FINALLY! The sequel to My Pen Pal is here! More action packed than ever, kiddies, so let's role, shall we?
Disclaimer: (which I constantly forget to include, so this one will serve for the whole story) Twilight is not mine!!
I'd just gotten off the phone to Edward when it happened. I had just started reading a book when I looked up to the sound of – well, I don't actually know why I looked up. I don't recall hearing anything at all. But there, in the window, I saw someone I had not expected to see in my dizziest daydreams.
"Vanessa?" I questioned quietly as the familiar figure outside stomped up my driveway, her arms wrapped around herself. I assumed it was very cold, despite being relatively dry at the moment.
"What?" Charlie said from beside me. He'd been too absorbed in the television to notice anything else.
A moment later a knock was heard on the door. I almost fell from my place on the couch beside Charlie in my scramble to stand. I dashed across the carpet, discarding the book I'd been reading without bothering to even think about a book mark.
And then I was at the front door, yanking it open with more excitement than if Edward had been the one on the other side. Could it really be Vanessa?
Yes. Yes it could.
There was a moment, just before I threw myself upon my long-time-no-see cousin, in which I took in her whole appearance. She didn't look too fresh. Her shoes were the brown colour that displayed that they had once been white, she had on a pair of dark cargo pants that looked so faded at the knees I could have mistaken the worn patches for paint blotches. She was wearing a tattered yellow t-shirt with two unzipped jackets over the top; one was a size too big for her and the other was almost a circus tent. She had a single bag slung over her shoulder and was flanked on either side by two battered old suitcases, each covered with band stickers and unmentionable stains. But none of this frightened me as much as her face.
When describing someone who looks dishevelled, many typical phrases are used. 'Drowned rat' is a favourite, as is 'dragged backwards through a mulberry bush'. Neither of these was rough enough to describe how shocking Vanessa looked.
She had sallow, yellow bruises under her eyes which mixed with purple sleep lines to make a horrid, wordless shade of colour. Her skin was scratched and pock-marked, dirty and ingrained like she'd been dragged behind a car on the gravel for a mile on end. She had a single long, thin slice under her eye which appeared to be healing, but she hadn't wiped away the blood that had previously seeped down. It had dried upon her tan olive skin. Her mid-length hair was in an indescribable state of tangles and knots. But none of these were the worst – the worst of the worst was definitely her eyes.
The light I remembered seeing in them from years ago when we were kids, and the light that was there last time I'd seen a photo of her, was completely gone. Not only had the light run out, but someone had removed the globe and cut the electricity so nothing could ever be powered there again. I felt desperately sad just looking at her.
"Vanessa?" I whispered, raising a hand to touch her arm.
She smiled weakly. "Hey, Bella." Her voice was horse and worn, but she was trying not to let it show.
"What happened to you?" I stepped forward and pulled her inside, ducking back for a moment to clunk her two suitcases through the door.
"I'm fine; I just had a rough trip." She looked around the hallway as I shut the door behind myself. "Can I use the bathroom for a minute?"
"Su- sure. It's up the stairs, to the right," I pointed in the direction I meant. I was still gob smacked by her appearance.
Vanessa smiled at me. "I know, I do visit sometimes." She laughed, but the sound wasn't completely believable.
Then I heard the springs on the couch rearrange themselves, and I was reminded of Charlie's presence in the next room. Vanessa paused mid-step.
"Who's there, Bella?" he called out from the lounge. Thankfully he hadn't gotten up.
"Vanessa's come for a visit, Dad," I called back.
Charlie creaked the springs on the couch again. "Oh! Hey there Vanessa, come on in and say hi!"
Vanessa looked at me with a pleading expression for a moment. "Hey Charlie, I've just got to freshen up first, okay?"
"Okay kiddo. Take your time," he returned.
I breathed a sigh of relief. At least she'd have the opportunity to get herself together before Charlie saw her properly.
"Don't be long," I whispered. She nodded, and I walked around the corner back into the lounge. Vanessa walked along at my side, using me as cover so Charlie wouldn't see her as she passed the open lounge door.
Just as I settled myself back on to the couch, I heard the door to the bathroom upstairs close.
"What's she doing here?" Charlie asked me then, but his tone was nothing more than worry. He liked when Vanessa came to visit. I realised he'd turned the television's sound off – that was rare. He must have caught a slight glimpse of Vanessa, or at least picked up on the strain in her voice. Or maybe the horror on my own face.
"Honestly," I began, picking up my book with slightly shaking hands, "I don't know."
"Oh." He turned the sound back on. I knew he was still curious, but he also knew when I was lying – and I wasn't lying. He was patient enough to wait for Vanessa to come back down and explain herself.
I tried not to let my imagination run wild, picking up my book and attempting to get lost in the words again. I was re-reading the same sentence for the fifth time when I decided it was hopeless; I couldn't think of anything but my decrepit-looking cousin upstairs. So I closed the book in my lap and stared mindlessly at the television, allowing my mind to wander.
What on earth happened to her? She looked like she'd been living on the streets for a long time – and in the wrong company, too. How she managed to maintain control of two suitcases, however, was beyond me. I worried for half a moment that maybe she'd been assaulted, but tried not to think about it too much. That was very much a grey area to me – I knew nothing about it and knew nothing about how to deal if Vanessa had been hurt that way. If she had been – ugh, I forced myself to think it – raped – then I would work out what to do. But I wasn't going to think about it unless I had to.
A while later the bathroom door opened again. I heard footfalls on the stairs, and then Vanessa appeared in a bathrobe – my bathrobe – and a towel in one hand as she dried her long dark hair. She looked considerably better – her face was clean and make-up free, the long scratch I'd seen was almost invisible now, and without such ill fitting clothes on she looked much healthier. Most importantly, the light in her eyes was starting to flicker back to life.
"Charlie!" she bubbled as she walked toward him. She swung the towel around in one hand as she bent down and hugged him. Charlie looked a little embarrassed at being hugged by an eighteen year old in a bathrobe.
"How are you, Vanessa?" Charlie managed after sitting up a little more on the sofa cushion.
Vanessa came round beside me and sat on the arm of the couch. She leaned over and grabbed me in a warm one-armed hug before answering Charlie.
"I haven't been as good as I am right now in a long while." She smiled, and it was very genuine. I was amazed at how quickly she'd gone from drab to fab.
Charlie chuckled, missing the honest sincerity I could hear in Vanessa's words. Something had definitely happened to her.
"Well, what's the story little woman? How come you're here, unannounced, and so late at night too?" He was very curious. I couldn't blame him – so was I.
Vanessa grinned. "That's for me to know, you to find out." She laughed at Charlie's wrinkled expression – he was halfway between a grimace and a smile. "I was travelling with some friends for a while, but got sick of it because of the lack of showers – and because I was living in the back of a van. When I woke up just before I got here I discovered we were heading into Forks, and I told them I wanted out. They were alright with it, so they dropped me here, and here I am! That's why I couldn't call." She paused, and looked between Charlie and myself. "Is it alright if I stay?"
Charlie paused for half a moment, then laughed loudly. "Of course! You know you're always welcome here, Vanessa, hec – you should stay for the school year and attend with Bella!" Charlie grinned and looked over to me. I was shocked by this proposal, and it showed on my face.
Charlie instantly backtracked. "I mean, if you wanted, Vanessa – Bella's got her senior year ahead of her, after all, it might be a little stressful for the both of you…" He trailed off, afraid of my reaction. My face was still caught in the 'shocked' pose.
Vanessa, live with us?
"YES!!" I shouted, leaping from the couch. But my foot caught on something and I started to head for the carpet with my face, but Vanessa yanked me back by the shirt. I coughed and tugged my collar away from my neck. "Thanks," I said, going a little pink at the realisation of my outburst.
Vanessa chuckled. "So it's alright with you if I stay?"
I nodded crazily. "Of course!"
Charlie piped up again. "You can use the guest room, if you like, Vanessa."
Dad smiled his crinkly eyed smile.
"We'll go put Vanessa's stuff upstairs, Dad; you stay here and watch the rest of the game. Tell me who wins, okay?"
I didn't wait for the predictable reply before I tore from the room, yanking Vanessa out with me. Vanessa laughed at my enthusiasm as I grabbed the handle of one of her considerably light suitcases and started lugging it up the stairs.
When we got to the top, I headed in the direction of the 'spare room'. Vanessa lugged her other case along behind me. Then I got to a door at the end of the hall – the room opposite my own and beside the bathroom – and pushed it open, flicking the light switch as I went.
To be truthful, Charlie's 'spare room' was really a small office with a bed in the corner. I hoped Vanessa didn't mind it.
"Thanks, Bella," Vanessa said as she came up behind me with her suitcase. She swung it on to the mattress with effortless ease, but I didn't even think about attempting such a thing. I'd probably knock myself out and give Vanessa a black eye at the same time.
"No problem." I turned to her, boring into her similar brown eyes for a moment. "Do you want to tell me now, or later?"
She understood me without even trying. "Tomorrow, if that's okay? I feel pretty tired after that walk."
She grinned. "It's all part of the uncensored story you're going to hear tomorrow." I grinned back at her.
"Good night then."
"Good night," she returned. I was just pulling the door closed behind me when she called for me to wait a moment.
She unwrapped the bath robe from around herself, and threw it to me. She was wearing a tank top and a pair of pyjama shorts underneath. "I hope you didn't mind that I wore that when I was downstairs? I didn't want to make Charlie uncomfortable."
"No problem. But if I may ask, how did you get pyjamas if your stuff was all packed away?"
She laughed "I'm magic!" but then said seriously, "I've learnt to keep my pyjamas on underneath my day-clothes. It's easier that way."
I bit the urge to question her further when she yawned widely. "I'd better let you get some sleep," I said instead.
"Thanks." She smiled apologetically. "See you in the morning?"
"Absolutely." I pulled the door closed behind me.
Then I headed back along the hall to the bathroom and went in, brushed my teeth and splashed my face with water. When that was done, I flicked off the light and went to the top of the stairs, and called down to Charlie. "I'm going to bed, Dad! Night!"
"Night, Bella," he called back from the lounge.
Then I retreated back along the carpeted hallway to my bedroom. I pulled my door closed behind me, my mind popping with questions I very much wanted to ask Vanessa in the morning.
Well! That's the first chapter. Let me know what you think! This story is going to be longer than MPP, by the way. FAR more dramatic, too. Killer!
Chapter 1 Question:
What simply HAS to happen in My Returning Relative?