The Bear

Chapter One: Beginnings

"Whatever you do to the animals, you do to yourself."

I wasn't at all sure about returning to Forks after my father had died. I mean, Forks was just another word for Charlie Swan. I knew that once there, everywhere I turned I'd run into a memory; memories so powerful that they would be like he was standing right there wondering what the hell I was getting all sappy about. But like a siren—not the one that came with his police cruiser, but the ones that lured you in too close to the rocks—I couldn't resist. Charlie and Forks were calling me, Bella Swan, home and I had to go.

My father's death had been particularly horrifying. He had been out fishing, got cornered by a grizzly, and couldn't get away. Hopefully, it had been over quickly. The old bear got him in the neck and dropped him in a stream. Dad must have been dead when he hit the water, his neck broken. Something must have frightened the animal off because dad's body was found the next morning lying in the stream that had washed all his blood away. He'd bled so much the coroner said he was completely exsanguinated. They told me he had looked as though he had just laid down for a nap—that is if you didn't look at the gash in his neck. I have nightmares about it still.

Billy Black, my father's life-long friend, and his son, Jake, approached me after the funeral and let me know that every able bodied Quileute man was hunting for that bear and it wouldn't be long before he was caught and killed just as it had killed my father. They cautioned me to stay out of the woods until they'd got him. I thought that was sort of strange. It wasn't like I spent any time in the woods on a regular basis. But I guess they were trying to offer what support and reassurance they could. From just the way they said it, I knew that bear wouldn't stand a chance. Poor Bear. But poor Charlie. And poor me.

I had finished college just a few weeks before and had been in the process of moving out of my old apartment in Seattle. I hadn't found a job, thank you very much global recession, so I had the wonderful choice between nowhere and nowhere else to go. A friend of mine was letting me bunk on her couch until I figured things out, but that was temporary. I had been beginning to feel desperate.

After the funeral, I realized I finally had a place to go. Dad had left his house to me—the house he had inherited from his parents. The same house he had brought his bride to, my mother Renee. It was the house where I had been conceived, the house where I had been born—my home birth was mom's idea—and the house she eventually had left taking me with her. My dad had lived there all alone until he also left, though not through his choice.

It seems with real estate, the building stays the same; it's the people who change.

I stood on the cracked walk that led to the porch steps of my small house and stared up at the white vinyl siding, the green shingled roof and the blank windows staring back at me. I was a little surprised to feel a kinship with the place. I realized for the first time in my life, something belonged to me, or maybe it was that I belonged to something. This is the place where I had my beginnings; my conception, my birth, and now the start of my adulthood.

I spent the next week going through the place and figuring out what to keep and what to give away. Dad sure had a lot of plaid shirts. They were big on me but one made a nice bathrobe to wear around the house. It was warm and smelled faintly of him, a mixture of Old Spice and Wrigley's spearmint gum. It comforted me, I guess.

I was relieved to discover that my father was meticulous about the upkeep, so everything was running well. The mechanics and the appliances worked and had been regularly serviced—he had the records proving it—all the windows opened and closed easily, even all the light bulbs worked. The yard was tidy and the house was clean for a bachelor, even though he probably never made the bed completely.

He kept all his bills and papers in a desk in the spare room on the first floor. Everything was neatly labeled and filed in hanging folders in a drawer. It was as if he knew I'd have to step into his shoes one day and he wanted to make it easy for me. It didn't surprise me, though. That's just the way he was.

Though Renee took me away from him at an early age, I was close to my dad. We spoke once a week by phone, and he had the endearing habit of sending me goofy postcards occasionally—"Wish you were here" emblazoned across a picture of a random roller coaster, or a dam, or some municipal building. The postcards started when I was little. As I was growing up, I rarely visited him in Forks, even he realized there wasn't much for a kid to do there, so once a year we'd take a road trip and go some place awesome: Disneyland, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Las Vegas—well, maybe Las Vegas was a mistake, as he spent a lot of time covering my ten year old eyes when we'd stumble upon something he didn't think was appropriate for a kid to see—but all in all, we had fun.

Sometime during our trip, he'd sneak out and buy a stack of postcards. They could be pictures of just about anything, the only requirement was that they had to say "Wish you were here" somewhere on the card. Then, he'd mail them to me throughout the year to remind me of our time together.

It was hard to think I'd never get another.

After bouncing around a bit, Renee and I finally settled in Phoenix, Arizona. I spent fourth grade through high school there. I worked hard and did well, so when I graduated I elected to attend a university nearer to Charlie than to Renee. After all, Renee had started following the local minor league's baseball team and had fallen in love with and married one of the players, Phil Dwyer. She had finally found her bliss. We certainly proved the adage two's company, three's a crowd, and I was the third that made the crowd in this arrangement. It was better that I left them to their lives. I needed to go find my own.

Phil was picked up by the Hanshin Tigers, a team in Japan of all places, and there he and mom had lived for the last few years and probably would for the next few. Phil was still holding on to the dream that a stateside team would tap him, but that hadn't happened, yet. Mom had invited me to come to Japan to live with them, and if I was more intrepid I'd probably gone but I'm not, so I hadn't.

Then Charlie died.

After all the insurance and stuff came through, I was surprised at what Charlie had left me. Though not a fortune, it was more than I thought it would be. I realized that if I was careful, I could live off of it for a good while. I could stay in Forks until inspiration or desperation made me do something else. In reality, if I found a job-which wasn't easy in this podunk town-I could stretch it further. As it happened, luck was on my side.

I was at the Thriftway picking up some groceries when I ran into Shirley Cope. Shirley was the secretary up at Forks High and she was involved in the Neighborhood Watch (Paint Dry) program in Forks. (I added the parenthetical, by the way. Nothing happens in Forks, so why there has to be a Neighborhood Watch program, I will never know.) Anyway, Shirley was gung-ho about the thing, so she had had some dealings with my dad, who had been the Chief of Police.

Shirley was really nice to me after dad moved on and I moved in. She brought me a green jello salad. You know the one: green jello with canned pineapple chunks and cottage cheese? It's a staple among neighborhood watchers and school secretaries, I guess. But anyway, she brought the salad on a condolence call and then stayed to condole me. Really, she didn't have to come at all never the less, to visit. I didn't know what to say to her but I soon learned a better name for the Neighborhood Watch (Paint Dry) would have been Neighborhood Watch (Other People's Business.) That lady pumped me so hard for information, I felt like a plunger on a frat house's chili night. So, I wasn't really jumping up and down with delight when I bumped into her at the grocery, as you can imagine.

"Why, Bella Swan. How are you doing, deary?" She patted me on the arm as though I was five years old.

"Just fine, Mrs. Cope." I smiled weakly and tried to edge around her but damn if she didn't have her cart blocking my escape route.

"Are you settling in okay?"

"I am, yes. Thank you." I was debating making a strategic retreat but was afraid that would be rude.

"So, what do you plan to do now that you're settled? You have to do something or you'll go batty."

Surprisingly, she did have a point. "I'm looking for a job." And I had thought about it, sort of.

"A job? Of course! You know what? My sister runs 'Lavern's New and Used Books and Coffee Shoppe' on Bogachiel Way, right across from the hospital. She just got one of those fancy coffee machines and was telling me she could use a hand. Why don't you go over there and talk to her? Tell her I sent you."

"Gee thanks, Mrs. Cope. That's great." It really was great. I'd worked as a barista in my college days. I mean, really. Seattle? Starbucks? UDub? I think it's a degree requirement or something.

So, that's how I got my gig working at Laverne's. She was delighted that I knew how to make "those fancy coffee" drinks and I have to admit, I had sort of missed the hiss of a milk steamer, so it was a match made in heaven. She also picked my brain about the store. Since she was near the hospital, there should have been a lot more traffic through her store, but she wasn't getting it. I made a few suggestions about comfortable seating and good lighting and really, the store started to work. Before I knew it, I was making homemade goodies to sell alongside the lattes and cappuccinos, probably in violation of all the state health codes, but it was going well, kept me busy, and I found I was beginning to be happy again.

I even started to change the relentless bachelor décor my father had left behind him. I took down the plaid curtains, covered the plaid sofa, and rolled up the plaid carpet. I was beginning to figure out that my dad, adorned in his plaid shirts, probably liked to play the chameleon in his house.

I did a lot of wall painting and I compulsively watched HGTV on my dad's humongous flat-screen, his one solitary indulgence during his lifetime. Though it seemed sort of disrespectful, I also discovered Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy looked exceptionally fine on that monster as well. I'm sure dad was rolling over in his grave.

Whoever would have believed I'd find contentment in Forks?

As things started settling into a comfortable routine, I began to notice I was getting forgetful. I'd put my hair brush down and then couldn't find it later on when I looked for it, only to discover I had set it down in another room where I didn't remember using it. I'd be at work watching a storm roll in and then realize that I'd left my bedroom window wide open, but after making a quick trip back home found I had closed it after all.

I didn't think too much about it until I started having very vivid dreams. I couldn't remember them, but I'd wake up knowing something intense had happened while I was in dreamland. Then, I'd begin to remember bits and pieces; a feather light touch moving a strand of my hair off my face, an amazing scent lingering in the room, a cool breath brushing my cheek. It was nothing concrete, certainly not like my typical dreams—those usually consisted of forgetting to put on my jeans as I rushed to take a final I'd forgotten about. No, these dreams were foggy glimpses of something that drew me in, something that I knew I wanted—even needed—but for the life of me, I couldn't name. I would wake up in the morning feeling as though I hadn't slept a bit with a yearning for something else, something unknown.

I'd started making myself a large Americano with four shots of espresso first thing in the morning when I'd get to work to combat the wooly-headed feeling I was beginning to constantly have from my lack of restful sleep. I was in the middle of doing that when someone cleared his voice behind me and said, "Excuse me, Miss, but could I trouble you for a small, black?"

Just his voice sent chills down my back and it struck a chord of memory that left me groping as I tried to place it. I turned around, forgetting to plaster on my neutral barista smile in my stupor, only to see the most handsome man surely God had ever created leaning against the counter. I literally couldn't breathe. He was tall, with wild dark auburn hair. He was very fair, with chiseled features and the most amazing golden eyes I had ever seen. His inquiring look turned to one of amusement but its intensity didn't lessen. He just waited me out until I could finally grasp the edges of reality and remember what I was supposed to be doing, where I was supposed to be, and quite possibly even what planet I was on.

He held my gaze as I gawked at him until my boss' voice brought me back to my surroundings, "Why, Edward Cullen! I thought that was you. What brings you back to Forks?"

AN: The quotations at the headings of each chapter are taken from Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, Harper-Collins Publishers, 2001.

AN: No copyright infringement is intended and no ownership of the Twilight Saga is implied.