AN: This is something that just came to me. It's mostly canon, but I might be a little rusty on my Twi-lore, so expect a few liberties. Hope you like it. ;)

Absence

Chapter 1:

It was the night of junior prom when I realized how beautiful Alice really was.

She was doing my makeup back at her place and she had told me to be very still, which gave me lots of time to study her face as she bent to my lips with the lipstick. All vampires were unearthly, but Alice was special even by vampire standards. There was just something about her. Button nose, slightly upturned. Full lips, perpetually smiling. And her eyes. Her eyes were huge, and up close like this you could see exactly how pretty they were. Soft amber in color, long lashed. She had already done her own makeup, both of us in our dresses, and the light dusting of blush over her chinawhite cheeks gave her supernaturally pale complexion an extra hint of life and loveliness.

Before she was done doing my lipstick, she noticed me staring. She smiled and I felt myself blush a little. I wanted to look down, but I couldn't move my head. The whole thing was making me feel very strange, standing there in the bathroom, all dressed up, still like a statue with that feather-touch of lipstick on my lips like a faint and brushing kiss. Thankfully, she was almost done. She finished up with great care and then she giggled and capped the lipstick with a flourish.

"There," she said. "All done."

Finally I was able to look away. Closeness had always made me uncomfortable, even with Edward. "Thanks," I said.

My voice might've come out a bit mutteringly. She was packing her things back into her makeup case and she glanced at me.

"You okay?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said, nodding. "Yeah, I'm just…"

I shrugged, as if this whole thing was such a bother, and then I turned to my reflection in the mirror over the sink. Alice was a maestro with the makeup and my dress was a beautiful dark navy gown. I really did look very nice, but honestly? None of that really excited me.

I don't know why. I guess I just wasn't much in the mood. I never even wanted to go to prom, but Edward and Alice had talked me into it. Edward always thought he knew what I wanted to do even more than I did. He was kind of controlling. Alice was too, but she was my best friend, she was supposed to be.

Alice observed my sullenness with a playful roll of her eyes. "Bella, this anti-prom attitude was cute to begin with, but now you're just being childish." She put her arms around my middle from behind and set her chin on my shoulder to smile at me in the mirror. "Let me explain this to you, okay? You're wearing hundred dollar shoes, your dress is amazing, and you have a boyfriend who loves you with all his heart. Tonight is going to be one of the best nights of your life. Okay?"

I smirked at her reflection slightly. "It's only one shoe."

"Huh?"

"You said hundred dollar shoes. But it's only one shoe. So it's more like fifty dollars."

Alice narrowed her eyes at me in the mirror playfully and then she released me. I turned to face her, standing stiffly on the cast that covered my broken leg, courtesy of my tussle with James. The cast even coated my foot. Alice glanced at it doubtfully but it wasn't in her nature to be pessimistic.

"Okay, fine," she said. "You have a leg in a cast, so maybe it's not completely perfect. But, as with everything, it's the imperfections that make it so special."

She finished her speech with a wink. I didn't believe a word.

"Now you're just making stuff up," I said.

Alice sighed and took my hands as if to tell me something important. She looked into my face. Her hands were really cold and really slim. I didn't know why I was so aware of them, the touch of them.

"Bella," she said to me soberly. "Just shut up and be excited. Okay?"

I smiled and nodded reluctantly. "Okay."

She let go of my hands and I turned back to the mirror, trying to hold on to my smile. I smoothed down my dress, feeling the sheen of satin under my hands. I tried to get excited, but dammit, it just wouldn't happen.

Alice was watching me in the mirror and after a moment she cocked her head.

"Or is it something else?" she asked.

I blinked at her. "What do you mean?"

"Is there something else that's bothering you?"

"Like what?"

"I don't know. Is it Victoria? Are you afraid she might come back?"

"Not really."

"Then what is it?"

I looked at her in the mirror. She was standing there in her black satin dress and she seemed to have realized that there maybe there really was something wrong with me. Her round yellow eyes were filled with concern and for some reason the look on her face made my throat tighten. But instead of telling her, I just forced a smile and shook my head.

"It's nothing," I said.

"Is it Edward?"

"It's nothing, Alice."

"Are you sure?"

I nodded, smiling, and this time I almost managed to convince myself. Alice didn't quite seem to believe it, but she seemed willing to let it go. I was glad she did, because there was no way I could tell her what was really bothering me. How could I?

I didn't even know what it was myself.

Even now, months later, I still didn't.

But I thought about it a lot. I was lying awake in bed, staring up at the ceiling. The alarm hadn't gone off yet and it was still early. Gray in the room. Cold. The holidays were over and today was the first day back at school. That was bad enough, but even worse was the thought of going back to school without Edward being there. Without Alice. Without any of the Cullens. It had been two months since Edward left me, taking his family with him, and I still missed them so much.

I was still laying there in bed when my dad opened the door to check if I was awake.

"Bells? Just making sure you're up. School today. First day back. Remember?"

"Yeah," I said. "I'll be up in a minute."

He waited. I didn't move.

"Well, I better get to work," he said finally. "I'll see you tonight."

I didn't reply, but I heard him creak back down the stairs and I heard the front door and after a while I heard his car as well. I continued laying there, dimly thinking about how much I missed her. Alice. I'm not sure why, but it always seemed to be Alice I dwelled on. I think I had underestimated how important she was too me. Back then. She had been one of the few things that really made me smile. I can't believe she didn't even say goodbye. Even if Edward told her not to, she could've at least—

The alarm on my phone went off.

I picked it up and turned it off. While I had it in my hands, I checked for messages or missed calls. There was nothing. Neither Alice or Edward or any of the Cullens had contacted me since they left town, but I kept hoping. Part of me would just never believe they could leave me like this. Edward had said himself he loved me. You don't leave people you love, not even for their own good. You just don't. And Alice…I'm pretty sure Alice liked me too much to just leave like this too.

But then I sighed and threw off the covers.

Because deep down I knew I was just kidding myself.

They were never coming back.

Ten minutes later I was in the shower, yawning under the water. Afterwards I dried my hair and brushed it and sorted out some outfit to wear. I was sifting through tops in a drawer when I came across a top that Alice had bought me ages ago. She had always enjoyed dressing me up like her own personal Barbie Doll. I lifted out the top and looked at it. It was black with a silver shading of a unicorn across it. Alice had bought me a ton of clothes, but I never wore any of it anymore. It was a nice top, but I tucked it back into the drawer, and found a different one.

It was a cold and damp day when I finally went outside. The sidewalks were wet. Must've rained in the night. I threw my bag into the truck and climbed in behind the wheel. I turned the key, and…

Nothing.

The engine didn't start. I frowned and turned the key again. It still didn't start. Well. That was weird. I let go of the key and sighed. So what was I supposed to do now? I guess I could walk. It wasn't too far. Or I could call my dad. He might be able to give me a ride. Too bad Alice and Edward had split town. Either of them could've given me a ride, too.

God, I was seriously not looking forward to school without the Cullens. Everybody knew that Edward had dumped me, so there was that. But there was also the fact that there would be no Alice to say hi. It seemed like a small thing to be sad about, but Alice really had a way of greeting people. Sometimes she would even hug you. It was always nice when she did that.

I sat there for a few minutes thinking about Alice.

Then I shook my head, got out the truck, and went back to bed.

I only slept a couple more hours before I got up again. It was probably a bad idea to skip school, but what else was I going to do? The truck wouldn't work. Still, I felt pretty bad. Not really a foreign feeling these days. I spent the rest of the day in my room, listening to my iPod and playing Pokémon. The playlist was Edward's piano solos that he had recorded for me. A very somber selection. Just the thing to feed the depression. God, Edward was such an asshole. How could he just up and leave like that? Without even talking to me about it? I mean, sure, his brother Jasper had almost killed me in a frenzy of bloodlust over a papercut, but…

I sighed. But nothing, I guess. Edward could've handled it a little better, but he did have a point. As much as I trusted the Cullens, there was a very real danger in being part of their lives. Not just the incident with Jasper, but the incident with James as well. How many times had I almost died at the hands of a vampire since I hooked up with Edward? More than I was comfortable with, to be honest. But still. Mortality wouldn't be a problem if Edward would, say, turn me into a vampire as well. It seemed like an easy solution to me. To Alice, as well. She had told me once that she almost wanted to turn me herself, with or without Edward's permission.

But they didn't. Instead they just left.

Guess I wasn't as important to them as they said I was.

By the time dad came home I was in the kitchen, making dinner. Steak. Ugh. I was so off meat. Dad loved it, though. Call him old fashioned.

"Hey dad," I said casually, as if I wasn't worried the school might've called him.

He frowned and set his keys on the counter. "The school called me at the station."

Drat. Fucking small town.

"Oh, uh…"

"They said you didn't turn up today."

I flipped the steaks, avoiding eye contact. "Yeah, sorry, I was…"

"Now, look, Bells. I know you've been upset since that boy left town, but—"

"The truck broke down, dad," I snapped. "Jesus."

He calmed down a little. Just a little. I did too. I don't know why I barked at him like that, but for some reason it really pissed me off that that he thought I was so messed up over a guy. Because that was pathetic. I mean, I don't claim to be the most independent young woman in the world, but when you accuse me of falling to pieces over a boy, I'm gonna at least deny it.

"What do you mean broke down?" he asked.

"I don't know," I muttered, focusing on the steaks. "It wouldn't start."

"And you couldn't walk?"

"It was raining."

"You could've called me to give you a ride."

"You were at work."

"Well, you can't just skip school because of a little car trouble, Bells."

"The truck didn't start, dad. What else was I supposed to do?"

I switched off the stove sullenly. He frowned but he appeared willing to let it go. For now.

Soon I had dinner on the table. We sat and ate, mostly in silence. We had never been the most talkative family, but with my moods lately, things were a little strained. He didn't approve of being depressed over losing a boyfriend. Neither did I, but I bet it was far easier to be judgemental when it wasn't your own heart that had been ripped out of your chest and stomped into the floor. It was more than just a boyfriend I lost, anyway.

While we were eating, my phone buzzed. It was in my pocket. I had a fleeting hope it might be Alice. I didn't have many other friends that I was in contact with. But when I pulled the phone out and checked, I saw it was just a text from Angela.

Where were you today?

I sighed and put the phone back in my pocket without replying. I'd reply later. Or maybe I wouldn't bother. Stupid question, anyway. If I wasn't at school, where else would I be? Home, durr.

"Who was that?" dad asked.

I shook it off as if it wasn't important. "Just Angela."

After dinner dad went out to inspect the truck with a flashlight and the pretence that he knew anything at all about repairing cars. I did the dishes and went upstairs to play a bit more Pokémon. Gotta catch all those little fuckers. I was trying to build a Fairy-type team. Fairies are awesome. I'd never been much of a video game person, but the little handheld had been a lifesaver these last few months. It kept my mind off everything else.

Like the Cullens. God, I was never going to get over this. It was just such a shitty thing to happen. I mean, it wasn't just a boyfriend and a bestfriend that I lost. It was my hopes, too. My future. My dream of being a vampire. Immortal. Eternal youth and beauty. Edward might've even been my soulmate. And not just Edward. Alice, too. With Alice we would've been BFFs literally. Best friends forever. How awesome would that be? And then there was all the rest of the Cullens. I hadn't spent much time with the others, but Emmett seemed to really like me, and Jasper did as well—when he wasn't dying to rip my throat out, at least.

I sighed, sitting on my bed with my back against the wall. I understood why they had to leave, but it wasn't fair. It just wasn't.

Meanwhile dad was finished outside and he had come upstairs to give me his professional opinion on the truck. He saw I had my iPod on and knocked on the door to get my attention. I pulled the earbuds out.

"Truck's all fixed," he said.

"What was wrong with it?"

"Battery cable was loose. If you had called Triple A, they could've fixed it in two seconds."

"I didn't think of that."

"No, you just thought about skipping school."

I breathed out through my nose and stared at the handheld in my lap. Dad breathed out through his nose as well, exactly the same as I had, but it was him who softened first. He came into the room a little and sat down on my bed. I looked up grudgingly.

"Look, Bella," he said. "I understand, okay? Edward's gone. And I know you miss him, but…"

"It's not just Edward, dad. He took his whole family with him. Alice was my best friend."

He nodded. Half smiled. "Yeah. I always liked that Alice kid. She always made you smile. Which is more than I can say for Edward."

I smiled as well. Sadly. Alice had done more than make me smile. She had made me blush. She had made my heart race. She had made me wonder if I…

"But still, Bells," he went on. "Life happens. Friends come and go. You can't let it affect you."

"I know. I'll be fine, dad. I just miss them."

"Well, try to cheer up, okay? I hate seeing you so down."

"I will. I'm sorry."

He gave me another rough father-like smile and then he rose from the bed and went to the door. He turned back and lingered for a moment. He did that sometimes. Whenever he ran out of things to say, it always took him a moment or two to realize it.

"Well," he said. "I'm going to bed. Night, Bells."

"Night, dad."

"You gonna be up much longer?"

"Nah, I'll be in bed soon."

"Alright. Sleep well."

"You too."

He closed the door partly and continued down the hall.

I looked down at the game in my lap. I was gonna keep playing for a little bit, but then I realized I could probably sleep if I tried, so I turned it off and decided to go to bed too. Sleep was even better than video games to keep my mind off everything. Sometimes it was the only thing in a day that I looked forward to. Just a nice night of blankness.

Before turning in, I went to the bathroom and brushed my teeth quickly. When I was done, I spat into the sink and looked into the mirror. I looked pretty sad, even to myself. Pale. Empty eyed. No wonder dad was worried about me. I wanted to look away, but I couldn't do it. My eyes were tearing up. I blinked them. God, I missed her. I missed her so much. Fuck Edward.

It was Alice I wanted back.