Summary: A brief little one-shot, Pre-Twilight, about Bella making the decision to move to Forks.

A Year And A Half Without Sunlight

By Ren

"Bella?" I snapped out of it and glanced up as Mr. Doug looked down at me. I could feel my ears turn hot as the class snickered.

"Yes, Mr. Doug?" I asked, weakly, dreading his question.

"Were you listening to what I was saying?"

My heart fluttered and I felt panic rise in my chest. Truth be told, I had no idea what the lecture had been on in American History today. Searching for something, I glanced over to the chalkboard. There, in his messy scrawl, the words November 19th, 1863 were written on the not-so-black blackboard. I swallowed nervously and glanced back up to Mr. Doug. He was always predictable, I'd give him that. I reasoned I could probably take my chances with him.

"Y-yes," I stammered; my voice barely above a whisper. I felt my ears turning hot as his eyes glanced down to my notebook. I knew that he knew I was lying. Swallowing the nausea in my throat, I glanced down to my notebook, too. It was completely blank; a perfectly clean, new page staring up at me.

"Were you? Your notes are impeccable, Ms. Swan," he murmured coolly. I felt my shoulders droop even more, my blush deepening. The class around me was laughing; no longer chuckling. "What were we talking about then, since you seemed to know precisely everything I said?"

While looking down at the blank notebook, and not meeting his eyes, I found it easier to answer him. I had never been very good at lying, ever, but as far as I knew, based on what was written on the board, I gave my best guess.

"The Gettysburg Address," I answered softly, praying to whatever gods would hear me that by some freak accident, Lady Luck would shine my way. When Mr. Doug didn't respond, I braved a glance in his direction. The class had quieted down now.

I could tell by the way he twitched his lips and raised his eyebrows, provoking lines against his shiny forehead, that he was clearly irritated with me. That meant that I was right.

"And what about the Gettysburg Address?" he asked, almost glaring down at me. I had no honest idea what we had been talking about. There was nothing else written on the board other than the date. I hung my head, hiding my blush.

"How's Bella supposed to know? No one else does!" someone called across the room. A chorus of 'yeah!'s came up, and Mr. Doug just glared around the room. Bristled, he returned to the front of the room, glaring at the boy – Chris – who had interrupted his torturous game.

"I can't help it if you brats can't appreciate the psychological impact the Gettysburg Address had on thousands of people. In fact-"

I sighed softly, sinking down into my chair. If only I could be invisible. At least I was for now. Mr. Doug continued on his tirade, standing proudly on his soapbox as he talked more and more about obscure relevant issues to the Gettysburg Address. It was no coincidence that the student faces became more and more confused as time went on.

Like the voice of an angel, the obnoxious bell rang. Quickly, I grabbed my backpack and slung it over my shoulder. Finally, the day was over.

I went to my locker, spun the dial, opened the metal door and took out my books. I stuffed them into my backpack, returned the ones I didn't need for the evening, and grabbed my coat. The only good thing about school was that I was finally done with gym.

Last year had been the end of my gym career. As a junior, I didn't need to take it. I was looking forward to the closeout of the first semester without having to take a gym final. Sweet bliss.

I shut my locker door and shuffled down the long, grey hallway with the multitude of other students. All two-thousand, eight-hundred and fifty-seven of us were anxious to go home for the weekend. I tugged on my sweatshirt as we hit the cold, sixty-seven degree air. Almost everyone was dressed in at least pants and a long-sleeved shirt. For Phoenix, it was officially wintertime. By the end of next week, we'd all be walking outside for the last time that semester, and Christmas Break would be upon us.

I passed through the metal detectors, waved goodbye to Joe, the security guard, and headed out into the large, dirt parking lot. At the end of row seven, section B, Renee's old Ford Taurus sat patiently, waiting for me. I clicked the unlock button and climbed into the white car. Ever since Phil had purchased the sunset orange Pontiac Solstice, Renee had refused to drive the Taurus.

I had been quite pleased with that arrangement; it meant no more city bus. This semester just couldn't get any better.

Sunlight shone down brightly and I immediately shrugged out of my jacket inside the car; like every other car in Phoenix, my car heated up like an oven when parked out in the sun for any length of time, no matter how cool it was outside.

After starting the car, I rolled down the windows to let some of the hotter air circulate outside. I peeked in my rearview mirror, and once it was safe to do so, I put the Taurus in reverse and backed out of the parking spot. I drove out of the parking lot, made a right onto the road, and drove for a few miles.

Nothing ever changed, but something could be said for consistency. It was comforting; to go to school every day, and know what was expected of me, to know how to act. At the same time, though, there was a strange dullness to it.

I shivered; the cool winter-like air of Phoenix had cooled my car off. I rolled the window back up and let the sun beat down on my left shoulder through the window.

The hum of the car kept me company while I drove, my thoughts were too scattered for music to be of any help.

I flipped on my turn signal as I changed into the right-most lane before merging left onto the one-oh-one. The traffic was heavy, as usual.

My stomach twisted slightly as I thought about the things I had to deal with this evening. I had to make a decision one way or another about going to Washington.

Renee and I had talked about it off and on for some time now, ever since I realized how much it hurt her to stay home with me instead of going with Phil to his ballgames. If I were going to fly up there, though, I would need to buy the plane ticket very soon if I didn't want to sell my soul to afford it.

I sighed. Did I want to go? Of course not. I disliked Forks. I hadn't got back in several years, choosing to meet Charlie in a much, much sunnier place instead. Should I go? That was the harder question.

I put on my signal again and exited, turning down the street and heading toward my home.

Renee was clearly unhappy with the situation, and it absolutely broke my heart to see her so torn. On one hand, the selfish part of her wanted me to go so that she could be with Phil. But I could see that she just was as broken at the idea of me leaving. Renee simply couldn't have both of us: it wasn't feasible to have both Phil and I in her life at the same time. It would be so much easier if I made the decision for her. I knew what she would choose; she would choose me over Phil, and give up her happiness and that wasn't fair to her.

The problem was that I had to have each conversation with her without letting her know my reasons. I had, thus far, convinced her that I was considering the possibility because I wanted to go. If she ever learned that I was dreading the abhorred place, she'd never let me go. It was a tricky line to walk, but so far, I'd managed.

Besides, how long had it been since I'd seen Forks? It couldn't be that bad, could it? Eternal rain in that tiny town. No movie theaters, no shopping malls. Sure, not bad at all.

It wasn't like I had any friends to really give up. Molly, the girl I sat next to in AP Biology, was the closest thing I had to a friend. On occasion, we'd study together, but otherwise I spent very little time with other girls, and absolutely no time with the boys.

Boys were simple to understand, at least in high school; I was the awkward kid that was easy to make fun of. Nine times out of ten, the mocking was purely entertainment, simply because I blushed too easily for my own good. Very rarely did anyone ever say anything out of pure spite.

I only knew a handful of the kids from school, anyway. In a school system as large as mine was, everyone scattered. The chance of going to school with someone from elementary school through high school was virtually zero.

But Forks... Forks would be different. Everyone would know everyone's parents, grandparents, they all went to school together. The idea of trying to acclimate into such a potentially hostile setting sent goosebumps down my spine.

I was actually... afraid. Here, I was invisible. A nobody. Nobody noticed me; nobody really cared one way or another. Invisibility was a virtue; it was a safe house. In Forks, I'd be fresh meat. Maybe they would talk about me before I came; maybe they would stare. Maybe they would completely ignore me like the outsider I was.

I pulled into the driveway and put the car into park. I sat there for a moment and rested my forehead against the steering wheel.

In all honesty, there was no decision to be made. Renee wouldn't make the choice between us. It was better if I left, but she would never say that. Renee deserved to be happy with Phil. After all, that's why she married the guy.

I opened the car door and grabbed my backpack. I shouldered it and shut the door, clicking the keyless lock button. I bounded up the one step to my house. I found the key under the eave and unlocked the door. Inside, I flipped on the kitchen light. I dropped my backpack on the kitchen counter and checked the phone for any messages.

The little red light was blinking, and I pressed the 'play' button before glancing up to the white board near the phone. There, in a light script, Renee had written me a note. Out shopping. Phil is coming home for dinner tonight. Nothing more was written, but I smiled softly.

"Ms. Dwyer, this is Stephanie from the Paradise Valley Sun & Spa confirming your appointment tomorrow at three P.M. for a pedicure and a facial," the woman on the message said.

I wandered into the living room as the 'end of messages' tone sounded on the machine. It wasn't long after I flopped down on the sofa that I heard the door open and close.

"Bella, honey!" Renee's voice rang out through the house, and I peeked over at her from where I was on the sofa. "There you are! How was school?" She darted into the living room and sat down next to me.

"Fine, as usual," I murmured. "Mom?"

Renee startled, and looked at me, concerned.

"Yes, honey?"

"I'm going to go to Forks, okay?" Best get this over with, quick and painless. Well, nearly. Renee's eyes flitted with worry as she stared at me.

"You want to leave me? That's your decision?" I sighed; this was going to take some work.

"No, Mom. Well, yes, but no," I stammered awkwardly. This wasn't going well. "I want to go see Charlie. It's been a while, and you know, Phoenix can get a little boring," I hedged. Her eyes indicated that there was no chance she believed that. "You know I need to see Charlie, and it's been so long since I've been to Forks." I had been saying this to myself since the idea first struck me. It started to sound plausible.

"But you hate Forks," Renee said. The sadness was in her eyes, she didn't want to see me make this choice.

"I used to hate Forks," I said pointedly. "Maybe I'll like it now," I said with a false note of cheerfulness. It was best if one of us could be optimistic about my decision.

Renee was a bit air-headed sometimes; in an affectionate way, of course, but she wasn't stupid. She looked me right in the eyes and shook her head.

"You don't really believe that. Why are you doing this?"

"I... I haven't been there in a while, it's about time I saw Charlie, right Mom?" I smiled weakly. I had said that sentence so many times lately, it was weak on my tongue. There were only so many ways to phrase the same thought. I stood behind the sentence like a defense, thrusting it forward everytime she - or Phil - questioned my motives.

Somehow, deep in my heart, on that evening several weeks ago, when Phil had announced he was going to Florida, I had known I would be going to Forks. Renee had looked so ecstatic, thrown her arms around him. I had been sitting on the sofa, a textbook in my lap, watching them quietly. Phil and Renee started prattling and planning, making plans to move, where to live, what wonderful food they could eat. Then, at the same moment, they both froze and turned to look at me.

The look on Renee's face had broken my heart. It was in that second I realized that our current family situation would never work. Renee had tried to assure me everything would be okay as Phil went to Florida without her, but with the passing week, her strain became more obvious. I had known, then, even as I pondered the dreadful thought of leaving, despite the flutter of hope in my chest, that Forks would be my destiny.

"It's about Phil, isn't it? You know you don't have to do that for me. We can make this work... somehow," Renee said, her voice straining as she snapped me from my thoughts. I knew that we couldn't make it work. She knew that I knew it, too.

"Mom, I'll go. After this semester, okay? I'll come visit you like I visit Charlie now. I do need to spend time with him, anyway. You know that," I reasoned. Renee couldn't help but nod.

"You know, you can change your mind at any time, right? Why don't you think about it before I buy the ticket," she said.

"Mom, I've been thinking about it. Can we just buy the ticket now? I really do want to see Charlie. I'd go right now if finals weren't coming up."

Renee stared at me for a long moment before nodding. Somberly, she rose from the table. "Phil will be home for dinner tonight," she said softly.

"What would you like to eat?"

"He likes those pork chops, you know," she suggested.

"I'll start dinner," I said with a smile. Renee nodded and turned and gave me a hug before disappearing into the office room and sitting down at the computer to buy my plane ticket.

I turned away from her slender frame and walked into the kitchen, moving around and gathering things for dinner. It was done. I was going to go to Forks. I would enroll in Forks High School at the end of the semester, and start in January there. I'd go live with Charlie, and finish out my junior year, and then my senior year. And then I'd apply to some place sunny for college, like Arizona State University or the University of Arizona, down in sunny Tucson. It would be boring, but even with the rain, I was sure I could handle it.

I started the oven. Only a year and a half without sunlight. Not so bad. I began seasoning the pork chops, thinking ahead. The pit dropped further and further in my stomach as I thought more about it, but there was nothing I could do. This was the best thing to do. It was best for everyone. I could spend time with Charlie before college, and Renee could be happy with Phil. It really was best. Even if it didn't seem that way.

Maybe the rain wouldn't be so bad. After all, it was always interesting when it rained here. Everyone usually ran outside to watch it, like some spectacle falling from the sky. Maybe it would be interesting when it rained there. Somehow, I doubted that. I also doubted that anything remotely interesting would ever happen in that tiny little overcast town.

Only a year and a half without sunlight; I'd just have to bear it.