Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
Summary: "I let it go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home."
― Joanne Harris
A/N: Sunflower Fanfiction has kindly agreed to beta this story. A big thanks to her for taking out the time to correct my mistakes. This story will have 10-15 chapters and it will be updated every two weeks.
The Road Home Chapter 1
My altimeter says it's still not high enough to jump.
My mind tells me otherwise.
I'm already sky high. Or maybe that's just the weed Jamie hit me up with before we boarded the plane, flying up here.
I watch the jump master's harness the first time tandem divers with their instructors. It's almost comical how fast the expressions on their faces change.
There's tapping of feet and hammering of heart.
There is a cadence of words and sounds.
The air is electric.
Some of the first timers look ebullient while others look a little green.
I hope none of them pukes this time. It stinks up the place like crazy.
"Ten says that chick faints before they even open the gates." Jamie whispers in my ear, nodding at a particularly pale girl who is tightly clutching the sides of her seat.
"You're on," I whisper back, turning to face him.
Jamie smiles down at me. Light coming through the Otter's windows reflecting off his blond hair, and the dark of his pupils combined with his huge build makes him look even more fearsome.
"Where's Em this time?" He asks, chewing on mint gum.
I hadn't spoken to Em since the last time we all went skydiving together in California.
"He calls me whenever he's in New York. Maybe he's not back from Virginia yet."
"I can't believe he missed Waialua, man! He's going to regret this big time!" Jamie shakes his head.
Thunderous noise from the Twin Otter's engines fill the air as the gates are let down. Cold air washes all over us and I have to blink several times to adjust to the bright light.
"Girl's still alive. You owe me ten." I tell Jamie, discreetly pointing at the pale girl.
"Whoa! Check this out, Iz!" Jamie shouts, above all of the noises as he looks out the window and down below.
I crane my neck to look out one of the windows and let out a small gasp.
The deep blue of the pacific stretches far and wide beneath us, and it is mesmerizing. The sun is high in the east sky and the light almost makes the water seem to shimmer.
I let out a whistle.
I remember it's my turn to chose where we go next. Hawaii was Jamie's idea and it is seriously going to be some tough act to follow.
The idea of recreational sports never ceases to enliven me. I know I could jump off this plane, break a couple of limbs and probably never walk again. I know I could die. But something about falling through five thousand meters of air, or rafting through the wild, white waters, evoke feelings inside that make me keep coming back.
Death is inevitable.
I'd rather see it living my life the way I want to.
In the last six years, I've traveled the whole of America and probably seen half of the world already. Between my job, and these recreational activities Em, Jamie and I set up every once, in a while, I bounce from city to city every month. Paris, Bangkok, Beijing, you name it. And, I've loved every single moment of it.
I look up when I hear my name being called, and am surprised to see almost half of the plane is already empty. The jump master nods at me and I get up from my seat, securing my camera and putting on my gloves.
"You ready?" A tandem instructor asks me.
"Abso-fucking-lutely," I grin back, putting my hands straight out.
Pushing my feet back, I jump.
I've done this more than a couple of times, but still, every time I make that jump, it feels like the first time all over again.
My ears pop because of the pressure and I can hardly hear anything except for the howling wind around me. As I continue to move in forward throw, the fogginess clears up slowly and I gasp aloud for the second time today.
It's as if someone painted the scenery beneath me.
The unrealistic beauty of the waves of the pacific crashing on the sandy shore, the patchwork of farmland; each with a different crop; honey, yellow, orange colors all masterfully sewn together. And finally, the mountain ridges on the far south, standing proud and mighty, makes the hair on my arms stand up.
I hear Jamie shouting at the top of his lungs as I scramble for my camera and turn around slightly to see him catching up to me. Quickly turning on my Nikon, I snap a picture of him and laugh out loud at how ridiculous it seems on screen.
I take countless shots of the island even though it is all imprinted in my memory and will be forever. Pushing my arms and legs back, I move closer to the others.
We fall through the air and laugh and scream.
We do back-flips and come together in a circle.
I solidify each moment on film.
Jamie taps the altimeter on his wrist and we break away. I move away from him, pull on the toggle and feel my body being jerked upwards as my parachute is deployed.
The parachute gains surface area and I begin to slow down. Pointing my camera up, I click pictures of the red and white striped parachute. It takes a few more minutes for me to reach the ground and all the while, I keep clicking pictures and enjoying the soft wind blowing through my hair and the adrenaline coursing through my veins.
I land as smoothly as ever, bending my legs at the last minute. As soon as I crawl out from under the parachute, a pair of lips crushes against mine.
I let out a soft moan and hungrily kiss Jamie back. He rests his forehead against mine, breathing heavily, "That was awesome, wasn't it?"
I nod, too overwhelmed to say anything.
"Just imagine. You're going to have to beat THAT."
"Shut up, dipshit. By the way, you still owe me ten dollars." I reply, excising myself from the parachute and taking off my helmet.
"I'm buying us dinner today anyway." Jamie runs his hand through his blond locks, smirking down at me.
"Oh, really? And when did I agree to this?" I bite the inside of my cheek to stop myself from grinning back.
"Stop playing hard to get, Iz. I know you like me."
"You know your arrogance never fails to astound me." I shake my head, walking with an uneven gait.
"Oh, c'mon! Have dinner with me. Just this once."
I try to ignore his puppy-dog face and unconsciously bite my lip again as I contemplate my decision. We've fooled around a lot, but we've never labeled anything. On one hand, he works for me, so this can end pretty badly with me having to search for a new assistant. Jamie and I share a sense of camaraderie that I didn't want to end. On the other, he really is fuck-hot.
"Okay, I'll make you a deal. Have these films developed and in my office by tomorrow morning and I'll have dinner with you." I wink, throwing my camera at him.
"You got it, boss," He smiles at me and I freeze.
I freeze because I have butterflies in my tummy. I haven't felt butterflies since… forever.
Since a certain green-eyed boy told me, he loved me.
I ignore the babble of the other customers around me and concentrate on my food. The ambiance within the restaurant is calming and the sunlight filtering through the screens create a dappled effect on the wall opposite me.
"So, Isabella, how are you? It's been such a long time since I've talked to you." Aro's eyes twinkle as he speaks.
"I'm good, Sir, thanks for asking. How are Jane and Alec?" I ask, spearing the ravioli.
His face instantly brightens at the name of his children. "They're better, I guess. You know it hasn't been easy on them since their mother passed away, but they seem much happier now."
"That's great, Sir. Please tell them I miss them very much when you return."
Aro chuckles. "Sweetheart, they absolutely adore you. Specially, Jane. You know, she asked for a camera on her eighth birthday. My little girl says she wants to become a photographer and take pretty pictures, just like you."
I smile and blush while the waiter comes to refill our wine glasses. Aro straightens up and puts his elbows up on the table, threading his fingers together.
"You've bewitched the entire industry with your astounding talent, Isabella. I knew I saw something within you when I first hired you." Aro beams at me. "And that is why I've come to with yet another job offer."
I rest my knife and fork on the plate as I look up at him. For a man who is in his late thirties, Aro looks very aged. I've known him for all of five years now. He's kind and compassionate, but he can also be rough and callous when he needs to be.
Aro tells me about the job, and my heart beats faster and faster. He tells me I have to take photographs for a magazine centered on tourism and traveling. He tells me about the places I will visit, and the people I'll meet and the things I'll do. My knee starts bouncing rhythmically.
Aro leans back on his chair and smiles at me knowingly.
He knows I won't refuse.
It's all I've ever wanted.
I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
"You don't have to decide this very moment, Isabella. Take all the time you need." Aro sips his wine.
"Excuse me, please," I stand up and grab my purse, hurrying to the washroom.
I turn the water on with shaking fingers and splash some on my face and arms. My body feels overheated. I take in my reflection in the large mirror. My face is glowing in shades of pink, and water is running down the sides of my hair. The white blouse and red knee length skirt I'm wearing is formal and fits perfectly, and my too-high heels give it an edge. It isn't every day that I dress this way.
I get myself together and quickly redo my makeup but the buzz of my phone interrupts me.
I look at the caller id and frown.
I press the green key and put the phone to my ear.
"Hello?" I speak into the phone, unsurely.
"Bells?" The voice on the other end debilitates me. I was expecting a callow tone, but the voice I hear is mature. It is Rosalie, though. I recognize the edge in her voice.
Rosalie hadn't spoken to me in years. I didn't know anything about her anymore except the little bits of information Em fed me every once in a while.
She sighs. "I almost thought you wouldn't answer."
My frown is back in place. "Why would I do that?"
She sighs again, impatiently this time. "Look, Bella, I know a lot has happened. A lot has changed. There are a lot of misunderstandings that none of us ever thought to resolve. We were young and stupid and we made mistakes. Anyway, I called you today because I … Well, I miss you. I always have, but I never had enough courage to pick up the phone and call you."
I breathe in shakily. "Rose, I … I miss you too."
She laughs and I hear the tears in her laugh. "Bella, I'm getting married."
I gasp, the tears finally leaking out of my eyes. "Oh my God Rose! That's amazing! Em didn't tell me a thing. I'm going to kill that asshole when I meet him."
Suddenly, Rose becomes quiet. I almost think she hung up on me until I hear sniffling on the other end.
"Rose?" I call.
"It's not Em, Bella. It's Royce. I'm marrying Royce King."
I almost drop my phone. "What but … Why? What happened?"
"I haven't seen Em for almost a year, Bella. We broke-up last year. I'm sorry he didn't tell you."
I stand clutching the edge of the sink, too shocked to speak.
"Anyway, the wedding is in a month and I want you here. We've been planning our wedding since we were six, Bella. I need you here. I need my bridesmaid here."
Memories of an older, happier time sweep me away. For a moment, I'm transfixed, just remembering.
It's winter and we're fifteen. I'm in love with the color green. Rose says she is in love. We're sitting cross-legged in Rose's living room, circled around Nana Hale and a crackling fire, listening to the same old stories over and over again.
Nana sits on her abraded rocking chair, used for many years and one she refuses to give up. She wears a gaudy rhinestone necklace with an excessively garish silver dress as she reads abstruse works of philosophy. We all know she's slightly eccentric and wordy, but we love that about her. Even at an old age, she's one tough cookie. Even Carlisle can't win an argument against her. I envy Rose for having such a cool grandmother.
We're feasting on Esme's special roast beef, which is one of my favorites. It's delectable. Rose eyes my food hungrily but doesn't have any, claiming to be on an abstemious vegan diet. She thinks she's getting fat. I roll my eyes at her.
"Hales are stupid and impulsive. It's in our blood." Nana smiles, looking at a picture of herself and Papa Hale. "We believe too strongly on the notion of love at first sight."
Edward makes a gagging gesture and I giggle loudly.
"I can see you, young man." Nana warns, but her eyes remain closed. Edward stills immediately.
"Your grandfather won me over to elope with him. Rose's mother broke off her engagement with the most eligible bachelor in town to marry her father. And you, young man, your father married his first, one night stand … Well, it wasn't a one night stand now that you think about it."
We all laugh, even though Edward's parents are slightly red in the face.
Nana turns to face Edward and speaks in a jaunty voice, "So you see, Edward? We have the same blood running through our veins, which means you'll be marrying your first love, no matter what it takes you to do so, just like we all have. Just like Rosie will."
I curl up into a ball and simply bask in the warmth of the moment. I look at Rose and she has tears in her eyes and a beatific smile on her face. Em's arm is tightly wrapped around her, and in that moment I'm sure they'll end up together. They'll grow up and he'll propose, and she'll say yes. She'll have a spring wedding, with purple flowers and white, poofy dresses. It'll be as we always planned.
We stay up half the night, just talking, sharing stories. Among all the chatter and my musings, I don't even feel the green eyes burning my skin all night.
We're both crying by this point. "I'll be honored to be your bridesmaid, Rose." I whisper into the phone. "But …" My voice falters.
"But, nothing. You're going to be here. You'll be by my side when I say my vows and you'll capture the biggest day of my life on film, just like we planned."
She listens while I remain quiet and finally she sighs, answering my unspoken question. "Yes, he'll be here. Of course, he'll be here. He's my damn cousin. You're just going to have to suck it up."
I smile. "Well, then I guess I'm coming home."
After finishing the phone call and promising Rose that I'll call her back once I book my flight, I quickly redo my makeup and leave the washroom. I find Aro finishing his dessert and typing on his phone when I get back and I apologize for my lateness.
"Isabella, how long are we going to pretend that you haven't already decided to take the job?" Aro grins. He knows me too well.
"I can start in a month. Will that be a problem?"
"No, it's no problem. But why do you need a month? Will you be going somewhere?" Aro frowns.
"I'm going home for my best friend's wedding."
On its own accord, my mouth pulls up in a wide smile.