A Forest Fire

Disclaimer:I don't own Twilight. This is an amateur, non-profit work.
A/N: Thanks for reading! This story will update on Sundays, and should be about 30 chapters long, according to my outline.

Prologue: Nottingham, England

Her new shoes were too big. With each step she took in her race toward the station, they slid off of her heels and slapped against the ground. People stopped and looked around at the loud clip-clop-clip-clop of her approach, presumably wondering who was riding a horse through the city center.

Bella cursed under her breath, inwardly scolding herself for risking anything but a pair of flats. Even the sturdiest of high heels didn't have a prayer of standing up under the combined force of her clumsiness and her neighborhood's uneven sidewalks; she knew this.

She still called them sidewalks in her mind, not pavements, just to be contrary.

Her ankle throbbed out a protest at her rapid speed, reminding her through jolts of pain that she'd twisted it when the aforementioned high heel met its inevitable demise. Given her detour to purchase a replacement pair (flats, this time), she was running so late that she wondered if it was worth turning up at all. Going home, curling up with her laptop, and letting the whole story spill into an e-mail seemed far more appealing.

Jasper would get a kick out of it.

A businessman with a phone glued to his ear rushed past and slapped her with a cologne scented breeze. Shivering, she almost started to laugh. Her motivation for choosing the heels had centered around a desire to look nice for her interview — to make a good impression. Fat chance of that happening now. Rainwater plastered her hair to her head, her noisy shoes were ridiculous, and her ankle was swelling up like Charlie's waistline after Thanksgiving dinner.

Entering the station, she checked the departures board. If she purchased her ticket in record time, she could probably just miss the next train to Attenborough. As she sprinted toward the ticket machine, a boy holding two drinks backed away from the AMT coffee stand. The combination of him not watching where he was going and her inability to dodge in her giantess sized shoes proved to be disastrous. They collided, coffee and what she thought was a vanilla milkshake splattering everywhere.

"I'm sorry," she said. Living in the UK for so long forced the words into a reflex, replaced her previous default response of, "Excuse me." Apologies bubbled from her lips, involuntary as a heartbeat.

Once, on a drunken night out, she said, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" to a post when she bumped into it.

"No, no, I'm sorry," he said, his American accent sounding foreign to her ears. People speaking like her had become a rarity. "It was completely my...fault."

His words trailed off. Glancing up from her milkshake painted blouse, she looked at his face for the first time.

The shock of it stopped her cold. A gasp caught in her throat, hovering there like a trapped scream. The part of her mind that was still working wondered if she had forgotten how to breathe.

A pair of glasses that he shouldn't have needed obscured his green eyes. Hundreds of freckles dusted skin that used to be smooth and pale. He didn't seem to have aged a day, and yet every inch of him was changed. Biting her lower lip, she battled against the urge to press her fingers to the hollow under his jaw to check for a pulse.

It wasn't necessary. She knew he was human. Every aspect of his appearance screamed, "Not a vampire."

An awkward laugh from the boy shattered the spell. Shaking her head, Bella tried to shrug off the impossible notions that popped up in her mind like fireworks. The resemblance was uncanny, yes, but it couldn't be him.

It couldn't.

"I'm sorry," she repeated, "I don't mean to stare. It's just...you look very much like someone I used to know."

"Oh," he said. Even his crooked smile was the same — that was Edward's smile. "That's all right."

Just in case, she decided to test him.

"How old are you?" she asked.


He looked absurdly proud of this fact.

"And how long have you been eighteen?"

Only Edward would remember that she once asked him how long he'd been seventeen. Anyone else would simply find her behavior to be on the strange side.

Judging by the bemused expression that ghosted over the boy's face, she guessed it was the latter. After navigating the minefield that was her morning, she couldn't find it within herself to care about a stranger's opinion.

Her cheeks didn't get the memo about her indifference; they heated up with an unwanted blush under the boy's scrutiny.

"Not long," he said.

Bracing herself, she began the final test. "I'm sorry; I'm interrogating you, aren't I?" she said. "I can't get over the resemblance." Extending her arm, she added, "I'm Bella, by the way."

His skin warmed hers when he took her offered hand, his palm moist with sweat. No sparks crackled between them. None of the electricity she remembered feeling the first time she touched Edward surged through his handshake. She watched his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed hard.

"I'm Peter."