I never enjoyed walking in Canada because it was always so cold, but here it wasn't so bad. I smiled at my understatement, it was a tropical island and I was walking along the shoreline since this was better than not so bad, it was – romantic. My decision to move to Australia had been difficult. Mum missed me and her life was here now, but Dad loved me too and it was hard to leave him behind on the other side of the world. The house on the island we lived wasn't much, but the surroundings were beautiful and made up for the cramped living accommodations.
Mum and Phil lived in a two bedroom cottage only one street over from the pristine beach on the surf side of the island. Phil's young daughter, Bree, lived with them. She was a spoiled little princess but I could see why; with her long dark curly hair and huge puppy dog eyes, she could turn on the charm in an instant. She was seven years old and I was seventeen, but the ten years difference felt like twenty and I found it difficult to relate to her.
Bree had her own room in the cottage and Mum and Phil shared the other. I had a bunk bed out in the sleep-out, there was absolutely no privacy and I was still living out of my suitcase because no one had thought to acquire any furniture for me other than a bed. Phil had thoughtfully removed the bottom bunk of the bed and converted it to a desk where I could study once school started but I still felt as thought I was a visitor in their home rather than the resident I was.
I didn't blame Mum for the lack of furniture; he was scatter-brained at the best of times and at three months pregnant, the hormone only made it worse. I did wonder where a baby would fit into our little cottage but no one else seemed bothered and I guessed Phil would have something sorted out; he did have another six months after all. The pregnancy was part of the reason I moved to live with Mum. I had been an only child for seventeen years before Mum remarried. Although Bree was my step-sister, the thought of a new sibling being raised in Australia while I lived in Canada just seemed too impersonal. I wanted to be close to my family and my new sibling right from the start, even if the start was a bit challenging.
The walking was therapeutic for me, it gave me a chance to think, to breathe. Mum was very relaxed about rules and curfews; I could come and go from the house as I pleased. I was a good teenager and didn't give her any trouble or reason to worry and intended to keep it that way. It was the beginning of the school holidays in Australia, mid November. Summer was blissfully warm, even at eight at night. I could see light up ahead and hear music and laughter. Perhaps it was an end of school party? As I got closer I could see that I had walked further than I'd realized. I was at the tourist point of the island and the music and laughter were an extension of the lively nightclub set out on the waters edge. I smiled at how casual everything was here. My denim shorts, rolled up mid-thigh in case I wanted to splash in the water, and my fitted black tank top would be acceptable night wear here. I was barefoot but carried my sandals; I would be able to walk right through the crowd unnoticed and continue on my walk. I was far from tired and the walking felt good.
I took a deep breath and kept my eyes down as I stepped through the crowd. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and ignoring everyone around me; which was far easier said than done. A group of boys surrounded me and when I looked up I saw they had blocked my path.
"Hi beautiful, haven't seen you down here before?"
"How about you stay and have a drink with us?"
I was startled that anyone had sought me out to speak to. They seemed harmless enough, but I really just wanted to walk and be by myself.
"No thank you," I half mumbled and tried pushing through their barrier.
"Oi! Not so fast. Where are you going? Don't you want to stay and party?"
I was slightly irritated, surely they had heard me. I spoke more assertively this time, and raised the volume a notch too.
"No thank-you," I tried pushing my way through again and felt rough hands grab my shoulders and pull me back.
"Hey, don't touch me! Let me go!" I was mad and maybe just a little bit apprehensive now. We were still in a crowded area and these guys were probably just drunk.
"Ooh, she's feisty!"
"And she has a cute accent!"
A deep velvet voice broke through the pathetic comments the boys were making, and this one worried me more than the others.
"Take your hands off her, she's with me."
I gulped a huge mouthful of air as the boys let go of me and backed away.
"No worries man, we were just looking out for her," and then they were gone.
I looked over at my savior, wondering if he was going to be more trouble than the group of boys had been but he had a friendly apologetic look on his face.
"G'day, I'm Edward. Sorry about that, but I heard you ask them to let you go and when they didn't I thought I'd say something."
I tried to formulate the words to say thank you, but Edward was drop dead gorgeous and I just stood there gaping at him like some type of guppy. He held his hand out, waiting for me to place mine in his.
"Come on, I'll buy you a beer. Make up for the horrible hospitality you've experienced so far…" he indicated with his other arm out to where the boys had disappeared.
I found myself being towed willingly into the bar. At seventeen I was twelve months shy of legally drinking the beer he offered, but I didn't want to let him out of my sight; he was gorgeous. Edward led me to the bar and called out to the bar tender.
"Hey Jasper, we need two Corona's with lemon over here please!"
An equally hot barman wearing an odd combination of thongs, swim trunks and a dress shirt came over where we stood.
"Hey Eddie, who's your friend?" he asked as he placed two clear bottles of light coloured beer onto the bar. Each had a slice of lemon sitting in the neck and I eyed them warily; hmm, alcohol. I remembered back to the first time I had been drunk, it wasn't pretty and I haven't tried it since, but this was different. It was only one beer. Both Edward and Jasper were looking at me expectantly. Oh whoops, real smooth, I berated myself.
"Bella. My name is Bella."
Edward smiled, "I like that. Bella."
"Dude, you bought her a beer and you don't even know her name." Jasper punched Edward lightly on the shoulder and laughed before crossing the bar to serve another customer. Edward shrugged and looked over at me.
"Want to take these outside?" I nodded my agreement; words obviously fail me in the presence of drop dead gorgeous men. I had never realised this was a problem, because Edward was the very first drop dead gorgeous man I had ever seen; and Jasper was certainly a close second.