Thank you Catharticone, for being beta on WOL. I really appreciate your help. :)
Worthy of Love
The week of sunshine had passed by, and the Cullen kids were back in school now that clouds had returned to the Island. It seemed to have put them all in a glum mood. Regardless, they all returned to their everyday, mundane, human act as expected of them.
Rosalie had quite enjoyed her time off from school to study with Carlisle. They had locked themselves up in his office for days going over techniques for taking vitals on human patients without hurting them. Amanda was her new guinea pig of sorts, being called in as a practice patient for Rosalie to poke at. Amanda was fed up with having her vitals checked every time she walked into the same room as Rosalie. She put her foot down when Rosalie wanted to try drawing blood to run some lab tests. There was no way she was going to voluntarily give her blood to a vampire, family or not! Rosalie was disappointed, but she remained positive that she would talk Amanda into it eventually.
Alice had been in a foul mood for days, however. It was starting to be a problem when Jasper was not around to comfort his mate. If he was not in the same room, she was a wreck. Only Amanda seemed to notice, though.
Alice stormed through the school hallway, neatly dodging the human children, as she made her way towards her cousin. It was lunch, and as usual they would be going to the stairs that lead to the Drama room in the basement. This is where Alice and Amanda usually spent their lunchtime. It was private enough that Alice didn't have to constantly pretend to eat, and Amanda wasn't stared at for being seen with Alice who was a tiny bit intimidating for her small size.
Amanda had left her History class, one of her classes she did not have with her cousin. Susie was in that class with her, and Amanda approached her about a study date they had arranged after swim practice. She wanted to make sure it was still on. It was, Susie's mother insisted. Susie apologized for her mother repeatedly, but she did admit she was glad Amanda was coming over. So, Amanda made a decision to do a little inviting on her own.
"Hey Aly!" she greeted Alice. "Whoa! What is with your face?" Alice was not smiling. In fact, Alice looked peeved. It was not something Amanda was used to seeing.
"Oh, I don't know…maybe it is reacting to the way I am feeling inside! Hurt. Confused. Betrayed!" Alice announced rather dramatically, enumerating her feelings on her fingers. Amanda could only stare unblinkingly at her tiny cousin, who looked harmless most days, but now looked rather alarming in her slightly Goth appearance.
"I'm…sorry?" Amanda guessed. That was not the right response. Without Jasper beside her to calm her down, Alice was a scary little monster.
"You don't even know what you did?" Alice asked incredulously. She glared at Amanda, standing so close that they were practically touching. Any other human would have been afraid. Amanda knew she was in no real danger, but she was a bit surprised that Alice was upset with her. That was usually very hard to accomplish. Alice was Amanda's cheerleader most times.
"I'm still sorry. Please stop snarling at me. You'll freak people out!" Amanda whispered, looking around to make sure no one was watching. It was amazing how self-absorbed the other kids were. In a hallway crowded with students, not one seemed to notice the angry vampire.
"How could you?" Alice inquired.
Amanda was still staring unblinkingly. Her mouth dropped and she shrugged. "I still don't know what I did!" she exclaimed loudly.
"You invited that Susie girl to eat with us on the stairs. You know… where you eat and I don't have to pretend to eat?!" Alice ranted, hushing her voice to not prevent eavesdroppers.
Amanda understood now. "Oh," she said, her mouth forming a perfect 'O'.
"Don't deny it. I saw when you decided to invite her! I assume you already went through with it because Susie is in the girl's bathroom now giving herself a pep talk!" Alice announced, but not too loudly. She didn't want Susie's name to be overheard. The poor girl had it hard enough, what with her already low self-esteem.
"I'm not denying it," Amanda answered, "I did invite her, but only becau-"
"Well, if you didn't want to eat with me you should have just said so. You can just go eat with all the other humans!" Alice whispered harshly.
She was concerned that if Amanda made human friends they would exclude her from their activities and she would no longer be as close with Amanda. She had seen bad things flickering in Amanda's future lately and wanted to keep her cousin close to her for safety's sake.
"It is not like that, Aly. I want you to eat with us, too. I just forgot you don't eat, that's all! I'm sorry!"
"You still should have run this by me first! We are best friends, after all! I have a bad feeling about this Susie…"
"What? Why?" Amanda was confused. "She is just some science nerd who needs some friends. Have you seen her? She could really use our help, fashion-wise!"
Alice smirked, liking that angle. "True. However, I think we need to be cautious around her…"
"She can't even swim in a straight line, Alice. I don't think she is a threat!" Amanda teased.
Alice smiled. She had no concrete proof that Susie was the change in Amanda's life that was making her future flicker like a delicate flame caught in a draft. She couldn't really justify making Amanda stay away from the girl.
"Fine," she murmured. "I don't like it, though. We usually talk about these things first."
"I know. I really am sorry. Don't be mad. Susie eats alone in Mrs. Gripp's classroom every day — no joke. She has no one else to spend the lunch hour with… I had to ask her to join us. It seemed wrong not to!" Amanda begged for forgiveness. She honestly had not seen Alice reacting this way.
Alice's expression softened. What Amanda said about Susie eating in a teacher's classroom alone had touched her. She would feel guilty if she denied the girl some companionship. After all, she knew what it was like to have no friends at school. Kids were mean, and before Amanda Alice didn't have any friends outside her family.
"You can just say you aren't hungry. Susie won't notice. Please don't be angry," Amanda begged, pouting prominently to make Alice give in to her. That gesture usually worked on Alice, who only wanted to the best for Amanda most of the time.
"I am not angry. She can eat with us," the little, black-haired vampire gave in.
Amanda hugged Alice, whose head pressed against Amanda neck due to the fact Alice was still a lot shorter in height, even with heels.
Alice giggled and pushed Amanda away as she noticed the scent of blood pulsing though her cousin. "You tease! I could stand to feed too, you know!"
Amanda smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, Aly."
The day had gone by rather uneventfully. Alice had been civil during lunch, but Amanda sensed her resentment toward Susie. Luckily, Susie didn't seem to pick up on it. She was just elated to have people to spend the lunch hour with.
Swim practice came and went in a blur, Amanda only being kicked once by her motor-function challenged friend — no black eye this time!
Amanda was just finishing up in the change room. She had on her pajamas under a pair of loose sweatpants that read, 'Swimming' across the bum. Alice loathed these pants, but Amanda thought they were comfortable, and that was the point, so she wore them anyway. She slipped on her winter coat and slung her duffle bag over her shoulder then headed out.
Susie had pretty much shied away from her after she had made the corny mention of friendship to her during practice. Amanda decided not to push the girl. If Susie didn't want her as a friend then she was not going to beg.
Esme was waiting inside the doors of the Rec Center. She looked stunning in a black wool coat with a dark-brown wolverine fur collar. It was a princess cut and tied at the waist where there were two medium sized buttons, and the cuffs on the sleeves were folded over and buttoned the same. If Amanda didn't know Esme, she would be staring like the other parents and swimmers who were passing by. Esme didn't seem to notice. She smiled lovingly at Amanda.
"How was your swim, darling?"
"Good," Amanda replied and didn't stop as she walked towards the door. Esme kept the pace and placed her arm around Amanda's shoulder as they made their way outside. "Nice coat by the way!" Amanda complimented, but her tone hinted that the style was out of date. Esme really did look like a movie heroine from the fifties at the moment, what with her hair in perfect, soft finger waves and rolled under at the ends.
"Thank you. This was mine when I was just a young girl. I am most pleased it still fits and the materials have held up after all these years. It really is a beautiful coat. It is Alice approved, just you do know," Esme said, laughing lightly.
Amanda smiled. Even though her family members often stood out, she could never say that the embarrassment she felt was because of their poor appearance or reputation. It was nice to be a part of a reputable family for a change. Her mother and Donna Combs were nowhere near classy at the best of times.
"Yooohoo!" A shrill voice sang out to get both Esme's and Amanda's attention.
They stopped outside Esme's silver Audi and turned to see a tall, thin woman dressed in tight pink pants and a puffy, white parka. She had blonde hair, but an inch of dark brown roots showing, and garish, pink lipstick and blue eye shadow on her face. She jogged up and stopped short. "Hi! I'm Barb Bloom, Susie's mom," she explained.
Esme smiled pleasantly and looked at Amanda fondly, assuming Susie was a friend. "Esme Cullen," she introduced herself and held out a gloved hand to shake Barbara Bloom's hand. "It is nice to meet you." Susie shyly walked up behind her mom, looking like she wanted to disappear.
"It is so nice to finally meet you," Barb stated, smacking on some gum like she was some valley high teen from the eighties. She clearly thought she was still a young girl, just by her dress and her attitude. "And you must be Amanda! Susie has told me only nice things about you! She tells me you're quite the speedy swimmer!"
"Uh…ya. Hi," Amanda answered modestly. Susie was looking at the ground.
"Well, I don't want to keep you. You probably have to get home for dinner. I just wanted to stop by and introduce myself and invite Amanda over to our house tomorrow night for dinner after they study. That is…if that is okay with you, Esme?" Barb asked. "The girls have some sort of Science lab to do, isn't that right, Susie?" She smiled and nudged her daughter. Susie nodded.
Amanda was not sure what to say. She didn't want to go. She hardly knew Susie, and her mother appeared to be Hooker Barbie judging by appearance. However, it was true, they had planned to complete a lab report together since they were partners on that project, and it would help to have extra time to work on it together.
"That is very kind of you to offer. Amanda, what do you say?" Esme said.
"Uh, ya. That sounds good," Amanda replied.
Barb shrieked and clapped her hands like a giddy child. "Great! Then I will pick the girls up from practice tomorrow and they can eat and study over at our place. What time is Amanda allowed to be out until on a school night?"
Esme was surprised the woman asked. She didn't strike her as a mom too concerned with rules like curfew, though it was wrong to judge a woman she only just met moments ago. "Oh, I am not sure. I suppose no later than eight. If you want to give me your address and phone number now I will pick her up at-"
"Oh, no no. I will drive her home when the girls are done with their schoolwork. No problem. We live down the road a bit from your home. My ex worked on the roofing when it was built, actually. So I know the location."
"That is kind of you to drive her. Perhaps I could have your phone number and address anyhow, just in case plans change or if — Heaven forbid — an emergency arises," Esme insisted gently, pulling out her wallet with a pen and paper tucked inside. Barb happily wrote down her information for Esme and handed back the pen.
"Alright, then. See you tomorrow after practice, Amanda. Oh, it is so nice that you two have made friends!" Barb exclaimed.
Amanda was confused at how she had gotten roped into this whole thing, but she smiled and nodded gingerly. Susie lifted her hand to wave good-bye, still looking mortified by her mother. Barb nudged her daughter with her elbow sharply.
"Bye, Amanda," Susie peeped.
"Ya. See you in class tomorrow," Amanda replied. She put her hand on the Audi's handle to signify she was ready to leave.
"Nice meeting you, Barb," Esme sang in the most elegant tone.
Barb smacked her gum loudly and nodded. "Ya. You too! Come on, Susie."
Then they turned and walked away to get into a little, green Volkswagen. It looked to be twenty years old at least, and it had bumper stickers galore on the entire back bumper. The car boomed to life, and dark grey smoke puffed from the exhaust when it powered up and peeled away.
Amanda tossed her swim bag in the back seat and then climbed into the front, passenger side seat of the brand new silver Audi and closed the door. Esme was already sitting in the driver's seat, and when she turned on the engine it barely made a sound.
After she ate, Amanda had to endure a few minutes of Alice giving her the silent treatment for making afterschool plans that didn't involve her. "Seriously, Aly…it was not up to me. We were ambushed!" It was her new favorite word since last week when Rosalie had attacked her with a needle and Carlisle had surprised her with a preemptive sex talk. 'Thank goodness that is over,' Amanda thought.
"Oh, darling. It was hardly an ambush. I think it is nice that you are making new friends at school," Esme added her take on the invitation. Amanda was at the table, writing out definitions from her History class textbook. She had a quiz on the terms the next day. She looked up and stared incredulously at her aunt.
"Ya! So nice you're making new friends!" Alice repeated, still pouting, this time a bit on the playful side, though she remained troubled by the blind spots in her visions.
Amanda laughed at Alice for making such a big deal about it.
"No need for me any more when you can be friends with Susie." Alice twisted the name unpleasantly.
"It is not like that, Aly. I tried to be nice to her, but she is…weird…or something and she doesn't seem to want to be friends. That is why I am surprised her mom came over and invited me to their house."
"She is shy, Amanda," Esme stood up on Susie's behalf.
"With a mom like that — no wonder!"
"Amanda," Esme said her name lowly, and shook her head. Amanda was surprised her aunt was wagging a finger at her. That was the look Esme had in her eyes.
"What? Her mom yells things at her when we are at practice. It is so annoying. Susie hates swimming, by the way. Her mom is like…I dunno…some crazy, dictator lady telling her what to do!"
Alice giggled at Amanda's strong words.
Esme did not seem as amused. "I think it is sweet she wants you to come over. You need a nice, human friend. It will be good for you," Esme cooed thinking of how much Amanda had grown and all the milestones she was hitting at this age.
"The lady actually said yoohoo. She's not normal!" Amanda justified her reason for thinking Barbara Bloom was a little strange.
Esme just gave her a look, but didn't argue that fact.
"I don't like you spending time with that Susie. There is something about her that is off!" Alice stated her piece sharply. Amanda wasn't sure what that meant, but they didn't dwell on it, seeing as Alice was acting like a jealous brat…again.
Amanda was feeling pretty good, in spite of Alice's sudden neediness, which troubled her slightly. She was not going to admit it, but she was kind of happy that Susie was somewhat interested in being her friend. It would be nice to have someone her own age and human to talk to sometimes. She smiled at the thought, and she continued to copy out the definitions from her textbook onto her paper.
Alice sighed, getting up from her seat at the table. "You don't need help with your homework, do you?" she asked Amanda routinely. Amanda shook her head, no.
Without another word, Alice was gone. No one else seemed to be worried that Alice was acting oddly.
The next day at swim practice…
"Your cousin is really…pretty," Susie piped up as they were stretching on deck before practice. Lunch had been awkward. Susie had hardly spoken a word, what with Alice chattering away in her usual cheer.
"Ya… All of my cousins are good looking. It is kind of annoying." Amanda tried to make light of her unusual family. Susie was not making accusations, but she still didn't want to give her reason to.
"You are just a pretty as she is, though," Susie said a bit hesitantly. But she sounded sincere.
Amanda laughed as she bent down to touch her right foot. "Hah! Ya, right!"
"You are," Susie said gently, seriously.
"Well…thanks," Amanda mumbled, not sure how to take the compliment. "You should see my other cousin, Rosalie. She is, like, supermodel pretty! I look like troll next to her, I swear!" The self-deprecation didn't feel right coming from her mouth. She decided to change topics. "Anyway, I am glad we are going to get the lab done tonight. It will get my uncle off my back. He wishes I was smarter like his kids, but I never seem to do very well. If I don't do well in school they won't let me swim, so it's kinda like blackmail."
Susie nodded lightly, agreeing with Amanda. "That sounds like my mom… Only, she doesn't care how I do in class. She just wants me to be sporty like she was when she was my age. She thinks it will help make me more popular and less of a geek."
"She told you that?" Amanda asked, shocked. "You aren't a geek." It even sounded like a lie.
Susie nodded as she gave a shrug. "Ya, I kinda am, but it's okay… I am fine with it. I think my mom is trying to relive her youth through me. She dresses like a teenager and she tries to be so cool. It is so embarrassing. I wish she would just be a regular mom, you know?" Susie shared.
Amanda nodded sympathetically.
"Like your mom. She seemed great!" Susie exclaimed. Her cheeks blushed when she saw Amanda's stunned face.
"Oh, Esme is not my mom," Amanda explained. She knew why Susie would have thought that. First of all, Esme was the only woman to ever pick her up from swim practice and second, Amanda looked a lot like her biological grandmother. However, she knew she needed to lie — it was expected of her. "She's my aunt."
"Oh. Wow…I could have sworn she was your mom. You look so much like her."
"I know… I get that a lot. She was my dad's sister," Amanda continued to fib.
Susie's face fell a bit. "Was?" she asked cautiously.
"Uh…ya," Amanda replied, she hung her head and bit her lip. She never got the chance to meet Elizabeth's husband before he died. She felt horrible talking about him as though she knew him. "He died when I was eight," she said sadly.
"It's just me and mom, too," Susie shared; her eyes looked for something else to focus on. Amanda was quiet, not knowing how to respond. Susie felt she had done something wrong. "I'm sorry," she apologized, blushing more than ever. "I didn't mean to-"
"No. It's okay. Don't worry about it. It was a long time ago. Eli—, er…my mom and I live with my uncle and aunt now. Sorta like one big family," Amanda said.
Amanda was feeling oddly sick to her stomach over the conversation. She needed, badly, to change the subject. "So, anyway…I am sorry you got stuck with me as a lab partner since I don't know anything about reaction rates and blah blah blah…" Amanda said and rolled her eyes.
Susie smiled. "Oh, I don't mind," she said, standing tall to stretch her arm. Her cheeks were still pink. "I mean…I am glad you're my partner. I usually have to do homework alone. The company will be nice for a change."
"I hope you don't care that I have no idea how to do the lab. Reaction rates or something…I tried to read the lab, but I got lost in all the science words!" Amanda was much more of a literature fan. Math and Science were too strict.
"It's easy. We are just making graphs of the results we got in the lab today and then summarizing our findings. I will show you what to do," Susie replied, confident for once.
Amanda smiled kindly as she swung her arms around in the air.
Susie perked up and added, "Oh, my mom said we could have whatever we want for dinner. I suggested nachos. Is that okay?"
"I think so! I have never had them. It sure sounds good, though," Amanda agreed. She may have had nachos as a young child, but not that she could recall. Elizabeth had never made junk food meals when she lived with her briefly in Kipta, and Esme was not the kind of woman who made such amateur food. She had recipe books from decades ago that didn't include pizza, macaroni and cheese, or nachos.
"You've never had nachos before?" Susie inquired with surprise. Her mom was not a cook. Barbara Bloom knew how to heat things up like a pro, so Susie was no stranger to canned soup, fish sticks, McCain fries, and nachos. The one and only thing Ms. Bloom did make fresh was salsa.
"Nope. I like cheese, though!" Amanda answered with a smile.
"Good. I like lots of cheese on mine, too. Mom makes good nachos. She even makes homemade salsa. It is really good with sour cream, too!" Susie shared. She was beaming now, not as shy as before. She was happy. That happiness faded as the coach came out and announced stretching was over.
"Okay, everybody in! Two hundred warm-ups then read the board for your first set. Go! Go! Go!" Dan called out loudly. Amanda bent down to pick up her cap and goggles and picked up Susie's as well and passed them to her.
"Thanks," Susie peeped, trying not to look at the bleachers.
Susie's mom waved obnoxiously from the side of the deck as they made their way to the edge of the pool. Amanda raised her hand to be polite just as Susie ducked her head and sloppily splashed into the shallow end.
Amanda sat on the edge, slipped her cap on and then placed her goggles on over top before she gently slipped into the cool water. It felt nice. She put her goggles on and did a little dive to get her started, then she began her warm-up. She smiled as she swam, actually excited to be going over to her new friend's house. Susie was not as lame as she thought — she was just shy.
Amanda and Susie made it through practice without any more black eyes.
Susie had to endure, yet again, her mother instructing her from the sidelines. The coach didn't like it either, but he didn't dare argue with Barb Bloom, who looked like a woman who could win a scrap fight. She was nice enough to Amanda, however.
"Wow, Amanda!" Barb cheered as both girls piled into the back seat of the Blooms' punch buggy. "A thirty-six in practice! Is backstroke your best stroke?"
"Uh…not really," Amanda answered shyly. At the end of practice they had done some fifty-meter times prints, and Amanda's time was impressive for her age and for the fact it was swum after a long workout.
"Well, you are going to break some records if you swim like that or better at the meet coming up! The division three, fifty-meter backstroke time to beat is thirty-five seconds!" Barb trilled as she drove out of the parking lot on to a main road.
Amanda smiled without her teeth, trying to be modest, but inside she was happy to have learned that. Her best time was thirty-three; though she had not beat that the last few meets she swam, but she was sure she could swim less than thirty-five.
"You're really fast," Susie mumbled quietly in hopes her mother would not harp on her for not being as good as Amanda.
No such luck. "You should get Amanda to help you with your strokes, Suze!" Barb suggested. "If you could manage to better your technique I think you would pick up some speed as well."
"Sure, Mom. Amanda already said she'd help me," Susie said at a whisper. Amanda agreed with a head nod.
Barb didn't harp on Susie. She turned the music up and danced a bit as she drove down the long stretch of road that led past the Cullens' house. A few minutes more down the road was Sproat Lake RV Park. Ms. Bloom turned in there, and in the far left of the park was a white, rectangular trailer. It was clean, but a little bit banged up from age. It had a string of multi-colored mini lights blinking through the front window. 'Probably left up from Christmas,' Amanda thought.
"It's not much, but it is cozy. Right, Suze?" Barb announced as they exited the vehicle and made their way inside.
Susie didn't answer. She was blushing, yet again. She was embarrassed by the tiny mobile home. She knew that the houses on the lake were all million-dollar homes. She assumed Amanda would think less of her for what she and her mother had.
She didn't know that Amanda had jumped from trailer to basement suite to duplex numerous times because her own mother would always end up getting into arguments with the landlord over rent payments. Amanda was not uncomfortable being in small living spaces. The Blooms' trailer was small, but it was clean and it was warm — two things that had been lacking from Amanda's childhood homes before meeting Elizabeth and the Cullens.
The table and four chairs in the corner of the main living space were cleared off, and Susie put her school bag on one of the chairs, so Amanda did the same thing. Barb went to work in the open kitchen and said, "Dinner will be ready in about fifteen minutes, girls. I just have to heat up the nachos in the oven."
"Thank you, Ms. Bloom," Amanda replied politely, remembering her manners that both Liz and Esme had tried to instill in her.
"Oh, aren't you just the most precious child? How about you call me Barb…or Barbie works too. I used to be called Barbie all the time in school. Gosh, you two don't know how lucky you are…" Barb chatted away about her youth as she worked with her back towards the girls.
Susie ignored her mother and took out some of her graph paper. Amanda followed her lead. Barb continued to talk into the air as she clanked around in the kitchen. Amanda copied what Susie was doing, making a graph with colored markers. Susie's turned out a lot neater and better looking.
"Uh…you have to label X and Y," Susie explained, looking over to Amanda's paper.
"The X is the horizontal line. The Y is the vertical line," Susie explained further.
Amanda still looked slightly confused. It was not as if she hadn't heard that before, but, 'What was X and what was Y?' she wondered.
"X is going to be the rate of the reaction, and Y is going to be temperature," Susie continued. Amanda nodded and followed along, copying what Susie was doing — organizing the recorded numbers they had collected in class that day.
When the nachos were ready they girls put their schoolwork aside and ate. Amanda was surprised and thrilled when Barb took a plate for herself and went to watch TV. It gave her and Susie time to chat and eat without a parent's scrutiny. Susie filled Amanda in on some of the mean girls. She had been to school with Jen Beach since kindergarten, and they used to be friends until the third grade. That was all Susie said, but Amanda understood what it was like to be picked on. She told Susie a little bit about Stacey Peterson.
"But I had Ty!" Amanda blurted out suddenly, not wanting to make Susie think she had no friends.
"Ya. Tyler. He was my best friend. We did everything together. He let me sleepov-" Amanda had to stop when a lump rose from her heart into her throat. It made her stomach clench with guilt to recall all the good Tyler had done for her. He had given her the only normal childhood experiences that she remembered.
She slept over at his house when her mother was drunk and too rough to go home to. Tyler would stand by her side on the playground when the mean girls threw rock from the sidelines. He never left her side. When she was sent to live with Donna, he would come and crawl into her window and bring her food or comic books. He convinced his mother to make him two sandwiches for lunch every day because Donna never packed her one. He even did Amanda's homework for her, knowing she would not have the time or the strength to do it herself after the tragic death of her mother.
Amanda had suppressed her feelings about abandoning Kipta without saying goodbye to Tyler, but now they were resurfacing and hitting her hard as she was making a new friend. She didn't mean to replace him. Her mouth tasted bitter with betrayal. "I — uh…he was a good friend," she mumbled. "I miss him, but we are not allowed to talk and I don't even have his e-mail."
"You are not allowed to talk to him?" Susie asked, much to Amanda's horror. She had said too much already.
"No," she replied simply, going back to her homework.
And Susie seemed to know not to ask for more details.
Maybe she can call him from my house sometime if I can get his number,' Susie thought innocently. She wanted to help Amanda if she could, and that is the sort of thing that a friend would offer. She didn't know then that it would lead to many interesting discoveries about her new friend.
A few hours later, Barb Bloom dropped Amanda off at the lakeside house. Amanda told her she could leave her at the top of the drive, but Barb insisted on driving her right to the house so she could see she got inside safely. It was a nice gesture, but Amanda could tell Barb was also curious to see the three-story house. It was quite remarkable.
"Uh…thank you for having me…and for dinner. It was very good," Amanda said as Susie got out of and slid the passenger seat up so Amanda could hop out from the back seat of the rusty Volkswagen.
"Oh, of course, Amanda. Come over anytime you'd like. We enjoyed having another girl in the house, didn't we Suze?"
"Thanks for coming over, Amanda," Susie told Amanda softly, but with complete sincerity. She was just hoping that nothing Amanda saw, or something her or her mother said, would make Amanda shy away.
"I think I might get a decent grade on this assignment. That will be a first!" Amanda said to lighten the strain on her new friend's face. Susie was pleased and waved back to Amanda as she got back into her mother's car. They waited until Amanda opened the front door to leave, and Amanda thought it was best to wave one last time in case Susie was still looking. Then she went in and closed the door.
Amanda was tired from the draining day. It took a lot of effort to be on your best behavior. New people were a lot more work to appease than familiar family members. And the heavy workout at swim practice had worn her out as well — not to mention the upset of reliving her grief over losing Tyler.
Amanda had nearly made it to her room without interference when Alice popped her head into the hallway. "Did you have fun with your new friend?" she asked coldly.
She didn't like being blind when it came to things surrounding Amanda. Children's futures were always changing due to their lack of decision making, but even if this was not the case, there was something dangerous about this science nerd. Alice wasn't sure, but she had a feeling.
Amanda halted and stared dumbfounded at her cousin for a moment. She couldn't find words, and Alice didn't back down so she ducked into her room and shut the door as gently as she was able. The slam was not as violent as some other occasions, but to every vampire in the house it was a significant volume.
"What in hell's name was that about?" Rosalie spat as she and Emmet exited their bedroom.
Elizabeth came up the stairs and raised her brow at them both. Jasper emerged into the hall as well. Alice shrugged — not having to repeat her question since it was likely they all heard her ask — and smoothed out her blazer apathetically.
Amanda's muffled sobs could be heard slightly through the well-insulated door. She thought the pillow would hide the sounds.
Elizabeth gave Jasper a pleading glance and he complied with a short answer. "She's upset."
"No shit, Oh Great One," Rosalie snapped. "Any more helpful insights, or should we ask Alice what the future holds?"
"Don't you talk to him like that!" Alice snarled back.
"Oh boohoo. Jasper is a big boy, Alice. He can take it. What is your deal?" Rosalie folded her arms across her chest and glared at her little sister for an explanation. "You are usually all hearts and rainbows over Amanda."
"I don't know. I just asked her how her play date went and she lost it! Don't blame me!" Alice defended.
"You were too harsh with her, and you know it!"
"You're one to talk."
"Oh, shut it, Alice. I think you should go apologize to her," Rosalie instructed impatiently.
"I will not! I didn't do anything wrong!"
"You made her cry!"
"She is more sad than angry — guilty — and I don't think this is all about Alice," Jasper tried to shed light on the situation.
"Maybe she has PMS again or something," Emmet shared his take, at which Rosalie rolled her eyes at the comment's ridiculous notion.
"She's just being selfish again, that's all," Alice complained.
"Oh, be quiet, Alice. Act your age for once. You're over a century old for Christ's sake!" Rosalie barked at her sister. Oh, if Carlisle had been around to hear that, he would have been appalled.
Alice leaned forward with a fierce growl erupting from her tiny chest. Jasper touched her shoulder to settle her down, but Rosalie growled back, only making Alice more perturbed.
"I feel some hair pulling coming on…" Emmet teased in a high voice. His joke was not well received.
"Enough!" shouted Elizabeth. Her voice made everyone jump. None of them were used to her raising her voice. Since her transformation she had played it very low profile. "Now…your parents are out of the house and that puts me in charge. I want everyone who is not involved to go to his or her rooms and stay there. Alice, you are clearly upset about something yourself, so you will stay and have a chat with me. Understood?" She made the point to meet everyone's eyes to let them know she meant business.
"Uh, yes, Ma'am," Jasper replied serenely, trying to leave the atmosphere as peaceful as he could muster. He gave Alice a reassuring nod.
Rosalie huffed away and tugged Emmet along with her. "Woot, Liz!" Emmet bellowed as he hurried to Rosalie's bedroom. "Way to bring the hammer down on us!" Rosalie pulled him inside hastily and shut the door before Elizabeth could respond.
Once the others had gone, Elizabeth approached Alice slowly and reached out to her. Alice sighed and conceded. "I'm sorry, Liz. I shouldn't have said that to Amanda. I don't know why I did it. I didn't know it would make her cry. I am just so worried about her, I overreacted."
"I don't think I am the one who you should be telling this to. If you have something to say to Amanda you should be forthright with her so she knows where you stand. Most likely it is a misunderstanding that has you two at odds."
"Ya, I guess so," Alice agreed, feeling foolish to be chastised by Elizabeth. Her parents would be so ashamed, the felt. She frowned deeply at her own behavior. She was one to punish her own self when she did wrong.
"I very much doubt Amanda is crying solely because of your statement a few moments ago," Elizabeth offered, seeing that Alice was now truly sorry. "She is troubled over something else and it would be really nice if her best friend could help her sort it out. Would you do that for me, please? Go and talk to her?"
"I — Uh, ya. I will." Alice nodded and her lips twitched into a sheepish smile. "Thanks, Liz."
She took a few steps closer to Amanda's bedroom and listened. The sobs were quieter now. When she looked behind her, Elizabeth had disappeared. She took a steadying breath and knocked three times on the thick, wood door.
"I'm busy!" Amanda said bravely, hoping her breakdown was not known. She should have known better than to think she could keep anything secret in the Cullen house.
"It's me, Mandi," Alice answered softly. "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings. Please let me come in."
The paused was almost unbearable for Alice.
"Come in," Amanda relented.
Alice was swift and shut the door behind her, then turned to Amanda. The tears were wiped away, but Alice's keen sight could clearly discern the puffiness of her eyes.
"I didn't mean to make you cry. I don't know what got into me."
"It's not you," Amanda whimpered in spite of her efforts to be strong.
"I think I am a bit...jealous. I'm sorry," Alice admitted.
Amanda was taken by surprise by Alice's admission.
Alice continued, "I felt so alone tonight when you didn't come home. I worry about you just as much as Mom and Dad do, you know? Usually we do everything together, and now with Susie you are starting to leave me-"
"I was only gone for a few hours more than a usual evening. It wasn't even my choice," Amanda explained.
"Perhaps I am being ridiculous. I just love you so much I want you to stay near so I know you are safe. I think seeing you make friends with someone your age made me act a little possessive," Alice admitted.
"You're still my best friend, Alice. Even if I make other friends, I mean. I know you don't like hanging out with other kids since you can't be yourself around them, but if you want to join me when I am with others…that would work, too. I don't want you to stay away just because I have other friends."
"Good, 'cause I want to be with you every second I can. Well…" Alice suddenly stopped to contemplate her words.
"Ya, ya… Except for when you're with Jasper. That's different. I get it," Amanda smiled.
Alice beamed and suddenly she was squeezing Amanda into her for a hug. But she had not completed her task yet. She had not solved what was making her young cousin so sad that she would breakdown so easily. Alice held Amanda out to get a good look at her.
"So…what is the matter, Mandi…really?"
"I miss Ty, sometimes, Aly." Amanda's head stayed down, but her eyes lifted to find Alice's. "I still feel bad about leaving without saying goodbye."
Alice hugged Amanda. "We had to keep you safe..."
Meanwhile, in her room back at the trailer park, Susie was doing research. It didn't take the smart girl long to find newspaper articles on Cole Roth, Amanda's supposed father. She read in horror about the terrible plane crash that took his life, feeling horrible for being so snoopy into her friend's past.
Susie's intentions were pure. She was only trying to see if she could find a phone number or something for Tyler so she could call him for Amanda and get his e-mail. She wanted to surprise Amanda by reuniting her with Tyler.
Susie had no idea how dangerous this quest would be…
Until her search lead her to Elizabeth Roth's obituary.
'That's odd,' she decided.
Susie had never met Amanda's mother, but she had heard the name several times. It was her, that was for sure. It clearly mentioned her husband's previous passing and how there was no memorial because her body had mysteriously gone missing from the hospital in Prince George. There were other articles as well…and Susie couldn't help but read on.
She was just reading another article about a woman from Kipta who was searching for her kid when her mother stepped up behind her and read the screen over her shoulder.
"I went to elementary school her! Donna. Donna Combs. She moved to the interior for high school, but her brother is married to my hairdresser. I spoke with him a few weeks ago when I ran into him at the supermarket. Apparently his sister is searching for some child who got taken away from her a few years ago… Knowing Donna, it is for money or some other bullshit reason. The child is better off without her, if you ask me."
Susie was a bright girl. She understood immediately that the child in question was Amanda. Thank goodness Barb Bloom was not the best at reading her own daughter's body language. She kissed the crown of Susie's head and told her it was time for bed without suspecting a thing.
And Susie went to bed.
To Be Continued…
Hmmm...so what do you think? Kinda uh oh, eh? :S
Thank you to Turbotalker for her suggestion. She must be a mind reader to have seen this one coming, but I did sway things a bit in her suggestion because she had some great ideas. :D
Thanks for reading! Feedback is welcome. :)
Coming up- News of Donna shocks the Cullen family and Amanda panics and goes on the run!