This isn't beta'd. Any mistakes are my own.
Phoenix, Arizona. October 2005.
Headphones in, sneakers pounding on the pavement, Bella ran faster.
The sun scolded the back of her exposed neck as she lapped the field. She focused on her goal in the distance and pushed herself harder. Her breathing was loud in her ears, she could hear it over her blaring music. Her legs ached with excursion but she felt as if she flew across the finish line. She quickly stopped her watch as she kept walking and stared at the time - eleven minutes. She squealed with happiness - she had done it! Her legs felt wobbly and her lungs burned but she had broken her old record by over two minutes. Chest heaving, she felt euphoric. Her dream of going to University of Southern California was seeming closer in reach.
She wiped her sweaty forehead with the bottom of her t-shirt and squirted some water into her dry mouth. Her ponytail swished back and forth as she made her way off the track and towards the bleachers to sit down. She pulled her grey motorola razr out her bag and called her mom. Her mom didn't answer and it took a few minutes for her to call Bella back. Bella tapped her foot against the bleacher as she waited for her mom to come pick her up. She wished she had a car like all of her friends but they couldn't afford it and Bella was okay with catching rides with her friends. She hated the desert, she hated the heat and the intense sun. She hated having to slather a gallon of sunscreen on every time she wanted to go out for a run. She was used to it though and that was she could handle going to southern California if it meant she could have her dream school. Her mom, Renee, pulled up then in her blue/grey used station wagon. Bella smiled as she slung her bag over her shoulder and jogged over to the car.
"Hi, sweetheart! How was your run?" Renee asked her as she slid into the front seat.
"Hi! It was great! Eleven minutes!" Bella told her elated.
"That's fantastic, honey! Oh, I'm so proud of you! You're amazing! My daughter's going to be a famous track star!" Renee boasted.
"Do you think Phil will be impressed?" Bella asked, already knowing he would be.
Phil Dwyer was her cool step-dad. He was athletic and played professional baseball with the Diamondbacks.
"You know he will be! I bet he'll want to come out and race you!" Renee teased her.
Bella grinned goofily, "I bet he'd let me win."
Renee smiled back at her as they turned onto the street towards their house. Bella was out before Renee had fully stopped; bounding towards the Spanish style mud colored one story house. Cacti and other plants went up and down the walkway making the house more inviting.
"Phil! Are you home?" Bella asked as she rushed through the white front door.
"In the kitchen, hon!" Phil called back and the smell of food wafted over Bella.
She skipped towards the kitchen where her step-dad was making dinner. Phil was great for her mom. He was a little younger but he fit perfectly for her mom's free spirit. He was six feet and fit. He had blue eyes which stood out even more against his tan skin. He was bald with a short beard.
"How was your day?" He asked her as he turned the chicken he was grilling.
"It was awesome! Guess what? Eleven minutes!" She told him proudly.
He turned to face her, the spatula still in his hand, with a huge smile, "Eleven minutes? Bella that's amazing! That's so great! I'm so proud of you! You've been working so hard! You're definitely going to get into USC no questions asked!" He assured her.
She smiled back at him, so happy, "I really hope so!" She said and then disappeared to get ready for dinner.
She got out of her sweaty clothes and into the shower quickly. After washing up, she pulled on her favorite grey sweatpants and Linkin Park hybrid theory t-shirt. Keeping her wet long brown hair down her back, she padded back out into the dining room.
Her mom was already sitting at the white kitchen table; drinking her herbal tea. Bella thought she looked a lot like her mom. Her mom had brown hair just above her shoulders with childish blue eyes and a face full of laugh lines. She was average height, 5'4, and slender. She was only nineteen when she had Bella so she still looked young. Sometimes she and Bella were mistaken for sisters. Renee was still immature though and before Phil came along, Bella was the adult in the house. Bella was glad her mom had finally found someone to make her happy but she often worried about her father.
Her father, Charlie, lived in Forks Washington and he was alone. He had never remarried after Renee left Forks with a toddler Bella in tow. Every summer Bella went to stay with her dad, she thought he looked lonelier and lonelier. He was the police chief and it seemed that his job was the only thing keeping him going.
As Phil set the table with dinner, Renee looked over at Bella with a worried expression.
"What's up, mom?" Bella asked as she forked up some rice into her mouth.
Renee and Phil shared a quick look before Renee sighed.
"So, Phil is getting traded to the Gators and we were thinking of doing some traveling before he has to start spring training," Renee finally said.
"Gators? Is that Florida?" Bella asked as she set her fork down.
"Yes, we were thinking of Jacksonville," Renee replied gently.
Bella could see on her mom's face that she was nervous of how she would react. She thought about it and realized that they would probably want to travel just the two of them. Bella would be a third wheel. She always wanted her mom to be happy and she and Phil hadn't been married that long. They'd want this time for themselves.
"Can I go live with my dad?" Bella asked after a long moment of silence.
Renee dropped her fork with a loud clatter, "What?" She wondered bewildered.
"I want to go live with my dad while you and Phil travel," Bella said slowly.
"Why? No, Bella, you should come with us," Renee argued.
Bella looked at Phil and could see he seemed to like the idea she was throwing out.
"It would be nice to see dad and make sure he's not lonely out there, I would like to get to know him again," Bella added, knowing her mom would feel guilty.
Sure enough, Renee chewed on her lip in thought, "Are you sure? I really don't want you to feel like you have to go out there," She told Bella.
Bella shook her head, "I don't feel like that, mom, I wanted to go live with him, I'll have to check and see if the school has a track team," She said with a smile.
Renee wrung her hands nervously, "Okay, honey, if you're sure, but you can call me at anytime and I'll come get you if you want to come home," She told her.
Bella nodded her head in acknowledgement, "It will be okay, mom," She tried to reassure her mom.
"You're a great kid, Bella," Phil murmured as he bit into some chicken.
"Thanks but it'll be nice seeing my dad," She said firmly and then began eating again shutting down the conversation.
Later that night, Bella lay on her small twin sized bed and stared up at the ceiling lost in thought.
She was doing the right thing, she told herself.
It was the best thing for her mom, Phil and even her dad. He probably would love the company and Bella could make sure he was eating well and taking care of himself.
When she closed her eyes again, she dreamed of green and her dad's grinning face.
The next day was Saturday and Bella had to tell her friends that she would be moving away to Washington state.
Her friend Jamie seemed to be taking it the hardest as she clung to Bella tightly, "Bella! Why are you leaving me?" She wailed.
Bella awkwardly patted her friend on the shoulder, "You can always text me, it's not like I'll be gone forever," She reminded Jamie.
Jamie sniffled and released Bella, "Oh, yeah, you're right, but still, I'll miss you so much! Who will I run with now?" She wondered.
"Well, Andrew really likes you," Bella pointed out.
Jamie's blue eyes widened and she fiddled with her blonde ponytail, "Really? You think so?" She asked.
"Yes, he always wants to talk to you and run with you, you just don't notice," Bella teased.
Jamie chuckled and wiped under her eyes, smearing her mascara, "Okay, next time, I'll run with Andrew," She said determined; rocking on her white sneakers.
Bella laughed a little, "Good, you'll be okay," She told her friend.
"What about you? Will you be okay? Washington is going to be so different," Jamie warned and pulled at her clinging pink tank top.
"I'll be fine, you know my mom and I moved around a lot when I was a kid; I was always okay," She told Jamie gently.
"True," Jamie replied with a shrug.
"Jamie, you are such a drama queen," Her friend Vickie said coming up to them.
Victoria's red curls bounced against her slender shoulders as she wrapped her long arms around Bella.
"Whatever," Jamie grumbled.
Vickie rolled her eyes; making Bella giggle, "Why are you leaving, Bella? This place is going to blow without you here," She whined.
Bella shrugged a little, "My dad needs me, Vic, and my mom and Phil want some privacy," She said nonchalantly.
Vickie tossed her hair over her shoulder, "Your mom still acts like a child, she should put your needs first, you're always making sure everyone else is okay but what about you?" She demanded.
Bella chuckled awkwardly and squeezed Vickie's shoulder, "I want to go see my dad, you know he and I aren't the closest, I want to change that and get to know him better," She said.
"And who knows! Maybe Bella will meet her true love over there!" Jamie declared.
Bella guffawed at that but Vickie looked thoughtful at that.
"Well, I guess you won't know until you get over there!" Vickie said, all for it now.
It was Bella's turn to roll her eyes, "You want to hit up Pop's Ice Cream one last time?" She asked her friends.
On Sunday, her mom dragged her to a Wicca group meeting one last time.
Renee turned to her daughter as they neared the unsuspecting building, "I want you to be open minded, Bella," She said as she pulled the glass door open.
Bella followed behind her mom quietly. Open minded? She'd been to these meetings before and it was more like seances surrounded by candles. It was just another thing her mom was into at the moment. Renee had tried yoga, cooking, clay making and dragged Bella to all of it. It only lasted a short period before she bored of it but this was different, her mom seemed genuinely interested in this. Bella wasn't religious at all, her mom never expressed any interest in it but this seemed to have religious undertones.
The women smiled as Bella and Renee walked over to join the group that was sat in a circle on the floor. Hundreds of candles surrounded them and Bella resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She didn't believe in any of this but she always went with her mom.
"Hello, Bella," The leader of the group, Claudia, greeted her.
Bella smiled politely and returned the greeting.
"Your mom tells us you will be leaving us and going to live with your dad," Claudia said.
"That's right," Bella agreed as she sat down on the floor next to her mom.
Claudia was a beautiful middle aged woman with black curly hair and brown eyes. She wore a long flowing green skirt with a white top. She stood up from the floor and clapped her hands together.
"Well, let's clear your aura before you leave for your journey," She told Bella.
Bella nodded silently as she watched Claudia lit some sage on fire. After blowing the fire out she approached Bella with the smoking plant and motioned for her to stand. Bella got to her feet and stood motionless in front of Claudia. She stayed still as the woman moved the smoke from her head to toe. Then, she did her arms and legs before snubbing out the smoke.
"Thank you," Bella said after an awkward moment of quiet.
Claudia smiled brightly at Bella, "Of course, dear one! We want you to travel safely through your journeys! Now, your mom and I have been talking and I suggested you should get pentagram tattooed on you, it will protect you!" She explained.
Bella's mouth popped open, "Mom-" She started to argue.
Renee put her arms around Bella's shoulder, "Please, honey, I want us to get one together, I want you to be protected while you're away from me. It will make me feel better, please, Bella," She begged, eyes tearing up.
Bella couldn't say no to her mom, especially when she used the 'puppy dog eyes' on her. So, reluctantly she agreed.
One of the group members, Mary, was also a tattoo artist and she agreed to tattoo Bella and Renee. Bella was surprised how well she handled the pain, not moving at all during the hour and a half ordeal. The black pentagram was on her hip bone - the circle was made up of tree branches and flowers with the star inside. Bella thought it was beautiful. Renee, on the other hand, didn't handle the pain well at all and cried the entire time. Hers was on her foot and seemed like it was painful. In true Renee fashion her tattoo was brightly colored.
They stood in the circle of women again and Renee placed a necklace over Bella's head. It was a black tourmaline pendant, Renee had explained.
"Always wear it, Bella," She said sternly.
"Okay," Bella promised, not understanding her mom.
Renee placed her forehead against Bella's as they other women closed the circle tighter around them.
"Safe and protected, this child will be, until she returns to me, goddess our mother, watch over my child, with your loving heart, both fierce and mild, keep her safe from threat or harm, with the power of this charm."
Before they left the meeting, Claudia told Bella that there was a group that met up in Seattle that she could be apart of if she wanted.
They thanked the women and Renee drove them home silently.
Bella was confused by everything that had happened and a little freaked out. She thought maybe her mom had another of her feelings and something bad was going to happen in Washington.
"Mom, is everything okay?" Bella asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
Renee offered her a tight smile, "Everything's fine, sweetheart, I'm just nervous about you leaving me that's all," She assured her.
Bella was skeptical but didn't push. Instead, she nodded and turned to look out the window.
The following week flew by and before they knew it, it was time for Renee to drive Bella to the airport.
As they loaded up the station wagon, Renee handed Bella a plant.
"What's this for?" Bella wondered as she stared at the small green leafy plant.
"It's basil, just keep it in the kitchen window," Renee said.
"Umm, okay," Bella replied and brought the little plant into the car with her.
Phil drove them to the airport and when they arrived, Renee hugged Bella for fifteen minutes before Phil finally had to pull her off Bella.
"Call me every day!" Renee demanded, teary eyed.
Bella had stuffed her little plant into her carry on bag and nodded at her mom.
"I promise, mom, I'll miss you to but it won't be forever," She tried to soothe.
Renee sniffled and Phil wrapped his arms around her, "Okay, I love you, my baby girl," She said and stayed in the airport long after Bella had disappeared into the crowd.