A/N: No Jacob in this chapter - but i promise he will be in the next. Just as a little warning, Leah is going to be a main feature of this fic because i think both she and Jake have some growing to do and they are my favourites. The rating is mainly for language.
Chapter 1: "I Ain't Lost, Just Wandering." – Adele, Hometown Glory.
Dawn was breaking when I stumbled back into my new bedroom with a glass of water in one hand, the silver scissors still hanging loosely from the other. I collapsed on the crumpled bed, letting warm sunlight cover me. I closed my eyes and sighed, a new day, a new beginning.
I knew they would kick me out, it was a given, I didn't need to over hear her phone call to know that. I would have left anyway, eventually, no point staying where you're not wanted. I was already packing when my mother came into my room, the phone still clutched in her bony fingers, like a life raft.
My eyes were fuzzing with hidden tears at the sight of her resolute face. How long had it been since she held me? Since she smiled at me, because of me? At that moment, with her mouth pulled tight, her eyes cold, shut off from me, it was over for us.
"I was on the phone to my sister. She has agreed to take you in while David and I… while we try to find a way to… this is too much for us, we have George and your sisters to think about…" She broke off, her voice had trembled but her face remained firm. "You are to pack your bags for at the very least the summer, the flight to Seattle leaves from Heathrow at 6:30pm tomorrow, David will drive you. Then you will get a plane to Port Angeles and be picked up from the airport. Please don't argue about this, Alexandra." I just stared at her as she turned and walked away from me.
The second flight was ok; it was better than the first flight, which was better than the horrific car journey. Never in the history of the world has there been a silence as heavy as the one my stepfather and I shared. I thought he wouldn't even say goodbye, but just as I was walking away he called out: "Take care of yourself!" then hopped back into the vehicle and reversed out of the terminal car park like the hounds of hell were snapping at his heals.
I had been to my Aunt's once before, when I was 10 for a week's holiday. She had a house in this little town - Forks. Who in their right mind names their town after cutlery? It was surrounded by lush forest and you could take a small trip out to the coast, a Native American reservation called La Push, it was all really very pretty. Of course all those things depended on the weather, and the weather was either overcast or rainy, on the odd occasion it became overcast with bright spells, which made a nice change.
It was typical of my life, and luck, that my Aunt lived in the part of America where it rained even more than back home. No sunny Californian beaches for me, no warm Georgia peach orchards, or stylish New York sidewalks, no I get stuck in Forks, Washington where they've heard rumours about a sun but no ones yet seen it.
Time was a strange allusion to me these days; but the wall clock assured me it was now 7:20am, I knew in 10 minutes Diana would knock politely on the door, open it and merely poke her head into the room to say: "Time to get up Alexandra."
Diana's life ran steadily like clockwork, down to the second, which really threw the muddle of hours and minutes that was mine into sharp relief. She woke up at 7:30 every morning, showered for 10 minutes precisely, dressed in 20, blow dried her hair in 5, and ate breakfast while reading the paper in 15. I had timed it all out of sheer boredom on my third day here.
The house was smaller than back home, two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen, a living room, and a hallway. It made sense, there was only Diana living here so anymore would be greedy. The garden was small and surrounded by a wooden fence, the grass was neat, and the paved patio was bordered by sectioned off blue, and white carnations. Behind the inoffensive fence was the looming forest, some of its trees were so close that their branches crept over like grasping hands – Diana was going to get Mr Newton to come and cut them back for her next week (she had made note of it on the fridge).
None of these observations bothered me like I thought they would. What really clawed at me, driving me slowly insane was the silence. Diana married once in a fleeting moment of uncharacteristic spontaneity years before I was born, it ended within a year and neither she nor my mother spoke about it. I asked once when I was younger and got a clipped ear for my troubles so I never bothered again – and it never bothered me – until now.
Maybe it was because I was so used to the constant inane babble and occasional headache inducing screams of my younger siblings that made this place seem so empty. On my second day here I put the kitchen radio on for some background noise, but Diana flicked it off without a word as soon as she entered and there was something so final about the way she did it that I was a little scared to try again.
7:30 came and… tap… tap…
"Time to get up Alexandra," Diana said her head popping round the door. Her eyes glanced about the room as if expecting the walls to be smeared in paint or the bed sheets ripped or some random guy hiding in the closet. Seeing all was in its place she withdrew without a spare glance for me.
I wondered as I rolled myself off the bed and heard the shower switch on down the hallway, how exactly my mother had managed to trick her sister into taking me in for the summer. That was something I would probably never know the answer to, probably wouldn't want to know the answer to.
10 minutes later I padded into the kitchen where Diana was sat at the rectangle table with a bowl of oatmeal, a mug of coffee, and the newspaper open before her. I searched the cupboards, pulling out cereal, tea bags, a bowl, a spoon, milk, and sugar. With my breakfast assembled I took a seat opposite her, silently shovelling food into my mouth. Accidentally I slurped a little loudly on my cup of tea and Diana's neat head shot up, her eyes lighting on me reproachfully. A second later they bugged out, her spoon falling with a clatter into her bowl, milk slopped over the sides and splattered the tabletop.
"Alexandra!" She gasped, her voice raising at least four octaves. "What did you do to your hair?"
I shrugged, lifting a hand to tug carelessly at the cropped ends. "I wanted a change."
This seemed to flummox her and I watched with a tinge of amusement as her brain tried desperately to process my comment. "You… you just wanted a change?"
I knew that it was beyond Diana's comprehension but she seemed to want to understand, so I took a small amount of pity on her. "Yeh, when it was long it was just too much of a bother. Do you like it?"
"I… well, its uh… very sweet. It needs cutting properly though, I'll take you to Susan's today at lunch." Then she seemed to realise that meant I would spend a whole morning in the library amongst her friends with my new hair, so she changed her mind. "Actually, you had better pop down there this morning before she gets too busy."
"Ok." I said digging into my cereal again.
For the duration of my stay in Forks, which was still not definite – though I presumed I would be home before term started – Diana had managed to wrangle me a job with her in the public library. Needless to say I was hardly thrilled at the prospect of a summer stacking books with three menopausal women. Not to mention the delightful locals who in a continuous stream popped in for a chat from opening to closing – Every. Single. Day. How such a small place could possibly produce enough gossip to fuel their daily needs I had no idea. What I did know was that the majority of the gossip was surrounding the two weddings. The first wedding was only mentioned a few times as it was happening down on the reservation, very few of the townsfolk had actually been invited but flowers and decorations were being brought for it in town so it had become inadvertently their business. The couple were very much in love and it had been on the books for some time.
The second wedding was of far more gossip worthy material. Police chief Charlie Swan's daughter – Isabella – who at just 18 was all set to be wed to Doctor Cullen's youngest adopted son – Edward. They met two years ago when Isabella moved to her fathers from Phoenix; they were practically inseparable until Edward did a runner shortly after her 18th birthday last year. Apparently the entire family up and moved to L.A. when Doctor Cullen was offered a job (at the very mention of Doctor Carlisle Cullen all three of the hormonal women began sighing and clutching their chests like a Jane Austen novel) it was all very sudden. Poor Isabella couldn't take it and fell into severe depression, causing much angst to her helpless father.
Eventually (and this was all hush hush because Jenny's husband worked with Charlie at the station) Isabella started spending a lot of time with one of the Quileute boys down in La Push and everyone thought she was on the road to recovery. Next thing anyone knows the Cullen family has returned and Edward and Isabella are as inseparable as before, much to the displeasure of Charlie who was apparently hoping Isabella and the La Push boy were going to get together. However, the engagement that followed only a few months later dispelled all her father and the boy's hopes. All in all it was a sickeningly romantic scandal that had the locals in uproar and had me gagging into the boxes of shelving every time someone 'oohed' and 'aahhed'.
"How could Charlie agree to it? She's 18!"
"I'll bet it was that mother of her's."
"What about Doctor Cullen! I thought he and his wife had more sense than that."
"That is what happens when you let your children go running about the place."
"You just had to look at her – it's always the quiet ones."
"Well what I want to know is where her mother is now? Never was one to stick around when the road got a bit bumpy!"
I tuned the majority of their babbling out while I got on with stacking and unpacking books, but that still didn't mean that I wasn't now an expert in all gossip Isabella Swan shaped. Who was this girl? I had asked Diana once when Jenny and Enid had popped out for more biscuits. She told me that: "You shouldn't be eves dropping, Alexandra, as it really doesn't concern you." While that was perfectly true I had to wonder where exactly it concerned them.
"Alexandra?" Diana pulled me from my thoughts. Our walk to work had come to an abrupt stop. I blinked looking about the empty sidewalk. "We're here. Susan is expecting you."
"Oh, right." I peered at the hairdressers, my hand immediately reached up to twist a lock of hair apprehensively only to find it was five inches higher than expected.
Diana placed some green notes of paper in my hand. I had no idea how much it was as all the notes were confusingly the same colour, but I guessed it was probably the exact amount needed. "When you're done do you think you can find your way to the library on your own?"
I stared at her, raising an eyebrow. I was 16 not 4. "Yeh, I think I can manage that."
"Well if you're unsure ask Susan and she'll point you in the right direction. See you in a bit." With that she marched purposefully away down the street her creaseless skirt swishing, her demure heals clacking into the distance.
"You must be Alexandra, Diana's niece." A petite woman with cropped red hair greeted me. "My goodness, what happened here?" she continued, surveying my hair with a look of pain. "Oh, and such a lovely colour! Is it natural?"
The place was empty except for an old woman in one corner quietly reading a magazine, her head under one of those dryers that reminded me of some sort of space ship or alien communication system. "Uh, yeh," I muttered as she ushered me into a seat next to a basin. I had no idea what Susan was on about; my hair was just blonde, plain and simple. Not white blonde, ash blonde, platinum or honey – just blonde, roughly the same colour as straw.
"I went this shade once." She told me, running her hands through my hack job. "Summer of 1979. Looked awful, I don't have your skin tone. Which part of Britain are you from?"
England. I thought with irritation as she tipped me back so my head was in the sink and began warming the water up for me. She wouldn't ask someone from Scotland what part of Britain he or she was from. But I knew what she really meant and my hair looked bad enough as it was so I answered: "A town in Norfolk."
"Mmmhmm," she murmured, clearly with no idea where in England I was talking about. "Is that near London?"
"Oh. And how long are you staying with Diana for?"
I had no idea. "The summer."
"Have you visited Forks before? Is this too hot?" She asked wetting my hair.
"No that's fine. I came once when I was little."
"Well, I must tell you all the places a girl your age should visit!" and she proceeded to review every one of the shops in the area, before she moved swiftly on to the mall in Port Angeles, then she gave the forest and beaches brief descriptions.
"First beach is where the Quileute kids go, beautiful at sunset, or so I hear." By this time we had moved from the sinks to a long row of swivel chairs in front of large mirrors that I avoided looking into while she chopped merrily away at my hair. The door opened behind me and I heard a small part of what appeared to have been an argument.
"Sam didn't say why he's back," a girls voice said softly, apparently trying to calm the other, "I honestly know as much as you. I'm sure everything will come clear at the meeting tonight. Just be happy that he's back in one piece."
The other girl snorted, obviously unsatisfied with that suggestion. "Well I think we should have been told everything. You know what kind of state he left in. If he's going to do something stupid at the wedding and we have to save his neck I think I have a right to know."
"Leah, please?" I looked up into the mirror to see two beautiful girls standing in the frame of the door. They looked like they could be sisters; one had long black hair, the other's was cropped at chin level, their dark strands shone in the overhead lights, and their smooth copper skin seemed to have never even heard of the term blemish. The main difference between them was the expressions on their exquisite faces. One had a sweetly patient look, while the other had scrunched her features into an expression I instantly recognised as that of bitter anger with an undercurrent of grief.
"Emily!" Susan cried out with joy. The sweetly patient girl turned to Susan with a smile. I almost gasped in shock, staring at her until I caught the cold glare of the other girl in the reflection of the mirror. I narrowed my eyes at her, but looked away. Where Emily's smile should have stretched all the way across her face, lifting up to the corners of her eyes prettily, on one side there were three horrendous scars that ran down to her neck preventing the grin from reaching the right side and morphing her expression into a grimace. Who, or more to the point – what – on earth caused them?
"Susan, how are you today?" she said politely.
"Oh, I'm wonderful, sweetheart. Is it just the two of you? I thought you said there would be three bridesmaids?" Susan placed her scissors on the ledge in front of me, directing her full attention to the girls behind.
"Yes there are three. Kim is just taking Claire to get some sweets so she'll sit still enough. They'll be here in a minute."
Susan nodded. "Lovely. Well, I'll just finish up," she motioned to me, "we had a bit of an emergency." She grabbed a hair dryer. "Do you have some ideas of what you want? There are some magazines over there on the table if you want to have a flick through."
"Thank you." I heard Emily reply just as the hairdryer roared into life, drowning out any further conversation.
It didn't take long for my new loose bob to dry but I spent most of the time watching the two girls sat over by the windows – apparently Leah wasn't finished with their earlier discussion and was looking quite furious. Emily, however, was thumbing through the magazines and every so often she would point out a picture to Leah, who would turn her nose up and shake her head before she carried on with whatever point she was making.
"There you go," Susan said, switching off the dryer and producing a hand mirror for me to see the back. Leah and Emily stopped their conversation, their dark eyes regarding me along with the old woman in the corner who I think Susan had forgotten about.
Frankly I couldn't care less what she had done to my hair, but I had to admit that it looked pretty good. I was surprised. "Thanks," I said a genuine smile creeping across my face.
"Oh that's so pretty," I heard Emily call out to Susan.
I rummaged in my jeans for the money Diana gave me, I handed the crumpled notes to Susan, but she had moved over to the girls and appeared to be discussing in-depth the cut she had just done. I stood, throwing my satchel strap over my head and wandered across to them.
Leah was watching me with her cool eyes, a small smirk playing with the corners of her lips. Never before had I let another girl intimidate me and I wasn't about to start now, so I raised my blue eyes to meet her gaze and gave her a humourless smile.
"Here you go, Susan," I said turning away from Leah, holding out the money to her.
"Oh, thank you darling." She pocketed it. "Wait," she said, just as I turned to leave, placing a hand on my arm. "Emily, this is Alexandra. She's staying here with her Aunt for the summer, she's British, and I was telling her about the beaches down at La Push."
Emily smiled up warmly at me. "Hi."
"Hi," I replied ignoring the look of amusement Leah was sending me and wishing that I could just get out of this place that smelt saccharinely of coconut and alovera.
"You know, you should come down sometime, we're always having barbeques on the beach," Emily offered, "there's one tonight, actually."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Leah butted in bluntly.
Susan looked shocked, but I just shook my head. "I'm busy tonight. But thanks." Busy? If you could call sitting at my laptop emailing my friends back home busy.
"Well, if you change your mind we're down on first beach. Just bring food and you'll be welcome." Emily said kindly ignoring the pointed stares Leah was throwing her way.
I thanked Susan again and was just about to exit when a short dark haired girl bundled through the doorway, narrowly missing my legs. In her hands a large bag of candy was clasped, and a huge grin covered her face. She must have only been two but she wobbled her way over to Emily with absolute determination. "Look, Emmy!" she said waving the bag under Emily's nose.
"Oh wow Claire, what have you got in there?"
"Lots and lots of e numbers," said another girl coming in through the door with a harassed expression. She was not as stunning as Leah and Emily but she was pretty none the less and had the same beautiful hair, though hers was shoulder length.
I watched her greet Susan and slip into the spare seat beside Leah with a sigh. "Her mom is going to kill us tonight," she said as Claire shoved a greedy hand into the bag.
"After Quil's finished," Leah added with an odd smile.
Outside, I leaned against the section of wall that separated the hairdressers from the antique shop next to it and pulled out a cigarette. I wasn't a heavy smoker, really I only did it when I was drinking, or to piss my mum off, but the thought of being shut in that library for the next 5 hours was enough to make me push my head through a brick wall. So I lit one of my duty free bargains and took a deep drag, feeling the nicotine flow through me like a calming wave.
The girls in the hairdressers weren't the first people my age I'd met, or at least seen. I had been eyed up by a baby faced boy outside the hikers shop, and some Barbie blond girl had given me the evil eye in the supermarket, but these were the first to actually speak to me. I don't know what I had been expecting, but all I know is that it definitely wasn't what I had got. I wasn't after friends – I already had enough of those back home. Besides I was only here for the summer, and that was only because my mother couldn't handle me anymore, not because I wanted to be here. If I'd wanted to come to America I sure as hell wouldn't be standing in Forks, Washington.
"Smoking kills," someone said beside me.
I looked up to see the dark eyes of Leah; they were like black chocolate – bitter sweet. "I'm counting on it." What did she want?
"Got a spare?"
I raised an eyebrow at her, silently questioning her motives. She shrugged, leaning next to me, scanning the quiet street with distaste. I pulled out my pack and offered it to her. "Here."
"Thanks," she said lifting one out and taking my lighter. Placing the lit cigarette to her mouth she closed her eyes. "Argh, I don't think I can take anymore!" she growled opening them again to fix on the middle distance.
Still bemused I decided to play along. "What can't you take?"
"The fucking wedding."
"Oh." Was all I could manage to come up with.
"I'm going to be a bridesmaid." She wrinkled up her little nose. "No, not just a bridesmaid, her maid of honour!"
"Emily's," Leah said it as if this much was obvious, "she's getting married in august."
Honestly I couldn't really see the problem. So she'd have to wear a hideous dress, say a few cheesy words, and dance the odd dance, not a big issue – I'd done it. "Don't you get on?"
This made Leah think, she chewed on the inside of her mouth, shooting me a searching look. "We used to, she's my cousin. We were practically sisters."
"So what's the big deal?" I asked, a little irritated with this strange girl.
"Sam." Was all she said, clearly ignoring my tone.
"Sam?" I repeated a little testily. "Is that a boy Sam, or a girl Sam?"
"Boy. Man. Fiancé."
Ah ha. "So you're in love with her fiancé?"
Leah's head whipped round to me and she pushed off the wall. I jumped slightly thinking that she was going to hit me, she was taller than me – I wasn't small at 5'10 – and looked athletically built, so I had little doubt she could take me. "He was mine first," she bit out fiercely.
This was too much for me. I had no idea why she had felt the sudden need to unload all of her angst on me but I couldn't give a fuck, it had nothing to do with me. I dropped my half finished cigarette on the pavement and stepped on it. "Hey, that's not my fault. So the guy chose her over you, that's seriously shit but get over it, or don't go to the wedding. No man is ever worth loosing a friend over."
With that I turned away. It was the one rule I never broke: friends are more important than men. My Granny taught me that and it had been proven true many times over the years.
"Hey, you!" Leah called out after me. I stopped, spinning around ready to face her fury; but there was not an ounce of fury in her expression. "The barbeque starts at 8," she said simply.
"Huh?" I puzzled at the sudden change in her demeanour.
"8 o'clock, first beach, La Push."
"I told you I…"
She brushed my protests aside with a wave of her hand. "Please, I know an excuse when I hear one. Do you have a ride?"
I frowned at her. "Are you schizo or something?"
She laughed, at first I thought she was chocking because it came out all twisted and sharp like she hadn't used it in a long time, then I realised that her eyes had creased in amusement, not pain. I waited until she finished. "No," she said still chuckling, "I'm not schizophrenic. I like you, Alexandra, and I don't like many people. So, have you got a ride?"
"It's Alex, and no I don't have a ride." A beach party sounded a damn site more interesting than staying at the house watching Diana ironing her blouses. Emily was relatively normal so I wasn't too concerned about my safety – not that my safety had ever been a high priority of mine.
"Where do you live? I'll pick you up around 8ish."
"Leah are you out here? It's your turn!" We heard Emily call out the hairdresser's door.
I quickly gave her Diana's address, which she assured me she would remember, and with a roll of her eyes she turned away and strolled into Susan's. Mulling over the bizarreness of this town I made my way to the public library where I knew Diana would be waiting to quiz me about why I had taken so long.