1. Small talk and Clumsiness
Bella had not been close to her father growing up and she had been shocked when he called her up begging her to come visit him. She had put off most visits after she legally became an adult and got as far from her mother as she could get. She was quite happy living her life without the hassle of a mother who didn't give a shit about her and a father who really wasn't around. Not to say that Charlie hadn't tried, he had wanted her to live with him so badly when she was a child and her mother being the spiteful woman she was made sure it wasn't possible by dragging her all over the damn country just so he couldn't be happy. Charlie did what he could for her and even set up an account for her and did his best to make sure he sent her maternal grandparents money for the essentials for her, Renee had eventually dumped her on them until she found a new boyfriend to take care of her, it was the never ending cycle and Bella was kept mostly in the dark about her father. When her grandparents passed away she was put into care until her mother discovered they had left her an inheritance, then she mattered. Bella had not been old enough to know better and she believed her mother when she told her she would use the money to buy them a house and promised her no more moving, of course she had been bullshitting.
So of course when she had gotten a call from her father it had caught her off guard, she had made it out to visit him a few years before and he had begged her to stay, she wanted to because he genuinely seemed to care but she was so afraid of what her mother would do if she didn't go back. It cut at her when she remembered the hurt on his face, he told her he loved her and she was always welcome, she wished she could believe him but she couldn't hold onto any sort of hope that would mean a stable and happy life for her because no matter what Renee always seemed to come and pull the rug from under her.
At 19 she had been accepted to a decent college in New York and Renee had backed off when she finally managed to sucker her out of the last bit of money she had. Thankfully she was able to get a scholarship and there had been a college trust that Renee couldn't touch. Finally she could have a life of her own and as soon as she could she changed all her passwords, switched accounts and changed her number. It was a miracle her mother hadn't fucked up her credit, she was able to pay off her debts and secure her information at least. Bella felt like she was finally okay and then he called and he was sick and unsure of how much longer he would be around and she felt the weight of the world once again. Packing her things she knew she would have to make it a quick trip to make it back without it affecting her grades, she had been lucky enough to get her assignments extended by a week so she could at least visit him without rushing everything. Bella's hands shook as her cab approached the airport. Knowing she would be seeing Charlie for the first time in years made her stomach twist in the most uncomfortable knots.
The flight was quiet and she had brought her laptop to work on her most important assignment, she had managed to get it finished and started with her second by the time they had arrived in Seattle, she anxiously tapped her fingers on her lap while they all waited to be unloaded, she had one more flight and she would be there. The man seated next to her shot her an annoyed glare, she bit her tongue this complete stranger did not need to be so rude to her. "I was polite enough not to complain about your incessant key tapping the duration of the flight but would you mind just giving it a rest?"Bella clasped her hands together instead, she had not thought about that and felt a bit guilty. "Sorry about that, I hadn't thought about how irritating that might be for anyone else." He shrugged and then sighed. "It's alright, just a long flight, sorry I didn't mean to snap at you." She apologized again. Bella hadn't really looked at anyone on the plane until that moment, she would definitely be more considerate on the way back home. He smiled and extended his hand "I'm Edward." She smiled politely back at him. "Nice to meet you I'm Marie." She hadn't wanted to tell this complete stranger her real name, he could be some psycho stalker for all she knew. Plus he looked like a high school student playing dress up, designer suit and all, what kind of person managed to not even crinkle or crease an insanely crisp suit anyway?
The small talk was finally done with and she was able to get off to catch her connecting flight. Almost as if in one of those Romantic comedies or perhaps just a regular comedy she found herself in line to board the plane behind the wall street looking kid, he turned around and smiled awkwardly at her. Great Bella thought now I'll have to be stuck making polite conversation with this man child again, something had made him chuckle and she shook her head. Just mind your manners Bella, its a short flight and things could be worse. The guy, Edward had taken to talking to the older man ahead of him and she felt relieved that she may not have to talk to anyone again. Bella pulled her phone out and scrolled through her playlists, she could just listen to whatever for now and she did, the flight was much shorter but far less comfortable than the bigger plane had been.
As she picked up her suitcase at baggage she noticed there was a tall dark and very good looking guy standing there staring at her, she paused and he waved. Was she supposed to know him? "Bella?" The man approached her cautiously, she nodded dumbly as she took out her earbuds. "Yea, and sorry you are?" She said as she hesitantly reached for his hand. "Jacob Black, I'm a friend of your dad's he's having a pretty rough day and as much as he wanted to be here to get you, he couldn't" Bella nodded sympathetically, she was even more afraid to see him now. It terrified her to imagine seeing him so sick. Jacob helped her with her bags and escorted her to his truck. There was a woman sitting in the front seat, she had jumped out and greeted Bella with what sounded like a forced introduction. "I'm Leah." The woman said through mostly ground teeth. "Our parent's are married, so I guess you're like my step...something." Bella nodded, she had received pictures of the wedding, she had declined the invitation because Renee was on one of her binges and she was afraid if she left her she might overdose or something. "Nice to meet you." Bella had said, she felt ashamed she hadn't made any real effort to ask about Charlie's new family but it was just too much. Climbing in the back of the massive truck Bella did her best to remain as quiet as possible which was easy seeing as Jacob and Leah didn't seem to want to talk to her anyway, she guessed they thought she was as awful as she felt for not visiting her father.
When they pulled up to the house she had remembered so fondly, she could feel the lump in her throat rising, this could have been her childhood home and this could have been her stability, she hated thinking it but it should be Renee that wound up sick, not the parent that actually gave a fuck about her. It made her hate her mother even more. Bella swallowed and wiped at her eyes quickly before either of her chaperones could notice. Leah had caught her though and sighed. "Sorry I was rude back there, Charlie means a lot to me and since my dad passed away, hes been there..." Bella blinked and more tears started to fall. "He said you had your reasons, I believe him, sorry though." Bella nodded slowly and she felt so numb. Taking a deep breath she steeled herself, she nearly tumbled out of the truck and onto her face before someone caught her. "Whoa there girl." It was another tall dark and good looking, Bella blushed, god she was such a mess. This man set her down gently and apologized "Sorry I didn't know anyone was back there." He said pointing the spot she'd so ungracefully fell from. Bella looked up and was startled by the sudden feeling she had, was she losing her mind. Somewhere in the background she could hear Leah's hysterical laughter and Jacob's groans. "Of course it would be you." He had said to the man. Unsure of what was happening Bella blinked a few times, trying to break the spell of the man in front of her. "You could at least introduce yourself to her you idiot." Leah said as she shoved him out of the way. Bella hadn't noticed just how tall the woman was until she stood next to these even taller men. The man stuttered and extended is hand nearly taking her eye out which only made Leah and Jacob laugh, Bella thought it was rude. "Oh fuck, shit, sorry." He managed to say. Bella covered her eye and nodded. "Uh its alright, I guess." He turned around to glare at his friends, or at least she thought they were his friends. "I'm Paul and I'm not usually this…" he gestured to her eye and then back at the door. "clumsy...sorry." Bella forced herself to smile but winced at the pain, she knew it had been an accident but why did it feel like he'd hit her with a 2x4? She'd be lucky if it didn't swell up or bruise.
Leah had come up to help Bella to the house, she was grateful that she wouldn't have to stand around being laughed at anymore. They entered and she could no longer hold back as she saw her father struggle to sit up from what looked like a hospital bed set up in the living room. Bella dropped her things and rushed over to his side, unsure if she could hold him without breaking him she grabbed his hand and then sobbed. Charlie pulled her into a hug and sobbed with her. "I'm sorry Bells." He had said when their sobs dwindled down to sniffles. Bella shook her head sadly, she knew he had nothing to be sorry for but she couldn't get the words out. They held each other until Charlie could not physically do it any more. Bella held his hand while he slept and barely looked around the room, if she had she would have noticed that his wife had brought her water and food. Bella would have also noticed there were many tall dark men hovered around the small house and particularly one clumsy man who she had only just met who had been anxiously pacing without trying to get too close to her.
Bella had woken up in a small bed, she startled awake, where the hell was she. Sitting up she looked around the room. It was her room, the one Charlie had called her own when she came to visit even if it was only a handful of times. Bella began to sob again, she couldn't seem to stop herself, it was all so overwhelming, someone knocked gently and let themselves in. "I'm sorry Bella, if you'd like I can get one of the guys to help me move the bed downstairs so you can be with your father." Bella sniffled wiping at her face. "I'm Sue, I don't know if he ever told you about me." Bella sat up and looked at the woman, she had kind eyes and a beautiful face, Leah clearly looked like her mother. "Of course, he loves you very much." Bella had told her honestly, she realized she hadn't even properly introduced herself and felt awful. "I didn't get a chance to meet you downstairs, I feel bad." Sue smiled kindly at her, she reached over and grabbed Bella's hand no hesitance in a gesture she could only assume was motherly Bella felt the tears coming again. "I wish I could have..." Bella tried to say. Sue simply sat next to her on the bed, pulling her into a hug making Bella ugly cry again. How selfish she was to be weeping while Sue did everything to make sure her father was comfortable, she vowed then to be more useful and make sure she didn't waste the whole visit crying. Bella cleaned up and eventually made her way back downstairs, the amount of giants who sat with her father was alarming. Where did these men come from? As if they were some synchronized swim team they all turned around to look at her. Bella could only duck her head and try not to make eye contact, had they all been here to witness her crying? She smiled awkwardly and went back to her fathers bedside, he seemed to be in better spirits today. He clucked his tongue at the men "Don't any of you be getting any idea's." Bella blushed a shade of red she wasn't sure she had ever been and the men all began to laugh. All except for one she could feel his eyes on her, she fanned herself and then when that wasn't enough she excused herself to the kitchen.
"Don't let them get to you, they still act like toddlers because they practically are toddlers." Leah had said when she followed her into the kitchen. Bella frowned. "They all look so old though." she had whispered to Leah, at the rumble of laughter she had heard from the other room she could swear they had heard her. Leah snorted. "Yea well, genetics and whatnot." Bella blinked, unsure of what that could even mean. "Does that make you all related?" Leah tilted her head to the side, looking thoughtful. "You could say we're related, maybe not all blood related but those guys are my family." Bella smiled, she wished she could have that connection with anyone. Leah glanced back to the room and back at Bella. "Since Charlie is family, that makes you our family too." Bella looked up at the woman and smiled. It was almost like she could read her mind, Bella internally rolled her eyes at that thought. People could not read minds. She decided she liked Leah, even if she was quite intimidating in almost every way.
The group of men dwindled down slowly as the evening wore on, Bella had been introduced to Sue's son Seth, she had been startled when he'd picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder just to prove how unchild like he was, it had clearly been a topic of discussion long before her arrival. Standing over 6 feet and looking built but not as bulky as some of the other guys, she did find it very hard to believe he was only 16, although she wasn't going to judge. It seemed to amuse everyone except for the man who had caught her from her fall, Paul, she could swear he looked livid and she couldn't understand why, Seth seemed to understand although he clearly didn't seem bothered and continued to make Bella feel as welcome as possible by what she assumed were just friendly touches.
The days had unfortunately begun to pass all too quickly and Bella was dreading the trip back to New York, she was seriously reconsidering a lot of things as she wanted to be able to spend whatever time her father had left with him. And honestly she felt like she was leaving a huge part of herself behind and she couldn't begin to understand why that was. She had gotten along with her new family so well, she could honestly say she would be sad to leave them. Sue and Leah especially, all her life she had wanted a mother like Sue, she was grateful her father at least had gotten to love someone like her. And Leah had been so easy to talk to, she really enjoyed her company. Charlie had been okay enough to come with her to the airport to see her off, she could see the sadness in his eyes once again and she knew what she had to do. Bella had asked Leah for her opinion and she gave it honestly and harshly which she appreciated. "Go back, talk to an adviser and decide from there. Don't do something stupid like quit, they may be able to help you transfer to a closer college, just don't be an idiot and quit." Bella chuckled, she was absolutely right and she had honestly panicked and thought about quitting and never going back. Bella hugged her father tightly and held back on her tears, she would be back and she just prayed he would make it long enough.
Unfortunately Bella could not just transfer on such short notice so she was forced to withdraw so she didn't fail but her adviser had given her some great contacts and made her promise to keep in touch until she was set up at her new school, which probably wouldn't be until the next semester but Bella could be okay with that, it would give her more time with her dad. She packed up her things and was headed back to Forks, more anxious than she had been and she couldn't explain why.