|In the Debris
Author: BelieveItOrNot PM
A story of unlikely friends, a story of family, a search for truth and a search of self. "She's everyone else's Isabella, but she's only my Bella." "I write a poem about a boy and girl who fall in love in the eye of a tornado." AH E/B V/JRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 37 - Words: 215,300 - Reviews: 2,562 - Favs: 981 - Follows: 1,010 - Updated: 12-31-12 - Published: 03-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7915341
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight
In the Debris is rated M for mature content.
This story alternates perspectives between Edward and Victoria. It is an Edward/Bella and Victoria/James story, and this is my take on human Victoria and James as teenagers. Flawed, but not evil.
Also, I will be taking some liberties with the town of Forks. It's still the small forest town you're probably used to, though.
I hope you give it a try. :)
In the Debris
My sheets are soaked with sweat and I'm shivering. Too cold. Too hot. It's unpredictable which mornings I'll wake up to this, although for the past week it's been daily.
Dreams of my mother.
In these dreams, she's healthy with a face painted in makeup. She's happy, cooking Max and me breakfast, wishing us well for school, reminding me of my curfew, warning me to treat the girls right.
I'm aware of the dream-state before I'm fully awake, and in the deep, dark space before the light comes in, she dies all over again - face fading to ash, skin going cold.
And with the light comes her voice.
Edward, she said yesterday morning, come here.
Edward, she says this morning, be good.
And my eyes open.
Is that it? Is that what she said just before she fell? I'll never know, but this will haunt me forever.
I smash my face into my pillow - the only evidence I ever cry.
I tear my sheets off my bed, throwing them in a pile by my front door for Jane - our housekeeper and now cook - to take care of later. My pillow case is next. I rub it rough over my face and then toss it with the rest of the crumpled mess on the floor.
After I shower, I try to comb my hair, but the waves keep it from doing anything. I let it go on its own, even if it stands on end. Then I wander to my pint-size kitchen to make my own breakfast. From here, at the far end of the pool house, you can see the entire length of the place. Sofa, sitting area, stripped bed next to that, and then the only room with a door, the bathroom.
The last thing I do before leaving the pool house is check my wallet for the newspaper article. It's there and I can go.
I push the dream words deep down before I open the door. All those words, the dreams, they'll stay in the pool house. The article - her article - always comes with me, wherever I go.
I enter the main house knowing I won't run into my dad or Esme. He leaves for the hospital at about the crack of dawn, and Esme sleeps in. Whatever, that's fine. I'd sleep in, too, if I didn't have school.
I check the kitchen counter and spot the stack of bills. There's more than enough in my wallet, but I take the stack anyhow. I can't say it isn't the possibility of cash that has me traipsing through the house in the morning instead of walking around the outside to the front. But honestly, if I don't take it, Esme will, and as far as I'm concerned, my mother's bed is more than she deserves.
At times, I do feel sorry for Esme since it's clear she isn't much more than a trophy for my father. If he could, he'd display her on a glass shelf, I'm sure. But from what I understand, she knows that. She salivates over his money and his crowd, so my sympathy for her is not long-lived.
I remember the sympathetic stares and whispers aimed at me during the funeral. How my dad and Esme's relationship started before my mom's death. How long, came a whisper. Months, came another. Years, came yet another.
What relationship? I remember thinking. I'd never met Esme.
I couldn't let myself believe those whispers, and did not want to hear it confirmed by anyone.
I would've killed my father.
Esme turned out to be real and my father's still alive, working his damnedest to feel important, and maybe he is. As a surgeon, he certainly saves enough lives. Not his first wife's, though. Where was he when she collapsed? With Esme?
Important or not, to me, he's just a man who gives me a roof and leaves hundred dollar bills on the counter every so often. Other than that, I want nothing to do with him, and I'm sure the feeling is mutual.
I can't count on a day or dollar amount. Sometimes it's one hundred, other times several hundred, and other times the counter's empty. It's as if he just pinches a clump from whatever happens to be in his wallet at the time and tosses it aside like loose change. That's what it is, really, in comparison to most families in Forks, who might be searching under couch cushions for loose change rather than tossing hundreds around.
I meet Max at the front of the house. He's all I have left in this family. My dad no longer counts.
"Hey Bro," he says with a smile, and I scruff up his hair.
In the car, he complains. "The Mustang? It's so loud. Everyone will look."
"It's a classic. Let them look."
As always, I have to remind him of his seatbelt as we travel down the twists of the forest drive.
"Bro?" he asks after he buckles in. I have to stifle a laugh every time he calls me "Bro." He's just recently taken to calling me that. At thirteen, I'm sure it makes him feel older, like a real teen. I try not to let him see me laugh. "Do you get nervous on the first day of school?"
"Nope. Do you?" I look over at him with a frown. What reason does he have for nerves? He's known most of these kids since preschool.
I used to live down the hall from Max, on the top floor of the main house. It's a room with a balcony that pushes itself neck-and-neck with some of the fir trees. But I took over the back pool house as soon as I turned eighteen, last June.
I met no parental resistance when I moved out there. I didn't expect to. Hell, I didn't even ask permission. I wanted my own space, so I packed up everything I owned and moved it on out. Since I lost my mother, I've taken free reign over my life, unwilling to be shaped by my father into becoming my father.
He calls my actions ignorant, calls me an ingrate, and threatens to stop leaving money for me.
He has yet to stop the money; he still expects Ivy League; he tries to enforce his rules, although it's impossible to see them through when he's never around.
Esme kind of tries every once in a while, too - "Edward, would your father approve?" - but that's a joke. She gets nothing but a laugh out of me, not even a stifled one.
I moved out of the main house just after my father remarried. Yes, my father remarried within the same year his wife died. To be exact, he remarried within three months of her death. But who's keeping track? I'm fairly certain that I'm the only one in the world, aside from Max, who misses my mother. And even I have to pretend I don't miss her because nobody, nobody, wants to hear an eighteen year old guy whining about missing mommy.
To get to Max's school, or just about anywhere in Forks, you have to drive through the main street of town, which lines the waterfront. The river is a long one, wider in some places, and follows the length of the town, breaking off into creeks and streams all over the place. There's this one bag lady you'll probably see hanging out in front of one of the buildings. I don't know where she goes during winter, but there are rumors she's actually rich and has a big house somewhere. I don't know. She smells like urine when you pass her.
Most of the buildings on Main Street are aged, built of wood that's near-rotting. A couple of the buildings have been kept up and painted. The barber shop, for one, is all white with one of those old-fashioned striped poles out front. Through the month of September, there's an actual barber shop quartet singing outside the door. As you walk in or out, they like to make eye contact with you while they're singing. It's embarrassing.
I drop Max off at school, reaching over his shoulder to give him an arm hug before I let him go. I know he likes that even if he pretends not to. I just want the kid to be happy.
"Bro," he says. "Not cool." But he's smiling. He can't hide that smile even when he wants to. Never could.
"Why don't you skip a few grades and come to my school, bud? You'll be the coolest one there, no doubt."
"By the time I get there, you'll be gone," he says.
I ruffle up his hair again. It's a lot like mine and when I take my hand away, the hair is stuck in the messed up way I've left it. His fingers rake through it, smoothing. I don't say anything else and he lets himself out.
Lately I've been thinking I won't do that. Leave him. Someone's got to look out for him. I let the names of local colleges run through my mind again, and while nothing stands out as stellar, leaving him with the father we're stuck with and his wife doesn't sound so stellar, either.
I watch until Max blends in with the crowd and I no longer see him. It bothers me, though, that he walks all the way in to campus by himself - doesn't greet or get greeted by anybody.
He's not invisible. What's going on with him?
I take off for Forks High, and while I was telling my little brother the truth when I said I wasn't nervous, I'd still rather be heading anywhere else.
I hit shuffle, turn the stereo volume up and gun the accelerator. My thoughts are unnecessary.
In the parking lot I push my sunglasses on despite the overcast sky. No need for eye contact with anyone.
But most of them haven't seen me all summer so I'm out of my mind if I think I'll be left alone. As I pass, some girls touch my arm or pat my chest. Some guys nod my way. If any of them are smiling, I don't know - I'm not looking.
Alice is first to try to stop me, all four feet whatever of her. She's on her toes, like she'll kiss my cheek, but I don't give and she can't reach, so, like others, she pats my shoulder.
"How ya doing? We never see you anymore."
Because I don't party anymore, I should say.
"Have you met Isabella, yet?"
"Isabella, the new girl."
"Never heard of her."
Alice speeds up to keep in pace with me. I stare straight ahead as I notice Lauren making her way toward me in my peripheral. At least Alice's presence will keep her away for the time being. I slow down so Alice doesn't have to work as hard to keep up.
"Well, if you bothered leaving your house ever, maybe you would have."
I stop, turn to look at her. "Okay, who's Isabella?" I figure maybe I've been a little too rude. Judging from her tone of voice, she isn't likely to take much more of it.
"She's great. So much fun. We've hung out with her over the summer." I don't like the way she overemphasizes "so" as if it has way more "o's" than it does. It makes me not trust what she's saying, like she wants me to believe it too much. I figure it's part of a guilt trip for my avoiding them all summer. "Everyone loves her already. You'll see."
"Can't wait." I continue forward.
"Edward?" She's still stopped behind me. And I know that inflection. Here comes the real reason she's approached me. "I need a favor."
"Spit it out." I'm already reaching for my back pocket, assuming she's going to ask to borrow money, in which case she knows I won't ask her to pay me back. I'm wrong.
"This is a friend thing, okay? Can you…" She waves her hand to motion me closer. I abide, taking a few steps and lean down for her.
She whispers, "I'm pretty sure I know Jasper likes me. So why won't he give me the time of day?"
"Jasper likes you? More than a friend?"
"Shh!" She's waving her hand again, faster this time. "I think so, but he won't talk to me about it."
"Alice." I put my hand on her shoulder this time, partly as an apology for being so aloof before, partly because I don't get how she can think Jasper likes her. "You've seen his sketchbook. I don't think he likes anybody. Not like that. He gets laid. That's Jasper."
"Can't you talk to him for me?"
"What would I say? The last time I saw him was the last time I saw you."
"You haven't seen him since your party? Really?"
"It was your party, remember? It just happened to be at my house because you wouldn't let up about it."
My father about had a coronary after that party. He said he was putting his foot down once and for all. I laughed at him and reminded him that his foot could only be where he was. The reason I agreed to stop partying was because I didn't want to. He didn't know this, but I spent most of the night of Alice's party in the pool house playing video games. Parties were not for me anymore.
Alice ignores my comment. "If that's really the last time you've… well, he's changed since then."
"Why not? You've changed, too." She hits my arm, but it's her tone of voice that stings.
"Talk to him, Alice. That's all I can say." I try to walk again, but she takes my arm.
"Won't you just ask him what he thinks of me? It's not that hard. I know you can say it in a way that won't make it look like it came from me."
"I'll see what I can do."
"I knew I could count on you! You're the only one." It seems she's about to try kissing my cheek again, but stops herself. I kiss hers. I feel bad for how I treated her. Things may be different between us, but we do have a past full of years as friends.
Having taken care of what she set out for, she takes off. Not even a "see ya later" or a glance back at me. I no longer feel guilty for my treatment of her.
In the building, I can't miss it when Lauren spots me.
"Edward, Edward, Edward. You're looking hot as always." She pokes my side.
"What's up?" I move past her. She follows. I listen to the sound of slamming lockers, the murmurs of the first-day-of-school crowd, instead of her voice. I'm relieved when, in her rambles, she tells me her first class is Algebra. We'll be heading in different directions at the next turn.
"Oh, god." She grabs hold of my arm. "Fire and ice alert." Lauren, never one for tact, points to the couple standing a few feet away.
James and Victoria.
I catch Victoria glance in our direction and wave to her. This gets under Lauren's skin like a tick, burrowing. Victoria looks at me like I've just caught a bad case of face warts, but waves back. James, next to her, pulls his hood up. Rumor has it, if the hood is up, he's carrying. I happen to know there's some validity to that one.
"I don't get you, Edward," Lauren says. "You're not at all picky about who you're friendly with."
"I don't let rumors dictate my life."
This silences her for the time being, and I can continue on to class unbothered. Inside, Jasper and Emmett look up but don't wave me over like they might have done last year. I move toward their desks at the back of the room and ready myself for friendly behavior and explanations for why I've been so AWOL.
Nothing is like it used to be.
I wish I could get out of Forks.
All the colors of Autumn, my mom used to say - dressing me, combing my wet hair. My beautiful girl.
Her voice. What did her voice sound like? I can remember her saying those words, but not the sound of her voice. I try, but the only voice I hear in my mind is my own.
I remember what she looks like: Red hair, not like flames, not like mine, but lighter, though not as light as Aunt Cheri's coppery blonde. Somewhere in the middle, like melting caramel.
And blue eyes. Clear sea, cerulean blue, just like Aunt Cheri's. I didn't get those eyes. Mine are brown - though not even a normal brown; they are too gold for that. James likened my eyes to a lion's once. An animal. I'm not sure whether to take that as a compliment or not. He swears he meant it as a compliment.
And she was skinny. Skin and bones, much unlike Aunt Cheri, whose squishy lap I remember sitting on far more than my mom's.
And her smile. She smiled a lot, big white teeth - whiter than pearls, but a chipped tooth in front. She smiled wide, anyway - at least with me.
I have fifteen minutes before I leave for school, enough time to start a poem. I scribble about melting caramel hair that drips and sticks, abyss-like and pupil-less eyes of the sea. I write about how eyes without pupils hold no soul. I write about the way breath and secrets sneak through the chips in teeth with every smile.
I don't know if she still smiles. I haven't seen her in eleven years, and I've lived these last twelve years with my Aunt Cheri and Uncle Phil, even though my mom is still out there, somewhere, in the world.
The memories I've shared of my mom, the fact that I want to remember her, might make it appear that I love her. I don't. I remember the day that began my loss of love for her.
In the morning, I still loved her.
On the Arizona school yard, the flick of a finger called me over. "Victoria, sweetie, Mrs. Shelley needs to talk to you."
My whole hand fit into Mrs. Shelley's palm. Mrs. Shelley, my kindergarten teacher, her hand closed over mine, like a shell encasing a clam. I remember the heat of the sun and the long denim skirt she wore that day. And her blouse, a lighter blue than the sky, it billowed in the breeze. If I peered up at her face then, I don't recall doing so.
"Let's have a seat." She patted the playground bench beside her as if I were a puppy. I obeyed, toying with my braid, the curls at the end. My mom had braided it. I checked back over my shoulder. From where we sat, just off the playground, I could no longer see my friends riding on trikes or reaching across monkey bars.
"I found something in your cubby today," her whisper of a voice told me. "Do you know what it was?"
I shrugged. Was this a guessing game? My school work and my lunchbox were in my cubby, and my naptime bear. Not a change of clothes, though, like the rules said. Maybe that's what she meant. Did she find my clothes?
"It was a small plastic tube." She showed me with her fingers the size she meant.
I swung my legs. I wanted to go back and play. "So?"
"Are you saying you didn't know it was in there?"
"What was in there?"
"The tiny plastic tube."
"It's your mom's? It was mostly empty, sweetie. Did you take any medicine?"
I shook my head. I wasn't allowed to take her medicine. I'd stolen it, though, so she couldn't take it, either.
"There's a police officer here who would like to ask you about it. Would you like to meet a real policeman?"
I followed her denim skirt to the office where there stood a real live policeman. He was smiling and not scary. I looked up at him with an open mouth. In my memory, the policeman has the kind of ever-changing face of a stranger in a poorly-remembered dream.
He exchanged faceless whispered words with my teacher and another teacher came in with my big bear, but I knew it couldn't be naptime because we hadn't had lunch yet. We weren't allowed our napping buddies before naptime. I took him with me to the too-big chair facing the desk, where they told me to sit, and I squeezed him, even if it was against the rules. I liked these chairs. I couldn't touch the floor and my feet swung. I could get them high. It hurt my knees a little.
I stopped swinging them when the policeman knelt in front of me. He showed me my mom's medicine holder.
"Are you sure this is your mother's?"
"Does she know I took it? Is she mad at me?"
"She isn't mad. Would you like to see her? I'd like you to come with me, and I'll take you to her."
"No, she's not at work, she's with the police, and I'd like to take you to her. Will you come with me?"
I reached out and grabbed hold of Mrs. Shelley's skirt. It didn't feel like anything I could hold onto for long. It would slip right out of my fingers. She knew I wasn't supposed to go with strangers, though. She told me that. She'd tell him I couldn't go.
"It's okay, Victoria. I'll walk you to the nice officer's car."
I wasn't sure what to do. I would have liked to sit in the office chair and wait for my mom to come get me. But even Mrs. Shelley thought I should go with the policeman. She took my hand and walked with me to the parking lot where the police car was parked right in front. The door was open for me, but I stood there, still holding Mrs. Shelley's hand - either her hand was sweating or mine was.
"You can sit in the front with me," the policeman said. There was a booster seat.
"Go on in…" Mrs. Shelley said, giving me a gentle nudge. I didn't move.
"Come with me," I said to Mrs. Shelley.
"Your teacher can't come with you. She has her class here. But you may bring your bear, and there's another really nice policeman at the station. He'll make you and your bear laugh."
I gazed up at Mrs. Shelley. She nodded at me. And she was smiling, but it was a weird smile because she looked like she was crying, too.
The face she was making scared me so I got into the car. When the door closed, my tears fell on my bear.
Late that night, really late, in my aunt's car, I made up my first poem in my head. It was about a penguin family who ate each other. Nothing was left when they were done.
Even though all of that with my mom happened back in Phoenix, everyone at Forks High knows about it, though the only one who truly cares is now waiting outside my front door. I grab my backpack and leave the house, ignoring my uncle as usual, and kissing my aunt's cheek goodbye.
James is standing outside of his old Acura, blacker than a night with a hidden moon. He hugs me up tight when I approach him. He doesn't hug me with every greeting, but he will always hug me every year on this date.
My arms wrap his waist with a sigh.
He's wearing his faded The Who shirt under his unzipped sweater. His hair is like wheat and seems to move just as easily, draping his eyebrows. I don't think they're the kind of eyes that should ever be covered. I move his hair for him.
"Don't hide your blues."
"Let's skip today."
"Not today. You know that only makes it worse for you. Everyone'll know why you skipped."
I join him in his car and sulk as if I'm still that five year old traveling to the police station. "I'm really not in the mood for all of them today." The first two days of school were bad enough, but today - I don't want to think about what they'll say. "And I especially do not want to see them fawning all over that new girl when they're being hideous to me."
"It's not her fault. She's not bad, you know?"
I groan. "Not you, too!"
He takes off and to my disappointment, he's heading toward school. I could force him to let me out, but I have nowhere to go for eight hours alone, nor do I want to be alone.
"How do you even know her?"
"She's in my psych class."
He's lucky. She's in three of my classes. She smiles too much, like she wants to be friends, but she doesn't know about me yet. She will. I won't make another friend just to lose her.
I sit quietly for the next five minutes and let him blast his rock music. Then I shut it off and face him.
"James, let's get high first. I know you have some." I grab at his sweater pocket. He nudges my hand away.
Looking at me out of the corner of his eye, he gives me half a smile. "Stop believing rumors."
"Shut up. I could've started that rumor." I reach for his pocket again.
"It's not in there," he says, pushing me away with his elbow. "Really think today is a good day to get high?"
"Really think it isn't?"
James looks at me fully now. "Okay, but we'll smoke out at lunch. I can't miss my first class."
"Psych?" I eye him.
The way everyone stares at me at school every year on this day makes me wonder if they all don't mark it on their calendars. Then I see Lauren, who's smiling and waving at me, and I remember it only takes one person to mark her calendar.
Lauren and I used to be best friends, all the way up until middle school, when people started thinking I was odd. Who knows why - it may have simply been due to my frizzy red hair. Lauren wants everyone to like her, she's always been that way, so she turned her back on me. She couldn't be seen with the "weird" one. And she was extra mean to prove we weren't, and never had been, friends. She also gave away my worst secret, everything I'd told her about my mom, deeming me a crack baby, all to gain more popularity.
"What's the matter, Victoria?" Lauren asks now, blocking the entrance to the school. Nobody can get by her, nor will anyone ask her to move. People around laugh. I see spiky-haired Mike laughing as though Lauren is the next big comedienne. "You look like you're about to cry. This worries me." She tilts her blonde head at me as if she's concerned.
"Knock it off, Mallory," James says. "Leave her alone."
"Ooh." Her eyes flutter rapid fake-lashed blinks at him. "What are you planning to do, ya big, strong man?"
"Get out of her way," another voice comes from behind me. I know without looking that it's Edward Cullen, but even if I didn't recognize his voice, I would know it's him by the way Lauren listens to what he says, moves aside, and apologizes.
"Sorry. I was kidding. Vicky can take a joke, can't you, old friend?" She pinches my cheek.
I pull my face away.
Before entering the building, I turn to look at Edward. He smiles at me. And that isn't the first time he's smiled at me. On the first day of school he did the same thing, even waving, but I thought it was a mistake, like he was waving to someone behind me. This smile, however, is most definitely directed at me.
While Edward and his small cliquish crowd never really added to my humiliation, they also never made any effort to be my friend or stick up for me. This is new.
"Thanks," I say, and look away.
I turn back to him, a puzzled frown taking over my face.
"What?" he asks.
"People aren't always as they seem…"
"I know." His smile fades.
James holds the door for me, and I let whatever that was with Edward dissipate with the past.
Edward doesn't forget it, apparently. He catches up with me as I'm on my way to meet James at his car for lunch.
"Are you okay?" he asks. "I mean with today being what it is."
We're walking toward the parking lot and stop at the edge of the sidewalk.
I tilt my head, still perplexed by him. He's wearing sunglasses so I can't see his eyes, though I know they're dark. I look at his mouth for a hint of a smile, a hint he might be joking with me. His head turns to the side for a second as he runs a pale hand through his dark hair.
"Are you, or aren't you?"
"I-I am, I guess."
He scratches the side of his head, near his temple. "I know you have no reason to trust me, but I uh, I guess I kind of, in a way, know what you might be going through so… if you ever want to talk, you can talk to me." He shrugs and his small smile suggests some embarrassment.
I cover my face for a second. Is this for real? Edward Cullen is offering to be my shoulder? That's when it becomes clear to me. Of course! His mom died last spring. He thinks we share a commonality in that. Absent mothers. Something nobody else can really understand.
"Maybe I will." I start to walk away, then turn back. "Same to you. If you ever want to talk."
He shakes his head as if he already knows he'll never want to talk about it, but smiles.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Say hello. Tell me what you think so far. :)