Alice hummed thoughtfully as she investigated what looked to be an impeccably bright bag of apples. They were of the green variety, and though she could detect tiny imperfections in the slick skin, they smelled sweet, though decidedly tangy, especially in comparison to their red counterparts.
"Do you think these would go well in a pie?" she wondered.
Rosalie huffed, pushing the grocery cart closer. "Does it really matter? It's not as if we're actually going to bake with them."
"No," Alice agreed, "but it's fun to pretend." She tilted her head, spying Rosalie out of the corner of her eye. She wore a mask of beautiful indifference, though Alice could tell she was cracking.
"Your fascination with mundane human things never ceases to amaze me." She held her hand out for the bag and Alice skipped happily to her side.
She grinned wide, causing Rosalie to roll her eyes, but a tiny grin was starting at the corner of her mouth and Alice knew she'd won her ever stubborn sister over.
"These are too sour," Rosalie declared, inspecting the bag of granny smith apples. She inhaled deeply, that tiny grin becoming a smile and not for the first time Alice wished her gift let her see the past as much as it did the future.
"When I was a girl," Rosalie began, blinking as if clearing clouds from the memory, "there was a woman who lived with us. I think she used to cook; yes, Lettie was her name. She was old and looked like a strong wind might blow her over, but she made the most wonderful apple pie. Whenever I was upset I would sit in the kitchen with her. She never spoke much, but I liked watching her. And she used these." Rosalie snatched a package of dark red apples from the display. "Sweet and crisp."
Alice took the bag, placing it in the cart. She beamed at the memory that had been shared.
"Don't look at me like that."
Rosalie ran her fingers through her thick blonde hair, pushing the waves over her shoulder and away from her face. Across the store men turned to gawk and Rosalie moved behind a stack of orange crates, out of their sight-line, to be less conspicuous. "Do you think Bella and Edward are done in the soup aisle yet?"
Alice shrugged, her vision going hazy for a moment as a glimpse of the future took its place. She bit her lip as the image fell away. "We should probably give them a few more minutes."
Rosalie made a retching sound behind her. "And people complain about me and Emmett."
"It is their anniversary." Alice began adding other various fruits and vegetables to the cart. She couldn't remember liking any of them from her human life, so instead she arranged them in an aesthetically pleasing grouping of colours.
"We don't need that many eggplants, Alice. And they could have very well stayed home to celebrate."
Alice put a couple of the purple vegetables back in the display rack. "You know Bella likes to help with the shopping. It reminds her of Charlie."
Rosalie bit back whatever sarcastic comment she was about to say. "Yes, well, all I'm saying is that we're supposed to be discreet. School is starting up again. People will want to know all about what the elusive Cullen's were up to all summer, besides making out in the canned food aisle."
"It was the cereal aisle, actually."
Rosalie rolled her eyes again as Edward appeared, one arm looped over Bella's shoulder, the other holding onto a basket full of non-perishables that would be destined for the local food pantry once they had gone through the weekly show of buying groceries. It was often a task Carlisle did, but since the hospital was rather busy in the summer months with elective surgeries and they were all off school, they had to find some productive way to keep up their appearances in town.
They'd been staying in Forks for a couple years now, and with the perpetually cloudy skies and a house set deep in the Olympic peninsula, Alice hoped they might be able to make a home here for a while. To see themselves through graduation and even a few years away at community college before Carlisle had to relocate and they all went their separate ways again.
She didn't like when the family was separated. It always felt too long even though they had forever. The Cullen's had been the only family she could remember having and though she and Jasper had been living with them for over five decades now, it sometimes felt like they had just met. She looked up suddenly, realizing her mind had been wandering.
Edward was gazing at her intently. He offered a sympathetic smile and in her head a vision appeared. They were sitting on the rocky overhang that sheltered the field where they liked to play baseball. Edward was smiling at her, preparing to race her to the field where the rest of the family awaited the approaching thunderstorm.
"Can you two stop," Rosalie huffed. "You know Bella and I are right here. You can speak out loud, you know."
"It's nothing," Edward murmured, "Alice just saw that baseball might be an option tonight."
Rosalie hummed, appeased by the news. "Emmett will be happy."
"And Carlisle will be off early,"Alice added, "so he'll be able to join us."
"The whole family," Edward said and Alice knew it was for her benefit. He grinned at her until Rosalie growled and pushed the cart between them.
"I hate when you two get like this. You're like an old married couple."
Bella sighed. "Let's go pay, people are starting to stare."
Alice followed Rosalie up to an open till. Edward and Bella crowded in behind her. Ahead of them was a young woman; well, not exactly young, early thirties perhaps. She leaned around Rosalie for a better view. Yes, the woman was about Carlisle's age. She had lovely caramel hair. It hung in loose waves to her shoulder blades, tucked behind her ears as she fiddled in her wallet for her debit card.
Her eyes were a dark, forest green, and her heart shaped face made Alice think of the princesses in those old Latin fairy-tales she had read from Carlisle's book collection.
"She's pretty," Alice whispered.
"Yes," Bella agreed. "I wonder who she is."
Rosalie paused as she loaded the belt with their purchases in order to regard the woman. She was dressed modestly in dark jeans and a navy sweater, though it was hard to deny she had a lovely figure. When Rosalie didn't immediately reject Alice's statement, she knew that even she couldn't really find a fault with the woman.
And the only reason they were so intrigued was because the sheer size of Forks meant that they knew of everyone in town. This woman was clearly new to the area. She smiled warmly at the young cashier as she accepted her receipt, then moved to the end of the till to start packing her groceries.
Alice looked expectantly back at Edward who was busying himself by arranging the food in a kind of tetris game on the till, until there was no available space left. "Well?" she prompted.
"I'm not sure yet. She's thinking about the high school and the reading list."
"Maybe she's a teacher," Bella offered. "Mrs. Dower was due to go off on maternity leave. Perhaps she's filling in as the English substitute."
"I guess we'll find out on Monday," Rosalie said as the cashier began ringing through their groceries.
The woman looked up at them suddenly, almost as if sensing their prying eyes, but instead of staring at them in startled shock like so many people do when confronted with vampires, she simply offered them that same warm smile she'd given to the cashier.
Then she gathered her bags and walked away.
Edward stared after her.
"What is it?" Bella wondered.
"Her thoughts . . . they're . . ." he struggled to find a way to describe it. "They're soft. And gentle in a way I'm not used to hearing in humans. It sort of reminds me of—"
Edward shrugged. "Like Carlisle I guess."
"Speaking of Carlisle," Rosalie said as she handed over her credit card to pay. She held her phone out to Alice. There was a text message with a photo attached. It told them to hurry home before Emmett started using the squirrels as batting practice. It also showed a dozen new baseball bats sitting on the kitchen table.
"Guess baseball is happening," Bella said.
And as they left the store, the sky darkened, and in the distance they could hear the thunder rolling in like a low hum on the edge of the grey horizon.