In the twilight I could barely make out the shapes in the house, and no matter how I tried I couldn't see into my old bedroom window. I had been sitting there in the trees for a pathetically long time, so I wasn't surprised when I smelled Jacob's scent from somewhere in the woods. He didn't even have to say anything, I just jumped down and followed him back to the manor.
It still left me speechless every time I saw it, even though I had only been gone for a few hours. It definitely needed a good coat of paint; the soft white which covered it was faded and chipping. Carlisle said the porch had to be redone also, because the wood was beginning to rot. I could hear Edward's piano from the porch, and went up the creaky steps instead of to our cottage.
"Nessie and EJ are on their way over," Esme said as she floated passed us. "Any requests for dinner?"
"You know I love everything you make," Jake said with a grin. I noticed his eyes dart across the room and stop on Edward. They were obviously having a silent conversation.
I kissed Edward long and hard, the emotions from the day only making me feel more human.
"Ready to start high school, tomorrow?" he teased, but I could hear the concern. Jake had totally ratted me out.
I groaned and hid my head in his chest. "I can't believe I'm going to Forks High School...again."
"It won't seem the same," Alice promised. She slid down the banister and landed right in front of me. "The school is actually one building now. And you won't have any of your old friends-"
Either Edward had shot her a warning, or she quickly saw something she had missed before, but whatever it was, she stopped and didn't bother to finish. Luckily for her, the door opened as my daughter and grandson made their entrance.
Renesmee hadn't changed at all since we moved to Astoria, which was now ten lifetimes ago. That's what I called them - lifetimes. After Forks was West Virginia, then Oregon. A couple years after the Great War, we moved to Alaska. Then British Columbia. Edward, Renesmee, Jake, and I stayed around the northwest for a while and then Edward and I met up with the rest of the family living in Scotland. After that was Ireland, New England, Alberta, Montana, Alaska again, and a few others in between. Jake and Nessie always managed to stay under the radar and never lived too far from the Quileutes.
"Real food!" EJ pulled up a chair next to his father-who might as well be his twin brother. He was born with no vampire characteristics, but he did have the brown eyes which my daughter and I shared. For some reason we were all still surprised when he came down with a fever at the age of thirteen and the werewolf gene was finally triggered.
"I resent that! I can cook...kind of." Renesmee was pouting, yet looking longingly towards the kitchen. She missed Esme's cooking too.
While our family ate, I changed into dry clothes and found Edward sitting at his piano, brushing the keys. His expression was similar to Jake's earlier in the day, so I sat down on our couch and gestured for him to sit next to me.
"I'm fine," I said.
"You should go see him," Edward replied, and I nodded but he didn't need to be a mind reader to know I was lying.
"So, what does that schedule of yours look like for tomorrow?"
I curled up next to him and laid my head on his chest hearing nothing. "Well since you had to go and be younger than me, I don't think we'll have any classes together. You'll have plenty with your twin though." Now with the age gap between Nessie and Edward was closed there was no way that Renesmee could pass for a younger sister, and Edward refused for her to be older, so they were twins. And it worked because other than their eyes, they were identical. "How are you going to handle that?"
"We'll be fine." I questioned Edward's confidence though since we haven't been in school with her since before we went to Europe. "I'll just have to bite my tongue whenever she misbehaves."
The reaction of the school was exactly as it always was. Five gorgeous creatures - since Emmett and Rosalie chose to go to college and EJ and Jake much too old - walk through the hallway and stop everyone in their tracks. Their expressions were a mixture of awe and caution, unable to figure out what was so repulsive about people so beautiful.
We had already received our schedules ahead of time and when we got to the main hallway Jasper and I went one direction and Nessie, Alice and Edward went another. I did hate being older, but four "Cullen kids" in one grade was too much Carlisle insisted.
"Think of it as a change in routine," Jasper said. He must have felt my sour mood as I dragged my feet into class. The lack of students in Forks at least allowed C for Cullen and H for Hale to be in the same homeroom, which I was thankful for. Starting over never got any easier and I worried that being back in Forks would be even worse.
As the morning went on I kept waiting for the flood of memories, but they never came. The school was completely rebuilt, the teachers were all different, and not a single student reminded me of anyone in my past. At lunch we all met and sat at an empty table at the end of the cafeteria with our useless food in front of us.
"You going to eat that?" Nessie asked, pointing at a cookie on my plate. She laughed at her own joke and took it before I even answered.
"Hey Renesmee!" a few girls from across the room waved at her. It never ceased to amaze me how quickly she made friends.
I scoffed at the girls and then Edward would was staring down at his food smirking. "They're all checking you out, aren't they" I snapped.
"Oh, chill, Bella," Alice chided. "You've got to be used to it by now. Just make out and sit on his lap through lunch. They'll get the picture."
Nessie shook her head and made a gagging face. "Please don't."
Lunch and the rest of the afternoon were uneventful. No possible Mike Newtons or Derrick Harrises bothered me and the classes were all long and boring. It wasn't until we got into my new Acura SUV did Alice's eyes glaze over to her clairvoyant world.
"We need to get home," is all she would say. I looked over at Edward to see if he saw anything, but his furrowed brow let me know he missed it and Alice was keeping him out of her head.
Even before the car door opened we all knew what Alice had seen. Standing on the porch with Carlisle in a neatly pressed black jumper was the tiny pale figure of Jane. Her blonde hair flowed down her back and a headband kept it off of her face. With her perfect little ankle socks and black mary jane shoes, she was the picture perfect image of a horror movie. You know, the ones where the sweet innocent girl turns into a psychopath and kills everyone?
"Why didn't you tell us?" Edward growled to his sister.
"Because," Alice huffed, "you would have only overreacted. I know why she came."
Edward couldn't argue because he obviously knew why already too or else he would have had Jane's neck between his teeth by now.
"Jane was just keeping us updated on the slavic uprising," Carlisle said.
Alice scrunched up her face. "I haven't seen anything."
One side of Jane's mouth turned up in a crooked smile. "You can't watch everything all the time." Her sweet voice was still laced with just as much malice as the last time we had seen her.
"So everything is under control now?" Edward asked. It was still so odd to me that Jane could stand among us with my shield down.
Jane shrugged. "Hope you don't mind that your Romanian friends had to be taken care of. The rest disbanded after that."
I didn't really care for the Vladimir and Stefan when they came to witness for Renesmee, and they didn't even bother to show up for the final confrontation. The humanity in me argued that lives shouldn't be taken, but if the Romanias didn't like the Volturi in power, they surely would not like us either.
"Very well," Carlisle said. "You didn't need to come all this way though. A phone call would do just fine."
"Just wanted to visit."
Jane left a few hours later with two of her new coven. Isolde and Louis didn't speak once and once they were long gone Edward finally explained what had been going on.
"Her intention were neutral, unless she's really good at changing her thoughts. It seems as though she's very bored over in Italy now."
It was so anti-climatic that I wished he had lied and told us some more exciting store. I reconsidered once I realized the last thing I wanted was another war.
For reasons I couldn't really understand I was aloof for the rest of the week. I went through school like a zombie, only ever perking up when I was alone with Edward. No new hobby had sparked my interest and if I wasn't reading, I was sitting in the trees outside of Charlie's house, just staring.
It was early Saturday morning when I knew what had been tearing at me. I knew what was wrong, and I got down from my tree and went to see my dad.
"Hey, Dad..." I started off slowly because really, I didn't know what to say. "So, we're back in Forks. Officially. I mean, it'll only be for six or seven years, but it doesn't matter to me. Even after all this time, Forks has always been home...that place I've been waiting to come back to.
It's all so surreal. I've been spending time at the house. There's a new addition added on to it; hopefully a second bathroom. It seems wrong not to see your cruiser in the driveway. It was so silly, but I sit in the trees all the time and just wait. I saw the new owners - a couple and their young son. When they leave for the day, I peak in the living room window, the one I use to come through when I'd visit you. Every time I look I so desperately want you to be sitting in your recliner. Every day I wish it would come true.
I know if I wanted to be selfish, I could have kept you in my eternal life, but that wasn't the life you were supposed to live. I know I've told you this countless times before, but I need you to know that it's been half a century, and I have never regretted my choice.
I miss you more than I ever thought possible, and those feelings will never change. In five hundred years from now, in a millennia from now...I will miss you just as much as the day you left. But I'm so glad you're there with Billy and Sam and Sue. I hope you saw Mom and told her everything, because I've never forgotten her either.
I'll make sure to visit plenty, I know I've kind of been slacking in that department. Oh, and I found this during the move... it's your badge. I thought it should be here with you. And although I know you probably hate the idea of flowers, I got you some anyway. This place is just not colorful enough, so I figured it couldn't hurt.
I love you, Dad."
Using my fingers, I pulled up some of the sod and grass, burying the gold badge underneath it, and patting it back down until it looked undisturbed. On top of it I laid a bouquet of wild flowers, which would not last long...but they could be replaced.
With determination I turned in my heels and walked away. My eyes burned with nonexistent tears, and my throat choked up with sobs.
"Bella..." For a split second my imagination took off and I thought I heard Charlie's voice, but instead I saw Jacob leaning against a tree. I attempted a smile, but had to clench my jaw shut as my face began to twitch and I started to cry a tearless cry.
Jacob took my cold body in his arms, his skin sending shock waves of heat through me, and I hid my head in his chest. I knew Edward had sent him. For the rest of the family, they had all long since gotten used to watching every life come and go. For Renesmee and EJ, it's the only world they've ever known. But not for me or Jake. By choice we decided to be masochists and live in both worlds for as long as we could.
"Sometimes..." But I couldn't finish. Jake instead pulled me away from him and made me look him in the eye. He knew.
There were times, normally when I thought about my parents, that I just wished I could see them again. That I could have that to look forward to. But then just a single kiss from Edward or one laugh from Renesmee, and my unbeating heart swells ten times its size, and I know that this happiness is what they would have wanted for me.
"Hello?" The voice was quiet and careful...and familiar.
Standing a few yards away was a middle-aged woman with flowers in her hand. I didn't quite know what to say, and obviously Jake didn't either.
"Did you know Chief Swan?"
"He's my great grandfather," I said, trying to hold my voice steady. It was an argument I had held my own on. I would not deny my lineage.
She smiled and fiddled with the rain hat she was wearing. Jake and I probably looked awfully stupid to be standing in this kind of weather. "I heard great things about him." She paused and her eyes lit up like Christmas. "Wait a second, you're related to Bella? Bella Swan?"
"Umm, yes. She's my-grandmother." I didn't think I'd meet anyone who knew me, or knew of me. It was then I took a good look at her. The familiarity of her eyes, her smile...they were impossible to miss.
"Wow. It's so nice to meet you. I always wished I could have met your grandmother. I'm named after her...well my middle name. I'm Ashley. My mother and your grandmother were friends in high school."
"Do-do you live in Forks?" I was going to lose it again. I hadn't seen a picture of her since she was born. I was immediately thankful I couldn't cry, or else I'd look like a fool in front of this woman.
"No, I live in Chicago. I'm just-visiting." She wavered on the words and her eyes fell to the headstone beyond Charlie's.
Angela Weber Cheney
"Cancer," Ashley said quietly. "But she went fast. My dad went soon after. The doctors said a heart condition, but I think he just missed her too much." My eyes drifted with hers, and right next to Angela was Ben.
I wanted to hug her. I wanted to tell her that Angela was one of the most kind-hearted amazing people in the world...and I would know.
"I'm very sorry. I remember hearing stories about Angela, she sounded like a wonderful woman."
"She was. I'm sorry for being so rude, but...what's your name?"
"Bella." Again I couldn't lie.
Ashley smiled at me again, and I saw the spitting imagine of her mother there. "I guess we have someone in common then, Bella."
The storm clouds finally opened up and Jake tugged on my arm; I had completely forgotten he was there.
"It was wonderful to meet you, Bella. Maybe we'll cross paths again someday."
I had no words, so I just smiled and waved, jogging after Jake.
"I'm so sorry," he said to me once we had reached the semi-covering of the woods.
I could still see Ashley, now with an umbrella shielding her from the weather. She carefully laid flowers on Angela and Ben's graves.
"No, it's all right," I promised him, but he looked at me warily. "Really, Jake. It's...it's good to know. It's what I always wanted for Angela. I always wanted her to be happy."
As Jake and I ran through the woods I passed by my old house. Without thinking I conjured memories from my human life. I saw my old Chevy and Charlie's cruiser out front. I could see Billy and my dad sitting in front of the baseball game they were watching. Then there I was talking to my mom on the phone as I ran towards Jessica's car where Angela was sitting in the passenger seat. Then for one second I would have sworn I saw five very tall boys, all shirtless, standing at the tree line.
I knew then that it wasn't fair to myself or the people I loved to try and forget them - to try and push them out. They will always mean the most to me, no matter how many years go by and no matter how many lifetimes I live. Forks, Washington was and always will be past, present, and future.
"Bells?" Jake asked, nudging me. I hadn't even realized I had come to a complete stop. "Ready to get home?"