"The sun and moon are lamps of incomparably beautiful light." ~Sri Guru Granth Sahib
"Let us, then, be up and doing,
with a heart for any fate;
still achieving, still pursuing,
learn to labor and to wait." ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
~*~ Chapter One ~*~
It was a wet March when Bella Swan arrived back at her father's home in Forks, Washington. The recent rain gave everything a luster of gray, turning the verdant rural scenery into a mockery of depression. The wet monochrome couldn't be more of a contrast to what Bella was used to in her previous home in Arizona. Bella sighed, looking out of the window on the passenger side of her father's police cruiser. She knew that her emotions were coloring her thoughts.
Coming back to Forks, the home where she lived the first eight years of her life, had been her own idea. Yet leaving the blue-skied and red burnt landscape of Phoenix with its silver skyscrapers was not easy. She was doing it for her mother, who finally had something permanent in her life that was good for her. Her new husband, Phil, would treat her well and look after her. Bella was just in the way, preventing her mother from being able to join Phil as he traveled with the Minor League.
"Do you remember Billy Black?" Charlie's voice called her attention back into the car. Even though she'd lived with her father for almost the first decade of her life, the last nine years had brought Bella to think of him as "Charlie" in her head. "You used to play with his kids on La Push."
"I remember. Why do you ask?"
Charlie's attention remained focused on the road. "Ever since he's been in a wheelchair he hasn't been able to drive his truck. So he sold it to me cheap."
It took a moment for the thought to sink in. "You bought me Billy's old truck?" Bella asked.
"Billy and his son Jacob have both done a lot of work on the engine. It runs great. They don't build them like that anymore. You'll see in just a minute."
Bella did see. The clouds were thinning slightly by the time they pulled up to her father's house, her old house and new house again. Parked in the driveway sat a truck Bella had only been able to vaguely recall. The red was faded and though it was small compared to the trucks leaving the manufacturing belt these days, large fenders and a round cab space gave it the impression of being huge. It was one of those solid vehicles that somehow managed to remain intact after an accident that left expensive sports cars in pieces.
It was awesome.
"Wow, Dad, I love it! Thanks!"
The truck wasn't alone in the driveway. Both Black men were waiting for the Swans to arrive, their handicap vehicle parked parallel to the road. Jacob, a boy of about fifteen, had been shifting his weight from foot to foot as he stood behind his father's wheelchair. He looked up when he recognized the cruiser pulling alongside him. Billy, a handsome older Native American, had a big smile on his face.
"Bella!" he called to her in a somewhat long drawl as she stepped out of the passenger seat. His voice carried hints of timeless secrets and birds flying high above the trees. It gave Bella a warm rush of familiarity.
"Billy." The one word greeting contained more than her smile; it was all fondness for a man she once knew as a child. It might have been awkward to bend over to hug him in the wheelchair, but Bella managed it without making her or Billy feel self-conscious about his change of health since they'd last spoken. Internally, Bella wished such a thing had never happened to him. "Thanks for the truck. I've been saving up to buy one when I got here, so I'd be happy to help pay you a little extra."
"Bella," Charlie protested, but Billy waved them both off.
"Not a worry, girl. That tank will keep you safe. Anything goes wrong, you can call on us. Jake here is almost as good a mechanic as I am."
The nervous boy stepped forward and held out his hand. "Nice to see you again, Bella." Shifting her attention to the son, Bella took his hand and tried not to grin too widely. Jacob was obviously trying to come off as mature.
"Hi, again, Jacob." Bella tried to put him a little more at ease. "You worked on fixing up the engine?"
Jacob smiled. His teeth shone especially white against the russet color of his skin and the long black of his hair. He was fairly pretty, for a boy of fifteen. "You bet. Just don't ever go more than sixty and you'll be fine."
From out of the trunk, Charlie had grabbed the final two of Bella's bags. Her carry-on dangled from the thick strap around her shoulder. "I'll take these inside, Bells. You and Jake can meet me and Billy there once he's done showing off."
Jacob rolled his eyes at Charlie, but he was grinning. Once the men disappeared into the yellow two-bedroom house, Jacob was hopping with excitement, forgetting all pretense at pretending he was older than she was. "I was psyched when Dad told me Charlie was buying you this truck. Now that this one is gone, I can start building my own car. I've got a VW Rabbit I've had my eye on, and I can fix it up by the time I've got my license, I'm pretty sure."
"Wow." Bella was suitably impressed. She certainly couldn't have done that when she was fifteen.
"Yeah," Jacob grinned at her again, white teeth flashing charmingly. "C'mon, hop in and I'll show you how to run this thing." He swung open the driver's side cab door.
That was how Bella ended up in the emergency room at Forks Hospital before she entered into her own house. Bella turned towards the truck just as Jacob was opening the door, and she took the full strength of the swing on her right temple. The wet landscape of her father's property flashed with dots of bright light and she was on the ground.
The advantage of having the police chief as your father when you're accident-prone was the quickness with which sirens could leave your driveway and escort you into town. Of course, with Forks, there wasn't nearly as much traffic as there would have been in Phoenix, so the sirens were mostly unnecessary. In fact, they were embarrassingly over the top. Bella looked under her eyes at her father from where her head lay pressed against the passenger window, mortified at the tale of her re-entry into town that would quickly circulate.
"Dad, is this really necessary?"
Her father didn't even turn. "How many heads do I have, Bella?"
Bella groaned, and didn't answer. Truthfully, she saw only one head when she squinted at her father, but it had a shadowy afterimage that shouldn't be there. Charlie took her lack of response as proof that he'd made his point.
Bella was put into a wheelchair and rolled into the emergency room by a nurse whose nametag read "Diana" while Charlie filled out insurance information at the registration desk. The emergency room wasn't a separate wing with private exam rooms, but one long open space with a row of beds separated by curtains on chains that could curve round the whole bed if needed. At the moment no one else was in it, for which Bella was grateful. She didn't want to have to share her clumsiness with anyone other than the nurse and doctor that had to examine her.
After the nurse had helped Bella move from the chair to the bed, she got out a clipboard and took Bella's heart rate and blood pressure. Then she cut straight to the chase.
"Isabella, have you had anything alcoholic to drink today?"
"No," Bella sighed her answer, used to the usual questions to check her status upon admittance. "I don't drink, and I've been with my father since he picked me up at the airport."
"Any drugs, something before your father picked you up, perhaps?" The nurse's voice was bland, but Bella resented the implication of her last words.
"What? No." Her offense must have come across as genuine, for the nurse just nodded and checked her clipboard, easily moving on through the rest. She was short and brunette, her bob of a haircut clipped in the back. Purple latex gloves that somehow managed to match her flowered scrubs clung to her hands in ridges as they moved along the clipboard.
"Can you tell me what happened?"
"Yes. I walked into the path of a swinging car door. Accidentally."
"And what happened next?" Scribble on the clipboard.
"I fell onto the ground."
"Did you lose consciousness?" Scribble, scribble.
"No, but I felt jarred."
This time the nurse looked up. "Jarred how?" she pressed. The eyes were more kindly now, and her face was more welcoming than Bella had noticed yet. Of course, maybe the dark blob overlapping it had hidden the gentleness there before, and Bella had simply let the tone of voice dictate the woman's personality.
Bella attempted to shrug, but couldn't complete the motion for the dizziness it gave her. "My senses were kind of focused on the contact of car hits head, body hits ground. I saw bright dots." Bella added after a second.
Now she really had the nurse's attention. "Do you see them still?"
"No," Bella shook her head. "But I do have some sort of shadowy image everywhere I look."
"No, more like a blob."
"Does it follow your eyes, or stay to one side as you look around?"
Bella looked across the room from left to right to confirm her answer before she gave it. "It follows the center of where I look."
"Uh-huh." The nurse was scratching her pen along the clipboard again. The ink on the ballpoint must have been drying out. "Does it leave a trail as it follows, like floaters?"
Bella scrunched her face at the nurse. "I don't know what you mean by floaters."
"That's alright," the nurse said, dismissing her own questions. Her eyes were caught on something behind Bella, before she stood to walk past her. Slowly Bella turned around to see what the nurse was doing. Probably the doctor had come in.
Her jaw dropped. She might not be able to see clearly through the tunnel-like blob, but she knew that she was seeing a man unlike any she'd ever laid eyes on before. He was young for a doctor, blond, and ridiculously handsome. From what Bella could make from the short distance, his skin was pale and she imagined his eyes would be a bright blue that matched the beauty of the rest of his features. He took the clipboard from the nurse as she leaned in and spoke to him quietly. Nodding to her, he looked over the notes she had made. "Thank you, Diana," he said before turning and walking towards Bella. His voice was remarkably appealing, comforting as a doctor's voice should be, yet also somewhat stimulating.
As he moved closer Bella was able to see his features more clearly, and she was surprised that their perfection didn't diminish in the least. She'd expected, like moving closer to a picture or painting, that picking up on more minute details would remove the unblemished impression you got from distance. She did notice more as the doctor stopped by the bed. He was pale, almost too pale, and the set of his face gave the impression of being tired. If it weren't for the empty ER Bella might say that he was overworked. His eyes were what really startled her. They weren't blue like she'd expected, but they were bright. Bright gold. Yet, the kind of gold that held an earthy, rusted feel. How his eyes managed to be both bright and earthy escaped Bella, but there it was.
"Hello, Miss Swan. I'm Dr. Cullen."
"Hello," Bella answered politely and gave an ever so slight nod of her head. The doctor seemed to notice her caution as he pulled a stool on wheels over towards the bed for him to sit on.
"I understand that you received a blow to the head. Can you tell me how it happened?"
Bella inhaled through her nose to ready herself for the retelling of the tale. Doctors, she thought exasperatedly, even as she noticed an enticing smell, musky and sweet. She went over what had happened step-by-step twice with the doctor. She knew he was checking her memory as well as making sure he understood every detail of the incident. It might have bothered her if she wasn't so used to it, but there was something so soothing about the young doctor with his golden eyes that it seemed almost impossible to be upset around him. He certainly didn't make her feel irritated like the nurse had, never mind like a fool for being such a klutz.
Dr. Cullen put on a pair of those purple medical gloves. "I'm going to touch your head now to feel for bruising and swelling."
Bella held herself still while he leaned in and put his hands on the hair on either side of her head. She had told him where the door had hit, but she supposed that hadn't mattered. His fingers seemed a touch cool, even through the gloves and her hair. The scent of him that she had caught earlier wafted towards her nose even more strongly. It made her think of crisp pages in a well-loved book, of mulled cider and nighttime air. If his hands hadn't been holding her head she might have leaned in towards that scent unthinkingly. Bella flushed at the realization, but suppressed the feeling within her so that the color was only slight on her face.
Dr. Cullen leaned back and away from her, face merely showing concentration, his left hand falling back down to his side. His right hand stayed raised, one finger lifted.
"Please keep your eyes on my forefinger, Isabella, without moving your head."
"Bella," Bella corrected automatically as she instantly obeyed. She wasn't sure if she tracked it too well, considering the dark shadow in the center of her vision. The doctor dropped his finger and pushed away from her again, standing up.
"Can you stand up, now?" He asked gently. Bella didn't give a nod first this time; she simply got to her feet. She didn't exactly hop up off the hospital bed, but she did get steadily to her feet, no problems.
"Now hold your arms out. Good. I'm going to ask you to touch your finger to your nose, one hand at a time."
Two not so polite thoughts crossed Bella's mind simultaneously. First, this was like a cliché under the influence test that cops give people on the side of the road. Second, she wondered what he'd do if she just stood there and waited for him to actually ask her to move. Instead she obediently bent her right arm at the elbow and touched her finger to the tip of her nose. She wasn't really the type of person that would do such a thing, but she had a sense of humor about the doctor's choice of words. Besides, not moving right away might indicate brain damage that she didn't have. Her left hand had just finished performing the task equally well, when the doctor smiled at her and told her to sit down again.
"Now, tell me about this 'shadowy blob' you're seeing." Dr. Cullen was smiling at her again, with a relaxed sense of humor that made her feel as though she were just talking to a chum.
This is some bedside manner, Bella thought to herself as she answered him.
"Has it faded or become less intense since you first noticed it?"
Bella hesitated, trying to gauge it, but it wasn't easy to focus on. "Not really, maybe a little."
All of a sudden Bella's stomach gave a quick heave and she folded inward, her head coming closer to the doctor's knees. Quicker than she could see, he somehow managed to have a trash can with a clear plastic liner in front of her before the vomit made it out of her mouth. She took it from his hands as a second demonstration of her condition pushed itself upward and outward. Dr. Cullen gave her a respectable amount of space, and he was right on hand with a paper towel when she was done.
"Thank you," Bella spoke sincerely, taking the saving grace from his hand and wiping her mouth without looking up. "Nice reflexes."
She let the used up cloth fall into the can before placing it at her feet and sitting up slowly.
"I think it's safe to say that you have a concussion, Miss Swan." His hand was on her upper arm, steadying her as she sat up, and once again she felt the coolness of his fingers through the parka she wore. That was a trifle surprising, as the parka fabric was rather thick. Why was this man so cold? Had he just been rummaging through a refrigerator before coming to tend to her?
Though she didn't hear the door swing open, she heard the footsteps of her father with their weighty tread quickly coming towards her and the doctor.
"Dr. Cullen," Charlie's voice was both greeting and question as he also came and stood by the bed. Having the two of them hover had Bella uncomfortable, and with the heel of her foot she nudged the soiled wastebasket under the bed. Almost as if the doctor picked up on her discomfort, he moved a couple of paces away from her, while still remaining close to her father.
Slickly done, Bella thought as she fought off a new wave of nausea. She wasn't going to throw up this time.
"Chief Swan," Dr. Cullen greeted in return. His golden eyes were focused on the policeman's face with appropriate concern that matched the genteel manner of his voice. "Your daughter has a concussion. Though I don't believe it to be serious, I suggest being cautious. We can do a CT Scan, but I don't detect any fracture of the skull or internal bleeding. What I would recommend is rest."
"Hmm," Charlie grunted in response. His brow was furrowed, indicating that he was taking the doctor's words seriously. "She starts school tomorrow."
"I'd suggest keeping her home instead for at least twenty-four hours. You can give her Tylenol for the pain, or a more generic brand if you prefer, as long as it is acetaminophen." The doctor's eyes returned to settle on Bella, and she was glad for it. She was used to being talked about by medical professionals as though she weren't there, but that didn't mean that she had to like it. She had been feeling resentful. Bella groaned aloud at his next words, which earned her a commiserating smile from Dr. Cullen. "She'll need to be woken every two hours to make certain that she can be roused to normal consciousness."
Bella wasn't the only one to be distressed by this. The expression on Charlie's face showed he wasn't looking forward to the prospect of bi-hourly interrupted sleep.
"You're sure she doesn't need that scan you mentioned?" Charlie directed his question to the doctor.
"No. I don't believe it's necessary. Bella is very cognizant of what occurred to her, has no memory loss and her balance and coordination are just fine." He turned from Charlie to Bella, and the smile he gave her was brilliant. "Just rest yourself and you'll be fine."
"Thank you," Bella smiled back at him, accepting the kind dismissal.
"Yeah, thanks, Doc." Charlie added as Dr. Cullen walked away after handing Charlie Bella's registration papers. Bella's eyes followed him out the door, focusing as best they could on the blond hair and white coat that moved in and out of her imposed shadow sight. There was something very unusual about the man she had just met, something beyond the unique gold eyes. Bella turned her head to find her father watching her.
"Isn't he a little pale?" Bella asked Charlie.
"Uh-huh." Charlie's answer wasn't an agreement so much as an observation. "C'mon, kid, let's get you out of here."
It didn't occur to Bella until she and Charlie were once again in the cruiser to wonder how Dr. Cullen had determined that she had no internal bleeding merely from being close enough to touch her head.
Bella woke for the third time that evening to her father shaking her shoulder.
"Unnn," she grunted at him sleepily, an attitude of resentment evident. She pushed herself into an upright position slowly, her hands hitting the covers heavily. She blinked at her father twice before speaking, gravel in her voice. "I'm awake, I'm fine."
"What happened today?"
Bella almost rolled her eyes and arms in wide exaggeration. Instead she fell face-forward into the blankets. "I was hit in the head by a door on a truck. Jacob Black was opening it." Cotton to cotton mouth, the heat of her breath flowed against the fabric and circled back to her lips.
"Alright," her father said. "Sit up for me, please."
Bella sat back up, and the weight of her head balanced on the back of her neck, making her chin jut forward. Her eyelids were so heavy, but she managed to open them and look at her father. She was expecting him to leave again for the next two hours, but instead he surprised her with a new question.
"What about that shadow you were seeing?"
Bella blinked at him and sat up straighter. Her mouth loosed slightly as she looked at Charlie, her bed, her nightstand, and the desk against the wall on the other side of the room. "It's gone. It's been gone. I haven't noticed it since I went to sleep the first time." She looked back at her father, pleased at the obvious progress, pleased that he had thought to ask. Interesting that her father thought of its disappearance before she had even noticed that it was gone.
Looking at his face, she noticed how tired he was. It wasn't surprising. After all, her father had worked that morning, driven to Seattle and back, brought her to the hospital and back. Then he'd taken care of her, fumbling through the kitchen cabinets until he'd found a can of Campbell's Chicken Soup to warm for their dinner.
"You've had a long day, too. I'm sorry you have to get up every couple of hours."
Her father nodded, and his face was relaxed with an odd emotion Bella couldn't quite pin down. "This reminds me of when you were newly born," Charlie shared. "We all had to wake every two hours to nurse the jaundice out of you. Your mother wasn't too crazy about that."
There was a smile coming from Charlie that Bella rarely saw. She realized that the memory of her as a baby had brought forth a paternal affection strong enough to show clearly on her father's usually passive face. For the first time, Bella felt glad that she had moved back to Forks. It would be good to be with her father again.
"Tell you what, Dad," she began. "I've woken up okay three times now. How about I just set the alarm in my room and let you sleep? That way you don't have to get up so often. If I don't get to it, you'll hear it going off unstopped, and you'll wake."
Charlie seemed to consider this for a moment, but then shook his head. "I've got to be sure that you're waking up. It's best the way we've been doing it, Bells."
Bella sighed through her nose and nodded sleepily. At Charlie's urging she lay back again, and he pulled the covers up to her clavicle. There was a brief squeeze on her shoulder before he moved to the door.
"See you in two hours," she called lightly to him.
"At least this time I don't need to use ice cubes to wake you."
With a light chuckle, Charlie turned out the light and shut the door behind him.
Bella did not fall back asleep right away. After several minutes she turned onto her side and looked out towards the window. It was bleak and dark. She could hear the trickle of the recently rained-upon vegetation dripping onto slick grass and roof shingles. The sound was almost alien; Bella was so unaccustomed to it.
Knowing that she ought to be resting, Bella still pulled back the covers her father so recently spread over her and placed her feet on the floor. Walking over to the window, she pulled back one side of the pale blue curtain and stared out at the front yard. Everything seemed to be a deep brown, from the trees along the side of the house, to the grass and gravel ground. The view wasn't entirely unfamiliar. After all, she had spent the first eight years of her life in this room, not to mention the occasional visit to her father. There was an opening just under that one pine tree where Bella used to sit and play. It was a nice recollection, yet the wet was too much. With no city lights, the night was so dark under the clouded sky. Forks was a town of mostly rain and clouds, Bella mentally sighed. She knew all along that she was going to miss the sunshine; it did her little good to reflect on it now.
How had fate brought her back to this house? A house that her mother could barely stand, though somehow she'd managed eight years before taking Bella and leaving. Renee had told Bella once that she almost left when Bella was an infant, had seriously considered taking her and just going then. Yet the thought of a young baby, so dependent on her parents for care and comfort, had made her mother remain in the home they'd started for longer than she thought possible. Now Bella was back.
It wasn't fate, Bella acknowledged to herself, disagreeing with the earlier thought. Bella had definitely made the choice herself to return to Forks, Washington. Just as her mother had made the choice to leave not seventeen years earlier, but nine. Now, Bella's future was to deal with the rural town and its changeable climate. There would be good things about it, as Bella had realized while talking with her father just a few moments ago. It wasn't as though there wouldn't be any sunny days at all here.
There was a break in the clouds, and the moon cast its light. It heightened and made more visible the details of the darkly wet grass and the peripheral trees. There were more colors and hues than there had been without it, and the yard looked more promising.
As Bella's mind grew more accepting of her decision, she began to wonder what her new life would be like for her. She had already seen Jacob, how many other familiar faces would she see when she started attending the high school? How many new ones?
She had already met at least one new face today. Idly, Bella's thoughts fell on Dr. Cullen. Aside from being surprisingly young and having the looks of an Abercrombie and Fitch model, he had been pale, with slight shadows under those uniquely golden eyes. Though she was certain that she'd never met him before, something unusual about him had tugged a memory. Unable to recall, Bella shrugged it off as she continued to look at her view. Perhaps the feeling was just coming from being treated by a doctor who seemed overworked.
Bella stood there for several minutes, staring up at the moon.
Dr. Carlisle Cullen left the hospital after working a double shift without looking any the worse for it than he had when he walked in. While the shirt and slacks might have been a touch more rumpled from his movement within them up and down the halls of the Forks Community Hospital, Carlisle himself remained immaculate. There was no five o'clock shadow from having gone without shaving. His hair might have been slightly out of place, but not prominently so. His eyes glowed with a spark of life and energy, as though he was looking forward to beginning his day, rather than just ending a long one.
The nurses at the hospital might have noticed these things, were it not for their own attractions getting in the way. His ethereal beauty tended to distract the females from noticing the minor things, despite their eyes trying to soak up every detail when they saw him. The doctor was an enticing and exotic fish in a small rural pond, and in the two years he'd been around no one had managed to hook him yet.
The women in his home might have been a deterrent at first, were it not for the fact that they turned out to be his sister, his cousin and his adopted teenage daughter. The greater deterrents came when Dr. Cullen ignored subtle hints, and politely declined outright invitations. Some of the more vain women declared him to be gay, but after two years of never noticing him out with anyone at all, and a reluctance to give up hope, that rumor was rather deflated. Yet, the staff at the hospital had to wonder about a very attractive man who did not date, and raised two teenagers with his sister and a cousin.
Carlisle was aware of the speculation, but it was no less than he expected, for it was the same in every town that he and his family had moved to. He nodded politely and kindly to Grace Lloyd-Jenkins, the middle-aged receptionist on duty, as he headed out the front of the hospital.
He walked through the drip coming from the eaves of the roof overhang without wincing. The night was wet, and he could detect the nuance of upcoming spring in the air. Walking at a slower pace than he was capable of, Carlisle made it to his Mercedes in the side corner of the parking lot. He was looking forward to returning to his family. Esme's sweet warm welcome and Maggie's perky helpfulness. Though Alice's eager heart could easily outdo Maggie's perkiness. Jasper's silent and deep presence was always soothing. In a few months Edward and Rosalie would be visiting, though the town didn't know of them. Carlisle was very grateful for the family that now filled his life. He had been lonely for a long time. It was merely a reflection of their own understanding that his coworkers at the hospital didn't realize how content he was.
Today there had been something new to capture their interest. Carlisle recalled the conversations he'd heard whispered in the hall or spoken openly in the break room a few doors down. The police chief's daughter had returned to town.
With perfect clarity, the words spoken of the young Isabella Swan ran through Carlisle's mind as he pulled out of the parking lot and drove towards home.
"Mother up and took her when she was eight years old. The girl has only occasionally been back since, though I never saw her."
"She was a sweet child, quiet and agreeable."
"She almost always had her nose in a book, even at that young age. She could be sitting in the waiting room, ankle twisted, and she'd have L. M. Montgomery in her hands. I'm surprised she didn't have a book on her today. Pity if she grew out of it." This was from Grace, who had been taking a moment to get some coffee in the break room.
"I imagine it was too sudden. After all, Charlie told me that she hadn't made it into the house yet from the airport." Grace had been speaking with Eileen, a lab assistant who had apparently come on duty while Charlie was getting Bella registered.
"Really? First day back? Well, then, you can bet we'll be seeing more of her here. That girl was more accident prone than any one else I ever laid my eyes on."
Carlisle had to agree. Walking into a door certainly indicated a clumsy nature, which he had verified as he looked over Miss Swan's records from Phoenix. As Carlisle wondered how soon he'd likely see the girl at the hospital again, the nighttime clouds released the moon. It was high enough in the sky that it hovered above the tree line that enclosed the little-traveled road, brightening the way ahead. Caught in the light, delicate drops of rain hanging from the boughs on either side of the road shone in Carlisle's sharp vision. Carlisle drove on, appreciating the beauty of moonlight.