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.
"Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread."
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Chapter 1 - Beginnings
There is no doubt that Forks, Washington is a small town. Here, everyone knows everyone. Generations upon generations of the same families have been born together, grown up together, lived together, and died together in this town. It can be quite claustrophobic at times. It's easy to feel smothered when everybody seems to live on top of one another the way we do. One is not free to make mistakes in a small town like Forks; one cannot hide or flee their misdeeds like those living in big cities. The tiniest misstep, the smallest indiscretion is fair game for the gossip mill for years…if not forever. And the mistake I had made was certainly not a small one. I knew that this one mistake would devastate my life. I would never be able to escape the shadow of what I had done; and worst of all, absolutely everyone knew about it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I need to go back, start at the beginning. I have to explain myself and what makes me who I am. You need to know a little about my life and the community I live in. Without this basic knowledge, you can't possibly understand Bella Swan… that would be me…and how it's possible that my life is over at the age of fifteen.
Growing up in a small town has reached iconic status in America. The small town ideal of families sitting down together each night for a home-cooked meal; of parents raising children without fear of them coming to harm; of the bread-winning Dad coming home to a happy wife and respectful kids; of sleeping soundly in one's bed at night without first having to triple-check that the doors are locked has become the National Fairytale. For millions who grew up wishing that a town like Mayberry really could exist, it's difficult to let that dream die. Those of us who actually live in small towns know the truth. It's almost never idyllic, and it's often just plain dull.
Forks is barely a speck on the map. But we have problems just like those of you who live in big cities. There are just as many families with both Mom and Dad working to pay the bills – coming home at night to little strangers that they have no time or energy to get to know. There are mothers who torment themselves with thoughts of what could possibly befall their babies whenever they're out of sight, even for a moment. There are robberies. There are assaults. There are just as many divorces. There are just as many broken promises and shattered dreams.
So what, you may ask, is the difference between big cities and small towns? The difference is that when city-dwellers want to go out on a Friday or Saturday night, there's actually somewhere to go. This is not the case in Forks. There's absolutely nothing to do here. That's an indisputable fact.
When you're a child, you don't really notice the monotony. Your neighborhood is your world. Your days race by at the speed of light. You ride bikes with your friends. You play tag and hide-and-go-seek. And you create entire imaginary universes to inhabit and explore that are actually contained completely in the one tiny block you've lived on your whole life.
When you're an adult, you don't really notice either. You're too wrapped up living life to worry too much about Forks being so insignificant. You have a job to go to and a boss to deal with. You have co-workers to try to get along with – even though they drive you crazy on a daily basis. You have a mortgage to pay, a yard to mow, and mountains of laundry to conquer. You have a spouse to love or hate…depending on your mood. You have kids to raise.
But when you're a teenager, when your world is nothing but the microcosm of high school and the friends and enemies contained within its walls, the emptiness that is small town life can be crushing. It is during this time of one's life that it becomes glaringly obvious that Forks is a wasteland. It was in that summer before my freshman year of high school that I first became aware of this new-to-me reality. I was fourteen and had never had a problem filling my days before. But I would soon realize that I had four long years of nothing to do stretching out before me. What a depressing thought.
Making friends had never been something that came easily to me. I did have playmates growing up, but the truth was that they didn't really like me. I didn't understand why. I just wanted to be their friend. I did everything I could think of to please them, but I rarely succeeded. We were only friends because of geography. We all lived on the same street. We were all roughly the same age. It just made sense for us to play together, whether we actually liked each other or not. Now that we were older and our world was starting to expand beyond our neighborhood, it suddenly seemed to matter that we really couldn't stand each other.
Beginning at the age of twelve, I'd slowly begun to pull away from the kids who had been my playmates. I had always loved books, but I had begun to spend more and more time with them. I spent hours in my room, just reading. When my mom, Renée, would tell me to go outside and get some fresh air, she would become exasperated when she found me not running and jumping and playing with my "friends" as I had in the past, but calmly sitting under the shade of our tree in the backyard, my nose in yet another book.
When she couldn't force me to interact with kids my own age at home, she tried to get me more involved at school. Her persistence was unnerving, to say the least. She somehow managed to memorize the school calendar, but not for the sake of PTA meetings and fundraisers. No, my mother was determined to know exactly when each school dance was held. And for weeks before each one, she would badger me about going. It didn't matter that I didn't have a date. Instead, my mom always suggested that I go to the dances in a group with the rest of the neighborhood girls. She insisted that a boy would be crazy not to ask me to dance once I was actually there.
My mom just didn't understand. Why would I want to waste my time with the two-faced girls that I had grown up with, when I could imagine Anne Shirley or Elizabeth Bennet or Jane Eyre was my best friend? How could I be content with an awkward, adolescent boy, doing everything he could to shove his tongue in my mouth and get a hand up my shirt, when I could fall in love with Mr. Darcy or Romeo or Heathcliff?
My refusal to hang out with the old gang and my retreat into the world of books had my mother seriously concerned. My dad, Charlie, had always been quiet, and Mom complained that I was becoming more and more like him every day. She worried that I might be in danger of becoming completely and permanently anti-social. So she had forced me to do something the summer before I entered high school that I really hadn't wanted to do. She had pushed me to be a "joiner"…to do something to make new friends. I was willing to try, for her sake. I love my mother, and I was willing to put myself out there for her. But come on! Did she honestly think that signing me up for band was going to catapult me into the "in crowd" once school started? Her argument was that my natural lack of coordination had made summer sports of any kind an impossibility and that band was the only other option. That made sense, but that didn't mean I had to like it. When I had countered that I didn't play an instrument and couldn't even read music, my mother shocked me as she responded with an unconcerned shrug.
"It doesn't matter, Bella. I thought of that already. I signed you up to play cymbals. All you have to do is memorize where you have to come in the few times you're actually needed. The band director assured me that anyone can do it, even you."
I knew my mother was trying to be encouraging and that she honestly was trying to help. But she had failed miserably.
During my last two years of middle school, I had concentrated on my school work. When I wasn't studying, I filled up my free time with the books I loved. I didn't want to get along with the giggling girls in my classes. Puberty had seemed to only intensify their petty jealousies and insecurities. I could not understand these girls; they pretended to like each other, but seemed to delight in stabbing one another in the back. I wanted nothing to do with them. I didn't seem to have any luck finding friends among my male classmates either. Hormones had seemingly transformed them into sex-crazed lunatics overnight. I certainly wasn't willing to do what some of the girls did to be "popular" with the boys at school. So, I did my very best to keep my head down, blend in, and just get through the years leading up to high school. I had, until now, managed to avoid the cliques by simply ignoring them. I knew now that, thanks to my mom, I would not be so lucky in high school. Even I knew how the Forks High School social hierarchy worked. And my mother had managed to make me the Forks High equivalent of an Untouchable before my high school career ever even began.
Anyone who has ever watched a coming-of-age teen movie is familiar with the clichés of the American high school social order that Forks High followed. At the top are the typical elite…the Jocks, the Cheerleaders, the Rich, and the Beautiful. Running through the rest of the cliques in descending order of coolness, you would eventually reach the band geeks at the very bottom of the list. Hollywood has left no doubt in the minds of the American public that the band geeks are the social pariahs of any high school. American Pie had been particularly rough for teenage musicians everywhere to live down. They had been subjected to a constant barrage of, "And this one time, at band camp…" on a daily basis. The girls who played flute had the most difficult time…boys were always wanting to know if they masturbated with their instruments like Michelle did in the movie. I guess that was the only bright side to this mess, at least Renée hadn't signed me up for flute.
So, the band geeks – known as Bandsies at Forks High School – are of the lowest social order; that's been established. But within the band itself, there is also a pecking order. Trumpet players are cooler than tuba players. Saxophone players are cooler than clarinet players. I've already mentioned what the poor flutists had to endure, even among their fellow Bandsies. And absolutely everybody in the band looked down on the percussionists. To play beautiful melodies and harmonies takes skill, talent, and practice, while all percussionists had to do was hit a drum with a stick. Now you would think that being banded together in the least appreciated section in the lowest social order of Forks High would endear the percussionists to one another, but this was not the case. The snare drummers looked down on the quad players. The quad players looked down on the bass drummers. And even the bass drummers looked down on the two or three poor souls who were roped into playing the cymbals each year. Cymbal players weren't even talented enough to get a drum and a stick. This is what my mother had signed me up for. I was now the lowest of the low. I was better off before, being a nobody!
I never let my mother know what she had done to me. Beyond my feeble protest about my lack of musical ability, I hadn't said another word to her about her plan. She really was doing what she thought was best for me. I would suffer in silence if it made her happy. So when she dropped me off in front of the school for my first day as a Bandsie, I plastered a fake smile on my face as I jumped out of the car and turned to wave goodbye to her. Turning back toward the building, I squared my shoulders and determined to make the best of the hell I found myself in.
Although living in a town as small as Forks meant that you were at least familiar with almost everyone in town, it didn't necessarily mean that you actually knew them. You may know that Jessica Stanley's mother had been suspected of skimming money from her teller drawer at the bank or that Lauren Mallory's father was on his fourth wife, but that didn't mean that you knew who they really were as people. So although I recognized most of the faces as I entered the band room, the only person I could truly say I knew was my cousin, Alice Brandon.
Alice had been in band all through middle school and loved it. That was actually one of the reasons Mom had decided to subject me to this particular torture. She had heard all about how excited Alice was about band from my aunt, Mary, and thought it would be just the thing for me too. I didn't have the heart to tell my mom that it really didn't mean much for Alice to be excited about band; because Alice was excited about absolutely everything! Alice was excited if the sun came up in the morning and the moon rose at night. Okay, this is Washington, so I guess the sun and the moon making appearances could be a mild cause for excitement. But Alice was excited for every day it rained too, and that was an almost constant occurrence.
I heard her before I saw her.
"Bella," she screeched in a frequency I was certain only dogs could hear.
Before I even knew what hit me, Alice had thrown herself at me and was clinging to me as if for dear life.
"Hi, Alice," I said, trying to extract myself from her clutches. "How have you been?"
"That's all I get? 'How have you been?' My very own cousin, who I haven't seen in ages, waltzes back into my life and casually asks me, 'How have you been?'"
"Alice, I saw you the weekend before last, at your house, remember?"
Alice simply waved me off, as if I were trying to belittle the pain of our estrangement. She gave me a wounded look, silently communicating that I couldn't possibly begin to understand the hurt I had caused her during my long absence. Have I mentioned that Alice can be a little theatrical?
Being Alice, she decided to quickly forgive me for my abandonment – of the last two weeks – and introduce me to some of her friends. Since she had been in band for the past three years, she already knew everyone. And unlike me, Alice had no problem at all making friends. People seemed to instantly worship and adore her. It constantly amazed me to watch her in action. She seemed, quite literally, to dazzle everyone around her.
Alice and I were the same age, but she looked younger. She was petite and delicate-looking. She once played Tinker Bell in an elementary school play, and I couldn't help but think of her as a pixie ever since. It just fit her. The image of the pixie was only accentuated by the short, spiky version of the "pixie" cut that Alice favored for her midnight black hair. Her eyes were a gorgeous, bright blue that reminded me of a cloudless sky – a rarity in Forks, it's true, but I had seen one once or maybe twice, so I felt qualified to make the comparison. She was funny and bubbly and always knew exactly the right thing to say. Girls fell over themselves to be her friend and boys knocked each other out of the way just to be close to her. In other words, she was everything that I was not.
Still, I loved her. Who could NOT love Alice? And for some inexplicable reason, she loved me too. When I claimed that it was just because we were related, that she had to love me on a technicality, Alice just shook her head sadly.
"Bella, you never have seen yourself very clearly, have you? You're smart and loyal and absolutely the sweetest person I've ever met. I would love you, even if I wasn't required by blood and family duty to do so." It was nice of her to make up those things to make me feel better, wasn't it? I loved her all the more for it.
Bringing myself back to the present, I focused again on Alice as she grabbed my arm and led me to a circle of her friends.
"Everyone, this is my cousin, Bella. Bella, this is everyone. You will all be nice to her," Alice commanded, but then paused as her head tilted back so she could meet the eyes of the hulking boy before her. "Emmett, I know better than to expect you to be nice…just try not to torture Bella too much, okay?"
"I promise not to torture her any more than I torture the other girls," Emmett vowed. Somehow I didn't take much comfort in that. I knew of Emmett, although I'd never officially met him before. He was a McCarty, and the McCartys had been the designated class clowns in Forks for longer than anyone could remember.
Emmett was tall and very muscular, and he was two years older than Alice and me. He had dark hair that looked like it would be prone to curl if he let it get too long, and his eyes were blue like Alice's, only a shade darker. When he smiled at me, I saw that he had adorable dimples. He was definitely cute, but certainly not my type. Besides, I was sure that a guy like Emmett wouldn't be single if he didn't want to be.
My suspicions were confirmed at that moment when Rosalie Hale walked up behind Emmett and snaked her arm through his, staking her claim. I had met Rosalie a couple of times at Alice's. She and Alice had been friends for years now, but for some reason, the three of us had never hung out together much. I got the impression that Rosalie didn't like me, although Alice had denied it.
If you were a teenage girl, Rosalie was your basic nightmare. She was blonde, beautiful, tall, and thin. The girl should have been a supermodel. Rosalie could make the most secure of girls nervous to be in the same room with her. Girls who suffered from low self-esteem, like me, should do their best to avoid her at all costs.
Although she was in band, Rosalie escaped the Bandsie curse. The reason for this was simple. In addition to playing clarinet in the band, she was also the head cheerleader of Forks High. Nobody made fun of Rosalie Hale. So, she was in the band…so what? Rosalie was in everything. She starred in school plays, she sang in choir, she was the secretary of the French club and the treasurer of the drama club, she was an honor student, and she was on student council. Like I said, your basic nightmare.
"Bella," Alice captured my attention again as she led me over to a boy with wavy, honey-blond hair and gray eyes. The softness in Alice's face and the dreamy quality in her eyes caught me off guard. She then completely shocked me when she took the boy's hand and smiled sweetly at him. "This is Jasper Whitlock…my future husband."
I had to shake my head in an attempt to clear it. Had my fourteen-year-old cousin just declared herself engaged? She hadn't been dating anyone two weeks ago.
"Really, Alice?" When did all this happen? The last time we talked you were still single, and now you're planning nuptials? Isn't this a bit sudden?"
"Sudden," she asked. She reluctantly broke her gaze with Jasper to look at me quizzically. "Not really," she continued, "we've known each other for a whole fifteen minutes now; and we've known we were destined for each other for at least fourteen of them. Right, honey?" Alice again glanced adoringly at Jasper. And to my utter shock and amazement, he looked back at her with an equally smitten expression.
"That's right, darlin'," Jasper answered with a noticeable southern drawl.
Okay, I was confused. First, I was certain that I'd never seen Jasper around before. The boy was absolutely gorgeous. He would have been impossible to forget. Second, I was sure I'd never heard the name Whitlock in Forks before. And third, where exactly had he picked up the southern accent?
"Jasper's family just moved here from Texas," Alice answered my questions before I'd had a chance to ask them.
"Well," I paused. This conversation had taken a right turn straight into The Twilight Zone anyway, so I might as well go with it, right? "It's wonderful to meet you, Jasper. Welcome to the family." I stood on tiptoe to give him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.
Alice truly looked pleased. Whatever. I was happy for them…for however long it lasted.
Just then, I heard a clatter behind me. Someone had obviously dropped something or knocked something over.
"Oh Bella," Alice exclaimed excitedly, "Jasper isn't the only new student at Forks this year. I want to introduce you to Edward Cullen." She motioned behind me, in the direction that the noise had originated from.
I turned slowly and saw a boy with reddish-brown hair practically kneeling at my feet, picking up an overturned music stand. At the sound of his name, Edward Cullen looked up at me. And I was completely and totally stunned by the most beautiful pair of green eyes that I had ever seen.
I'm going to marry this boy…was my first thought.
Oh, great! Insanity really does run in my family…was my second.
Thank you for giving On a Lonesome Road a chance. I hope at least some of you decide to stick with me. My plan is to post regular updates on Tuesdays.
If you feel so inclined, please leave me a review. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
I owe a huge debt of gratitude to four ladies who encouraged me to write in the first place, who held my hand every step of the way, and who actually talked me into posting this story...Gemmabobella, Ninapolitan, DeltaSwan90, and RavynNightstorm. Without them, On a Lonesome Road never would have existed.