Imprinted

Chapter 1: A New Day

I sat at the kitchen table in my parents' house before school, absentmindedly chewing on some cereal. I'd woken up way earlier than necessary and I was already ready to go to school. I still felt like I was half asleep, but somehow I'd managed to finish what light makeup I wore and get dressed with time to spare.

"Hello? Earth to Melanie?" my dad's voice floated over to me from the kitchen doorway.

"Sorry—guess I zoned out," I said, blinking.

He chuckled. "Or you're still half asleep."

"Maybe a combination of both," I said sheepishly.

"Charlie's daughter arrives today," he said. "Promise you'll be nice to her?"

The town had been aflutter for the past week, anticipating the arrival of the Chief of Police's daughter to our small town. It wasn't everyday that we had someone actually move to Forks, Washington, and if I was being completely honest—I didn't understand why she'd want to move here. For majority of my life I'd dreamt of leaving our tiny town.

I rolled my eyes at my dad. He and Chief Swan were pretty good friends and I was sure that Chief Swan was anxious about how his daughter would fit in. "Of course I will be."

"Do you work tonight?"

I nodded. "I'm closing." I worked at the small grocery store in La Push, which was another small town about twenty minutes from Forks and was home to the Quileute tribe.

I really enjoyed working in La Push—despite the constant annoyance from customers that I had to deal with—there was one guy who lived there, Paul, who had been increasingly flirty with me over the past little while. Any time he was at the store to shop, he'd cash out at my register—sometimes I could tell he'd specifically come into the store to see me since he was only buying one or two items and would wait in whatever lineup I had, instead of just going to one of the express checkouts.

We hadn't gotten past more than a few flirtatious comments, and if he didn't ask me out soon, I'd shoot my shot and do it myself.

"What are your plans for the day?" I asked as I finished my cereal and started to wash my bowl and spoon.

"I have a few calls this afternoon." Dad was an electrician. "And this morning Charlie's asked me to go down to La Push to help pick up Billy's old truck. He bought it off Billy for his daughter."

"Is it still going to run?" I asked. I'd driven past the Black house a few times and had seen the old red truck in the driveway. Always parked in the same spot, looking like it hadn't moved in years.

"Those things are built like tanks," he said with a shrug. "Plus, Jacob—Billy's son—has proven to be proficient with cars. He's been fixing it up a bit for the last little while."

"Is that where you take your car?" I asked, smile quirking at my lips.

He chuckled. "I may have had him look it over a few times."

"Mom's left for work already?" I asked.

He nodded. "She's been putting in overtime sorting out her business plans; she's really close to closing a deal."

I smiled at how his voice swelled with pride. My mom and I didn't have the best relationship—I was definitely closer with my dad—but he loved her. It felt rare to have a love last that long and I hoped that someday I could have something like that.

Without really meaning to, Paul's face entered my mind. It felt a bit ridiculous to be this enthralled with him, but I couldn't help it. There was just something about him.

I glanced at the clock on the stove. I'd put off leaving for school long enough. "Alright, I'll see you later, Dad."

"Bye Mel," he said. "Have a good day."

I grabbed my jacket off the coat rack near the front door, hefted my schoolbag over my shoulder, and went out to my beat up little blue Altima. My dad had bought it used for me when I turned sixteen—in a town like this you basically needed to have a car to get anywhere. I drove the familiar route to Forks High and parked in my usual spot.

It was hard to miss the shiny, silver Volvo that was parked nearby and owned by the most attractive people who went to our school. I watched as the impossibly perfect Cullen family exited the Volvo.

They were a strange family—always keeping to themselves yet always incredibly polite whenever spoken to. They were all together too. Emmett Cullen, huge and muscular like a bodybuilder was dating the impossibly gorgeous blonde Rosalie Hale. And then there was Jasper Hale, who I set next to in my advanced English class, who was dating the teeny, pixie-like Alice Cullen, who was in my Biology class. Lastly, there was Edward Cullen, who as far as I knew didn't date—many girls at the school had tried. Their adoptive father was our town's best doctor and my dad had told me that Chief Swan was always surprised that with a house full of teenagers, he never had any complaints about them.

I watched as they entered the school together, somehow so graceful and unbothered by the cold. I wrapped my scarf around myself a bit tighter as I exited my car with my schoolbag. I went to biology where I sat by myself—my previous desk partner had moved away from Forks a few weeks back. There was only one other person in that class who sat alone and it was Alice Cullen. A few times, we'd been paired up together when we'd had to work with partners and we'd barely spoken. It always felt like she wanted to say more than just what the coursework allowed, but she never did.

In biology that day, we were watching a film on plant structure. I tried to take notes as best I could, but it was hard to focus and I found my mind wandering. I made it through biology and the rest of my classes in a daze. At lunch, my group of friends and I all sat together and they were talking about the imminent arrival of Chief Swan's daughter. Jessica Stanley was of course already starting to make slightly snide remarks about her arrival, while Angela Weber and I quietly discussed our Spanish quiz from that morning.

At the end of my day, I rushed out to my car, trying to beat the rush of students so I could get to work on time. My uniform was folded neatly on my passenger seat as I sped to La Push. I found myself hoping that Paul would stop by the store again, deciding that if I saw him today, I'd ask him out for coffee.

Unfortunately—or fortunately, to save me some embarrassment—he didn't show up at the store during my shift. I tried not to let the disappointment get to me too much as my boss, Johnny, locked up for the evening and I drove home.

The next day, Bella Swan arrived at the school. I felt bad for her—I was sure she could tell the entire town had been anticipating her arrival. She seemed to be in a daze as she walked through the halls, trying to figure out where her classes were. She sat with us at lunch—Mike Newton had planted himself next to her and was talking her ear off about the school.

Unsurprisingly though, her eyes were cast towards the Cullens' lunch table. They always sat together, and a lot of the time they would just look away from each other, not touching the food on their trays in front of them.

"Who are they?" Bella whispered.

Jessica looked up immediately, following Bella's gaze. I noticed Edward's head turn slightly and he met Jessica's eyes, before turning them on Bella, and then almost immediately looking away again. Jessica began to explain each of the Cullens to her and the pairings of the couples. Bella specifically asked about Edward and whether he was dating anyone.

"Don't waste your time," Jessica said, hint of acidity in her tone. "He doesn't date. Apparently none of the girls here are good looking enough for him."

I coughed into my sleeve to hide my laugh. Jessica had not been subtle about her desire to date Edward—only to be shot down every time. Jessica shot a glare at me before turning back to her salad. I'd always been closer to Angela but because Jessica was part of her friend group, I had to tolerate her as well.

The Cullen family all stood at once and left the cafeteria and I couldn't help but watch as they went, forever astounded by their grace.

The bell rang, signalling the end of lunch and I trudged to my least favourite class—gym. Once I got to the change room, I realized that I'd forgotten my gym clothes. I asked the room if anyone had an extra set and everyone shook their heads.

Great.

Coach Clapp was annoying to deal with on his best days and I knew he'd give me hell for forgetting my gym clothes. I went out to face him and he gruffly told me to sit on the bleachers for the duration of class.

I didn't mind that—I was able to sit by myself on the bleachers and flip through one of the assigned books for English class. I was the first one to leave the gym and went to English, taking my seat next to Jasper. I nodded at him in greeting and he sent a small smile my way as our teacher began the lesson.

I had to work again after class, and again I found myself wishing that I'd see Paul. Part of me felt like I was just setting myself up for disappointment—I barely knew anything about him. He was probably dating someone else and I was just reading into our conversations too much.

Regardless of that thought though, I kept glancing up at the clock, willing it to go faster. The prospect of seeing Paul was making me antsy.

Suddenly, I felt a wave of relaxation wash over me, calming my nerves. I glanced around—Jasper had the hint of a smirk on his face, but nobody else in the room seemed to notice a difference in the air. I shook my head at myself—I must have been imagining things.

When the bell finally rang, I practically jumped out of my seat and rushed out to the parking lot. I blasted my radio as I drove to keep myself from going crazy. I really wanted to see Paul again. There was just something about him that was getting to me. There seemed to be an underlying current between us, making me feel drawn to him.

I parked in one of the employee parking spots and pulled my work shirt on overtop of my school clothes. I dug my name tag out of my purse, pinned it on, and went into the store to punch in.

"Hey Johnny!" I called to my boss who was sitting in his office.

"Hey Mel," he said. "Could you stay late again today?"

"Why?" I groaned, not liking the prospect of closing two nights in a row.

"Liz couldn't come in," he said. "I'll pay you extra—you know I always do when you have to stay late."

"Fine," I grumbled. "You're lucky I don't have school tomorrow."

I went out to my register and flicked on the light, signalling that I was open. It wasn't busy in the store, making my shift drag more than usual. The only customers I was getting seemed to only want to give me attitude.

I found myself watching the clock on my register. As it edged closer and closer to eleven, I was beginning to lose hope that I would see the one person I was most excited to see.

As ten-thirty rolled around, I fully lost hope. He was probably home for the night already.

I tried not to let the disappointment get to me too much. He was basically a stranger—why was I so affected by him not coming in to shop? I bent down to check to see if I had enough bags, when I heard a very familiar, slightly husky voice.

"Excuse me?"

I nearly hit my head standing up straight again, feeling my face flush immediately, but it was okay. My day was made—Paul was there. It always caught me off guard how much he towered over me, his skin a beautiful shade of copper. He had an incredibly strong jawline and high cheekbones and short crop of black hair atop his head. His eyes were a beautiful dark brown that I felt like I could get lost in. He was so handsome it almost intimidated me and it took me a moment to compose myself before a warm smile spread across my face.

"Hi."

He returned my smile. "You're here late tonight."

"Yeah, another cashier couldn't come in," I said. I glanced at his empty hands and furrowed my brow, unable to wipe the smile off my face. "Were…were you buying anything?"

His smile widened. "You caught me. I was hoping to see you tonight." Heat rushed to my face again. "I was wondering if I could buy you a coffee when you're done your shift?"

"I'd love that," I said, feigning nonchalance and glancing at my watch. "I'm done in fifteen minutes. My car is parked out back; it's the blue Altima. I'll meet you out there, okay?"

"Alright," he said. "I'll see you soon."

Fifteen minutes later, I clocked out for the evening and rushed into the backroom, stomach bubbling with anticipation for my date with Paul.

"Whoa—you're in a rush," Johnny said.

"I, um, sorta have a date," I said, slightly sheepishly.

"I wish you'd told me! I wouldn't have asked you to stay late then," he said.

"Well, actually, it's because I stayed late that I have the date," I said. "So I guess I have to thank you."

He chuckled. "Be safe, okay? Text me if you need anything."

"I will," I said. "Have a good night!" I rushed out the back door to see Paul leaning against my car.

"Hey," he said.

"Hi," I said, thanking myself that I remembered to take the time to do my make-up that morning.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Yeah, do you know any good coffee shops around here?" I asked, unlocking the car doors and sliding into the driver's seat.

"Yeah, there's one right near my place," he said, getting into the passenger seat. "It's a family owned place."

"Will it be open?" I asked.

"They're always open," he said as I started the car.

"Okay," I said. "Give me directions." I followed his instructions and we ended up at a small restaurant. I turned into the parking lot and into a spot close to the door.

"You should've warned me about your driving before I got in," he said, teasing lilt to his voice.

I scoffed. "My driving isn't that bad!"

"I wasn't sure if we were going to make it," he said.

I rolled my eyes but I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. We went into the restaurant and Paul led me to a cozy table in the corner and went up to the counter to order our coffees. He came back a few minutes later with two steaming cups.

"Thank you," I said, warming my hands on my cup.

"Cold?" he asked, putting his arm around my shoulders.

"Not anymore," I said. The rest of the night was wonderful. We talked for at least an hour and it was nice. There was no awkwardness or weirdness between us—it was probably the least awkward first date I'd ever been on.

…until my phone vibrated in my pocket. It was my mom. Great.

"Hello?" I asked, slipping out from under Paul's arm.

"Melanie, where are you?" she asked sharply.

I hesitated, kicking myself for not calling her earlier. "Johnny made me stay late."

"And you didn't call?" she asked. "And I know the store closes at eleven. Where have you been for the last hour?"

"A friend and I went for coffee," I said carefully. "Mom, I'm sorry, okay? I should have called. I don't have school tomorrow and I don't work till later on in the day."

"Be home soon, no later than two, okay?"

"Whatever you say," I said, ending the call. I turned back to Paul. "Sorry about that."

"Do you have to leave?" he asked, putting his arm around me again, showing that he clearly did not want me to leave just yet. I was totally fine with that—I didn't want to leave either.

"Not yet," I said. "I don't have to be home until two."

"Good," he whispered into my hair. "I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet." I smiled at him and snuggled even closer to him. I was surprised at how comfortable I was already was with him. We talked for another hour or so when he seemed to start to realize that it was getting a bit late. "When can we see each other again?"

"I don't know," I said honestly. "But I'll give you my number." He handed me his phone and I added myself to his contact list. "I should probably get going, though, my mom sounded pretty annoyed with me." Paul's face immediately started to drop, so I tried to soften the blow. "Call me tonight?"

"Will you pick up?"

"Of course I will."

"Okay," he said, smile lighting his face.

"Do you want me to drive you home?" I asked as we began to walk out of the restaurant.

"Nah, I can walk," he said.

"It's cold and raining," I pointed out. "Is my driving really that concerning to you?"

"It's fine, my building's right there," he said, pointing across the street.

A smile quirked at my lips. "Is this where you take all your dates then?"

He laughed as we reached my car. "Only the ones I really like."

I leaned against my driver door and smiled up at him. "That's good to know. I had a really nice time tonight, Paul."

"I did too," he said, leaning closer to me. He cupped my chin with his hand and I tilted my head up slightly, closer to his. He very gently brushed his lips against mine and then whispered, "Goodnight, Mel."

"Goodnight Paul," I said, getting into my car.

Wow.

I watched as Paul walked across the street to an apartment building before I started my car and began to drive home. My brain was clouded from the night's events. It was hard to focus on the road, but I managed.

Our date had been so good. It was the best first date I'd ever been on. There hadn't been any awkwardness between us at all. I felt elated.

However, when I got home, my cloud of bliss was ruined.