AN: And so I have returned from the dead. Precious readers, I am sorry for upturning your literary lives so abruptly!
Oh who am I kidding. This was totally for the best. Ya'll know I don't own anything, and now, proudly and for the first time, I'd like to introduce my beta, pinkcatheaven! Everyone should thank her and give her a virtual hug in the review I know you're going to leave. *Gives stern look*
Seven Boxes and an Angel
I took a deep breath and glanced around at the boxes in my new apartment, counting in my head. Seven in all. That's all I needed to completely pick up my old life and move it away to the big city—Seven boxes.
Until about a month ago it looked like I might spend my entire life hiding in Forks, Washington with only my best friend Alice Brandon as a friend. I worked at the little Forks Gazette, which came out once a week, as an editorialist and editor. My father was the police chief. My mother lived in Jacksonville with her husband Phil, who coached minor league baseball. She married him mid way through my junior year of high school, back when we still lived in Phoenix. She told me I didn't have to leave if I didn't want to.
I barely ever listened to her.
Which is how I ended up meeting Alice. She was awfully extreme for small-town Forks. Her fashion sense was impeccable, and she was fun and lovable. Her pixie haircut (to match her pixie figure) was cutting edge. Alice was extreme, all right. She was popular. It became obvious to me nearly as soon as I moved, though, that while she had acquaintances and which people adored her, she had no true friend. I never had a true friend either, which is how Alice Brandon and Isabella Swan became the inseparable Alice and Bella.
It was funny, being a junior at Forks High, because suddenly I wasn't the invisible nobody that I was back in my enormous Phoenix high school. People fawned over me, especially the boys. I was the shiny new toy in the kindergarten classroom. I hated it; Alice lived for it. She would constantly try to get me to dress up and load pounds of makeup on to my face.
But then, magically, we were seniors and everything changed. James appeared. Not even Alice liked the unnatural attention he gave me. She helped the very best she could. Still, five years later, now twenty-three and I still didn't like to think about that time.
James followed me to college. It was a little college not too far from Port Angeles. I majored in English; Alice majored in fashion design and production with a minor in business. I knew it was her dream to have her own line and chain of stores.
After we graduated we spent the summer in Forks, but Alice couldn't tolerate staying with her parents any longer. Without telling anyone but me, she sent a portfolio of designs to a Seattle boutique called Annette's. They promptly offered her a job and she announced a move to Seattle.
I was crushed.
What would I do without my best friend? She was the only thing keeping me sane, especially since James was still out there somewhere. My dad knew of James, but had no idea of the torture he'd put me through. Alice sensed my pain and laughingly said she wasn't about to move without me. I agreed in a heartbeat, and after quitting my job at the Newton's outdoor supply shop, found myself in a new shared flat. Alice, with her enormous trust fund and new found income, paid for a lot of it, but I was determined to find a job soon and start helping out with expenses.
Speaking of Alice, she was due back any second. I looked at Charlie and gave him a weak smile. "Thanks for helping me move everything," I whispered. He nodded.
"Right," he replied gruffly. "Well. Call me if you need anything, I guess. And don't forget, Renee is expecting a call and pictures of the new place. I'll see you later, Bells." And just like that, Charlie, never one for a show of affection in the first place, was gone. It was better that way. If Charlie and I were close, he would know about James, and he would do what any normal person—except, for some reason, Alice Brandon—would do. He would run.
I sank onto the tan couch that Alice had already bought for our living corners and tried to take a few deep breaths. This was an exceptionally fast move for me. I usually took things very slowly. The abruptness of this nearly made me dizzy, so just in case, I put my head between my knees.
It took a few minutes, but eventually I calmed myself enough to start unpacking. I didn't bring furniture, just my small wardrobe and some memorabilia, along with the plain things that I knew Alice wouldn't even think about in decorating the new flat. She wasn't one for mundane items like pots or pans, which Charlie had happily given to me, knowing full well that he wasn't going to use them. In fact, I bought them for me to cook in just after moving to Forks.
I was clanking around the pots, pans, silverware and dishware so nosily in the small kitchen that I didn't even hear Alice when she came in until the little ball of energy, a good foot shorter than my 5'4, was squealing in my ear with her arms wrapped around my stomach to the point of near suffocation. "Whoa," I laughed, losing my balance a little.
"Hi," she bounced. I wasn't entirely sure how someone could bounce a word, but Alice managed to. "Oh my God, Bella, I'm so sorry I couldn't be here when you got here, but I was talking to the manager about my designs and—" she stopped dead. "Oh. Right, pots and pans." She wrinkled her nose a little. "Well, good thing I have you, Bells, otherwise I'd be eating takeout for months!"
She laughed her tinkling pixie laugh and I smiled, a real smile, not the fake and forced smile that I gave everyone else. I had gotten extremely good at faking smiles in the last few years, and Alice was the only one who could tell.
"Please," I scoffed. "If I hadn't agreed to move here with you, you would have come grovelling back within the month."
Alice started to look offended, but stopped herself. "You're probably right," she sighed. "But this will be good for you, Bella! Think about it. It's an entirely new start. No James to bother you; maybe we can even get a few dates." She raised her eyebrows suggestively.
"Maybe," I said in a off-handed manner, more to placate her than really believing I would date.
She watched me put some of the things away for a few minutes, and then asked hesitantly, "So… I was sort of helping you would let me organize your clothes."
"Why would you want to do a thing like that?" I asked, knitting my eyebrows.
"Because, honestly Bella, you know you need me to help you with your attire," she said, returning to her normal bossy and playful tone. "And it will just be easier on all of us if I know where everything is ahead of time. I mean, come on. I leave for a few days, and look what you revert to wearing!" She gestured madly at my body.
"What's wrong with this?" I asked defensively. I was wearing plain jeans and a big sweatshirt that said "Rain City, USA" with "Forks, Washington" in smaller print underneath. It was comfortable.
Alice sighed. "I mean, it has the potential to be mildly cute, I suppose," she said under her breath. "The jeans would need to be a little tighter, and I'd do something with the neckline of the sweater…" she trailed off and shook her head. "Anyway, that's not the point."
I shrugged. "Sure, I don't care. Just let me finish this up first," I said, pointing to the box that still had some cooking things in it.
"No no," she insisted. "I need to do this completely on my own. No interference. Just… go do something, okay? Explore a little."
I pursed my lips. "Fine." I pointed out three boxes set aside from the others. "Those are all my clothes. I think that one can go into storage," I said, pointing to another, "And that one's my computer. I don't even know if it's worth setting it up."
Alice wrinkled her nose. "Ew, Bella, that thing's a dinosaur. I thought you were going to get rid of it. Just use my laptop." I shrugged, and started unpacking the kitchen belongings.
After the last of the kitchen things were put away I straightened up. "Alright, Ali, the clothes are all yours."
She jumped and squealed. "And I know exactly what you can do," she said quickly. Alice talked really fast. If I hadn't been around her so long, I wouldn't be able to comprehend a word she was saying. "There's a Barnes and Noble really close to my job that's hiring. I think you should apply! It would be the perfect job for you, Bella!"
I smiled a little. Admittedly, working at a bookstore did seem awfully appealing. More so that Newton's Outdoor Supply, anyway. I actually had a passion for literature, whereas with the outdoor supplies I was always afraid I'd stab myself with a tent stake or something. "That could work…" I mused quietly. A job in a bookstore would provide the perfect environment for me to focus on writing. I was hoping to eventually get a job as an editor for the Seattle Times and simultaneously work on a book.
"It wouldn't just work," Alice assured me. "It would be perfect. I'll go print you off some directions. I think you should walk, it's not too far and that way you'll get accustomed to the area. You can take the Porsche if you want, though."
"I'll walk," I waved aside her worries. I followed her as she walked into her room and stopped cold as she turned on the light and flounced to her bed. "What the…"
"Don't you love it?" Alice squealed. I stared in shock. The room was pink. Completely pink, too. The walls were light pink and the bedspread was hot pink. The best thing I could say about it was that the wood wasn't all painted white—that would have certainly made it look like a five-year-old girl's room as opposed to Alice Brandon's, a 22-year-old fashion designer-to-be.
"It's lovely," I lied when I regained my nerves. In reality, it was giving me a headache. I only thanked God in heaven that the floor was wood and she hadn't put a pink carpet down. "Um, what's with the sudden pink obsession?" Alice always like pink, of course, but her room back home in Forks was light green, and I had never pegged her to be the type to go this overboard.
She shrugged while laying on her stomach on the bed, which was positioned under a window with (go figure) pink curtain. "It's sort of invigorating, don't you think?" she asked, glancing up at me. "Good for my designing moods." I simply shrugged, non-committed, and she laughed. "Don't worry, Bella. I did yours too."
"You what?" I asked, feeling my face go pale. I leaned towards the door, eager to get a look and make sure she hadn't done mine in a matching color, or worse, something like fuchsia.
Alice laughed again. "Relax, Bella, I know you and I know you hate this color. You'll see yours when I make your bed and put your clothes away and not a moment before." I jumped as the printer in the corner, which I hadn't noticed before, whirred to life and spit out a page of directions. Alice leaped off of her bed and grabbed the page almost before the printer was done spitting it out. "There you go," she said proudly, presenting it to me with a flourish. "Have fun! Oh and wear a coat and bring an umbrella, it's a touch nippy and I think it's going to rain."
"There was no rain in the forecast," I grumbled, pulling on a light jacket in the living room of my new home. Alice just smiled cheekily. She was generally right about these kinds of things. I learned a long time ago that it wasn't worth arguing with her.
"Call if you get lost, Bella, and be careful!" Alice called down the hall after me as I walked towards the elevators. We were on the eleventh floor of a massive building. It was actually rather nice, as I looked around more. Before when I came up my view was mostly blocked by the boxes I was carrying. But the walls were painted a demure peach, and there were little tables and plants and mirrors against the walls, almost like a hotel. I scowled. I had a feeling Alice spent way more on this apartment than she told me.
I rode the elevator down all the eleven floors between me and the lobby, almost getting dizzy. Three of the walls and the ceiling were made of reflective glass. I stared ahead at the steel doors so I wouldn't have to keep looking at my reflection.
As I walked into the lobby to really get my first good look at the place, I gasped. The ceiling was miles high and seemed to never end. There were intricate wood designs all over the place, and the lighting was bright without being painful. The colors were all neutral, but seemed to come together in an almost individual, beautiful way. Off to one side was a sitting area with angular furniture, and on the other was a large mahogany desk with a man in a suit behind it, clicking away on a computer. I shook my head before hurrying out the front door. Just being in the lobby made me feel underdressed; I resented the squeaking sound my sneakers made on the shiny floors.
I breathed a sigh of relief once out on the gray street. People paid no attention here. Seattle was a big city, and I was just another piece of it. I could blend in.
Looking down at the instructions in my hand, I quickly turned to the left and started walking down the road in the direction of the right street. I had to turn left at the corner and then go several blocks before turning right, and allegedly the store was right on that corner. I tried to pay attention to my footing as I walked, because thought the sidewalks were entirely flat, I was liable to fall over my feet or a tiny pebble.
On my way, I did take time to look at the scattered store fronts in between the large apartment and business buildings. They looked pretty nice, and I knew almost instantly why Alice had chosen this area to live. This would be prime time shopping for her. I deflated a little inside. I knew she would want to take me shopping. Going with Alice, though, generally gave me massive headaches after the fifth hour or so.
The Barnes and Noble was easy enough to find. It was a large building made mostly of glass. I smiled when I saw it. The people inside looked calm and collected, not like the harried attitude of the rush-hour people trying to get home on the streets. I felt it practically calling for me and barely noticed the 'NOW HIRING' sign on the outside before stepping in and taking a deep breath.
Paper, ink, glue, coffee, pastries, wood and candles. The perfect smell for a bookstore. I noted the Seattle's Best coffee shop off to a corner on the inside and walked towards it. Now that I was in the building I noticed just how chilly it was outside. A cup of something warm sounded excellent right now.
I walked right up to the counter, where someone was rummaging under the counter for something. "Just a minute," they called in a muffled voice.
"It's fine," I said, looking up at the menu. The guy gasped, hit his head on the counter, and came up sheepishly, rubbing the back of his skull. I looked at him and my jaw dropped.
"Bella Swan," he mused, looking me up and down. "Wow. You've grown, kid. Long time no see." He smiled, the same smile that I remembered Jacob always having. Jake used to have a massive crush on me. He lived on the Indian reservation, La Push, when I started living in Forks. His dad and mine were tight. I thought when I started college that he might give up on that little crush, and sure enough, when I came back Jacob had moved. He was two years younger than me and had started college in Seattle. He never even told me goodbye.
"Oh my God, I can't believe you're here," I said, a wide smile falling over my face. Quickly, though, I reverted to a scowl and punched him.
"Ow, Bells," he said, rubbing his shoulder. "What the hell was that for?"
"Language, Mr. Black," a balding man called from what I assumed was the back room. Jake glared at the door before returning his attention to me.
"That's what you get for not calling or writing or even telling me where you were living," I growled.
He grinned sheepishly. "I guess I deserve it, then. I just didn't want to bother you. I knew how focused you were on getting your degree and we just… fell out of touch." He leaned on his elbow. "Wow, you haven't changed a bit. Maybe we could go out to dinner sometime, catch up a little."
My, did he work fast. I sighed. "I thought you were over this, Jake," I said wearily.
"Wha—oh! Bella, I am over it!" He laughed. "If you'd feel more comfortable, I can bring my wife."
My jaw dropped. "Wife?"
He laughed. "Yeah, remember Leah Clearwater?" He blushed. "I was going to invite you Bella, really, but we sort of just… eloped."
"You eloped and didn't tell me?" I shrieked. Jacob looked around nervously.
"Shush, Bella! We're in a store." I felt my cheeks turn pink, but paid little attention. "Like I said, we fell out of touch and…" He shrugged. "It's been busy, trying to get started, the two of us."
I shook my head and tried to breath. "You're what, twenty?" I shot at him. He nodded, wide eyed. "And she is too?" He nodded again. "And she's not pregnant?"
"God I hope not," he said, starting to get a little flustered.
"And you got married? Just like that?"
He smiled cheekily. "Three months now."
I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. "Wow. Um, well. Wow. Um, did you know I'm living here in Seattle now?"
Jake's whole face lit up. "Really?"
"Just down the road a ways," I replied shakily. Married, and so young… "So, yeah. We can have dinner sometime. And if you're bringing Leah, I'm bringing Alice."
"The pixie girl," Jake laughed. "She's fun."
"Only because of your huge size difference," I teased. Just then the balding man popped his head out again.
"Are you working, Jacob?" he asked politely.
Jacob looked at me, wide eyed. "Of course he is," I said smoothly, brushing it off. "He was just getting me my caramel latte." Jacob looked at me in thanks and got to work preparing the drink. The man scowled and disappeared once more.
"Thanks for that," Jake said quietly. "One more strike and I'm out, and I have rent to help pay."
"No problem," I said nonchalantly. "I need to get going, anyway. I was just getting a drink to warm up. I want to apply for the bookstore job that's open."
"Really?" he asked with a smile. "We might be working together then, Miss Swan."
"That we may, Mr. Black." I smiled and took the coffee he offered, pulling a wad of money out of my pocket. "How much?"
"On the house," Jacob insisted. I rolled my eyes and put ten dollars in the Tips jar. "I'm not taking that," he insisted.
"You will," I replied. I was a hell of a lot more stubborn than Jake could ever hope to be. "Consider it part of a belated wedding gift. I'll come back before I leave to exchange numbers." I turned, holding my coffee a little away from my body and not really paying any attention to where I was turning.
Until, of course, I collided with something hard, spilling the steaming coffee all over it. "Ow, hot!" I heard the person grunt as we clattered to the tile floor.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry!" I cried, jumping off of the man and running to the little counter. I grabbed some napkins and tried to go back, but slipped in the coffee on the floor. I heard a bit of a commotion as I was caught before I could completely fall and stared up into the most green eyes I had seen in my life.
And so it re-begins. It will be different, I'm warning you now. Enjoy!