A/N: Hello, again! I know I have a couple of fics that got started, and I was supposed to finish one of those...however, this idea came to me, and it's rolling out much faster than the other half-ass ideas I've had lately! :)
Thank you to my RL bestie, Gale, for being my sounding board and my pre-reader! She sends me tons of pictures for inspiration, holds my hand through my ADD writing tendencies, yells at me when I've been lazy, and giggles like a school girl when the voices start in my head again! You rock, girlie! :)
Special thanks to my new beta, Claire Bloom. She takes my semi-polished work and turns it into something magical! I have learned so much from you already, hun, and could never thank you enough for agreeing to be a part of this! :)
OFFICIAL DISCLAIMER: TWILIGHT AND ALL ITS PUBLICLY RECOGNIZABLE CHARACTERS ARE THE PROPERTY OF STEPHENIE MEYER. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.
Okay, enough business! It's time to go...HOME.
"I know they say, you can't go home again,
I just had to come back one last time..."
The House That Built Me, Miranda Lambert
Rain. Pouring rain. Torrential, blinding rain. The kind of rain that washed out bridges and flooded basements. The kind of rain that made grandmothers turn off the radio and hunch over the steering wheel or just pull over until it slowed down enough to be able to see again.
Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh
The windshield wipers weren't doing much good, not that it mattered. If I had been human I wouldn't have been able to make out anything past the hood of my car. As it was, the wipers were merely a habit, left over from my years of driving while looking through human eyes. It also stopped people from staring, as they stood on sidewalks or out of car windows, when I drove past. I was driving along the highway, and even though I was barely noticing the landscape passing by outside the windows, I could feel I was close.
Slowly, the trees began to thin out; as much as they ever did in this part of the country.
Through the downpour, I could make out the street sign indicating the road I was navigating was no longer the 101, but North Forks Avenue. I knew what was coming, just ahead, a few moments more...Welcome to Forks.
There was once a time in my life when I didn't care if I ever saw that giant, wooden sign ever again. A time when I thought that sign represented everything that had ever gone wrong in my life, when just the idea of going past it on my way out of town for the last time, was enough to get me through the day. I had thought about taking a can of spray paint to it on that last day, just to lessen the population number by one.
Today, though, that giant wooden sign was the most beautiful sight my road-weary eyes had ever seen. I slowed down to read the words.
Welcome to Forks
Now, of course, the population had dropped by one number again.
Like magic, as soon as my back tires passed the city limits, the rain stopped. Well, I don't suppose it truly ever stopped raining in Forks, but it let up enough; the sound of the rain drops hitting the roof of my car no longer sounded like someone taking a hammer to my head. The town was deserted, as I had expected, it was the main reason I had timed my arrival for sometime in the middle of the night, as Forks was not a town known for its lively night time activities. All the storefronts on the main street were dark and deserted, the shopkeepers gone home to their families. The cafe' was open, but desolate, the flickering lights from the television above the counter the only indication anyone was inside. I knew, even without the benefit of my heightened senses, that Sandy, the owner and lone waitress, was perched on a stool watching E! News Daily, and slipping a little something extra into her coffee.
Winding through the narrow, tree lined street my car seemed to drive itself. I don't remember actually turning onto the road leading past the high school, but found myself staring out the window as I slowly drove by. I could almost see the parking lot full of cars, students milling around despite the dreary climate. My friends would be standing near the stone steps- Jessica in her new clothes, Mike in his Letterman jacket, Angela and Ben standing a little closer than necessary to see the picture window of her camera. I could clearly see the high, retaining wall. The once colorfully painted signs were now just soaking wet messes, the paint streaked, and running down the fragile paper, seeping into puddles on the sidewalk.
Again, as if on autopilot, my hands directed the car, and before I seemed to register it in my brain or even blink, I was there.
The house looked mostly the same. Same white paint, chipped around the corners. Same gravel drive, though it appeared to have newer gravel, same dark, wooden door with the glass storm door on the outside, same windows, same red shutters. The tree on the side of the house, next to the little bay window on the second floor, was taller, fuller...older. The cars in the drive were different, and the flowery mailbox cover, was new.
I turned off the headlights and cut the engine. I listened for signs of life from inside. I can't say how long I sat there, staring at that house, when the light in the kitchen came on. Instinctively, I craned my neck to try and get a look at the shadowy form. Of course, with the gauzy curtains on the window, all I could say for sure was that whoever was in the kitchen was a human. One look, that's all I wanted. One look at whoever was living there.
Glancing down at my watch, I realized it was nearly two in the morning. I wasn't going to get my one look tonight. No one was coming outside at this time of night, and if they did, they most likely wouldn't be all that amenable to a stranger sitting in her car, lurking in front of their house. Their house; simply thinking the words caused the burn of long-dried tears to sting my eyes.
As the light switched off, I blinked away the dry itch of tears that would never fall, and looked at the house again. My house; only it wasn't my house anymore. No one I knew lived in it. No one I loved and no one who even knew me. I took one last look at the little bay window on the second floor, started my car and drove away.
It was a rare, somewhat sunny day when I pulled back onto the street and stopped in front of the house. Gathering up every ounce of courage I could find, I stepped out of the car and made my way to the front door. My well rehearsed speech was turning to mush in my head, and I doubted if I'd be able to even introduce myself properly. I knew I could do what I came to do, with or without their permission, or even their knowledge, but I didn't want to scare them. I wanted them to allow me in, embrace my reasons for coming.
Sometimes, I wondered what kind of vampire I was.
Apparently one who is afraid of a house with all of...I listened for a moment...three humans in it! Just try not to sound like a lunatic. You don't want to draw attention to yourself.
With a final deep breath, I climbed the stairs, noticing on my way up the rickety metal railing I remembered so well, had been replaced with a sturdy, wrought iron one. Almost before I realized it, my hand went to the door knob, and I struggled to bring it down to my side. I reached up again, to knock this time, but before I could touch my knuckles to the wood the door swung open. I hadn't even heard her coming.
A thin, teenage girl stopped dead in her tracks as she took me in. Her long, blonde hair was streaked with blue and purple, and braided into pigtails which hung over her shoulders. She was dressed in what I can only describe as Catholic school girl gone wrong, wearing a gray and blue plaid skirt, hot pink and white layered tank tops, white leggings and purple Chuck Taylors. Looking at her, I felt decidedly grown up, despite appearing to be only two or three years her senior, in my favorite jeans and cable knit sweater. My own long hair was all the same color and held back with a thin headband. Of course, her fashion sense brought to mind another slight girl, dressed in her own way, bounding down the stairs...
Not now. I reminded myself. This isn't about...them...
Putting a hand on her hip and sulking in a way only a teenage girl can, she eyed me up and down. Of course, I couldn't read her thoughts- that whole vampires-with-gifts thing seemed to be a true rarity- but the signs were pretty clear on her face. She thought I was beautiful, strange, maybe a little intimidating, even for someone as delicate and young as I seemed. She had no idea.
And you are going to keep it that way, I reminded myself.
I had no intention of doing anything to bring about any suspicion. I hadn't been a violent human, and I wasn't a violent vampire either. In fact, most others of my kind found me to be strange, an anomaly, so unlike any vampire they had ever encountered. I didn't think I was that much of an anomaly. There was a coven, yes, a coven of vampires who were exactly like me. The few others who knew of this coven sometimes asked why I didn't seek them out, and live with them, since I also fed in their strange way.
Because even though I know about them, they don't know about me...Though, I honestly hadn't worked out how or why that was.
"Hi," I said, returning my attention to the girl in the doorway, "I'm..."
"Not Katie," she huffed, rolling her eyes. Then she turned and headed for the stairs, calling over her shoulder, "Mom! David's girlfriend is here!" She stopped halfway up the staircase and gave me one more look, her eyes narrowed in curiosity, before shaking her head and disappearing.
The door was wide open, and I could see into the living room. The furniture was different, as I knew it would be, but still it looked the same. It smelled different, a strange mix of the old and the new. I caught the slightest aroma of Charlie's aftershave and fought the urge to burst inside and run upstairs to his bedroom. A moment later, a woman appeared from out of the kitchen and walked to the open door.
"Hello," she said, looking excited and dressed for company. "You must be Jenny!"
"No," I said. "I'm sorry, I'm not Jenny."
"Oh," she smiled. I watched as her brain registered my appearance. She, too, would find me beautiful and intriguing, yet somehow unsettling. "Well then, what can I do for you?"
Make her comfortable, I reminded myself.
"My name is Bella," I said, extending my hand to her. The air outside was cold, it was November after all, so the temperature of my hand shouldn't have alarmed her. "Bella Swan."
A look of recognition crossed her face. Odd.
"Yes, of course," she said, holding her hand to take mine. "I'm Maggie Henry. It's nice to meet you, Bella."
"You, too, Mrs. Henry," I said.
"I'm sorry to bother you when you're obviously expecting company," I said, "but I just, well, I was wondering...what I mean to say is..." Even if I had still been human, I don't think I could have mangled my words so badly.
So much for not sounding like a lunatic.
Mrs. Henry still had my hand in hers, the heat from her touch radiating through my hand and up my arm, and she reached up with her free hand to pat my shoulder. "You just want to have a look around?"
"Excuse me?" I asked. I hadn't actually gotten around to telling her exactly who I was, or explaining why I was knocking on her door.
"You want to have a look around?" Mrs. Henry repeated. "You are Bella Swan?"
I nodded. Nice use of all those fancy, vampire dazzling abilities, Swan.
End Notes: Chapter Two will be up in minutes...read it and then REVIEW PLEASE! :)