Phase One – Chapter One: Same Old Story
Angie Pochoda had known for a while that life would be changing again, but she had hoped that it would at least wait until the end of the school year. There was only a week left of regular classes and then it was two weeks of final exams. The timing couldn't be any worse. She tried to pretend that she didn't see her mom's car in front of the school, and just went straight to getting her bike from the rack. It wasn't much of a plan, but at least getting on her bike would give her some time to stop panicking. Where would she go? If her mom was there that meant that she couldn't go home – correction, she couldn't go back to Doug's home. Doug was her mom's latest true love, and like all the other ones, it was doomed from the start. Amanda Pochoda fell in and out of love every year, sometimes even three times a year. Amanda had met Doug in September and by November Amanda was making all of the arrangements to move from Everett to Port Angeles. After the Christmas break, Angie was enrolled in a new school. Hopefully Amanda was just planning to hotel it for a while. After all, she still had a job to go to. But Angie couldn't help but worry that the packed bags meant a new city, a new school, even worse would be a new guy that Amanda would spring on her. Now she couldn't even finish this half of the year. Why did her mom do these things? Couldn't she at least fake it for a while, just until the end of exams?
Amanda began honking the car horn. Angie tried to not notice.
"Hey," someone called from behind her, "I think that woman wants you."
Angie couldn't help it now. She turned around.
"Thanks," she told the overly helpful guy. She didn't know his name and obviously he didn't know hers either. It wouldn't matter now, would it? She'd probably never see him again once she got in that car. Who knows, in another life maybe he would have been her prom date.
Angie submitted and walked her bike to the car. She didn't open the door.
Amanda leaned over and rolled down the passenger window. "Hey pumpkin."
"What are you doing here?" Angie asked.
"Put your bike on the back, I'll give you a ride home."
"Home? I'd rather bike myself, thanks."
"Angie, can you please get in the car? I think we have some things we need to talk about." Amanda always tried to sugar-coat things. It was more annoying when she did. Angie knew exactly what was going on. Why couldn't her mom just own up to it?
"You and Doug split?" Angie predicted.
"It's complicated," Amanda sighed.
"It always is," Angie said under her breath. "Fine."
Angie put her bike on the rack on the back of the car. Angie figured that it was more accustomed to being on that rack than it was on the road. That's probably why she was always so determined to get on it and ride as far as she could go every chance she could get. It was kind of like a dog, if she didn't take it out for walks, it would feel unloved. Locking it in place now was almost heartbreaking.
When she got into the car, Angie noticed how filled the backseat was. At least two suitcases covered by pillows and blankets. Yep, they were definitely going somewhere. Angie braced herself for the explanation.
"Now, Angie, pumpkin, I think that Doug and I need our space," Amanda said as she pulled the car away from the school.
"So where are we going now?" Angie asked.
"Not very far. I know you've still got a few more weeks of school."
"And finals. I can't write another school's finals."
"I know. It's okay. You can still finish up here."
"Hey, can you give me a bit of a break here? I'm trying, kiddo. Believe it or not, I'm actually trying," Amanda pleaded.
Angie sighed. She took a few breaths to calm herself. Her mom was sensitive, there was no point getting mad at her, it would only make things worse. "So where are we going?"
"I tried to find something for us that we could afford. There aren't a lot of rentals at the moment."
"I found a place in Forks."
"Forks? Is there even a town in Forks?"
"Angie, it's bigger than you think it is. They have a high school there. Probably even a soccer team." It wasn't convincing. It sounded as if Amanda hadn't even looked into it at all. No wonder the place would be affordable, there would be nothing there; no one would want to live there.
"I can't switch schools in the last three weeks!"
"No, pumpkin, you don't have to. Forks is only an hour away. I still have work here too. We can commute together," Amanda suggested optimistically.
"An hour commute every day?"
"Hey, it's no so bad. Remember when we lived in Surrey? I had to commute to Vancouver every day. This will be nothing."
Angie still wasn't convinced. On the plus side, though, Angie didn't have to switch schools yet. And knowing her mom, the whole Forks thing would be very temporary. Amanda would fall in love again and they'd be back in Port Angeles, Everett, or maybe Seattle or, who knows, maybe Angie would find herself in Sydney Australia one day.
"Just three more years," Angie reminded herself. After that time Angie would be done high school and could go off to school on her own. She didn't know where yet, but it didn't matter, the point was that she'd have at least four years of being in one place. She couldn't wait.
"So what about the rest of the stuff?" Angie asked.
Amanda became quiet. That wasn't a good sign. Thankfully Angie had learned early on not to get too attached to stuff.
"I don't know. We'll have to see."
"Does Doug even know we're leaving?"
Amanda was quiet again. That meant no. This was a quick escape. There was probably a note on the fridge or something like that. Doug would find it when he got home from work. Angie wondered if he'd be surprised. He and her mom had been fighting a lot. Angie wasn't sure how much longer her mom would hold out for. Considering what was going on now, Angie figured that Amanda kept everything quiet until she was certain that she had a place to go. They had escaped to a hotel before, back when Angie was really young, but circumstances were different then. That was with Mark. Angie was surprised that she could still remember his name; she was surprised that she could remember most of the names. Mark turned out to be a beater. From that day on, Amanda was determined to have a backup plan. Doug wasn't that bad, he just got cocky. Guys seemed to do that around Amanda. She was young, and guys liked that, but she also had a young daughter which most guys didn't like so much. Doug was young too, twenty eight. He had good intentions, he was trying to own his own business and get himself established. He wasn't ready to do the family thing. He liked Amanda, but he wasn't ready to commit. Not everyone that Amanda fell in love with was equally in love with her. This was another one of those cases.
Angie reached in the backseat and pulled a pillow up to the front. She wrapped her arms tightly around it and rested her chin on top of it.
"It's going to be okay. We're survivors, you and me," Amanda said trying to reassure her daughter.
Angie tried to believe her.
They didn't speak much during the drive. Amanda just kept her eyes on the road while Angie watched the passing trees. Nature must have felt the mood in the small red Toyota because it began to rain. It wasn't anything new, it usually rained around here, but this rainfall seemed like it was made just for Angie. She was glad it was raining. The sky was crying so she didn't have to.
Amanda didn't say much about the new rental place. When they pulled up into the gravel driveway, Angie knew why. The house wasn't even in a suburb. You could barely see the house through the trees. Angie's wishful thinking cropped up again. Usually acreage lots in the middle of nowhere had large houses. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad. And once again Angie's hopefulness was in vain. The house looked like a cube with a roof. The weathered wooden siding was a faded yellow colour. Moss was growing on the roof.
"You've got to be kidding," Angie couldn't help cry aloud.
"It has character. Like a cabin," Amanda said trying to be optimistic.
"You know, most horror movies are set in cabins in the woods," Angie said.
"It's Forks. Nothing horrific is going to happen."
"You're probably right. It's so small that if there was a deranged killer on the loose they'd probably know who it is by name. Yup, it's Bill alright."
"Angie, don't make fun of the locals. You've lived in smaller towns."
"Yeah, but smaller towns with running water and the newfangled invention known as electricity," Angie said. "Whose station wagon?"
There was another vehicle in the driveway in front of the house. Angie was hoping that it meant that this was the wrong address, that maybe they wouldn't be living in a cabin in the woods after all.
"Landlady I think," Amanda said. "She said that she'd meet us here. Her name is Meredith. She sounded very nice on the phone. She has another house on the lot where she lives. It's a lot of acreage. It'll be nice."
"Were there seriously no apartments in Port Angeles?" Angie asked.
Amanda ignored her daughter and stopped the car in front of their new home.
"Let's have a look," she suggested eagerly as she exited the car.
Angie threw the pillow back to the backseat and followed her mother, though less eagerly.
Meredith Cooper was at the front door. She was a tall and hefty woman. She looked like she belonged in these surroundings. She wore thick denim jeans and a bright flannel jacket. She had a pair of glasses around her neck on a chain. Angie couldn't help but smirk at the sight.
"This is my daughter, Angie," Amanda introduced.
Meredith smiled and squeezed the girl's arms too tightly. "The boys around here will be glad for new young blood around here," Meredith said.
Angie felt that Meredith had a grandmotherly quality to her, but not the sweet little cookie baking kind, more like the wood-chopping, gun-toting, bear-wrestling kind. Angie just smiled awkwardly and waited to be released from the old woman's death grip.
"Well I'm guessing you want to have a good look around, eh?" the landlady said.
Angie was finally released. Meredith led Amanda through the house as Angie walked a few paces behind. The inside was better kept than the outside of the house, but it still seemed dated and bare. For the two of them, the house was spacious, especially since they had no furniture to show for as of right now. It was a quick tour; the house was, after all, a simple rancher style. Amanda still seemed excited about it. Angie figured that the excitement was legitimate. Amanda could be very fickle, she enjoyed having a place of her own, but she also hated being alone.
Angie wasn't sure how much her mom had actually told Meredith. The landlady kept making comments about having a new family in the neighbourhood, making Angie wonder if Meredith was expecting the husband to arrive. Meredith was also interested in how Amanda planned to layout the place, where the sofas would go, how many dressers for the bedrooms, and so on. Amanda had a very roundabout way of answering that usually satisfied everyone. Meredith would be in for quite the surprise when the moving truck never arrived.
Angie stood the in room that would be hers. It was an empty box. There wasn't even a closet. Not that it mattered; she doubted that she had enough clothes with her to fill a closet. Angie didn't even know what her mother had packed for her. Maybe the shoes on her feet would be all that she had.
Amanda came up behind her daughter and wrapped her arms around her. "So what do you think?"
Angie had to think if she was going to answer honestly or not. "It could be worse."
That was good enough of an answer for Amanda who hugged her daughter.
"So I can still go to school tomorrow?" Angie asked.
"Can you?" Amanda laughed, "Babe, you have no choice, you have to."
"What? No personal day?" Angie joked.
"Come on, let's unload the car," Amanda said.