1. Ever the Ugly Duckling

Slowly opening my bleary eyes, I found myself squinting at the morning sunlight streaming through the eastern wall of my bedroom that consisted entirely of plate glass. I leaned up on my elbow looking around my messy bedroom trying to remember where I tossed the book I was reading last night when my exhaustion finally took priority over my fascination with the story I had found so difficult to put down. I desperately wanted to finish the last few chapters before I actually went downstairs to face the family meeting that was sure to be waiting for me. It's not like I was trying to escape from boredom in my life….far from it considering my family…but perhaps escape into the world of fantasy is even more important when your life plays out like a science fiction novel on a daily basis.

I finally found my book tucked between the mattress and the wall just under my headboard and opened it to where I had left off the night before. The plain jane girl next door was just about to find out that she had a kindred spirit in the handsome football player that had sat next to her all year. He had never even noticed her until a few days ago when she found the strength to defend a girl being teased and I couldn't wait to put myself in her shoes hoping that once again the handsome boy would fall hopelessly in love with my novella counterpart. Of course I would love books like this, even as light and totally generic as they were, it was so me. I was the unassuming lackluster member of my family. A family of angels, all perfect in form and grace, forever youthful and statuesque. Someday I might be more like them, but not anytime soon. I flipped through the book devouring the lightweight pages full of formula romantic banter until my alarm rang out 30 minutes later telling me that it was time to pull myself out of my room and face the day. Besides…they all knew I was awake the second I gained consciousness…they would have heard my subtle movements and the telltale change in my breathing and heart rate immediately.

I stood up and stretched my arms and legs in an attempt to pull the tight muscles into some form of shape adequate to navigate my way to the bathroom. I never had to worry about a line for the showers in the mornings…I was the only one living in this house who really needed to use the shower…for the rest of my family it was just a prop to keep up the façade of normality. The only two other family members who ever used this space had a home of their own that they usually took care of such needs in about a mile up the road from our home. I stumbled into the bathroom and turned on the water of the shower allowing the temp to rise to the steamy temperature I loved. My sister told me once that I acquired my taste for super hot showers from our mother just like she had.

For some reason this morning my mind wondered to my mother as I stepped into the hot shower and began to let the water run down my face and hair. I didn't really remember much about my mother or my father…my sister and her extended family have taken care of me since I was very young.

I was only four years old when my parents were killed in a horrible plane crash on the way back from an away game. We lived in Florida then and my Dad played for a minor league team and coached a local high school baseball team in the off season. Ironically, it was the first time that my mother had gone with my father on the road since I had come along. I was uneasy when she left me to stay with close friends, my mother had never left me behind before. Neither of my parents had any family besides my sister. As she left me behind with her best friend Celeste and her family, somewhere deep down I had a feeling that things were going to change.

I was sort of a surprise for my parents. My mother had never expected to have a second child. My sister Bella had been the result of an early marriage that resulted in Bella and a subsequent early divorce. She remained single for much of Bella's childhood finally marrying my father when Bella was 17. Bella went to live with her father in Washington after that so that my mother could travel with my father. It was there that Bella met and fell in love with my brother in law Edward and joined his extended family just a year and a half later. What nobody knew until quite a while later was that I attended that wedding right along with everyone else…just nobody knew I was there. Little did my sister's unsuspecting family know that in a few short years they would end up having yet another charge to care for in me…and that would be a huge change for them for sure! That was when my name officially changed to Angelina Cecelia Cullen and my life was forever altered.

My walk down memory lane had taken hold of me so fiercely that I had lost all track of time and completed my shower without even realizing what I was doing. I turned one more time to let the water hit the muscles of my neck and shoulders when suddenly I was ripped from my reverie by a sudden icy shift in water temperature. I jumped out screaming and snapped off the taps almost certain I could hear the gregarious laughter of my sort-of-brother, Emmett, downstairs.

Emmett was always messing with me. He was far more like a teasing and relentless older brother which was actually very much the role he's supposed to be playing these days now that I only look a few years younger than him, as opposed to the uncle figure he played when I was younger. That was just one of the many benefits of living with a family that never ages…I keep growing older appearing to be closer and closer to their ages while they all stay perpetually between the ages of 17 and 26. One of the many perks of being a vampire…that and perfect indestructible bodies and unbearably angelic beauty.

Yeah, my life was definitely the inspiration for many a sci fi novel…or maybe a sad tv comedy show. I often drew parallels between myself and Marilyn, the niece from the show The Munsters…except my unique family were the gorgeous ones and I was the hideous monstrosity. I began to contemplate this thought process as I began to run the comb through my hair and finish grooming myself in anticipation of the day. Even for a mere mortal I was far worse than ordinary to spite the perpetual argument to the contrary by my sweet but misguided family.

Bella has admitted often to me how plain she had felt in the shadow of the rest of the Cullen clan before her transformation into a vampire herself shortly after her wedding…but I had seen plenty of pictures of Bella in human form and I knew for a fact that she had to be embellishing for my benefit. Bella was always beautiful, petite and slender with an always perfect peaches and cream complexion; albeit more than a little clumsy…but her beauty more than made up for that.

I on the other hand was the polar opposite of slight and gorgeous Bella. I'm guessing my father's genes must have been predominant in my genetics because I was so different in nearly every way. I was stockier, taller, and while not necessarily obese I was never slender. Where Bella had heart shaped face with a porcelain peaches and cream complexion, I was not so lucky needing plenty of makeup to smooth out the many freckles that invaded the crest of my slightly too large nose and cheeks on my plain and slightly rounded face. We did manage to have the same dark chestnut hair and I had inherited my fathers wide green eyes as opposed to her warm chocolate ones.

I sighed in the mirror staring at those green eyes, the one attribute of my face that I actually liked. Of course if I ever did become like them I WOULD have to loose the one thing I liked about myself….for my eyes would start off red and then slowly revert to the light topaz color of the rest of my family. The only exception to the uniform color of my family's eyes was my half vampire half human goddess of a niece Renesmee, who was officially billed as my sister ever since I was brought into the family, and her husband Jacob, my gentle giant werewolf like shape shifter…nephew in law…both of whom aged to about the physical maturity of 25 year olds and then stopped there perfectly preserved. I really wasn't kidding about the science fiction.

I quickly dusted my face with a layer of expensive mineral makeup that Edward's sisters Alice and Rosalie insisted on buying for me. They both tried so desperately over the years to turn me into a fashion plate as they had failed to do with Bella, but a lot of their efforts were only partially rewarded since I found it hard to try so hard when no matter what I did I would always pale (no pun intended) in comparison with their unfailing beauty. I know they will never give up completely though.

"Okay, enough avoiding Lina, time to go face your fate" I whispered to myself in the mirror, as much of a warning to my family that I was about to come down and join them as it was an affirmation to myself of what was to come.