My shift was almost over. In little over half an hour I would be at home, having some dinner and watching re-runs of Jerry Springer. I had spent the last year volunteering at a missing persons centre. People would come in and ask for help with finding their missing sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads. I was seventeen, and a student at Forks High School in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.
I had just tidied my area, shut down my computer, rubbed out my desk doodles and retracted my pen when my boss Ellen lowered herself onto my desk. The desks weren't the best on the market, but we ignored the subsequent squeak like troopers. 'Bella? When does your shift end again?' I looked at my watch. 'Two minutes ago. No, wait for it, three.' She looked at me. Okay, so I was a little rude, but it was my time of the month and I had cramps like hot pokers.
'Bella I need you to see one more.' I looked at her incredulously – I had an appointment with Ben and Jerry and their famous cookie dough recipe. She took in my expression and continued, 'Please. The queue is backed up 'round the waiting room and there are people getting hysterical.' I nodded passively. The main message being What's in it for me? She looked a bit defeated. 'I'll buy jam doughnuts for the next staff meeting. Please?' Ok. The mention of sugar was enough for me. 'Fine, I'll do it. But only one.' She smiled, relieved. 'I will fetch her. And be nice. Okay?' The centre relied upon donations. If a client was wealthy, and a happy conclusion were to be reached, then donation chances were good. The 'be nice' was a sign of some serious money coming in to play, and that was positive. Recources for finding people did not come cheap.
I had just enough time to pull out my forms and pad of paper and get my out of date computer to the login screen when my new client walked in. She was around forty years old. She had the usual characteristics of one of our clients – she looked tired, with large bags under her light brown eyes and she was washed out. Her caramel coloured hair hung limp around her face. But her clothing hinted at designer origins and her outfit was well put together. As she entered she handed me a piece of paper, the preliminary sheet from the front desk.
Her name was Esme Cullen. She was looking for her son Edward Masen, her youngest, from her first marriage. He was seventeen and had been missing for just under three months. The form also contained her details such as telephone numbers.
'Mrs Cullen-' I needed to ask her some more basic questions. 'Call me Esme please.' She had a slight accent. Too early to tell what it was though. 'Ok, Esme. Could you tell me about the circumstances of your son's dissapearance?'
'I had best start from the beginning.' She took a deep breath and started her story. 'When Edward was young we lived what had just become Belarus.' That explained the accent. 'My husband was not a good man. He was violent and angry. When Edward was two years old I left him and his brother Emmett with my sister and went to America to make a new life. The plan was to bring the children over when I had the money. My sister sent me letters every little while to tell me how my boys were doing. I was making money, not much, but enough that I would soon be able to see my children again. But then there were no more letters. I waited a while. And I sent some letters of my own. But there was no answer. When I called there was no answer, and when I wrote... But I could not do anything about it. But then I met my husband Carlisle. He had money. He took me back to pick up my sons. But their father was keeping them in my sister's house. He beat them badly. By this point Emmett was seven and Edward was five. When we got there the three of them were locked in the basement. Edward was unconsious, and Emmett was nursing a broken arm.' She seemed to drift off. She was crying now, tears streaming down her face. Then she remembered herself. 'It took a long time for any of us to come to face what had happened. But Edward, he did not. He – what is it you say – 'acted out'. He became violent and he started taking cannabis, cocaine, heroin. We did what we could but he would not stop. I believe he only takes the heroin now. He has been in a clinic, but it did not help. And then we caught him in the house. We could not let him do as he liked, there were other children there who we could not allow to see this. So he left. He packed a bag and he left.' She was sobbing now. She pulled out a handkerchief. I waited a second for her to compose herself, and then, 'Esme, if you don't mind me asking, what happenned to your first husband?'
'He killed himself, rather than face what he had done.' She had calmed a little now, but she was still grim. No wonder. But I still needed to clear up a few things. 'You say there are ather children in your house...?' She brightened, 'Yes. There is my elder son Emmett, Carlisle's twins, Rosalie and Jasper, they are seventeen. They are adopted, and Carlisle and I, we have a daughter, Sarah. She is twelve. And there is a girl we foster. Her name is Alice. She is sixteen years old.'
'Are there any problems with the rest of the family?' She shook her head. 'No. Except small ones, with Rosalie. But he is close to Sarah and Emmett, and he and Jasper have no problem. He and Carlisle manage.' During the interview I had been scribbling notes and I now had a set of facts on him. 'Do you have any photographs?' 'Yes, yes, of course.' She handed me the photographs. He was handsome to say the least. Muscular, with piercing green eyes. And there was a labelled one with the rest of the family. 'And one more thing, are there any alternative names he could be under?' She thought hard. 'He could be under his middle name, Anthony. And he could use his step-fathers name, or his father's, Evanson, allthough he would not I am sure. Masen was my name before marriage. He is fond of that.' Ok. Complicated. And yet I was done. 'That should be it Esme. I will get back to you if we find anything.'
And she turned to leave, 'Oh, excuse me. What is your name?' I looked up. 'Bella Swan.'
'Please Bella Swan, find my son.'
The drive home was welcome for my thoughts. Life was hard. The last hour, and yes it was an hour over my work time, with Esme had proven it to me. What she and her sons had gone through was awful, and it gave me good perspective on how lucky I was. I lived with my father, Police Chief Swan to the good people of Forks. I had never been abused. The worst that had happened to me was my parent's divorce. I was torn. We were not supposed to accept cases involving drugs or violence. But I felt for her, and she spoke of her son so warmly. I would have to think about this. I arrived home very late, however it was still long before my father, and so I commenced my plan for the evening. How I loved Jerry Springer. But I could not stop the images that filled my mind of Esme and her two small children. They were hard for me to stomach. Ben and Jerry's it was.
I drifted off watching TV, only waking when my father came home from his shift, around eleven. I put some water on to boil for pasta, as I was hungry, and I doubted Charlie had eaten anything healthier than doughnuts since lunch. After he had hung up his gun belt charlie spoke, 'How was your day Bella?' Here was where the deception started. I could not accurately describe what had happened for the last hour without him getting upset, and it seemed to have overshadowed my day. 'Oh, the usual.' Charlie didn't find my lack of elaboration strange. Neither of us were what you would call verbose. After re-reading the best bits of 'Pride and Prejudice' during the game that Charlie insisted we watch, I went upstairs, showered, and fell into a fitfull sleep, dreaming of Esme and her children being rescued from her violent husband.
When I woke I was disoriented. During the night I had progressed to memories of living in Phoenix. I could not recognise the purple comforter and curtains. And then it hit me, from the portrait of a wolf on the wall, to the old rocking chair in the corner that I was in my father's house in Forks. I had only been living there about six months, since my mom decided to follow my minor league baseballing step-father around the country. And I had been bundled off to this backwater. About a month after I arrived I realised that if I had to stay around I needed something other than school, Charlie and games to occupy my time, so I volunteered at the charity. After a couple of months I was allowed to interview and now, even occasionally allowed to help find someone. They had needed me, due to staffing shortages. I rolled over and realised I was up a whole hour earlier than usual. I tried my hardest, but sleep wouldn't stick. I read, I took longer than normal in the shower, I ate my breakfast slowly, but in the end I still arrived at school half an hour early. I idled in the car park, keeping my heater on and doing trigonometry on the offchance that it might improve my grade.
I was startled by a knock at my truck window. I looked up to find Jacob Black there. I had a love/hate relationship with Jacob Black. He was the son of my fathers best friend and was a complete jerk. I wound the window down. 'Let me in Bella. It's freezing out here and your transport has sides, and a roof.' I raised my eyebrows. 'Please Bella, I think I got frostbite getting here on the bike.' He pleaded with me. I scooted across on the bench seat of my '53 Chevrolet and Jacob hopped in, breathing into his cupped hands and rubbing them together. 'Ahhh, to feel the warm air again. Whatcha doin' Bella?' He looked across at my books.'Aww heck. You still bother with math? What is this shit?' I looked at him. 'Yes, let's leave it to Jacob the almost drop-out to comment on education. Why not?' 'Someone's being a bit catty today. Time of the month? Not getting any?' Prick. 'Like you are Black? Well not from a human anyway. You probably couldn't get an offer from Leah the dog.' I had spent summers with my father my entire life. And every summer was blighted by Leah Clearwater. I had a hate/hate relationship with her. She was a bitch. I got a knock off Barbie, she got a real one. I got a real one, she decapitated it. Oh, the mental scars. 'She's not that bad anymore.' Sure. 'You're telling me she's not a bitch?' I should be so lucky. 'Oh no. Just bigger tits. And on your previous comment, she is offering. And I am so recieving.' He said with a grin. God, I hoped he was joking. 'Out. Get out of my car. You have Leah cooties.' 'Cooties Bella? Are we twelve again?' I beat my fists on his forearm until he was forced out of my car. Well, not forced, he was at least twice my size, but he got the idea. I followed. It was time for class anyway.
First period, seated next to Jessica Stanley. Nice but dim. As she talked, I drifted off into my dream world where incredibly handsome, tanned, muscular man with strong cheekbones was currently residing. I had just walked in on him in the pool, in a tiny pair of speedos, when Mr Varner took it upon himself to interrupt without me even having the luxury of having raised my hand first. And to top it off I got the answer wrong. Damn.
The rest of the day had passed considerably more pleasantly than first period, me having had no more run – ins with teachers who felt the need to agitate students. I was on my way to my shift at the charity when Ellen called. It was a slow evening apparently, and she felt it would be waste of my time to come in. She calls me with this golden nugget of information when I am almost there, on the 101 by Lake Crescent. So I thought why the fuck not? I might as well go shopping. So I revved up my engine, hoped that my clutch wouldn't fall off on the drive, and set off on my merry way to the shopping metropolis that was Port Angeles.
And, just my luck, my fucking clutch did fall off. Well at least I thought it was that, but what did I know, I never knew. I'm not a mechanic, never was. But Jacob was. Well, it was time to call in a favor.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. 'Hello, you've reached Jacob Black's phone, please leave your name and number and I might get back to you.'
Try again. Ring... 'Hello, you've reached...'
And again... 'What the fuck Bella, why do you keep calling me?' Jake didn't sound particularly alert. 'Because I'm stuck in Port Angeles and my car's broken. And it's starting to rain.' 'Couldn't your dad get you?' I rolled my eyes at thin air. 'He's on a shift, and you know he couldn't fix a car to save his life.' It was true, my dad was no mechanic. 'Look, Bella, I'm a little busy right now-' 'Fuck Jacob! It's cold and wet, and the car won't start. Come and fucking get me.' He let out an exasperated sigh. 'Fine, just stay in the cab and be safe. I'll be there as soon as possible. Try to keep warm.'
Try to keep warm. Try to keep warm. Easy for him to say. And what could be taking this long anyway? I was shivering. I could just see the headlines now. Girl frozen to death on the 101, friend tells of being too late to save her. Soon I was going to have to take drastic action. There was a coat in the boot. I had tried getting in through the fold – down seats, but what do you know? '53 Chevrolets don't have functioning fold – down seats. At least mine didn't. So the only way to reach it was by going outside, in the now pissing rain, in a temperature of around one degree, and opening the boot. At first I completely refused. I don't do cold. I lived my entire memorable life – up until my removal to Forks – in Arizona, where there is sunshine, and beautiful heat. But as the cold was growing my desperation was growing. I was two minutes away from running to get the coat. And then I was pushed to my limit. The weather forecast proudly proclaimed that this was going to be one of the worst storms that the Olympic Peninsula had ever seen, and it was just going to get colder. Fuck. Shit. And I, Isabella Marie Swan, was out in the middle of it. Where was Jacob? That was it! I got out of the car and ran around to the boot, getting absolutely soaked in the process. After fumbling with the lock for an agonizing minute, I was in, and nothing. No coat. Balls. So I slammed the boot shut and made it as fast as I could to the front drivers side. By the time I sat back I was soaked to the skin and shivering worse than ever, I could not even hold myself still enough to change the radio station. I was slowly succumbing to cold and I hadn't eaten in a while. I was suddenly very tired and my muscles ached from spasms. Darkness was overtaking me. I was slowly drifting away into sleep.
'Bella! Bella! Wake up!' A pause. 'Shit! Move! Bella!' My eyelids fluttered, I could see Jacobs face – he looked seriously concerned. He lifted me roughly away from the back of the seat and took my face in his hands. 'Bella wake up. Open your eyes for me.' And I did. 'Good.' I let out a croaky cough. 'How long have I been here?' He was still checking me over with concern, 'Over an hour. Shit, you're freezing.' I took a rattleing breath. 'Yeah-h. I-' I wheezed 'I am.' 'Look, I can't fix your car here, well, not in this weather anyway. Here, put this on.' He took off his jacket and handed it to me. I was far too cold to protest. 'Can you walk?' 'Pr-probably.' Jacob eased me out of the car and onto my own feet. Then he leaned me against the door and reached into my pocket, pulling out my car keys and locking it up. Then he started to move us along, supporting me under the armpits. I could barely walk from muscle cramps in my legs and sides. Jacob managed to get me into his Volkswagen Rabbit without me falling, which was a relief; I was one of the most clumsy people in the world. He pushed me into the passenger seat and then ran around to the drivers side.
'Bella, you feeling any warmer?' I bobbed my head in a yes. He put his hand up to touch my cheek. 'Bella, you're still frozen and, well, you're kind of blue.' Damn. Way to tell it to a girl straight. 'Know any tricks to warm me up?' And Jake stopped with his hand by my face, and looked down. 'Well,' He hesitated. 'I do know one.' As he reached the last word he looked up, into my eyes. And then lowered his face toward mine, brushing our lips together. Damn, that was a good idea. I could feel liquid warmth travelling down from my lips to my toes. I put my frozen hands into his hair and he pushed his tongue into my mouth. Hmm he tasted good. Bella! Stop it! What are you thinking, kissing Jacob in a car? This is going to be awkward tomorrow! I pulled away. 'Jake...' Jacob moaned. 'Jake, stop.' He looked up, a bit taken aback, 'What? Why?' Damn. This was going to be was I going to say? Hey Jake, I'm worried because you're a bit of a joker and my virginity is a serious subject and I want a serious relationship before I lose it, and if something were to go wrong I would have to see you every day for the next year and any time I saw my father after that... No. Not good. 'Look, Jake, I really like you, but i'm not sure this is a good idea...' He raised his eyebrow. 'I'm not with Leah really you know.' I shook my head. 'Jake, that's not it. It will just hurt too much if we didn't work.' He nodded. 'Bella, I do understand... but if you ever change your mind...' I smiled, 'You will be the first to know.' Jake seemed to regain his humor a little. 'Well then Bella, let's head home.'
It is with trepidation that I put this chapter out, as I was going to save it until I had the next one written. However, my happy little showy-offy heart wanted to show you my new idea. Depending on life I am hoping to have a new chapter of this story out every two weeks. And I would quite like some reviews for this one, if you don't mind. I really do need some feedback ladies (and any gents, I salute you). Happy New Year.