Disclaimer – Though the ideas are my own, I do not own Twilight.
Chapter 3 – Family Matters
Even though I had convinced myself I would, I did not bleed to death my third night in Forks. I spent most of the afternoon after my mishap sitting on the living room floor, staring at the still-sealed paint cans and feeling guilty that I wasn't actually doing anything. I wasn't happy about having to lie to Alice.
I turned in early again that night, unable to sleep, but incapable of doing much of anything else. I had never been much of a TV watcher. I left my right arm dangling over the mattress, unwilling to let my bandaged hand touch my brand new sheets. Edward had kindly warned me about breakthrough bleeding.
Morning finally came, and I worked up enough courage to unwrap my hand, praying the bleeding had stopped and I would be in good enough shape to go to work in the evening. The thought of being cooped up in the house I was so uncomfortable in made my stomach churn. Luckily, though there was an angry red line down the center of my palm, there was no more gushing, and the wound seemed to already be well on its way to healing. Just to be safe, I found an old tube of Neosporin in Charlie's medicine cabinet, and put a smaller bandage on top to keep it clean.
The day dragged on. Being raised in a household that I was constantly trying to escape, I'd become somewhat of a work-a-holic. Whether it was walking dogs the summer before eighth grade or scanning produce at the local grocer when I was sixteen, I'd always put all of my energy into working. It was never about money – there was never enough, no matter how many hours I logged. No, I enjoyed having something to focus on that wasn't the harsh reality of my life. But now, here in Forks, I didn't know what to do with all of the downtime I suddenly had.
As I showered and dressed for work, my nerves starting kicking in full force. Now that Alice knew I had no intentions of becoming her friend, would she be angry? I tried convincing myself that it didn't really matter – that it was for the best, even. She's be off to school soon anyway, and that would be one less person trying to pry their way into my past. But the nagging guilt would not subside. Alice seemed like a genuinely nice person, and although her personality was a little over the top, were I a normal person, she would be the type of girl I would be happy to become friends with.
But I wasn't normal. And I couldn't afford friends.
It turned out that my worrying was unnecessary. The second I walked in the door of the diner, I was greeted with Alice's warm smile. It seemed she wasn't the type to hold a grudge.
"Hi, Bella," she greeted cheerily, casting a quick look at my palm. "How's the hand?"
"Fine," I replied. "Just one small scrape that's already practically healed over."
"Glad to hear it. I was hoping you'd be able to come in tonight. I think you're more than ready to have your own table, and you've already been requested," she said.
"I've been what?"
"Harry and Sue Clearwater," she replied, nodding her head toward a middle-aged couple in a corner booth. "They live on the reservation, and aren't really the type to make the drive here for a semi-decent burger, if you know what I mean." She hesitated. "I think Harry was close to your father."
"Oh," I replied dumbly. Of course the people closest to Chief Swan would not be content to simply gawk at me like the rest of the population. They would actually want to meet me.
"They've been sitting there for forty-five minutes waiting for you to come in. I could tell them you're busy…"Alice offered, looking uncomfortable.
"No, it's fine," I promised, though it was anything but. "I'll take them."
Walking slowly toward the table, I tried to ignore their scrutiny; plastering what I hoped was a cheery smile to my face. "Hey, you two, how are you doing today?"
No answer. I resisted the urge to sigh, and shut my mouth, letting them stare and hoping they would get it out of their systems quickly. I was working, after all.
"Aren't you just a spitting image?" Sue Clearwater said after a long pause. She didn't need to elaborate.
"Really? I don't see it," I replied, my annoyance starting to slip though I was trying to keep it in check.
If they were offended by my rudeness, they didn't let it show.
"Oh, you're definitely your father's child. Especially the eyes," she continued with a kind smile, and I almost felt bad for my snippy tone. It wasn't anyone else's fault that Charlie was a dead-beat dad, and taking it out on the people who knew him best wouldn't change the past.
Harry had yet to comment, though he was still staring at me curiously. It was unnerving, almost as if he was picking through my brain and hearing every negative thought I'd ever had about my father – and he didn't approve.
"Charlie was a good man," Harry finally spoke, as if reading my mind. "As brave and honest as they come."
"I wouldn't know anything about that," I replied shortly, beginning to lose my temper. Did they really think it was the best time and place to have this conversation?
"He died a hero, and that's not something anyone in this town is likely to forget." He pointed across the room at a wall covered in junk. "Maybe you should read for yourself before you make any rash judgments."
I snorted. "I hardly think judging a man who chose not to be a part of his daughter's life for eighteen years is 'rash'."
"Things aren't always what they seem, Isabella."
I'd had enough. "Look, I don't mean to be rude. You seem like genuinely nice people, but I'm working. I can understand your curiosity
"Two California burgers, please," Sue replied. The sad smile on her face was one of pity.
"Coming right up," I grumbled, taking their menus back up to the cash register where Alice was still standing. "If you wouldn't mind bringing them their food when it comes up, I'd really appreciate it."
"Sure," she replied, studying me curiously. I could tell she was itching to know what the Clearwater's had said to me, but to her credit, she refrained.
I quickly scribbled their order, placing it in the ticket carousel and promptly ignoring the Clearwater's for the rest of their visit. I was now being outright rude, uncharacteristically, but I didn't know what else to do. Harry's cryptic comments had been unsettling, and I didn't like people telling me I didn't have a right to be angry about my past. They had no idea.
Of course, he had to have pointed to the damn wall. I'd only given it a passing glance since starting at the diner, but now it was calling to me like a beacon. Read me, Bella. With a sight, I stomped over to it, searching through the randomness to find something that mattered.
It only took seconds. The newspaper article was framed in the center of the wall, surrounded by old beat-up license plates and a silver spoon collection. I took a deep breath, and began to read.
Local Shootout Leaves Two Dead, One Critically Injured
What began as routine patrol ended in tragedy Tuesday night, leaving one police officer in critical condition while a police chief and suspect sustained fatal gunshot wounds.
Forks Police Chief Charles Swan, 40, and his partner William "Billy" Black, 47, responded to a distress call at 11:35 pm. Officers say a local 24-hour convenience store was being held up by an armed, unknown assailant. Swan and Black were the first to arrive on the scene. When the suspect saw the approaching police car, he fled, driving away in what was reported to be a stolen 2008 Cadillac Escalade. A high speed chase ensued.
Swan and Black were able to bring the stolen vehicle to a stop 8 miles North of where the chase began on Highway 101 by shooting out the suspects tires. When they approached the vehicle, the suspect, 37-year-old James Laurent, was said to have pulled out a 9MM pistol, opening fire on the two officers. Black was shot twice in the shoulder and once in the spine, according to medical reports. He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he remains in critical condition.
Chief Swan was fatally shot in the chest and back while attempting to assist his colleague.
Backup arrived on the scene as the gunman pulled his weapon on the officers, and police opened fire on the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Arrangements will be held –
I stopped reading. Next to the article was another – a two-page memorial to the beloved small-town Police Chief. From the center of the page, a pair of eyes much like my own stared through me. Charlie Swan looked older in the memorial picture than he did in the one and only photo of him I had in my possession. I had found it in an old shoebox of Renee's when I was six. One of the corners was ripped, and there was a crease down the center as if it had been folded many times, but it was the only link I had to the man that was my father.
If Renee had noticed the picture was missing, she'd never brought it up. I would stare at it often during the really bad times, trying to find all the physical similarities between the stranger and myself. I had his nose and, unfortunately, his eyebrows. I would imagine how different my life would be if I had been left with my father to raise me, and I would dream about the day when I would finally get to meet him. Because I would, I was sure of that. No father would abandon his child, and it was only a matter of time before he came for me.
But that never happened. My resentment for the absent Charlie grew as I did, and by the time I was a teenager, the photo sat at the bottom of my chest of drawers, untouched and collecting dust. Though I never could bring myself to throw it away – to really let go of that pretend life I'd never have.
I felt my face heating. Anger, embarrassment, confusion…I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. Luckily, with only one table, it was easy to excuse myself so I could pull it together. I caught Alice's eye across the dining room, signaling to the bathroom door before quickly shuffling away without a backward glance to Charlie at his place on the diner wall.
I pushed open the heavy door, and was greeted by the sight of a really pretty blonde with red-rimmed eyes, being comforted by an angry-looking Jessica. They both looked up as the door slammed shut behind me.
"Er, sorry," I apologized, reaching for the handle. "I didn't know anyone was in here."
"Bella, wait," Jessica called out as I turned to leave. I tried to determine how believable it would be if I pretended I hadn't heard her. She wouldn't buy it. With a silent curse, I turned back around.
The blonde was staring at me. From the apron tied around her waist, I had to assume she was an employee here, though she wasn't on this shift. I briefly wondered how long she'd been sitting here.
"Bella, this is Lauren," Jessica introduced. "Lauren, Bella."
"Nice to meet you," I said politely, and she nodded in response.
"Sorry," she sniffed. "I swear I'm not always such a mess. But that tends to happen when you give your heart away to an asshole."
I remembered Jessica's delight in telling me that her friend Lauren was now dating Edward Cullen. She'd said it was a new thing, and I couldn't imagine the honeymoon phase being over that quickly. Of course, I had no real life experience to relate to, so I wasn't even sure there was a honeymoon phase.
"I'm sorry," I said, trying to sound sympathetic. It seemed like the most appropriate response.
"Do you know Edward?" she asked.
"We've met," I replied. "Briefly." I didn't feel like getting into the story of him doctoring my hand, and I didn't think it would be received well anyway. This seemed to be more of an Edward bashing only zone.
"If you're smart, you'll keep it that way." She turned to the mirror and began removing the black streaks from beneath her eyes with a wet paper towel. "That man is nothing but an egotistical, self-centered jerk who wreaks havoc on every life he comes in contact with."
"So, does this mean you're, like, coming to your senses and are done with him?" Jessica asked.
"Don't be stupid," Lauren sniffed. "We're perfect for each other. It's just a matter of making him see that. Which I will."
"Of course," Jessica replied, rolling her eyes.
Because it obviously made perfect sense to want to work it out with someone you thought was an asshole. Instances like these made me almost glad I'd never been able to be a normal teenage girl.
"I should really get back out there," I said, praying for a successful escape this time. "I need to check on my table, and I probably have food up…Um, I hope everything works out for you."
Lauren didn't answer, and neither tried to stop me as I pushed open the door and snuck outside.
My God. Whoever said small-town living was simple living had never been to Forks.
I was in a shitty mood.
It wasn't my typical shitty mood, either. This was a special kind. I'd been in this hellhole – and I do mean that literally, as it was well over ninety degrees in the kitchen – since six in the morning. It was now pushing five in the evening.
I pressed my spatula down hard on the sizzling patties of hamburger, getting a sick kind of satisfaction in imagining it was Newton's face. I really didn't give a fuck if he had Malaria or the Spanish Influenza or whatever it was he'd been crying about when he'd called in sick. If people didn't want to catch diseases, they shouldn't be eating at Fork's Diner.
At least Jasper had agreed to come relieve me soon. I looked out the service window, praying it wouldn't get ridiculously busy before I had a chance to cut out.
Alice was busy with a table, and Angela was filling salt and pepper shakers. Bella was standing with her back to restaurant, facing what I liked to call "The Wall of Crap". All the random junk that Kate would find, she'd bring in to the diner, and onto the wall it would go. I was confused, wracking my brain for what could possibly be holding her interest on that wall, when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I personally had thought it in bad taste to post the article about the shooting on the wall for all to see, but Kate disagreed. She said it was important to pay homage or some shit, and though I wasn't sure how plastering a piece of newspaper on a cluttered wall was a good memorial; she was the boss lady, and it was pointless to argue. But Jesus Christ, someone should have thought to take that shit down before the new girl arrived.
I could only see her profile from where I was standing, but her posture seemed to stiffen as she read, and I couldn't help but be curious about what she was thinking. According to Alice, Bella was quick to point out that she didn't know Charlie Swan from the random guy on the street, and the mystery surrounding their lack of relationship was apparently a hot topic. I only knew Chief Swan through the time he spent here at the diner and what little my father had spoke of him when they'd worked together, but he didn't seem like the type of man who'd give up a relationship with his daughter without a good reason.
Bella finished her reading and turned around, looking flushed and a little confused before disappearing to the restroom. I frowned, wondering if I should get Alice to check on her before shaking my head to snap myself out of it. It wasn't my job to babysit the new girl. And Alice would misread my concern for interest, and I sure as hell wasn't interested in hearing her clucking lecture once again. Besides, someone that anti-social was probably just one gentle shove away from bat-shit crazy, and I had enough psycho females in my life.
Speaking of psycho females…
"What the hell did you do to Lauren?" Jasper asked, coming up beside me out of nowhere.
I groaned. The icing on the cake that was my fucking day.
"Don't tell me she's still here."
"She and Jessica were walking out when I came in. She looked like shit." He took the spatula out of my hand, effectively pushing me out of my workspace. "I'm supposed to tell you you're an asshole, by the way." He scoffed. "As if you needed me to tell you."
"Fuck you. I tried to be nice, and let her down easy, and all that other shit I didn't really want to do, but she's so fucking persistent."
To say Lauren hadn't taken the news that I was not – nor would I ever be – her boyfriend well would be an understatement. She was pissed. After slithering against me, batting her eyelashes, and attempting to convince me in her sickly-sweet voice that we would be the perfect couple hadn't worked, she'd turned on the water works. Under normal circumstances, a woman crying would be my undoing. In this case, it just pissed me off.
After demanding she knock that shit off, I proceeded to give her some simple advice: If you really want a boyfriend, you should probably stop being such a reigning skank.
That's when she slapped me.
She stomped off with Jessica, who was eavesdropping in a booth, pretending to read a menu even though she fucking works here and wouldn't eat the food we served if it was presented to her on Brad Pitt's abs. But she had gotten a first-hand account of what went down with Lauren and I, and the "sympathy" she felt for her friend paled in comparison to the glee I knew she was feeling at getting to spin and re-tell such a juicy story.
I knew I should feel bad for what I said, but all I could muster was relief. I had gotten my point across at the very least, and there would be no more ridiculous talk about me having a girlfriend. I visibly shuddered at the thought.
"Anyway, she's known me since kindergarten," I continued to Jasper. "She knew exactly what she was getting into. I refuse to be sorry for her deluding herself."
Jasper shrugged, uncaring, and I took that as my cue to leave. I was starving and smelled like grease, so I reluctantly drove home.
When I entered the house, Esme was humming under her breath; an upbeat, happy tune that kind of made me want to vomit.
"You're in a good mood," I grumbled in a tone that made it very clear that I was not.
"I've just been informed that very soon I'll have all of my children safe and sound under one roof again. What's not to be happy about?"
I frowned, slamming the fridge door a little harder than was probably necessary.
"Emmett's coming home?" I asked flatly.
"Rosalie, too," she added, her smile growing larger.
I resisted the urge to pop the happy little bubble she had decided to hide in, and didn't even bother pointing out that Rosalie was not one of her children.
"And when is this…happy little reunion supposed to be taking place?" I asked instead.
"Fourth of July weekend," she replied, ignoring my sarcasm completely. "Emmett has that full-time internship again this summer, of course, but he managed to secure a long weekend over the Fourth, and he and Rosalie are making the trip from Seattle."
"Oh, joy, the golden child, home again," I mumbled unenthusiastically.
Esme finally stopped stirring and turned around to face me. Her smile changed from one of elation to one of sadness, and I could see the pity in her eyes before she spoke.
"Edward, I know things aren't easy for you right now. But this thing between you and your father…Well, it's affecting all of us. Is it really so wrong for a mother to be happy to have all the people she loves in one house?"
"When that mother is deluding herself into thinking we're all one big happy family and refuses to see the problems right in front of her face, yes, I think that's wrong."
She turned her back to me and resumed her song, and just like that it was as if I'd never even spoken. That was fine. I retreated to my room, slamming that door, too, for good measure. I wasn't above acting like a petulant child when it was called for.
Flinging myself onto my bed, I pulled a pillow over my face and weighed the pros and cons of smothering myself and ending the misery now. Having both Emmett and Alice under the same roof would be sure to put even more pressure on Carlisle and my strained relationship. Add Rosalie, Queen Bitch to the mix, and you've got yourself one hell of a party.
I get up and head to my car, needing to let off some steam. It's Friday night, and I know of at least three large parties happening within a twelve mile radius. The Edward Cullen everyone thinks they know would hit up each and every one of them tonight, and probably a couple of after parties as well. But right now, all I want to do is be left the fuck alone, so I head in a new direction.
My destination: Tillicum Park.