Chapter 1 – New Beginnings

I wandered aimlessly through a damp forest, vaguely aware of the fact that I was dreaming. I couldn't see anything around me except green – the leafy canopy above obscured my view of the undoubtedly gray sky, and the wet, mossy carpet beneath my feet covered the dirt below. The cold, damp air seemed to permeate my skin, chilling me to the bone. Walking in circles, I was lost. Lost, shivering, and drowning in an endless sea of green.

As the grating buzz of the alarm broke through to my consciousness, I groaned in irritation and shot a hand out to smack the snooze button, buying myself another precious few minutes in the cozy warmth of my bed. My attempt at wakefulness was hindered by the diffuse gray light glowing through the bedroom windows, an indicator of another rainy morning in Forks.

The infuriating alarm sounded again, and I grumbled, "I'm up, I'm up, already," as I headed to take a shower in the bathroom I shared with my dad, Charlie. We didn't have to worry about bathroom time-sharing issues, because Charlie left for work before sunrise. The warm water of the shower helped bring me to life, and as I sudsed up my hair with my favorite strawberry shampoo, I found myself wondering what my first day of Forks High School held in store and recalling the convoluted path that had led me here in the first place. Me – back in Forks. Who would have guessed?

Though I thought of myself as a Phoenix native, I was actually born under the nearly constant cloud cover of Forks, WA. My mother, Renee, split up with Charlie when I was 2, and Renee moved us away and raised me by herself in sunny Phoenix. She was young when she had me, only 19, so in a way we grew up there together.

We were best friends, and her impractical, carefree, frivolous ways balanced out my serious, introspective, analytical tendencies. In some ways, it was as if our relationship was reversed, and I was the parent and she the child. Renee always told me that I was an old soul, and that I had never really been a child, only a miniature adult.

As such, I couldn't ever seem to connect with people my own age. All throughout my childhood, I was painfully shy and sort of tomboyish. As an awkward, clumsy preteen, junior high was a particularly difficult time for me. I didn't look like all the other girls in Phoenix; whereas they were suntanned and bleached blonde, I had thick, wavy, mahogany hair and pale ivory skin. I was thin and petite, pretty but not gorgeous, quiet, and so clumsy that I was almost disabled. To my great chagrin, I was cursed by the tendency to blush furiously at the slightest provocation. This made me a particularly enjoyable target for teasing, as my tormenters were guaranteed to get a reaction in the form of my pale complexion flushing crimson.

Instead of sharing common interests with my peers, I was intellectual and bookish, an avid reader and a deep thinker. My advanced vocabulary made the gap between my classmates and me even more obvious. I was always quiet; an invisible observer content to watch the social dynamics of those around me from a distance. Most days, I was lonely but relatively content in my role as an outsider at school. I didn't feel like I belonged in any of the cliques in Phoenix any more than they were willing to accept me. Still, some days I grew tired of being invisible.

For all of my somewhat antisocial tendencies, I was also quick-witted and sarcastic, intensely creative and fiercely loyal. Eventually, I began to fear that no one would ever have a chance to get to know the real me.

Then, after my freshman year of high school, everything changed. As if overnight, I finally came into my own. When I returned to school for sophomore year, the braces had come off of my teeth, my untamable hair had calmed into long, shiny waves, and my body had developed in ways that caught the attention of the upperclassmen boys.

It wasn't just the physical maturation that defined my transformation; I felt different on the inside as well. Over the summer, I had grown up. It was as though my emotional and social maturity had finally caught up with my intellectual maturity. I suddenly felt confident and capable in social situations, and I was actually able to open up to people and make friends. It was then that I met my best friend in Phoenix, Angela Webber, one of the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met.

To my great surprise, I was suddenly inundated with male attention, and I had no idea how to react. Luckily, flirtation is fifty percent feminine intuition and fifty percent balls, and I turned out to be pretty good at flirting. I was so good at it, in fact, that I ended up dating a guy named James. I liked James, but I definitely wasn't interested in pursuing a serious relationship with him. I wasn't opposed to relationships in general, but my priorities were schoolwork and college admission, in that order. Don't dampen the excitement of this fresh start by thinking of James! Get going!

Hopping out of the shower, I blew my hair dry until it hung, glossy and straight, halfway down my back. After applying some moisturizer, a brush of mascara, and a sweep of sparkly pink lip gloss, my simple maintenance routine was complete. I glanced quickly in the mirror, appraising the results. I'd been blessed with creamy porcelain skin, large expressive brown eyes, and full pink lips.

"Damn sexy, Swan. Those bitches don't stand a chance," I said cockily to my reflection, trying to psyche myself up for the first day of junior year at Forks High.

I went back to my bedroom, pulling on a pair of tight, dark denim jeans. I added black leather boots, a slim fitting white t-shirt, diamond stud earrings, and a pair of black sunglasses. Bounding down the stairs, I stopped briefly in the kitchen to fill a travel mug with hot coffee and grab a granola bar before sweeping up my backpack and jacket and heading out the door.

I sprinted to my pride and joy, a hot black Audi S5 coupe with buttery leather seats and a to-die-for sound system. I turned the key in the ignition, and as the car purred to life, I groaned in satisfaction. This car is an orgasm on wheels. Damn good thing too, because I need a man in my life right now about as much as I need another hole in my head.

I sighed and allowed myself to relax as I skillfully navigated the rain-slickened roads to the high school. Ah, thank you Phil. My mom's new husband Phil was a major league baseball player who was just signed to play for the Florida Marlins. He very generously provided me with a bank account large enough for the three things that I deemed necessities, including the hotness that was my car, a modest but fashionable wardrobe, and (most importantly) four years worth of tuition to an ivy league university. Now that I could afford tuition, of course, I just had to work hard enough for these last two years of high school to be admitted to a top school.

As my thoughts drifted, the car handled so precisely that it practically drove itself, and I arrived in the parking lot in what seemed like no time. The exterior of Forks High School was exactly what I expected: small, brick, and backwoods as fuck. I was running late, so I had to circle the lot once before I found a spot.

The lot contained mostly secondhand vehicles and beaters, not unlike the vehicle I'd be driving were it not for Phil's contribution. My shiny baby appeared to be the nicest car in the lot, including the teachers'. I felt a twinge of guilt at the thought, but then I decided that it might be just as well. If everyone here mistakenly assumed that I was some entitled rich bitch, then they were just that much more likely to keep their distance. And distance means Bella gets more work done, which in turn means Bella gets to go to Dartmouth, or Harvard, or Yale. Now stop thinking in the third person, Fucktard.

After years of observing the teenage social dynamic, I knew exactly how I'd have to behave in order to fit in without having to commit too much time and energy to making friends. I didn't enjoy acting like a frosty bitch, but at least I was becoming a damn good actress.

Holding my charcoal grey jacket over my head to protect my recently blown-out coif, I popped in the front office to pick up my schedule before heading off to my first class. The office lady, Mrs. Cope, offered me a campus map to aid me in finding my classes, but if I needed a map to navigate a campus consisting of approximately 10 clearly numbered buildings, then I should just strap on a helmet and demote myself to the second grade.

Honestly, I was nervous, though I was trying very hard not to admit it to myself. What would the people here be like? I would fit in well enough, one way or another. Either I'd find some people who I could genuinely click with, or I'd just fake it. The latter would leave me miserable (as usual) and sarcastic (as always), but at least I wouldn't get so caught up in burgeoning friendships that I'd lose focus on my work. That's what I tried to tell myself, anyway.

My first class of the day was Literature, and I easily located building 3, sliding in the door behind some other students and stashing my jacket on a hook near the door. All right, Sexy B, it's go time.

Despite the fluttering of butterflies that I suddenly felt in the pit of my stomach, I strode into the tiny room like I owned the place, fixing my eyes on an empty chair in the middle of the class and heading straight for it. Every eye in the room followed my entrance, including those of the overweight, balding teacher. The girls were all staring at my hair and guys were staring at my tits, with very few exceptions. You kids act like you've never seen a non-native Forkian before. Jeez, if I weren't slightly creeped out, I might be flattered.

Baldy (Mr. Mason, as it turned out) was eventually able to tear his gaze away from my chest for long enough to begin class, for which I was thankful. I was disappointed but not surprised to see that I had already read everything on the semester's reading list, so it looked like this was definitely going to be a sleeper class for me.

My next three classes were Government, Trig, and Spanish, and these went much the same: more unabashed stares, more material that I was already familiar with. Yawn. And, still, not a single person had actually talked to me yet.

As class ended, I noticed a short, somewhat spastic girl with very curly hair who had been in two of my classes so far. She was looking over at me and squirming, and I deduced that either she had to pee really badly or she was trying to summon the nerve to speak to the New Girl. Charitable creature that I am, I decided to put her out of her misery.

"Hey, you're in my Trig class with Varner, aren't you?" I asked her.

"Ohmygod, yes!" the spaz blurted.

Eww. I asked her a question and she just came. Ha.

"I mean, yes, I am," she continued. "You're Isabella Swan, right?"

"Bella," I corrected, proffering a hand.

"I'm Jessica, but you can call me Jess," she began, as we exited the classroom and walked toward the cafeteria.

She twittered excitedly for the rest of our journey to the lunch room and into the food line. It seemed as though her primary objective was to fill me in on the trashy rumors about everyone at Forks High. Cringing internally, I found myself zoning out. From what I caught, she was attempting to inform me about the social hierarchy of Forks High. This chick is definitely getting on my nerves.

In response to Jessica's sudden, frantic gesticulation, we were joined by a girl with cornsilk blonde hair and an attitude problem, who introduced herself as Lauren. Her natural expression appeared to be a condescending sneer. So far, it seems as though I've met every tool in the shed.Who's next?

I purchased a blueberry bagel with cream cheese and a diet coke, then proceeded to follow these two gems to their table, where I "absolutely had to sit". Well, okay then. I was next introduced to a guy named Tyler, who seemed okay except for his inability to look anywhere above my chin, and a Star Wars type named Eric.

However, the real icing on the cake was Mike Newton. Newton had a round baby face, sky blue eyes, and hair gelled into tiny, idiotic spikes. This dude hung on my every word, much to the growing displeasure of Jessica. Uh oh, I can already see this one playing out in my head… Jess loves Mike. Mike loves New Girl. Jess hates New Girl. And I worked so hard to secure my spot at the cool kids' table. Damn.

Trying to avoid the drama, I directed Newton's attempts at private conversation to the whole group, Jessica in particular. She was more than happy to jump in, even contributing a couple little thinly-veiled digs at me in the process! Awesome.

Well, at least I was certain that these buttfucks would in no way detract from my single-minded mission of studying and success. With that reminder, I tore into my bagel and resumed my patented smile-and-nod routine with renewed vigor.

After lunch, Biology was my next class. Mike insisted on walking me there, chatting all the way. I'd come to the conclusion that this guy could be likened to a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe. He follows you everywhere. You can't get him away. He deserves to be flushed. It'd probably improve his hairstyle.

All internal monologue aside, Bio was actually interesting. I was sans-partner and had a whole desk to myself, since the other students were all partnered up already. This worked greatly to my advantage, because I was way ahead from my AP Bio class back in Phoenix, and I was able to move at a quicker pace. I left the class, followed by Mike "TP" Newton of course, quite pleased… that is until I recalled that I was headed for gym, my last class of the day.

Ah, gym, the one chink in my carefully constructed armor. Even though I was mostly recovered from the disablingly clumsy days of my youth, I was certainly not graceful and I could never be considered athletic. Instead, I had perfected an arsenal of useful gym class skills, the first of which was the classic duck-and-cover. In a bind, that was the only surefire way to save life and limb of both myself and everyone else within a 20 foot radius.

My next skill, more subtle and perhaps also more useful, was to flirt my way into being rescued by an athletic male teammate. As of the moment, it looked like Mike was the front runner among potential candidates to be my knight in wrinkly gym shorts.

My final skill, which was more like a mantra really, was to act like I didn't give a shit about anything, regardless of what humiliating things transpired. Hell, sometimes I'd even act like I actually intended for things to turn out that way.

Just never let them see you cry. Over the years, I'd learned to show no weakness, because teenagers can sense it, and they'll be on you like a wounded gazelle if you let them. Biting my lip in trepidation, I headed for the locker room.

To my fantastic relief, there was a note on the door stating that we wouldn't be dressing for gym today. I cheered internally. It had been a somewhat tiring first day, and I was almost aching to escape to the comforting leathery interior of my car.

At some point after getting my license at 16, I realized that driving was a pure joy for me. I liked the feeling of control as I guided a vehicle around sharp turns, and I enjoyed the way the purr of the engine became more of a growl when I floored the gas pedal. Enjoying the free feeling of speeding down the open road, I drove fast but not recklessly. After all, I was Sensible Bella, never one to let slip my tight grasp on control.

When gym class finally convened, I strode out to my car, trying to make it out of the parking lot before the crowds began to gather. I was semi-successful, but when I reached my shiny black baby, I was suddenly aware of a crowd of males gathered around it, eyeing the car with varied mixtures of envy, lust, and awe. I wanted to say "yeah, I can't believe I'm this lucky, either. I could never have afforded a car like this if it weren't for my stepdad."

Instead, I purred, "You like it? Look but don't touch, bitches. That goes for the car, too." I could see Jessica and Lauren nearby, giving me a gaze of what appeared to be unadulterated hero worship.

"Bye, Lauren. See you tomorrow, Jess," I called to them through the open window as I reversed smoothly and made my exit. In the rearview mirror, I could see them squealing with glee in my wake. I guessed that meant that I was "in", whether I exactly wanted to be or not.

The next stop on my tour, tentatively titled 'Bella goes to Bumpkinville', was the grocery store. I busted out my shopping list and made quick work of buying everything I'd need to turn Charlie's tragically understocked kitchen into a functional culinary workspace. Loading my wares into the trunk, I once again sunk into the soft seat behind the wheel of my favorite distraction.

Perhaps my love of driving was partly inspired by Jacob's enthusiastic affection for all things fast and mechanical in nature. Jake and I had been friends for nearly as long as I could remember. As a child, I used to spend 2 weeks in Forks every summer with Charlie, and we had spent most of time on the nearby La Push Indian reservation with my father's best friend, Billy Black. Jake was Billy's son, and though he was a year and a half younger than me, we became fast friends, talking and playing together on the rocky shores of First Beach.

Since I insisted instead that Charlie and I spend our vacation time together in California for the past few years, Jake and I hadn't seen each other since I was in eighth grade. I'll have to stop by the rez and visit him one of these days, for old time's sake. It'd be nice to talk to one person my age who isn't a total douche bag. At least I hope he's not – I haven't actually seen him since I got boobs.

As I drove back to the familiar old house I'd be calling home for the next couple of years, rain began to drip from the skies again. Pulling into the driveway, I collected my groceries and high-tailed it into the house to stock the long-barren cupboards and get started on dinner. Domestic though I was not, I absolutely loved to cook. There was something very calming about pursuing a task all the way through, starting with raw materials and ending with a satisfying culinary creation. I used cooking as an outlet for expressing my mood, be it adventurous, joyful, depressed, or anywhere in between.

Tonight, chicken enchiladas were on the menu, because I was feeling a little homesick for Phoenix. Admittedly, the transition from sunny, endless skies to the hopelessly grey clouds of Forks would require a little adjustment on my part. I had only been here for a couple of days, and already I missed Renee, Angela, and every color besides green. I heard Charlie's footsteps then, breaking through my reverie. "Bells, you here?" he called.

"Yeah, Dad, in the kitchen," I responded. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."

He entered the kitchen, then, after hanging up his gun holster and his uniform jacket. As corny and provincial as it sounded, my dad was the Sheriff of Forks. Charlie looked over at the stove tentatively, sniffing the air. "Smells good, Bell. What is it?"

"Chicken enchiladas, Dad. I thought we'd broaden your taste horizons a little bit. Just trust me!"

We sat down to dinner a few minutes later, and Charlie hesitantly took his first bite. Looking pleased, he proceeded to dig in. Ha, I guess he likes it. Charlie was a man of few words. He was a bit of a loner, preferring to immerse himself in his work then spend his evenings in front of the television. My dad had always had difficulty expressing his emotions; I suppose I'm a bit like my old man in that way. As a result, our relationship was built on a quiet kind of unspoken affection for one another. Between working and fishing, he was hardly ever home, and he let me have my own space, which made him a very easy person to live with.

After we finished the dishes, I retired to my bedroom for the night. Since it was the first day of class, I didn't have any homework to do, so I wrote quick emails to Renee and Angela, then changed into a t-shirt and sweatpants and settled down in bed with my favorite dog-eared copy of Pride and Prejudice.

Before long, I switched off the lamp and drifted off to a peaceful, unusually dreamless sleep. I'm sure I wouldn't have slept so well had I known that my life was about to be turned upside down and shaken.