Summary: Some people leave their mark on your memories. You can't escape what they meant to you and you can't re-write the past; it's indelible. But the future isn't set in stone. It's yours to write. A second-chance story about forks in the road of life and a past with a future.
A/N: Thanks for giving this fic a chance. And hang in there. It's a little different, but I think you'll like where it goes.
Disclaimer: No infringing going on here or in any of the coming chapters.
Chapter 1: Boy on a Bike
I couldn't breathe. I just sat behind the wheel of Charlie's pick-up truck, frozen in shock as my heart slammed in my chest.
I hadn't noticed the boy on the bike until he was already shooting out in front of me, right after the light had changed. Somehow I'd managed to hit the brakes in time and he sailed past, unscathed, trying to outride the coming rain. He never even looked up. He just disappeared as quickly as he'd appeared.
The sky opened up just as an impatient honk sounded behind me. I jumped, my eyes snapping to the rear-view mirror, to the sport utility vehicle behind me, its occupant gesturing an irritated and universal what-the-hell as I remained stopped at the green light. It was obvious he had just pulled up and hadn't seen the near-collision…nor the elusive boy on the bike.
I wondered if I'd really seen him.
Grasping the wheel with shaky hands, I hit the accelerator abruptly and Charlie's truck lurched forward. I felt the sudden drench of panicky sweat and turned a hard right into the gas station just past the intersection. Pulling up near the garage and killing the engine, the attack hit full throttle: tears, chest pains, hideous gasping sounds.
Sudden quick sharp raps on the passenger-side door startled me.
Big Sam Uley stood outside in the downpour in his Shell station rain slicker. He must have heard the squeal of the tires as I'd pulled in and had come running from the garage bay. His hands cupped around his eyes as he leaned close to the passenger window, peering in.
"Bella? You okay?" he hollered over the drum of pelting rain. I shook my head.
"Unlock the door!" he yelled.
Nodding and gasping noisy, ugly gulps, I hit the unlock button and Sam barreled into the passenger seat, slamming the door shut behind him, dripping everywhere. He whipped the hood of his slicker off his head.
"What's wrong? You sick?"
I shook my head. "P-panic at-tack," I croaked between ungodly gasps.
"Okay, take it easy. You've got to slow your breathing or you'll hyperventilate."
I nodded stiffly and closed my eyes. Sam wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know. I was no stranger to panic attacks, though it had certainly been awhile.
Placing my hands on my stomach, I tried to slow my breathing, paying attention to the steady push and pull of deliberate breaths. Sam's low, deep voice coached and counted my inhales and exhales, helping me to focus. I began to calm and the attack gradually passed, leaving me feeling wrung out, weak, and clammy.
"Better?" His voice was cautious. He was watching me like he might not trust my answer.
I nodded as embarrassment crept in, replacing the panic. "Yeah. Um…thanks, Sam. For coming out. And for staying."
His eyes were kind. He just shrugged like it was no big deal. "Sure."
"The counting helped," I told him, trying to think of something, anything, to say, rather than just sit there stupidly.
"Being in the delivery room with Emily a few times taught me something about focusing on breathing." He gave me a little smile but his eyes were serious and a little uncertain.
"What happened, Bella?" he finally asked. "What brought that on? Was it because of…your dad?" Worry suddenly filled his eyes, as if I might flip out on him all over again. "You don't have to say if you don't want to talk."
I shook my head. "No, no. It's okay. It had nothing to do with Charlie. I just… Oh God…" I closed my eyes, rubbing at them with my fingertips, as if I could erase the image from my thoughts. "I almost hit…someone…on a bike back there. A boy came out of nowhere after the light changed." I gestured toward the intersection.
"A little kid? Out in this rain?"
I shook my head. "No. Older. A teenaged boy." I couldn't be more specific; Sam would think I'd lost my mind. Maybe I had. Thankfully he didn't ask if I'd recognized the boy. He merely huffed and shook his head.
"Young punks think they own the road. No wonder you were so shaken up." He gave me a sympathetic look. "As if you haven't been through enough lately." He glanced out the windshield toward the gas station. The rain was beginning to let up a little.
"Sit tight for a minute, okay?" he asked, turning back to study me. I nodded, but before I could ask why, he was already yanking his hood up and opening the door. He ducked back out into the rain and slammed the door behind him. I watched as he darted through the rain and ran into the convenience store portion of the gas station.
He returned after a minute with two bottles of soda. "Take your pick," he said, once he'd climbed back into the truck. "I figured you could probably use the sugar. You're still white as a ghost." He gave a soft snort and shook his head, giving me a gentle smile. "Hell, Bella, when I first saw you, you looked like you'd seen a ghost!"
My breath caught in my throat, but I managed a smile in return and took one of the sodas, mumbling a thank you. He nodded as we popped the caps and drank. It felt good going down—cold, crisp and sweet.
I looked out the driver's side window, watching as a car pulled up to the pumps. "I'm sure you need to get back to work, Sam. I'm sorry I..."
He must have sensed I was embarrassed about the whole panic episode. Wiping his hand across his mouth he interrupted me. "It's no big deal. Paul's in the garage. It's been a slow day and most folks use self-serve and debit or credit cards. There's not much that needs doing." Sure enough, the customer, a young man, climbed out of his car, paid at the pump with a card and began pumping his own gas.
Sam looked back at me, his eyes searching mine for a moment before he spoke. "Are you holding up okay, Bella?"
I knew he was referring to Charlie. I took a deep breath and sighed. "Yeah, I'm okay. I just take it one day at a time, you know?" He nodded but remained quiet as we drank our sodas.
The rain finally stopped though dark clouds still threatened.
"I'd better get going before the rain starts up again," I said, looking up at the sky.
"You sure you're alright to drive?" he asked. I could hear the concern in his voice.
"Yeah. I'm okay. I'll be fine. Thanks again, Sam…you know…for before. And for this." I lifted my soda bottle.
"Don't worry about it." He opened the passenger side door and climbed out but then paused and looked back in at me once more. "I guess I'll see you the day after tomorrow. I'm sure there'll be a big turn out to pay their respects."
"Take care of yourself, Bella."
"I will. Goodbye, Sam. Thanks again."
I pulled out of the gas station and headed home, telling myself I wasn't going to think about the near-accident until I got there. But that was useless. I thought about it the whole way home. I saw those fleeting glimpses in my mind over and over again:
The green light. The sudden streak of movement coming from the side. A bicycle.
The singular and unexpected head of wild, bronze hair, nearly standing on end in the wind.
Pale skin and a remarkably strong jaw.
Flannel shirt flapping around a tall, lanky body as long legs pumped the bicycle's pedals furiously.
Sam's words whispered in my ears: "…you looked like you'd seen a ghost!"
I hadn't actually lied to Sam, but it really wasn't the near-accident that had brought on my panic attack. It was the boy on the bike himself. The shock of the familiarity and impossibility of him.
He'd been all my firsts and he'd been everything to me. Right up until he'd decided he didn't want to be anything to me anymore.
They say you never forget your first love, and they would be right.
The strange thing was, the boy I saw on the bike looked to be about seventeen years old. But that couldn't be. We'd both been seventeen over twenty years ago.
Edward Cullen would be thirty-nine by now. Just like me.
A/N: Hmmm… Hang in there. This is a cougar-free fic.