Author's Chapter Notes:
I own a vintage pair of size 27 guess jeans that will fit on my ass again one day, a pair of white roller skates with hot pink wheels and Michelle. I don't own Twilight, or an alarm clock for that matter.
The rest of the day was far less painful than it had been the first time through. My classes were altogether uneventful even considering the 'new girl' rumor mill that was currently running amuck. I was still being whispered about and stared at unashamedly by my classmates, but for some reason it didn't bother me. Maybe it was the fact that I had faced this embarrassment before, or maybe it was because in my mind I was still a thirty-five year old woman which the teenage angst brigade couldn't bother anymore.
When school let out, I took my trusty umbrella (it was pouring) and trudged through the school parking lot to my truck. The reason why I had ever let Charlie and Renee talk me into driving this hunk was beyond me. The old part I could handle… But the fact that it said 'Official Truck of the Indianapolis 500 mile Race, October 1979' on both doors was particularly humiliating. And I knew now, without a doubt, that the first time I would drive it through the McDonald's drive thru, it would backfire through the carburetor and have flames shooting from under the hood. Joy.
I made it home and with only a curt greeting to Renee, hurried to my room. I was still shocked to once again see her face, and for a moment it left me a little breathless.
In the solace of my bedroom, I curled up on my bed and replayed the day in my mind. Seeing Edward again was strange. The last time I had seen him was in 1993 at a Taco Bell. It was the first time I'd seen him since he had returned from the war, and I had to fight the urge to run over and throw my arms around him. I had felt a similar desire today in the cafeteria, even though it would have been wholly inappropriate in both cases. He was so beautiful- how his emerald eyes twinkled, the way his muscles moved under his shirt, even the glimmer the fluorescent light made in his hair. Sigh.
And then there was Mike. He and I had met officially when I was on a date with his best friend, Tyler Crowley, a month or two after Edward and I had split. We had immediately struck up a friendship despite the fact that he was dating someone at the time, and often times the four of us would double date, just enjoying hanging out as a group. Tyler and I were never serious – he was just a way for me to distract myself from the pain of losing Edward. Mike and I had stayed friends, of sorts, after Tyler and I had stopped seeing each other. My aching heart wasn't ready for any kind of committed relationship, and I think Mike understood that from the beginning. After all, most of Forks knew about my break up and how hard it had hit me. He was happy being my go-to guy when I needed a shoulder to cry on or an encouraging pep talk.
Mike had looked good today.
My life had become such a mundane thing, and I blamed the bulk of it on Mike. All of the difficult parts of our marriage, my lack of self-esteem for instance, were his fault entirely.
Looking at him now, through the eyes of experience, I could see that we had both equally pulled each other down. He had a similar fire in his eyes, one that matched, if not rivaled, the one I had found in the mirror this morning. Remembering his teenage face from earlier today, I felt a tug at my heartstrings. I was beginning to miss him a little.
Then there was my Jacob. He had been firmly placed at the back of my mind the whole day, even though I knew that if I stopped to dwell on him I would break down. And after all, that was never a good to start the first day at a new school. Now, alone in my room, I allowed myself to recall, however painfully, thoughts of him. Would I ever get my sweet baby back? He had become the reason I got out of bed in the morning…
Mike and I had tried for almost ten years to get pregnant. I had been through every fertility test known to man and had tried drugs and procedures of all kinds short of in-vitro. I had all but given up when I found out I was pregnant. When Jacob was born, something inside of me changed. Before becoming a mother, if someone had told me that my entire being would be fundamentally altered by giving birth, I would have laughed at them. I mean, how could having a baby change who I was? But, it was so true. I could easily see now how a mother could commit murder to save her child. The thought of someone hurting my baby made me viciously angry and I understood. I would kill if it meant protecting him. My routine, of course, changed, but I didn't resent it. Getting up at the butt-crack of dawn didn't bother me like it did pre-Jake. It was just part of having him in my life.
My heart hurt thinking of him. I was flooded with thoughts as common-place as the way he smelled right after his bath, of watermelon shampoo and boy, which had always been a soothing balm to me. When he would let me, I would hold him and breathe him in, and I always knew after that, that everything would be right with the world. When he was getting tired, he would crawl up in my lap and pull the neck of my shirt down so he could lie on the bare skin of my chest. 'Mommy, I need to feel your skin,' he would tell me. His little head fit perfectly under my chin and I would gladly hold him there forever if he would let me. I loved the sounds of his giggles when Mike would tickle him, now, they echoed in my mind, and I wished I could have him with me again.
A soft knock on my bedroom door jarred me from my reverie. Renee peeked in quietly, a concerned look on her face the moment she saw me crying.
"Oh, sweetie… Are you ok? Did something happen at school?" She motioned for me to scoot over on the bed so she could sit beside me.
"No. I just miss home." It was the truth, although it wasn't the home she thought I meant.
"I know, baby. But I'm sure you'll make friends here quickly and it won't seem so bad. At least the first day is over, right?" She smiled her gentle smile and brushed my hair back from my face. "Roll over and I'll rub your back for a bit, 'kay?"
I rolled over on my stomach, facing the wall, and let her rub my back. When I was a little girl, she would do that whenever I wasn't feeling well. There was something about my mother's warm hand gently running along my back that would cure everything from an upset stomach to a broken heart. It wasn't enough to erase the pain in my heart this time, but it went a long way towards mulling the sting. She hummed a familiar lullaby and soon I felt myself drifting toward darkness.
I awoke some time later and was disoriented again. The light in my room had changed and I realized that it was now dark outside and the faint light from my desk lamp was the only illumination. I smelled onions and garlic and immediately my stomach started growling. I remembered that smell. My mom's spaghetti. Renee would never be considered an awesome cook, but she managed. However, she had a few 'specialties' that were surpassed by no one and spaghetti was one of those specialties. Her sauce had become somewhat famous in our old neighborhood and she had taken to canning it during the summer when fresh tomatoes were abundant, and selling the jars she didn't have room to store. She would spend all day cooking the sauce, using only fresh ingredients (no dried spices would have ever made their way into her sauce) and she would lovingly stir and simmer until the whole house smelled like an Italian bistro.
Her arthritis had gotten so bad in the last few years of her life that she could no longer grind the tomatoes and chop the oregano, and in her eyes it wasn't worth doing if she couldn't do it right, so the spaghetti sauce at her house had started coming from the grocery store…Hunt's in a can. Now, sitting here on my bed, smelling my mom's homemade spaghetti sauce wafting up the stairs, I was overcome with the desire to spend time with her again. And of course, stuff myself to the eyeballs with pasta goodness.
Pushing my melancholy mood to the back of my mind for the moment, I jumped out of bed and all but ran down the stairs. Sure enough, Renee was standing in the kitchen, spooning the simmering sauce into a pot of freshly drained noodles. Garlic bread was piled in a bowl on the table, and the plates were stacked with forks on top of them. I quickly finished setting the table and then put ice in glasses and poured us all a round of sweet tea. A throw back from Renee's Mississippi roots, dinner at our house wasn't complete without sweet tea.
"Hon, dinner is ready. Get washed up," Renee yelled at Charlie, who was, as usual, immersed in some sports channel in the living room.
Dinner was as it had always been. Charlie talked about his day at the station, Renee talked about the women she had met at the charity of the day (today it was the Junior Auxiliary), and I talked about school. Nevertheless, it was a dinner that I knew without a doubt, I would never forget. I was with both of my parents again and we were happy.
After we finished dinner, I cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, then excused myself to my room to work on my homework. As I was beginning to get tired after reading the same paragraph of American History for the third time and still not feeling it sink in, I heard the phone ring downstairs, and then Renee calling my name.
I hustled down the stairs and answered, "Hello?" I couldn't imagine who would be calling me. I hadn't given my phone number to anyone at school, since I couldn't even remember it myself.
"Bella? This is Alice Cullen." I should have guessed.
"Hi, Alice. What's up?"
"Nothing, really. I hope you don't mind me calling."
"No, I don't mind. I needed a break anyway. I'm trying to get through the first two chapters that Mr. White assigned us today, but my brain just isn't cooperating." I pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, stretching the phone cord over to reach me. I knew from experience that conversations with Alice required one to get comfortable.
"Look, I know we just met, but I was wondering if you'd like to go shopping with me this weekend. I usually drag Rosalie along, but she and Emmett are going hiking or some shit, and she bailed on me. Don't get me wrong, I would have asked you anyway. I don't want you to think that you were my last resort or anything..." Her voice was getting squeaky as she began to run out of breath.
"Breathe, Alice. I'd be glad to go with you. Like I told you earlier, I just know that we're going to be friends, so why put off the inevitable?" I smiled into the phone, knowing that she would be grinning from ear to ear on the other end.
"Awesome, Bella! I want to go to Port Angeles. I'll get my brother to drive us, if that's ok?" She posed it as a question, but I knew from past experience that she would rather walk than be seen in my truck.
We talked for another forty-five minutes before I finally begged my way off, saying that I had to get some sleep. In the span of the conversation, I had been brought up to date on all the juicy gossip at Forks High. Of course, I already knew it, but I 'oohed' and 'awwed' at the appropriate places and really, it was nice to talk to Alice again.
I got ready for bed as per my usual routine, and fully expected to have to will myself to sleep. Surprisingly though, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The rest of the week went by fairly quickly, as I fell into an easy routine. The classes I was taking weren't hard, but honestly, the first time through them I hadn't paid attention. Back then, I had big plans to become a manicurist. If Mike hadn't talked me into going to college, the thought probably never would have occurred to me. Knowing now that paying attention in high school actually did make a difference, I was determined to do things a little different.
By the time the weekend rolled around, I was itching to get away for a while… If I was being honest with myself, I wanted to spend some time with Alice and her 'brother'.
Saturday morning arrived in typical Forks fashion – overcast and chilly. I dressed in a pair of men's Levi's 501 jeans that I had bought at a flea market in Phoenix, and a Spuds MacKenzie t-shirt that I had begged Renee to buy for me. I grabbed a denim jacket and my purse, heading out to the porch and waiting for fate to come get me.
When Edward and Alice pulled up to my house at eight a.m., I realized that somewhere within the last week I must have inadvertently changed my past. What tipped me off? The fact that the first time this day had happened, Edward had not brought a date along. I tried desperately to conceal the shock on my face when I realized that the face in the passenger seat of Edward's Volvo did not belong to Alice. I recovered quickly and made my way to join my friend in the back seat of her brother's car.
As we were backing out of the driveway, Edward caught my eye in the rearview mirror. I must have still looked a little confused as he finally introduced the other person in the car.
"Bella, this is Michelle. I'm sorry, I forget that you don't know everyone at school like the rest of us." He gave me a sheepish smile before continuing, "Michelle, this is Bella. She just moved here from Phoenix."
"Nice to meet you, Michelle." I managed to mumble, semi-intelligently. This day was supposed to be the day that Edward began to see me as girlfriend material… He was most definitely not supposed to be on a date! What in the world had I changed? I tried desperately to think back over the last week and still, could come up with nothing that would have altered the course of my future so drastically. At this point, there was little I could do but go along with it, so I tried my best to act like it was no big deal. After all, to the rest of the parties in the car, I had only known Edward for a week, so there was no reason for me to be feeling possessive.
The drive to Port Angeles was quiet on the conversation front. I think Alice was a little put off with Edward bringing a date as well, especially since Jasper had opted to stay home. I noticed that she was glaring daggers at Michelle's back whenever she wasn't looking, and I made a mental note to myself to ask her about it when we had a moment alone.
On several occasions, I found myself staring at Edward's reflection in the rearview mirror. The first time I had lived this day, I remembered being caught up in his beauty and jittery when he spoke to me. I didn't have those same nerves today, yet I was still anxious. We were supposed to have a connection, and I was surprised at how much it hurt me that he didn't seem to feel the same this time around. He caught me staring as we neared Port Angeles and there was a moment of clarity. His eyes softened with emotion briefly in response to the bewilderment that was certainly written on my face, but then his gaze hardened again and the moment was lost.
Edward pulled into a strip mall that housed a couple of clothing stores that I recognized, and a consignment shop that Alice swore had some great deals. She all but jumped out of the car as soon as we were in the parking lot, grabbing my arm and hauling me out with her, not waiting for Edward and Michelle to follow. I quickly got the impression Alice wanted to be away from them as badly as I did.
In the first store we stopped in, the little pixie randomly grabbed a handful of items off of the racks and started pushing me toward the dressing rooms in back, occasionally looking over her shoulder, watching to see if our entourage had followed. When the sales clerk finally let us in one of the locked rooms, she threw the clothes on the bench and huffed herself down beside them.
"Bella, I don't know what the hell his problem is! This was supposed to be me and you today… and he was just going to drive us around. He agreed to it! Then this morning on the way to your house he up and decides to bring this girl along. I didn't even know he was dating anybody. You know, he introduced her to me as his girlfriend! I thought we were close!? How come he never told me he had a girlfriend? I'm supposed to know these things! And did you look at her? She hangs around with Lauren Mallory of all people and she's such a skank! I can't believe he would even be interested in somebody like that!" She was gasping for breath by the time her tirade came to an end, her little body shaking with barely controlled anger.
"Alice, I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I wasn't expecting it either, if that helps. I don't know Edward very well, but Mallory's group doesn't exactly seem like the type that he would want to spend his time with. Who knows what he's thinking…"
"Well, I don't like it, and I don't have to talk to her." She folded her arms and stomped her feet a little, looking every bit the part of a pissed off four year old, I tried with no avail to stifle my impending giggles.
When she glared at me, I couldn't control it any longer and fell into a full-out fit of laughter. "I'm sorry, Alice. You should have seen the way you looked just then. I'm not laughing at you, I promise." I was the one gasping for breath now.
"Just for that, Isabella," I flinched at the use of my full name, considering she knew how much I detested it, "you will be my Bella Barbie for the rest of the day. I get to dress you up and do your makeup when we get home, too. No argument." She was pouting again and I had to fight to keep from breaking down again.
"Ok, Alice. I'll play dress up with you, but don't think it's going to become a habit," I agreed without complaint.
The day was spent between shopping and trying to avoid Edward and Michelle. We met up briefly for lunch, and then went our separate ways again, agreeing to meet back at the car at four. By the time four o'clock rolled around, I had a pretty decent addition to my wardrobe and Alice was loaded with bags. The drive home was a little more animated than the previous drive, but Alice and I tended to keep the conversation between ourselves, only including the front seat when we were directly addressed by one of them.
We decided to celebrate my first week in Forks by going to the skating rink that night, immediately after Bella Barbie time, of course. I hadn't thought about skating in years and the prospect had me all but giddy with anticipation. From Christmas, 1983, when my mom bought me my first pair of roller skates, I had spent the majority of my Friday and Saturday nights at the skating rink. Unlike most of the girls I knew, I didn't go to hang out with boys, play pool, or flirt. Instead, I went to skate. I would get out on the wooden floor the minute I got there and would stay until it was time to leave. Although I would be left red-faced and breathless, the feeling of the wind whipping my hair back was exhilarating and I wouldn't trade that time for anything else.
Alice dressed me in a pair of navy blue, Guess jeans and a pink tank top. She managed to add volume to my hair which now reached up to epic heights, and then proceeded to spray a half can of White Rain on it just to keep it in place. My make-up was just as expressive, dark eye shadow and shimmery lip gloss. Alice was dressed in classic Alice-wear, a pair of jeans with hand-drawn flowers down the legs and an oversize navy t-shirt tied at the waist and cut in diagonal strips to reveal a silver tank top underneath. Her hair was complete with a pink stripe down the front of her bangs.
We arrived at the rink just before seven and it was packed with kids from Forks High and some bronze-skinned kids from La Push. Van Halen's 'Jump' was blaring from speakers placed at each corner of the wooden floor, and I was itching to get out on the floor and work out some pent up energy. Alice and I quickly changed into our skates, stowing our shoes under the short benches in the corner.
We fell into an easy arrangement where I skated backwards facing Alice as we glided effortlessly around in an oval. We talked the entire time, but mostly about her and Jasper. It was then that she described in perfect detail the dress that she had designed for prom. A junior getting invited to Prom was a big deal in Forks, and she was rightfully excited.
I was remembering Alice's prom dress to the very last detail as she described it to me. It had been an elaborate number in pink satin, covered in sequins and rhinestones. She had worked for months to sew all of the embellishments onto the dress in a paisley pattern, but the final result was stunning and she had looked like royalty next to Jasper in his black tux.
I was lost in my memories when I noticed a shock of bronze hair walk in the door. Edward was here, with Michelle in tow. This was different too, from my memories. The first time this night occurred, Edward hadn't shown up until much later and had come with Jasper. As Jasper stole Alice and skated off into the sunset, Edward had turned to me and we had ended up talking for the rest of the night.
I was getting rather frustrated at the turn of events and wasn't paying much attention to things around me when I heard Alice's frantic voice.
"Bella, look out!"
I turned around just in time to see a little boy of about eight years old step out onto the floor, directly in my path. I didn't have time to swerve completely and miss him, and he was obviously very wobbly on his feet. In an effort to avoid the inevitable collision that would no doubt hurt him more than I, I attempted to jump over his tiny form. I cleared his head with no problem, but when I landed, my foot twisted in an awkward position and I came down hard on my right knee. I heard a tearing sound and felt a stab of pain shoot through my leg.
Alice was at my side in an instant and she helped me hobble to the edge of the rink and sit down at one of the round tables there. I could feel warm blood oozing down my pant leg and I looked down to see that my new jeans were torn at the knee. Alice ran to the drink counter to get a wet washcloth to help me get cleaned up, and came back with the owner of the rink. I was shaking profusely from the pain and adrenaline and was little help when they tried to get close to the wound to clean it. My jeans were torn, but not far enough to expose much of my skin, and the legs of the jeans were simply too tight to push up to my knee. Both women returned to the counter to look for scissors when I finally came to my wits and realized that Edward was walking toward me. Michelle was leaning against a pool table in the corner giving me the stink eye, but at this point romance, let alone Michelle, was the last thing on my mind.
Edward came over to me, and kneeled in front of the seat where I was sitting. He saw the washcloth in my hand and must have instantaneously realized the extent of the situation. Without a word, he gently place one hand on the back of my injured leg and grabbed the torn denim in the other and yanked hard causing the tear to open several inches. He then took the wet cloth and applied it tenderly to my knee, trying to quell the bleeding. When fresh blood quit flowing, he gingerly wiped dried blood from around the area. Alice had returned with Neosporin, gauze and some first aid tape, and she quietly handed it to Edward who applied the bandage.
He pulled a piece of tape out and tore it with his teeth, looking into my eyes with some emotion I couldn't quite place. In the moment when our eyes met, I was lost in the sensation of completeness that being with Edward brought. The rest of the world seemed to disappear and we were right again... The warmth of his hand seeped through even the denim of my jeans and spread outward, filling my body. It had been more than twenty years since we had touched, but my body remembered him and responded accordingly. My breath came in shallow gasps and I felt my cheeks redden with the warmth of the blush spreading across my face. I was certain that he felt it too, as his eyes lost focus and his breathing became labored as well.
Our moment was stolen from us when Alice reappeared and took the seat beside me. She grabbed my still shaking hand as Edward finished taping me up. Gathering the first aid supplies, he promised me a drink and headed over to the counter before I could argue.
When Edward came back, he seated himself on the other side of me, looking very concerned. He handed me a Dr. Pepper in a white Styrofoam cup, then proceeded to remove the straw from its paper wrapper before punching it through the lid.
"Bella, that was a crazy stunt you pulled, but I'd hate to think what would have happened if you didn't have such good reflexes." There was a hint of laughter in his eyes, but I was still a little too shaken up to laugh at myself.
"I'm just glad I didn't hurt him. Thank you for cleaning me up. I don't handle dealing with my own wounds very well. Blood makes me shaky." I tried to smile at him, but my face felt stiff.
"I would say it was my pleasure, but seeing you hurt and bleeding is far from enjoyable for me. I am glad I could help, though. Are you going to be ok?"
"Yes, I'll be fine, but I don't think I'll be skating much more tonight." I had all but forgotten about Alice and Michelle until that moment. I looked up and saw Michelle staring at us and the look in her eyes was nothing short of murderous. "Edward, I think your girlfriend is a little upset about me stealing you away from her."
"She'll live," he stated dryly, not even bothering to look over his shoulder in her direction. "I told her I didn't feel like playing pool, but she insisted. She can deal with it."
The rest of the evening was spent with me sitting at the table nursing the never-ending supply of Dr. Pepper that Edward kept getting for me. Alice would skate some when a song she liked came on, but otherwise she kept me company as well. It wasn't exactly what I would consider a great night, but the fact that Edward completely ignored his girlfriend in order to sit with me made my heart swell.
When Alice dropped me off at home that night, Renee carried on about my injury as any mother would, then ushered me off to bed. I fell asleep immediately and dreamt once again of emerald eyes, gentle smiles, and the velvety voice of the boy I was falling in love with all over again.
For those of you who don't remember/aren't old enough to know about the cultural references, here's some links/definitions:
Desert Storm was the Iraqi war that was started under the first President Bush. Operation Desert Shield came first, in August 1990, I believe, and it was a defensive mission to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia. When that mission was unsuccessful, fighting began in January of 1991 and the name was changed to Operation Desert Storm.
Spuds MacKenzie was a dog created for ads for Bud Light in the 80's. The character became so popular that a merchandizing craze ensued. I hate to say that I was victim to their charms, even though I was nowhere near old enough to drink. Here's a link for your enjoyment J ..
And, of course, I can't forget Bella's skating rink hair: .com/fashion/pictures/9L/66/5966_ (this is Cindy Crawford, but typical 80's hairstyle)
This is Alice's hair, except with pink instead of blue: ./2413/2127973854_dd0997c218_.
Also, the name Teenage Angst Brigade is Jandco's. I just borrowed it.