I do not own any of the Twilight characters. Everything Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
Thank you to T-Nabs, Woody, and Poptarrts for giving me the extra shove I needed to post this.
Without you, Charli may have never seen the light of day.
Chapter One: Charli
I really hated moving.
I knew how badly my dad needed this new job, but it still didn't make me any happier about packing all of my belongings in four small suitcases and driving halfway across the continental US in an old UHaul Van that smelled like moldy food and dirty feet.
It wasn't the actual act of moving that I hated. I didn't mind the packing, the boxes, the tape, the newspaper; I hated the element of the unknown. What would the new town be like? Would the kids in my new school be friendly? Would I make friends easily; or would I be destined to be an outcast for my last year of high school?
I grimaced as I shifted in the uncomfortable seat and stretched as far as the small cab would allow.
"You ok?" my dad asked me, not taking his eyes off of the road. The sun was beginning sink behind the trees and it had started to rain. His brow was furrowed in concentration as he tried to make out the twisting, winding road through the hardly working windshield wipers.
"I'm fine." I forced a smile, hoping he wouldn't notice how strained my voice sounded. He didn't, or if he did he thankfully didn't comment.
I stared out my window through the streaks of rain. The droplets made the scene outside look like a distorted and alien sea of green and brown. I knew Washington State was known for its lush vegetation, but no picture I had seen on the internet could quite capture exactly how green everything was. It was a far cry from flat, boring Illinois where I had been living for the past 17 years with my dad.
I glanced over at my dad, my eyes studying his well lined face and salt and pepper hair. He always looked tired and there was a certain sadness to him that made him seem older than his 50 years. I knew that being a single parent to a teenage girl on top of trying to have a career was no easy feat, and it had visibly taken its toll.
When I was only five years old my mother unexpectedly passed away from a rapidly growing brain tumor. There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't miss her and wish that I could have known her. I was so young when she died that I barely remembered her and the few flickers of memories I did have made my heart ache. I found a small amount of comfort in the fact that I look very much like her and I am frequently told as much by people who were close to her.
When I was younger I used to look in the mirror try to imagine her face and her kind eyes and I would let myself believe for even just a moment that she was staring back at me.
Even now I sometimes catch my father staring at me and I can tell by the pain in his eyes that I remind him very much of her. I have her long straight black hair, golden brown skin, and almost too big caramel colored eyes. I am tall like her with square shoulders and legs that are irritatingly too long to find pants that don't make me look like I'm waiting for a flood. Everything, down to my name, is a constant stinging reminder that I am all that is left of my mom and the love that she and my father shared.
One of my favorite memories of my mom was her passion for her Native American Culture. She was always giving storytelling seminars at local colleges and reservation cultural centers doing her part to keep the legends from long forgotten tribes alive. My father tried very hard to make sure that I understood why my mom was so passionate about our history and he would frequently sit with me and retell her favorite stories. There were so many legends that I had heard so many times that I could tell most of them by heart, but my hands down favorite was the story of how my mom came to name me Charlotte.
Her ancestors came from a small tribe in northern California called the Achomawi. The tribe had a colorful history with many legends and stories that have been passed on for many generations. My mother's favorite legend was based on her great grandmother who was the young wife of the great Chief Oxberry, the last chief of the Achomawi tribe. Her name was Charlotte--named after the wife of one of the men her father had met when he lived and worked as a guide in a small mining town.
The Achomawi tribe avoided getting forced off their land during the Gold Rush by hiding away in a remote valley that is now known as the Fall River Valley in California. The valley was nestled between the mountains, giving the Achomawi a feeling of security and protection. They lived peacefully for many years living off the land and the rivers and never had a reason to feel unsafe until the worst winter in their history brought with it not only brutal cold and unforgiving ice storms, but also new predator.
Whenever the moon in the sky was full, a pack of enormous beasts would come down from the mountains and terrorize the peaceful Achomawi people. The legend describes them as wolf-like only much larger. They had long sharp teeth and skin and hair that seemed more like armor than fur. No arrow could pierce them, no man could destroy them.
It was the middle of winter when a snow storm unlike any had ever seen before descended upon the small tribe. Despite the fact that it was a full moon the blizzard made it impossible to see anything further than an outstretched hand. It was this night the beasts attacked the Chief himself. The women and children had all taken refuge in a cave near the bottom of the mountain. The men were huddled outside to stand guard and protect their families from the beasts that they knew were coming. They didn't have to wait long because one by one the men began disappearing into the storm. The Chief ordered three of the warriors to seal off the mouth of the cave and to protect the women and children. The warriors closed off the cave with whatever they could find and they waited in silence until day break.
When the sunlight finally filtered through their hastily built barrier they began to break it down and face what tragedy awaited them outside. All of the men were gone except one. The broken body of the Chief lay in front of the doorway to the cave. His wife Charlotte collapsed beside her husband, and from her lungs came the most heartbreaking cry of pain and loss. Her body began to tremor and her cries began to sound like those of a dying tortured animal. A flash of bright light blinded them all and the tribe watched in shock as Charlotte's body disappeared and was replaced with a giant snowy bird that soared into the sky crying the same painful cries.
For several weeks no one reported seeing the bird, and the Chief's wife was nowhere to be found. They all believed that her sorrow had been so great that she had changed into a spirit and was gone forever. Then, days before the next full moon, the great white bird again appeared in the skies. She flew closer and closer to the earth and when she had almost touched down the Chief's wife transformed back into her human form, stepping gracefully onto the ground. Charlotte told the warriors that she had found the nest of the beasts and she would lead them to it so they could destroy them. She explained to them that the beasts were actually men who transformed when the moon was full. She told them that she had counted five of these men and that they were most vulnerable in their human form. She again became a bird and she led the men to a cave located halfway up the nearest mountain. They had the element of surprise on their side and the wolf men were not prepared to fight. They captured all but one man who escaped into the wild of the mountains. The captured men were all burned until nothing remained but ash. The tribe was never again attacked by the wolf men, and the legend of the great snowy bird was born.
This legend was so important to my mom that she not only did her college dissertation on the story, she also swore that she would name her first born daughter Charlotte. If my dad had another name picked out, he'd never had a chance. My mother was determined. Another trait I had picked up from her. Dad usually referred to it as stubborn but I personally preferred determined; it sounded like less of a flaw.
Dad was born on the Quileute reservation in Northern Washington State. He met my mom when she was visiting friends when they were both 17. My dad had told me that my mother was the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on and he knew they would be together forever even before they had been formerly introduced. They ended up going to college together, getting married, and settling in small town America with dreams of living a long happy life together. After she passed away, he immediately moved us to another town and dealt with his grief by submerging himself in his work.
As a high school history teacher since college graduation, he had never been interested in doing anything else until after my mom died. After her death he committed himself to his job and managed to go from teacher to principal in a matter of 3 years. He really loved his job, and the last thing he wanted to do was disappoint the kids in his school, but he became very discouraged when recent budget cuts and the shady school board politics in Illinois started making his job almost impossible. He couldn't handle seeing kids drop out and education programs fall by the wayside; it went against everything he believed in and worked for. After a long and difficult school year last year, he had finally made the decision to put in his resignation at the beginning of summer break and had been having a hard time finding something new. It was a stroke of luck that the Quileute Reservation High School was looking for a new principal.
I sat up when I felt the UHaul begin to slow, we were nearing an exit.
"Are we there?" I asked my dad while I leaned forward and squinted through the windshield searching for signs of civilization.
"Almost. We are about to drive through the town of Forks. It is the closest town to the reservation." My dad said turning the van onto a smaller two lane road.
The city of Forks flashed by in mere minutes. It was too small for much more than a general store, gas station, post office, police station, and camping store. As we continued to drive past the center of town the houses became spaced further and further apart until I was again staring at the flashing green and brown of thick forest. Suddenly something caught my eye, a quick flash of reddish brown fur between the trees. It was gone before I could figure out exactly what it was I had seen. It was too big to have been a dog, and the hair was too long for a deer. My pulse quickened.
"Are there bears in the woods here?" I asked my dad, my eyes frantically scanning the tree line as we drove past.
"Sure. But they usually don't get close to town. You shouldn't have to worry about them at all." His expression was puzzled as he glanced over at me, "Why do you ask?"
"I thought..." I started, and then shook my head, "No, never mind I think I'm just really tired. This has been a long trip." He nodded in agreement and turned back to the road his expression hard for me to read. I stared intently out the window hoping to catch another glimpse of the large animal I had seen running in the forest. No matter how hard I concentrated on the blur of green flying past the windows I didn't see the animal again. I leaned my forehead against the cool glass and closed my eyes wishing the ride was finally over and wondering if the long drive really was causing me to see things that weren't there. I felt a surge of anxiety when I heard the tick, tick, tick of the van's turn signal and sat up .
"Home sweet home." My dad smiled at me.
He pulled into a small dirt driveway and put the van into park. I opened the door and stepped out, my legs protesting after being folded into the tiny cab for such a long time. I stretched and breathed deeply. The smell of wet dirt and decomposing vegetation assaulted my nostrils. It was not unpleasant, just unfamiliar. I stepped away from the van and took a look around.
I had visited reservations before. Being Native American you see your fair share, but I had never actually lived on one. It seemed small, but somehow welcoming. There were several simple square houses scattered along the narrow winding street and in the dusk I could see warm lights illuminating the windows. The bluish flicker of television sets and the occasional sounds of disembodied laughter floating through the air was peaceful and familiar. After a moment I made my way to the back of the U-Haul to check on my very favorite possession.
The 69 Chevelle was strapped to a car trailer behind the decrepit U-Haul. Rain drops glittered against its black glossy paint and the chrome accents reflected the lights from neighboring houses. I gently patted the front fender.
"Sorry for the long haul, I'll be getting you down pretty soon here." I muttered to the car smiling to myself.
"Sometimes I think you love that car more than your old man." my dad joked as he walked towards me and put his arm around my shoulders.
"Oh, you know that's not true dad. I love you both equally." I playfully punched his side and we both laughed as I pulled myself up on the trailer and started loosening the tow straps. The Chevelle was a gift from my dad when I was 16. We didn't really have a lot in common, but we did both have a healthy respect for classic cars. Sometimes I think he bought the car because he felt guilty for not spending much time with me when I was younger. I wasn't going to complain. The car was a masterpiece.
"So, you aren't making me drive you to school Monday are you?" I asked as he lowered the ramps on the trailer. I couldn't think of anything more embarrassing on my first day in a new school. It was bad enough that I was the daughter of the new principal. Thankfully he understood.
"No, I wouldn't subject you to such cruel and unusual punishment. I'm hitching a ride with one of the teachers and I figure I'll put the word out that I'm looking to buy a used car. Something should turn up soon." He pointed at the car and then at the ramps, "Ready?" he asked.
I nodded and climbed into the driver's seat. The familiar smell of the cool leather was relaxing and I paused for a moment to enjoy the still silence. "Well, here goes nothing." I mumbled knowing I was referring to much more than just the task of unloading my car from the tow trailer. With a sigh, I wrapped my fingers around the gear shift and slid it into neutral and slowly eased off the brake. Slowly and gracefully the heavy car rolled off of the trailer. I kept a close eye on my dad in the side mirror as he directed me down the ramps inching the wheel to the left or right depending on his hand signals. My eyes flicked from the rear view to the side view and during that transition was when I caught glimpse of large animal eyes reflecting in the darkness just past the tree line behind my dad. I could see the animal's shape outlined faintly in a dark purplish blue color. I was so surprised I couldn't breathe, and as I panicked my foot slipped off the brake and the car hurtled backwards down the narrow ramps. The car slid off the ramps sideways and hit the ground hard. I felt my muscles tense as my body flew forward, my head slamming into the steering wheel. I found the brakes with my foot and pushed them to the ground. The car came to an unceremonious stop a few feet from the trailer. My heart was beating fast and the blood was pounding in my ears. I frantically scanned the forest trying to catch a glimpse of the animal I had seen.
"Charli! Charli! Are you ok?" My dad's voice sounded panicked he rushed to the driver's side window. "What happened?"
"I saw something behind you in the mirror. An animal. It was really big Dad. Taller than you - are you sure about the whole bear thing?" I knew I sounded crazy. But I didn't care. He quickly scanned the edge of the forest and turned back to me leaning into the open window.
"There's nothing there Charlotte." He said slowly and then gave me "the look". I grimaced. He knew I really hated that look. I had been getting it from adults for as long as I could remember and it had always bothered me most seeing it on his face.
I first got 'the look' when I was about ten years old and my dad and I were flipping through old pictures of my mother. I was curled up on his lap and he had paused on a page that had several older pictures of my mom when she was in college. She was young and beautiful and full of broad smiles for the camera. He had absently reached out to touch one of the fading black and white photos gently with his fingertips.
Smiling a toothless grin at him I said sweetly, "Daddy. I like your color best when you are thinking about mommy."
He stared at me for what had seemed like an eternity, an amused expression on his face. "My color?" He teased with a smile.
"Yeah! What color am I when I look at mommy?" I sat straight as a rod and lifted my chin trying to give him a good view so he would be sure to see my color. He had stared at me curiously for moment.
"You are a silly girl. I don't see any colors, just you." With this he gave my nose a playful tweak. I huffed with disappointment.
"But daddy, when we look at mommy you are yellow and you feel so happy!" I explained to him. Of course he had no idea what I was talking about and simply laughed the conversation off without another word.
When my obsession with colors didn't fade with age, and I developed an annoyingly uncanny ability to know what my father was thinking all based around what 'color' I said he was at any given point in time. He finally dragged me –against my will - to numerous visits with eye doctors, psychologists and neurologists. I endured hundreds of tests, and answered hundreds of questions and saw so many doctors I didn't even try to remember their names or specialties after a while. When all was said and done they all came up with the same diagnosis; normal child with an overactive imagination.
As I got older, and I didn't grow out of my "imagination", I started doing research on my own. I learned that my ability to know things and the colors I could see were not my imagination. I learned that Parapsychologists called people like me Empaths and the colors I could see auras. They were explained as waves of energy emitted by emotions. In other words, when someone was experiencing a certain emotion, they would radiate waves of color. I was probably most excited to learn that there were others out there who could see them too. Unfortunately this knowledge didn't make life any easier for me. Even though I never told anyone about my gift, kids my own age always seemed to sense something about me was different. It was very hard for me to make and keep friends. That is why for most of my life I've tried my best to ignore the colors and the sometimes palpable emotions. But, even I have to admit that sometimes they come in handy.
"It's ok dad. I'm ok. I'm just so tired I think my eyes are playing tricks on me." I tried to sound reassuring.
"Is your head ok?" he asked leaning in to get a better look at me.
Oh crap. I realized I was absently massaging my forehead where it had just ungracefully slammed into the steering wheel. I could feel a bruise already forming. Great! Just what I needed on my first day of school. I grimaced, but not because of the pain.
"Yeah, I'm fine it's just a bruise. Don't worry; I have a thick head." I smiled at him.
He shook his head and chuckled softly. "We could always take a quick drive down to the hospital in Forks and get you checked out."
I looked at him not even attempting to hide my mortification.
"Absolutely not." I said staring wide eyed.
"You're the boss." He laughed tapping the roof of the car with his fist and turning to walk away towards the house. "Why don't you get your baby here parked under the car port and come take a peek inside the house."
I had to admit I was eager to get inside and see what the new house looked like. Judging from the exterior I was expecting it to be a little bit worn in, but in a charming kind of way. I parked the car in the carport and locked the doors, quickly inspecting the rear bumper to make sure I hadn't done any damage during the unloading incident. Satisfied that the Chevelle was exactly as it should be, I raked my hair out of my face and stepped up to the back door. I wrapped my fingers around the old brass doorknob and turned it, pushing on the heavy wood with my shoulder. The door didn't budge. With a frustrated breath I stepped back and then shoved harder surprised at how stuck the door was to the frame.
I was about to slam my whole body into the unforgiving barrier when I heard a knock on the small glass window.
I looked up and saw my dad peering out at me with a grin plastered across his face. I shot him an irritated glare and mouthed, "It won't open!"
He shook his head still grinning like an idiot. "Try pulling, genius!" He yelled loudly. I felt my face flush hotly and I rolled my eyes humiliated by my own idiocy. I grabbed the knob and yanked huffing as the door swung open easily. As I crossed the threshold I found myself standing in a small but quaint kitchen. I turned around slowly, savoring every detail.
The counters were well worn and chipped, and a small battered wooden table sat squeezed into the corner surrounded by mismatched barstools and high backed chairs. The room was very tiny and cramped but it had so much character there was no way I couldn't fall in love with it.
"Well kiddo, what do you think?" my dad asked cautiously.
"I love it!" I threw my arms around him. He returned my hug, squeezing me tightly.
"You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that. I am going to get our suitcases from the van. We'll unpack the rest tomorrow because I don't know about you, but I need some sleep." I nodded my head against his chest wordlessly agreeing to sleeping instead of unpacking. He unwound his arms from around me and started towards the door. Before he stepped outside he turned back to me. "Oh yeah, my cousin Sue Clearwater was here yesterday and made up the beds for us and put a casserole in the fridge. She left a note on the counter for you. It has your school schedule clipped to it." He quickly ducked out the door and judging by his heavy footsteps and drooping shoulders he was even more exhausted than I was. I picked up the note.
Welcome home David and Charli!
I figured you two would be beat after your drive so I put some clean sheets and blankets
on your beds and some dinner in the fridge. Just pop it in the oven at 375 for a half hour
and you should be set! Charli, I had my son pick up your class schedule and a map of the
highschool for you. Please call if you need anything!
- Sue Clearwater
I slid the paper clip off of the papers and pulled out the folded schedule and map. I quickly scanned the list of classes before tucking the schedule into my back pocket hoping to not have to look at it again until Monday.
Dad and I ate our dinner in tired silence on paper plates in an empty house. I covered the casserole with plastic wrap and threw our dirty plates and plastic forks in a plastic grocery bag I found in an empty closet. I sighed as I hugged Dad goodnight and drug myself to bed struggling to stay awake long enough to get undressed and slip under the covers. As I pulled the sheets up to my chin and pressed my cheek into the pillow, my eyes fluttered closed and I fell into a very deep and dreamless sleep.