Ok people, this is my first FanFic so be nice! I've spent waaaay too much time reading some really awesome stories on here and thought I'd give it a try.
I have to thank my new friend *slash* beta *slash* co-author WOLFYFANGRL for her encouragement and support in writing this story.
Please let me know what you like and what you don't like and offer any suggestions you'd like to see incorporated into this story.
After not seeing each other for four years, former best friends Jake and Bella reunite at the airport on his return from Boot Camp and her moving from Arizona to live with her dad in Forks.
Watch as they deal with the nightmares of her past and the stress of his current position in the military.
Will their friendship lead to a future together? Or will the baggage from her past and him being shipped around the world in the military prevent them from their happy ending?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. There I said it.
I love the sun… I really do. The warmth of it on my face, the enveloping heat, its healing qualities – just thinking about it makes me smile. So why am I on a flight to one of the rainiest places in the country?
Because of a man… three men actually. Two of them unknowingly forced me to leave the hot, desert state of Arizona and head northwest, where another man was waiting for me… my dad.
I hadn't seen Charlie since I was 14 when I used to visit him every summer after my parents split up. But now that I recently graduated from high school and my mom Renee and step dad Phil are moving to Florida for his job. Renee pleaded with me to come to Florida with them, but as newleyweds I could tell Phil was hoping for some alone-time with his new bride and I really missed my dad. So I decided it was time for a fresh start in hopes of leaving some painful memories behind.
Sporting my tank top, shorts, sunglasses and high pony tail (clearly dressing as if I were still in Arizona), I looked for my father among the throngs of people searching for their luggage at baggage claim. After spotting my bag on the carousel, I tried to grab it but a large hand beat me to it and hoisted it off the conveyer belt and set it down beside me. I looked up and found a beautiful man in a military uniform smiling at me. Something about him was familiar, but that uniform was stopping all coherent thoughts from forming in my brain.
"Uh, thanks," I stammered. I know they always say a man in a uniform is a sight to see, but I was surprised how perfect the white uniform fit him and how beautiful his russet skin looked in it.
"No problem," he smiled. "You coming back from somewhere or just here for a visit?"
"I'm coming back, but here to stay. I, uh, mean my father lives here and I'm moving here from Arizona," I rambled.
"Arizona? Warm, sunny, dry Arizona?"
"Well, hope you're used to rain and cooler temps cause we don't see much sun around here."
"You live here?"
"Oh, I thought with your tan, you must be from somewhere sunny and warm too."
He chuckled, "I suppose traveling to sunny locations is a perk of my 'job' and all, but I'm not tan… I'm from the Quileute reservation."
"Oh… OH! I used to go there when I was younger with my dad. I loved First Beach!"
Just then I heard someone call my name. I turned around at the sound and saw my dad frantically waving his arms at me with a huge smile on his face. I couldn't help but smile back. I turned to say goodbye to my baggage claim friend, but he was gone. Sighing, I grabbed my bags and headed towards my dad and my new life in Washington.
Leaning my head back against the headrest in the front seat of Charlie's police cruiser, I closed my eyes as he brought me up to speed on what's happened in the small town of Forks since I last visited him 4 years ago. Charlie would know the latest gossip - he's the chief of police and he makes knowing what's going on in his town his business.
I was afraid that he was going to tell me that there were robberies or arsons occurring now, but instead I just smiled when he said that several of the women in town were arrested after an altercation at Tuesday night's bingo. Then I giggled when he told me how he had to 'rescue' our 80-year-old next door neighbor, Mrs. Millhouse, after she slipped and fell into her bathtub, saying he wanted to scratch his eyes out after seeing a woman of her age naked!
This was good; hearing Charlie talking about small-town life and how safe the people are in it. This is just what I needed... to feel safe. I thought about the last time I felt safe - that was at least 6 months ago. Not that my mom and Phil didn't keep me safe in Arizona. The neighborhood we lived in wasn't anything fancy, but it was nice. No, the neighborhood isn't what I became afraid of; what left me with haunting nightmares was something much scarier.
I was brought out of my dark thoughts when Charlie asked me if I remembered the Black family. "Don't you remember, Bella? You and Billy Black's son would play on the beach for hours. You two were inseparable when you were little!"
"I remember dad. Jake - uh - Jacob was his name and his older sisters used to tease us all the time."
"Yeah, I remember that. They would say you two couldn't get married because you were older than him," Charlie chuckled.
"Only by a few months but I was an inch taller than him!" I laughed.
"Not any more. You wouldn't believe how big that kid is now. People grow up a lot in 4 years, Bells."
I thought back to the last time I saw Jacob Black.
We were walking along the beach after our dads cooked out on the grill. It was almost the end of summer and I was leaving the next morning to go back to Arizona to start high school.
"I wish you didn't have to go Bella. I'm going to miss my best friend."
"Me too Jake but I'll be back before you know it. Besides, we're starting high school now! Aren't you excited?"
"Not really. I mean, I'll see the same kids from the rez that I've seen all my life. It's just a different school building."
"But you'll be playing high school football now Jake! That's so cool!"
"Yeah, I guess but I wish you were still around. Who am I going to tease for being such a klutz?" he smiled.
"Oh come on - I'm not that bad!" He raised his eyebrow. "OK, maybe I am. But think about all the new experiences we'll get in high school!"
"Like what?" he asked and stopped walking.
"I dunno - like your first kiss, your first date, your first high school dance."
He grabbed my hand and turned me toward him. "I don't want my first kiss to be with anyone but you."
He leaned closer to me. I think I stopped breathing for a second. And then I closed my eyes as his lips brushed against mine so softly once, twice, three times. Jake rested his forehead against mine.
My heart was pounding in my chest. I couldn't believe Jake kissed me. Jake, my best friend for years had just kissed me. It felt so, so... perfect. I reached up and put my arms around his neck and kissed him back. This time his tongue snaked out across my bottom lip in a silent request for entrance to my mouth. I opened my mouth and our tongues met for the first time.
As Charlie pulled into the driveway of his house, I smiled as I remembered one of the happiest moments of my life... my first real kiss with Jacob Black.
They say boot camp is supposed to be the hardest torture a soldier goes through. It separates the weak from the strong, the men from the boys. I didn't think it was that tough. Don't get me wrong… no one likes to be screamed at by a drill sergeant or run 5 miles every day at the crack of dawn. But I embraced my time at boot camp. The PT (physical training) wasn't terrible. I'm a pretty fit guy, at least compared to most of the other guys in my unit. At 6 feet 5 inches and 220 pounds, I was stronger and faster than most. I was a high school football star for 4 years, ran track and worked out on a regular basis with my guys back home so the training wasn't too bad. But the early mornings sucked. I'm not a morning person, so I'm happy to be heading home and sleeping in for a few days before the Navy says I have ship out again in two weeks.
As I was grabbing my duffle bag from the luggage claim, I saw a petite girl dressed in the wrong type of clothes for Washington. From the sunglasses and tank top to the flip flops, she clearly hasn't spent any time in this area to know we see less sun than anywhere in the country. I grabbed her suitcase for her, figuring she couldn't lift it - it looked like it weighed more than she did!
She told me she was moving here from Arizona. That explains the clothes I guess. She kept smiling at me... most girls do when they see a guy in uniform. I'm not being cocky, it's just a fact. There was something familiar about her, but I couldn't put my finger on it. She thought I had a tan. That was funny. I'm tan alright, but not because I lay out in the sun. She said she used to go to the beach on the rez when she was younger. Hmmm... I would've remembered a girl like her.
Someone must have called her because she turned around and gave a little wave. Just then, I spotted two of my buddies from back home pull up outside so I went to tell them to give me a second so I could maybe get this girl's name and number. Hey, I know I'm going to be leaving town again in a few weeks but it doesn't hurt to show the new girl around right? The guys told me to hurry up and I jogged back to the baggage area, but she was gone. Sighing, I turned back to my friends and hopped in the back of Quil's Jeep.
"Jake, dude! What happened to your hair?" Embry shouted.
"It's called a high and tight. I can't be looking like the rez chief with long hair and braids during boot camp, can I?"
"Whatever," Quil said. "It works for you! Look at all the ladies checking you out!"
"It's just the uniform guys. That's all," I said as Quil floored it, his tires squealing as we sped away from the airport.
"Slow down! There's a cop over there," Embry pointed.
"Pfft. That's Chief Swan. He loves us rez kids!" Quil said as he waved to Charlie, passing him.
Thanks to Quil's crazy driving skills, we arrived at the rez in record time. My dad was sitting in his wheelchair on the front porch waiting for us.
"Jake!" he yelled as I hopped out of the Jeep and ran over to him.
"Hey dad! How are you?" I leaned down and hugged him.
"Looks like I'm the only man in the family with long hair still," he laughed.
"Sure, sure. Let me go change out of this uniform and we'll catch up, ok?"
"Jake man can I borrow that uniform on tonight?" Embry asked.
"Uh - why?"
"Cause we've got a ton of people, including hot girls, coming to the bonfire tonight to celebrate your return... and you said the ladies love a man in uniform!" Embry said as he fist-bumped Quil.
"Jake, go get changed while I make these two knuckleheads set up things for tonight," Billy said.
"Ok. Ummm.. how many people are coming to this bonfire? I was kinda hoping to just hang out with you and my boys here."
"Just the folks from the rez and your friends," Billy explained. "Oh and I invited Charlie Swan to come too."
"We just passed him on the highway coming back from the airport," Jake said.
"Oh, really? That's right. He was picking up his daughter at the airport earlier. You remember her Jake?"
How could I not remember my best friend, the girl who I had a crush on for years, the girl who gave me my first real kiss? My happy thoughts of kissing Bella on the beach were interrupted by my dad yelling at Quil and Embry for dropping the coolers full of drinks.
Bella Swan is coming to the bonfire tonight? Hmmm... wonder what she's been up to the past couple of years. I wonder what she looks like. I wonder if she remembers the last time we saw each other… and that kiss.
Charlie carried one of my bags up to my old room and went downstairs to get the rest of my things. The room looked just like it did when I left here 4 years ago. The same photos were still taped around the mirror above my dresser and there was even a poster of Justin Timberlake over my bed. I laughed when I saw that and remembered how Jake used to tease me about my crush on him. Guess it's time to update this room a bit, huh?
I had most of my things shipped to Charlie's earlier in the week so that they would arrive before I did. I picked up a box off the floor to begin unpacking and nearly dropped it on my foot as pain shot through my right wrist.
"Ow! Crap!" I yelled as Charlie came running into the room.
"What's wrong? What happened Bella?"
"Nothing. I just dropped that box. Guess it was heavier that I expected."
Charlie picked up the box and put it on top of my dresser as I held onto my wrist. Charlie came over to look at it to see how injured it was. I winced and pulled my hand away.
"Bells, I have to see if it's broken."
I knew I couldn't let him see my wrist. I already covered it with several bracelets and a large watch. If he looked at it, he'd see what I was trying to hide. I couldn't let him see it… not yet.
"It's fine dad. Look…" I said as I moved my wrist around. Tears sprung to my eyes from the pain but I tried to keep my face neutral so Charlie wouldn't know I was hurting.
"Hmmm. OK, well if a box is too heavy, just ask me to lift it for you, ok?"
"Sure, sure. Thanks dad."
Three hours later, my room was thoroughly cleaned and nearly every box was unpacked. Charlie had just gotten out of the shower after cutting the grass.
"Hey, I thought we'd head down to Billy's tonight. That ok with you? I know he'd like to see you."
"Um ok. Are we having dinner there? Do you want me to make something?"
"Nah, those boys know how to party! They're having a bonfire on the beach with tons of food and music."
"A party dad? I just flew in today. I'm all dirty from cleaning and unpacking and…"
"C'mon Bells. It's a celebration for Jake. I thought you'd like to see some old friends and hang out on the beach. I remember how much you loved being there when you were younger."
"OK dad," I sighed. "Just let me get cleaned up first."
After a quick shower, I began looking for clothes appropriate for a chilly night on the beach. Did Charlie say they were celebrating something for Jake? What's the party for? I don't think it's his birthday. Maybe it's a late graduation party or something. I remember school on the rez got out before public school did. Maybe he got engaged! Nah… he's too young to be getting married – isn't he? Who knows; maybe they getting married right after high school on the rez. I shook my head to clear the thought of Jake getting married. I wish we had kept in touch more after I left. We tried emailing and sent Christmas cards that first year, but I guess he got busy with school, football and girls. I never heard from him again. It's not totally his fault. I didn't contact him after that either. But lately that wasn't my choice… I wasn't 'allowed' to talk to Jake anymore.
"You ready Bells?" my dad called from downstairs.
"Coming dad." Guess I'll find out more about Jake's celebration soon enough.
We pulled up to the Black's house and people seemed to be milling around everywhere. Charlie spotted Billy and called him over to us.
"Charlie, you picking up beautiful women on the side of the road again? Who's this?" Billy laughed.
"Shut it old man! Bella, you remember Billy… Billy Black?"
Billy hadn't changed one bit. He had the same long beautiful black hair, braided neatly into a ponytail, and that mischievous twinkle in his eye when he would kid around with Charlie.
"Sure, sure! Hi Billy! How are you?"
"Better now that you're here… I won't have to feed your dad every night!" he joked and Charlie playfully punched him in the shoulder. "You'd assault a man in a wheelchair? You've got nerve! I'm calling the police!"
"I am the police you moron! C'mom Bells – let's see if they need any help setting things up."
I followed as Charlie pushed Billy's wheelchair around the house and down a path that led to the beach. I could see the bonfire set up, tables with tons of food and people everywhere! There was a group of guys playing football down near the water with several girls standing by, cheering them on and shamelessly flirting with them. I couldn't blame them really; from this distance the guys looked pretty attractive to me! Kids were running around and I had to grab onto Charlie as one little boy nearly knocked me over as he chased a little girl with a crab.
Billy looked up at Charlie and said quietly, "Remind you of anyone? The two of them used to do the same thing, huh?" Charlie just looked over at me and smiled while Billy winked at me. What's the deal with those two? They're like little old ladies, gossiping and whispering!
As the sun slowly began to fade, the fire was lit and music began playing. Charlie and Billy introduced (or as they pointed out, re-introduced) several people to me. They expected me to remember everyone that I hadn't seen or talked to in 4 years! I met (or re-met) an elderly man they called 'Old Quil', a pretty young woman named Emily and a sweet boy named Seth Clearwater. Some of the faces were familiar, or I'd catch a name that would spark a memory, but mostly I remembered me and Jake and our families and the time we had spent together.
Speaking of Jake, where is he? We'd been here for nearly an hour but I hadn't seen him once. At least no one that looked like the Jake I remembered from 4 years ago. I'm sure he's changed in 4 years, but I'd know that skinny kid with the silky, long black hair anywhere.
"Bella? Bella Swan is that you?" I heard a voice behind me ask. I turned around to see a beautiful young woman standing there with her hands on her hips, smirking at me.
"Uh, yeah. I'm Bella."
"You don't remember me, do you? I'm Rachel Black, Billy's daughter. Our parents would have us kids play together on the beach when we were younger."
"Oh my gosh! Rachel? I would've never known that was you! Look at you, you're beautiful!" And I meant it! She had gorgeous curves, full lips, and the most beautiful black straight hair that came down to her waist.
"Well, thanks! You're not so bad yourself! I remember you wearing glasses and being such a tomboy. Now you're all grown up and just... beautiful!"
I hated it when people would compliment me. I never saw myself as beautiful – I don't think I'm ugly, but not beautiful either. "Um, thanks."
Someone called her to help set up the desserts. "I gotta go. I'll see you around though, ok?"
"Wait til Jake sees her," Rachel mumbled as she walked away.
Everyone was talking in groups, or couples were sitting cozily around the fire. My dad was spending a lot of time talking with Seth's mom. Hmmmm… I'll have to ask him about that later. I felt a little out of place, not really knowing (or remembering) anyone except Billy and Jake. I loved being at the beach though and didn't realize just how much I missed it.
"Hey dad, I'm going to go for a walk on the beach."
"Ok – don't go too far."
"Dad, I'm not a little girl anymore! But don't worry 'chief' I won't go far."
It seemed like everyone from the rez was here! I was happy to see some old faces, but I really just wanted to spend time with my family and hang out with my boys. After Quil, Embry, me and a couple of guys set up the bonfire and food, we decided to play a quick football game down on the beach before the sun went down. There was a group of girls watching us play and Embry and Quil were eating up their attention. After every play, they'd do a back flip or flex their muscles and the girls would giggle and clap for them. It was pathetic really.
I was getting a little hungry and the sun was just starting to set so I told the guys I was heading back. I went in the house to see if dad needed any help when I ran into Rachel.
"You're never going to believe who I just saw."
"Uh, ok - who?"
"Does mud pies, chasing someone on the beach with a crab and your first kiss ring any bells?" she smiled.
"Bella? She's here? Where?" I began to look around at all the people. I spotted Charlie talking with my dad but didn't see anyone with him.
"Quit straining your neck little brother! You'll make it obvious how badly you want to see her!"
"I'm not making anything obvious. And I do want to see her - she was my best friend for years. Where is she?"
"Best friends, huh? Right. You'll rethink that once you see her."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
Just then Seth walked in the door.
"Rachel, my sister is looking for you. Oh, hey Jake."
"Crap. If Sam started a fight with her again, I'm going to kick him in the nuts."
Seth and I looked at each other and winced, knowing her threat was serious. She walked outside and slammed the screen door.
"Hey Seth, how's it going? Got a girlfriend yet?"
"Nah. Although I did see a pretty girl here tonight."
"There's lots of pretty girls around here Seth! Take your pick!"
"No, this one is different."
"Well, go get her man!"
"I'm gonna try to find her. Talk to you later Jake."
I walked out after Seth and went over to my dad and Charlie.
"Hey son, congrats on making it back in one piece," Charlie said as he shook my hand. I thanked him as I kept looking around the bonfire and food areas for Bella.
"Looking for anyone in particular there Jake?" my dad asked with a smirk on his face.
"Um. Uh..." I stammered.
"She went for a walk on the beach. She should be back shortly," Charlie told me.
I looked down toward the beach but I only saw Quil and Embry and their harem of girls.
"I'll tell her to find you as soon as she comes back," Charlie said.
"OK thanks," I said and turned to walk away.
"Oh hey Jake? Charlie is thinking of buying my old red pickup truck. Think you can take a look at it in the morning to make sure it's running properly?" my dad asked.
I grabbed a plate of food and kept scanning the crowd of people for Bella. I saw Quil sitting on the beach with three or four girls around him. Man, he's such a player! Embry was standing closer to the water talking to some girl. She looked familiar, but I couldn't figure out who she was because her back was to me. I searched the crowd again and along the beach for any signs of Bella, but no luck. Wait, that girl talking to Embry looks like the girl from the airport... the one I was talking to at baggage claim. What is she doing here? I saw Embry try some moves on her as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. He's hilarious! Does this stuff really work for him? Is this how he picks up chicks?
Seth plopped down next to me looking upset.
"What's wrong man? I thought you were going to find your girl."
"I did. She's down on the beach with Quil and Embry. They always get the girls cause they're older. This sucks."
"Don't worry dude. There's plenty of girls to go around."
"Hey Seth!" my dad yelled over to him. "Can you do a favor for me?"
"Sure Billy. See you later Jake."
Quil came walking up to me with 3 obnoxious, giggling girls following him. "How's the harem Quil?" I laughed.
"Please - they're not even legal. I don't mind flirting with them but that's as far as I go man. But Embry... woo-hoo! He found a hottie down there! She's a little pale but I'd do her."
"Quil! Geez man! You're such a douche sometimes!"
"Whatever. Hey did I hear that Charlie's daughter came back? What's her name again... Betty? Brianna?"
"Bella," I sighed. "Her name is Bella and yeah she's here but I haven't seen her yet."
I wondered where she was and why the girl from the baggage claim was here. Embry came jogging up from the beach, grabbed a couple of drinks and started to walk away.
"Hey man! Where you going?" I yelled to him.
"Just taking a drink to this beautiful girl I met on the beach. Why are you just sitting here? This is your first night home! You can have your pick of any of the chicks!"
"He's waiting to see Bella," Quil chimed in.
"Bella," I said. "Remember Chief Swan's daughter? She's back in town."
"Oh, I remember her... and how much you liked her. So, where is she?" Embry asked, looking around.
"Dude," Quil said to Embry." Looks like Seth just moved in on your girl!"
"That little pisser! Whatever, he's just a boy… she wants a real man like me!"
"Looks like she likes the little pisser!" Quil laughed as we looked down and saw Seth walking arm-in-arm with the baggage claim girl toward us.
The football game was just breaking up when I made my way down to the water. The guys were really cute, I'll give them that. But these girls were pathetic the way they were hanging all over them. Two of them left with what I guess was their girlfriends, one was sitting in the sand flexing his muscles for a crowd of giggling girls and a really tall guy jogged up toward the bonfire.
I continued my walk, enjoying the smell of the salt water and sounds of the waves lapping against some nearby rocks. I closed my eyes for a minute, enjoying this peaceful moment. When I opened my eyes, one of the cute football players was standing right in front of me.
"Oh – I'm sorry. I didn't know you were there."
"Hey," he smiled. "Do you make it a habit of walking on the beach with your eyes closed?"
"Uh, no. I was just heading back. Sorry for almost bumping into you," I said as I turned around to head back to find my dad… and Jake – where was he?
"Wait! Don't go. It's ok. I saw you coming but didn't get out of your way. Guess I was hoping you'd bump into me so I'd have an excuse to talk to you."
I smiled. I figured he was a bit of a jerk based on how his friend was acting with the girls but he was actually kind of nice. "OK. So talk."
"Uh, um… well, what are you doing here? I don't think I've seen you around before."
"I just flew in today from Arizona. My dad brought me here and I missed the beach so… here I am," I smiled as the breeze blew some ocean spray into my face and I looked out over the water.
He tucked a piece of my hair behind my ear and said, "Well, I'm glad you came here then. Hey, my friend's having a party here. Would you like something to drink?"
"OK I'll be right back," and he ran up towards the bonfire.
Wait, did he say his friend? Is he Jake's friend? I looked toward the bonfire and saw Seth walking up to me.
"Um, hey Bella," he shyly smiled.
"Hi Seth. What's up?"
"Billy and Charlie wanted me to find you."
"Geez, they still think I'm a little girl and can't walk along the beach alone!"
"I don't think you're a little girl," he shifted he feet nervously in the sand. "But they wanted you to come back to the bonfire… I mean if you want to. I can tell them that you're fine down here with Embry or whatever."
"What? Who's Embry?"
"That boy who was hitting on you." Seth said, growling when he said the word boy… like he wasn't one himself. He was such a sweet little thing. He reminded me of a little brother.
"Oh no – I kinda bumped into him. That's all. C'mon Seth," I said as I wrapped my arm in his. "You can walk me back to show my dad that you found me safe and sound, ok?"
"Sure, sure," he said with a huge grin on his face.
We walked up to the bonfire where my dad and Billy were talking with a few other men.
"Ah Seth, thanks for finding her," my dad said.
"No problem Chief. It was my pleasure," Seth smiled and winked at me.
"Alright little man, quit your flirting," Billy teased. "Go get Jake for me so he and Bella can get reacquainted."
I tried to listen to the conversation as Charlie told the guys about his latest arrest. But I kept my eyes on Seth as he walked over to a group of guys. I saw Seth talk to the flexing guy from the football game and I spotted Embry, the guy I talked to on the beach, with them as well. Then the three of them looked at me and whispered to some tall guy who's back was to me.
Whatever they said to him made his spine stiffen and then he whipped his head around to face me. I couldn't believe it! It was him! The guy from the airport; the cute guy in the uniform that grabbed my bags for me. Wait… I thought Seth was supposed to find Jake. Then it hit me. No… you've got to be kidding me! I thought, as I stood there with my mouth hanging open. The cute, military guy was my Jake!
Seth walked the girl from baggage claim over to a group of guys my dad and Charlie were talking to. I wasn't sure why he took her over there, unless he grew some balls and decided to steal her from Embry and introduce her to everyone as his girlfriend! Go Seth! More power to ya, man! I thought to myself.
"What's your problem dude?" Embry growled at Seth as he came over to us.
"What?" he said innocently.
"Don't 'what' us man. You're trying to move in on Embry's girl!" Quil barked at him. "You're too young for her anyway."
"No, I'm not. I'll be 17 in a few months. Then she'll only be 2 years older than me! Besides, since she said she would be around here for a while, I figured she could tutor or me or something so I could spend more time with her."
"Dude, he found out more about 'your girl' in that short walk that you did during all your lame flirting on the beach!" I teased Embry.
"What? Bella's not 'his girl'!" Seth laughed as he looked over at her.
"Did you say Bella?" Embry whispered.
"Man, that's Chief Swan's little girl, Bella?" Quil asked then let out a low whistle.
Bella is the girl Seth was talking to? The girl Embry was hitting on? The girl from baggage claim is my Bells? I turned my head so fast I thought I would get whiplash. I saw Bella standing there staring at me with an expression that mirrored my own.
"Jake, dude, pick your jaw up off the ground!" Quil teased.
I shook my head a little to clear the stupor I found myself in and smiled at Bella. She smiled back and ran over to me at full speed. I opened my arms in time to catch her as she jumped into them and hugged me.
"Jake, is that really you?"
"Yeah, Bells, it's me!"
She leaned back from the embrace and just stared at my face. I must have had this goofy grin on my face as I looked at her and remembered all of our fun times together. Making mud pies as kids, family dinners, camping in the woods, walks on the beach and that kiss… my first kiss.
Quil and Embry cleared their throats and we looked over at them.
"Oh, sorry! I didn't mean to jump on you like that! I was just so surprised to see you!" Bella said as she wiggled out of my hold on her.
"She can jump on me anytime…" I heard Quil mumble and I shot him a dirty look.
"Bella!" Charlie called as he and my dad made their way over to us. "Looks like you found Jake."
"Yeah, I guess so. But I found him this morning actually," she smiled.
Billy raised his eyebrow at me. "I helped her with her bags at the airport. I didn't know it was her. She had on sunglasses and all," I explained to my dad and then looked at her. "You don't look the same since the last time I saw you."
"I bet he helped her with her bags…" Quil snickered and Billy shot him a look.
"Me look different? Look at you, Jake! You're, you're… huge!" she smiled.
I gave Quil a 'don't-you-dare' look before he even opened his mouth.
"People change a lot in 4 years, huh, Bells," Charlie said as he winked at Billy. What was that all about?
"C'mon guys, let's give these two some time to catch up." Billy said.
They all said their goodbyes and see ya laters, but I didn't hear them when all I could do was stare at Bella.
"So….." she said. "Are you getting married or something?"
Getting married? Why would she think that? "What?"
"Well, I mean I figured this party was to celebrate something and since high school graduation was a couple of months ago, I just figured…"
"Uh, no! No marriage for this guy! Not anytime soon," I laughed.
"Why? You afraid of commitment?" she teased and poked me in the chest.
"But what? What are we celebrating then?"
"Oh – I just got back from boot camp... 12 weeks to prepare me for my life in the Navy."
"Right – that's what the uniform was for! I thought you just preferred to dress up like when we were little!" she laughed.
I laughed with her and was amazed at how we fell right back into our teasing and conversation like we hadn't spent the last 4 years apart.
"Hey, you want some dessert? Are brownies still your favorite?"
"I can't believe you remember that! Yeah, they're still my favorite."
"Ok, let's go grab some before the guys hog them all."
I grabbed a plate full of brownies and a couple bottles of water and we sat down on a log next to the bonfire.
"Oh my god! These are so good! I forgot how much I missed your mom's brownies," she smiled in between bites. I frowned as I shoved one into my mouth.
"Oh Jake, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to bring her up. I just…"
"No, it's OK Bella. No one talks about her much so it's nice that you remember her too."
My mom died in a terrible car crash about a year after I last saw Bella. My dad was hurt too, and the injuries left him in that wheelchair. I wanted to change the subject or do something to ease the uncomfortableness that had seeped into our conversation.
"Wanna go for a walk?" I asked, standing up and offering her my hand.
"Sure," she said and we made our way down to the water.
We were quiet for a while, both of us lost in our thoughts of the past.
"I miss your hair," she said quietly.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. I couldn't look like an Indian chief at boot camp now could I?" I smiled.
She got quiet again. We kept walking. I wondered what was going through her mind.
"You remember the last time we were here Jake?" she asked shyly.
How could I forget? That was my first and only kiss with her. Probably one of the best kisses of my life. She stopped walking and looked up at me. I saw so much emotion going through her eyes right then, and in that instant I realized just how much I missed having her in my life.
"Of course I remember, Bells."
She smiled, grabbed my hand and leaned against my arm and we began walking again. "I'm so happy to have my best friend back," she sighed.
"Me too. Me too." I said and kissed the top of her head. It just sucked that I would only get two weeks to spend with her before I had to leave again.