First, the housekeeping:

All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of S. Meyer. The original plot is the only thing that belongs to me. No copyright infringement is intended.

Credit goes to my ladies: coppertopj, kimmie45, MissLiss15, NKubie, and starsmina. Belizabetty made my beautiful banner.

The link to my facebook group is on my profile, and my blog is MeteorOnAMoonlessNight. blogspot. com. FB is where you'll find teasers, the blog is where you'll find the pictures and gifs (i.e. the porn).

I'm thrilled that new readers are finding my stories. If you're interested, my fic rules are posted on my profile. I've been a fanfic writer for four years now, and I'm proud to say I've never missed a single update. This story will update every Sunday afternoon. FFN is still not sending out email alerts for PMs, but I promise you this: if you're signed in and review, I will reply before the next chapter goes up.

If I've made a mistake, please feel free to point it out, and don't think you have to post as a guest. I learn from mistakes, and constantly strive to be a better author. If you've come here just to criticize, I'd tell you not to waste your breath, but that would be a waste of mine. Instead, know that I don't read GRs, and neither will anyone else.

This fic is full of tropes. I don't think a time is going to come that I'll surprise you with what happens next within the pages. We all love tropes and clichés, which is why they stick around, but my hope is always that I can bring something unique and exciting to the development of the characters. The way they react to the typical storyline is where I want to hook you and make you fall in love with them. I know I've fallen—I can't help it—so I invite you to join me on their journey.

And as always: Fiction is sold as entertainment, not fact.

Bella heard the rumors off and on throughout the day, but tried to ignore them. She shelved books and checked out her customers, tuned into her internal thoughts instead of the idle gossip floating on the air. The library smelled of crisp paper, toner, old bindings and glue. The noise was muted, hushed voices excitedly carrying the news as though Edward Cullen, former Forks resident and subject of Bella's first and only crush, was the Prince of India instead of a criminal. Bella was happy to clock out for the day, to flip the sign from open to closed and head back to her parents' house. It had never occurred to her to be ashamed to still be living with her parents at twenty-two. It was typical in the small, rainy town of Forks, Washington, where no one ever aspired to be much. Cashiers, waitresses, and retail workers were typical jobs for the others her age who never left for college, and the majority of them lived at home, as well.

Gossip was normal and as expected as the constant cloud cover. A day couldn't pass without talk of who was seeing who, whether it was in public or in 'secret,' who had been fired or who had passed on. Nobody moved away and nobody moved in; stagnant was the best word for their sleepy town. Bella had learned to live with it, though she wasn't fond of it; the routine and monotony was at least somewhat comforting. She thought gossip was a waste of intellect, but she never said so out loud. Who would care about her opinion if she did? Still, she knew Edward Cullen's visit had the power to shake up the town. In fact, it already had.

"Hi, Daddy," she said as she let herself in the kitchen door. She hung her purse and coat on the rack with robotic movements.

Charlie sat at the kitchen table in one of the three white chairs, flipping through the latest issue of his favorite fishing magazine. He didn't even bother to glance up as she entered, just acknowledge her with his usual greeting. "Hey, kiddo."

"Mom home yet?"

Her mother got a ride home from work since they couldn't afford a second car. Bella only had a vehicle because she'd saved up her allowance through high school and added to those funds when she got her first paycheck. Her truck was ancient but mostly reliable. The rusty red Chevy was a thousand times better than getting a ride in the chief's cruiser.

"Not yet."

Bella opened the fridge and stood looking at what she could make for dinner. She didn't really want fish again, but that was the only thing defrosted. Giving up, she closed the fridge and washed her hands so she could get started. It was the same routine every night, and every night she wondered what her parents would do without her. For two middle-age adults, they acted as though they couldn't function without help. Her mother was the manager at the Thriftway but couldn't put anything edible on the table if her life depended on it. Her father was more likely to burn anything he attempted, but he was less likely to even get up and try. They were a lost cause. Her parents took her for granted, and she knew it, but what choice did she have? She didn't make enough money to move out, and the thought of being alone made her feel depressed. She had relegated herself to taking on the meals and chores, or else they would never get done.

Her mother came in at the same time Bella was plating the broiled fish. She hadn't been in the mood to fry it, though that was her dad's preferred way to eat the fish he caught. The freezer was so well-stocked they could make it through the apocalypse without issues. Renee and Charlie talked about their days while Bella pushed the food around on her plate. Mealtime was tedious, and she was bored long before she had the chance to flee.

After they'd eaten dinner and the dishes were clean, Bella went upstairs to her room. It was only recently that she'd begun to feel such a deep sense of restlessness. She hated doing the same thing day in and day out, nothing new ever happening to lift her mood. Go to work, come home, make dinner for her incompetent and overprotective parents, then spend the evening reading. She had friends, or maybe acquaintances was the right word, but she didn't go out. Crowds made her anxious, and her throat closed up at the thought of making small talk with a stranger.

The rumors of Edward's arrival continued the next day. They were fewer and farther in between, but she heard them, regardless. Her ears seemed to prick with awareness each time his name was mentioned. Shaking her head, she went back to eating her sandwich in the small break room in the back office of the library. A ding from her phone had her checking her bag. Her one indulgence was to carry a smartphone, even though almost no one called her or texted her, but she wanted to be prepared in case of an emergency. As she pulled it out, she saw a message from Angela.

Her good friend, Angela Weber, had been fortunate to go on to college in Oregon, though Bella rarely saw her anymore. The text said she was in town and wanted to meet at the diner later. Bella decided on the spot that she would go and replied immediately. Anything was better than cooking for her parents. She guessed it would be pizza night for them. She sent a text to her mother, knowing she would be less likely to have her phone on her in the middle of the day than her father. He would make her feel guilty for not being there that evening, even if he didn't intend to. Unlike Bella, they didn't notice they'd become stagnant.

She caught the answering text from Angela before she went back to work, and it made her smile. She couldn't wait, either.

The idea of breaking up the monotony cheered her immensely. The rest of the day flew by, and before she knew it she was pulling into the lot of the Forks Diner. She spotted Angela's red Celica in a space near the front door and felt a sense of excitement that she'd almost forgotten she was capable of feeling. With a grin, she pushed her way in and found her friend waving to her from a table in the back.

"I sat down because they're crowded tonight and we wouldn't have gotten a table otherwise," Angela said as she stood to hug Bella. "You've lost weight."

With a self-conscious shrug, Bella sat across from her. "I hadn't noticed."

"You're a rail, Bella." Shaking her head, Angela picked up a sticky, plastic-coated menu with the tips of her fingers. "Order a burger and fries, on me. And a milkshake."

Bella twisted her lips in a wry smile. "I see going to college hasn't changed you any."

"Maybe I've changed college. Oh, the Frisco melt sounds perfect. It's been so long since I've eaten here."

Bella looked up as the bell over the door clanged and some kids from her graduating class came in, being their usual rowdy selves. She supposed they couldn't actually be called kids anymore, but they acted as if they still were. "It's all the same. I don't think they've ever changed the menu."

"Bella, are you doing okay?"

Bella looked back at her friend, at the hands folded over the menu on the table, at the short nails with bright red polish, the denim jacket over a shirt of flaming orange, and the chin-length bob. Angela was the complete opposite of her, and yet they had remained friends, if not terribly close. There was an expression of concern on her face, one which Bella was all too familiar with seeing. She knew she couldn't hide her inertia from Angela. "I'm fine."

Angela rolled her eyes. "Don't give me the classic response, woman. I'm sorry if school has taken so much of my time that I haven't been here for you. I'm almost finished."

"Yes, and then you'll have a career in the city, and that's the way it should be. You're not meant for this town." Bella was meant for this town, but Angela was meant for excitement and adventure. What a painful reminder of her lack of prospects their shared meal had turned out to be.

"What a nihilistic thing to say."

The waitress came over, halting any more discussion. It was a relief to Bella. She didn't want to tell her friend that she'd misused nihilistic, and she hadn't meant to say anything about the town and its innate claustrophobia. She was there to catch up and enjoy herself. If nothing else, she would live vicariously through Angela. With an enthusiasm she no longer felt, Bella brought the subject back around to her friend's future.

"So, you'll graduate in a few months. Do you have an internship lined up, or any ideas where you want to get hired on?"

She let Angela talk as they waited for their food, occasionally injecting a word or two. Listening with half an ear, she watched everyone moving around the diner over Angela's shoulder. When the door opened and a few men walked in wearing suits and black overcoats, she took notice. They lingered near the register, spoke to someone behind the counter, paid, and stood by the door to wait with their hands clasped in front of them.

Bella's heart sped up. That meant he was nearby. Was he outside? Was he waiting in the limo, heater running and radio tuned to a classic station? It was pathetic how much she knew about him when he didn't know she even existed. Her mouth went dry at the thought.

"I'm going to run to the bathroom, Ang."

Bella didn't stick around long enough to find out if Angela was surprised by the abrupt nature of her announcement. Hurrying to the bathroom, she ran the cold water full force into the basin.

She was such a loser. Who got heart palpitations at the idea of someone she had a crush on being within a one-mile radius? So what if he was there? He had better things to do than stop and talk to her, the awkward girl he went to school with once upon a time. He had never acknowledged her back then, and it wouldn't be any different that night or any other time he might cross her path. Is this what her life was reduced to, panic attacks at the thought of encountering Edward Cullen in the Forks Diner?

After splashing icy water on her heated cheeks, she scrubbed them dry with a scratchy paper towel and took a deep breath. She swung open the door to head back out to her friend and froze.

Edward was in the hallway outside the bathrooms, glancing between the signs and looking right through her. His hair was longer than she recalled, brushing his collar and flopping in his face. He had on a long coat similar to the ones his men wore with a dark gray suit underneath. His tie was loosened, the darkest shade of red conjuring images of pooling blood.

Bella didn't move until the men's room door swung closed behind him, then walked on shaky legs back to the table. Idiot, idiot, idiot! she chanted in her head. It took effort not to trip over the scuffed linoleum on the way to the booth, and then she practically fell into it.

Angela looked up in alarm. "Is everything all right, Bella?"

She felt ten times the fool, and hoped Angela wasn't too observant of that fact. "Of course."

"Okay." Angela didn't sound in the least bit convinced but, thankfully, she didn't push it.

There were plates of food on the table, and Bella ate mechanically, but she couldn't stop watching the doorway where he would have to emerge. Never would she have guessed exactly how deep her feelings had gone, or that they'd even lasted all these years until she saw him in person. It was stupid, and bound to give her heartache, but she wished he would notice her just one time.

When he came through the diner, she paused with a fry halfway to her mouth in order to watch him walk. Everything about him mesmerized her; the graceful steps, the straight posture, the casual confidence he exuded. His hair was the same copper disarray she'd loved in high school, and even the fluorescent lighting couldn't ruin the sheen. He appeared to have grown taller, but that could have been her perception since she was seated. She had a visceral urge to discover if he smelled the same, like pine and wood smoke and everything the forest represented.

Everyone quieted in the diner and watched him pass through, so she didn't feel too out of place, but she assumed no one else was as agonizingly smitten. She had not felt so pathetically immature since she'd worked up the nerve to say hello to him in the ninth grade, only to have him walk right on by as though she didn't exist.

"Isn't that—"

"Edward Cullen," Bella murmured, cutting off Angela's question.

The only man who'd ever made Bella yearn for his attention. The only man who'd ever left Forks to become a wealthy, powerful mob boss.

The only man with the capacity to break Bella's heart.

The reason I decided to post this now instead of over the summer as planned was to give something to those who rely on fanfic to get through the tough times. I was going to wait, because replying to reviews on more than one story stresses me out, not to mention teasers, pictures, the blog, etc., but it's a small thing compared to what some of you are going through.

I'm going to go ahead and add this here, but I promise I'll only say it once. If you'd like something else to read while stuck in quarantine, I'm also a published author. You can find my books on Amazon and most of the other booksellers under Lara Norman.