1. The End

"What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story, And the greatest good is little enough: for all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams"
~ Pedro Calderon de la Barca 1600-1681

Spring break always started with the best parties, planned months in advance and well stocked with all things alcoholic. Most kids would leave town for the week, but everyone who was anyone always stuck around long enough for that first Friday night. This year the party was at Mike Newton's, which was extra-lucky for me. Not only did Dad think that my three best friends and I were already on our way to Sequim, but Mike's house was just outside the city limits. That meant Dad and his men had no jurisdiction there, and my chances of getting caught dropped significantly.

Lauren Mallory was sort of our fearless leader. She always had plenty of money, no parental supervision, and the best ideas for fun. She could be a bitch sometimes, but our lives would have been so boring without her. She claimed to have dated most of the football team, something I wouldn't have been bragging about if I were her, and she was my go-to girl when it came to questions about boys. If it was humanly possible, she had done it, and she had no qualms about sharing details, even if she did treat me like I was stupid for not knowing.

Jessica Stanley was our tag-along. She was willing to do just about anything we suggested, and the few times we came close to getting caught sneaking out, drinking, or skipping class, Jessica was always made to take the fall. She was so desperate for friends, though, that she never complained, and even though she was a little annoying, we didn't mind her following us around. Plus, she was dating Mike, and that guaranteed us invitations to all his parties.

My true best friend, though, was Angela Weber. We were kind of in the same boat when it came to parent issues. Her dad was the pastor at the biggest church in town, and my dad was the Chief of Police. It was hard to get away with anything before we started hanging out together, but once we did, we had it made. Dad trusted me if I was hanging out with the pastor's kid, and vice versa. Apparently we were supposed to be good influences on each other, but the truth was that we were just normal girls. We gossiped, dated, stayed out past curfew, and covered for each other when needed.

Having a cop for a dad wasn't necessarily the worst thing in the world, but it didn't make high school easy. In the beginning, I'd hear whispers of parties or pranks, but no one would tell me anything. Apparently they thought I'd go to Chief Dad. And boys didn't come near me for fear of being shot. It wasn't until I snuck out with Lauren one night, crashed a party in LaPush, and got so drunk that I made a complete ass of myself that people finally realized I was just a normal high schooler. And I realized that tequila was made of evil.

Lauren's grandparents had a beach house in Sequim, and somehow she convinced them to let us use it for Spring Break. It wasn't going to be anything like Cancun or Daytona—the weather in Washington would never have allowed for that. But at least it was sunny there, and we'd have access to a giant hot tub and a liquor store that was known for never checking IDs. In just a couple of months, we'd all be graduating and going our separate ways, so we were determined to make it a spring break to remember.

It was coming up on two in the morning, and though several underclassmen had already passed out or simply wandered off, the party was still going strong. Lauren was sitting on Eric Yorkie's lap and playing quarters, a wasted Jessica had turned into an epileptic dancing fool, and Angela was nowhere to be seen…probably off making out with Ben somewhere.

"Wanna go upstairs?" Tyler yelled above the music.

I just grinned and grabbed his hand, following as he cut through the crowd and up the stairs.

Tyler and I had been dating since just before Thanksgiving. I wasn't in love with him or anything, but I liked him a lot, and I was happy. He was moderately popular, always up for a good practical joke, and could kiss like nobody's business. He was simply a good guy and, unlike most of the guys at school, he didn't care that I was the Police Chief's daughter.

The Newton house was enormous, and I was pretty sure whoever planned it had actually started out designing mazes. It was the only explanation for all the dead end corridors, bathrooms tucked under stairways, and the bookcase-slash-secret door in the study. I'd been there often enough with Jessica that I didn't get so lost anymore, but I always felt a little like we were traipsing around the house from Clue. I half expected to open a door and find a dead body in a dumbwaiter. Or a man wielding a candlestick.

The stairs we'd just climbed were ones I'd never been up before, so my guess was that this was the part of the house where Mr and Mrs Newton's bedroom was. The first two rooms we tried were occupied by the usual partially dressed teens, and the third one was simply locked. Tyler knocked and we both put our ears to the door, wondering if anyone was actually in there, but I couldn't hear anything.

"Wait," I said as Tyler tried to tug me farther down the hallway.

"That one's taken," he shrugged.

"Or maybe it's his parents' room," I said.

"Ohhhh," he said, realization dawning as a smirk crept across his face.

We looked around for a second, checking under a nearby ficus plant, in a side table drawer, under the runner…

"Jackpot!" Tyler exclaimed, holding the key up triumphantly.

Within seconds we were cuddled up on the silky comforter atop the largest bed I had ever seen.

"I love you," he said, reaching his hand up my shirt.

"You just want to get in my pants," I giggled.

"That, too," he laughed.

My fingers flew down to my shirt, fumbling with the buttons as he started sucking on my neck.

"No hickeys," I warned him. The last time he'd given me one I'd had to borrow Lauren's weird green foundation to cover it up and wear my hair down for a week. Besides, hickeys were ugly, and I really didn't want to be that girl.

I finally got most of the buttons undone, and he pushed my shirt partway open and off my shoulders. He groaned and pressed me back against the mattress, his mouth headed straight for my breasts. Lauren was right. The lacy red bra was a hit.

But just as he pulled one strap down, the noise from downstairs suddenly became much louder. Not surprisingly, we had an intruder.

"We're a little busy here," Tyler said, barely raising his lips from my skin to run whoever it was off.

"We can see that."

Wes? "Shit!" I yelped, instantly recognizing the voice. I pushed against Tyler chest. "Get off me!"

Tyler looked completely confused, and I kind of felt bad for him. But not bad enough to stop and explain. I just sat up and spun to face the wall, yanking my bra strap back up and desperately trying to button my shirt quickly. I was in so much trouble.

"I said we're—Oh! I…uh…we weren't doing anything, I swear," Tyler stammered.

"Get out, son," Wes sighed.

I finally got the last button and then just sat there, staring at the wall, as if not turning around would somehow prevent the shit from hitting the fan.

Lieutenant Wesley Franklin was Dad's best friend and employee. He was also like a second father to me, having been there for everything from my first day of school to my first...well…my first time getting caught rounding bases as things stood now. I didn't know what I'd face when I worked up the nerve to turn around, but I knew it was going to be awful.

"You decent now?" Wes asked.

I nodded my head and turned around, expecting the worst. But instead of just embarrassment, I was utterly mortified. Not only was Franklin there, but standing to his left was Angela's dad, Pastor Lloyd Weber. Well, fuck me.

"Don't look at me like that," I said, shaking my head. "I wasn't doing anything that half the people here haven't done!" It was a stupid excuse, and I knew it, but when someone you love looks at you like you're the saddest disappointment they've ever witnessed, you say dumb things trying to make it stop. When neither of them said anything, I kept going. "This is normal. You know what? Tell Dad. I don't even care. I'm eighteen! I can do what I want!"

"Bella," Pastor Weber said softly as he sat on the edge of the bed, "Why don't we sit down for a minute?"

Great. Now I was going to get some talk about sex and morals from the religious right. Just what I was hoping to do on spring break.

I sighed and sat down, focusing on the silk woven flowers of the comforter and wondering if this little chat was going to be enough or if they were still going to report back to Dad. What I should have been wondering was why Wes was at a party outside his jurisdiction, looking so sad, and with a minister in tow.

"Darlin', I have some bad news," Wes began, and what he said next ripped my world apart.

I knew he was talking, trying to explain what happened, trying to lessen the blow. His lips were moving, but the pain was so loud that I couldn't hear him. My father was dead. Dad, the only family I really had, was gone, and I was…what?

I screamed. I screamed and yelled and told Wes I hated him. I called him every horrible name I could think of, not even caring that Pastor Weber was there. And when he let me yell, let me say those awful things, let me hit him and demand that he take it back and tell me the truth…that's when I started begging. I wanted to go home. I wanted to go home to my dad and be grounded for the rest of my life and tell him I loved him and I was sorry for calling him cheap when he wouldn't buy me a car and I didn't even need a car and…I just needed him.

I don't remember leaving the party or the ride home. I only remember standing outside the door, too scared to go in. If I just stood outside, if I never walked through that door, Dad might still be there. He'd be sitting in his recliner, yelling at some athlete or coach on TV and drinking a beer. But if I went inside, and he was gone, this nightmare would be real. So I stood there, refusing to budge until Wes finally picked me up and carried me inside as I cried.

I was sitting on the sofa, staring numbly at Dad's empty recliner when Pastor Weber sat down beside me and took my hand.

"We need to call your brother," he said softly.

"He doesn't know?" I asked. Surely they didn't expect me to make that call.

"We wanted to make sure you were okay first," Wes said.

I was anything but okay. Everything about this night was so wrong. I should have still been at Mike's, making out with my boyfriend and looking forward to a week in the hot tub at the beach house. I should have been laughing and drinking and having fun, not a care in the world. And Pastor Weber should have been telling me I was a bad influence on his daughter or some shit like that, not holding my hand and trying to help me.

"I can't," I whispered, shaking my head.

Pastor Weber patted my hand and got up, presumably to call Jasper and tell him Dad was dead. A thousand years went by as I sat alone, barely aware of what was happening around me.

"Here," Wes said, nudging my hand with a mug of coffee. I took a sip and smiled a weak thanks.

"Lloyd's still trying to get in touch with Renee," he told me.

"Why Renee?" I asked. I hadn't seen my mother in at least four years. She'd actually left us when I was only three, and I could count on one hand the number of times I'd seen her since.

"We thought…well, she's your mother, and you're gonna need someone."

"What about Jasper?" I asked.

Jasper was my brother, but I didn't know him that well, either. He was ten years older than me and had moved out shortly after my sixth birthday. When he first left, he tried living with Renee. I don't know what happened there, but it didn't work out. He ended up going to college in Philadelphia, and then he moved to Seattle, just a couple of hours away from us. He was a psychiatrist or psychologist or something like that, and he worked at some rich private school, the kind that could afford a fully licensed head shrink instead of just a regular counselor. You'd think that would make us closer or something, that since he worked with kids my age he'd make more of an effort with me, but he only came around once or twice a year and he rarely called.

When I was little, I always looked forward to seeing him, but after I outgrew the piggyback rides and toys he used to bring me, we really didn't have anything to talk about. Mostly I just told him what classes I was taking, and he tried to give me a bunch of advice I didn't need. He talked a lot about a girlfriend he had…Abbey or Amy or something, but he never brought her with him. To be honest, I was always kind of relieved when whatever holiday he'd dropped in for was over, and Dad and I could go back to it being just us.

"What now?" I asked. It was really the only question that mattered.

"Right now you get some sleep," Wes said, tugging me over to lean against his chest like I did when I was little. Normally I would have pulled away, insisting I was too old to be babied like that. But now it was comforting, like the last piece of home I really had.

"In the morning, we figure this out. You're eighteen, though, so no matter what anyone says, just remember it's up to you, Bells."

I teared up a little when he called me that. He was one of only two men who had ever called me by that nickname. And now the other one was gone. "Are you gonna stay?" I asked. The last thing I wanted was to be alone.

"Wouldn't dream of leaving."

I woke up with a splitting headache. I groaned and rolled over, regretting all those drinks I had last night and hoping I could hide my hangover from Dad. Dad…

It felt like my chest was caving in. I was gasping for air and shaking as everything that had happened rolled through my brain like a bulldozer, destroying every bit of security I had. I curled up around my pillow, unable to even cry, just rocking back and forth in a pathetic effort to ride out the waves of loss and pain crashing over me. I must have been loud, though, because within seconds, the door flew open and Wes was there, looking like he hadn't slept in years. The second he wrapped his arms around me, I broke, and he stayed there with me, letting me ruin his shirt with tears and snot and day old mascara until I was exhausted again.

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