I've been falling, crashing, breaking
All the while you were stood here waiting
For me girl

Tried liberation of my own free will
But it left me looking to get higher still.
Oh and the answer well who would have guessed
Could be something as simple as this
God knows how I could have missed
Something as simple as this.

-Jake Bugg


PART ONE

"Do you need a bag?"

"Oh, no thank you," I mutter as the man behind the counter prints my receipt.

"Planning a trip?" he asks, sliding my pile of books towards me. He lightly touches the cover of a book about art in Paris as he draws his hand back.

"Sort of," I lie, taking my books out to the car. My best friend, Alice, is leaning against the trunk of her yellow Prius, talking on her phone. She's just under five feet tall, but her legs are long and thin, tanned from a week-long vacation to California she took earlier this summer. A breeze comes by at that moment, lifting pieces of her short, dark hair off of her forehead, the pink tips catching in the light. She had a lotus flower drawn on her bicep in Sharpie and frayed shorts on her narrow hips. Alice waves to me as I approach and ends her phone conversation.

"How is Susan?" I ask politely, sliding up next to her.

"Susan is being completely annoying as usual," Alice sighs. Susan is her mother, and means well but can be a little overbearing. She's currently trying to organize Alice's senior pictures for the upcoming year as well as micromanage Alice's summer assignments (which Alice refuses to start—on principle).

She glances at the books in my arms and rolls her eyes before checking her phone again.

"What does that make, Bella? Five hundred art books?" I avoid her question because she's probably right but I don't like her accusatory tone.

"I don't know, Alice, how's Jasper?" Sure enough, she pulls her phone up to her chest, hiding it from me. Jasper Whitlock was in our class, and has been flirting with Alice since the first grade. They were best friends in elementary school but middle school weirdness pushed them apart. They've been dancing around each other and their sexual tension since they were fourteen and are currently texting each other constantly but never actually seeing each other in person. It's annoying if anything.

We finally get in the car and Alice turns up the radio, some indie station we both like plays loudly while Alice sings along. Her voice is tinkling and high and I rest my head against the window, watching the green trees fly by. Everything is so lush and I honestly love Forks. It's a small town in Washington and it hardly ever stops raining. It's nice but it's boring. Alice turns onto my street, a gravel road right outside of the main part of town. There are only a couple other houses on my street, each on either side of my small, white-shingled two story. My dad's police cruiser isn't parked out front so I know not to expect him until later. I tell Alice that I'll see her tomorrow as I get out of the car and she peels out of the driveway, scattering loose stones in her wake.

I'm unlocking the front door when I hear someone call my name. Sure enough, it's Emmett—my neighbor. He's been playing football since he could walk and he's six foot four inches of pure hulking muscle, which would be terrifying if he didn't have such soft brown eyes and didn't tell such dumb knock-knock jokes. I've known him practically my whole life but at a distance. He's a year older than me and runs in a completely different crowd than I do. He's dating Rosalie Hale, for god's sake, the honor roll blonde goddess that everyone worships because they're secretly terrified of her.

Emmett waves from his mailbox and I wave back.

"Get anything good?" he asks, and I assume he means the books in my arms.

"Yeah, they had a new Van Gogh biography that I've been waiting for," I say cheerfully and he nods like he understands but I get the feeling he's just being nice. "What about you?" I ask. He sifts through his mail and holds up one envelope.

"Just a tuition bill for fall semester," he sighs. "It's no Van Gogh but I'll take what I can get." I laugh. Emmett's going to the local community college for a year or two to save money and has made it clear on multiple occasions that he's unhappy about it.

I say goodbye to Emmett and slip inside—it's dark in the house and I don't pause in the entryway long—I go straight upstairs to my room and open the curtains and windows. That's my favorite part of my room, I have a whole wall of windows that let in so much light. I set my books down in the large stack already sitting next to my full bookshelf. I have some novels and a memoir here and there but my library mostly consists of art books. Artist biographies, encyclopedias, museum collections, thrift store textbooks, anything really. I grab the Van Gogh biography and settle onto my bed. I don't stop reading until the streetlamps come on and my dad is calling me down for pizza.

My dad, Charlie, looks like me I guess, but grayer and his face is aging and aging more with the mustache he's decided to grow. He looks at me cautiously when I enter the kitchen because he doesn't know how else to look at me. Ever since my mom left it's like I've been a ticking time bomb even though I keep telling him I'm okay.

We spend our late dinners mostly in silence. I stare at his uniform and the lines in his forehead and he throws me concerned looks while I pick apart my food.

"How was your day?" I always ask because I feel like I should.

"It was fine," he begins and then usually follows with a story about something dumb the deputy did that afternoon.

I smile at all the right times and I clean up the table and wrap up the leftovers and I hope my dad is happy. He's quiet and isn't around a lot but when he is, I know he loves me.

He's the one that stayed.


It's a tradition for me and Alice to go to the Spartan Diner the night before the first day of school. We always get chocolate fudge milkshakes and sit on the curb outside, people watching and mourning the loss of summer.

"I think I'm going to wear that jean vest I found at goodwill with that black skirt I bought yesterday," Alice says, scooping whipped cream into her mouth with her finger.

"Punk," I say absently. She's been obsessing over her back to school outfit for the last week. I hear Alice sigh.

"I don't think I'm trying to be punk this year," she says. "Maybe I'll wear that pink shirt with it…" and by that point I kind of tune her out. I sip my milkshake slowly and I like the way the sun is setting tonight. The colors and shadows are really nice and I feel like this current setting is something that Monet could paint, or maybe Turner. I sigh sadly, knowing I could never do capture this moment how it should be captured. Alice doesn't notice and keeps talking about the pink shirt. It bothers me that she's missing this moment of potential and beauty because of an outfit.

She smacks my arm and I break out of my reverie, feeling alarmed but also kind of bad for ignoring her.

"It's Jasper," she whispers and I follow her gaze down the street. Jasper is making his way towards us, running a hand through his shaggy blonde hair lazily, his t-shirt is so wrinkled it looks like he's been sleeping in it. I practically hear Alice swoon beside me and I understand why, Jasper is cute. His eyes are a nice shade of blue and he's cool in that effortless way. I can never tell if he runs with Rosalie's crowd or not.

I almost don't notice that someone is walking next to him—and of course, that someone is Edward Cullen. Edward moved to Forks right after our freshman year and I've never actually spoken to him but he was big news when he got here. He's really tall and lanky but in a lean kind of way and he has cheekbones that could cut glass. His hair is too long and sticks up in all different directions and his eyes are a dark green. Not a blue green, not hazel, but green. Like the trees that line our town.

Not that I'd noticed, really.

Girls swooned over him and I couldn't really fault them. He was swooped up by Rosalie Hale and Lauren Mallory almost immediately but never seemed to be without Jasper. I never heard any dirty gossip about him and after a while, he just sort of quietly faded into the crowd.

As they get closer to us, I wonder what Alice will do—maybe what Jasper will. They've been texting practically non-stop for the last three months and I feel myself get nervous for them. Has Jasper noticed us? Alice is suddenly very interested in her milkshake, her eyes not looking past the melting whipped cream.

"Hey Alice, Bella," Jasper drawls and I practically sigh with relief. I feel Alice relax beside me.

"Hey," we say at the same time and Alice gives him a warm smile. The corners of his mouth turn up. It's a soft gesture but it seems genuine. I steal a glance at Edward and he catches me, pursing his lips. Has he gotten taller?

"What brings you to the Spartan?" I ask politely because Alice is back to studying her milkshake.

"Thought we'd grab a shake," Jasper offers. "Maybe we'll join you ladies if you don't mind."

I watch Alice's cheeks turn pink.

"That would be nice," I say. Jasper laughs quietly before they go inside the diner. Alice exhales loudly, like she's been holding her breath.

"You okay?" I ask, taking a sip.

"Why am I such a spaz around him? God, he probably thinks I'm an idiot." I roll my eyes at her.

"Oh, please. Just talk to him, I don't know why you're so nervous—you've known each other forever," I say, exasperated.

"I just like him a lot, I don't want to screw anything up," she says quietly and I just keep drinking my shake, not sure what to say. I have little to no experience when it comes to boys—I spent the summer before I turned sixteen with Jacob Black, the son of one of my dad's friends, making out on the beach on the reservation where he lived and watching him mess with his car in his garage. He ended it right after school started that fall because it would "never work out" but never really explained himself. I spent about two days being sad but got over it. He used too much tongue and his hands were too dry. He was my first and only…whatever he was.

When the boys come back, Jasper sits down next to Alice and I'm surprised when Edward sits next to me. He stretches his long legs out onto the pavement. I don't know how he's wearing tight black jeans—I'm in denim cutoffs and I'm sweating.

"The sky is nice tonight," he says and his voice startles me. It's raspy and deep and his words are not what I expected. I nod, looking back out at the pinks and blues the sunset is making and I'm glad that Edward noticed the sky.

"I'm Bella, by the way," I offer lamely.

"I know," he says, cocking his head to the side slightly. "I'm Edward."

"I know," I say and I can't stop my smile. Edward's forest eyes are amused.

We don't talk anymore; we just drink our milkshakes and look at the sky, listening to Alice and Jasper murmur quietly to each other, watching day finally fade into night.


thoughts and comments are always appreciated xo