Stephenie Meyer owns everything, and I am enchanted by her work.
Chapter One: Best Friends
I was writing in my journal when my phone buzzed. I glanced at the little screen and saw the glittering teeth of my best friend Alice grinning up at me. I changed the screens often. Last week it was eyes. This week it was teeth. Maybe next week I could surreptitiously snag photos of my friends' noses. I had a million photos on my phone, and there was literally nothing better to do during Health class than change the pictures around. Texting was out because it was too easy to get caught.
On the second buzz, I answered Alice's call. "Hey."
"Why didn't you call me back?" She sounded seriously peeved. I glanced up at my clock on the bedside table, and saw it was almost eleven at night.
"I didn't realize it was already this late. Sorry." I had completely lost track of time after finishing the dinner dishes and reading the assigned Act from A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"Whatever. Did you ask Charlie about this weekend?" She brushed off my excuse along with her peevishness and got right down to business.
"Yup. I have to do the dinner thing tomorrow night with him at Billy's but then I'm free. I'll just go straight to your place from there."
"Yay! Try to get out as early as you can. I'll be stuck on my own til you show up," she whined a bit, albeit good-naturedly.
"What about Rose?"
"Aren't you going to ask?" Her tone changed a little, and I could tell she was dying to gossip about our third Musketeer. Something about her voice sparkled just then, enough to get me interested, so I pulled the place marker onto the right page of my journal and slapped it shut.
I allowed my voice to channel my interest as I finally let go of the thoughts I had been jotting down, "Okay. Spill."
"Tyler Crowley!" Alice squealed.
"Seriously." I could hear Alice take a sip of something on her end of the phone. I knew it was her nightly herbal tea. I had tried it once and thought it tasted like muddy compost, but she swore it kept her skin beautiful, so she drank it every night. I admit she had the best skin I'd ever seen.
"Why would she go out with Tyler?" I was genuinely confused. I knew Rose had turned him down three times last year.
"He's not really bad looking."
"No..." I said tentatively. "But he's not exactly her type, is he?"
"Does she have a type anymore?"
"Be nice, Alice," I warned in a mock stern voice.
"I'm being perfectly nice." I knew Alice would never be intentionally catty toward Rose, but ever since the incident with Jazz (Alice's long time crush), there had been a twinge of- disapproval? Jealousy? "It's just that she seems to be trying every flavor in the buffet these days."
I had to admit Alice had a point.
About a year ago, Rose, the youngest of us by two months and 28 days, had become the first of us to make out with a guy. We were all at a party down the road from Rose's house, deep inside the more exclusive of the two zip codes that went to our high school. The house had a pool and a gate off the back yard that led right out onto the golf course that served as the central hub of the little community full of enormous houses. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't even invited to the party, but since I was the only one of the three of us with a vehicle, I was always drafted into going wherever Alice and Rose wanted to go. Part of me enjoyed the little tastes I was afforded of Rose's lifestyle. And part of me enjoyed watching Alice blend perfectly into it like a camouflaged soldier in the jungle. With her delicate frame, wide exotic eyes, and glittering smile, Alice looked more like a Persian princess than an orphan who lived "on the wrong side of town."
Alice and I had climbed the roof with a few other kids. Really, there was a balcony that practically lead right onto the roof, so "climbing" it wasn't even a stretch for tiny Alice in her tiny dress and giant heels. We'd been lured up there to have a look through a telescope, the night being unusually clear. It was from that vantage point that the platinum sheen of Rose's coif reflecting the moonlight caught my eye as the only spec of light in the black sea that was the fairway at night. Without thinking, I trained the spyglass right on her, only to reveal she was locked in a brutal tongue-wrestling match with a guy dressed in dark clothing. I nudge Alice, and she put her eye to the telescope and gasped. We could barely contain ourselves for the rest of the evening in anticipation of forcing Rose to give us all the dirty details.
"You may have a point Alice, but I think I see the logic behind Tyler Crowley."
"He's on the JV Baseball team."
"It isn't even baseball season."
"That's not the point. He's clearly stepping stone material."
"Rose isn't THAT shallow."
"No, but Alice think about it. She has told us that she totally enjoys making out, right?"
"And she has admitted – under extreme duress - that there are three varsity guys she would make out with in a heartbeat, given half a chance."
"Alice! Keep up. Stepping stone." I was getting exasperated.
"Maybe," she conceded grudgingly. "This just means we have to get her to spill on who the three guys are."
I had my suspicions about one or two of them, and I didn't really want Alice to get her thinking cap on for this game, in case I was right. "Well, we might be able to get around to that this weekend." I had to get this conversation off of the dangerous ground. "How long is William gone this time?"
"A few days I guess. He's hardly ever gone more than three nights, so I don't even ask any more. You can stay all weekend, right?"
"Of course." It had become tradition for me to sleep over at Alice's so she wouldn't be alone when her guardian was away. In the beginning, Charlie had suggested determinedly that she should come to our place instead, but after William telephoned to tell Charlie that someone needed to be around to turn the heat lamps on and off in the green houses and make sure the irrigators didn't freeze up during cold weather, Charlie had conceded the match. From then on out, Alice's place was like a second home to me. "I can even stay over Sunday night and give you a ride to school on Monday if he isn't back yet."
"Yay!" I could hear her clapping her little hands in enthusiastic delight.
"But don't be surprised if Charlie does a drive-by. We can't forget to call him if we leave the house."
"I know. I know. I told him I was sorry about last time." LAST TIME, Charlie had the whole police force (all three cars) out looking for us when he stopped by Alice's place to check on us and we weren't there. We had only gone to the supermarket, for some vitally important cookie dough and boy-watching, but Charlie tends to go a bit over-the-top in the dad department when he doesn't know exactly where I am.
I yawned. "I need to go, Alice. I'm dead."
She echoed my yawn. "Me too. See you in English."
"Yay," I responded flatly. "G'nite."
I put down my phone and made sure the alarm clock was on. I could just hear Charlie snoring from his room down the hall, and the wind howled lightly every now and then. I felt a bit pent up despite my sleepiness, so I tried concentrating on relaxing my feet and then my claves and then my knees and so on in order to relax myself into some nice REM.
But my mind would always wander during that exercise, and on that night, I couldn't help smiling to myself about Alice. I was so lucky to have found a friend like her in this new little town.
She lived with her guardian- a dubious concept in my world of always living with one parent of another. There are TWO of them, after all. How can she have so completely run out of parents that she got stuck with a guardian? I wasn't even sure if she knew the answer to that.
Alice had lived with William for as long as she could remember. I lay there in my bed curling and uncurling my toes and remembered the first time I met her, right when I moved to Forks after having lived experimentally with my mother and her new husband in Jacksonville, Florida, for six months. I bumped into Alice in the 24-hour supermarket at about nine in the evening. We were the only ones there aside from the guys who were stocking shelves and the disillusioned woman standing in the only check-out lane reading a tabloid while waiting for us to bring our carts to the front.
Alice had a hand basket on the floor in front of her as she stood reading the ingredients
on a box of cereal. I was pushing a cart (which I liked to call a chariot), but I couldn't get past her without asking her to move a little. I was too shy to ask her to move, so I stood there for over a minute while she was engrossed in the percentage of calcium per serving of Raisin Bran. I was peering at the choices around where she was standing so that when she finally moved, I'd be able to grab what I wanted and skitter by her unobtrusively. It was then that a guy pushing a pallet of cereal boxes on an enormous dolly turned onto the aisle and drew my attention away from the shelf and her attention away from the box.
"Move it, Brandon," he instructed in a low, smooth voice. The guy was about my age, maybe a little older with sparkling blue eyes behind two fans of lashes that made me extremely jealous. He looked to me like a gaunt lion with his angular cheekbones, wide-set eyes, and wild frame of tawny hair. She moved lithely away from the cereal shelf without a word to him, but I picked up on a weird energy. That sounds crazy, I know, but I instantly knew that she was there in the store loitering on the cereal aisle just for this guy. She had an air about her of unrequited obsessive passion. She hardly made eye contact with him, but I could feel it nonetheless. I could see it in the way her shoulders curved a little as she passed him, in the way she tilted her head just a bit to let her peripheral vision linger a split second longer on his movements.
Before she disappeared around the corner, I spoke to the guy: "Can you hand me some Cheerios, and I'll get out of your way?" I saw her turn and gawk at me as soon as she heard my voice. She watched him as he blinked for a second before complying with my request. Her eyes were trained on him every second that it took for him to reach out, grab a yellow box, and hand it to me. I took it from him and said "thanks" before heading in her direction. She remained frozen for a moment longer as the guy leaned into the shelf to scoot boxes around, then she looked at me for a second time.
That's when I was first struck with my impression of her as some kind of Middle Eastern princess. Her skin was fine: glowing, smooth; the palest imaginable shade of olive tinged her complexion. Her eyes were dark and glowing like burnished coffee beans, but too large and open and beautiful to really compare to anything so common. She had a fine line of black trailing off to an elegant point on her upper lids and a faint sparkle of ruby gloss across her mouth. Her short hair was the perfect dark frame for her large delicate facial features. For a moment, I was self-conscious about my limp, brown hair and plain, naked face, but I snapped out of it. It was a weeknight at the supermarket, after all.
She smiled at me and said "Hi, I'm Alice."
For a moment I was confused because the guy had called her Brandon, but maybe that was a nickname. "Bella," I smiled and held out a tentative hand. She shook it lightly, and I was momentarily bewitched by the softness and elegance of her little fingers. Truly I was jealous of her and her dainty beauty.
"Nice to meet you. Are you in high school?" Her voice was like music, her manner direct and open.
"Yeah. I'm a sophomore." My own voice sounded awkward and mumbly to my ears after hearing her speak.
Her face suddenly brightened enough to almost make me jump back. "Me too!" Then her face
fell a little in consternation. "Why haven't I seen you at school?"
We fell into step together at this point, strolling slowly toward the checkout. "My first day is tomorrow," I laughed.
"Oh! You're new! That's great!"
"Well, it will be exciting to introduce you to everyone tomorrow," she enthused. I tried to hide my terror behind a non-committal grunt as I began unloading my groceries onto the conveyor belt in front of the cash register. She picked up on my mood though and changed tack: "At the very least, you can sit with me at lunch and I'll give you the low-down on anyone who catches your eye."
I couldn't help but smile at her gratefully. We chatted about the weather, and she warned me to bring extra socks to school the next day in case of a serious soaking downpour. Once she had paid and gathered her little bag, we continued our amiable chat on the way out the doors. It was drizzling lightly when we walked out into the near-empty parking lot with our bags. The little droplets floated in the light that streamed down from the tall lamp above my truck, and I saw Alice zipping up her coat and putting her bag into the basket of a bicycle.
"You're biking in THIS?" I was astounded. I had lived in Phoenix most of my life before the disaster of Florida, and even a mist like this was enough to cause serious traffic problems there.
"It's practically dry," she smiled as she pulled up her hood.
"Let me give you a ride home. You can point me in the direction of my house because to be honest, I'm already totally turned around."
"Really?" She smiled and together we lifted her bike into the back of my truck. She talked about the town a bit while I pulled out the choke and coaxed the engine to life with a few pulses of gas. I had to let it idle loudly for a moment while I stared at the three knobs on the dash trying to remember which one was the lights and which one was the wipers. It was an ancient beast of a truck, a three-speed automatic without power steering or power brakes. This trip to the store was my test drive, and I had nearly driven into a ditch pulling out of the driveway of my dad's house because I hadn't expected the impossible maneuvering.
I got the wipers going with a squeal thud squeal thud, and I got the lights on. I practically stood on the brake pedal while I put the truck in reverse, and I thought the engine would die before I quickly tapped on the accelerator. I thanked the heavens that the lot was not crowded as we lurched backward and then forward once I managed to brake and shift into drive. I struggled with all my strength to pull the wheel into an agonizingly slow right turn onto the two-lane highway that ran through the middle of town. Alice sensed my tentative unease and remained quiet as I fairly hunched over the giant steering wheel with white knuckles and coaxed the engine to move us forward with indelicate punches of my right foot.
"Is this the first time you've driven this thing?"
"Yeah. I just got my license, and it was a surprise from my dad. I was expecting to buy my own car once I got here, but this truck is really kinda cool."
"Yeah," she didn't sound particularly convinced of the coolness, though. She directed me to her house, which was only about six or seven blocks from the supermarket. I couldn't even see her house from the street, though. It was so completely surrounded by greenery: shrubs, trees, flowers, that it was totally obscured.
"Wow. Do you live in a tree?" I joked.
Alice smiled, "My guardian is a botanist. So practically, yeah. There are so many plants in and around the house that even on a clear day we don't get any sunlight inside."
I didn't know how to respond, so I said "Hunh." I was curious about her now. Guardian?
But it was late. I was tired. I had to navigate home on slightly slick roads without power steering and ABS. She hadn't forgotten that part either. I left the truck idling as I helped her haul the bicycle out of the back and listened to her simple left, right at the stop sign, left again instructions to Charlie's street. I figured I'd be alright to find the house once I got that far, so I smiled and waved and cautiously drove away.