AN: Much as I wish I did, I don't own Twilight or anything related to it (besides my stories). I started this story when I was stuck with some writers' block for chapter 60 of "The Wolf and His Girl". I probably shouldn't be posting this now, especially with two in-progress stories going at the moment, plus grad school. Guess I'm a glutton for punishment or something.

Writing my Jared story has really helped me see how much I like the wolf pack. This gives me the chance to play with them again, but in a different vein than I have with either of my other stories. I have in mind to move on to another pack member later, and then maybe back to Jared again if I can come up with a different storyline for him.

So, to set this up: Twilight happened like SM wrote it. But in this story, the Cullens moved on early in the summer (instead of in the fall like in New Moon). Anyway, here you go (hoping for lots of OMG's like MC7575 gave when I showed her part of this back in early March).


Bella POV

What passed for summer in Forks, Washington passed without much notice from me. To be honest, just about everything passed without notice from me. School was out, so I didn't have a place to spend my days or assignments to occupy my mind. Most of my acquaintances had gotten summer jobs to earn spending money or to put toward college in another year. Neither idea really interested me, and after a few tries, Charlie had stopped pushing the issue. I did go through the motions of grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry, but otherwise, I did...nothing. I didn't read or listen to music; anything that reminded me of him I avoided like the plague.

It had been-I had to rouse myself to check the calendar—more than two months now, and it seemed like an eternity and yet no time at all. Just after school had let out in June, I'd been freed from the cast I'd worn most of the spring, a souvenir of my run down to Phoenix to avoid a psychotic vampire named James. I'd come out of it alive, with help, but had gotten a broken leg for my trouble. For the rest of the school year, I'd had to suffer through Charlie's guilt trips, Alice's perky over-helpfulness, and him. His withdrawn moroseness had reminded me of those first few weeks of our acquaintance, when he'd either watched me obsessively or ignored me religiously. He hadn't quite gone to either extreme the second time around, but even when he'd been with me physically, there had been a widening gulf of silence, one I'd tried with decreasing success to bridge.

If I hadn't been afraid of injuring myself, I'd've tried dancing for joy when the cast came off—Alice did enough of that for me. I had been happy that day. The whole summer stretched in front of me, and I had expected to spend most of it with the new family I'd found. The reality…It had only been a little over a week after my release that E—he had stopped by the house and invited me for a walk. "You need to practice using those muscles again," he'd said. Never in my darkest nightmare up to that point could I have imagined what was about to happen…

"Bella, we're leaving."

"Why? Another year—"

"It's time. How much longer can we stay here, really? Carlisle doesn't look anything close to the thirty-three years he's claiming. We'd have to leave soon anyway."

There was a growing pit in my stomach. "When you say we-?" I couldn't believe I'd gotten the question out, hoping even as I said the words that he wasn't implying what I thought he was.

"I mean my family and myself."

He couldn't be meaning…could he? "I'm coming, too. I just have to find a reason to give Charlie."

"No, Bella. You're staying here."

"No, I'm not. We belong together. If you go, I go."

"I don't want you to come."

I stared at him, unable to believe what I'd just heard. "You—don't—want—me?" If he didn't want me to come with them, he was really saying he didn't want me.

"I shouldn't have let this go on so long—I should never have let it begin in the first place."

"What?" He wished none of it—us—had ever happened? Why was he saying this?

"I'm tired of pretending, Bella. This isn't good; it can't ever be good."

I didn't say anything. There wasn't anything I could say. I knew only too well that I wasn't good enough for him. All he was doing was saying it aloud.

"It will be like I never existed, as if we never met. You can go on with your life the way it should be. Just, please, don't do anything stupid or reckless." With movement too quick for me to see, he came close, pressed a cool kiss to my forehead, and was gone before I could refocus my eyes.

I didn't really remember trying to follow him, or curling up under a tree when I'd fallen yet again and couldn't make myself get up, or being found untold hours later. I did recall throwing a tantrum a few days later when Charlie had tried to send me to Florida with Renee. My mom had gone back home, leaving Charlie to try and deal with me. Mostly that had involved longer fishing trips with Billy Black and Harry Clearwater—though at least Charlie had Harry's wife Sue take care of the resulting fish so I didn't have to. I generally stayed in my room when I could, just staring out the windows. I tried every day to email Alice, but each attempt was followed by a "recipient not found" error message. I guessed it shouldn't have surprised me: "It will be as if I never existed," would have to include his family too, right?

My senior year of high school started in a fog, and I couldn't help the automatic daily glance across the parking lot to the stall where his car had always parked. It was almost funny how no one wanted to take over the spot, even though it was prime real estate and everyone knew they'd moved away and wouldn't be using it. Angela had broken up with Eric over the summer, and made sure I knew she was thinking about me.

"Life sucks sometimes, doesn't it?" she said.

"Yeah," I muttered. I'd been unable to come up with an excuse to avoid the post-school-day jaunt down to the diner for milkshakes, and was absently rolling my straw around the rim of the mug.

"Guys suck, too."

I shrugged. It wasn't like I hadn't known it was too good to be true, him being interested in me, so part of me found it hard to blame him for doing what I'd known was bound to happen eventually.

"Do you have plans after school?" Angela asked me.

I shrugged again. I didn't think that staring at the walls of my bedroom or out the window really counted as a plan.

"Come to my house. We can watch a movie." Quiet Angela might be, but she was clearly not planning on letting me wallow in my misery any further without putting up a fight. With a sigh, I gave in.



I'd flatly nixed the idea of any kind of birthday party, even if it was the all-important 18th. I just wasn't in the mood to celebrate anything, much less the fact that I was now technically older than Edward. I did expect that Charlie would drag me out of the house to the diner for dinner—there was no way he'd let me cook dinner on my own birthday. I ended up only being half right. Dragged out of the house, I was, but not to the diner.

"Where are we going?" I asked, once I realized we'd turned onto the highway leading out of town.

"It's not a party, don't worry. Sue just invited us to their house for dinner with the family."


"It's just dinner, Bells. And maybe…maybe you can talk to Sue and Harry's daughter Leah. Her boyfriend broke up with her a while back, so maybe she can help or listen or something."

I didn't answer. What could I possibly say to someone I didn't know, especially about what had really happened? Especially to a member of the tribe that didn't like the Cullens at all? "Maybe," I hedged.

Harry Clearwater was waiting outside his house with a gangly boy, who he introduced as his son Seth. His wife Sue and their daughter Leah greeted us inside the house, and ushered us right to the table.

"In honor of having guests for dinner, we are having…" Sue paused dramatically, "something other than fish." My eyes met Leah's right then, and couldn't help an involuntary, if faint, echo of her grin. When dinner was over, I started to help gather the dirty dishes. Sue stopped me, saying, "Guests don't help clean up in this house. You girls can go join the guys in the living room if you want, but be warned, they've turned a game on."

"I think we'll go to my room, if that okay with you, Bella," Leah offered.

"Sure." I still wasn't sure if I really wanted to talk much, but it had to be better than watching some sporting event. I found myself standing in front of a small bookcase in her bedroom, looking over the collection of paperbacks.

"You like to read?" Leah asked.

"I guess. I used to, but lately…"

"…you don't want to do anything, least of all listen to people who don't know what you're going through trying to make you feel better..."

"…when they don't—can't—understand that nothing will do that." Our eyes met again, and I realized that she did understand this most important thing.

"I think you're luckier than I am, though, in a way. At least your parents aren't defending the jerk who dumped you." Leah's mouth twisted and she flopped down onto her bed.

"Yours are?" I couldn't imagine how I'd feel if Charlie or Renee was defending him to me.

"Yeah. Sam—that's the jerk's name—can do no wrong as far as my parents are concerned. We'd been dating for a couple years when he just disappeared one day."


"Vanished into thin air. I was going crazy—his mom, too. It was almost three weeks later before he just walked in his front door, like he'd only been gone for the day. He was back, but he wasn't the same. He wasn't my Sam anymore, he was…different. He wouldn't talk about where he'd been, he'd snap at the littlest things. I tried to understand, but he wouldn't explain anything. A few weeks later, I was venting to my cousin and she came down to make me feel better. She said she was going to give Sam a piece of her mind for how he was treating me; he took one look at her and dumped me like a hot potato. They've been all lovey-dovey ever since, and even got engaged this spring."