All characters belong, not to me, but to Stephenie Meyer. (Because she's just that awesome.)
Also, I want to thank my wonderful beta, Lhiannon.
And thanks to everyone else for all the excellent feedback. I really appreciate it.
"This is not exactly what I would call a fun outing, Dad." I said, climbing into his cruiser.
"You'll have a good time, you'll see."
"Good time?" I scoffed as I slammed the door shut.
With a turn of his keys the car started, and before I could protest any more, we were moving. Charlie had taken it upon himself to get to know me. He hadn't been so lenient in his parenting ways since my return to Forks.
"Are you sure this is okay with the doctor?" I asked as innocently as I could, "I mean, I've only just recently had my cast removed."
"Yes, but still--" He looked at me. "Be careful, Bella."
I nodded silently and looked out my window.
"Can Edward come?" This was spoken the moment it ran through my mind, without any consideration of whether or not Edward was actually in town.
"No," He answered stiffly, "this is strictly a father-daughter event."
I heard a small humph escape me as I leaned back against the seat and crossed my arms. After a few more moments of thought, I reconsidered my wanting Edward to attend. I'd rather him not have to see this. Plus, I vaguely remembered him mentioning that he was hunting with Emmett, the day was too nice to do anything but.
Charlie glanced over at me, "Bells, I hardly know you." His tone was soft. "I'd like to get to know you better before, you know--" he paused, "you have to leave me again for college."
I didn't have the heart to argue with him anymore. The confession of motives left a blush on his cheeks that I tried hard to ignore. It would have made him even more uncomfortable if I was to show any signs of noticing. So, with that, I pulled out of my sulky disposition and tried to put forth a more contented one. I wanted Charlie to trust me again and I wanted to get to know him too. Not just as my dad, but as a person as well.
I felt the car slow and then stop. I pressed my face against the window and saw that we had arrived at our destination. I couldn't help but groan as I stepped out of the car. A line of giant faded letters were arched over the entrance. Sunset Lanes. I should run now, before anyone gets hurt.
I clung to my open door- it was my anchor. I knew that if I was to let go, I'd float away. I would float away to a place where people found entertainment in knocking over silly-shaped pins with balls heavy enough to rip an arm out of its socket. But alas, I could see Charlie making his way towards the ominous building. I whimpered as I shut my door, and against all good judgment, I followed.
My eyes followed Charlie until he disappeared through the doors to the alley. I then dropped my head and watched my feet as I walked across the parking-lot, for they were my biggest betrayers. They'd probably kill me before I was armed with an eight-pound ball.
"Bella!" I heard someone shout behind me.
I spun around and saw Tyler waving his arm wildly around his head.
I gave a small wave and turned back around in an attempt to avoid conversation. I hadn't talked to him since he and Edward had that charming conversation regarding me, the prom, and of course, my eternally booked evenings. I couldn't suppress a smirk, and at that moment I wanted Edward to be with me. I wanted to share the resurfacing of memories with him. I wanted to hear his laugh, but all I heard was Tyler screaming again.
"Bella!" This wasn't a greeting. "Bella!" He shouted again, and I could hear the pounding of his feet. This broke me out of my daydreams, and I realized I was standing in the middle of the road. To my right I heard a screeching sound. I snapped my head up in the direction of the noise. A white car was smoking at the tires in an effort to stop.
It was fifteen feet away, ten, five, three, one… During these spare moments I didn't think to run, I didn't think anything. My mind went completely blank. A deer caught in headlights would be a very operative term for the way I felt, and probably for how I looked also.
I stood in the middle of the road with my eyes, fists, and stomach clenched tight in a futile attempt to brace myself for a collision, but it didn't come. I remained completely still for a few seconds more, and then I peeked through one eye. I saw that the bumper of the car had stopped less than an inch away from my legs. I took a step back.
I was wrong, my feet weren't going to kill me- it was everything else. I took a deep breath, and the smell of burnt rubber filled my nose.
"Bella!" Tyler had finally reached me.
"Hm?" I answered dazedly as I lifted my eyes to meet his.
"Bella," He panted.
I ignored him this time and turned to look at the car. A woman with frizzy brown hair proceeded to clutch the steering wheel with two hands in the novice 9 o' clock and 3 o' clock position. Her arms remained locked in front of her and her eyes were still wild with fear. I looked over at the passenger and saw Jessica with her face turned away to the side.
"Bella," Tyler uttered, "This is all my fault."
"What?" I exclaimed, turning my attention to him again.
"I distracted you," he stated simply, "I made you freeze in the middle of the road. You almost got hit again because of me!"
"No!" I said, shocked. "I was stupid enough to stop in the middle of the road. Tyler, it's my fault."
"-No, it's my fault and mine alone." The last thing I needed was him to follow me around for another year.
By this time Jessica and her mother had climbed out of their car. Mrs. Stanley was in hysterics and Jessica was on the verge of them.
"You were just standing there!" Jessica's mom exclaimed shrilly, "I thought you'd move!" Her mascara was running down her face.
"Bella?" Jessica hugged me. "Are you alright? I was so scared we were going to hit you!" she sobbed. "That would have been the worst!" Then she went off, "I swear, sometimes my mom can be such an idiot. But please-- Bella, you won't tell anyone, will you?"
I glanced over at the woman with blood-red lips and a deep-cut shirt and then back at her daughter. "I won't, Jess, I promise." There were family matters at work here that I didn't care to delve into at the moment.
"Thanks," Jessica said, and she gave me another small squeeze before she ran back to the car. Her mother followed in an almost hypnotic state, to climb into the driver's seat. I walked to the other side of the street closer to the bowling alley, and I leaned against one of the huge, cement bowling-pin pillars near the entrance. I lifted my hand to my mouth, and disregarding all past promises to myself, began nibbling on my pinky nail.
Tyler had left during my conversation with the Stanleys, a fact I was very glad to discover. Having nothing to prevent me from entering the bowling alley, I stepped though the automatic doors. A wall of cold air hit me as I passed the barrier between the nightmare and the lesser-nightmare.
I began scanning the alley for Charlie the moment I entered. I could hear the florescent lights humming above my head, interrupted regularly by the contact of bowling ball and pins. I found Charlie easily- he was talking with a man behind a bar. Without a word, I stepped to Charlie's side.
"Your bowling partner?" The man said, inclining his head slightly towards me without breaking eye contact with Charlie.
"Sure is," and when I looked up at Charlie I saw that he was smiling down at me. "What size shoe do you wear, Bella?"
"A seven, I think." I answered, looking away from Charlie and over at the library of shoes behind the bar.
"Seven it is, then!" The man behind the bar said genially before turning around and pulling a pair of size sevens out and slamming them on the counter. "Anything else, Chief?"
"Nope, thanks, Harris."
Harris nodded at us and hunched over some paperwork.
Charlie and I made our way over to an isle. I sat down, and while I was putting on my shoes, Charlie went and got us some bowling balls. A bowling ball, perfect. I sighed and stood up, testing my shoes.
"Do they fit, Bells?" Charlie said with a ball in each hand.
"Well enough." I sighed. I was going to look like a clown even without the shoes.
Charlie set down the balls, saying, "Do you want to go first?"
"Oh, no!" I said a little too quickly. Then I added, "Um, no, you can go first. I don't mind."
Charlie bowled with all the confidence of a veteran to the game. He knocked over nine pins the first bowl and got a spare on his second. I clapped my hands encouragingly behind him, but was secretly dreading the advent of my turn. I stood up and picked up the lighter of the two balls.
I cradled the ball as I walked over to the aisle. I got as close as I could to the line where the ground changed to the slippery surface. I figured the closer I was, the better the chance I had of knocking over anything. With a sigh, I dropped the ball from my chest and it fell to my side. It threatened to pull me over, but I shifted my weight in enough time to avoid this.
Then, before I knew it, I was pulling my arm back and releasing the ball. I felt myself flail around as the ball left my possession. I felt like a windmill, but I hadn't fallen. Not falling was accomplishment in itself, but then I looked up I saw that the ball wasn't in the gutter yet. I bit my lip in anticipation as my eyes followed the ball's progress down the lane.
I felt a smile pull at my lips as I heard a few pins clatter downwards. I spun around and saw Charlie beaming at me unguardedly, his laugh lines all the more prominent. I flashed him my very own, and if asked about it, I would happily reply that the smile was as genuine a one as I could ever muster.
The process repeated, but the second time I didn't hit anything. I now had an amazing score of three. Charlie continued at an unwavering rate to knock over the pins. At the end of the game he had a score of 134 and I had a pitiful 41. I was happy with myself, though- I hadn't hurt myself or anyone else. I hadn't run over the line onto the slick part of the aisle to have my feet fly out from under me. That was a thought that ran through my mind every time I stood up to bowl.
We both exited the alley in a jovial mood. I definitely hadn't expected to enjoy bowling as much as I had. I reveled in the sunlight, and I closed my eyes when I lifted my face to greet the rays. I heard Charlie's chuckle ahead of me and I followed it blindly.
The walk across the parking lot was refreshingly uneventful. I pulled open the door to the cruiser and climbed in. Charlie slid in beside me and shut his door.
"That was fun, Dad!" I exclaimed once we pulled out of the parking lot.
"I knew you'd have a good time."
I laughed, "Yeah, I guess you did."
I looked at the clock in the dashboard- it read 4:45. In all likelihood, Edward was finished hunting.
"Can I call Edward when we get in?" I asked pleasantly when we pulled into the driveway and the hum of the engine was cut.
"You come here, only to be stolen away from me again," he said with a sad smile.
"Dad!" I whispered, surprised. I thought he didn't mind the amount of time I was spending with Edward. "I'm sorry, Dad." I said, looking into his chocolate brown eyes that were so much like my own. "I didn't know." I dropped my eyes down to the clasped hands in my lap.
"Of course you didn't know," He said, hesitating a little before placing his hand on my shoulder.
I lifted my face and looked at him again. His eyes were downcast and he looked older than I'd ever noticed him being before.
"You look so much like your mother, Bella." And with that he retracted his hand, and turned to gaze out the windshield.
I ran my eyes across the creases in his profile. He was too young to look this old. "Dad?" I asked shakily.
He simply moved his eyes to look at me.
"What," I paused, "--happened?"
He lowered his chin onto his chest and shook his head back and forth in a feeble attempt to shake away the memories. "I don't know, Bells," he said softly. "She just left."
I extended a comforting hand towards him, but I wavered and drew it back in. "I'm sorry, Dad." I felt moisture running down my face.
Charlie raised his head and smiled at me; he placed his hands on mine and gave them a small squeeze before he climbed out of the car. I sat staring out the windshield, my eyes unceasing in their production of tears. He still loved Mom. It was an all too evident fact.
After my tears tapered off, I checked myself in the mirror. I didn't want to be blotchy and red when I entered the house. I deemed myself presentable and stepped out of the cruiser.
I made it into the house and saw that Charlie had already flipped on the television. He glanced up at me when I entered and then said, "You can call Edward now, if you want to."
"Thanks, Dad." I said softly.
I ran to the kitchen and called up the Cullen residence. It rang less than a fraction of a second before I heard Alice's voice on the other line.
"Bella!" Her high voice rang.
"Hey, Alice!" I said. "Is Edward home yet?"
"Yeah, he should be in your room right about now."
I squeaked and almost dropped the phone. I knew I should have grown used to Edward's unexpected appearances by now.
I could hear her laughing on the other end. "Is that good-bye then, Bella?"
I laughed weakly. "Yeah, I guess. Thanks, Alice."
"Have fun!" And she hung up.