Chapter 20 – You Have Reached Your Destination


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


We don't do anything in Billings, even though I think I overheard Mom tell Phil we were going to some state park. We just stop at a McDonald's for breakfast, and drive.

"How far are we going today?" I ask. It's the first time either of us has spoken, except when ordering breakfast.

Mom starts. The car has been silent for a solid two hours, so I can't blame her. "Uh, Sioux Falls."

"Isn't that like, ten hours from Billings?" I ask, frowning.

"Nine, unless I let you take a turn driving." She pauses, fidgeting a little. "I would appreciate that pretty soon, actually."

"Next gas station," I offer. "Or bathroom break, whatever." I fiddle with my phone for a while. Signal has still been on and off, but I have about 15 text messages from Dad and my friends that I've been ignoring, which, yeah, is stupid, because I already feel like I don't really deserve their friendship. I should probably pay attention to them.

Later.

"And we're stopping at Mount Rushmore."

"Oh," I say. "Good."

"What else is there to do in South Dakota?" Mom asks, and I can tell it's a mix between a joke and a peace offering, but somehow, this won't be enough. I don't know how to make it enough.

But I'll try, just smiling weakly at her. "Yeah."


"This is kind of a let down," I say, leaning over the railing.

Mom leans next to me. "I think it's cool."

"Well, obviously it's cool. But I expected to be a bit more…blown away. I dunno."

"What did you expect? It's just giant faces in a mountain."

"Huh."


Mom starts driving again. "Bella, maybe…I mean, you're right," she says, not 15 minutes after we left Mount Rushmore.

"Huh?" I say, though I'm pretty sure I know what she means.

"You're right about me being a bad mom. But, then, I never really had a good example. When I found out I was pregnant with you, I just…I promised myself I wouldn't be the same kind of mother as mine, but I guess…I took it too far, didn't I?"

"You never talk about her," I say, avoiding the topic she really wants to discuss.

"Oh, well, she was very strict. She was pretty old when I was born, and, uh, died early. But I always felt so smothered around her, so I just tried to never be that way with you, and I guess…well, that was the problem, huh? I went too easy on you and expected you to be able to handle things yourself, and sometimes handle things for me…" Her voice trails off and she chews her lip. "Like dry-cleaning. I can never remember which clothes need to be taken in and which I can wash myself, and then if I take them in, I don't remember it. I guess it just became clear, early on, that you were so much like your father. You remember things and you're responsible, which I knew I could rely on."

I nod, distinctly uncomfortable.

"I messed up, kiddo. But I need you to understand something," Mom says, and she unconsciously pushes her hair out of her face. "You are not screwed up. You are the best daughter anyone could ever have asked for—a whole heck of a lot better than I was, okay? And your friends. Your friends are so lucky to have someone like you. I'm sorry I made you move to Phoenix with me. It was selfish. I wanted someone who would love me unconditionally, and…well, I had you."

We're quiet for a while, and softly I say, "You still have me."


I take another turn driving after we stop for gas.

Mom tries talking to me again. "Is there…anything else, Bella? I know I'm more of a friend than a mother, but I mean, that's good, right? You can talk to me. Always."

I twitch, startled. "Um."

"What about boys?" Mom asks.

I smile, thinking of Emmett's earlier statement. "I'm not dating anyone."

"Do you want to be? I assume not that…Leon…boy from Billings."

"Lionel, and no, I didn't really like him. I was just being friendly."

"Huh. So what about Jasper?"

I grimace. "I think I hate him."

"Wow."

"I thought I was over it, but I mean…last night, when I yelled all that stuff at you…I realized a lot of things I didn't even know about myself. Like being mad. I think I've just been ignoring all my anger, which is great, you know, if I never get triggered, but like…this doesn't seem healthy. So yeah, I think I still kind of hate Jasper."

"That's okay, Bella. He was a jerk."

"Yes," I agree.

"There's another boy," Mom says, sniffing slightly.

I shift in the driver's seat. "Yeah. I mean, I like him. But I think I'm kind of mad at him, too."

"Who? And how come?"

I chew my lip. "His name is Edward, and, uh, because he hated me when I first moved back. For no reason, as far as I can tell. He's never told me his reasoning, anyway."

"Huh," Mom says, frowning. "That's…weird. Maybe you should talk it out with him."

"I'm working up to that," I say, shrugging. "Our friendship is kind of recent."


"Is there anything else I should know?" Mom asks. We're tucked into motel room beds, lights out, alarm clock glowing.

"No."

"Hmmm…"

We're quiet for a long time, before I ask, "Mom…about Phil."

"What about him?"

"I just had a really weird dream," I say quietly. "Phil wasn't even the weirdest part, but I mean, the whole thing was weird."

"What happened in the dream?"

"Nothing, like, bad. It just gave me a weird feeling."

"Like what?" Mom asks.

"Like…what do you know about him and his life before you met him?" The dream was one thing, but Edward's reaction any time I mentioned Phil was another thing that seemed odd to me. I couldn't understand it.

"Um, just that he was married one other time. I guess he had a pretty messy divorce. We bonded over that."

"Did you ever meet his wife?"

"No, she died."

"Oh," I say, frowning. "Okay." That confirms and denies absolutely nothing.


Thursday, June 18, 2009


"We're driving to St. Louis today," Mom says breezily when she walks into the room, holding another weird drink that was, apparently, going to serve as breakfast.

I've just come out of the shower, so I take the drink and set it on my nightstand before dropping the towel and pulling on underwear. "Thanks. What's in it?"

"You don't want to know," Mom answers, shrugging. "But it's fruity, so I thought you'd like it."
"Uh-huh," I agree, and tug a t-shirt over my head. My wet hair sticks to my neck and under my shirt, so I tug it out of the collar and towel-dry it for a couple seconds. "How far is St. Louis?"

"Oh, eight, nine hours. Somewhere in there. I'm not worried. And tomorrow morning, we're going up the Arch!"

I nod and sip the drink she gave me. "This is good. Pomegranate?"

"There's some of that in there," she agrees.

"Cool," I say, and yank my pants on. "Can I drive first?"

"Sure," she says.

I feel really relaxed today, partially because I did talk everything out with Mom the day before. It also helps that I slept for like nine hours last night. Sleep is such a great thing.

I hesitate to think I'm not mad any more, because I probably am. I don't know how to get over it, still, and a big part of me wants to shove it underneath layers of gotta-do-this-now the way I did before, but the rest of me thinks that's a pretty awful idea. So I resist and, instead, try to figure out another way to get over it.

Talking really did seem to help. I've never really confronted my mom about the whole thing with Dad before. Obviously she knew I was upset about her uprooting me and moving me to Phoenix before, but telling her off for her parenting tactics was new. And weirdly, I feel better about it.

She's wrong about me not being screwed up, though, because I definitely am. Otherwise I would have had friends in Phoenix, okay?

But I don't talk much for the first leg of our trip. I just sip my drink until it's all gone, and pull over at the first rest area so we can walk around for a couple of minutes. We've just been driving for an hour and a half, but that's long enough for me to need a stretching break. How truck drivers operate will forever be a mystery to me.

I let mom take a turn driving and check my phone for messages. I am clearly the worst texter in the world.

I have thirty text messages this time, mostly from Emmett again.

From: Emmett
Hey, did you talk to her about stuff?
I'm getting kind of worried about you, so like, text me when you can.
There's a disturbance in the bromance…
Seriously is everything okay? I'm getting the feeling that it's not.
Did I do something?
Did Rose?
Edward is dumb so ignore whatever he did okay?
Is your mom feeding you anything besides powdered margarine and tomatoes on white bread?
I have the first season of Scrubs on DVD. As soon as you get back we're going ham on this.
I love you Belly Bean.
That's right, I pulled out the kid nickname.
Because you're my favorite person (don't tell Rose)
When you get back, I have a present for you. It's just chocolate.
Well it's made entirely of chocolate. I don't think you can call this gift "just" anything.
Edward says he didn't do anything to upset you recently. Should I believe him?
I didn't ask Rose because I thought she might murder me for accusing her at all.
She probably would.
I love you Bella.

I giggle as I read them, and Mom shoots me a look. "Emmett texting you?" she asks.

"Yeah," I say, smiling. I'm so lucky to have him.

"I used to hope you two would date when you were older," Mom says, chuckling a little. "Before we moved, you know. I just always thought you two were really cute together."

"Ew, Mom!" I say, grimacing. "He's like my brother." Only that's not right. He's more than a brother, more than a friend, but not in a romantic way. I can honestly say I've never had the desire to make out with him.

Mom just shakes her head.

"It would be easy, though," I say, shrugging. I type out my response to Emmett.

To: Emmett
Mom thinks we should date, lol. And yeah, there was a disturbance, but I'm totally not mad at you or Rose. I just talked it out with my Mom and I guess I'm still mad about…a lot.
Also, I'm very excited for this chocolate masterpiece and to see Scrubs.

"It would be easy," Mom is saying, so I look back at her. "Just think about it."

"Mom, come on," I say, rolling my eyes. "Emmett and Rose were like, written in the stars or something. There's no way I would ever touch that."

"I guess it's good that you're so chummy with both of them," Mom says, and she merges into the fast lane.

I grimace and tense. "Uh, yeah," I say. I tighten my seat belt, because Mom is sure to start her reckless driving now. The sooner I can turn my attention away from the road, the better. "Wait, who even says 'chummy'? That's ridiculous, Mom."

"People say chummy."

"They don't."

From: Rose
Emmett thinks ur upset, n I trust his instincts.
whts wrong?
not mad me, rite? Or em?
Em thinks ur mad Edward. y/n?
Or maybe ur mom?
srry if im bothering u
I no u cant answer these fast so dnt worry
is it ok if I keep txting tho
Em thinks u told ur mom about bein mad. Did u?
ily

I really wouldn't break Emmett and Rose up. The trust there is ridiculous and amazing, considering that Emmett regularly tells me I'm his favorite person while knowing that Rose is pretty aware of it. And Rose isn't even remotely jealous, because like I said, Emmett and I have never been even vaguely tempted to kiss. They're adorable and perfect.

It would probably be less good if Rose wasn't also my best friend.

To: Rose
I'm sure Emmett already told you, but yeah, I talked to mom and things got hairy. I'm not mad at you though. And you never bother me!

The last text is from Edward.

From Edward:
Everything cool?

It's easy to answer that, because I've been mad at him all along without realizing it. In fact, I feel pretty much the same about him, so interacting is pretty easy.

To: Edward
Things have been interesting for sure.

Emmett has texted me back.

From: Emmett
Did you tell her we were? I told you that was a good idea. And I noticed you didn't say anything about Edward. Mad at him?

I laugh out loud.

"What?" Mom asks.

"Emmett says I should have told you we were dating," I say. Mentally I add, to get you off my back. But she probably picked up on that even if it was silent. I allow myself to feel a tiny bit of guilt for that, but really, who wants to talk to their mom about boys?

"Ha," Mom says, looking distinctly not amused.

Whatever.

To: Emmett
Mom is not amused. And it's, uh, complicated.

My phone buzzes immediately.

From: Emmett
So you are mad at Edward.

To: Emmett
Kind of? But not really…

From: Emmett
Explain, Belly. I won't tell anyone.

To: Emmett
Remember how he hated me for the longest time?

From: Emmett
Yeah.

To: Emmett
I guess I'm not really over that.

From: Emmett
That's okay, Bella. You guys have all this unresolved tension. And not all of it is hatred.
If you're picking up what I'm putting down. ;)
If you do end up dating my brother, which, btw, is totally cliché, I'm cool with it.

To: Emmett
Thanks, you dweeb. I love you.

From: Emmett
I love you too


Friday, June 19, 2009


Mom and I share a tram with an old couple from Houston as we ascend the Arch.

Mom chatters with the old woman, who introduces herself as Ms. Elizabeth Renford and explains that this is their first vacation not spent in Branson since they got married thirty years ago, which makes me press my hand against my mouth to keep from laughing.

Mom pokes my side in an effort to make me stop and tells Ms. Renford that I usually live with my dad but I'm spending the summer with her.

When we get to the top of the arch and lean over a window—Mom grasping my arm and laughing as the arch sways—I wrap an arm around her waist and whisper, "Thanks." in her ear.

"For what?" she asks.

"You said I live with Dad," I say, shrugging.

"I'm not going to fight a losing battle," she says. "You're happy there. Why would I take you away?"

I feel a swell of gratitude and pull her in for a hug and kiss.

She grins at me and tucks hair behind my ear. "You haven't given me a kiss since you were nine."

"Guess I just love you more, now," I say and lean back into her side.

She grumbles at that, but smiles and curls an arm around my shoulder.

I don't want to say that her giving me what I wanted made me forgive her, but it kind of did. If I think about it more deeply, it's because, for once, she listened to me, and it wasn't about dry-cleaning. That means more than anything else could have.


We stop for the day in Nashville.

"I've never been to Nashville," I say.

"Well, the music scene is interesting," Mom says, shrugging.

"You've never been here, either," I accuse.

Mom laughs. "Nah," she agrees.

So of course we go to the Parthenon, because we're tourists and what else is even worthwhile?

"It's cool," I say. "Not like Greece, I imagine."

Mom shrugs. "We have no idea."

"True."

Falling back into my friendship with Mom is easier this time; maybe because I feel like I finally broke through to her. That's the best thing that could have happened. I want to keep it this way, and this time, I think it's possible.

"You really think I'm not screwed up?" I ask her as we collapse into motel beds.

"I think you're the best daughter in the world," Mom says, rolling on her side to face me from across the room.

I smile at her. "Thanks, Mom." I can't lie to her and say she's the best mom, but I won't say that to her, either. I know how to compromise. And anyway, she's been making strides of improvement. And she did keep me fed for seventeen years...gave me the sex talk…encouraged me to be myself, in her own flighty way. "You've been all right."

"Oh, shut up," Mom laughs, and throws a pillow at me.


Saturday, June 20, 2009


"Let's drive to Atlanta," Mom sings the following morning while handing me juiced veggies and fruit.

"Is that a real song?" I ask, slurping noisily.

"Dunno," she says, and sips a big section of her own drink. "Let's go, though. Nashville is not my scene."

"Yeah, okay," I say, and follow her out to the car.

We ride in silence for a while. Mom is driving and I have my feet propped up on the dash. "Thanks for this, Mom," I say after thirty minutes of nothing. "You were right about this bringing us back together."

She smiles at me. "I have to get some things right," she says, shrugging.

"You do," I agree, and finish my drink. "Get things right, I mean."

She ducks her head before returning her attention to the road. "Thanks."


Sunday, June 21, 2009


"I don't know if I should be impressed that we traversed the country in a week or scared," I tell her as we pull up to her house in Jacksonville that night.

"Yes," Mom answers gleefully. "Call your dad to tell him we made it."

"Okay," I say, and pull my phone out to dial Dad.

Phil runs out of the house while the phone is still ringing. He kisses Mom in greeting, waves cheerfully at me, and starts pulling stuff out of the hatch.

I grin at him, and yell, "Hello!" just as Dad picks up.

"Uh, hey, Bells," Dad says.

"Oh, sorry, I was yelling at Phil," I say quickly. "I just wanted to let you know we made it."

"Good," Dad says, clearly relieved.

I can hear him hesitating, so I say, "We talked. I think we're good now."

"Good," Dad says, and he sounds even more relieved about this. "No problems on the road?"

"Nope," I say, and get out of the car to stretch. "Surprisingly, Mom knows all the tricks to avoiding cops. You have anything to do with that?"

"Ha! Rebellious ex-wives of cops…No, she figured that out by herself. She likes speeding too much."

I smile softly. "I love you, Dad."

"Love you, too, Bells."

I feel my eyes well up because that's the second time he's told me he loves me in a week. "I miss you," I whisper honestly.

"You'll be back before you know it," he promises.

"Yeah," I say, but my voice sounds hopeless and pitiful.

"Chin up, girl. We raised you better than this," Dad says, and he's teasing, so I let myself smile again.

"Okay, okay. Bye, Dad."

"Bye," he says, and then hangs up.

It's easy to see where I got my phone avoidance from.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The first indication I get that Phil is being anything less than normal is when I mention Edward to Mom.

"He's been texting me a lot," I say, sitting down next to her on the couch. I've been avoiding the outdoors the whole time I've been here because, as I predicted, I can't deal with the humidity.

"Edward?" Mom clarifies. "Obviously he likes you."

I shrug. "Yeah. I think so."

"Who's Edward?" Phil asks.

"Esme and Carlisle adopted him a couple years ago," I explain. "He's my age."

"Oh," Phil says, and stands abruptly, looking at his watch. "I have that practice," he explains. "I gotta go." He kisses Mom and leaves pretty quickly after that.

I shoot Mom a questioning look, but she looks just as confused. But she shrugs it off. "Put your suit on. We are going to the beach."

"Do you have sunscreen?" I ask wearily, and when she nods, I go down the hall to change.


Friday, June 26, 2009


Turns out I really like the beach. The air is still disgustingly wet, but the sun is hot and the water feels amazing. I've always been okay at swimming, but Mom makes it her mission to make me confident enough to swim out to the sandbar, and after swimming in the ocean for three days straight, I'm finally feeling bold enough to try it.

Mom swims next to me with even strokes while I swim forward in short burst and kicks. I'm inconsistent, but I keep moving easily enough.

"Isn't the sun amazing?" Mom asks, still swimming.

I have to stop swimming to answer. "Ye…yeah," I answer, and start swimming again.

"Even you might get a tan!" she says, delighted. "I think you look a little darker."

"A little pinker," I corrected. Florida sun was ridiculous. I put on sunblock hourly and still ended up pink every day. Still, I was glad it hadn't morphed into an actual sunburn. My skin was barely even sensitive, so that was good.

"No matter," Mom says, shrugging. "You'll be brown after a few weeks."

"Sure," I say, only to placate her.

She grins. "You can walk now."
I set my feet down and discover that she's right. "This is so cool." It is cool. The water is clear and a beautiful green-blue. I can see my feet squishing into the sand, and tiny fish swimming around. They nip at my moles and freckles. I scrunch up my nose and complain, "The fish are biting me."

"Does it hurt?" Mom asks. A wave picks her up and sets her back down.

"No, but it's weird."

"Yeah, they do that. It's no big deal."

I don't like it, but I shrug and kick my feet a little, scaring the fish off for the moment. "Has Phil been acting weird lately, or was that my imagination?"

"He's been weird," Mom agrees. "Maybe he's nervous about you dating a boy he's never met."

"He's not my dad," I say automatically. "And we aren't dating." But Mom's answer is the only one I can think of that really makes sense. His weirdness about Edward is disconcerting. "It's just…Edward always acted weird if I mentioned Phil, too," I explain.

"Really?" Mom asks, walking closer to me.

"Mmhmm," I answer, stretching my arms over my head. The sun feels so good. It's almost enough to convince me to stay.

"You could ask Phil about it," Mom says, shrugging. "You guys were always pretty cool with each other. I doubt he'd take issue with it."

"Maybe—AUGH, I can't take these fish any more," I say, and start swimming ashore, kicking the fish away from my legs as I go.


Saturday, July 4, 2009


From: Edward
Happy Independence Day, Bella. Planning on catching the fireworks down there?

From: Emmett
I'm going to light off seven bottle rockets in your honor.

From: Rose
Happy 4th of July!

I giggle as I read through all the messages.

"Who're you texting?" Phil asks, coming into the room to sit next to me. He has an hour or two before he has to head to the game he's playing today, so he's still lounging around in sweats.

"My friends," I answer, smiling at him. "Emmett, Rose, and Edward."

He nods and takes a long drink of his orange juice. He's managed to stop flinching every time I mention Edward, but I can tell he's still completely unnerved by my mention of him.

"You get in a fight with an Edward in high school or something?" I ask, typing a response.

To: Emmett
Don't shoot your eye out, please.

"No," he answered, looking distinctly uncomfortable. "I just knew a kid named Edward. Things got weird."

"Weird how?" I ask. "Did you coach him or something?"

To: Rose
Thanks. Happy fourth to you, too!

Phil shrugged. "No. I just, uh, knew him."

I sigh, because clearly he's not going to answer any further questions. "Okay."

To: Edward
Thanks, you too. We're watching them in the baseball stadium after Phil's game tonight. Should be fun!

"Look, Bella, it's complicated. And I wouldn't want to bore you," Phil said, shrugging. He finishes his glass of orange juice.

"No prob," I say, shrugging. If Phil doesn't want to talk, I can't make him. He's not really my authority figure (he could be my brother, okay?) but I'm not his authority figure, either.

My phone buzzes.

From: Emmett
Still mad at the world?

To: Emmett
I don't think so. I guess we'll see when I get home.

"Do you want some orange juice?" Phil asks.

"No, thanks," I say, shifting positions on the couch so I can face him more easily. "Nervous about the game tonight?"

"Of course not," Phil says, grinning. "As you know, I was born ready!"

I snort, but nod at him. "Right you are."

From: Emmett
Who're you mad at again?

"Who are you playing?" I ask, chewing my lip as I consider Emmett's question.

Phil sets his empty glass down on the coffee table and stretches an arm across the back of the couch. "Team from Georgia," he says. "Not really that important. We're gonna win."

To: Emmett
Definitely Jasper. Maybe Alice? And possibly still Edward. Maybe.

"Well, good," I say, tucking my phone into my back pocket and crossing my legs. "You deserve it."

Phil beams at me and offers me a fist.

I bump it with my own fist and beam at him.


From: Emmett
I get being mad at Jasper and Alice because they totally deserve it. But Edward has legitimate reasons. Kind of. Okay, they're stupid. But he has reasons for being weird when he first met you. Trust me.
Give him a chance to explain everything.
I'm not going to tell him you're upset. I think you should. But believe me…messed up stuff happened to him, Bella. He's kinda wacked out because of it.


Phil's team did win the game—7 to 5, and Phil even got to play, which is awesome. He was stuck in the locker room with the team while we rearranged ourselves in our seats to watch the fireworks.

When the first one went off, I leaned closer to Mom and rested my head on her shoulder. "Mom?" I mumbled.

"Yeah?" she asked.

"I'm glad I came."

"Me too."


Wednesday, July 8, 2009


"Bella," Mom began, and then stopped as she got pulled under a wave.

I floated over it gracefully (or at least sort of gracefully) and waited.

She resurfaced as the wave passed, only slightly worse for wear. To her credit, she acted as though nothing had happened at all. "I was just curious. Are you still mad at me?"

Another wave comes, and this time, I let myself sink under it. When it passes, I chew my now salt-covered bottom lip. "I don't know," I answer honestly. "I don't want to be mad, but I don't want to get rid of it the same way I did last time, because that obviously didn't work."

"Hmm," is all Mom says in reply.

"I think I feel better though," I say, hurriedly. "Can I think about it today? I'll let you know tomorrow."

"Sure," Mom says, but she's quiet for a long time. It's not silent by any means—not only are the waves crashing all around us, but seagulls fly overhead and kids shriek in joy without pause. But Mom being quiet is unnatural. With Dad and even Phil, I'm used to quiet moments. But Mom has always been a talker.

I duck under the water and resurface, pushing hair out of my face. "Are you mad at me?" I ask nervously.

"What? No, of course not. It's normal for teenagers to be mad and hate their mothers," Mom says, smiling weakly.

I swim closer to her. "I don't hate you."

Mom's smile doesn't change, but she reaches out and pushes a single strand of hair off my forehead. "You're a little darker," she offers.

Finally, I return her smile. "Who would have thought that was possible?"


Thursday, July 9, 2009


From: Emmett
How are you feeling?

From: Rose
miss u bella.

From: Dad
Everything still ok?

From: Edward
Hey.


Mom hands me a glass of orange juice. "It's local," she says cheerfully.

Shocker.

Despite the fact that I'm (still) unimpressed with the excess of orange juice available in Florida, I take the glass and gulp down a mouthful.

"Eggs?" she questioned, already moving toward the stove.

"Please," I say, smiling. I lift my phone and snap a picture of myself smiling. Looks like my teeth still aren't orange. That's good at least.

I delete the picture and text my friends back (I'm great; I miss you too; yeah; hi).

Mom drops a plate of scrambled eggs in front of me.

"Thanks," I say, grinning and digging in. "Ah, cheese. You are actually the best."

Mom beams, and I smile back at her.

While washing my plate, I grab Mom's wrist and say, "I'm not mad."

And I'm not.


Thursday, July 16, 2009


Mom won't let me go, which is going to be an issue in a few minutes. I have a little over an hour before my plane takes off, and I'll need that hour to get through security and to my gate. Frozen yogurt is out of the question now.

I sigh and pat Mom's back. "I love you, Mom." Carefully I untangle myself from her embrace.

Phil seems really amused about the whole thing, and just hugs me loosely before pushing me toward the gate. "Bye, Bells."

"Good bye, sweetheart," Mom shouts as I walk away, waving.

Thank goodness for long flights and my ability to sleep in pressurized environments.


I wake up about twenty minutes from landing in Seattle and stretch my arms over my head for a minute, yawning. It will be nice to be home.

For the last several minutes, I organize my carry on bag, wrapping my headphones up and tucking them into a special pocket in my bag. I tie my shoes again and cross my legs.

I stare at the approaching Seattle skyline, a content smile on my face.

It will be so, so nice to be home.

Finally we're landing and people start to stand. I turn my phone on, revealing a handful of texts from my parents, friends, and…Phil?

I open Dad's as I shuffle down the aisle, carry-on bag clutched close.

From: Dad
Text me when you land.

I send him the obligatory text quickly, and then forward it to my mom, guessing that's what she'll have texted me.

I switch over to her message, and sure enough, it's the same, plus an "I love you so much!"

From: Rose
Hey, ur comin back 2day, rite? When u do we should get food

To: Rose
Yeah, that sounds great

I smile at the stewardess as I pass her, and she smiles back. "Have a nice day," she says.

From: Emmett
Bella, baby. I'm pining for you.

I roll my eyes. What a dork. Still, I send him a promise to hang out as soon as I can.

From: Edward
Hey.

Apparently this is all I'm going to get from him, so I just answer with a simple, "Hi." Phil's message is what I was curious about in any case, so I switch over to that.

From: Phil
In my previous marriage, I had a stepson named Edward. It's no big deal. We're just estranged. I never adopted him or anything.

What?

I stare blankly at my phone for a long minute before turning locking it and tucking it in my pocket. My mind is blank up until I pull my bag off of the conveyor belt and shuffle over to where Dad is waiting.

As soon as I'm close enough, he pulls me into a tight embrace. I giggle when his mustache tickles my forehead.

"Missed you, Dad," I mumble into his ear.

"I missed you, too, Bella," he says, and then takes my luggage. "I got you. Let's go."

He doesn't make me talk, which is great, because I'm still reeling from Phil's text message.

Is it possible that Edward was Phil's stepson? It doesn't make sense, on one hand, because Phil is only ten years older than us. But then again, I'm his stepdaughter. Maybe he has a type.

Man. What a thought.

I try to tell myself it's not that way but I can't stop thinking it.

Edward hates a guy named Phil. Phil used to have a stepson named Edward. They both lived in Phoenix not too long ago.

I'm not sure there's any other conclusion I could draw.