"The Indies First Time Writer Challenge" One-Shot Contest

Title: Times Like These

Pen name: AnjieNet

Primary Players: Bella/Edward

Rating: T

Word Count: 3149

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the characters and the Foo Fighters own the title and lyrics that gave some inspiration.

To see other entries in the "The Indies First Time Writer Challenge" contest, please visit the C2:

http://www[dot]fanfiction[dot]net/community/The_Indies_First_Time_Writer_Challenge/74097/


~*~

I've put it off all week long and now I'm down to the wire. Today is the day. I can do it. I will do it. How hard can it be, really, to put 2500 words together on a page, to form coherent sentences into paragraphs, one after another, to explain what, exactly, I want to do with my life after high school? Answer: pretty damn hard. I'm 18 years old, how the hell am I supposed to know what I want to do with my life? Actually, two years ago I could have written this essay with very little thought. I've had my future planned out for as long as I can remember. I wanted to have some fun, meet a nice boy, have some more fun, kiss the nice boy, and have yet more fun. Oh, yeah and go to college, major in literature, become an editor, then novelist, and live happily ever after with said nice boy. Easy right? But so much has changed. Now my main goal in life is to forgive and forget. Somehow, I don't think that's exactly what my teacher is looking for in the essay. Or maybe it is. I just don't know anymore. I am unable to think clearly these days. The assignment is supposed to be an easy one. It's just an exercise to get our minds back into the swing of things after Christmas break and to give us seniors a start on writing college application essays. But this assignment is not easy for me. I'm clearly no longer a writer, if I ever truly was one. So tell me again, why am I still taking this writing course?

~*~

I ran into him, literally, on my first day at my new school. Having picked up my schedule and school map from the office, I was scanning them over, trying to memorize my courses and where I was going, all the while trying to blend in with the other students meandering through the halls. I'm not one to call attention to myself, at least not on purpose. Call me a wallflower if you will, but attention was not one of my favorite things, though I feared that it would be hard to go unnoticed in this small town school. Surely anyone new would be the talk of the town, and of course, being me, I brought it all upon myself.

The second bell rang and I hurried along my way to American History. I truly don't know what happened next. Maybe I tripped over my own foot or stubbed my toe on the smooth laminate flooring, but before I knew it, I stumbled forward, hands splayed out before me, books strewn on the floor. My hands searched for anything to abate my fall and came upon soft leather. All I could see before me was a blur of black and bronze as we fell to the ground, one on top of the other. Embarrassed, I hastily hauled myself off my cushioned landing, grabbed my books and mumbled an apology as I ran red-faced to class, trying to ignore the laughter behind me.

By lunchtime, everyone knew who I was, if they hadn't known already. I had even been invited to join the football team next fall. Apparently the team was in need of a new left tackle. Yeah, funny. I had spent the majority of my morning between classes trying, without success, to avoid the Gossip Girls. I was now informed of every detail of every person destined to matriculate from Forks High School, including who it was that I happened to collide with earlier that morning. Exhausted from their enthusiasm and desperate for a quick retreat, I scanned the lunchroom and my eye caught on the back of a familiar figure in a black leather jacket with a messy mop of bronze hair, sitting alone at a far table.

As if moving on their own, my feet made their way over to him. His lunch tray was disregarded as he scribbled on a notebook before him, head down, free hand tapping out a rhythm as he hummed an unfamiliar tune. He startled slightly but didn't look up when I asked if the seat across from him was taken. After a moment his head shook back and forth and then he continued on with his work. I sat down and contemplated apologizing again or making small talk. Instead, I bit into my apple as I opened my own notebook and began to write, thankful for the silent companion before me and the respite from the chaos around me.

I wrote about that first encounter. The black, the bronze, the laughter. The smell of soap, of leather and of boy. Of red-heat, of shyness, of the small smile that was on his lips. He was my first crush.

~*~

I sigh, staring at the blank screen. The cursor blinking incessantly, mocking me.

I am a fairly bright girl. I get mostly A's with a B thrown in there occasionally, solely reserved for classes that I should not have been forced to take in the first place. Would I ever actually use Calculus in my everyday life? Would I someday look back and say, "Wow, I'm so glad I learned how to compute a differential equation back in high school!" No, I think not. But I digress. I love to read. I've read thousands of books, articles, newspapers, and magazines; devoured them actually. I read for enjoyment, to learn, to pass time, to get lost in another world, to dream…

With all my knowledge of the written word, why now can I not put my thoughts into written form? It used to be enjoyable, liberating really. I filled many notebooks and diaries throughout the years with my thoughts and ideas. But now it's as if all my hopes, my dreams, were for naught.

Disgusted with myself, I shut my computer down, step into my boots, grab my coat, gloves and scarf and dart out into the cold. I breathe deeply, feeling the pain in my chest as I suck in the frigid, wet winter air. Maybe a walk will do me some good. Bring me some clarity and inspiration. I trek through moss covered woods surrounding my home; not paying much attention to where I'm going, knowing that the sounds of the highway to my left will lead me home. The birds sing. The few leaves left on the trees flutter to the ground and crunch beneath my boots. The tranquility of the wooded area calms me.

~*~

We sat in companionable silence that first week, both of us in our own little world, not giving the other notice. Well, I can't truthfully say I didn't give him notice. I couldn't help but glance at him now and then, always bent over his notebook, his hair providing a curtain for his eyes, but his firm jaw and pursed lips giving away fierce concentration. Occasionally, he would relax and his lips would part as he mouthed silent words or moistened his lips. He wore that black leather jacket day in and day out, only the color of his t-shirt changed. From white, to red, to black, to blue and back to white. I admit to a daydream or two of running my hands up his chest and slowly slipping the jacket from his shoulders while leaning in to close the distance between our lips…

Hey, I'm a hot-blooded teenage girl, I'm not ashamed. He was a silent mystery, one that I wanted to solve.

The following Monday, I looked into his eyes and my world shifted. Okay, so maybe that's a bit dramatic…

We were sitting at our table, writing away in our notebooks, when my favorite pen ran out of ink. I scribbled hard on a piece of scratch paper, willing my pen to miraculously begin writing again, but with no luck. I dug through my backpack for a spare, but came up empty. With a sigh, I slammed my notebook shut and resigned myself to fifteen minutes of people watching. I heard a throat clear across from me and glanced over to see a pair of bright green eyes peering at me. He said something then, I think he asked me if I needed the extra pen he was offering, but I couldn't be sure. My mind was trying to process and memorize the exact shade of his eyes; I'd never seen anything quite like them before. So expressive and beautiful, deep and engaging. In that moment, I became an "eyes woman," or maybe I was simply his. When we left the cafeteria that day, he smiled down at me and casually took my hand. My heart skipped a beat.

In the days that followed we became virtually inseparable. He walked with me between classes and took me to and from school. We studied together and listened to music together. We argued, we laughed, we cried when his dog died. We talked at length of our likes and dislikes, our families, our futures. He was graduating in the spring and planned to go to college though he was undecided on a major. He loved writing and music but didn't know if either could be more than just a hobby. His father was a doctor and he thought maybe he would follow in his footsteps, as he'd like nothing better than to help his fellow man.

That summer was undoubtedly the best I'd ever had. We went to the movies, to concerts and to the beach. We visited museums and saw Shakespeare in the park. We spent hours upon hours talking, reading, writing, and enjoying each other's company. I had never felt as close to anyone as I did to him.

He left that September. I knew it was something he had to do, and I understood. But the understanding did not placate my fears of being left behind, though he did all he could to keep in touch. He wrote me beautiful letters that I read many times over and could recite from heart. He sent e-mails when he was able, keeping me apprised of his life away from home, many accompanied by pictures of him and the people and places around him. Though I was able to see him for a short visit around Thanksgiving, I was left with a dull ache in my chest. I longed for the days of the summer past; I longed to touch him and hear his voice again. I was young, just turned 17, but no one had moved me like him, had meant more to me than he did. He was my first date, my first kiss, my first love.

~*~

I walk into the clearing before I even realize where I'm heading. It's no surprise. This has been my place of refuge for months now. The place I need to go to in order to think. To remember. To dream. It really is a beautiful place, though not so much this time of year. Its usual lush grass is now a sodden brown and the swaying trees mostly barren, though the vast array of lingering flowers break through the gloom. I make it over to my usual spot and sit down. I wait.

I know he'll come, he always does. It doesn't matter the time of day or night, he will be here. It has always been like this with him; he knows when I need him.

I close my eyes and relish the warmth of the fleeting sun that peeks through the clouds on my face.

I know he's here before I even open my eyes. It's not the normal prickling sensation you get when you know you are being watched. No, I can feel him. His presence alerts my body like no other. It hums in anticipation; electricity runs up my spine and lights my soul. I smile, eyes still closed, as I feel him come nearer. Much like when we first met, he doesn't speak, but sits down next to me. Pages rustle as he opens his notebook and begins to write. It's then that I open my eyes and turn my head toward him.

Gone is the boy I met two years ago in the soft black leather jacket. He is now a man, a vision of mixed browns, greens and bronze. His hair is shorn so that it no longer flops in his eyes as he writes. His face is more angular, having lost its boyish fullness. His physique, while still lean, is now toned and muscular. He looks up, as if he knows I am staring again, and smiles a soft smile. My smile. I can't help but smile back as I look into his eyes. Those beautiful, expressive eyes that tell so much more now than they ever had. They show a wisdom beyond his years, and love, compassion and sorrow. Those eyes embody too many things for my mind to even comprehend.

I have to look away.

~*~

The day he came home was like no other the small town of Forks had ever seen. I knew all the preparations were something that he would not condone, something he would never want for himself. Much like me, he did not like attention drawn to him, always preferring to leave the spotlight on others, well deserved or not. But his parents were adamant, as were the majority of the townspeople, so I was helpless but to go along with the proceedings. Secretly though, I acknowledged to myself, this was the way it should be. He was worth all of it and so much more.

Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people lined the streets as he was led through town by my father and accompanied by the rest of Forks' finest driving motorcycles on either side of the sleek black car. People were everywhere. Some I knew, most I didn't. Just regular people much like me. Workers in front of their shops in town, bankers, barbers, cooks, businessmen and women, servicemen, and bikers, school children and teachers, mothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, sons and brothers, the young and the old. All were there to welcome him home.

Flags were waving, most red, white and blue, others red and gold and black. Fire trucks aligned the street, ladders extended high, coming together to fly the biggest flags I'd ever seen. There were several carefully dressed men sitting tall on horseback atop blankets of red. They fell in step behind us, as did a multitude of others. How many exactly, I couldn't see.

We arrived at our destination, driving between men and women in uniform on both sides of the vehicle, standing in silent salute. A trumpet sounded sad and low. Six men and yet another flag of red, white and blue accompanied him slowly, methodically ahead, where he was surrounded by a vast array of flowers and pictures. There he was with his family, with his friends, with me. He was there dressed smartly in dark pressed midnight blue, shiny gold buttons, red trim on his coat, white and black hat covering the bronze on his head, a proud, determined look on his face. Words were spoken then, though what was said I never knew.

I jumped, startled, as shots rang out, close and loud. My father's arms tried to comfort me but there was none to be found.

The flag was folded neatly and given to his mother. A shiny medal with a purple ribbon was given to his father.

I had nothing. He was my first loss.

~*~

I slowly lean forward and trace the letters on the hard stone before me. His name once brought me comfort and joy, now it awards me only longing and sadness. I trace the words below; missing are "husband" and "father," two people he'd aspired to be, but now never would. My fingers brush over the seal. The proud eagle, the globe and anchor all etched in stone. He was my air, land and sea. They had taken it all away from me.

Forgiveness. Rationally, I knew that I couldn't blame them, nor could I blame him. The day the Twin Towers fell, his fate had been sealed. When he came home that morning, he was in shock, we all were. The rest of the day and into the evening was spent in front of the television, watching the coverage again and again. I knew the world was changing but I didn't see…I didn't see my world changing with it. He was just a boy, yet so brave and strong in his convictions. Determination was set in those beautiful eyes and he wouldn't be dissuaded, if anyone had dared to try. He was needed and he answered the call.

No, the blame I've been placing is unjust. Those to blame are the ones who took the planes and so many lives that day. Those to blame are the ones who killed innocent men, women and children and the valiant heroes who got in their way.

Feeling the presence beside me shift, I pull my hand away. It's time for us to part again as the sun is setting, twilight is near. With a lump in my throat and a heavy heart, I turn to him for one last glance. He is intent on his writing. Head bowed, pen scratching. Four phrases repeat over and over, line after line:

Learn to live again

Give and give again

Learn to love again

Time and time again

Closing the notebook, he smiles my smile, then turns and walks away.

My mind reeling, I slowly begin the walk home. He was right. It is time. I have been living in a fog for the past several months. Not even living, really. Methodically going about my daily routine. Giving nothing of myself and asking nothing of anyone else in return. He was what I treasured most in my life, but he is gone. I will never forget, but I have to move on. I'm still alive. I have my life to offer to others. I can make a difference, maybe not a monumental difference but maybe if one person can be touched by my actions, by my writing, it will be enough. And no, I will probably never know love like ours ever again, but I owe it to myself, I owe it to his memory, to make an effort.

Once again in my room, ignoring the computer, I go to my bookshelf and pull out a notebook, safely tucked between my old volumes and his. I inhale deeply, the scent of soap and leather and boy permeating my body. I'm wrong in thinking I have nothing. I have his being, his heart and his soul in my hands. I open up the notebook to a blank page and begin to write.

~*~


A/N: Thanks so much for reading. Please click the review button and tell me what you think…I can take it!

Many thanks to Jennde for the pre-read, fabulous beta skills and the encouragement to enter this little piece into the contest. Check out her wonderful historical fic stemmed from the Age of Edward contest "Finding Home" (link is in my favorites) as well as her one-shot "Unplanned". Have a box of Kleenex handy for the latter - it's a tear-jerker.