"If you aren't sure who you are, you might as well work on who you want to be." -Robert Brault
Chapter 2: The Mayfair Diner
Within four and a half days, Bella found herself driving into Philly, exhausted down to her bones as she had only stopped to refuel both herself and her truck. It had been worth it; she was a full day ahead of schedule, though she knew the truck was pushing its final miles before it would crap out on her. Forever. She loved her truck dearly, and it had served her faithfully when she needed it most, but there was only so much she could do to keep patching it back up. She'd just put about 3,000 more miles on it in the span of four days. Ol' Red (a not very creative nickname she'd taken to calling it) had reliably taken her clear across Washington, the top of Idaho, through Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, a small fraction of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, and finally to the opposite edge of Pennsylvania where she neared the border of New Jersey.
The more she thought about it, the more she feared Red would give out on her at any second. Maybe she could stick around in Philly for a little while, long enough to get a job and scrape up some money for a newer used car. Or a mechanic.
For now, though, Bella was lost. Though, to be fair, she probably couldn't even find her way out of a paper bag with her terrible sense of direction. She'd passed a "Welcome to Philadelphia!" sign a few minutes back, and while actually making it into Philly was all well and great, she still needed to find the exact location of the diner. She still had a day (technically half a day) until it was Friday, but she at least wanted to find a motel nearby. The last time she rested was back in Elyria, Ohio, and that was over six hours ago. She desperately needed to stretch her legs. And eat.
And wow, God, she really needed to pee.
The water bottle she'd been drinking from was quickly capped and tossed to the side with that thought, and she reached for the map. It was practically useless, however, since the map was too large to show the smaller details of Pennsylvania. With a sigh, Bella threw it down on the floor of the passenger's side, not even bothering to fold it back up, and took the next exit off the highway.
In about ten minutes, Bella found herself driving through a decrepit avenue of shops that all looked uninviting, until her eyes caught sight of one little shop in particular. It was cute, she supposed, with the ceiling to floor paneled front windows bordered in white arches. The door was windowed as well, painted an earthy green worn with time, and a wooden sign displaying the carved letters "OPEN" hung behind the glass. Something about it called to Bella, and before she knew it, she was pulling over to park on the side of the busy street.
The shop was called Madame Marie's, she discovered once approaching it close enough to read the plaque swaying in the breeze above the entrance, a smaller sign attached to the bottom of it, reading "Fortunes Told". Bella was intrigued, only briefly wondering why she felt such a draw to the place before opening the door and walking in, a high tinkling of bells attached to the handle signaling her entrance.
"Hello?" she called out, after seeing no one behind the counter to her right.
No one replied.
She shrugged to herself, glancing about in curiosity. She'd seen a shop similar to this one back in Port Angeles, back in the beginning, before she even knew what the Cullens were, but she hadn't entered it. She'd taken one look at the crystals and dream catchers and immediately decided it wasn't something she wanted to look into. This place, however, this Madame Marie's felt... Different. Something about it was intimidating, yet warm and safe. Bella's mind supplied her with the word protective, and though it was an odd word to describe a store, it felt right all the same.
It was two stories, surprisingly enough, since the shop definitely hadn't seemed this large on the outside. The aforementioned counter to her right doubled as a glass display with two shelves inside. Varying sorts of talismans and charms were placed securely in a wooden box on the top shelf along with a small twine doll that had black beads for eyes, while the bottom shelf held a shining silver dagger nestled in a swatch of red velvet, among purple and white candles, and what looked like a human skull. Just beyond the counter was a wooden door, shut and unmarked, and Bella could only guess that it might lead to the room where the fortunes were told, or tarot card readings were held. Or séances, for all she knew.
Even further back was the staircase, which opened up to a large balcony that overlooked the bottom floor. She couldn't see much of the top floor, but she assumed she shouldn't wander up there if the thick tasseled rope drawn across the bottom step was anything to go by.
Overhead hung a large, golden antique chandelier that illuminated the dark wood of the bookcases on the left side of the store, and a complementary seating area was set up in the far corner in the back, complete with a dark green love-seat that looked like it had been plucked straight out of the 1800's, giving it a luxurious, comfortable Victorian feel. The floor was littered with plush rugs that ordinarily Bella thought would have clashed, but somehow seemed to flatter each other in bohemian sort of way, while the remaining decor was dark, in an eerie, gothic sense. But the skeletons and strange symbols painted on the wall and phials of mysterious liquid mixtures and odd masks of overdramatized expressions were anything but threatening. There were even vases of fresh, bright flowers scattered among table and counter surfaces, and the scent of vanilla permeating the air, emanating from burning incense sticks placed around the shop, made her feel very much the opposite of threatened.
All of it should have been contradictory, but somehow everything harmonized when put together in this place that felt inviting and magical, and Bella decided she liked it. It was almost like she'd entered another world, another time, where everything outside was paused just for a little while.
"I wasn't expecting you for another few hours, zirandèl."
Bella jerked in surprise at the sudden voice, and she realized that during her earlier musings her feet had taken her towards the books near the back. She turned, facing the one who had spoken and was greeted genially by a woman who was much older than herself, yet still managed to give an air of youthfulness, standing by the front counter. When the woman's words caught up with Bella finally, she had to frown at the odd phrasing. And when had she even entered the room?
As if sensing her disquiet, the woman smiled gently and approached her slowly. "I am sorry, dearest, I seem to have startled you. Is there anything I can help you find?"
Bella inhaled, wondering if maybe she had misheard the woman the first time and blinked away whatever tired haze that must be affecting her. "Um, no, thank you. I'm actually not really looking for anything," she answered.
The woman cocked her head, making her large gold hoop earrings swing. "Strange. The shop does not usually call anyone in unless they are looking for something." She paused, then nodded in understanding, coarse black curls bobbing in the process. "Unless they don't know that there is something to find."
Well, hell, what was she supposed to say to that cryptic nonsense?
"Forgive me, again. I am Marie," she continued, saving Bella from replying, and held her slender hand out for her to shake. "I'm the shop owner, you see."
Bella let a small upturn of her lips show in what she hoped came across as friendly, as she took Marie's hand. "Bella. Your shop is very lovely."
"Thank you," Marie said graciously, smile widening into a proud grin. "I had hoped to create an inviting, safe place, where people of all walks of life would feel welcome. I trust I've been successful?"
"Very," Bella nodded, feeling more at ease, while her own smile lost its tension. "I was just thinking how cozy it felt in here. I like it very much."
"Well, good. I'm glad to hear it."
Awkwardly, Bella cleared her throat and stuffed her hands into her back pockets, unsure how to continue this line of small talk, since she'd never been very good at it in the first place. Marie's chin lifted, so she was looking down at the younger girl knowingly, before turning and heading towards the display counter.
"You've just gotten into town, and you look exhausted, quite frankly," she was saying as she bent at the waist and slid open the backing of the display, "So I won't keep you. I know you said you weren't looking for anything, but the spirits say that there is something you need."
Marie took the wooden box of charms from the shelf and straightened, setting it down on the counter, humming to herself and she searched for one in specific. With a soft cry of "Aha!", she lifted a burgundy beaded necklace from the mess, and waved Bella closer with it. "This," she said, while Bella hesitantly made her way towards her, "is called an eleke."
"An eleke?" Bella asked with curiosity.
The old woman nodded. "In the Voodoo culture, these bead colors- you see them? The brown, coral, and white ones? They're attributed to the orishaof change, Oyá. She's a warrior, and fiercely protective of those in her charge," she said, running the beads through her fingers. Then, to Bella's great surprise, she held it out to her. "Take it, she will help you on your journey."
Instantly, Bella backed away. "Oh no, I couldn't-"
"You will," the woman said sternly, tone much different than before. There was no hint of smile on her face now.
"Um," Bella began unsurely, pulling out her wallet, "How much then?"
"The price isn't a monetary one, my dear."
Ten months ago, Bella would have taken the beads just to get the old lady to shut up so she could high tail it out of the shop as fast as possible, never thinking of the consequences of accepting something as cryptic and peculiar as this was. She wouldn't have put stock in any of what Marie was telling her. Now, though, Bella thought maybe there is something to this. If Vampires exist, it stands to reason that maybe other things do too.
The real question was, with the knowledge of 'maybe there's something more' but not being sure about the true price of this eleke, would she still take it?
The burgundy beads swung from the woman's grasp, shining mesmerizingly in the chandelier's soft light and Bella felt herself raise her arm, and take hold of them. There was a moment of stillness where Marie and Bella both held onto the eleke, and then Marie let go.
"We'll see you soon, Isabella."
Bella looked up from the eleke to find that the old woman had vanished without a trace, the only evidence of her ever having stood there being the drawer of talismans still on the glass cabinet.
Bella had left the shop immediately afterwards, thoroughly unsettled, and yet she still looped the eleke over head and tucked it under her shirt where it settled against her breastbone. She ended up having to find another place where she could ask about where to buy maps and where the nearest motel was. She got lucky, the cashier at the McDonald's around the corner directed her to a reasonably priced local bed and breakfast, and knew where the Mayfair Diner was. Apparently the place was actually pretty popular.
So, she settled into the B&B with minimal fuss, and the next morning she drove straight to the diner after her morning ritual. She made it there at nine AM on the dot, having been unable to sleep soundly the night before thus waking early that morning. The anticipation was too great, and she felt more tired now than she had on Thursday.
The diner was open, and Bella entered quickly. The morning was crisp and Bella wanted to get out of the chill, the idea of a warm space and warm food spurring her on. With that thought, she realized she hadn't eaten since yesterday afternoon, and now the rolling in her stomach was due to hunger rather than just nerves.
Jerking her head up from attempting to unzip her jacket, she caught sight of familiar pixie black hair, and an easy smile lit up her face, outdone only by Alice's, whose perfect teeth shone brighter than white.
"Alice!" she greeted back in an exhale of breath, as if she were enormously relieved. Golden eyes sparkled with mirth and fondness as they regarded Bella, who was finding great comfort in the presence of her dearest friend. Alice was there in front of her in a second, taking her hand and leading her to a booth.
"Oh, Bella, I can't tell you how good it is to see you. I know it's only been a month, but I thought you would call before coming out here."
Her human sister furrowed her brow in confusion. "How was I supposed to call, Alice? You all just up and left, there wasn't any way to contact you."
Alice grit her teeth as her eyes flashed dangerously. "I thought he might do this. I had hoped he wouldn't, but Edward was never very good with anyone interfering with his claim over you."
"What?" Bella asked, her own temper flaring, "What the hell else did he do?"
The vampire shook her head. "Why don't you order something to eat first, and I'll tell you everything that happened since you left after the party. Everything I'm sure he didn't explain to you."
Just then, a young girl with a flare of bright energy bounded up to the side of their table, her long, pin-straight black ponytail swaying even as she stilled. "Heya, girls! Can I get you something to drink?"
Bella ordered a cup of hot tea, while Alice requested only a water- for appearances sake Bella knew. They also ordered a large plate of pancakes, which they jokingly shared a casual comment about having to split it between the two of them, it simply just looked too big, and the waitress flounced off again with a departing sweet smile. Bella passingly envied her energy.
She faced Alice again, having watched the waitress go and waiting until she was well out of sight and hearing range. Alice launched right into it.
"I had a vision that night, of Edward wanting to leave you. I warned the other family members, and we all, save Edward, decided that yes, we would leave, but only on a trial basis. We weren't sure if leaving you completely was the best idea, so we wrote letters for you, along with contact information. That way we could keep in touch, and if anything happened, if you came into any danger, we would know. We'd come back.
"Edward didn't like the idea. He thought you were better off without us, and he hated having everyone question and contradict him. We'd never really done so before. In any case, we gave him the letters so he would pass them along to you. I saw him warring between two options; giving you the letters and explaining our intentions, or going with his original plan and leaving you forever to live a full human life. I never saw the outcome, and he never told us exactly what happened so I never knew for sure, but I suspected."
"That's why you left the other folder, in Jasper's office. But how did you know I would find it?"
"I didn't know, not until you made the decision to walk into the room. My visions of what you would do were numerous; you had so many paths laid before you, this was only one of many. I just hoped you'd choose this one."
Bella tapped her lip thoughtfully. "You had other visions of me? How many?"
Alice huffed a laugh. "There were a lot. It was unusual, I'd never seen so many paths of fate for one person before. There were some where you were perfectly fine, and we never saw you again. You died in one. In another, you were just so sad. You stopped functioning for months, it worried me. I almost called, almost went back, but Edward said not to contact you until you had contacted us first. Carlisle agreed, he thought you had a choice, and he didn't want us pushing ourselves on you in case you had decided you really wanted us out of your life."
"Never," Bella interrupted vehemently, looking so angry Alice thought she might bend the metal spoon she was clutching. "I would never want you gone from my life, Alice, none of you. You guys are part of my family, and nothing would change that."
"Oh, Bella," Alice cooed, and she thought the vampirette might cry if she were able. "You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that."
The girls smiled at each other, before Bella asked another question that sobered them up. "Why did he want to leave anyway?"
"Well, what did he tell you the reason was?"
"He said it was because he was tired of pretending. Of being human, of loving me, whatever, I don't know. He said it was because Carlisle was starting to look too young to be his age; you all were, so it was time to move on. Apparently, it wouldn't have been very hard, since your kind are, and I quote, 'easily distracted.'"
Alice hands were in fists now, and she was hissing. "Emmett's going to kill him, and I have half a mind to let him."
"I mean, hey," Bella said bitterly, "he apologized, at least, so there's that."
"Edward and I," Alice began explaining with a huff, "were close, but I've never been so angry and disappointed in him. This is not how mates treat each other! He told us he thought it was for your own good, that he was a 'poison' in your life, and we were putting you in unnecessary danger just by being involved with you."
Blinking, Bella snorted derisively. "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"That's what I said!"
She grinned at Alice, cupping her chin in her hand and leaning her elbow on the table. "Men are just so unbelievable."
"Oh, vampire men are at least a hundred times worse. Everything's amplified, remember?" Alice shot back with a wink, making her chuckle.
Looking back, Bella couldn't really remember having these sorts of talks with Alice, none that were this comfortable and teasing on equal levels. It kind of made her realize that she'd never been really receptive anyone, she'd always just... Been there. Existing without much of a purpose except take care of Charlie, get through school, maybe go on to college. But then what? What else was there? Wasn't there anything meant for her?
Her food came, interrupting her mental tangent, and Bella was so hungry by then that she almost tore into the pile of fluffy pancakes before it even hit the table surface. Luckily, the young waitress seemed to understand and simply laughed it off, telling her to enjoy and asking if she needed anything else and then the girl was off again. Bella didn't think she'd ever seen someone so genuine in the service industry, and made a mental note to get her name and leave her a larger tip.
"I think..." Bella said after a long beat of quiet, chewing thoughtfully on a forkful of syrupy pancake, "I think I'm beginning to realize that maybe Edward and I weren't meant to be like we all thought."
Alice sighed and nodded. "It's possible, there are just so many possible futures for everyone that it makes sense that even mates can change, depending on each person's decisions. We were all just so sure, so we pushed you two together even more. I'm sorry, Bella."
"Don't be. I'm not. And I don't regret it either. Maybe Edward was a necessity for me, in order to end up here in this place. We were right for each other in the period of time we were in, but maybe now it's time for us to grow separately. The thing about Edward, I think for me, was finally having someone who might be able to take care of me."
"Your mother," Alice guessed with understanding, stealing a bite of Bella's breakfast apprehensively after a glance around.
"My mother," she confirmed. "I'd grown up essentially raising both her and myself. I don't blame her at all, that's just who she is. But then I moved to Forks, and Edward was the first one who... Well, not the first who showed interest in me, but he was the first one who was actually interesting in return, and for a while, seemed like only one who was actually capable of supporting me and being on the same level as me. It was a nice idea."
"But that was the problem, wasn't it? You liked the idea you had of him."
"I did. And I think both of us were guilty of that. He had the notion that eventually he could convince me to stay human, get married, have babies, grow old, and that I would be okay with that. But that's just not me, I don't want marriage, I don't want children. That's not who I am."
"You're really going to be okay, aren't you?" asked Alice slowly, with growing surety.
"I think I am. I'm still pissed as hell, but it's better than being complacent about it, right?"
"I can agree with that. Would you take him back, though? If he came back, and apologized properly?"
"No." Bella said without hesitation. "He's lied too many times, kept too many things from me, manipulated my choices out of my hands for too long. I won't let him have another shot at it."
"You know what, Bella?" Alice set her fork down, and looked at her seriously. "I am so very proud of you, and I hope you're proud of yourself too," Bella smiled, and then Alice, strangely enough, deflated a little. "Though, Edward isn't the only one who kept things from you. I did it too, and I think you should know that. I thought I was doing it with your best interests at heart, but that's not much of an excuse about it."
"Alice, it's okay, I understand."
"No, Bella. It's not okay. That's our rule; our family won't lie to each other, we don't hide things. And that's what I've done. Everything we've been through, there's been something I've kept away from you. I wasn't a very good friend or sister to you, Bella, and I'm sorry."
"Alice, listen to me. I don't blame you. I get it, really I do." Bella insisted, but Alice kept her gaze from hers, a pout etched on her face. Bella sighed heavily. "Fine. You did a bad thing Alice, I'm very disappointed in you. But I forgive you. So you've been a terrible sister, start being a better one."
Alice looked at her in surprise, but was infinitely pleased. "You know, I really like this new Bella."
Bella grinned. "Me too. Let's hope she sticks around. Now, start making it up to me and help me finish this never ending pile of pancakes."
Alice groaned, and almost wanted to take back her original sentiment.
A/N: *shows up a year late with starbucks*
Holy shit, my procrastination has gotten wildly out of control apparently. I swear, I had no idea that it had been this long since an update and I am so sorry. I never forgot about it, it was just a major case of writer's block and every day, I was like, "ugh no I'll work on it tomorrow." I knew what I wanted to do, but I could not find the words for it. That happens a lot, and usually with one story. Like sometimes I'll have a fanfiction that I'll struggle every chapter with, while others come to me without any problem. I suppose it's a blessing in disguise, because the ones I struggle with seem to be some of my best work, since I put so much effort into it. I don't know, I could be wrong.
Before I forget, big thanks to my awesome best friend EmmyWayward for editing this chapter for me. So I guess it was betad?
Zirondèl, in case you were wondering, means dragonfly in Louisiana Creole. It has a second definition, something to do with little swallow like bird that flies down chimneys and make noise all night, but I'm using the first definition of dragonfly. Bella will eventually figure out what the term means, and who Marie is, but not till later. So yes, we will definitely see more of Marie! I have two other original characters lined up for Bella to meet, as well as another character we already know. You will definitely be surprised as to who it is.
Some of you have been asking if she'll meet Peter and Charlotte. Maybe, I haven't really decided yet, but it's probable. They'll be mentioned a lot of course, at the very least. Someone also asked if this is really going to be a Bella/Jasper romance, and yes it is definitely going to be Bella/Jasper in time. Bella has much to get through before they see each other again.
All your answers to the previous question were awesome! I think for me, I'd want to definitely visit Ireland. I've been once, and I fell in love so I'm just itching to go back. Also, Transylvania. I mean, hello, birthplace of Dracula! No way I'd pass that up.
So this time I think the question will be... Oh! I know, if I added a guest star, who would you most want to see make an appearance? He/she might not stick around the entirety of the story, depending on who it is, but they'll show up in a chapter.
Now, keep in mind that Bella and Alice are not done talking; I kind of had to split the chapter up because I felt it was getting too long. So some of your questions might be addressed in chapter 3. Thanks for sticking around after so long you guys!