A/N: I raise the white flag here and now and declare myself team Edward. This is setting up something for later, in case you're wondering. And thank you to those who have taken the time to read the story and left reviews. They are very much appreciated.
My spur of the moment decision to get out of biology had been the right one, just as ditching gym was also right. Yes, I was rationalizing but I did not give a crap. I headed for my obscenely old and dated truck that was so much better than any fucking shiny silver Volvo. Sure it wasn't sleek or perfect like Cullen's car, like Cullen himself was, but it was mine and I fucking loved it. I locked myself in the cab and away from his relentless fuckery. I can't believe I let him into my goddamn head. Moron thy name is Bella. The idiot of the day award was definitely in the bag. I was even more annoyed at myself for liking his attention. For a girl who liked to keep to herself I couldn't have chosen a more obvious magnet for attention, the handsome pale freak boy that was adored by all and in return for the unadulterated adulation he ignored us all. Well not all of us apparently. It was like throwing myself to the lions. I was disgusted with myself and didn't want to think about his fucking button pushing any longer. I willed myself to be stronger. He could not affect me if I didn't let him. Tomorrow in class I would ignore him no matter what he said or what buttons he pushed. Tomorrow I would be cold and frozen, an iceberg. With the decision made I slammed the truck into gear and headed out of the parking lot. Anywhere had to be better than Forks High School at this point.
I didn't want to head home. My Uncle Charlie wouldn't be home so it's not as if I would get my ass caught. If I did go home though, later, when he asked what I'd done that day, I would have to blatantly lie to his face. I wasn't down with that shit. Plus if I let it slip that I'd watched the latest marathon on Cartoon Network he might catch on that I'd spent more than the allotted amount of time in the house for a high school student who attended all of their required classes that day. Better I wander around for a while and try to stay out of trouble. With the mood I was in it was more like trying to want to stay out of trouble. Right now trouble was calling to me, or I was seeking it out. Either way I headed down the road in search of something more exciting that hitting a birdie around in gym or sitting on my ass at home.
My truck rumbled along the narrow, tree lined roads in no particular direction. I had no idea where I was freaking going and no real feel for the surrounding area. I'd be up shit's creek if I needed to use my sense of direction because I didn't have much of that either. I tried to note some landmarks along the way that might help me find the way back if I needed to get turned around. After fifteen minutes or so the trees began to thin and I could see the ocean stretching out ahead of me. I was shocked I was already at the coast. I guess I hadn't realized it was so close. I pulled off into the gravel of the makeshift parking lot and parked the truck.
A beach seemed like a rather nonsensical thing to find in Forks. This place never saw the sun so tanning was definitely friggen out and I doubted the water would ever reach a swimmable temperature in the constant absence of the sun's warming rays. There was always sandcastle building I mused. For me it was all about my toes in the sand. The day wasn't overly cold and the rain clouds were silent for the moment so I slipped off my shoes and socks and dug my toes in, just enjoying the cool, wet, scratchy feeling against my bare skin. My Mom always said the sand was like a free pedicure and remembering her voice in my head made me happily mellow. The good memories always did. It was the bad ones that dug in and held on until they twisted my mind and choked my mood and fucked with my life. I immersed myself in all of the goodness that was my Mother and held on to her voice as long as I could, smiling lazily up into the clouded sky. I could see the sun struggling against the patches of thinning clouds. It glistened in murky ribbons where it broke through giving the whole sky a celestial calm feeling. It was trying to find a way out of the fog just like I was, and having about as much luck as I was too. Forks was just like that, thick and overbearing, swallowing you up and weighing you down. Hell. It was no wonder my mother always hated this fucking place. It wasn't hard to understand why she wanted to get out from underneath its draining, smothering atmosphere.
"Hey," a loud deep voice bellowed from behind me. I glanced quickly over my shoulder. There was no way that voice could be talking to me.
"Yeah you, in the blue jacket." What the fuck? He was talking to me. I turned my head further over my shoulder to see a tall, young, dark haired boy walking towards me. He was smiling as if he knew me but I'd never seen the douchebag before in my life. I stiffened, ready to put him in his place. I wasn't in the mood for company. He began jogging towards me at a pace that made me uncomfortable.
I quickly jumped to my feet and turned around, brushing the sand off my ass with both hands. I moved my hands to my hips and glared at him wondering what the fuck he wanted.
"Hi, I'm Jacob." He was still grinning widely at me, probably now at the look of confusion on my face, but his hands were raised up, palms facing me in an attempt to show me he meant me no harm. I did nothing but scowl at him, still wishing he hadn't interrupted my quiet musings and wishing even more he'd evaporate.
"It's ok. I'm not a crazy person," he laughed. He was only a few feet from me now but at least he'd stopped moving towards me. He was already too close for comfort. "And you don't know me." He laughed harder. Apparently approaching people you didn't know at the beach was a funny thing to the coastal folk. Who knew? I surely didn't get it.
"What do you want?" My tone was severe, intended to replace the cursing that I courteously left out until I knew what this asshole wanted.
"Nothing. Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you. I was just on my way to a buddy's house when I saw your truck."
This was about my truck? "What about it?"
"I used to own it, or rather my Dad did." He smiled a goofy grin and held his hand out to me.
I shifted my eyes to his hand briefly and then back up to his face. I'm sure I looked pissed off but didn't much care as I shrugged and glared sarcastically at him, waiting for him to explain why I should care. "So?"
He laughed again, a loud carefree guffaw that shook his shoulders and rippled down into his torso. Pain shot though my chest. I remembered the last time I was able to laugh like that. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
"So nothing," he laughed. "I just thought I'd come introduce myself. Figured maybe you'd like to meet a friendly face or something. Six degrees of separation and all that crap."
"Not so much." Six degrees of separation? Was he serious? I wanted to laugh in his face for his ridiculous assumption but didn't. I didn't want to encourage this dipshit in any way. My eyes darted from the ground up to his eyes and back down to the ground again, tapping my foot impatiently, hoping we were done with the impromptu introductions.
"Aren't you going to tell me your name?" he questioned playfully, unfazed by my lack of enthusiasm.
"No." I pondered telling him to fuck off but thought better of it seeing as how he was twice my size and we were in the middle of nowhere, where no one would hear me scream if he decided to drag my small, struggling body off into the woods to murder me.
"Alright then," he smirked, giggling. Again with the laughing! Maybe this Jacob character was on drugs, something that made you laugh like a loon at everything that was said to you. It would explain quite a lot. "I'll just call you Red."
"Red?" I asked as my face twisted up in ambiguity.
"Your truck?" he explained, openly laughing at my expression now. "What did you think I meant?"
"I didn't have a fucking clue." Unless of course he could read my mind and tell that he had me seeing red. Or that I'd like to bash his nose in and make him bleed red.
"I bet you thought I meant the red the sun brings out in your hair," he complimented, pointing towards the strands flying carelessly at the side of my face in the breeze coming off the ocean.
Way to make me uncomfortable fuckhead. I instantly blushed. I didn't take compliments well, not well at all. Yep, punching him in the nose was becoming more and more appealing by the minute.
"Or that colour on your cheeks," he teased, attempting to cough to disguise the laugh that came up his throat and failing miserably. I turned on my heel and stalked away. I didn't need this shit.
"Wait, I'm sorry Red. I didn't mean to put you on the spot." He chased after me, grabbing my wrist lightly to stop me. All at once I stiffened and froze and yanked my wrist with all I was worth out of his gentle grasp. He froze too, his expression horror struck. "I'm sorry," he declared sincerely. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't want you to leave mad. You just really look like you could use a friend."
"You didn't hurt me," I assured him acidly. "And I don't need anyone, especially not some little boy Amazon who doesn't know how to take a friggen hint."
"I'm not an Amazon. You're just really short."
Completely fucking unfazed. It was beyond irritating how low key he was. Nothing seemed to get beyond his happy go lucky attitude. If I put every good mood of my life into one big smile it still wouldn't equal this Jacob's lightheartedness. Irritating, annoying and utterly amazing. I stared up into his dark brown eyes incredulously.
"Are you for real?" It was the first question that I'd asked in months that I actually cared to hear the answer to.
"The genuine article," he assured me with a smile, a smile so big that it took over his entire face. His broad cheeks pulled back over his teeth exposing a large dimple on his left cheek, his eyes sparkled and his whole face glowed under the power of it. It was the most authentic smile I'd ever seen and I couldn't help but be affected by it. My spirits were instantly lifted.
"You're an odd kid aren't you Jacob?" I noted causally. I couldn't figure him out. His thought patterns were so unlike mine that I couldn't get my head wrapped around what would make him approach me.
"I don't know about that," he mumbled, probably thinking about my statement. "No more odd than you."
He had me there. For as little as I understood about him he likely understood me even less. It was intentional. I didn't want to get to know people. It just made things easier.
"So do you always approach strange women you don't know with that truck excuse?" I teased lightly.
"Every single one I've ever seen with that truck as a matter of fact." He nodded and winked at me and then gave me another fantastic smile, one that I returned without even thinking. "Wow, you can actually smile."
"Shut the fuck up!" I laughed. And then my hand flew up to my mouth and clamped it shut as my eyes widened in shock. I couldn't recall the last time I'd laughed so effortlessly.
"And laugh too."
"Jacob, has anyone told you that you don't know when to shut your mouth?" I asked seriously, trying to hide my embarrassment as my cheeks burned crimson.
"A time or two perhaps," he suggested cheekily.
"Didn't you say you had a buddy to visit?" I wondered out loud, trying to change the subject.
"Yeah, but he can wait."
"Does he know he can wait?" I couldn't help my curiosity. Waiting was a pet peeve of mine.
"No," he laughed, "But it wouldn't be the first time I didn't show up where I was supposed to be." Somehow that didn't surprise me about him.
"Would you like a ride? I need to get going but if it's not far I could drop you off?" I don't even know where the words came from. Some crazy happy button had been pressed inside me by this strange boy's smile and for some reason, although I was sure it wouldn't last long, I felt completely light and burdenless.
"Sure, if you have to go anyways that would be great. Do you know your way around?" He eyed me dubiously.
"Not a bit. And I fucking suck at directions."
He laughed at my honesty. "Ok well I'm sure I can get us both safely to our destinations. I've lived in this place my whole life."
"Wow, a whole fifteen or sixteen years eh?" I giggled. He groaned.
"Fifteen," he confirmed, "but I still know it a hell of a lot better than you."
"True," I allowed and we laughed together. I wondered again how long this lightness would last. "I'm Bella by the way."
"I like Red."
I just smiled at him. I could allow his nickname as repayment for the mood his smile had bestowed on me. Besides, I kind of liked it if I was being honest. It was less personal and sort of random, a lot like me actually.
We walked back to the truck discussing the area as he picked my brain about local roads. It didn't take long for him to deduce I was absolutely friggen clueless. After we climbed into the truck and pulled out of the lot he started to describe the landscape in large details, making it a lot easier for me to understand what and where he was talking about. He somehow knew that landmarks were easier for me, and that impressed me. Lighthearted and intuitive? This Jacob might be nice to keep around. I followed his directions easily and we were at his friend's house in minutes.
"Thanks for the ride Red." He grinned back into my truck at me through the open window.
"So maybe I'll see you around sometime?" He was fishing. We both knew it.
"Maybe," I half agreed.
"I'll keep my eyes out for brown-eyed beauties with really old trucks."
I shook my head and rolled my eyes at him, blushing profusely. His grin only widened. I waved dismissively and pulled away. As long as I could see him in the rear view mirror he stood and smiled and watched me. What a strange boy. I pondered seeing him again some time.
'Don't touch me,' was line number one that defined the lines that I lived my life around. I would not cross it for anyone. I'm not one of those touchy feely chicks that put my hands on you for no reason and you can sure as hell bet that I don't want your fucking hands on me. Keep them to yourself. Stick them in your pockets. Sit on them. Jack off with them. I don't give a shit. Just keep them off of me. That's why I froze when Jacob grabbed my wrist, allowing him the briefest of seconds to let me the fuck go before I planned to kick him in the balls. I hoped that he had caught on or I was going to have to set him straight if we crossed paths again. And I would set him or any other person straight who violated my lines. Because really if you put your hands on my body you're just giving me a fucking written invitation to physically fuck you up. It was a tough lesson to learn the hard way but once taught I firmly believed would not have to be re-taught. 'Don't touch me,' was my cardinal rule number one.
My Uncle Charlie knew it and I never even had to teach him. He wasn't into the touchy feely shit either. I mean he wasn't really my uncle so why would he want to be affectionate with me anyways? He was just the poor sap that my mother named in her will to be my legal guardian, the lucky recipient of the trust she set up to care for me in the event of her death. What an idiotic term 'in the "event" of her death.' Like death was a happy occurrence or something. Her will should have read, "If I fucking die you may as well kill my daughter because she will never be the same again." At least that would have been more truthful. Legal fucking jargon could bite me. My Uncle Charlie was no uncle at all, just an old friend of the family, my mother's best friend growing up who we saw from time to time through the years. I'd never taken the time to really get to know him before all the shit hit the fan. And now I lived with him in his tiny little house in the middle of Craptastic Rainytown USA. Joy.
Don't get me wrong. It wasn't bad living with Charlie. He was easy enough to get along with and fairly tame on the scale of parental control. He expected me to clean up after myself, but not him, and to do my laundry, but not his, and share the responsibility of cooking with him. He was great about giving me my privacy and staying out of my room. He did ask me to keep the groceries stocked because he worked long hours that didn't always fuse with the supermarket hours but he always gave me the money beforehand. He never complained when I didn't get the dishes done or woke up late for school. I guess he still understood what it was like to be a kid. He expected me to pull good grades, but nothing fucking fantastic. In fact the only expectation that he had of me that I wasn't completely sure I could meet was keeping my nose out of trouble. The one and only lecture he'd ever given me was upon hearing about my suspension back in Phoenix. If I repeated my "juvenile behaviour" in Forks he would put me under house arrest – no phone, Internet, television or after school privileges. I didn't really give a fuck about any of that shit in essence. It was more the idea of giving up my freedom that bothered me. I didn't want to have to report to Charlie where I was every fucking second of the day. I liked our causal understanding about the general vicinity where either of us could be found. The lower the expectation the more comfortable I was. I didn't want to fuck with our easiness.
At least I didn't have to hold my tongue with him. He could swear me under the table and that's saying something. That was one of my favourite things about Charlie. I could let as many f-bombs rip in front of him as I wanted and he didn't even bat an eyelash. And he never tried to make me talk about shit. I really liked that too. He always just gave me a knowing glance, the same one I'd seen him give my Mom a million times that said, "I know you're in fucking pain and I know it sucks." The look said more than any bullshit he could spew. He got that. I remember when the hospital forced me to see a grief councillor that tried to get me to say all kinds of shit I didn't want or need to say. Charlie knew how much I hated going so he always waited around for me so I wouldn't have to go through it alone. One day I fucking exploded on the psychologist when he tried to suggest that I wasn't "grieving" the way I should be. Charlie burst into the office and took that fucker down a peg or two with the exact right words. I remember them so clearly, tone and all. "Doc," he declared, "unless you can find a way to make her stop missing her Mother I think we're done here." And we were. He never made me go back. Throughout the whole process of losing my Mom and moving here and all of the changes that I had to endure he never forced anything on me. He had killer instincts for a man who was not a father through any means of his own.
When I first got here he just let me absolutely fucking wallow for a week straight. He knew I needed to accept coming here in my own way. He stayed out of my way as best he could while I split my time between crying like a fucking baby and rivalling the biggest diva bitches of the world. He somehow understood and never held a bit of it against me. I guess I owed him a lot. He stood by my Mom through the best and worst times of her life and death really. And now he was raising her daughter. I should have known there was a reason my Mom loved him the way she did, limitlessly and unconditionally. Yeah, as far as almost-not-quite father-guardians went, Charlie was up there with the best.
And that's exactly why I didn't want him to find out I cut class today. And why I didn't want him to know about the hard time that Edward the prick Cullen was giving me. He didn't need to worry. Taking care of me was enough for him to shoulder. I was completely capable of taking care of shit myself. I was hoping to avoid any discussion of my afternoon activities by beating Charlie home but I could see as soon as I turned onto our street that his truck was already in the driveway. I guess I'd have to take my turn to make dinner tomorrow. I parked my truck at the curb, grabbing my backpack from the passenger seat and headed inside.
"Bella is that you?" Charlie called from the kitchen.
"Yep." Unless you've taken in some other wayward orphan kid I don't know about.
"I'm in the kitchen." That was Charlie's polite way of telling me to get my ass to the kitchen.
"Coming," I assured him as I meandered lazily towards the back of the house. No need to set a precedent for overly enthusiastic obedience. When I finally got to the kitchen Charlie was sitting at the kitchen table, a beer in one hand and using his free hand to tap the tabletop. He was looking less than amused. "What's up?" I inquired casually.
"Why don't you tell me?" A game player Charlie was not. He was testing me to see what I'd give away, to see if I'd lie to him.
"I dunno," I offered, shuffling the toe of my shoe against the leg of the kitchen chair. "You?"
"Busy, busy day." He let out a big gush of air, half sigh and half groan of disgust. "You can imagine how surprised I was to get a call from the High School."
"The school called you?" I faked my best stupid for him. No need to give away anything until I had a better idea of exactly what he was pissed off about.
"Come on Bella. Cutting class?" He didn't say another word, just quirked an eyebrow at me that said 'you know better than that' and 'we talked about this,' and 'you know you're in trouble.' What can I say? He was a man of few words because he could say everything he needed to with a look.
"Sorry." And I was sorry. Sorry that I disappointed him and sorry that I couldn't handle Edward Cullen and his bullshit questions and sorry that I was a fuck up. But I wasn't sorry for cutting class or finding the beach or meeting the boy with the smile that made me feel normal for once in a really fucking long time. But I didn't want to tell him any of that.
"It's not up to me Bella," he murmured reluctantly.
"What's not up to you?"
"I get that it's going to take some time for you to…adjust…" He ran his hand through his hair roughly. "But the school doesn't tolerate skipping." I could tell he didn't agree with what was coming, for all the good it was going to do me.
"Well didn't you tell them…something? Anything? That I was a fucking headcase or something?" I yelled.
"I did my best Bells but they weren't fucking going for it. They wanted permission from a guardian before you left school grounds during class times. I'm afraid this one is out of my hands."
"Damn it! Come on Charlie!" I could feel it coming, the crushing defeat, the concession curled around the anger strangling the sadness. I was toast and there wasn't a fucking thing I could do about it. One fucking class, that's all it took to get my ass in deep shit.
"I know Bells." He pushed a slip of paper across the table at me.
"Don't make me read it," I whined dejectedly. "Just give it to me straight."
"Well kid, you're entering the mentoring program at the school starting tomorrow and your mentoring partner is…" He turned the paper back towards himself so he could read the name to me. "Alice Cullen."
Fuck. Fucking hell. This couldn't be happening. "Great. Totally fucking great." I rolled my eyes and ripped the paper from his hand to read it for myself. Yep. He was right. Of all the fake, kiss-ass goody goodies in this whole damn town my mentoring partner had to be the prick's sister? I burst out laughing, because really, what else could I do?