CONTENT WARNING: this fic contains explicit mentions of self-harm, attempted suicide, child abuse, and alcohol abuse. these themes are present throughout the entire fic, and some are major plot points. this fic also contains mild horror elements, including graphic depictions of violence and gore. these moments are few and far between, but they are there nonetheless
Hold on, it's a long way down.
Bella had almost forgotten what rain was like.
Port Angeles was eager to remind her. When she stepped out through the double doors into the airport parking lot, she was immediately subjected to a torrential downpour. She stood still, mesmerized by the falling water. Rain. When was the last time she had seen rain? She couldn't remember. Rain had been a ghost of a memory for years. Now it was here, real, physical. She listened to it pounding on the metal eave of the roof above her, a heavy, deep sound that contrasted against the much lighter, sharper sound of raindrops crashing against the cement sidewalk. The rain was so loud that it was all she could hear; the rest of the world was drowned out.
Charlie was waiting for her a few yards away, standing beside his police cruiser, umbrella in hand. When Bella's wandering eyes found him, she snapped back to reality and rushed across the parking lot to her father, getting soaked in the process. He traded his umbrella for her two duffel bags that held everything she owned and tossed them into the trunk. Getting rain-soaked for her benefit, he opened the passenger side door for her before walking around to get into the driver's seat.
Father and daughter sat in silence for a moment, the only sound being that of the rain tap-tap-tapping on the roof of the car. Charlie kept his hands on the steering wheel as if he was already driving, staring at the Ford logo embedded in the center. Bella could tell he was unsure how to start the conversation—she was as well.
"Your mother was very concerned," he said slowly, breaking the silence. She could tell that he was carefully choosing his words. The sentence sounded like he was trying to lead into something else, but it dropped off. He was silent again.
"You could say that," Bella replied when she realized he wasn't going to attempt to continue his thought.
"I am as well."
He still won't look at her.
"Did you… Did you really...?" He couldn't find the words he needed.
"Try to kill myself?" she said with no hesitance whatsoever. Better to be forthright in her mind.
Charlie winced at how blunt she was. He couldn't bring himself to imagine his daughter in that situation, let alone say it out loud so plainly. He looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. She was unmoved by her own statement, her eyes fixed on her wet shoes.
How had he let things get this bad?
"I mean, no one would have cared."
Bella immediately regretted saying that. When she looked up at him, she could see the shock, the hurt in Charlie's eyes.
"Me, I would've cared," he said, touching his chest, now looking directly at her. "I'm your father."
"I haven't seen you in-"
"Two years, I know," he said, cutting her off and directing his gaze back to the steering wheel. "I'm really sorry. I wanted to come to your graduation, but my job… I've done the best I can, Bella, but Renee wouldn't work with me! I called all the time, I wanted to visit more, and I wanted you to come visit me, but she just…!" He threw his hands up in the air in frustration. "She just didn't care! She brushed off everything! Wouldn't even let me talk to you sometimes. I made the effort, Bella, I need you to know that. I did everything I could. If I had known what was going on..."
Charlie's hands fell back down to the steering wheel, and he continued to stare at the Ford emblem. It was far too late for hypotheticals. Bella kept looking at her shoes, tears pooling in the corners of her eyes though her expression remained blank.
Charlie cared. No one had cared about Bella for years. Maybe, just maybe, if she had gotten the chance to move back in with him sooner… Maybe if Renee hadn't kept such a stranglehold on her… Maybe…
But they were here now, and the past couldn't be changed.
"I understand, dad. And I don't blame you. I'm not mad at you." She remained stiff and motionless, refusing to have an emotional breakdown in front of another person in an airport parking lot. She would not cry. Not here, not now. "Let's just… go home."
Charlie finally turned the key, revving up the engine. They rode home in uncomfortable silence, neither knowing what else to say.
"I got you a truck," said Charlie once they had passed the "Welcome to Forks" sign, breaking through the quiet.
"What? You really didn't have to do that. I was going to get myself a car."
He shook his head. "You've had a hard enough time taking care of yourself all these years. It's the least I could do. Plus, it was pretty cheap. Bought it off a friend of mind. Do you remember the Blacks?"
The name sounded familiar, but it was hard to place it. These days, Bella's time spent in Forks felt like another lifetime. She would have to work on refreshing her memory.
"You and Jacob played together when you were kids. His dad, Billy, is in a wheelchair now so he can't drive it anymore."
Bella frowned. "And how long did Billy have this truck?"
"Well, uh… He got it in the eighties."
"Did he buy it new?"
Charlie swallowed and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. "Um, no."
Bella sighed and looked out the window, letting the topic drop. As they rode through town (or, at least, the part of Forks that could be called a "town"), they passed by a short stretch of storefronts, all local businesses, no chains or franchises in sight. Quaint, she thought. A sharp contrast to the bustling streets of Phoenix that she had grown so used to.
When they reached the house, Bella took a moment to inspect the truck waiting for her in the driveway. It was old, and that was an understatement. She assumed that the vehicle was once a vibrant red color, but it had been dulled to a rusty crimson by decades of use, the paint peeling in a few places. Still, the truck had a sturdiness to it. It's lived this long, she thought. I don't think it'll give up on me any time in the near future. She gave the truck's hood a friendly pat and followed Charlie inside.
Bella had more in common with Charlie than she did with Renee, despite having been raised by the latter rather than the former. He helped her carry her things upstairs and then left her alone. Neither of them liked to get emotional in front of other people, so they both went to their respective rooms and gave themselves time to cool off. They reconvened later at dinner.
"I'm not much of a cook, so I got us a pizza. Figured it would be a nice, uh, fun dinner for your first night. I eat a lot of Lean Cuisines..." He scratched the back of his neck. "And there's beer in the fridge. Help yourself."
"You're gonna let a minor drink alcohol, mister police chief?"
"This is my home and I'm your dad, so I get to make the rules," he replied, grinning.
It was all Rainier and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Bella took a PBR and sat down at the dinner table, picking a slice out of the box. Charlie was a simple man of simple tastes; the only topping was sausage.
Bella was thankful that they had gotten a lot of the heavy stuff out of the way right at the start. She was the type to ignore her problems, and that didn't work when people kept bringing them back up. It wasn't the healthiest coping mechanism, but she wasn't the healthiest person (even if she was trying to get better). Hopefully, Charlie would leave her be and let her deal with things her own way.
Forks was going to be a fresh start for her. As far as she was concerned, Phoenix never happened.
She had a couple more beers and watched part of a baseball game with Charlie before calling it a night. The flight had worn her out and she wanted to be ready for orientation the next day.
As she crawled into her bed, she made a mental note to get a bar and some curtains for her window; the view of forest was unsettling, and she had some unpleasant memories of what lurked within it.
Charlie had warned her not to wander too far off the paths, but Bella was only ten; she didn't know any better, and the spirit of childish curiosity still burned within her. That was what drove her to venture off the marked trail and into the depths of the Olympic National Forest.
The Olympic Peninsula was a popular destination for travelers, particularly nature enthusiasts. Most came and went unharmed, but there were always the stories. Tourists brushed them off as old superstitions, and even some of the younger locals were hesitant to believe them. Still, those who had lived there long enough were wary of going too deep into the trees. People had a habit of getting lost and, sometimes, disappearing without a trace. Those who did come back were never quite right; they often spoke of impossible, unnatural things hidden deep within the woods, of monstrous creatures and fantastical sights. No one ever took their words to heart, but they were unsettled by them all the same. Locals were careful about the forests, and no one went in alone at night.
Young Bella was not deterred by Charlie's warnings. She bravely clambered over rocks and fallen trees, blazing her own trail through the woods. She had travelled a great distance when she heard something, a faint shuffling noise. Something else was here. A deer, she hoped, but it could have been a bear or mountain lion. The noise moved closer to her, and she ducked into a shallow hole under a nearby cluster of rocks, pressing herself low against the ground. Her curiosity raised her head just high enough to see out of the hole, to see what the source of the sound was.
White hands and white feet crossed the forest floor in front of her. They appeared to belong to another person (albeit one walking on all fours), though she could not see anything other than their extremities, and she did not dare to adjust herself to get a better view. Charlie (and, to an extent, Renee) had warned her about talking to strangers, and she had taken those lessons to heart—especially now that she was alone in the woods with no one around to help her.
The hands and feet drew closer to where Bella was hiding, and she was terrified that she her hiding place would be discovered. Her heart was racing, thudding against her chest, threatening to break out of her ribcage. She could hear it sniffing at the air. She wanted to cry, but she held it in; any noise she made would alert whatever it was that was walking around outside.
Just as the hands were about a foot away from her hiding spot, she heard someone shout "HEY!" The thing turned to face the source of the noise. It was promptly knocked off its feet. Bella watched as someone else wrestled with it. They were moving too fast for her to see exactly what was happening, but she managed to catch a glimpse of what had been trying to find her: it was humanoid, paper white, and wore no clothes, and it was so thin that its skin was stretched tight across its bony frame. It had pointed ears, bulbous red eyes, and an unnaturally wide mouth full of sharp teeth. As the stranger tussled with it, it screamed—its cries sounded like nothing she had ever heard.
The challenger hurled it deeper into the trees, and the fight moved away from where Bella was hiding. Seeing this as an opportunity to escape, she scrambled out of the hole and broke into a sprint, headed back the way she had come. She tore through the woods faster than she had ever ran before, leaping over obstacles with precision fueled by adrenaline and fear. She ran straight into Charlie's arms.
"Hey there kiddo. You had me real worried," he said, stroking her head. "Don't run off like that, okay?"
"Please, dad, let's go back to the house! Please!"
"Alright, alright. Calm down. We'll go back." A worried expression crossed his face, but he didn't ask her what had her so scared. He only glanced back the way she came, looking between the trees into the darkness.
Charlie took his daughter's hand and led her back to the house.
Bella's alarm went off at seven.
Peninsula College had a location in Forks, but the main site was in Port Angeles, and she was going to have to make the hour-long drive back up there today—by herself this time. She took a quick shower and went downstairs to grab breakfast before she left. Charlie was already up and dressed in his uniform, sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper and drinking a cup of coffee.
"Mornin'," he said, giving her a small salute.
"Mornin' chief," she replied, grinning and saluting back.
He gave her a tired smile and took a sip of his coffee, returning his attention to the paper. Bella fumbled through the cabinets, finding a box of Cheerios and some dust bunnies. She made a mental note to stop by the grocery store on her way home. This house had been Charlie's bachelor pad for almost nineteen years now, and it showed.
Bella's "new" truck made such a loud, awful noise when she started it up that she was sure if any of the neighbors weren't awake, they would be now. It sounded like there was a bear fighting a chainsaw under the hood. Mildly embarrassed, she put it in gear and went on her way.
The drive to Port Angeles was long and boring, and she thanked Billy Black for installing a radio in the ancient piece of machinery. Said radio was almost as old, though, and the audio quality was terrible. Nevertheless, it was better than nothing.
It wasn't raining in Port Angeles like it had been the day before, but it wasn't sunny either. A thick blanket of clouds blocked the sun from shining its light on Peninsula College. Charlie had told her that the sun did shine here sometimes, but she wouldn't believe it until she saw it. For now, the overcast sky was a pleasant change from the overbearing sunny days of Phoenix, during which she had seen a wide variety of things melting that were never supposed to melt.
Bella pulled her truck into the college's parking lot and shut off the screeching engine before she could attract too much attention. She laid back in her seat and breathed deeply in an attempt to calm herself, praying that she would meet people she could get along with.
"Just give me like, one or two cool people. At least one. I need someone chill that I can hang out with or I'll go insane," she mumbled to herself, eyes closed.
PC had a small campus for a small town, but all of the buildings were very modern in design. Everyone in her orientation group seemed to know each other from somewhere but her. A few of them had apparently gone to high school together, and she found out that they were from Forks.
"Yeah, I actually just moved to Forks," she said as she introduced herself. "My dad's the police chief."
One of the girls perked up. "You're Chief Swan's daughter?"
"The prodigal son—er, daughter—returns," said one of the boys.
Bella paused for a second to wonder what kind of rumors about her circulated in Forks' social circles before she responded.
"Uh, yeah. I'm back," she said, giving them some unenthusiastic jazz hands.
"Well, Bella, it's very nice to finally meet you," said the girl. "I'm Jessica."
The "finally" piqued Bella's interest even more; were they expecting her? She didn't particularly care if people were talking about her, but it seemed like she had been a hot topic. Then again, in a town with only a few thousand people, these things were bound to get blown out of proportion.
"And I'm Mike, the boyfriend," said the guy next to Jessica.
The other two people with them introduced themselves as Angela and Ben. They were all a bit too preppy for Bella's taste, but she was glad that her social life wasn't crashing and burning right out of the gate. They seemed nice and genuinely interested in getting to know her, and she actually found herself liking Angela a lot. She stuck with them for the rest of the campus tour and got lunch with them in the miniscule cafeteria.
After lunch, the groups were taken to classrooms to meet with some of the professors. It wasn't anything exciting, and Bella spent most of the time looking around the room and checking her phone under the desk. They were led to a different classroom to be shown how to register for classes. After all the serious business was taken care of, the group was ushered outside to a large grassy area with some picnic tables that was apparently where students liked to gather between classes. Bella wondered how often that actually happened as the sky always looked like it was threatening a torrential downpour. Luckily for the College, it was not raining today, and they had set up various carnival attractions on the lawn for the incoming students. Bella followed her new group of "friends" around from station to station, playing a few games of ring toss and Whack-A-Mole with them.
It was as Jessica was trying to stop Mike from eating more hot dogs than a human being should that Bella saw them for the first time.
They were a hundred or so feet away, standing together and laughing. They had a varying range of skin tones but all seemed to be somewhat pale, as if the color of life had been drained from their skin. Even from a distance, Bella could tell that they were all inhumanly gorgeous.
One was tall and well-built, each of his biceps as big as Bella's head. He had dark, curly hair and warm brown skin. The girl next to him was the complete opposite; she was half his height and thin as a twig, with short black hair spiked up high, giving her a chic, androgynous look. Next to her was another boy who was muscular, but not as much as his companion. His golden-blonde hair was shaved into an undercut, though the top part remained quite long and was pulled back into a high, tight ponytail.
Across from him was the most beautiful woman Bella had ever seen (she decided this the moment she laid eyes on her). Somehow, she knew that no one else could ever compare to this girl. She was tall, slender, and dressed fashionably in a way that perfectly accented her ethereal looks. Her long, blonde hair framed a face so beautiful that Bella couldn't help but stare. She was entranced by her beauty, a true angel among men. Though her companions were also beautiful, she was on another level. After seeing her, Bella wondered how she would be able to find the beauty in anything ever again—this girl had all of it.
Lastly, a third boy was with them, sitting on the ground and looking at his phone. He had copper-red hair that was sloppily styled into an up-do, and his pale skin was dotted with innumerable freckles. He was gangly and awkward looking, but just as gorgeous as the others. There was something endearing about his appearance. After Bella managed to drag her eyes away from the dazzling blonde, she lingered on him for a moment before turning back to the Forks kids.
"Do any of you guys know them?" she asked, pointing a thumb back at the strange group.
"Oh, yeah. Those are Dr. Cullen's kids. We went to high school with them. They moved here our junior year," said Jessica. "Real tight-knit. So much so that they don't really talk to anyone but themselves. The big one is Emmett, the little girl is Alice. The blonde guy she's hanging off of is Jasper—her boyfriend, which is weird—and his twin sister is Rosalie. The one on his phone is Edward."
Bella put names to faces.
Rosalie. It was perfect. She couldn't explain why—it just was.
"They're all adopted, which is why Alice and Jasper dating isn't like, a sin or anything. Still… weird." Jessica shook her head. "But yeah, they're loners."
Jessica kept talking but Bella's eyes were back on Rosalie and she had tuned out everything around her. She was so focused on the blonde that she didn't notice Edward staring back at her, frustration evident on his face, and she definitely didn't see him nudge Rosalie's shin with his elbow and say something to her. What she did see was Rosalie turning to face her, making direct eye contact with Bella.
For a split second, Bella felt the world stop. Rosalie's eyes were gold (she would come to realize that all the Cullens had golden eyes), perfectly complimenting her hair. In that moment, it was as if something happened between them, something that no one else was aware of, something Bella couldn't describe. She felt like a hole in her chest that she never knew was there had suddenly been filled. What felt like an eternity—an unusually blissful one—passed before Rosalie turned back to her siblings. The connection between them was abruptly cut, and Bella was thrust back into the present reality, feeling oddly empty.
"You good, Bella?" Angela asked, tapping her shoulder.
"Uh, yeah, fine," Bella said, still staring at the Cullens. "She just..."
"Nothing, nothing. Sorry. What were you saying?"
Bella did her best to participate in the conversation and avoided glancing back at the Cullens. When Jessica decided that they should leave, Bella allowed herself to turn to look at them, but they had gone. In that moment, she felt lonely, like she had been left behind, but the sensation passed quickly.
"We could totally carpool," said Mike. "Tyler got his van fixed. We could all contribute gas money, and it would be way more fun than driving alone for an hour."
"Dude, we should totally do that," said Jessica. "Bella, you down?"
"Uh, sure. I don't think I could stand driving my truck here and back for two whole hours every day."
"Sweet," said Mike, shooting finger guns to the four of them. "I'll get with Tyler."
They all exchanged numbers and Jessica set up a group chat for their carpool with a couple other Forks kids Bella hadn't met.
"See you guys on Wednesday!" she said as she waved goodbye, heading back to her truck.
Once she had parted ways with the rest of the group and was alone in her truck, Bella took a moment to process everything that had happened. Overall, the orientation had gone well. Despite that, she felt off. Something was up, but she couldn't put a name to it. She felt like she had woken up from a dream she couldn't quite remember. It had to have something to do with the Cullens, but she had no idea why, so she did her best to brush it off and move on.
She looked up the closest grocery store on her phone and discovered a Safeway. On the way there, she called Charlie to ask him if he wanted her to pick up anything so that there would be actual food to eat in the house. She made a list, got her shopping done, and started on the hour-long journey home.
Bella wasn't a cook by any standard, but she could read recipes and follow directions, so she made a simple penne pasta with chicken and alfredo sauce for dinner. Charlie only had beer, milk, and bottled water, so she had purchased some orange juice and other beverages to stock the fridge with. She had an orange Gatorade with her dinner.
That strange feeling was still tugging at her, so she decided to probe Charlie.
"Dad, do you know anything about the Cullens?"
"Well, Dr. Cullen has been a real asset to this town. He's an amazing doctor. Really takes good care of his family too. I couldn't imagine adopting that many kids, but he's raised all of 'em right. Never had any trouble with them." He paused to take a bite of his food. "Why are you asking?"
"I saw them at orientation today."
"I had heard they were going to PC. Lot of kids from the high school did."
"Yeah, I talked to a few of them. We're gonna try to carpool."
"With the Cullens?" he asked, almost spitting out his pasta.
"No, no, I didn't talk to them. They were off on their own. One of the girls I was talking to said they usually keep to themselves."
"Well, they do, and there's nothing wrong with that," he said as he struggled to get one particular piece of pasta on his fork. "Of course, it's a small town, so people will talk."
Bella thought about what the townspeople must be saying about her, and she almost asked Charlie if he'd heard any rumors, but she decided not to bother him about it. He was the Chief of Police; he had more important things to worry about than petty gossip.
There were no classes for two more days, so Bella let herself stay up late that night. She had forgotten to buy a curtain for the window and resolved to go into town the next day to see if she could get one in Forks.
She felt the trees watching her.
hello dear reader! this is the second time i've done a mass edit on this fic. all of the author's notes on each chapter get lost when i do this since i type them up as i upload each chapter. therefore, i'd like to drop one here to welcome you to the fic and let you know that you can check out my tumblr, ultward, to find some nice edits for this fic and links to the playlists i've made for it! my ask box is also open for questions, if you have any!
i hope you enjoy the fic; it started out as a silly, self-indulgent idea that spiraled out into something wayyyyy more than i ever intended it to be. i'd like to give a shoutout to all the readers who have left essay-length reviews and asks in my inbox. knowing that people are reading this fic and enjoying it just as much as i enjoy writing it makes me so happy! you guys are the reason i keep working so hard on this, so thank you!