Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephanie Meyer, not me – I'm just playing with them for fun, not profit. No copyright infringement intended. Reviews are always adored!
She watched the cool stream cut its way though the green banks and smiled. It had been ten years since she was here in this spot and little had changed. The sun felt the same, beating down on her shoulders. The gurgle of the water as it crashed over the rocks sounded like an old friend. And the smell. The fragrance of wild strawberries ripe on the vine in late July took her back in time.
She stripped off her stockings as she settled by the stream, not caring about the grass stains on her black dress, and plunged her feet into the coolness of the swiftly moving water. As she lay back and closed her eyes, time slipped away, back to that last summer she'd sat in this place, the summer she was seventeen.
"Bella? Your father's on the phone."
She laid her bag on the kitchen counter, knowing she was dawdling as she reluctantly reached for the phone her mother brandished.
"Hey Dad, how are you?"
"Good. Just wanted to call about the summer plans."
She pinched the bridge of her nose, glad her mother was buried in the fridge burrowing for whatever would become tonight's weird twist on dinner, but knowing she was still listening. "Yeah, I guess it's about that time, huh?" She gave an awkward laugh. "Wasn't sure you'd still want me to come, after last year."
She could here the rustle over the line, and the sigh that followed. "Bella . . . you know you're always welcome here."
Which was not exactly the same thing, but she'd been such a brat last summer, what'd she expect?
"So you want me to come the usual time?"
"Soon as school's out, sure, that'd be good."
She looked at the wall calendar. The end of her junior year was only two weeks off. "Okay, end of May then."
"That'd be good. I'll see about the plane ticket, send it to you. Will you . . . will you be staying until the end of summer this year?"
She glanced towards the fridge as the front door opened with a bang and a voice sang out, "Renee? Where are you, gorgeous? Good news, babe!"
Bella's finger twisted in the phone cord as she shielded the receiver. "Yeah, Dad, I'm going to stay the whole time. I'll be looking for the ticket, okay?" She paused, knowing they were both out of conversation, and gratefully heard the sound of voices in the background. "Sounds like you're busy, I'll talk to you next week, okay?"
She hung the phone back in its cradle and turned around to find her mom and Phil watching her.
"Bella, you don't have to stay for the whole summer if you don't want too. Maybe you should call him back and ask if you could just come for a few weeks. Or ask if he wants go somewhere with you for a vacation? It'd be good for Charlie to get out of Forks. Maybe somewhere in California?" her mother prodded.
"No, it'll be good." Bella plastered a smile on. "I'm kind of looking forward to it – it'll be a lot cooler in Forks than roasting in Phoenix, right?"
Apparently she was a better actress than her drama teacher gave her credit for, because her mom seemed to buy it.
"That's great, Bella," Phil chimed in, throwing an arm around her mom, who gazed up at him adoringly. "Maybe we'll all be out of this dry heat – there was a scout at the park today, he's talking about a tryout for a team in Florida – triple AAA."
"Really, Phil?" Her mom clapped her hands together, eyes shining in delight as Phil grabbed her and whirled her around the kitchen.
"C'mon, girls, I'm taking us out tonight." Phil smiled and beckoned to Bella, who smiled back weakly.
"Sounds great, I'm just going to run back and grab my bag, okay?"
"Okay, but hurry, sweetie!" Renee encouraged.
She hurried down the hall and closed her bedroom door behind her, needing a second. They probably be making out by the time she got back and wouldn't notice if she took a minute.
Bella glanced at the picture on her desk. Her mom and Phil, on their wedding day, her glowering at their side. She brushed her hair back, fishing in her desk drawer for a holder as she pulled the long strands out of her way. She'd been wrong about Phil, she could admit it now.
But last summer? Not so much. She'd been gone two weeks when her mom had first mentioned Phil's name, and within a month she was talking about him nonstop. How wonderful, and thoughtful, and kind, and . . . young.
Bella shrugged at her pale reflection in the mirror. A couple more phone calls about the awesomeness of Phil and the memory of her mom's last few boyfriends had freaked her enough that she'd insisted on coming home to Phoenix right away, throwing a tantrum the likes of which her dad hadn't seen since she was two about how much she hated Forks and wanted to go home. Better he think her the brat than have to hear about her mom's messed up love life.
And then, surprise, surprise, who'd have guessed that the way younger minor league ball player would actually settle her mom down and be her perfect match?
She grabbed her bag. Not just ground her, but make her happier than Bella had ever though she could be. Her mom, her scatter-brained, beautiful, caring mom was always going to love her, but right now, there was someone else at the center of her world.
Charlie probably needed her now way more than her mom anyway. She could make it through another summer in Forks, dreary, deadly boring Forks. What could really happen in a few months? Bella picked up the brightly tied fishing lure her dad had tied for her that sat perched on top of her jewelry box and slipped it in her bag as she headed for the door.
The day after school was over, her mom drove her to the airport.
"And Charlie's going to be waiting for you in Port Angeles?" her mom worried for the fifth time.
"Yes, mom, he always is, you know Charlie. He's like Old Faithful – you can always count on him."
Her mom smiled as she edged her way through the airport traffic. "I know." She smiled. "You're very like him in that way."
"Oh yeah, that's me, Little Miss Dependable," Bella smiled tightly.
"Oh, honey, you know you're more than that. Sometimes I can't believe how I got so lucky with you – you've been an old soul since you were born. And if you change your mind and get tired of Forks, you just call, you can come and join Phil and I on the road."
And return to her place as perpetual third wheel all summer, staying in low end motels and watching innumerable games of baseball beside her glowing mom? Yeah, she could deal with a few months of rain.
"It'll be good, Mom, I'm glad I'm going. You guys have fun and send me postcards, okay?"
The flight was uneventful, even the small prop plane to Port Angeles and Charlie was waiting as expected, holding out a hand for her bag and giving her an awkward one-armed squeeze as he took it. Very Charlie.
She was a lot like her father, she thought, as they walked without conversation through the airport and out to the parking lot, where he slid open the door to the car. They were both comfortable with the quiet.
"I'm glad you came, Bella."
"Me, too, Dad." She nervously bit her lip, knowing she needed to get it out there. "About last summer-"
He waved his hand as he started the engine. "Don't worry about it. I know you had your reasons." They pulled out of the lot and Charlie tossed the needed coins to exit as he asked casually, "Your mom okay?"
She nodded, noting the set of his shoulders as he asked. It had been fifteen years since her mom had left him, but he still seemed to love her just the same. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to lose yourself in one person like that. "She's good, Dad."
"That's good, that's good," he murmured softly, almost to himself, before he suddenly turned and gave her a grin. "I almost forgot, I got you something. Kind of an early birthday present, so you could use it this summer."
"Dad, you didn't have to do that," Bella protested. She raised an eyebrow as he continued to smile. "So what is it?"
"Maybe I should surprise you."
She shook her head. "Dad! You know I hate surprises."
He chuckled. "And I'm no good at keeping secrets." He reached into his pocket and fished out a set of keys, tossing them lightly to her.
Bella blinked at the keys in astonishment. "A car? You got me a car?"
Her dad shrugged, the excitement clear in his barely suppressed grin. "Well, it's a truck, really, and it's nothing fancy, but she runs good."
Bella flipped the key over, running her finger over the worn Chevy ingrained in the metal. "Wow, Dad. Thank you so much."
He shrugged again, his voice thicker as he replied, "It's good to have you home again, Bells."
She nodded and changed the topic before she choked up too. "So how's crime in Forks?"
"Same as always. We did have a jaywalker last week," her dad chuckled.
Bella laughed with him. Her dad had been the police chief in Forks for years now, though the crime rate was practically nonexistent, leaving him plenty of time for tinkering with the grape vines that grew in the small vineyard he co-owned with his close friend, Billy Black.
"And the vineyard? How do the grapes look this year?"
"We had a mild spring, if the weather holds this summer, it'll help the acid levels and make a solid crop."
"Are you working on anything special?" Bella asked.
Her dad squinted into the growing twilight, then flipped on the lights as they closed the last few miles towards home. "A few things. I have some extra help this summer, so we'll see what comes of it." He glanced towards her. "Now Bella, don't feel like you have to start cooking every day. Sue Clearwater's been coming over, helping with things when we need to feed a crew. Otherwise, we've been getting along just fine."
We? Bella tilted her head, puzzled, as they turned down the drive to the small white house nestled beside the vineyards, and noticed the shiny silver car sitting beside a faded red Chevy truck parked to the side of the small converted garage.
"Dad? Who's here?"
Her father nodded towards the front door which had opened, framing a body in the doorway which was momentarily illuminated by the beam of the headlights. She stared transfixed for a moment, sure that if she blinked he'd disappear, her perfect hallucination of the most gorgeous man she'd even seen.
"That's Edward. He's here to help this summer." Her father cut the engine, and killed the lights, eradicating the vision before her.
Bella realized she'd been holding her breath and let it out shakily. Suddenly, she thought she might be wrong about this summer in Forks being deadly boring.
And she was right.