Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. I just own the Red Timber Lodge.
With an upheaval of rain beating down on my car like we had bad personal history, there couldn't have been a better time to pull over and nap. Only the dark, unfamiliar roads were the perfect setting for me to end up being terrorized by a mad, woodsy serial killer, and I had promised my mother I wouldn't end up on Investigation Discovery. The irony was that I'd left a barrage of thundershowers in Jacksonville only to be a part of a brand-new downpour on the other side of the country. There should have been no surprise, really, since Charlie, my father, had told me plenty about Forks, Washington—well known for its blanket of fog, rain, humidity, and all-around ashen atmosphere. I'd just been hoping that I wasn't going to have to experience it after eleven hours on a plane and three on the road.
Smudged directions were in my lap, hardly readable since I'd pulled over half a dozen times to ask strangers if I was going the right way, and the rain had drenched everything on the driver's side. I hoped to the skies above, as black as they were, that I was still going the right way.
My truck, a Chevy that was older than I cared to admit, groaned and clanked as it climbed the steep terrain. I ran my hand along the dashboard in a soothing manner, humoring myself. "Hang in there, baby."
She'd been a gift from my dad when I was nineteen after my old Saturn had died. My mother, Renée, constantly "forgot" that I actually attended college, so it was tough to share a car when her gym workouts got in the way. Charlie bought my truck from his friend Billy Black in La Push (another small, rainy Washington town) and had driven it all the way down to Jacksonville for my birthday; how it ever survived the trip is a mystery. It rode like a clunky tank sometimes, but I loved it, even though Renée whined that I should have a modern, cute car that would accentuate my flirty side (which earned her a snort). Plus, driving the I-10 was hell on Earth and with my luck, one day I'd be plowed into and crushed. At least my chances were better in my "tank" than in some little sports car.
My father was on my side at least. We both had cringed when Renee ended up giving me an impulse gift of a Mazda a few months ago after my truck was sentenced to a week's repair in the shop and the outcome wasn't looking good; thankfully, the mechanic had worked a miracle. I tried to talk Renee into keeping it for herself, but she insisted I have it as a backup car.
"But isn't it cute?" Renée had gushed over the shiny, blue thing. "Baby, come on, it's something brand new for a new start."
Mainly, I thought she'd done it because she felt sorry for me since my roommate had gotten engaged and skipped out on our lease. It had been a rough few weeks for me after realizing that I'd have to resort to living with my parents again since it wasn't worth renting alone, and I wasn't quite ready to cement myself in Florida by buying a house. All of my other friends either lived with their boyfriends, fiancés, husbands, etc., and I was the only single one left. I had a job that did absolutely nothing to benefit society (in a good way, anyway), I wasn't exactly happy, and I felt completely and utterly stuck.
But it was also then, even though she was focused on the car, that her words lit a spark in me.
I did need a change. Maybe not a permanent one, but I was too damned tired of the sunshine greeting me every morning like everything was fine and dandy. Since I rarely spent money on myself and had gotten scholarships that put me through college, a fact that Renée bragged to too many strangers about, I decided that I could afford to take a small break from real life.
Honestly, I wanted to be someplace far away. Somewhere small and unknown to most people in the continental United States. Somewhere dark and dreary like my pissy mood.
Then, one morning as I was in the middle of breakfast, I found myself absentmindedly staring at my eating utensil, and it hit me. Ten seconds later, I was on the phone with Charlie.
Part of the reason why I had decided on Forks as my destination was his fondness for the little town. If it had been a popular, sight-seeing sort of place, I would have bet money that Charlie would have gladly gotten a side job as one of those cheesy tour guides that bombard people with old town stories and other frivolous information. He seemed excited by my idea - much, much more than Renée had been. By the end of our conversation, he had agreed to make my arrangements, and it sounded as though he wanted to join me and take me on a month-long fishing trip. Luckily I convinced him to consider persuading Renée to go fishing off one of Jacksonville's piers instead.
"She should take the truck," he had said to my mother when I was planning my trip. "I wouldn't want all the salt and rain to ruin that other thing," which had earned a laugh from me. Though, before I'd left, he encouraged me to put the Chevy on a shipping truck and have it meet me in Washington. Just in case, of course.
This brought me to my present drive on the wet, winding roads of Forks, in my trusty, rusty friend. I had faith in her, but I was becoming a little nervous that I'd never find my way. I figured that if I hadn't found the lodge in another ten minutes, I'd have to suck up my stubbornness and make a call to my dad. Knowing him, he'd probably patch me through to his old station and have them dispatch one of their rookies to come and rescue me.
Thankfully, just as the rain calmed a bit and slowed to a tolerable misting, I finally saw a sign in the distance.
Red Timber Lodge, 1 mile.
The lodge was more than a hundred years old. Before I left, Charlie had confided in me that he stayed there for nearly two weeks after Renée had left with me because he couldn't stand how empty the house was. Luckily for him, he'd gotten a second chance at happily ever after.
For as long as I could remember, Charlie and Renée had been separate parents on separate sides of the continent. Charlie made trips down to Florida every few months and for Christmas; I'd visited him a handful of times when I was younger and remembered bits and pieces, but not much. Then, last December, Charlie had come for another routine holiday visit. Renée and Phil, my stepfather, had finalized their divorce only a month previous, and my mother was a lackadaisical mess. I had taken over cooking, of course, and begged Charlie to come to dinner. I couldn't bear to see Renée cry through another evening and I knew she would not dare go to pieces in front of him. Charlie, of course, had planned on ordering hotel room service like he'd done every other Christmas. He used to say that he liked his alone time, but I always knew it was because he secretly couldn't stand to see my mother in her wild Christmas sweater, the same one she had worn when she was married to him, with her arm draped around Phil, laughing and smiling and showing Charlie everything he had lost. This past time, however, was quite different.
I'd practically pushed Renée into the shower, picked her out an outfit that didn't include the Christmas explosion sweater (after all, it was a ferocious sixty-five degrees out), and managed to get the table set by the time Charlie showed up at the door. He looked like a lost puppy when he'd entered the house - head low, slow-moving. I'd hardly recognized him. He'd gotten a haircut and was wearing a button-down shirt, holding two bouquets of flowers. Seeming embarrassed, he handed me a bunch of purple irises and jasmine.
"Merry Christmas, Bells."
I felt a goofy smile creep onto my face and exclaimed with a laugh, "Charlie, you bought flowers?"
He eyed me funny when I used his first name, but said, "Well, I got you some gift cards for tomorrow."
"Dad," I said, to make him feel better, "I didn't mean it like that. It's thoughtful. You remembered my favorites."
"Yeah, well," he said, looking very much like a little boy as he scuffed his shoe into the floor.
Renée had come down the stairs, then, and stopped in her tracks when she saw Charlie holding flowers and dressed in something other than long-sleeved plaid. Charlie, of course, tried to hold back his weak-in-the-knees expression that he always got around Renée, but I could see through him as he shyly handed her the other bouquet containing calla lilies (her favorite). It was odd how they seemed to drift toward one another all night, actually smiling comfortably and showing interest in each others' conversations. I'd all but dropped my fork when Charlie looked over at me and winked.
Dinner went extremely better than I'd expected and Charlie and Renée were still talking on the couch, laughing and having a drink together, when I decided to go upstairs for the night. To make a long story short, Charlie had extended his visit to New Years, and that went well, too - embarrassingly well. I'd come home from a party on New Year's Day to find them sleeping naked on the couch, which was appropriately horrifying.
Fast forward to a couple of months later, and Charlie had decided to move to Jacksonville to embrace the sunshine and my mother's bouncy lifestyle. Maybe it was a midlife crisis that made him trade the woods for the sand or just the fact that he was tired of the rain… but he was happy. They both were, and I was for them… but I wasn't about to move back in and step on their toes.
My brief reminiscence ended as I turned into a long drive that crept up into another tightly packed herd of trees. If the sun ever did come out, I wondered if I would even be able to see it through the cluster of branches and leaves. Talk about privacy; Charlie didn't lie.
In the gravel parking lot, my truck stood out like a nun on a street corner. Mostly, there were compact cars scattered throughout, and also, to my amusement, a bus resembling a minivan with the decal "Senior Sunrise!" sat towards the front. As I slowly drove closer, I spotted a girl around my age standing by a shiny red car, fiddling with an umbrella. Since she was wearing a black apron and what looked like a name tag, I figured she probably worked at the lodge—though, she wasn't exactly 'employee-friendly' as she eyed me and my truck with presumable disgust as my truck's engine growled, in desperate need of rest. I quickly parked in an empty spot next to a silver car. A Volvo, as I saw from its little logo. Maybe I'd meet a nice soccer mom.
As if on cue, my truck let out a fierce blast-like sound as I turned off the ignition, and for the first time ever, I missed my Mazda. I proceeded to pretend like my truck hadn't just backfired as I slipped out of the driver's seat and opened the back to collect my suitcase and duffels. The girl who had been watching me moments ago peered over at me again with her nose wrinkled and her cell phone pressed against her ear, trying to be inconspicuous. I gave her a small wave.
Hi, I see you staring, you judgmental priss.
She whisked her head in the opposite direction as if she didn't see me and strutted away, her dark curls bouncing in unison with her boobs. Oh well. At least seeing her with a cell phone meant there was such a thing as reception out here.
Feeling a mist of cold rain on my face, I locked up and hefted my duffel bags over each shoulder, dragging my suitcase behind me as I walked to the front. The detail of the building was cabin-like, similar to the Lincoln Logs I used to play with as a child. The size of it astonished me; I'd envisioned some sort of pastel-painted, old-time, small bed-and-breakfast you would see on a side street in New England. But it was nothing short of a log mansion, and definitely more interesting than I had expected.
I made my way up the path and took a deep breath, and as I rounded the corner, I froze, my heart stopping in my chest.