Bella Swan sighed as she drove past the sign welcoming them to Forks, Washington. Her best friend, Alice Brandon, looked at her, but made no comment, there was no need to. After being friends for 10 years they both knew what each other were thinking and Alice knew exactly what Bella thought of Forks.
Bella had grown up in the small, rainy town most of her life. Her parents, Charlie and Renee, had moved from Seattle shortly before she was born, neither wanting to raise a family in the city. Charlie became the Chief of Police and Renee played the part of stay-at-home mom until Bella was school aged and then went on to teach first grade.
Bella had a normal childhood complete with birthday parties, backyard BBQ's, trips to the zoo, and family dinner on Sunday. She actually thought she had the perfect family. Until the fighting started and those family dinners she always thought were lame disappeared. Bella was thirteen when her mother told her they were moving to Phoenix. Charlie was staying in Forks. Her parents were getting a divorce. She felt like her entire world was falling apart. She remembered crying for days unable to do anything else. She knew begging them to get back together wouldn't work. She had no choice but to move to Phoenix with Renee.
Phoenix was the complete opposite of Forks. It was sunny and hot and rarely rained. And it was huge! Bella was sure she'd need a map to get around for the first, oh, of couple years. But she slowly settled into her new home, her new school and made new friends. Despite being unsure about her new life, she grew to love Phoenix. She only saw Charlie during the summer and soon Forks didn't seem like home anymore to Bella. She was happy in Phoenix with the sun, the sand, and the heat, but as much as she wanted to cut Forks out of her life forever, she couldn't. Charlie only had her, even if it was only for 8 weeks out of the year.
The summer before she graduated high school, Bella had been visiting Charlie when he announced he had met someone. Her name was Esme Cullen and she'd just moved to Forks. They'd met in line at the Thriftway, and after a bit of chit-chat, Charlie invited her out for coffee.
"You'll like her, Bells," Charlie said the first time they met. "She's really funny and smart too! She owns her own decorating business."
And Bella had liked her. She brought out the fun side of Charlie, a side Bella hadn't seen in years. Bella knew right from the start they were perfect for each other.
Now that Charlie had someone in his life besides her, Bella felt a little less guilty about "quitting" Forks after graduation. Since that summer five years ago, she had only been to visit Charlie, and Esme now, a handful of times.
She had no intention of coming back this summer either, but then Charlie called.
"I'm getting married, kid!" he announced.
"That's great, Dad!" And it really was.
Then Esme had gotten on the phone and asked her to be a bridesmaid.
"Sure, Esme I'd love to." Not.
It wasn't that she was against weddings in general; she was just against weddings that involved her in any way. But here she was, about to spend two glorious weeks in Forks. Of course, Alice had to be dragged along for the ride.
"C'mon, Bella," Alice said breaking into her thoughts, "it won't be that bad."
"How do you figure?"
"Weddings always have single men," she said grinning.
"Single men my dad's age."
Alice shrugged. "With age comes experience."
Bella rolled her eyes.
"So, what am I supposed to do while you're off doing bridesmaid stuff?"
"Um, come with me?" Bella quickly glanced at her friend. "Esme promised all I had to do was show up for rehearsal, the actual act, and that's it."
"Isn't there more to it than that?"
"Not for me," Bella said with a grin.
Alice didn't look convinced.
Bella turned onto Charlie's street and then into his driveway a few seconds later. His cruiser was there, along with Esme's lime green VW Beetle, and another car that Bella did not recognize.
Charlie was at the front door before they'd even gotten out of the car.
Bella met him half way, giving him a quick hug before turning back to Alice. "Dad, this is Alice Brandon. Esme said I could bring a date," Bella explained with a wink.
"She wishes." Alice smiled, walking towards them. "I'm a lot cooler than anyone she dates."
Charlie chuckled and held out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Alice."
"You, too, Mr. Swan," Alice said shaking his hand.
"Please, call me Charlie."
Charlie slung an arm around Bella's shoulders and steered them towards the house. Bella nodded towards the strange vehicle.
"Wedding guests staying with you?" she asked.
"Oh, that's Esme's brother's car." He opened the door for them. "Didn't I tell you she had a brother?"
"No, I think you skipped that detail."
"Oh. Well, he's my best man," Charlie said as if that explained everything.
"Skipped that one, too," Bella muttered entering the house.
She noticed the changes to the décor immediately. The old square oak table was no longer in the kitchen. In its place was a round dark table with a glass top, and of course matching dining room chairs. Dark paneled walls still surrounded them, but a tan color had replaced the bright yellow cabinets, and the white linoleum had been traded in for hardwood floors. New furniture was in the living room as well and the old pictures that once cluttered the top of the fire place had vanished. There were still a couple of her, but fine art took up most of the space. Bella also noticed new carpet.
"Wow, Dad you've really spiffed up the place."
Charlie's cheeks turned a faint pink. "Yeah, well, that's Esme's touch. She really knows what she's doing," he added as if he was defending her work.
"No, I like it. It looks good," Bella assured him.
Everyone turned towards the stairs where the voice had come from. Esme smiled, her caramel-colored hair, which she'd added blond streaks too, hung around her heart-shaped face. Bella had never seen her hair so long before. Usually she kept the cut chin length.
"Hey, Esme." Bella smiled.
"Hello, dear." Esme hugged her and then turned to Alice.
"Hi, I'm Alice," she said not waiting for Bella to introduce them.
Esme nodded. "Welcome to our home, Alice."
"Thanks." Alice smiled.
Charlie excused himself to get the bags out of the car when Esme looked at Bella.
"I hope you don't mind, but your father and I purchased a new bed so we put my old double in your room. It'll give you and Alice more room than a twin anyway."
"Oh." Bella looked at Alice, who shrugged, and then back at Esme. "No, that's fine."
"Unless, you'd prefer not to share a bed," Esme added quickly. "The couch is a pull out, so one of you could sleep on that. I just thought you'd want the privacy of the bedroom."
"Really, Esme, sharing a bed is no problem," Bella said, looking at Alice to confirm this.
"Yeah, no problem," Alice repeated. "We've bunked together before and survived."
Esme beamed. "Wonderful! Now, Bella we have a dress fitting tomorrow at noon and after that-"
Esme was cut off by a soft, but strong masculine voice.
"-no idea why women have to bring so much stuff!" His grin was teasing as he entered the house, Alice's huge suitcase dragging behind him.
Bella's mouth went dry at the sight of the blond god that had just walked into her father's kitchen. Rain clung to his hair, making it almost glisten in the light, and his work out shirt slightly hugged his chiselled body. His biceps flexed as he set Alice's luggage to the side and then helped Charlie with the other pieces.
Bella tried to swallow, but couldn't. And then he turned around and flashed her and Alice a dazzling smile and Bella felt faint.
"Bella, Alice," Esme's voice sounded far away, "this is my brother Carlisle."