A/N – This is my first attempt at writing a multiple chapter story, so please forgive any writing flaws.
A huge thank you goes out to my super Beta, AKeim!! If you aren't already reading her amazing story, To Serve & Protect, you should be!!
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight. I just play with her characters. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________
Chapter 1- Cutbacks
It had been one of the worst days I've had since moving to Jacksonville, Florida. Now I'm sitting in my mother's kitchen holding my head in my hands, wishing I had never left Forks, Washington to begin with. Why was I thinking that I could be a teacher? I left Forks to go to college here, near my mom, and stayed when I found a position at a local private school last year. Now all that I've worked for has fallen apart.
"What am I going to do now?" I asked my mom, Renee, and her husband, Phil.
"Bella, honey, I'm so sorry they didn't let you know before the school year started," Renee replied.
"I know Mom. The timing is horrible. All the schools around here are already fully staffed." I said.
"Didn't they give any advanced warning that this might be happening?" Phil questioned, tenderness obviously not his strong suit.
"Yes, they did warn us last week that they may be cutting back on staff due to low admissions. I guess I held out hope that I wouldn't be one of those who were cut," I stated, my voice quivering just above a whisper.
"Oh Bells, I know this is hard to process right now, but everything will work out. I'm sure of it," Renee said as she wrapped her arms around me. Phil came around to the other side of me and patted my back.
"Sorry Bells, I know this is hard for you," he said in a truly apologetic tone.
I helped Renee clean up the dinner dishes before heading for the front door.
"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you! Charlie called earlier and wants you to call him as soon as you get back to your apartment. He thinks there are a couple of positions still open at the school in La Push." Renee yelled from the kitchen.
I stopped in my tracks and returned to the kitchen. "La Push? What? I can't teach Quileute, I said incredulously. "Jacob taught me a little, but not enough to teach a class." I was talking so fast the words almost blended together.
"Bella, they teach every subject just like any other private school, plus Quileute Heritage & Culture classes. I'm sure he wouldn't have mentioned it if it had been something you weren't qualified to teach," Renee replied as she rolled her eyes at me.
"Oh… Ok, I guess it can't hurt to look into it. But, if I move back to Forks, I would have to live with Charlie for awhile. I can't afford to start up another apartment right away," I said as the realization started setting in my mind.
Renee smiled. "Well, I believe that's exactly what Charlie is hoping. He has missed having you around!" Renee laughed and shook her head back and forth, like her only daughter was a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Sensing that the more I talked to Renee, the more I sounded like an idiot, I decided to end the conversation and went to call Charlie.
I thought about my job on the drive to the apartment. I was hired during the prior school year to teach third grade Language Arts at Blue Lake Provincial Academy. I absolutely loved working with the students. However, since I was one of the last teachers hired, I was one of the first they had to let go. I have to go back tomorrow to clean out my room & say good-bye to the staff and students.
Once inside the apartment building I noticed that my best friend's newspaper was still on his doormat across the hall from mine. That meant he wasn't home yet. He was probably out on another date. He's always looking for 'The One'. I had to smile at that thought. If it hadn't been for meeting Jasper Whitlock my freshman year in college, I don't know how I would have made it through. I was a wreck my first year of college. I missed Charlie and my friends, but more anything, I missed my ex-boyfriend. I missed him so much sometimes I could barely breathe. It was all I could do to hold myself together long enough to make it through my classes. Jasper held me as I cried myself to sleep so many nights when I couldn't keep the memories at bay. Always a southern gentleman, Jasper would tuck me in after I fell asleep and go back to his apartment. Jasper and I discovered very quickly that we didn't have a romantic spark, but a very deep emotional bond. We have been like twins, separated at birth or something, ever since. We confide in each other. People who don't know us very well refuse to believe we aren't a couple.
Inside my apartment, I took a shower and got ready for bed before calling Charlie. I had a long conversation with him about the possibilities of me moving back to Forks. Charlie and his friend Billy, went to La push and spoke with EmilyUley, the principal of La Push Private Elementary, after Renee called him telling him I might lose my job. One of the positions open did sound promising. It would be a cut in pay and a change to teaching second grade students instead of third, but I could work with that. Since I would be able to continue teaching English Language Arts, I wouldn't have too much of an adjustment to make.
I was ready for sleep when my phone rang. I looked at the caller-id. "Hey Alice!" I said as I answered the call.
"Hi Bella, I have missed you!! How are you?" she spoke so quickly her words almost ran together.
"I've missed you too Alice… much more than you could possibly know," I said as I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to think about him. "Why are you calling so late, Alice? That's not like you," I asked.
"Oh, I know. You must be really tired. I won't keep you on the phone, I just had a feeling you needed me… and you know how I am when I get my intuitions. I have to follow through to check it out," she sighed.
"Well, you are not wrong Alice. I do need you. I lost my job today, but Charlie has found me one in La Push. I would have to interview and everything, but it looks like I may be moving back to Forks," I told my best girlfriend.
All I could hear was her squealing. She had dropped the phone. "Alice… Alice… Helloooo… pick up the phone Alice!" I yelled into the phone.
"Sorry Bella!" she breathed into the phone. "I know you loved your job working with the kids, but you will love the kids in La Push too, they're adorable! I can't wait for you to come home, we will have loads of fun!" Alice said as she squealed again.
I yawned and sighed into the phone. "Oh Bella, I'll let you go to sleep now," she sighed, the disappointment evident in her voice. "I'll talk with you soon. I love you Bella. We all love you Bella…"
Alice said that last part very softly. I almost didn't hear it, but I did, and I knew what she meant by it.
"I love you too Alice, good night." I said.
"Good night, Bella," Alice said as we both hung up.
The move from Florida's sunshine back to Washington's gloom wasn't something I thought I'd be contemplating again this soon. I left Forks six years ago when I decided to go to school here in Gainesville, close to my mom. It was hard leaving Charlie and my friends. My friends were as close to me as any family member. As a matter of fact, they are closer than family. They know all my drama, and love me anyway.
The month before I made my decision to attend school in Florida, I caught my boyfriend with another girl at one of Vicki's wild parties. It felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Although he pleaded for me to believe he was innocent- the girl, Jessica, produced tell-all pictures then proceeded to tell me how perfect he was in bed.
Obviously, I my feelings for her had not lessened much. Who am I kidding? I wished I had turned Rose loose on her.
I told Charlie I would give it a chance at La Push Private Elementary, which made him happier than I had heard in a long time. Before we hung up, he said he was going to celebrate his little girl coming home with his friends. Ugh! I hoped he didn't expect me to act like his 'little girl'. It had been years, since I had been home. I had grown up a lot since I left.
The only person I had left to tell, and the one I dreaded telling the most, was Jazz. How could I tell one of my best friends that I'm leaving? I planned to call him after I got back from my last day at the academy.
The next two days went by in a teary-eyed haze as I said good-bye to my co-workers and the children. Jazz took the news, as well as I expected. At first he was mad they had let me go, then he was sad and worried I'd be leaving within the week for Forks.
He insisted on helping me pack the last of my things. All I had left to pack were personal items like my books, CDs, and DVDs. This apartment complex has fully furnished units, so I had very little left to pack. Everything else belongs to the landlord. I bought one big suit case and a carry-on bag to take on the airplane; Renee is shipping the rest to me at Charlie's house.
I ordered pizza for dinner, thinking it should arrive about the time Jasper is supposed to get off duty. Since he's helping me pack, the least I can do is feed him. The pizza arrived on time, but Jazz was nowhere in sight.
I started to worry when he was about fifteen minutes late. Jazz was never late. If I didn't have packing to keep me busy, I would have been more worried. About twenty minutes later there was a timid knock on the door. That couldn't be Jazz, I thought. His knock was always loud, and with a definite rhythm, so I would know it was him. I opened the door slowly with the chain lock still in place, my imagination running wild as to who could be on the other side of the door.
Surprisingly, it was Jazz.
He was leaning against the doorframe for support, and it was apparent he was distraught.
"Jazz! What's wrong?" I yelled through the door as I removed the chain and opened the door to let him inside.
"You won't believe me when I tell you, Bella. I barely believe it myself!" Jazz finally said, as I sat him down on the sofa.
"Oh my God, what is it? You're scaring me!" I pleaded, as I went back to lock the door.
"The chief called a meeting and let five of us go. Just like that," he huffed. "He said due to government cut backs, the City had to make budget cuts and the Police Department is one area that was hit. Can you believe that shit? What am I supposed to do now? I lose my best friend and my job in the same week?"
He took a deep breath and sighed. I was sitting on my knees on the sofa next to him. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders. He slouched down on the sofa, placing his head on my shoulder. "Oh Jazz, you'll never lose me. And I'll get you through this, just like you and Alice have helped me," I promised him.
"Bella, I love your generous heart, but some things you just can't fix," He sighed.
"Pfft, we'll see about that," I mumbled, so low I didn't think Jazz heard me. He didn't respond anyway.
I gave him some pizza and a beer. Then I left him alone for a few minutes, while I went to my room to call Charlie. He is a police chief after all, he must have some kind of pull within the police community, I thought. I explained about my friend being laid off from the Jacksonville Police Department. By the time we hung up, Charlie was already calling around to see where he could find my friend a job.
I love Charlie!
I returned to the living room to find Jazz asleep on the sofa. I grabbed the only blanket left unpacked, and covered him with it. I kissed him on the forehead and turned out the light. Then I went back to my room to finish the last of the packing, before going to bed myself.
The morning sun sneaking through the curtains woke me, but the yummy aroma of bacon cooking and fresh brewed coffee got me out of bed. I went to freshen up in the bathroom before making my way into the kitchen.
There was Jazz, standing at the stove cooking eggs and bacon, and wearing the apron my mom had given me that I had never used. The fact that I was leaving the next day was unbelievable.
Jazz turned his head in my direction and smiled, as I walked to the counter to get my coffee. I picked up his coffee cup and took it to the table with me as well.
"Good morning, sunshine!" Jazz said, cheerfully, considering how upset he was the night before.
"Morning, Jazz. What are you doing? I mean, obviously you're cooking breakfast, but why?" I asked.
"I decided I am not going to sit around and wallow in self-pity. I'm going to go out banging on doors and find another job. It may be a job as a security guard, but I have to have a job. I have bills to pay. However, first, I'm making you breakfast… because you're my best friend, I love you, and you had to put up with my sorry whinny ass last night," he said with that cute crooked grin of his. "Besides, you're leaving for Forks tomorrow…" Jasper let out a heavy sigh. Then he picked up the platter of scrambled eggs and bacon and sat down at the table with me.
"Well, you are partially right about that," I said as I took a bite of my breakfast.
"What do you mean partially right?" Jazz asked, cocking one eyebrow up.
"Last night while you were eating, I went to my room to call Charlie," I started to explain.
"Yeah, I know," He said, patiently waiting for the whole story.
"I told Charlie about my friend being laid off from the Jacksonville PD, and asked if he could check around for any job openings. He was more than willing to see what he could do. He's calling me back this morning to let me know," I explained. I realized at this point I was looking down into my coffee, afraid to look up to see his reaction. I hoped he wouldn't be upset that I'd pulled an "Alice", and stuck my nose in where it didn't belong. I glanced up to see him smiling at me from ear to ear.
"Bella, even if Charlie isn't able to help, that is about the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. What am I going to do without you here?" he said, wrapping his strong arm around my shoulder.
"Before you turn me into Mother Theresa or something, let's just finish breakfast and see what Charlie can do," I said.
We finished breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen. When Jasper was on the way out the door, my phone rang. "Jazz, wait a minute. That might be Charlie!" I yelled.
I grabbed up the phone, checking the caller-id. "Hey, Charlie! Oh, um… sorry Dad." When I talk to my friends, I always refer to my parents as Renee and Charlie. They were fine with that, but prefer me to call them Mom and Dad when talking to them directly.
I took the call into my room in case it was bad news. I didn't want Jazz to read my expressions and get upset before I could be there to comfort him. After the call ended, I placed another couple of calls, then went back to find Jasper sitting in the living room, watching television.
"That took long enough! Well, what did he say?" Jasper prodded impatiently.
I waited until I sat down next to him on the sofa, staring him straight in the eyes. I could tell the suspense was killing him. After a few seconds of putting my best friend through torture, I decided to end the game and just come out and say it.
"He did it! Charlie got you an interview, and most likely a position, with the Forks Police Department!" I screamed, bouncing up and down on the sofa next to him like a silly fangirl
"Wait, what? In Forks? I thought he was going to call some contacts around here… in Florida. You mean I have to move to Forks for this job?" he asked. His face was wracked more with concern, than the jubilation that I felt he should be expressing.
"Jazz, what's the problem? You'll stay with me at Charlie's house until you can afford a place of your own. No problem. What's holding you to Florida? The girl you went out with the other night? Is she "The One" you keep telling me is out there someplace?" I asked with a bit of sarcasm.
"Geez Bella, no she's definitely NOT"The One". Nothing is holding me to Florida. I just wasn't expecting this, that's all. I have to talk to the landlord, pack all my stuff and get a plane ticket today. It's too much, there's so much to do and not enough time. We leave tomorrow!" he yelled, with a stressful look on his face.
"I thought you might say that, so I took the liberty of calling the landlord while I was in the bedroom and explained the situation. She said just stop by her office to sign the paperwork, and you're good to go. I called the airline and ordered the plane ticket. We'll pick it up tomorrow at the airport. Now if we both go back to your apartment and spend the day getting your things packed, we should be done before dinnertime. Whatever doesn't fit in your suitcase, Renee will ship to Charlie's house with my boxes," I answered.
He sat there for a second looking at me with a look of amazement.
I loved it when I made him look like that.
He jumped up, picked me up off the sofa and twirled me around the living room. "Bella you thought of everything! You are incredible! You are going to make some lucky man incredibly happy someday!" he yelled, flashing that cute smile again, and kissed my cheek.
"Ok, glad you're happy Jazz, but we need to get busy packing your stuff," I huffed.
"Jazz, I'm sorry I didn't talk with you before making the plans. There really was no time, and I didn't want you to stress about the details that I could've taken care of for you in a matter of minutes," I explained as we walked into to his apartment, each carrying a bunch of flattened boxes for packing.
"It's all good Bella. You're right, you should have talked with me first, but damn, girl! I understand. We have to leave tomorrow," he said.
"I'm sure not complaining about everything you and Charlie have done to help me out. I'd still be a basket case right about now without your help. Plus, no one knows me like you do. So you making a decision for me is almost the same as me making it myself," he laughed, as we started assembling boxes.
I smiled as he kissed my forehead. "It's fine, honest… more than fine!" he said.
We packed everything he owned into a suitcase, carry-on bag, and a few boxes.
After finishing taping up the boxes, we moved them to my apartment so all the boxes would be in one place to make it easier for Renee and Phil to pick up. Then we both plopped down on the sofa. "Man, who would have thought everything I own could be packed up in one day? Renting a furnished apartment sure makes moving easier," Jazz joked.
We said goodnight to each other, and he went to finalize his move out with the landlord. Since I took care of my paperwork with the landlord earlier, I stayed behind to make one last sweep around my apartment to make sure I had not forgotten anything before going to bed.
As I laid there in bed trying to unwind, I felt the burden slowly lifting off my shoulders as comprehension set in that Jazz really is going with me back to Forks.
However, the anticipation of my reunion with everyone weighed on my mind, and made me slightly nauseous.
I loved my friends in Forks, but I hadn't seen any of them, except Alice, since I left six years ago. Alice… my sweet, high-spirited best friend, came here last year for vacation. Jazz was away in Tallahassee for training that week, so they never met each other. I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about seeing all of them again.
No, that was wrong, I was nervous that I would end up running into him.
Sleep finally swept over me as I allowed it to pull me under. My dreams were filled with moving boxes, airplanes and flashes of his face. Before I knew it my alarm was waking me.
My nerves were in overdrive the entire ride to the airport. Jazz appeared to be pretty calm about everything, but that was always his way, somehow, being near him calmed me too.
After a tearful goodbye with Renee and Phil, Jazz and I boarded our airplane heading for Forks. Even though I was nervous, I still couldn't shake the feeling that this was going to be a great thing, for Jazz and me.
A/N Let me know what you think by giving a review. Please be gentle, I'm still new at this.