A/N: This is a one shot for the_gazebo's The Essence of Charlie Swan Challenge. I have always been curious about Charlie. I think that some of the time in SMeyer's world, he is ignored. Granted, we are looking through teenage girl's eyes and sometimes those connections are the hardest to identify and define.
Summary: One shot for the_gazebo Charlie challenge. Charlie comes home to an empty house. He doesn't know where Bella is. His two societal roles struggle to keep him in check as he searches to find out where Bella is.
Disclaimer: Don't own.
No one answered back.
Her car was parked in the driveway, but the house was eerily empty. No lights were on. Not the noisy yellow porch light or the small faded purple lamp on the round table by the window in the living room. He flipped the switch on the wall that would turn on the lone light source for the room.
It was past six o'clock and Charlie half expected to come home to his daughter Bella cooking up one of her delicious dinners for the two of them. He was ever grateful that she took on that duty. Charlie didn't know the first thing about fried chicken unless it came in a bucket already made. He was glad the fish fry he received from Harry Clearwater on occasion was already breaded and all he had to do was put it in the pan. He looked at food as pure sustenance and nothing more. Bella had transformed his kitchen into what it was supposed to be used for.
He stepped out of his thick rubber soled work boots. The smell of a hard days work would normally be erased by the wafting smells from the oven.
He peered up at the stairs just off the living room. Maybe he could hear her up in her room. He never asked her to, but Bella was always downstairs with him whenever Charlie came home. Edward, he mentally corrected himself. He knew his daughter was head over heels for the boy. It scared him that Bella was so attached to him. Throughout the summer, he'd park in front of the couch, watch the clock, and wait for her return. He never could stay up late enough because of his constant work schedule and the daily Vitamin R he consumed. He tried to reassure himself that he was only finally feeling the first twinges of being the father of a teenage daughter. Maybe he knew too much about teenage boys (and did he ever know what they were like) or that he didn't know enough about his daughter with her emotions.
Charlie only took the steps one at a time, reaching her room at a leisurely pace. The door was closed, so he knocked two times before entering.
No one answered back.
He turned the cold, brass knob. As he peeked his head inside, he only needed to see the little bit of her feet on the bed; she was possibly so consumed in homework that she tuned out all sounds around her. Or he could catch a glimpse at her typing on the computer with the headphones to her CD player in her ears.
She wasn't there.
Charlie was grateful in that moment for the profession he chose. Crises weren't an everyday occurrence in the small town he watched over, but when they came up Charlie was the cool headed Chief. He rarely had to draw his gun; anticipating the next step correctly. Charlie the Chief's next step was to call up one of Bella's friends. She could've made a last minute decision to visit a friend or stay over their house for dinner.
He entered the kitchen, flipped on the kitchen light. He dialed the numbers of the first call. Bella had been reluctant to give him the number to the Cullen's house; another twinge of unchartered fatherhood territory. Edward was actually the one to give it to Charlie; Charlie could get behind a guy who thought much about his daughter's safety.
Once he reached the kitchen, he picked up the receiver and called the Cullen's. The dial tone rang and rang. No answering machine clicked on.
He had several of the townsfolk numbers memorized. He attempted the Stanley's first, hearing Bella mention their daughter Jessica's name the most when he asked her about school. Second to the boy his daughter had eyes for.
Mrs. Stanley picked up. "No, Chief Swan. Bella isn't here."
Much of the same response came from the other houses he called.
Bella would've called Charlie at the station if she wasn't going to be home. She didn't have a cell phone and would have to either call him from home or visit the station. If she was out and away from Forks, she would ring him on a payphone. Charlie always taught Bella about safety and it wasn't like her to leave him hanging, he thought.
Something felt off.
Charlie cupped and rubbed the side of his neck with his hand, a nervous tick of his. He had to find more pieces to officially declare his daughter missing.
He walked to the front door, tracing her likely footsteps. His mind briefly flashed to the image of tiny black shoes that eight year old Bella wore. It was the first summer she came to visit him. He picked her up at the airport. Renee would send him pictures once in a while, but Renee was scatterbrained and would let things slip. The one he held in his hand was the one of her pre-school graduation four years earlier. When he arrived at the airport, he was afraid he wouldn't recognize her. He would often wish that he was around to watch her grow. Be there for all the first days of school and the birthday parties she would attend. He missed Renee too, but Bella more so. His fears of recognizing her were settled once he saw her step out of the gate, her hand in the hand of the chaperon who was with her on the plane.
Since the photo was sent to him, she had grown a few more inches, her hair had also developed a small amount of curl to it, and she was turning more and more into an actual person. He wasn't sure if that delighted or scared him.
After the front door, he walked through the living room looking at the coffee table. Nothing was indicative of her having been in it. The blanket on the back of the couch was in the same spot as the morning, nobody had disturbed the fabric from leaning their back into it. The remote control and the magazines arranged on the in their usual position. No evidence of afternoon snacks scattered on the table.
He reached the kitchen once more. Nothing escaped his notice. He checked the sink for dirty dishes. As he stood over the sink, he remembered a conversation he eavesdropped on with Bella and Edward.
"Edward, you didn't need to give my father your home number." The plates and bowls clattered loudly against one another.
"There is safety in numbers." Edward cleverly quipped back to her. This is true, Charlie mentally agreed.
A small scuffle ensued. Likely involving water, as Charlie entered not too much later noticing water on Edward's shirt.
Safety. That was the first and last word he wanted to worry about with his daughter at the moment.
He continued his search for a clue. Everything looked just about in place as it did in the morning when he left. The green placemats and the small wicker fruit basket sat on the round kitchen table untouched. Even the soft cushioned chairs hadn't been moved.
He rubbed his hands up and down his face. Charlie the Chief was losing the battle to keep the Father at bay. He looked out the back kitchen door that led to the porch for a moment. Maybe thinking about something else will give him an answer. They always say that things will appear when you aren't looking for it.
That's how Renee and he happened. He was a young man, looking to become a part of the police force. There really wasn't too much needed to work for them, especially with a town as small as Forks. Charlie wasn't the smartest, but he had hunches. Charlie was already friends with some of the men at the station as well.
They decided to have a barbecue for Charlie's police academy graduation. Charlie was just getting his life started and it was a promising feeling. He stared into his red cup filled with lite beer, with that thought in mind.
"Congratulations, Chief Charlie." A pair of flat, intricately designed shoes came into his vision from under the cup.
He looked up into the eyes of an unfamiliar face. The brightest blue eyes he had ever seen smiled into his brown ones. She had the longest, prettiest dirty blonde hair. Her long spaghetti strapped sundress flowed, making her look like summer in human form.
"Oh." Charlie shyly smiled. "I'm not Chief just yet. Maybe years from now."
"No. I see you becoming one very soon."
"See me?" Charlie was utterly perplexed that this woman he knew for no more than ten seconds was telling him what he would become.
"I've been studying tarot cards, palm readings, auras…all that psychic mumbo jumbo. I can see and feel your future. It's a bright one."
"That is awfully kind of you to look into it for me. What else can you see about me?"
"Hmm…" She drummed her fingers on her chin. She stared at his mouth and the cup of beer. "I can tell you how much that beer is going to affect you."
Charlie laughed first at the woman and then into his cup. Suddenly, a set of hands were on either side of his face. The woman's eyes closed as she leaned in and smelled his mouth. Her fingers rubbed in his hair above his ears. Charlie knew he had drunk a couple of beers already, and his inhibitions weren't exactly solid. A few more inches and he could plant a peck on her lips.
"Nope. You'll be fine the rest of the night." She stepped back suddenly.
Charlie felt empty at her absence. He was intrigued by this fresh woman. She clearly wasn't from the small town; her personality and upfront gestures would be gossip. He wasn't sure if it was the beer that was really affecting him or being elated at the prospects of his new job, but he wanted to know the name of this downright interesting person. "If you don't mind me asking, what is your name?"
"Renee Higginbotham." She curtsied, pulling her dress out wide.
He swirled the cup around in his hand. "Did you see me asking you?" Charlie played along with her.
Renee smiled. "You are a hard person to read."
Charlie had been told that many times before. Both professionally and in weekly poker matches with his friends.
"But, I do know one thing. You are going to do a fine job at keeping everyone safe in the town of Forks, Chief." Renee placed a hand on Charlie's upper arm.
Those words were mocking the Chief and Father. He stepped away from the porch door and memory, walking to the refrigerator instead. He felt wrong doing it, but maybe a beer would calm him down. It would open him up a little bit.
Then there it was. The paper was pressed against the door with a silver magnet. The words telling him exactly what had happened to Bella.
Going for a walk with Edward, up the path, back soon, B.
He stared at the letter. He tried to read in between the lines; there was always something behind the words when it came to the law, Charlie thought. Bella could be telling him something in that one sentence.
She was going for a walk with Edward, which implied leisure, comfort, and safety.
Up the path, this meant that she really can't be too far. Charlie never took Bella for someone to stray far from the path. Or from a routine either.
Back soon. When was soon? The Chief and Father were both disturbed by those two words.
He clung onto the paper for dear life as he walked out the back door, starting his search again.
A/N: The title of this one shot was taken from a lyric in the song Antarctica by The Weepies.