Appreciation for My Betas

Gondolier took a big chance on me by agreeing to beta this fic. I was an unknown author and I approached her with my idea and the first chapter and she (miraculously) said yes. My beta team is rounded out by a small but dedicated group that was unwittingly recruited (::cough::harpooned::cough) somewhere along the way. I originally recruited (::cough::fangirled all over::cough) SassenachWench to beta "The Art of Worship" and Mabarberella to beta "Centuries of Practice". They were so great at it that I started sending them chapters of FBF. Finally, I asked Holly16 to marry me, because she's my musical soul sister. She said no to matrimony but yes to doing beta and musical consultations, so I took what I could get. Everlasting gratitude to all of these ladies! Without them, believe me—this fic would suck.

Disclaimer

All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

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Oh these little earthquakes.

Here we go again.

Oh these little earthquakes.

Doesn't take much to rip us into pieces.

- "Little Earthquakes" by Tori Amos

BPOV

I picked up my phone to read the tweet that had announced itself with a melodic chime.

Puma75: Just threw some video of Phil's party on YouTube

Thanks, Mom, I thought, rolling my eyes as I threw my phone back on the table. Since Renee had been catapulted into the twenty-first century, she was abusing the hell out of the technology; posting stuff on YouTube, writing on my Facebook wall, and insisting I follow her on Twitter.

Unable to be bothered, I turned my attention back to my We TV movie and bowl of Cap'n Crunch. It was the first Saturday in weeks that Charlie had gone fishing, and fuck if I wasn't going to watch as many chick flicks as I wanted.

Since transferring my mother's care to Phil and moving back to Forks, I'd found relish in things other teenagers took for granted. All my life I'd been the parent—running the household while handling Renee's flights of fancy, nursing a relationship with my solitary father during brief visits through the grief-stricken years. But a new dynamic had emerged in the six months I'd been in Forks. We'd come to a silent accord: love Renee but let her go. It didn't make us function like father and daughter, but moving on did bring us closer.

What that meant for me was a life more normal than any I'd ever known. Though I did cook for Charlie (only because he was a disaster in the kitchen), he took care of everything else—maintaining the cars, paying the bills, keeping the house in a state of good repair. A week after I arrived, we shopped for the first new furnishings the house had seen since my birth. Seventies-era yellows and blues were replaced by modern neutrals and soft greens; the ratty plaid sofa set in the living room was scrapped for a long indigo single; the clutter of photos on the mantelpiece had even been removed to make way for a sleek flat screen television. And the unprecedented luxury of cable TV gave me a new lease on life.

Three hours, one more movie, and half a bag of Funions later, I headed for the shower so as not to be late when the gypsy came. Her favorite boutique was getting in new arrivals, and she'd recruited me for the pilgrimage to Port Angeles. Shopping wasn't my cup of tea, but Forks was pretty dead, and some part of me jumped at any chance to get closer to civilization.

Alice. From my first day at Forks High when she plopped down next to me in Spanish class, she informed me that we'd be great friends. And we have been. At first, I didn't know what to make of her grand declarations. I went from thinking she was pushy, to benignly outspoken, to (now) freakishly confident. I guess opposites attract.

After pulling on a pair of skinny jeans, a snug white long-sleeved tee, and a little brown padded vest that was sure to meet Alice's approval, I brushed out my shower-damp hair and headed downstairs to grab the money Charlie left me. A glance at the microwave clock told me I had a few minutes to kill, so I cracked open my laptop and a root beer, and hit all of my usual sites. Sometime between watching Renee's video and snickering at Newton's stupid-ass status updates on Facebook…

Mike Newtonis single and ready to mingle

…I noticed I had a new friend request.

Huh.

It wasn't that I didn't have friends, mind you. Just, everyone I knew—my clique in Forks, my crew from Phoenix, Renee and Phil, even Jacob and Seth on the Res—was already connected to me. I was still wracking my brain for who it might be as I clicked the link. When my eyes focused on the thumbnail-sized photo of Edward Cullen, I choked on the soda I was attempting to swallow, sputtering root beer ungracefully through my nostrils.

Edward fucking Cullen?

I closed my eyes, tried to even my breathing. When I reopened them, his friend request was still there.

Edward added you as a friend on Facebook. We need to confirm that you know Edward in order for you to be friends on Facebook.

I read the words once, twice. I looked back and forth between the "Confirm" and "Ignore" buttons. The sexy but standoffish Edward Cullen was friending me on Facebook? The same Edward Cullen whose cold shoulder froze me out of my seat every day in bio class? This had to be a joke.

"Bella?" Alice's quasi-frantic voice shrilled from the hallway.

I hadn't even heard her open the door. Shaking my head to snap myself out of my trance, I looked up from my computer.

"What's going on?" she demanded. "I was knocking for, like, five minutes."

A guilty glance at my computer clock confirmed that I'd been staring at the friend request for at least fifteen.

"Sorry…" I mumbled, still dazed.

I pushed the laptop towards her, not yet trusting myself to comment. She slid into the kitchen chair next to mine, and when her eyes fell upon the screen, they widened considerably. I braced myself for an ear-splitting, high-pitched trill.

"Since when are you friends with Edward Cullen?" she screeched.

I felt more like myself when my eyes rolled of their own volition and a snarky retort rolled off my tongue.

"Since the sandbox, of course!"

Alice didn't flinch.

"Well, don't you want to be? Edward Cullen is a total fox—what are you waiting for?" she demanded.

It was a loaded question. Anyone who said they didn't want to get closer to Edward Cullen was surely lying. His sage-colored eyes, that silken voice, and the sumptuous aroma that wafted around him held a magnetic pull that drew man, woman and child into his orbit. Yet, the only thing as certain as his magnetism was the finality of your position around him. He only brought people in as close as he wanted to. And me? I wasn't even in the Edward galaxy.

I must've spaced again because, suddenly, Alice was reaching for the laptop. I surprised myself by the speed with which I swatted her hand away.

"Alice! I can't confirm his friend request!"

"And, just what is stopping you?"

I stifled a groan. Alice was confident, and beautiful, and rich, and so busy seeing potential that she often ignored reality. She didn't understand how different life was for people like me—people who were plain, quiet, and shy.

"Alice…" I said patiently, training any condescension out of my voice as I chose words fit for a five-year-old, "…people like me are not friends with people like Edward Cullen. And, even if they were, they wouldn't get that way by confirming a friend request on Facebook."

"But—"

"It's a sick joke."

Speaking the words stung me, even though they were true.

"Bell—"

"Forget about it, Alice. I have."

And I hit the 'Ignore' button. And that was that.