Hello, everyone! So, I've found I'm still just as awkward writing AN's as I once was so ... yay!

Anyway, welcome to my new AU story. It's a bit different from what I've written in the past, but I hope you'll enjoy it just the same.

I want to thank everyone who helped me with this story when I first started writing it. You know who you are.

Also, I want to give HUGE thanks to Fran for beta'ing this story. (Any mistakes you see are my own.)

Mr G and Me and Monica03 are my pre-readers and they're the BEST. Thank you so much for your help. Go check out their fics! You won't regret it!

Sarah Dooley made the awesome banner for this story. Thank you, Sarah!

***Just a slight warning, this won't be an "instant love" type of story. This will be a slow burn, but I do promise a HEA.***

SM owns everything Twilight.

"Bella! Come back here!"

I race through the crowd, weaving and bobbing around people so I don't bump into anyone. I have to get as far away as I can, but I'm at a disadvantage; I've only gone two blocks, and I'm already out of breath and my legs are aching.

I need to exercise more often.

Luckily, Port Angeles is bigger than Forks, so I can easily hide in between and behind people. I continue forward, ignoring the curious stares and disgruntled curses. I shout an apology over my shoulder, not wanting to stop. I need to get away, and fast, but there's only so far my tired body can go.

There wasn't any time to eat something this morning before I was pulled from bed and thrown into the car, so I think getting something to eat will be my first priority after I manage to get away.


Cursing under my breath, I quicken my steps as I see my favorite store up ahead and slip inside, catching my breath.

Kevin, the owner, gives me a curious glance and I put a finger up to my lips. He shakes his head with a smirk, walking away.

After a minute, when there's no sign of me being followed, I straighten up and breathe a sigh of relief as I look around.

To me, this place is my heaven; technically, it's two stores, separated by a beaded curtain; a music and art shop.

He reasoned that it was cheaper just to rent this huge building, instead of renting two different places. Plus, this way he could keep an eye on his 'babies.'

He's serious about his businesses, not that I blame him. From his tales, he worked damned hard to get this place up and running so, however he wants to run it, is cool. For me, it's definitely convenient. I can get my art supplies and music in the same stop.

Since I'm here, I decide I might as well stock up on the things I need.

I grab a handbasket and my phone buzzes in my pocket with a text. It's from my cousin, Rose.

Really mature, Isabella. Don't run off again. It could be dangerous. Where are you?

Rolling my eyes, I type out a response.

I can take care of myself.

A minute later, she replies back.

I know you *think* you can, but you're not invincible. Where. Are. You? I will search all over this damn town for you, and you know it.

Gritting my teeth, I punch out a response, hoping she'll leave me alone. I need some time to decompress; from her less than pleasant wake-up call to her constant criticism of my sleeping habits, I've had enough for the morning.

Don't you have somewhere to be? I thought that was the whole purpose of coming to Port Angeles?

My phone is silent in my hand, and either Jasper is trying to calm her down, or tell her she's gone too far with her over-bearing, mothering ways this morning.

You'd think we weren't the same age with how she acts sometimes.

While I'm waiting for her inevitable reply, I browse the art section, stocking up on my favorite drawing pencils and paper. I see a few things I think Rose will like and toss them in as well before heading over to the music section.

As I'm browsing the new releases, my phone chimes.

Meet me at the car in an hour and a half. Call Jasper or me if you need anything.

Of course, she wouldn't admit she's taking things too far. Everything Rosalie Lillian Whitlock does has a purpose, and she's never wrong.

I should be used to it by now, and in some ways, I am. She and Jasper have been living with my parents and me for the past eleven years, and in that time, I've gotten used to her protective ways. Some days, like today, I'm just pushed over the edge, and I can't let it roll off me like I normally do.

All I wanted was an hour more of sleep. It's not that unreasonable.

I send an acknowledgment of her text, knowing if I don't send her something, she'll end up tracking me down, and I don't need that right now.

Once I have a stack of CDs I go up to the checkout counter, where Kevin waits with a bright smile, his shoulder-length gray hair tied back at the base of his neck.

"Hello, Bella. Nice seeing you today."

"You too, Kev. Nice shirt," I say, nodding toward his worn, threadbare tie-dyed Woodstock shirt.

He laughs, the sound raspy and gritty with age. "Hey, don't knock the threads, young one. This was good music."

"I'm sure it was. What year was that? The eighteen hundreds?"

He shakes his head, his smile growing bigger and his wrinkles more pronounced. "No respect for your elders." He clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth before his eyes light up and he points at something behind him. "Did you see what I put up?"

Behind him, a medium-sized canvass of musical notes floating across a colorful sea hangs on the wall. It's not the best thing to display; the work is rather sloppy and crude, and I tell him so.

"You're too hard on yourself. I think it's wonderful and it's your own fault for leaving it in the workshop."

I grumble, still beating myself up over that. The art shop had held a small class for painters of all levels. Since I hadn't branched out from pencil drawing, I had gone in and painted the picture Kevin hung. I had meant to take it with me, intent on hiding it in the closet with my other handful of paintings, since I felt my skills were still too shaky. However, I had forgotten it when Rose called me in a rush, telling me to get a move on.

He looks behind him, smiling. "I think it's wonderful. I have a Bella Swan original. You know, like life, sometimes art is supposed to be messy. It makes way for change ... to be better. Don't you think?"

I nod in agreement, never having thought of it that way.

"All right. You've listened to an old man talk enough. Your total is thirty-one, eighty-four."

Handing him the money, I shake my head. "Honestly, I'd rather listen to you talk than anyone else."

I really would. No one in Port Angeles or Forks is more interesting to speak to than Kevin. If I could, I would listen to his war stories and the places he's traveled any time. But he has a family and a business to run, and I have things to do.

Plus, I don't have my own car, which kind of puts a damper on going places, especially when they're an hour away.

"You're too kind. Stay out of trouble."

"Stay out of trouble," I reply, walking out of the door backward. "That's like telling a wolf not to hunt!"

His laughter is drowned out by the noisy street. I spin around and immediately bump into someone, their hands grasping my upper arms as they reach out to steady me. I look up, and I have to bite my lip to keep it closed.

I haven't ever seen anyone this handsome outside of Hollywood. I mean, yeah, there are some good looking guys in Port Angeles and a couple of guys you'd take a second look at in Forks, but nothing like this.

He has a full head of messy bronze hair, pale skin and peculiar, brownish-orange eyes that are framed with dark, thick lashes. His body is lean with a slightly muscular build to it. My eyes follow his arms down to where his hands are holding onto me. It's then I notice how cold his hands are, even though I'm wearing my long-sleeved shirt.

However, I brush it off. He's probably just really cold.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't paying attention. I guess I should start to do that more often. It helps greatly in a thing called walking, I hear," I say with a light laugh. "Are you okay?"

Quickly, he snatches his hands away from my arms, the action causing me to stumble back slightly, though it's not enough to make me fall.

Instead of laughing it off and forgiving me for my accident, he glares and scoffs at my words, as if it's an impossibility that he could ever be hurt. His nostrils flare, and his teeth snap together with an audible click. The unexpected response has my eyes widening and me taking an unconscious step back before I stop myself.

He too, I notice strangely, takes a step backward, his lips pressed so tightly together they disappear into the paleness of his skin tone.

While there's something off and somewhat frightening about this guy, I remind myself not to be afraid, though everything within me is telling me to run as far away as I can. For a moment, I debate about whether or not I should, but decide against it.

I apologized for what I did. He doesn't have to act like a dick about it.

Straightening my back, I step forward, resuming my previous position and match his glare with one of my own. We stand in tense silence, a weird showdown unfolding as we glare at one another.

After a moment, he swallows audibly, and his eyes drop down to the ground as takes another step backward. I bite the inside of my lip to contain my satisfied smirk.

He sighs, his posture still tense and his attitude radiating hostility as he speaks, his voice a strange combination of silky roughness that sends a pleasurable chill throughout my body. "I need to get by."

I remain where I am, balking at the nerve of this guy.

He isn't going to apologize?

I never thought I'd agree with my bitchy grandmother Beth, but I have to admit she's right; no one has manners anymore.

"What?" he snipes, no doubt noticing my frustrated astonishment.

"You're not going to apologize?"

He looks baffled by my question. For a brief second, I think he has to be kidding, but the confused expression lingering on his face tells me he's not.

Does he actually think he has nothing to apologize for? Really?

"You're rude, and you caused me to stumble. I think that merits an apology."

"First of all, your stumble was your own fault. Secondly, you ran into me," he says.

"And I apologized for it. You know, because I'm polite."

He says nothing, his hands clenching into fists at his sides as he sighs heavily, looking over my shoulder toward the store's door.

Realizing I'm wasting my time, I step to the side. Never removing my eyes from his form, I stare after him as he stalks past me into the store without looking back.

I watch him through the front windows, my eyes tracking him as he goes down every aisle meticulously, pausing now and then when something catches his eye. Through the dirty glass, I notice his once tense posture has faded into one of contentment, though his face still appears heavy with emotion.

Briefly, I wonder if he's just in a bad mood or if he's like me and isn't a people person. Regardless, it's not my problem, and at least I can apologize when it warrants it.

His eyes meet mine through the window, and a look of surprise washes over his face, his eyebrows shooting up high onto his forehead, his eyes wide and round. Surprise is quickly replaced by confusion as his head tilts slightly to the right as he stares.

First I was a bug on his shoe, and now I'm a freak to be studied? I don't think so, jerk.

My lips press together as I give him one last look through narrowed eyes before walking off, disappearing in the horde of people.

As I march through the crowded sidewalk, my mind repeats the encounter with him.

I can't believe he didn't even have the decency to apologize, though I'm not really surprised. Most people, in my experience, would rather walk over you than admit they were wrong. It seems he is no exception.

My rumbling stomach takes my mind off the encounter of the rude kind, reminding me I didn't have time to eat before I was dragged out of the house.

Inside my favorite café, I quickly stand in line, looking around for anything to distract me. To my left is a huge bulletin board and tacked onto the cork are different fliers; notices for a poetry reading, book clubs, music auditions, and furniture for sale among other papers stuck haphazardly to the board.

It's what's in the center that easily captures my attention.

A missing person's flyer for a girl, a few years older than me with curly, dirty blonde hair, pale hazel eyes and a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. In the photo, she's smiling brightly without a care in the world.

MISSING PERSON: Abigail Mitchell Age 19

Last seen: March 12th; walking home from Peninsula College to her apartment.

If you have any information, please contact the Port Angeles Police Department.

According to the page beside it, half-obscured by advertisements for a roommate, this isn't the first who's gone missing this month. Another girl vanished outside of her work while she was on her break.

I wonder if Dad has heard anything about this.


Whipping my head over, I see Jasper, my other cousin, standing there with a concerned look on his face. I give him a tight smile.

"You okay?"


"You're not still mad are you?" He questions. "She means well, honestly. You know Rosalie; sometimes she has no filter. With her upcoming move, she's kind of in overdrive, you know? When we were in Seattle, she was a mess."

"No, it's not that. I just had an unfortunate run-in with the rudest person on the west coast."

His eyes narrow as his jaw hardens. He and Rose share a lot of qualities like most twins do; they have tall, lean figures, beautiful, dark blue eyes and the same streak of protectiveness when it comes to family.

"Who was it? What'd they look like?"

I wave him off and step up to the counter. Being here multiple times, we always get the same thing, so it's easy to order for him.

"Well?" He asks again once we're sitting at a table. "I'll get a shovel and get Rosalie to help. You know she will."

I laugh. Rose may be a pain sometimes, but she would do anything for family. "I'm trying to let it go. Where did you go?"

"I got a new pair of jeans," he says, holding up a shiny bag.


I don't like to agree with Rose most of the time, but I do agree he needed a new pair. The current ones he has on are caked with dirt, and there are holes everywhere. In fact, the holes in the knees are now up to his thighs, with the bottoms of his boxer briefs showing.

I hold back the shiver of disgust. There are some things I don't need to know about my cousin, and the color of his underwear is definitely one of them.

I don't think I'll ever sleep again.

Jasper rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I know. I needed a new pair. Don't start."

I hold my hands up in the air, plastering an innocent expression on my face. "Not a word. I don't know why you even bothered wearing pants in the first place."

"Ugh, you two are disgusting." Lauren Mallory glares at us, her face puckered up in a sneer.

"Yeah, I can see how eating would be disgusting, considering you've never done it before. It's how most people survive," I reply, not looking up.

"I mean the two of you," she says, pointing between Jasper and me. "You're both disgusting. Keep it behind closed doors."

Jasper and I look at each other with matching expressions of confusion. "What the hell are you going on about?" He asks, utterly puzzled.

Lauren throws her hands up in the air, the sneer on her face deepening. "I heard what you said about his pants. Keep that shit in the privacy of your messed up home."

Unable to help myself, I laugh. Loudly. People from other tables look over in curiosity, whispering and shaking their heads as they continue on eating and drinking while I continue to laugh like I've been given laughing gas. Jasper simply shakes his head, an uncomfortable look on his face, but his eyes are sparkling with humor.

"What is so damn funny?"

I reign in my laughter, taking in a lungful of air in an attempt to control myself.

"Look," I start, once I can breathe easily. "Just because you screw everything with a pulse, doesn't mean I do."

Her face starts to turn an odd shade of red, and her hands form fists at her sides. I sit back, crossing my arms over my chest and meet her expression with an even one.

"Are you calling me a whore?"

"Was I not clear enough? Tell me what you didn't understand, and I'll use smaller words next time."

Jasper snickers as she screeches, taking a step toward me. Jasper jumps up from his seat, and I roll my eyes as he glowers at her. Out of nowhere, her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Mike Newton comes up behind her, grabbing her around the waist and tugs her backward.

"Don't do it, babe."

"Yeah," I reply with a short laugh as I stand. "Listen to your boytoy."

He glares at me, matching Lauren's expression perfectly.

Jasper's eyes dart in between the three of us, his body rigid. After a moment, Lauren pushes Mike off her, taking another step back.

"Let's get out of here, Mike. I have things to do."

"Yeah, someone has to screw the football team, eh, Lauren?"

Beside her, Mike shifts, casting a suspicious look at her from the corner of his eye. He doesn't say anything, but his lips are slightly puckered like he wants to.

Lauren, seeing this, plasters a fake smile on her face and brings a hand up to his cheek. Rising on the tips of her toes, she whispers something in his ear, and his expression relaxes into one of relief.

"I haven't seen Rosalie around lately," Lauren says with a smirk. "Has she finally skulked off back under her rock?"

"No, she's moving to better things. Something you'll never know about," I reply, flipping her off and rolling my eyes. "Well, this has been great fun, but I'm losing brain cells the longer I'm in the same vicinity as the two of you, so I'm gonna go."

Lauren sneers as I pass her, but I ignore her as we head for the door. Jasper walks up beside me, humor dancing in his eyes, but he's trying to look pissed.

In reality, he looks constipated.

"I wish you wouldn't have started that ridiculous rumor," he says, shaking his head. "It's never going to die."

"I didn't start it!"

"You didn't deny it either!"

"Don't be so cross, lover," I say jokingly, putting my head on his shoulder and batting my eyelashes theatrically.

"You're sick," he says, pushing me. "Besides, if we were in a relationship, which we're not, then it wouldn't be incest. We're not blood-related."

We don't go around town parading this, but it's the truth; we don't share DNA. His mother was adopted by my maternal grandmother when she was still an infant, but it never mattered to my mother, just like it doesn't matter to me.

We're family. DNA or not.

"Thank the heavens for small favors," I tease.

"I do. Every day."

Feigning outrage. I push him away. "Hey! You're lucky to even know me, peasant."

He chuckles. "Sure."

We continue to walk, with me covertly guiding him toward my next stop: the drug store. I need to re-stock my hair dye and make-up in preparation for tomorrow. The first day of senior year.

Thank the heavens. Just one more year of petty classmates, and banal classwork.

If only I were as lucky as Rose.

She and a small handful of others are graduating at the end of December, in an effort to go to college earlier. After that, she'll be moving to Seattle where she'll be working toward a degree in Psychology.

Now I wish I had taken the chance to graduate along with her. I'm not sure I can handle an entire year at Forks High without snapping.

Jasper's words about his time in Seattle with her and my mother comes back.

"What happened in Seattle with Rose?"

Jasper shakes his head, a saddened expression on his face. "She was all over the place. First, she was super pissed and then she was quiet. Back and forth for two whole days while we searched for an apartment for her. I think it's really hitting her now, you? That she's leaving."

He pauses, and I clear my throat, hoping to dispel the heavy feeling there. It doesn't work; if anything, it grows, spreading throughout my body and settling on me like a wet blanket. Rose's upcoming departure isn't something I like to think about. Even though she's a pain in the ass sometimes, she's still my family, and I love her; rough edges and all.

Jasper continues, the frown lines around his mouth becoming more prominent. "She'll be four hours away from us, living by herself. She's scared."

I nudge his side, prompting him to look over at me instead of the ground beneath his feet. "Is that something you know, or is it a twin thing?"

A smile lifts the corner of his mouth as he shrugs a shoulder. "Both."

I nod and continue toward the familiar building. As we wait to cross the street, he pokes my arm, nodding toward something across from us.

"Do you know her?"

Following his gaze, I notice Alice Cullen on the other side of the street across from the pharmacy, her face plastered with bewilderment as she stares at Jasper and me.

To be honest, I don't know her very well; I bumped into her once while I was in town, but we didn't speak much. Our first and only encounter consisted of awkward silence, before it fell into stilted conversation. We had spoken maybe four words to one another before we parted ways. Don't get me wrong, she was very nice, but at the same time seems somewhat stand-offish.

I'm not bothered by it. I have no doubt she's heard the whispers flowing around town about her 'mysterious' family. If I were in her shoes, I would be leery and keep my distance from them too.

What I don't understand is why she seems so shocked at Jasper's appearance. He's pretty strange, but he's not that strange.

"Kind of … her name is Alice. She and her family moved to Forks a couple of weeks ago. A few days after you left for Seattle with Mom and Rose."

I pause, studying his expression as he takes in the new girl. There's definite interest and intrigue there, but there's something else I can't put my finger on.

"Do you want me to introduce you or something?"

He jumps slightly with a gasp. "What?"

I laugh. "What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing … no, nothing; and no, you don't have to introduce me."

"Okay," I say drawing out the word. "You coming to the pharmacy? I need to re-stock my make-up."

He flicks his eyes back over toward Alice's direction, his eyebrows furrowing together in confusion when he doesn't see her there. He looks toward the building in question, his mouth pulled down in a slight frown before shaking his head and heaving a sigh.

"No. I need to stop by one more place. I'll meet up with you at the car in an hour or so. Call me if you need anything."

Giving him a mock salute, I wave at him over my shoulder and continue on my way. Knowing I have an hour to kill, I stop inside a few clothing stores, finding a few shirts and a new pair of pants that are just my style. Once I'm done, I head into the pharmacy to get a few things which are a definite must.

This morning, before I was so rudely rushed from the house, I had noticed my eyeliner and lipstick were almost gone, and to my horror, my streaks are fading, and are growing out big time.

I make a quick grab for my hair dyes, feeling a little unsettled. I look around, paranoid, and feeling utterly foolish, but the feeling of being watched is strong. I push it away, not finding anyone or anything out of the ordinary.

In the cosmetic aisle, a group of girls I instantly recognize from school are huddled together, looking at foundations and blush as they whisper and giggle about something to one another.

They're giggling obnoxiously and making ridiculous faces as they hold the colors to their faces, erupting in more giggles. I roll my eyes and ignore them, looking through the rows for my product.

It's not anywhere in sight, which means they either stopped selling it or they moved it.

"If they stopped selling it, I'm gonna be so pissed," I mumble to myself, continuing my search.

The giggles cut off with a gasp, and out of the corner of my eye, I see the group of girls looking at me as they whisper furiously while they point in my direction.

"Did you hear that? Bella's talking to herself, oh my God. I can't believe it," one of them says, shocked.

"I know," another cuts in. "I thought it was just a rumor. I guess she really is batshit crazy."

Deciding to have a little fun, I give an exaggerated loud sigh, shaking my head. "Mary, I think they stopped selling my makeup. What am I going to do?"

They gasp and hurry away, the sound of their footsteps filling the store.

Unable to help myself, I laugh loudly. Are they that gullible as to actually think I was talking to an invisible person? Based on their hasty departure, I guess they are.

As I work to calm myself down, I hear a light laugh coming from behind me. Turning, I see the Alice Cullen standing there, her eyes shining with humor and a touch of curiosity.

"Sorry," she starts once her laughter is under control. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop. It's kind of hard not to, you know? We were in the same aisle, and it got my attention."

I slowly nod, feeling like I'm not the only odd one in the aisle now. During that entire explanation, I don't think she took a single breath.

"You're Bella, right?"

"That's me."

"I'm Alice."

"I know."

She laughs as understanding dawns. "Of course. Are you excited for school tomorrow?"

"Um …" I hesitate in my reply, not expecting her to say this much to me. "Not really, no."

Her face falls. "Oh, really? You don't enjoy it?"

How can I explain how much I detest it? The cliques … the snotty girls thinking everyone is beneath them … the rumors being spread about someone on a daily basis. Not to mention, the constant hook-ups and break-ups that make soap operas look like children's cartoons.

Yeah, it's a real treat.

"No, I don't."

Alice pauses for a moment before shrugging. "Well, it's not for everyone."


"Yeah. It'll be over soon, though."

And it can't come fast enough.

Her face brightens with a smile. "I wonder if we'll share any classes."

"We probably will."

It's more than likely, to be honest. The classes for seniors aren't that varied and pretty basic; if you want a variety of courses, everyone knows you have to go to the Port Angeles community college for those. Only a handful of students have done that, and those are the same ones graduating early this year.

I really should have followed Rose's example. Why didn't I? Oh yeah, I have no idea what I want to do with my life.

"How has your day been so far?"

I eye her skeptically, wondering where this bout of friendliness of coming from. Had she just been nervous before? She doesn't appear to be the kind to be nervous about anything; she holds her shoulders straight and her head held high, maintaining eye contact.

Then again, I could be completely wrong. Everyone has to get nervous over something at some point, right?

"It's been all right, I suppose. I woke up too early, rude people, yadda, yadda. A day in the life," I say with a snort.

"Someone was rude to you?"

"Yeah," I reply, waving a dismissive hand. "It's fine, though. Either he's insufferable, or he's having a bad day. I doubt I'll ever see him again anyway."

Alice frowns, her head tilting to the side as she pensively stares at me. "Did you know him? What did he look like?"

I shake my head but refrain from answering. Why is she so concerned about who it is was?

Her question, however, brings his face flashing to the forefront of my mind and I ramble off a quick description. My eyes snap to Alice's face, looking for any similarities.

I don't see any, besides the pale skin tone and the purple looking bruises under their eyes. However, that doesn't mean anything. I know as well as anyone that you don't need to look the same to be family. Then again, this could be his girlfriend for all I know.

I groan internally.

Oh no. Is she going to tear me apart for what I said?

I remain silent, waiting to see what she's going to do. I'm sure, if they are related or dating, then he's told her all about me; after all, how many people in Port Angeles have purple, black, red, and blue streaked hair?

I brace myself for her inevitable attack, whether it be physical or verbal, but instead, she surprises me.

"Where did you see him last?"

It takes a moment for her question to process, and when it does, I blink three times. Had my assumptions been wrong and Alice doesn't know the jerk I ran into?

That doesn't seem likely. Her question makes me think she wants to find him. If they were together in Port Angeles, surely she would know where he was, right?

"Do you know him?"

Alice nods. "Yes, he's—"

She stalls suddenly, her eyes glazing over before she closes them, her body going unnaturally still. Before I can ask if she's okay, she jumps lightly, like she was zapped with static electricity. Her face brightens, a twinkle in her eye.

"I just remembered I have to find something. I'll see you at school? Maybe we can hang out?"

Before I can reply, she rushes off, leaving me alone.

What was that?

I have never experienced someone just zoning out like that. Is it a medical condition or does she do it on purpose to get out of social interactions?

If that's the case, it's very impressive.

Hurriedly, I finish my shopping and head toward the junkyard to wait for Rose and Jasper. Placing my bags in the trunk, I lean against the car, taking my phone out and playing some mindless games before one of my cousins arrive.

"Hey," Jasper greets a few minutes later, his tone low and troubled.

Before I can question him about what's bothering him, Rose comes stomping over, her face red and her jaw clenched tight.

"Are both of you ready to go?"

Jasper tenses, rolling his shoulders back. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing, I just had the most frustrating encounter … and there he is," she trails off, a bitter laugh leaving her. She shakes her head as she stares at something … or someone across the street, a hostile grin on her lips. "He sure moved on fast."

Following her line of sight, I find her staring at a huge burly guy with curly brown hair talking with Alice. They look deep in intense conversation, both of them gesturing wildly and pointing every which way. Alice glares up at the guy in front of her, her hands on her hips. He doesn't blink and says something to her that she obviously doesn't like.

Her shoulders hunch inward, and she nods, staring down at the ground. She sighs heavily, her small shoulders lifting and dropping noticeably. The big guy wraps an arm around her shoulders, and she nods again, leaning against his side.

As if they sense eyes on them, they look toward us. The big guy flashes a grin and smirks, nodding his head toward Rose. Alice sends me a wave and a smile toward Jasper.

"Unbelievable," Rose scoffs, shaking her head, her brown tresses flying around her face.

"So, what happened? What'd the big guy do?" I question.

"Ugh, I don't want to talk about it," she grunts, shaking her head, looking disgusted before changing the subject. "Well, I'm glad you're here on time."

I roll my eyes, sighing heavily. "Rose, don't start."

"That part for my car was almost gone, you know? I've been looking for it for weeks! If you would just go to bed at a reasonable time—"

"Rosalie," Jasper warns, but I interrupt him.

"You got it, didn't you? You made it on time, right? What's the problem? Why do you always have to bitch at me?"

Shock and anger cross her face, falling into one of repentance as she takes a deep breath, an apologetic look in her eye as she pulls me into a gentle hug. "I'm just looking out for you. You know staying up isn't good …"

I nod, tuning her out. I know this speech verbatim, but it's coming from a good place. All of our lives Rose has been our second caretaker. She felt it was her duty to step up when my mother was too tired from work or when she was immersed in her hobbies. Not that my mother isn't a good parent; she is. She's always there when you need support, and she loves all of us pain in the ass kids. She makes sure we have food and attempts to cook, but doesn't do so well on that front.

When we're sick, she'll sit with us and just be there as a support system. Unless we're vomiting; the one thing Mom can't handle is vomit.

That's when Rose steps up, and while I appreciate her concern, sometimes I wish she'd just be a normal kid.

No one asked her to do this. She just did it.

Even before Aunt Lillian and Uncle Jack died eleven years ago, she would play house and be the mother figure, while she 'took care' of Jasper and me—her unwilling 'children.' My mom says Rose was simply born to be a mother. Her controlling and lecturing ways aside, I know it's true.

"Just give us warning next time," Jasper says as she pulls back. "You kind of sprung this on us at the last minute."

"I know, but they called me at the last minute. I had to jump on it while they had it and it's a good thing I did."

"Why didn't you ask Jake? He would have come and picked it up. He's closer."

"Not by much," she counters. "Besides, he has enough on his plate right now, and we haven't seen him in a long time. It would be rude to ask him for a favor."

Jasper grumbles something unintelligible, probably cursing Rose out for her correct logic. It has been a couple of months since we've seen Jake and the La Push crew. It hasn't been without trying though, but with school, their families and other responsibilities, it's been hell trying to get a moment where we're all free at the same time.

Maybe sometime soon, we'll be able to get together; I miss my secondary family, and from the heavy silence, I know Rose and Jasper do too.

Trying to diffuse the heaviness, I awkwardly hand the bag of items I purchased for her toward her. She peeks inside and smiles, silently thanking me.

Rose opens the trunk, placing the bags inside, looking at me sharply. "You got hair dye?"

"I did," I reply, daring her to challenge me.

"Bella, no. You have such a beautiful color—"

I hold up my hand and give her a pointed look. "Don't start. You can't talk either."

Rose used to have the same golden blonde color as Jasper but dyed it a dark brown two years ago. Jasper nudges my side, knowing I went too far. We know the reason why Rose dyed her hair, and we understood, but I don't know why she has to nag me about it when I put multi-colored streaks in my hair.

"You're right," she concedes. "I just don't know why you dye your hair. Your hair is so gorgeous without it."

"Because I like it. Leave it alone, please."

She glares, and I meet hers with one of my own. "What is wrong with you? You've done nothing but gripe since you walked up."

While Rose is hard on us, she's never this hard on us.

She sighs. "First, I ran into Lauren, and you know how well that turned out."

We nod. With our previous encounter and dealing with her bitchiness for the past three years, we know how vile and vicious she is. She never use to be such a bitch; in fact, for the entirety of freshman year and the first quarter of junior year, she was Rose's best friend and kind of a dork. There wasn't a day when she wasn't picked on, and Rose constantly defended her and tried to help her gain confidence in herself.

It wasn't until Royce King asked Rose out that things started to change for the worst. Jasper and I saw it, but Rose remained oblivious and told us we were seeing things. But we saw them clearly.

Lauren was jealous.

She had a crush on Royce—why, I don't know—and was positively steaming with anger and jealousy when Rose and Royce became an item. Everyone but Rose saw how Lauren flirted and touched Royce when she wasn't looking; not that things were one-sided; Royce, reciprocated ten-fold.

It wasn't surprising though. He's a controlling asshole. I just wish it would have come out sooner.

"Then I had an encounter with Emmett—the big guy—at the junkyard," Rose continues, clarifying on the guy in question.

His name is said with such disgust and hatred, it makes me wonder what he did. I know he didn't treat her the way the jackass treated me; otherwise, he wouldn't be smiling. So what happened?

Jasper asks this before I can.

She huffs, leaning against the car. "Things were okay at first. He assumed I didn't know anything about cars. I corrected that right away," she says with a smirk. "Then, he made a fool of himself by bowing down to me on his knees in front of everyone!" She pauses, a hint of a smile on her lips before her face hardens again. "Then … he …" she shakes her head, looking away. "He was just obnoxious. He spoke to me like I agreed to go out with him. He didn't even ask me! Just assumed I would be going out with him, as if he's some gift to women!"

I wince, and I notice Jasper doing the same. Rose hates being told what to do, especially by the opposite sex. Emmett didn't do himself any favors by assuming she would just go out with him.

"Then, I guess he found some other willing victim as you can see." She pauses with a heavy sigh. "I just want to go home and get this day over with."

We nod and get in the car.

As we make our way toward the edge of town, we eventually come to stop at a light. Looking out of the window, I spot the jerk from earlier sitting outside of a coffee shop, his hands wrapped around a porcelain cup. Ordinarily, I would just look away and ignore him, but the look on his face and his posture have me pausing.

Instead of the anger and hostility I had seen earlier, now, there's sadness and hunched shoulders. I'm sure if I could see his eyes, they'd be filled with sorrow as well, but I can't. He's gazing down into the cup like he wants it to solve all of his problems.

If only, dude.

Despite his rude behavior, I can't help but wonder what has him so saddened.

Oh, well. It's not like I'll ever find out. It's not like I'm going to see him again anyway and even if I do, I'm staying as far away from him as I can.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter!

I'm not entirely too sure what my update schedule will be at the moment. Right now, I'm pushing for weekly updates every Wednesday, but that may change. If it does, I'll let you know!

Thank you for reading!