Anxiety had Bella in a chokehold. Her knees were locked, her hands were sweaty, and she would be nose-diving right into full-body shakes in a moment if she didn't get her shit together.
She could see Charlie through the opening and closing automatic doors. The rain was in drizzle mode- Bella assumed the native Washington folk didn't even register drizzles. She and her hair definitely did. But that was not why anxiety had gained sentience, took exception to her face, and then proceeded to try and murder her where she stood.
It wasn't even the new homestead, or the new high school she'd have to attend, or the new people she'd have to find a place in. It was Charlie. Dad, as he liked to be called. She had to remember that.
He was out in the rain, leaning against his cruiser, and waiting on her.
Bella knew what her life would be like if she turned around and got on a plane back to Arizona. She knew her mother and her moods and how far the woman could go. She knew how to navigate life and its obstacles, to some degree, back home.
Charlie was the unknown. And what was that saying about the devil you know versus the one you don't?
Probably didn't end well for the prey in either scenario.
Forks had to be better than Phoenix. Charlie had to be better than her mom. Right? It was a mantra Bella had repeated to herself the whole plane ride.
Forks had to be better.
Bella would make it better. This was a new chance and she was not going to do her usual and screw it up.
Okay. She could do this. Anxiety had a tight hand around her throat but she could ignore it. Had to ignore it. She couldn't fuck this up. Shoulders back, a smile affixed to her face, and personality set to pleasantly neutral; she walked out of the automatic doors, into the drizzle, and towards her last chance.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
"Hey Bells." His voice was sweet and deep and everything she remembered from the random summers she'd been able to visit him. He stood up straight, smiled, and his arms outstretched.
Bella could only stumble back in response. Belatedly, she realized that he wasn't trying to swing at her—he was trying to hug her.
Shit. Shit. Damn it. Shit!
Face hot and red, Bella straightened and tried for a self-effacing smile.
"Sorry, I think I tripped over some loose gravel. I'm so clumsy." Which was what she told everyone. Every bruise and break was because she was just so clumsy. It was the code she lived by. She was clumsy and stupid and it was a wonder she'd made it this far in life.
Charlie smiled, like he wasn't sure if he should or not, and retracted his hands. Well, missed opportunity numero uno to get in his good graces. With any luck, she'd piss him off within the next thirty seconds and seal her fate. Bella gritted her teeth against the urge to cry in frustration with herself. Charlie had never once laid a hand on her in violence- and she was still unable to act like a normal damn person.
"Hey, Char—Dad." They'd never been close and she'd always called him by name when she talked about him, but he liked it when she called him dad. And Bella was going to start this new chance off right. She was going to make him like her if it killed her. So, Dad, it was.
"Is this all?" He motioned to her carry on and the large suitcase behind her and Bella was proud that she only flinched a little. He had to stop using his hands to speak—they'd get along much better if he did.
"Yep." Bella cleared her throat and tried for another convincing smile.
She hadn't been allowed many things, and those things she did have were liable to be taken away as the first round of punishment. There were a lot of punishments. Charlie didn't need to get any ideas so she shrugged it off and shot another megawatt smile at him.
"I'm not a big packrat."
"Here," Charlie was pretend-smiling again and it was making her stomach tie in knots. What crime had she committed already? She had to do better. "I'll take that."
"Oh, sorry." Bella handed over her suitcase and followed him to his idling cruiser. "Thank you."
He stuffed her suitcase in the trunk and walked around to open her door.
"I'm glad you're here, Bells." His face was serious and he put a careful hand on her shoulder. Bella, all smiles and bright eyes, nodded vapidly and agreed.
She got in the cruiser and tried to breathe through the tightening chokehold anxiety had on her. She could do this. So far so good, right?
Forks had to be better. It had to be.