregnancy test stick.
I wasn't jealous of Alice as much as I was disappointed that I had missed out on any semblance of traditional childhood. The time for my daddy to be teaching me to tie my shoes and my mommy showing me how to French braid was long gone.
"Well, one more trip should do it," Charlie estimated, referring to the last of my things still loaded in the bed of my old red pickup truck sitting out in the parking lot. I nodded in agreement as my mind was pulled back into the present and I took inventory of the bags and boxes piled around my feet.
Alice's things were already mostly unpacked and in serious danger of spilling over into my designated personal space, but it certainly wasn't surprising. I'd be willing to bet she'd managed no more than two hours of sleep the previous night, priding herself of being the only new student moved into the dorms before dawn. Alice had also found it necessary to bring every single possession to college, despite my warnings of the room being spatially challenged.
She claimed everything she had stuffed into her large purple Rubbermaid containers was a necessity, though I was curious to discover exactly how often she'd find use for the hot pink pom-poms currently hanging off the post of her bed. If I remembered correctly, she'd purchased them to complete the cheerleader Halloween costume she'd worn in fifth grade - the same Halloween costume Charlotte Marcaso showed up in, which apparently was enough to explain their continued rivalry throughout high school.
Alice offered to help Charlie and me carry in the remainder of my things from outside, but we both politely declined knowing there wasn't much left. I followed my father out of the room and down the hall quietly, realizing suddenly that our time together was coming to a close quickly. I felt the urge to say something profound and moving, but words were failing me. This was a rare and frustrating occurrence and it made me feel guilty that expressing affection towards my father was so difficult. The truth was that I'd never said goodbye to Charlie with any kind of sincerity before.
The first time I'd left him was with my mother and I'd been too young to understand. There had been no hugs or well wishes. The times when I'd spent a week in Forks over summer vacation during my childhood had been painful, and by the time my flight was boarding, I couldn't get away fast enough. But over the past two years, Forks had become a home, not a sentence, and Charlie had become my father instead of just a chaperone. For the first time, I would miss what I would be leaving behind in Washington.
As I followed him silently to the end of the hall and out into the balmy late August air I wondered if he was struggling with words as well. I figured as much, after all we were eerily similar. When we reached the truck I peeked into the bed. Only one canvas suitcase remained.
"Looks like I can get the rest," I said with a small smile, flexing my small bicep.
"I can carry it in for you," Charlie offered, hoisting the bag up out of the truck bed and placing it on the ground by my feet.
I considered it for a moment before deciding that I could only prolong his departure for so long.
"It's ok. I got it."
We both glanced idly around the parking lot which was dotted with parents and teenagers carrying their things across to the dorms and embracing in tearful goodbyes. I chewed my lip anxiously and Charlie cleared his throat, redirecting my attention. It seemed he was as ready as I was to get this awkward exchange over with.
"You'll have to tell Alice I said goodbye. Oh and to stay out of trouble. You two better keep an eye out for each other," Charlie warned with a chuckle, his moustache twitching back and forth over his upper lip.
I nodded in compliance and offered a small smile, rubbing my hands together.
Unexpectedly, he pulled me into a rough, awkward embrace and I surprised myself by wrapping my arms tightly around his middle and returning the squeeze. I couldn't remember the last time I had hugged Charlie, but it wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I'd anticipated. I buried my head into his shoulder inhaling the scent of Zest soap and the faint spice of the cologne I had bought him last Christmas. I knew it must have been a deliberate choice of his to splash some on this morning and it made me smile.
Somehow, I'd landed the role of caretaker in both relationships with my parents, whether by choice or necessity. My mother had needed someone to keep her grounded and talk her out of her wackier ideas. I'd averted her from more than one disastrous situations with logic, reasoning and occasionally a shiny distraction.
Charlie would have been content treating me for dinner at the Forks Diner and heating up frozen single-serve meals. He didn't mind that his undershirts were wrinkled or that the coffee table was coated in a layer of dust thick enough to write your name in. I'd slipped easily and comfortably into the domestic role, cooking and cleaning and helping with the laundry. I didn't mind the tasks and he was so gracious about my contributions that it made me want to do even more.
Just as I'd worried before leaving my mother, I now worried about how Charlie would do without me. Seeming to read my mind, he released me and looked down into my face seriously, shaking his head from side to side.
"Now, I'll miss your chicken parmesan and that delicious breakfast casserole you whip up, but remember Bella, I fended fine for sixteen years on my own. Besides," he added, scratching the back of his neck and suddenly becoming extremely interested with the toes of his boots, "Sue really enjoys cooking too."
My eyes widened and my jaw went slack in response to his sly admission. "Sue Clearwater?" I asked stupidly, knowing full well the answer was yes.
Sue was a friend of Charlie's through her husband, Harry, who had passed away last summer. Charlie and Harry had been fishing buddies and when an unexpected heart attack claimed his life Charlie had been there for her and she for him. I'd noticed she'd started stopping over much more frequently with baked goods and containers of beef stew as the time for me to leave for college approached.
"Well, yeah," Charlie mumbled, still not meeting my eyes. "With Harry gone and the kids off in a hundred different directions she says there's no one around her house that appreciates a home-cooked meal."
"Oh, I bet you're very appreciative," I teased.
Charlie's face blanched then flamed red and I couldn't help but giggle.
Truthfully, I was happy for him. As far as I knew, he hadn't been romantically involved with anyone since my mother. I liked knowing someone, at very least, would take over my place as head chef in the Swan kitchen.
Once his face had returned to its natural color and my giggling fit had subsided we stood in awkward silence, waiting for the inevitable exchange of good-byes.
"I'll miss you," I said quietly and it was true. I was like my father in so many ways it was scary. It made us oddly compatible. Living in Forks could have, and should have, been a nightmare but it wasn't.
"The cruiser could make it down here in four hours if you ever need me. And don't forget WU is always available. You could move back home and commute and we-"
I held up my hand to silence him, already familiar with his mantra of closer college offers.
"I'll be fine and I'll be home for winter break."
He nodded and pulled open the driver's side door of my red pickup, hesitating momentarily before climbing in.
"Be good, Bells."
I nodded as he closed the door. There would be nothing more - no fatherly demands that I do well in my classes or stay away from partying or eat right. There would be no ultimatums or final warnings about GPAs.
I stepped back away from the truck as it roared to life, remembering the morning Charlie had surprised me with the red beast. It had only been my third day living in Forks and he'd bought it cheap off a friend. Looking back, I guess the truck was a symbol of my relationship with Charlie. It was an old rusted piece of junk with little hope of starting up, let alone getting me from point A to point B, but with a little patience and a lot of elbow grease I had come to love it. I had come to love Charlie.
We exchanged waves and tight smiles as he pulled out of the spot. I watched him drive through the parking lot and down the road until the truck became a tiny pinprick of red and then disappeared from sight completely.
I sighed and then it was over. Charlie was gone and a new part of my life was beginning. I was a college student. I had made it.
My excitement renewed, I bolted from my spot in the parking lot, my sneakers slapping against the pavement as I sprinted across the street and back up to the dorms.
To those who followed my account over here: thank you!
To new readers: welcome!
Reviews are wonderful, if you are so moved.