All characters etc belong to S Meyer. I am just playing with them.
As Bella looked out of the train window at the rolling hills of the Lake District and Pennines she finally felt like she could breathe at last. The hills weren't the imposing, majestic mountains of home, and she was grateful for that. They were beautiful none the less, rolling hills with crags and gorges and very few trees. There was green but not the dark, mossy green of Forks, this green was bright and fresh. It made her feel alive, it was invigorating. Taking deep breaths Bella tried to get as much air into her lungs as possible, revelling in the slight burn she felt. It was wonderful to feel so free and unencumbered. To breathe the free air at last. She smiled to herself as she watched this new world pass by. This truly was the first day of the rest of her life.
The last year had been the worst. More than the worst it had been horrendous. At times she had wanted to just give in an let the sorrow swallow her whole. But something had kept her fighting, kept her moving forward. Just under twelve month ago Edward had left her. She had been heartbroken, she had wallowed in self-pity and now felt such a fool. She had wasted precious time she could never get back. The new year had come and with it an epiphany. She had allowed that spoiled, selfish child to keep hurting her for months, long after he left. She had realised what an idiot she was being. Thanks to Jacob's help she had moved on from it and started to live again. They had become firm friends, he was her brother in all but blood. She had picked herself up, dusted herself down and realised enough really was enough. Edward had controlled her for far too long. No more.
However when three months later her dad had been killed by a drunk driver she had almost fallen apart again. Unable to bear the sorrow and loneliness as well as guilt. Guilt for all the months she lost with him by being a fool, and guilt that he was on his way to pick her up from a Res party when he was killed. She had been drinking and couldn't drive home. He had just finished his shift when she called and explained, telling him she would crash at Sam and Emily's. Charlie hadn't minded that she was drunk. He was pleased she had sense not to drive, he had volunteered to pick her up as he would be passing that way any way. The deputy turned up an hour later. It had been a head on collision just outside of Forks, about fifteen minutes after they had spoken. The other driver had veered across towards her father's patrol car. Her dad had died instantly, as did the drunk, Mike Newton.
The funeral was attended by just about the whole town and most of the Res. Both Billy and Harry had delivered eulogies. It had been immensely touching and humbling to see how loved and respected her father had been. Even Mr and Mrs Newton, devastated by their own loss and guilt that their son had caused someone else's death they stood at the back of the church trying to hide. Bella had spoken to them, she didn't blame them, Mike had made his own choices. Her mother had not come. Not able to get there as she and Phil were on vacation in Hawaii. That was her reason but Bella knew it was really that she just couldn't be bothered. Finally seeing her mother for what she was, a selfish, immature woman, Bella had accepted the excuse without question. She accepted it might be uncomfortable for Renee to come to her ex-husbands funeral but surely a mother would want to support her only daughter when she was needed the most.
There was also no sign of the Cullen's at the funeral. Bella had half hoped someone would show up but they never did. Furious with herself for hoping and then for being hurt again. Bella vowed it would be the last time. No more.
"It'll be as though we never existed" Edward had said. Right then Bella wished with her whole heart that they did not exist. She would never forgive them for abandoning her. She would never forgive her so called 'family' for the pain they had caused. Her 'sister', Bella scoffed at that, may not have seen the accident but she must surely have seen the aftermath. The family had to have known her dad was dead but they made no contact. It did not take Bella long to get over their absence again. She had friends.
She did not however go to Mikes quiet funeral the next day. She couldn't bring herself to attend. She felt bad for his parents but Bella doubted she would ever be able to forgive him.
That had been her lowest point but the pack and friends from school had been great. They had kept her going and supported her completely. She had picked herself up again. Determined to make her father proud and thrown herself back into her school work. She had graduated with flying colours and her choice of university including an offer from Dartmouth, which was strange as she didn't remember applying there.
Instead she had decided she needed a completely fresh start, with no ghosts to haunt her and no expectations on her. So she had transferred her Dartmouth acceptance to Durham University in England and started packing. Thanks to a life insurance policy and pension from her Dad she was comfortably well off. Bella had rented her house to Jake and Jessica, who he had imprinted on at Charlie's funeral. It had made Bella almost laugh. She was happy for them. They moved so quickly it made Bella's head spin. As soon as she had announced her move they had asked to rent Charlie's house. They were going to buy it when they were sorted, but Bella was in no rush. They could take as long as necessary because she had no intention of ever going back. While she loved her friends and would miss them terribly there were just too many bad memories in Forks.
The scenery as she passed through was breath-taking. She had asked when she booked her tickets for a scenic route and while it was longer and involved two changes, it certainly did not disappoint. One of the changes was at a place called Carlisle which made Bella laugh for some reason. She felt it was worth it. It was the middle of august and the rolling hills were covered in purple heather and yellow gorse. The grass was bright, emerald green, dotted with white sheep. There were stone walls and farms scattered about. All of them looking like they had been there centuries. The whole scene looked washed clean and fresh. It seemed symbolic to Bella, this was her fresh start. Her old life was left behind her. She was free.
Free from interference, control and restrictions. No Edward to tell her what to do and if she disagreed to dazzle her into submission. No Jake trying to look after her and help, regardless of her need for space. No pack shadowing her every move to keep her safe from a psychotic, redheaded vampire hell bent on mis-placed revenge. And sadly no Dad to answer to.
Her mother too was out of the picture following a massive row a week after the funeral when she had finally got in touch again to ask how Bella was. They had argued about money. Renee insisting Bella hand over her inheritance because "I raised you for him, He owes me" Bella had promptly told her mother to shove it, that her father owed her nothing and neither did she. She had practically had to raise herself and now here was Renee screaming about her dues. Bella could hardly believe what she was hearing but instantly resolved to hear no more. She hung up and promptly changed her mobile number and e-mail address. She had not spoken to Renee since and would probably never contact her again. Bella found it very hard to forgive her mother's selfishness and knew that she would never change. Only Jake, Emily and Angela Weber could contact her now. Bella was thrilled with that fact. They certainly wouldn't be passing the information on to anyone. She hadn't even told her mom where she was going. There was no room in her new life for that kind of baggage. Her mother was history. Being free of her overbearing and childish mother felt to Bella like she had walked out of a prison, free at last. She never really understood how much Renee's dependency had weighed on her but she would never let herself be so oppressed again. No more.
She was also completely vampire free thanks to the pack. That was something she would never cease to be grateful for. Victoria had finally been cornered and destroyed about a month after her father had died. She had led them a merry dance for months and two of the pack, Seth and Embry had gotten badly hurt. They had healed eventually and with no further vampire activity in the area no more kids had phased. The pack finally seemed free to re-start their lives as well.
At last it was truly over, she really was clear to start over with no baggage, nothing to hold her back, no body to stop her, no body controlling her life. She started to laugh quietly to herself, she had to be quiet as the other people on the train would think her odd. It was a laugh of release. Bella was looking forward to the future with an excitement she had never known before. She had a future to plan now and a life to live, she was determined, she was going to live it to the full.
After several hours the train arrived at Durham station. The station was situated on the top of a hill giving an impressive view of the city. She had of course done her research but that didn't really prepare her for her first view. It took her breath away.
The ancient, medieval cathedral and castle standing out against the skyline. The twisting, meandering streets lined with shops and houses leading down to the river. She could see lots of people moving around, but there was still space. There were boats on the river and people walking alongside. Everywhere was movement but there was no sense of haste. The place felt old, steeped in history and was exactly what she had hoped for.
"Wow" she thought excitedly. "This is going to be great."
A short taxi ride brought her to the flat she had decided to rent for the three/four year course. Bella had chosen against student accommodation, preferring to keep her privacy and space. She had gone for a furnished, two bedroomed flat above a shop in the city centre but close to the campus and one of the university colleges that held some student accommodation. Getting the best of both worlds was what she was hoping for. She wanted to be able be a student but have the independence of living separately.
The flat itself was warm and welcoming, decorated in warm terracotta shades with cream carpets, curtains and furniture and had a large window letting in lots of light. The colour theme continued throughout the flat and into the bedrooms. Her bedroom held a queen-sized bed, large skylight and surprisingly lots of space. The second bedroom had a three quarter bed and small dresser with a skylight in the ceiling to let in light, it was neat, tidy and cosy. Bella doubted she would have guests bit if she did it was more than suitable for the purpose. The kitchen was bright and clean with shiny chrome appliances, a cream marble counter top and pine cupboard doors. It also had another good sized window. The bathroom was a pristine, white suite, with chrome taps and a glass shower stall. The flat had been refurbished before Bella took the lease and she was the first person to live there. It already felt like home, it was cosy and cheerful and Bella was delighted.
Unable to wait any longer Bella decided to unpack later and go out to buy food and explore. As she walked through the cobbled streets, soaking up the atmosphere, she could feel the relaxed air to the place. Durham was a city but small by most standards. It was certainly a lot smaller than she was used to. And yet there was a vibrancy in the streets that was compelling. The place felt alive and effervescent and it confirmed in her mind that this was the right choice. All around her was the past and yet there was a feeling of moving forward. While Bella was studying English major, her decision to minor in History was based in no small part on the place she was already certain was home.
Bella was determined to enjoy student life, her flat was close to several pubs that the estate agent told her were frequented by students. There was also a college nearby that had halls of residence. The main campus was about a fifteen minute walk and one of the best nightclubs in town (according to the estate agent) was round the corner, apparently she could get drunk, fall over twice and be home. She had to admit that sounded like fun. There were restaurant's in quiet corners as well theatres and a cinema. No mall like she had at home, but a small 'shopping centre', and quaint, tiny shops crammed into narrow streets as well as an indoor market that was like an Aladdin's cave of goodies.
Bella had travel plans that were waiting to be finalised once her timetable was confirmed. She wanted to see the whole country and had decided to have weekend excursions at least once a month with longer breaks in the school holidays. There was a need in her to learn as much as possible. For the time being though she had almost two months before classes started. More than enough time for her to get to know the area and learn her way around. The flat she was renting had a reserved parking space she could use so Bella was debating whether to buy a car. The thought of driving on the wrong side of the road did worry her a little but she figured she could find someone to give her a few lessons or something. For the first time she felt like she had time. No need to rush into anything. She didn't have to decide anything today or even tomorrow. She could relax, take it easy and enjoy.
Bella couldn't really remember the last time she had felt like that. The months following Charlie's funeral had been crammed with studies, exams and plan making. Lawyers and estate agents had been the people she had spoken to most. Not that she had shut people out per se, but no one knew what to say to her and knowing that when she left she wouldn't be back, Bella felt no need to cultivate friendships anymore. Only the people she truly loved did she have time for. Jacob, Angela and Emily. The pack were her family, they had been by her side throughout, supporting, helping and making her smile. Jacob would always be her sun, he made her feel warm and safe, something only her father had ever done. Angela and Emily were just quiet presences in the background, always there and always caring. In truth Bella didn't know what she would have done without them, She hoped that one day she could repay their kindness. If there was a way Bella was determined to find it.
Returning to the flat, arms laden with groceries, she was tired but happy and filled with an anticipation of what tomorrow might bring. Bella decided to order pizza. The landlord had left several take away menus for her so she had plenty of choice. Showering quickly and putting on her favourite pyjama's she settled in with a glass of wine and a DVD. The fact that the legal drinking age was eighteen was something Bella found both unusual and welcoming. The lure of a bottle of wine, with her groceries was something she had found hard to resist on this occasion. Just because she could, besides weren't all students supposed to be party animals. Chuckling wryly she thought about that. Not a party animal perhaps but determined to have fun.
The next few days passed in a blur of activity. Unpacking, getting the flat how she wanted it. Putting pictures up, she had photos of everyone from back home, even a really arty looking picture of a couple of wolves coming out of the trees, it was soft focus with the background blurry giving the untrained eye the wrong impression of size. She even put up a picture of her mother. She did love her, just didn't like her very much and if the truth be told, didn't miss her at all.
The days merged seamlessly into weeks. She spent ages just wandering around, getting used to the place, the atmosphere and area. She visited the campus a couple of times, getting acquainted with the layout of the university. Bella spent hours perusing book shops, music and DVD stores as well as buying clothes. Bella had actually brought very little with her, preferring instead to buy new, in keeping with her fresh start. While she did re-buy some of her old favourites in books, movies and music. She branched out in new directions, trying new things. This was partly to dispel old memories but also to broaden her horizons, even if in a small way. It gave her a sense of achievement and pride.
Her clothing choices branched out as well, tighter clothes and small heels made their way into her wardrobe. As did more feminine tops and some dresses, it was summer after all. She even treated herself to some sexy lingerie. Laughing at the thought of someone other than herself seeing them, wondering what the guy would be like. The underwear might be too old to be shown by the time she got the chance but still it didn't hurt to be prepared.
Bella also splurged on a car, a two year old, red Mini. She wanted the extra independence of having a car but not a great huge thing like her beloved truck. Again she had wanted something different and the little run around was just the job.
In what felt like the blink on an eye it was October and time for classes to start. Bella eagerly walked to the campus on her first morning with the hundreds of other students all there for 'fresher's week'. She was excited. The time had come to begin the rest of her life and she couldn't be happier.