An Unwelcome Return
I gently closed the door as the the last of Charlie's friends made their way down the front steps. Leaning against the wall for support, I took a deep breath and let my mind wander over the days events. It was a beautiful service, closed casket of course considering the way he died, but still beautiful. The church was full to the brim with friends and colleagues, all wanting to pay their last respects.
I'd sat alone at the front, not knowing anyone well enough to socialize with or feeling like making polite conversation. Charlie had been the police chief of Forks, Washington and had lived here all his life. I used to know most of these people who now felt like strangers. I left for college six years ago and I had only been back to visit twice. Charlie used to come and stay with me in Seattle, I think he liked to escape for a bit too.
Several of his fellow officers had stood up to talk about his heroism and commitment to the people of Forks. I'd barely listened, instead remembering him as the father I loved dearly. All of our fishing trips together, which I truly hated but went along anyway just to spend time with him. The way we could both sit in together in silence, but be so comfortable just with our own thoughts. We were so much alike in so many ways. I loved him and I fucking missed him.
I wiped away the tears that had started to fall and pushed myself off the wall. I made my way round Charlie's house, where I'd had his wake, picking up plates and glasses as I went. With everyone now gone, the house felt empty and cold. I shivered a little and took thedishes I'd collected into the kitchen, dumping them unceremoniously into the sink. They could wait til later, everything could wait til later. I just wanted to curl up in my old bed and pretend this shitty day had never fucking happened.
As I lay, snuggled up under my quilt, dressed in one of Charlie's old police t-shirts, my mind was drawn back to the last time he came to visit me, two weeks ago today. He was pleased to see me as always, but I could tell something was off. He looked as if he was permanently on the verge of telling me something, but never quite got there. I figured he'd eventually tell me in his own good time so I hadn't pushed him, I guess now I'll never know. I buried my face in my pillow as a loud sob escaped me. He was gone, fucking gone and I never got to say goodbye! I didn't even get to see his body as it was too badly damaged.
What the fuck happened to him!
A wild animal they told me, out on his own in the woods, died before anyone found him. See, that's the bit I don't understand. He was the chief of police for fuck's sake, he knew better than to wander out into the woods alone, especially without letting people know where he was going. I'd tried asking questions at the station, but they were all tight lipped. All quick to offer their condolences, but not willing to discuss the case. I guess I was considered just another outsider after 6 long years away.
I roughly wiped my eyes on the sleeves of Charlies t-shirt and closed them tight. I needed to sleep, I was exhausted from the events of the last few days. Sleep came surprisingly quickly and for a few hours I was able to forget, at least until morning came anyway.
Was that the door? My sleep filled brain registered the noise, but I couldn't be bothered to investigate, was it morning already? I muttered a few curse words, rolled over and tried to ignored it.
I pulled the quilt over my head.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Ugh! Who the fuck was that!
Whoever had been banging on my door for the last five minutes, was really starting to piss me off! I mean seriously, do they not get the message that I don't want any fucking visitors this morning?
"Isabella Marie Swan! I know you're in there. Get your sweet ass down here and open this door or so help me..."
Alice is my best friend and housemate back in Seattle. I met her during our college years and we've been inseparable ever since. She's been away on business for the past two weeks, working as a buyer for one of the big Seattle department stores.
I'd totally forgotten that she was arriving today, with the funeral and wake occupying all my time yesterday it had completely slipped my mind. I jumped out of bed and raced down the stairs, my coordination not letting me down for once. I hastily unlocked the door and pulled it open, revealing a fuming Alice with fist poised ready to start banging again.
I must have looked awful because she took one look at me and her face softened. I guess my eyes were red from crying, I hadn't slept well for days and had cried plenty.
"Oh Bella, come here." She pulled me into her arms and began rubbing my back, I felt so much better with Alice here, a friendly face at last. The relief washed over me and I felt the tears start again.
"Fuck." I sniffed.
Alice leaned back to see my face, when she saw my tears she quickly ushered me inside and closed the door.
"Bella, I'm so sorry I couldn't make it to the funeral. My flight was delayed, then I missed my connecting one. It was a fucking nightmare. I'm so sorry, honey." She wiped away my tears with her thumbs as we sat down on Charlie's old blue sofa.
"It's OK Alice, really. I'm just so fucking happy you are here." I got all emotional again. "Let's just say the reception here has been a little less welcoming than I'd expected." I relaxed against the back of the sofa and rubbed my eyes.
"Did everything go OK yesterday?" Alice asked quietly. She leaned back too and rested her head on my shoulder.
"Yeah, it was fine, well you know, considering..." It went as well as expected for a funeral, I guess.
"Did someone say something to you?"
"I don't know Alice. It just seems fucking wrong that he died like this, he knew better. You knew him, he would never have been so careless." I hopped off the sofa and began pacing across the small living room.
"I went to the station and tried asking about the accident, said I wanted to see where it happened, but they wouldn't tell me anything. They wouldn't even let me see his fucking body! I lived here til I was eighteen and I am his daughter, for fuck's sake! I know I've been gone for six years, but that should still mean something, right? " I stopped pacing and looked over to Alice expectantly, as if she held the answers to all my questions.
"What are you going to do now? You know I'll stay as long as you want, don't you?" I managed a small smile, thank fuck for Alice. She was my best friend and I really needed her about now.
"Yeah. I do. Thanks Alice." I let out a big sigh and joined her on the sofa again.
"I've got at least the next four weeks off to sort everything out here. So I guess we could get started on that today."
"That's not really what I meant, Bella." She said, turning to face me. "Are you going to keep digging into Charlie's death?"
"I don't know what else I can do, Al. I've asked at the station and got the brush off, what else can I do? I know its not right that he died this way and I am beyond pissed that there was no investigation, but he's dead. Nothing I find out will change that fact. I feel like I should just wrap things up as quickly as possible and get the hell out of here. Its definitely not the same Forks I grew up in, that's for sure." I rubbed my fingers over my forehead, feeling the early signs of a headache coming on.
"I know you Bella, you won't be happy until you get at least some answers to your questions" She gave me a pointed look. Of course I wouldn't be able to fool Alice, she knew me better that I knew myself sometimes.
"I suggest you get dressed, then show me around town and introduce me to all of your old friends. Maybe they can shed some light on things." She raised her eyebrow at me and despite the gravity of the conversation only minutes ago, I barked out a laugh. "Friends. Well, that won't take long at all, now will it!"
"That's more like it. Now go and get dressed." She gave me a little shove and wrinkled her nose, "and ugh.. maybe shower too." I climbed back up the stairs feeling ten times better than I did when I woke up this morning.
I grabbed a couple of towels from the linen cupboard and headed for the shower. I turned the water on, shedding my clothes as it heated up, and stepped in. The hot water felt amazing against my tired body. I turned face into the spray, washing all my dried tears away down the drain. I needed to pull myself together. Alice was right, I realized, there was no way I could leave here without getting a few answers. Someone must know what Charlie was up to, it's a small town, not much goes by unnoticed. I had a nagging feeling that it had to do with whatever he was trying to tell me two weeks ago. I finished up in the shower, dressed quickly and hurried down the stairs to find Alice. I hadn't been overly long, but she wasn't known for her patience.
She wasn't in the living room, so I carried on through into the kitchen. I couldn't help but smile at the scene that greeted me there. Alice, you are a fucking star!
She'd cleaned up the kitchen and washed all of the dishes I'd left in the sink yesterday. Something else I'd totally forgotten about.
"Thanks Alice, you didn't have.." I started, but she interrupted me, smiling softly.
"Sshh! I want to help Bella. It's why I'm here." I rushed over and gave her a big hug, fighting to keep back the tears that were threatening to spill over. I didn't want to cry any more, I wanted the truth. As Alice and I grabbed our things and headed out to my truck, I resolved to find out what really happened to Charlie, even if it killed me.
a/n Please review and let me know whether you love it or hate it!