Stephenie Meyers owns all things Twilight.
Thanks to xrxdanixrx for being a great beta and friend!
It was 6:06 am and Bella Swan was wide awake. In an hour she would have to wake up for her last day of high school and her graduation ceremony. She had been dreading this day for months, and it was finally here. Today marked her last day of freedom.
When she'd wake up tomorrow morning, she would begin a four year process known as: The Preparation. The Preparation was a costly procedure that got young men and women ready to be sorted and then matched. She would be given tutors to help her with cooking, baking, learning to play an instrument and to speak a foreign language. She would try on an endless amount of clothes in an endless amount of colors to find what looked best on her. Her hair and makeup would be done in ways most flattering to her.
After The Preparation was over, she would spend a month in what was called: The Sorting. She would meet a matchmaker and eligible young men to determine who she was best suited for.
Then she would go through Matching. There was no set time limit for Matching; it could happen as soon as a week after the sorting or take up to two years.
There was no romance. She wouldn't be swept off her feet like in a fairy tale. She would be matched with a man with a similar background to hers, who came from a good family, someone who she might someday be happy with and who she might even grow to love, but it wouldn't be her choice.
She decided to get up then. There was no point in dwelling over something she couldn't control. She got out of bed and stretched in front of the mirror. She sighed when she saw herself. She looked as exhausted as she felt. Her brown eyes had dark brown circles underneath them, making her skin look even paler than usual somehow. Her dark brown hair was in a ponytail as it always was. She sighed when she took it down and saw it fell only to her shoulders. Her older sisters both had such long hair, and hers wouldn't grow.
She looked at the clock then and saw it was after seven. Her ride would be here soon. She showered quickly, something she hated having to do—long showers were one of her favorite things.
She got dressed quickly as well, since her mother had bought a new outfit especially for today. For a moment she thought about wearing something else, but the scene Renee was sure to make, if she wore anything other than the white eyelet sundress hanging in her closet, wasn't something she wanted to deal with.
Glancing out the window of her bedroom, Bella saw a light rain falling.
"Wonderful day to be wearing a dress," she said to herself sighing.
She grabbed her bag, a light jacket and her umbrella when she heard the familiar sound of her best friend's car horn. She felt a lump form in her throat when as she opened the door and saw Jacob parked there in front of her house. This was the last time he would ever pick her up.
She walked to the car and got into the passenger's seat. He was smiling when she got in the car. "Morning," he said like it was any other morning and not the very last time they would ride to school together.
"You look nice today. Is that what your mom picked for you to wear?" he asked.
Bella couldn't respond. She knew herself well enough to know that if she opened her mouth now with this huge lump in the back of her throat, she wouldn't stop crying all the way to school. So, she continued to look at her best friend. His smile was huge, his whole face lit up.
He began to talk as he pulled away from Bella's house. She wasn't paying attention to whatever he was talking about. She looked out the window and nodded her head at what she thought were appropriate times.
He stopped talking and parked the car when they got to their other best friend's house. Jacob honked the horn and out came Angela.
"Hey guys," she said as she climbed into the backseat. Bella turned around to look at her. Angela looked just as upset Bella felt. But Angela had more to be upset about than Bella did.
The Preparation was expensive, and Bella was lucky to be able to afford it. She and her sisters had money put away in a trust for them after their father, Charlie, passed away. Her mother's side of the family had more than enough money to pay for all three of the girls to go through The Preparation numerous times.
Angela, on the other hand, couldn't pay for it. She had talked about getting a loan, but her parents didn't like that idea. Instead, she was taking a scholarship and going off to college. College wasn't the ideal path to take after high school, but for people who were smart like Angela, it was the next best thing to The Preparation.
She would, of course, have to come back once she was finished with school to be sorted. And going to college looked better to matchmakers than the people who went to work after finishing school.
The four years that Jacob and Bella would spend being prepared, Angela would spend getting an education. Bella envied the fact that Angela was getting away from home and would get a chance to experience life for four years, to make her own choices. For the four years that Bella was being poked and prodded, Angela would be free.
Anytime Bella brought up the idea of college to her mother, she was met with the same speech. She didn't need to go to college. She was lucky to be able to afford The Preparation. When Bella would then point out that she knew she didn't need to go to college but that she wanted to, Renee would throw a fit. She called Bella selfish and ungrateful. And if Bella tried to argue her point any further, Renee would declare that she felt faint and confine herself to her bed for the rest of the day.
Her sisters told her if college was so important to her she could go after she was matched. Her sisters, Rosalie and Alice, had both taken classes in business management and baking before opening their bakery. Alice's husband, Jasper, had gotten his degree in education after he and Alice were matched.
Bella knew that going to college after being matched was an option, but in her mind, that defeated the purpose.
"Do we have to go to school today?" Angela asked, staring out the window.
"Yeah, right," Jacob laughed, looking at Angela in the rearview mirror. "You wouldn't ruin your perfect attendance record on the last day of school. Besides, we don't have to do anything today. We just hang out till five when the ceremony starts."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. I still just can't believe this is it," Angela said, her voice cracking.
"Angela, are you all right?" Bella asked. It was then that Angela took her eyes away from the window and looked at Bella. She nodded her head slightly and went back to staring at the scenery out the window. Bella turned back around in her seat to look out her own window until they arrived at school.
Jacob parked the car, and the three friends got out and looked at the buildings they'd gone to study in for the last twelve years. All grades were housed on the same campus in different buildings. They made their way into the building known as Forks High School and to their first class for the last time.
Four Years Later
Tanya Wilson had one interview left for the day. Thankfully, it was a Friday, and she would have the weekend to relax. Well, that's not true, she thought to herself. She had seen at least fifty new candidates for Matching, and she needed to get a move on placing them with potential matches if she didn't want to get backed up. She opened her appointment book to see who her last meeting of the day was with.
It's the same thing every spring, she thought to herself. Tanya had been working as a matchmaker for almost five years. It was a job she was passionate about. Her own marriage wasn't at all what she pictured for herself.
Even though she knew better, Tanya was a hopeless romantic. She couldn't help but believe in fairy tales and happily ever-afters. Her husband, William, was a good man, and she was happy in their marriage, but she had always imagined more. That's why she took her job as a matchmaker so seriously. If people couldn't choose their own partners then she wanted to find them the best match possible.
Her last appointment for the day was with a young lady named Isabella Marie Swan. Tanya searched around on her desk and found Isabella's file. She seemed like a bright and sweet young woman. She had two older sisters, Rosalie and Mary Alice, who had both been placed in good matches.
A young man by the name of Michael Newton had shown interest in Isabella after meeting her at a ball held last week. Tanya made a note to bring Michael up to see what Isabella thought of him. Everything seemed in order with her file when a form paper clipped to the top of her academic transcript caught her eye. Tanya knew what it was as soon as she laid her eyes on it. Isabella had been labeled a Romantic by her eighth grade teacher.
Mrs. Cope felt that Isabella was developing unrealistic ideas about love and marriage. She felt that if someone didn't speak with her soon, Isabella would continue to develop these ideas. If that happened, then Isabella ran the risk of being labeled Hopeless, which would greatly hinder her from ever being placed in a good match.
Tanya was glad to see that Bella had never been labeled a Hopeless or a Hopeless Romantic. If she had, it would have been nearly impossible for Tanya to match her.
Being a Romantic was simply a warning.
It was quite another story if you had the label Hopeless. The people classified as Hopeless were being punished. Either they were called a Romantic when they were younger and didn't stop having dangerous thoughts and ideas about marriage or they just made one too many disparaging remarks about the Matching as a whole.
Normally these people ended up leaving the country because it was nearly impossible to be matched. And if they were matched with someone, it was very easy for the other person to get the match dissolved. Most people found it very embarrassing to be matched with a Hopeless.
After reading through the note for the third time, Tanya had made her mind up. She wasn't going to rest until she found this girl what she grew up always wanting: romance and a happily ever after.
Glancing at the clock, she realized that Isabella would be arriving shortly. No sooner had she gathered all the materials she was going to need for the interview when her assistant Lauren knocked on her door to let her know Isabella had arrived.
"Send her in please," she said.
Bella walked into her final interview with one thought in her mind: When this is over, I'm all done. Her sisters, her mother, and her preparation team had all told her what to except from this last interview, but Bella was still nervous. She was ushered into a large office where a tall, beautiful strawberry blond woman was waiting for her.
"Hello, you must be Isabella," she said smiling warmly. "I'm Tanya Wilson. How are you doing today?"
"I'm fine. It's nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Wilson," Bella said, shaking hands with her matchmaker.
"Please, call me Tanya. You can have a seat," she said, gesturing to the sofa. Bella sat down, and Tanya did the same.
"So, do you prefer Isabella or Bella?" she asked smiling warmly.
Of course, Bella preferred to be called Bella, but her mother felt it was time for her to start going by her given name. Bella was about to tell Tanya to call her Isabella when she remembered something—her mother wasn't there. "Bella is fine."
"Great," Tanya said smiling. "Why don't we go ahead and get started. Tell me a little about yourself, Bella."
Bella had gone over how this conversation should go many times, so she knew exactly what she was supposed to say.
"Well, I'm the youngest of three girls. My two older sisters are Rosalie and Mary Alice. The three of us are very close and we see each other regularly. I can speak French and some Spanish. I play the clarinet, and I hope to learn the guitar as well. According to my brothers-in-law, I'm a very good cook. I love children and hope to start a family of my own one day."
After Bella finished listing off her accomplishments, Tanya cleared her throat and shifted around in her seat.
"That's all wonderful, Bella. But it sounded a little rehearsed to me. I can read here in your file about all the wonderful skills you have acquired, but that doesn't really tell me about you. I really want to get to know you, Bella. So tell me something about you that I couldn't find in your file."
"Um..." Bella said, chewing on her bottom lip. She wasn't prepared for these questions. She was supposed to stick to her rehearsed answers. Her mother had warned her about saying whatever popped into her head. That's how she got in trouble with Mrs. Cope in the eighth grade.
"Bella," Tanya said, pulling Bella away from thoughts of her mother. "This isn't a trick. I promise you're not going to get in trouble for anything you tell me. I just genuinely want to know more about you."
The smile on Tanya's face was sincere. She really did want to know what Bella thought, what she liked and what she didn't. Bella stared at her lap trying to decide what to say. Finally she looked up at Tanya and said, "I like to read."
The smile on Tanya's face brightened immediately at Bella's words. "Wonderful. Tell me more."
For the next thirty minutes, Bella's conversation with Tanya felt like one she could have had with her sisters or Angela. It felt nice, and Bella sensed her anxiety slip away the more and more they talked.
"Okay, Bella," Tanya said after a long discussion about who had it worse growing up—Tanya, as the oldest child or Bella, as the youngest.
"I just have a few more questions and then you're free to go. A certain gentleman has expressed an interest in you."
"Really? Who?" Bella asked. She wracked her brain trying to think of all the different guys she had been introduced to in the last month. None of them stood out to her, and there was definitely no one she was interested in, so she couldn't imagine who had liked her.
"Yes, his name is Michael Newton. What do you think about him?"
"Oh, Mike," Bella replied. Now she remembered him. He was a nice guy, but not for her. Her mother liked him though. His parents owned a chain of sporting goods stores, and that was good enough for Renee.
"Well, he's a nice guy, I guess, but he's... never mind," Bella said shaking her head.
"He's what, Bella?" Tanya asked, her eyebrows raised.
Bella sighed. "He's just not who I would choose for myself." As soon as the words left Bella's mouth she regretted them. It wasn't her place to choose someone for herself. Tanya could put her with anyone. Mike was a nice guy; she could do a lot worse.
"Bella, please relax," Tanya said, patting Bella on the arm. "I told you, I want to know what you really think. If you don't like Michael, that's something I want to know."
"Thank you, Tanya."
"You're welcome. Now, final questions, is there anyone you're interested in? And if not, what qualities would you like to have in a spouse?"
"There's isn't anyone I'm interested in." Bella thought about the qualities she wanted in a husband, but she also thought about the answers she was supposed to give to this question. She knew the response Renee wanted her to give forward and backward—someone dependable and hardworking who would be a good father and treats me with respect.
She opened her mouth to give Tanya her rehearsed answer, but she stopped herself. During this whole interview she was open and honest with Tanya about how she felt. If for some reason Tanya was lying about wanting to hear what Bella really thought, there wasn't anything she could do about it now. She might as well tell her what she really wanted.
"What I really want is a best friend," Bella quietly replied, looking down at her lap. "I want him to be kind and loving, and it would also be nice if he could make me laugh. If I had those things, I think I could be happy."
Bella glanced over at Tanya after her little speech. That radiant smile was on her face, but this time there was a trace of sadness underneath.
"I'll do my best to find him for you," she said quietly. "Well, those were all the questions I had. Is there anything you'd like to ask me?" Bella shook her head as both she and Tanya stood.
"It has been a pleasure getting to know you, Bella," Tanya said. "I'll be in touch when I've found someone to suit you."
"Thank you so much, Tanya. I really appreciate it," Bella said, extending her hand out to Tanya. The two women shook hands, and Bella left the office feeling excited and nervous. It was finally over. There was nothing left for her to do but trust Tanya Wilson and wait.
AN: This is my first story and I'm very nervous. Please let me know what you think!
Thank you for reading!