My phone rang for what seemed like the one hundredth time in one hour. I dug through my purse and finally found it in between an empty pack of gum and a carton of cigarettes. I flipped it open, nearly hacking on the dust it collected. I got at a pawn shop last summer and have been praying it doesn't die on me for months. It was most likely older than I am. I heard a bit of static and then a small, gruff voice on the other end. I intently listened for familiarity and found it in the wheezing cough it let out. We were done with classes today, so I swung my bag over my shoulder and waved to the others, before walking out the door. The air was chilly and I wrapped my sweater tightly around my leotard. I should have worn a thicker one, I scolded myself.
"Are you there?" He asked, quietly. "Bella, are you there? It's me."
"I'm sorry, I know no one by the name of me." I smiled softly to myself. "What do you need, brother?"
He coughed. "Did Charlie call you yet?"
I wrinkled my eyebrows. "No, why would he? It's not our birthday. At least, I don't think it is. If it is, I need to buy a new calendar."
Jasper grumbled in irritation. "You actually own a calendar? I don't own soap."
I rolled my eyes. "That's not my fault. Now, why would Charlie call me?"
He huffed. "I don't know. He said something about a birthday party for that one kid tonight. The older one, you know…Brittney? Bonnie?"
"Bree," I informed him. "The oldest is Bree. The other is Maggie."
He whistled. "No shit? I thought it was Aggie."
I ignored him. "He hasn't called me yet. Are you telling me that we're actually invited to this? Us? The perpetual mistakes?"
Jasper chuckled. "Let's start a band. What's Ringo doing these days? I bet he'd be more than happy to join. Oh, and DJ Jazzy Jeff. For our remixes and shit. He has to be dying for a paycheck."
I snickered. "Are you going?"
He snorted. "Am I going? Bella, I didn't know the kids name. Why would I go to her birthday party? I bet they got her a clown. We never got a clown. Or a moon bounce or a cake. We got a muffin, fuck's safe. One muffin. We had to share it."
"I know, Jaz." I scoffed. "I was there."
There was a childish edge to his voice. "Well, Charlie certainly wasn't. Don't tell me you're going to this Festival of Unfairness? Because I will lose all respect for you, I swear."
That was supposed to scare me. "While I do thrive on your respect, Jaz, I might go. If he calls me, that is. Maybe he just invited you."
"Why?" Jasper laughed. "I don't give two shits about his little brats."
"Jasper," I said, warningly. "Look, you can be mad at Charlie, but don't take it out on the kids. They're technically our sisters. You know that right?"
Jasper huffed. "Yeah, and Charlie is technically our Father. It means nothing, Bella."
I sighed. "You can tell yourself that, Jaz. But I'm ready to give him another chance or whatever the hell he's trying to do by inviting us to this thing. Where are you right now? I'm on Hansen Street, I'll meet you."
He withdrew. "I'm, um, tied up right now, actually. I was just calling to warn you."
I narrowed my eyes, suspiciously, though he couldn't see. "You're acting shady, Jasper Swan. Are you alright? Do you need a place to stay? I've told you a million times that I could use a roommate."
He chuckled, quietly, before someone shouted his name in the background. I closed my eyes and stopped walking, trying to completely concentrate. "No, no, Bells. I'm staying somewhere…nice, real…real, real nice. I have to go. I'll call you later, okay? I love you."
I started to walk again, disappointed. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love you too. Bye, loser."
I snapped my phone shut and rolled my eyes. That boy was so evasive. I climbed into my truck, panting when I finally reached the car deck. It was the closest one to the restaurant and I set my head down on the steering wheel, trying to catch my breath. I started my car, wanting so badly to turn the heat on. But I was not one to waste money and I couldn't afford it. You know you're poor when you can't afford to be warm. I should just put a blanket In here, I thought as I drove down the levels. My phone beeped in cup holder and I pulled it out, not recognizing the number that popped up. I flipped it open and cautiously held it to my ear.
"Hello?" I answered. There was a pause.
"Bella?" A voice asked, uncertainly. "Bella, it's your, um, Dad."
Thank you, Jasper. If he hadn't of warned me, I would've had a small heart attack a moment ago. "Oh, hey, Charlie. I didn't recognize the number."
He chuckled, nervously. "Yeah, yeah, that happens sometimes. Listen, I know this is short notice and all, but we're having a birthday party for Bree tonight and Sue and I were wondering if you would like to come?"
I gulped. "Uh, let me check my schedule."
I held the phone away from my ear and pretended to look through my supposed schedule. I held it back after a moment and pretended to be surprised. "It looks like I'm free. For once, you know? I'm just so busy these days."
He cleared his throat. "If you're too tired, we'll understand. Bree will be disappointed, but she'll get over it, I guess."
Did he have the audacity to guilt trip me? "I'm not too tired. I'll be there. Have you called Jasper yet?"
I had a feeling Jasper wasn't completely honest about their conversation.
"Oh," He whistled. "Yeah, I've talked to him. He wasn't, um, very pleased to speak with me."
I wonder why. "He's in a mood. It's nothing personal. So, what time should I be there?"
"Six." He responded. "And you don't have to get her anything. We'd just like you to come."
I hadn't planned on it. "If you say so. I'll talk to Jasper, alright? I'm sure he's just stressed out about work or something. See you tonight?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll see you tonight, kid." He said, before hanging up. What was that, Dad? Oh, of course, I love you too.
I should be so lucky.
I drove to my apartment, where I was met with yelling in the lobby. I rolled my eyes and walked passed Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, arguing with one behind the counter and one in front. When Mrs. Stanley saw me walk by, she put on a cheery smile. "Oh, hello, Bella! Lovely weather we're having, no?"
I weakly smiled back at her. "It's beautiful, Mrs. Stanley. Tell Jessica I said congratulations on the baby. A boy, right?"
She nodded, ignoring her husband's muttering. "Little Mike Junior. If you saw him, you'd just want to eat him up!"
"I'm sure. Jessica and Mike make an adorable couple." If you could get past the black eye he gave her last Thanksgiving. "Have a nice day."
"You too, dear." She said as I jogged up the stairs to my apartment. When I was out of sight, I heard her start back up again. "You filthy piece of scum, cheating on me with that whore of a…"
I tuned out as my breathing started to get heavy. It was days like these when I wished this place had an elevator. Too bad I couldn't afford a place with an elevator. Unless I wanted to actually like in an elevator. In which case, it was probably bigger than the hole in the wall I presently resided in. I unlocked my door, just as my neighbor, Mr. Jenks, came out in his underwear. I closed my eyes and prayed he wouldn't talk to me, but the Lord has never really been in my corner, so why would he throw me a bone today? Mr. Jenks was a nice man, he really was. Only because he didn't have the balls to be a cad. Not to mention, he had just the oddest crush on me. I just had no desire to talk to him in his Mr. Grinch underwear. Especially when Mr. Grinch had his head right smack dab in the middle of WhoVille.
"Miss Bella! Just the girl I wanted to see. I got some more of your mail today and it looked rather important." He explained, coming oddly close to me. I took the thick envelope from his hand. "Something from a Dr. Gerandy. I didn't open it, don't worry. Are you sick? You look a little uncomfortable. You want to come over to my place? I've got a brand spanking new bottle of ginger ale. I was getting ready to make some Shirley temples. I bet it'd settle your stomach, cherry or no cherry."
"That's a tempting offer, Mr. Jenks, but I kind of have plans tonight. Maybe another time, alright?" I asked, giving him a flirtatious smile. Who was I to ruin an old man's day? His dreams weren't ever coming to life, but I saw no harm in fueling them. In fact, I saw a fire starting under Mr. Grinch right about now. "Have a nice day."
"You too, Miss Bella." He mumbled, wandering back into his home.
I smiled to myself and walked into mine, tossing my mail on to the counter. It was a small place, but big enough to stretch my legs and that's all that mattered. I collapsed on to my couch and I was almost positive that a cloud of dirt and smoke circled around me. Let's just say this couch had seen better days. I should really quit smoking. I glanced at my watch and groaned. Here I was, looking forward to a nice long, afternoon nap and I'm denied that opportunity because my stupid half sister is turning ten in two hours. Some might think, 'Oh, she has enough time to squeeze in a harmless, twenty minute snooze.' But no. I have to change out of my waitressing uniform, reapply my makeup, fix my hair and drive the hour long drive to Fucking Forks, my Fuckity Fucking Fuck of a hometown. This was stupid, I pouted as I got off my couch and out of my clothes. I wish I had listened to Jasper.
An hour later, I had changed my clothes, taken a shower and made myself look pretty all over again. This was wasting my all my products. I had done the math. With the amount I used daily, I had exactly twenty nine more days of use, before I ran out. Now, I only had a measly twenty eight! I groaned as I picked up my coat and walked out the door. Maybe I still had a little bit of time to talk Jasper into going with me. I picked up my cell phone out of my purse and called the last number he called from. A feminine voice answered. Feminine, but certainly not pleasant.
"James? This better be you, you slimy fucking asshole." She snapped in a nasal voice. Ah, the sounds of the street. I miss you so.
"Sorry, Vicky, it's Bella." I told her. "Is Jaz around?"
"Oh, hey, Bella." She sighed. "Naw, Jaz Man ain't around. I haven't seen him all day. Why? He owe you money or something?"
Or course she would assume that. It was the main cause of death in these parts. "No, I'm just worried about him. Hey, if you see him, tell him to come my way tonight. I'm sure I'll have stories for him and some Taco Bell."
"Taco Bell?" She snickered. "Bitch, you might have all of us coming your way tonight if you got you some Taco Bell."
"You're welcome any time, Vicky. Don't forget to tell Jaz, okay? Bye." I said, hanging up. I shook my head and turned on to the main road. There wasn't a lot of traffic tonight, so it might be a short drive to Forks. It would have flown by if I actually wanted to go. But I couldn't be mean to kids, especially ones related to me and if Bree was counting on me, then I wouldn't let her down. Her big brother was a different story. I would definitely have to track him down tonight.
I pulled up almost an hour later at a house so familiar, yet so painfully unfamiliar, it made me want to puke in their bushes. I walked up the driveway, pulling some confidence out of my ass and placing it on my face. Not literally, but figuratively. I rang the doorbell and not a moment later, a small child swung the door open. She deflated when she saw me standing there. I had that affect on some people.
"Who are you?" She asked, cocking her head to the side. A woman arrived behind her in a cloud of perfume, nervously. Her curly black hair framed her face and her russet skin was smooth and flawless. My pale face would look smooth and flawless if only I could afford the foundation she was wearing. She picked the child up and gave me a once over, putting one hand on the door.
"May I help you?" She asked, clearing her throat. I stepped forward, into the light from the porch. Recognition dawned on her face.
"It's Bella, Sue." I said, quietly. "Charlie called and asked if I wanted to come to Bree's birthday. So…here I am."
"Oh." She said, flatly. "Oh, yes, of course. Come right in, Bella."
I followed her into the house, noting enviously that they had mirrors. I didn't have mirrors. I didn't even have a bathroom mirror. Sue fluffed her hair, anxiously and set the child down near the stairs. I remembered those stairs, I thought, almost fondly. I used to sit on them whenever I was over here as a child. So, about five times, I sat on those stairs. I relished them, considering we lived in the backroom of the porn production studio and all I had to sit on was a giant spanking bench. Not really something you'd find at Home Goods. We slept on the gym scene mats. They were quite comfortable, especially with the blankets from the suburban home hotties scenes. In my Mother's world, if it was free, it was perfect. Probably because she got scammed out of every penny she made by her sleazy, lunatic of a boss. I'll tell you…James was a helluva lot older than me, but he was hotter than hell.
"Bella?" I knew that voice. It haunted me, I thought. "I didn't think you'd come."
I spun around and wrapped my arms around my waist. "I told you I would on the phone. Memory lapse, Charlie? I see you forgot to tell your wife about our little phone call earlier."
He held up one hand and shook his head. "It was just a misunderstanding, Bella. Sue is just under a lot of stress and forgot about the extra mouth to feed."
"There's no food left." I answered, leaning against the counter. The counter I should rightfully be able to call 'From My Childhood'. "Unless everyone just hid it in the cabinets when I rang the doorbell."
"We're not that coordinated." He smiled, trying to make a joke out of it. "You got that from me."
I shook my head. "No, I got fear of abandonment from you. And let's not forget my commitment issues."
Charlie looked extremely uncomfortable as the children at the table watched us. I shot them a dark look and they continued eating. Who said I wasn't good with kids? Maggie thought I was a fairy princess. All these kids thought I was Satan. "We're having cake soon. Don't worry, there's enough of that for everyone."
Of course. Leave it to Charlie to avoid the situation right smack dab under his nose. "That's cool, Charlie, I think I'm going to bail out a little early. I have work in the morning. I'll go find Bree. I want to at least make an appearance for her."
I found the basement with no trouble at all. I vaguely recall Jaz and a game of hide and seek down here about twelve years ago. The stairs had been renovated, not to mention the actual basement. It was just a damp hole when I was down here last. Now it had paint and carpet and a foosball table. What the hell? They got foosball, I got dildo hockey? There were three kids around Bree's age surrounding the foosball table, while two kids played. Bree being one of them. I knew those eyes anywhere. They were pretty much the only thing Charlie ever gave me that Jaz didn't smash with a baseball bat. I walked slowly over to Bree and she glanced up, before glancing back down and then looking wildly back up at me.
"Bella?" She squealed. "You came!"
I let out an oomph when she wrapped her arms around my waist and giggled. The whole game stopped and I didn't know what to do with my hands, so I awkwardly hugged her back. "Surprised?"
She nodded, frantically. "Yes, yes, yes! This is so cool. You have to meet all my cousins! Guys, look! It's my sister!"
"She's not your sister." One younger boy scoffed. He looked to be around six or seven. "I heard Aunt Sue talk to Mommy on the phone. She's a mistake."
I swallowed down the lump building in my throat. Even these kids knew I wasn't really welcome here. There were some loud footsteps on the stairs and a roar, before all the children, excluding Bree, screamed and ran to it. She huffed and looked up at me, sadly. "That's just Emmett. Don't worry."
Suddenly, a large man came around the corner with about ten kids hanging off of him. He laughed and shook them off onto a couch, before turning to look for Bree, I assumed. He spotted her…then he spotted me.
"Happy Birthday., Bree Bear." His eyes never left me. And not in the usual, lusty way. They were suspicious. "Who's your friend?"
"She's not my friend, Emmett." She scoffed, spitting his name at him. "She's my big sister."
I wanted to stick my tongue out at him, but this was getting entirely too personal for me to be alright with. I unwrapped Bree from around my waist and inched towards the stairs. Emmett watched me, cautiously. Good God, what did Sue tell these people? Probably everything but the truth. "Bree, it's been so great, but I have to get going."
She pouted. "But you just got here."
I bit my bottom lip. "I know, kid. But it's been…well, it's going to be a long night. Happy Birthday, though."
She ran over to hug me once again. I gave her a tighter hug than I did last time and stared at Emmett, pointedly, while I was doing so. His eyes never left me as I went back up the stairs. I realized I hadn't even taken my coat off. I found Charlie with his arm wrapped around Sue's waist near the living room, speaking with another couple. I made my way through the strange people to say goodbye. I would rather have an awkward goodbye than no goodbye. I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around, surprised, like I wasn't here before.
"I'm bailing. See you…sometime." I mumbled, stepping backwards. He turned around and held his arms out for a hug, but I saw the flash in his eyes that made him stop and see who he was about to embrace. He looked down at the ground and moved one hand to rub the back of his head. I suppose it shouldn't make me so sad after nineteen years of ignorance. But it made tears well up, just the same.
"Oh, Charlie, aren't you going to introduce us?" The woman they were speaking with asked, sweetly. She had no underlying tones and no false expressions. Just sheer sweetness.
He cleared his throat. "Esme, Carlisle, meet my, um, daughter, Jeza…"
"Just Bella!" I cut in, not wanting any attention drawn to my name. "I'm just Bella."
If they were surprised they didn't show it. "It's so wonderful to meet you, Bella. I had no idea you had another child, Charlie!"
"He has two. Two other kids." I snapped. "We're twins."
"Twins are a blessing." The woman said, wistfully. "Double the trouble, though."
"More like double the neglect." I said, bitterly. "If you'll excuse me…"
The woman, Esme, touched my arm, affectionately. "Oh, no, here comes my son. You two look right around the same age. I think you'll hit it off."
Sue snorted. "Esme, when will you stop trying to set that boy up? He's twenty three; he can find his own dates!"
"Here he comes now." Esme told me, ignoring Sue. "Edward? Come meet Charlie's daughter."
There was a presence behind me. "Meet her? I already know Maggie and Bree, Mother. In case you forgot, which it seems you have."
She rolled her eyes. "No, no. This is Charlie's oldest daughter, Bella. Bella, this is my middle son, Edward. Emmett should be around here somewhere…."
I turned around, regretfully and nearly lost my head. I peered up into those familiar green eyes and they burned back at me, playfully. I huffed and took a step back, near Charlie. I so didn't need this or want this right now. He stared me down until I turned away, painfully. He continued to smirk at me, I just knew it, because Esme called his name a number of times and he never responded. I mumbled another goodbye to Charlie and tore out of there, like a bat out of hell. A bat out of hell would have been easy. I was a girl trying to get out of her Father's new life.