Chapter 1: Storm Brewing
I stood staring out at the mountains before me. A storm was rolling in from the distance. It had already reached the peaks of the Grand Tetons that were stretched out in front of me, and they were glowing red. I had never seen anything so captivating as the illusion of flames that danced off of the curves of the mountains. You could almost see the sheets of rain. I opened the window of the car I was trapped inside to try and capture the storm that was just outside of my reach. The confines of the vehicle were stifling with the summer heat. I leaned my head out of the window to smell that shift the air makes in the moments before a storm. I loved how you could feel the stagnant humidity thin out into the crisp clean air that comes before the rain. I had tried to get my step-dad, Phil, to pull-over so I could take a picture of this amazing display of nature before me. I was sure that I would never see anything so glorious again. Alas, after all my pleading, his desire to get our tent and campsite set up before the rain found us won. I was resigned to snap as many pictures as I could from the moving vehicle, hoping that one of them would hold a fraction of justice to the sight that was leaving me awestruck.
We finally pulled into the campgrounds an hour later. We were into the second day of our trip. Phil was grumpy from driving all day, and my mother, Renee, was trying to get things settled for the night. Renee, my mother, had decided it would be an adventure if we camped and did some sight seeing as we made our move. By we, I meant mom, Phil, and I. Phil was a minor league ball player, and he had recently been traded to the Casper Ghosts in Wyoming. That made me laugh to myself every time I heard it. I can't believe they actually named their team that. My mom and Phil decided to make their move over the All-Star break, so Phil wouldn't miss any games. So, here we were in the middle of Wyoming in July...camping.
We were sitting around the campfire Phil had going just enjoying the quieting bustle of the busy camp grounds which mingled with the still of the mountains that towered above us. You could hear the thunder in the distance, but still no evidence of rain on the ground. I was looking up at the bright stars above us when I felt my phone vibrate from the pocket of my hoodie. I looked down to see Charlie's name flash on the screen. Charlie was my dad. he was probably calling to make final plans for our annual two weeks together. When I was younger, I had always gone to Forks, Washington for those weeks, but once I got to be a teenager, I had convinced Charlie to meet me in California instead. There is only so many times...OK, it takes one time, before you have seen and done everything there is to do.
"Hey, Bells. How is camping going?" Charlie asked.
"Just fine. We are in the campgrounds near the Grand Tetons. You should see it, dad. There is a storm rolling in, and it looks like the mountains are on fire. I can't wait to show you the pictures." I said looking off at the peaks once again.
"Sounds great, kid." Charlie said with a sigh.
"So, are we going to the usual this year for vacation?" I asked.
"Ummm...that is actually what I am calling about." Charlie said reluctantly.
"Are you canceling?" I huffed. Charlie and I had never been really close, but I did like the little time we did spend together.
"No, not exactly." Charlie hemmed. "I was wondering if you might consider coming to Forks this summer, instead of California."
"Awe, dad." I whined. "Can't you get away?"
"It's not that, Bells." He said.
"What is it, then?" I was getting surly now.
"Well, I went for this check-up." He started.
"Who got you into a doctor's office?" I laughed. He laughed with me.
"Insurance company. The state switched provider's, and a mandatory physical went with it." He grumbled.
"So, what does that have to do with vacation?" I asked. "Do they not want you leaving the state..." I did a quick calculation in my head, "...336 hours before your drug test or something?" Charlie laughed again.
"No, tests are all done." He said, and then got quiet. "Bells...they found something." I sat up, and Renee, who had been pretending not to listen, moved closer to me.
"What did they find, dad?" I choked out barely above a whisper.
"Pancreatic cancer." He said. "They seem to be hopeful that they found it early enough. I need to have surgery, and then there is some chemotherapy after that."
I tried to get my brain to communicate in this minute, but it couldn't. I barely registered both my dad's voice on the phone and my mom's voice in the chair next to me, both saying my name. I just looked at my mom with the tears already falling from my eyes, and she took the phone from me.
"Charlie, it's Renee. What's going on?"
I sat there in stunned silence as my brain whirred in a hundred different directions trying to make sense of everything I had just heard. I heard Renee ask about when the surgery would be and recovery. Charlie was all alone up there. Who was going to drive him around? The guys from the force? Who was going to take care of him while he went through chemo and recovered? Then my brain came crashing down into a conclusion, and I reached out my hand to my mom for the phone.
"Dad...I'm coming to Forks."
"Oh, thanks, Bells. We'll find something fun to do up here for our vacation." He said with a sigh.
"No, dad. You don't understand. I'm MOVING to Forks." I stated emphatically.
"Bells, that was not my intension in telling you all of this." He stammered.
"Who's going to drive you to all your appointments and everything, dad? Billy? Deputy Mark?" I scoffed.
"I'll figure it out, Bella." He said.
"There is nothing to figure out. I'm coming. My stuff is already packed up We can figure out how to ship the things I need there, and I will fly in as soon as we can arrange things." I said looking at my mom who was smiling sadly at me and nodding softly.
"I don't know, kid. This sounds like too much for you to handle...to ask of you..." He was folding.
"Please, dad. Let me do this." I pleaded softly. "I want to be there for you."
"OK, Bells. Let me talk to your mother." He said.
I handed my mom the phone again, and I heard them start to make plans. Charlie's surgery was in August. I would fly out of the international airport outside of Casper, and Charlie will pick me up from the Seattle airport. Renee would arrange to ship my things, and Charlie would get me enrolled in Forks High School. I was turning 17 in September, and would be entering into my junior year of high school. I started thinking that I could just finish out high school in Forks. Two years should be enough time to get Charlie through his surgery, treatments, and recovery, shouldn't it? Two years in Forks. I could do this.
Two days later I was on a plane to Seattle facing an uncertain future with Charlie. I had been playing out every scenario in my mind. What if Charlie died during surgery? What if the treatment didn't cure him? What would I do if I couldn't stomach the sickness and care of Charlie? I wasn't exactly known for my strong stomach. No. I could do this. I was determined. I could do this for Charlie.
A/N: A HUGE, HUGE thanks to RosieWilde for brainstorming with me on this one. She is my honorary co-pilot on this one! Thanks, lady!!! You are my muse.