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It's Time: Bella's Story Chapter 4
Two weeks later we arrived in Clinton, a sleepy seaside village located in Connecticut. The Cullens leased a four-bedroom waterfront house, which overlooked a private, sandy beach on the Long Island Sound. Only a few homes were in its vicinity; it was secluded and tucked within a canopy of trees.
From the moment of our arrival, Alice's parents saw to my every need, as if they were vying to win my affection. They even went as far as offering me the master bedroom. Their gingerly conducted remarks led me to suspect that Mrs. Meyer had shared how apprehensive I had been to spend the break with them. These endeavors put me at ease, somewhat. However, they often produced the opposite result and left me feeling more distressed.
In the end, I shared a room with Alice after she insisted that we bunked together. Grateful for her interference, I released an internal sigh knowing I wouldn't be alone. Still uncertain about what was transpiring in my life, she was the sole person I trusted to not have an ulterior motive.
Early each morning, I awoke before Alice and slipped onto the deck outside our bedroom to watch as the sun climbed the horizon. As its amber light cascaded across the sky, I reflected on Charlie, wondering if he was okay and if he ever thought of me. Having little control left in my life, I received satisfaction in knowing this part of the day was mine.
After breakfast, Alice and I often strolled along the shore and searched for sea glass before sunbathing on the beach. Determined about getting a tan before returning to school, she even tried to convince me to join her in using baby oil rather than SPF to speed up the process. Aware of the fact that I was more disposed to receive a sunburn, I always refused and donned one of Carmen's straw hats for added protection.
Our afternoons were allotted to excursions around the town. We visited art galleries and various museums. Alice learned how to paddleboard as I encouraged her from the sidelines, realizing if I tried I would wind up at the emergency room. We also became frequent customers at Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets.
Our first time visiting the outlets, Carmen and Alice had been a sight to behold. I don't imagine either of them had experienced 'discount prices' before, and both were hooked. After spending seven hours perusing what each store offered, the four of us had left with a new summer wardrobe. They somehow had discovered more items to buy each time we returned.
One weekend, Eleazar decided we should try our hand at deep-sea fishing. Nervous about going, Carmen had assured me we wouldn't eat anything we caught. Ever since cleaning out those rancid bins for Mrs. Ateara at school, I had become nauseous at the mere thought of seafood. The Cullens had witnessed one of my episodes while I was at their home, so they were mindful of my sensitivity.
The night I had discovered I would spend the summer with Alice's family, Carmen and Eleazar invited us over for dinner to make plans. As soon as I walked through their door, the odious stench hit my nose. Baked tilapia. I bolted to the nearest restroom.
While I spent the majority of the evening emptying the contents of my stomach into their pristine porcelain toilet, Alice shared the injustice of my community service placement with her parents.
When I felt well enough to rejoin them, I overheard Carmen and Eleazar in conversation.
"So, what did he have to say for himself?"
"He assured me that he had no idea she had been assigned there and by the colorful language he was using, I believe him."
"Is he going to take care of it? Poor girl. That's not community service, it's slave labor. What was the school thinking?"
"I don't know, my love, but as angry as he sounded. . .I'm convinced heads will roll at Miss Porter's tomorrow."
The next time I had reported for kitchen duty, I was met at the door by Mrs. Meyer. She informed me I was no longer needed in the cafeteria and would help in her office for the rest of the year.
Over the next few days, I noticed that Mrs. Ateara was not working in the dining hall any longer. Something told me, however, that she had not been reassigned to a better position as I had been.
Eleazar ended up chartering an exclusive trip for us on the Flying Anna. The boat and crew were at our disposal for the entire day; we set out early around six a.m. that morning. The first hour of our journey was spent reviewing safety regulations, followed up by a basic 'fishing 101' course.
Once upon the fishing grounds, the captain passed out our poles and bait. I insisted on only taking part as a spectator, not wanting to take any chances with my weak stomach.
When he reached Alice with her container of live sardines, she appeared bewildered. She expected worms or manufactured lures. Realizing the fate of the 'poor little fishies,' which she soon dubbed them, she sobbed and refused to allow anyone to bait their hooks. Claiming to do so, would make them murderers.
When Eleazar gazed at his daughter's misty, swollen eyes and relented, I couldn't help but acknowledge the irony of his unwillingness to commit fish homicide. Deep down, I recognized even though he was a supposed criminal, he was more so a loving father.
In fact, I noticed my own feelings softening toward both he and Carmen over the next few weeks as their initial fussiness lessened and was eventually replaced with genuine regard.
Alternative bait was unavailable, so our trip was cut short.
What to do with the sacrificial fish in question was debated, and Alice compromised by agreeing to release the sardines back into the sea after Carmen explained why they couldn't be kept as pets.
After docking the boat at the pier, Alice, Carmen, and I headed to the car while Eleazar wrapped up paperwork at the boating office.
We were discussing where to have lunch when Alice interrupted asking, "Mama, who is that person with Father?"
Eleazar stood with another man whom I identified right away; it was Mike Newton. It appeared their discussion was heated; Eleazar's burning face held a hard, stony gaze and Mike had his arms crossed against his chest.
"I think he works at our school. Doesn't he, Bella?" Alice asked and awaited my verification.
Carmen snapped out of her thoughts; her face paled. "He works at your school? Are you sure, Alice?"
"Yes, we see him almost daily."
Carmen looked at me questioningly, and I nodded my head in agreement. She instructed us to stay in the car and darted over to the men.
She whispered into Eleazar's ear while gesturing toward us several times. Whatever she said enraged him even further because he whirled around and punched Mike in the nose, knocking him to the ground. He then pointed at the fallen man and made one final statement before joining Carmen and returning to the car.
As we drove home, I peeked at Alice, her lips and chin were trembling; she was trying not to cry. I grabbed her hand and offered her an encouraging smile.
Eleazar slammed his fist against the steering wheel, "What in the hell is that boy thinking? Has this been going on the entire time? Doesn't he trust us to keep her safe?"
"Darling, hush. You'll scare the girls."
"I'm sorry, my love." He ran his hand across his wife's cheek. "He will end up losing her if he isn't more careful. It'll be like Marcus and Didyme all over again."
"I know. I worry the same thing. That's why you have to give him guidance. He's sure not going to get it from Carlisle and Esme."
Eleazar snorted. "That's the truth."
Later that evening, Carmen joined us in our room. She sat down next to Alice and stroked her hair.
"Mama, why was Father so angry with that man? I've never seen him act like that before and it was frightening."
"Your father is sorry you saw that Alice. You, too, Bella." She exhaled and continued. "He became frustrated because someone he cares about did something foolish. He was hurt by the person's actions and reacted poorly."
"Was it the man he hit?" Alice asked still confused.
"No, not directly. It's complicated, but to make a long story short; your father should have never behaved in such a manner in front of either of you. I know he is downstairs in his office feeling ashamed about it. Can you do me a favor and go put him out of his misery?"
Tears streamed down Alice's cheeks as she leaned over and gave her mother a tight hug before running through the door to search out her father.
Carmen walked over and kissed my cheek. "I know it would mean a great deal to him to see you as well, my little passerotta."
She left the room, and I thought about what had occurred. Even though I was unclear what my role in the whole situation was, I felt certain that Eleazar had somehow defended me against Mike Newton.
Maybe I wasn't so alone after all.
2 years later
As Mr. Berty returned our Romeo and Juliet papers, he paused at my desk. "Bella, I need to see you after class."
I glanced up from my notebook and took my essay from his outreached hand.
After giving it a quick review, my inner nerd squealed. I had somehow managed to snag a ninety-five percent. The assignment had been a struggle, even though English was my favorite subject I wasn't a fan of Shakespeare, especially, Romeo and Juliet. The concept of fated love seemed like a bunch of nonsense.
The bell rang and with my book bag thrown over my shoulder, I shuffled toward the front of the room.
Mr. Berty loosened his tie and stood from his oak chair. "I have wonderful news. You were chosen as the first place winner in the state competition."
"Ar-are you serious?"
With his encouragement, I had entered the Promising Young Writers Essay Contest several months earlier, but I had never imagined I had a chance of winning.
"Yes, you should be very proud of yourself. There were over three hundred submissions in your age category." He beamed and continued. "All winners are invited to take part in the National Young Adult Literacy Conference. It will be held in Orlando this July."
He pulled a form and a pamphlet from his desk drawer. "Fill this out and return it by Friday. The brochure has all the details about the conference."
I took the paperwork and scanned it slowly; my eye immediately landed on the name of the key speaker, Douglas Riley. He was the writer of my favorite book series.
With the realization that I would hear him speak in person, I fought the sudden urge to release my inner nerd who wanted to fist pump the air and dance about the room in celebration.
Instead, I simply thanked Mr. Berty before jetting out the door and making my way to my next class.
When I got home, I found Carmen in the kitchen. After our first year of school, Alice and I began living full-time with her parents. Well, I reckon they were technically my parents too. Charlie had all but disappeared the summer before my freshman year. The Cullens were now my legal guardians.
"How was school today, Bella?" Carmen reached into the cupboard and grabbed a bottle of olive oil. She was making Bolognese for supper; the savory aroma of sausage filled the kitchen. We had an established routine of talking about our days while I helped her prepare the evening meal.
"Well, I actually have some exciting news to share." I dashed out to the foyer and got my backpack. Showing her the conference leaflet, I relayed the details Mr. Berty had given me earlier that afternoon.
Carmen examined the flier; her delight evident. "Oh, passerotta, what a tremendous honor! I am so proud of you." She wiped her hands on her apron before enveloping me in an affectionate embrace.
Later, over dinner, Carmen shared my news. Alice practically bounced out of her seat.
"Father, can we go to Orlando too? We can go to Sea World, Disney, and. . .The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!" She screamed the last part of her request. She was obsessed with all things Harry Potter and had a massive crush on the actor who played Cedric Diggory.
"Take a breath, Ali. I don't know if I can get the time off. I just started at the firm."
Eleazar had secured a position with a local law practice after complaining to his wife that he would go insane from boredom.
Who knew my pseudo-mobster dad was also an attorney?
"It would be a nice trip, Eli." Carmen agreed. "Perhaps, we can even spend a few days in Key West when Bella's conference is finished."
"We'll see. You know it's all moot anyway until I talk it over with him. Now, did I see a chocolate cake when I came home?"
And with that comment, all discussion about Florida ended for the evening. In fact, we didn't speak about it again until two days later when Carmen joined me in my bedroom as I completed my French homework.
"Can I come in for a moment?" She peeked her head around my door and awaited my permission.
I scooted my books to the side and sat up on my bed. She lifted a notebook and settled next to me.
"Sweetheart, I'm afraid I have bad news. Eleazar isn't able to take off work the week of the writer's conference so we won't be able to go."
"Oh, no. I bet Alice will be really upset. I know she was looking forward to visiting Universal Studios."
Carmen regarded me tenderly. Her eyes were glassy with tears.
"Yes, she will be disappointed, but I'm more concerned about you."
Suddenly, I realized. . .I wasn't going either and my throat clenched with sobs.
"B-but, I don't understand. W-Why c-can't I g-go by my-myself?"
She drew me into her arms. "I'm so sorry, passerotta. We feel you are too young to go alone."
She remained with me for over an hour as I cried. After tucking me into my bed and kissing me gently on the brow, she left.
So Bella and Alice's family are becoming closer. In the next chapter, Bella will be turning 16 and having an eye opening discussion with Carmen.
Much love and thanks to my Beta, SunFlowerFran. The fandom is so blessed to have you!
Gabby1017 - Thank you for taking the time to answer my newbie questions and for the continued support.
AllTheWayIntoTwilight - What this girl has witnessed the past few weeks! If only we were all so lucky! Thank you for helping me become more succinct.