Phil was a godsend and Bella was thrilled that he was back in town. She'd been back for two weeks and now she had an evening to herself. She wasn't really sure what she'd do with it, but she sat down at the computer and started up City of Villains again. She'd played around with it a few times, but still hadn't found Emmett.
This time, since she knew she had hours of uninterrupted time, she swallowed some of her nerves and called her dad for the number.
"You want Dr. Cullen's number to talk to one of his kids?" Charlie sounded a bit surprised.
"Emmett said he'd teach me to play my new computer game." Bella explained, but she could easily imagine Charlie suddenly tensing up.
"The big boy?" He sounded suspicious and unhappy.
"Yeah." She nodded even though he couldn't see her.
"You sure he doesn't think this is something Bells, boys tend to assume if you spend time with them that it's dating." He spoke slowly, as if informing her of an issue she hadn't thought about. It was the same reason she hadn't called last week, she'd hoped to find Emmett without telling her 'father' she was 'playing' with boys.
"I'm in a different state. It isn't like it could be anything, and I'm just bored and want to play this game I just got. It's not my fault if boys are stupid." She didn't expect she was competition for Rosalie in Emmett's mind, he loved her, she knew that, but couldn't really say it since no one told her. Charlie choked a little at her words and harshness. "If you want I'll make it perfectly clear that nothing will happen between us, but can I have the number?" She managed to try and sound innocent when she said that. Charlie gave her the number and let her go, obviously liking that scenario better and he had to get back to work.
With the number in hand Bella sat at the desk and debated one last time. She'd decided that if she wanted an answer, wanted to move to Forks, she was going to have to start with a friendship with Emmett and use him to see if it was safe. There were a lot of reasons to call, but she was making a 'vampire friend' and there were concerns. Look what happened to Twilight Bella after all. She'd have to work on her poker face for when she saw them in person again. Over the internet was probably the best way to start this, to give her time to work up a believable obliviousness that would enable her to befriend vampires and pretend she never caught on that they were unusual.
If she started to really like them, and aside from Edward that was very possible, she didn't want to scare the vampires away either. They would run if they thought she was figuring anything out.
Bella took a deep breath and made the long distance call.
It rang just once, no surprise. "Hello?" A feminine voice spoke and Bella couldn't really tell if it was Esme or someone she hadn't heard before.
"Um, is Emmett home?" She had rarely cold called people in her previous life. It felt awkward, because he never gave her his number either. Perhaps if he'd stayed to talk about the game after giving her one she would have thought of that problem, but he hadn't.
"Oh, and what should I tell him it's regarding?" The female voice sounded startled.
"We were supposed to play computer games, and I wanted to know if tonight was a good night." And with that sentence she felt like she really was a teenager. She was calling for a 'play date'. It was a little embarrassing.
"Oh, you must be Bella." The woman sounded like it suddenly all made sense to her. It wasn't Esme, Bella knew that now, because Esme would have said more, and she wouldn't surprise Alice with anything she did. Rosalie wasn't friendly, but who else could it be? Rosalie didn't sound scary. "He's been disappointed, you haven't found him."
"I don't know how." Bella let out an exasperated sigh. "I'm just wandering around, getting my butt kicked by random heroes and I can't find him."
Rosalie chuckled. "Oh I'm so sorry. I'm not much of a gamer, but I'm sure that's not too fun." Bella frowned a little as she thought there was something odd about the way Rosalie was talking to her, but she had no idea what it was. "I'm Rosalie, Emmett's," There was a hint of a pause, "girlfriend." Bella knew Rosalie had to resist the urge to say wife.
"Oh, I'm Bella," She repeated and she tried to think of what she should say if this were a normal call and she hadn't been told about Rosalie, "I live in another state and am not interesting in your boyfriend." She chuckled a little.
"You don't think my Emmett's cute?" Rosalie was teasing her, it had to be. Bella froze as she considered that.
"Ah, is there any answer I can give you that keeps me out of trouble?" Bella asked slowly, only partially joking back.
"You figured me out." Rosalie had to be smiling and that was surreal. "He should be back soon, I sent him to the auto parts store for tune up kit."
"Oh, well, I guess I could leave a message." Bella frowned as she said that.
"I'll have him call you back." Rosalie told her. "That would be better, then your mom won't have a big phone bill. We get free long distance." Again, there was something off about how Rosalie was talking with her and Bella noticed the softness, the slowness, to the words.
"Okay, he can call anytime. I'm alone all night, nothing better to do." She said after giving her number.
"All night?" And in two words Rosalie's attitude and weirdly vibed friendliness made sense. Rosalie knew she was supposed to have amnesia and was treating her gently. It sounded like she either wondered if Bella was a 'child' again or was now 'special'.
"Renee is getting in pretty late. She's on a date and I'm trying to find something to do." Bella spoke up, but she didn't know what to do about Rosalie's assumptions. It was ego bruising to let them go as is, but if it was saving her from Rosalie's attitude, perhaps she could ignore it for now.
"Okay, but a young girl on her own. Maybe you should make sure the house is all locked up if you haven't." Rosalie didn't sound too happy now. "And I'll have Emmett call you back as soon as he gets here."
When Bella hung up, she just sighed heavily and got up from the computer. She made a round of the house because she might as well and found everything had been locked, but the patio door. Renee had clearly forgotten it, because Bella knew better. That was nice, just perfect, now the woman's flakeyness was endangering her and not just irritating her. Bella felt like growling, but she locked the door and turned on the back patio light as well, to be safe. Apparently she had another responsibility in the house, security, now. It went with her accounting job, babysitting job, cooking job, and housekeeping job, all things she had to do because relying on Renee to do it meant it wouldn't be done and Renee would either mess it up or complain about it.
Bella went back to the office to wait for a phone call. When it rang it startled Bella. She'd been getting used to the quiet and been concentrating on reading a webpage. "Hello?"
"Bella Bear, I can't believe you called." Emmett sounded rather happy.
"Would have called sooner if I didn't have to get your number from Charlie." She smiled a little. "If he asks, I told you we weren't ever going to date and we are only playing computer games. I didn't know you had a girlfriend, or I would have told him that." She smiled as she lied.
He had a booming laugh. "Understood, no touchy touchy the Bella Bear."
"I don't think there are bears in Phoenix." Bella muttered, but then sighed. "So City of Villains, how do we do this?"
Bella had to figure out how to set up the phone on speaker phone, because they kept the line open while they played. It was easier to just talk as he showed her how the game worked.
When she let loose a large yawn, she heard a slap and then nothing for a moment. "aw man, it's getting really late. I need to get to bed." Emmett sounded a bit fake as he said that and Bella couldn't help but smile.
"Yeah, me too. I'm beat."
"Call me when you want to play again, this we fun." Emmett sounded a bit more genuine then.
"Yeah, it is." Bella said goodnight, knowing that Rosalie had to be in the room with him telling him to let Bella sleep. She shut down the computer and made her way to her bedroom. She wasn't even there long enough to start to fall asleep before she heard Renee getting into the house. She rolled over and hugged the pillow to her head, to pretend she'd been sleeping a bit longer than five minutes. That way she might not be woken up to help Renee re-analyze her date tonight. Bella could deal with that tomorrow. She was so tired, now that she was laying down it was obvious.
"Now that you have your license, maybe you could pick up some groceries tonight, and I forgot my dry cleaning yesterday." Renee said across from breakfast. Bella knew it wasn't a big deal on its own, but she frowned. Just yesterday Renee told her she couldn't borrow the car to go to the library and then proceeded not to use the car herself. Renee was removing one of the few 'adult' things she did for the house now that Bella drove, but wasn't giving Bella even the littlest freedom?
"I also think it's time to talk about my getting a job." Bella sat back in her chair and stared at Renee. "A second job really, one that pays. You don't think other teenagers run a household like I have to do, do you? Did you take care of your mother's bills, make her breakfast and dinner almost every day and help her find the clothes she flung around carelessly the night before? Did you go over her accounts to see where she was wasting her money and save her hundreds of dollars a month?" Bella glared at the growing outrage on Renee's face. "If you don't let me get a paying job, I'm going on strike. I'll only do what a real teenager would do." Bella couldn't afford to let Renee keep her as free labor anymore, not if she wanted to be able to move or even go away to college someday.
"I'm a single mother Bella, of course you have to pitch in more." Renee said between gritted teeth.
"I could ask, but I bet most of the kids at school have single mothers. Shall I ask how much they pitch in?" Bella bluffed with a cold expression. "Living alone with a job would be less work than living here." She knew that was true.
"You don't have any idea what work a real job is Bella." Renee's voice rose as she was quickly, as she always did, making it a huge scene.
"And I'm at the age when I should be finding out." Bella didn't raise her voice even though Renee had. "You can't claim I'm not mature enough for one, because I'm more mature and responsible than you are. You want to go play in your art class and that's why you are making me do your grocery shopping. I want a job, to make money, to buy myself things I need, to save up for a car you can't afford or don't want to buy me, to get myself a computer for college, I need a job. I'm not asking for anything you shouldn't be saying yes to." In her own live Bella started working at fourteen, it was ridiculous that she had to fight for the right now. She'd been working twenty one years, which she'd bet was longer than Renee had put in up to this point.
"No Bella. You aren't well." Renee's face was reddened.
"Okay, I'll give you my revised job description for the house when you get back from work. If I'm not 'well enough' for a paying job, clearly I should be reducing my hours to normal chores at home." Bella's voice was cold and Renee looked a bit stunned when Bella got up without cleaning off the table and grabbed her bookbag for school without saying anything else.
Bella's hands were shaking a little as she made her way to the bus stop. She was so tired of this battle, she was not backing down. They could go without groceries, the light could get shut off, she was not stepping up again. Renee was only giving her five dollars a week for 'chores' so she'll get her monies worth.
By the time she got to school, Bella had developed a new plan. She made her way to the computer class with her head down and ignored any loud voices. She moved around the crowds of students and when she got there she used the time she normally used to work ahead in the class to develop a few job descriptions, along with proper compensation. She'd give Renee the ability to chose how much work Bella did, but she'd pay for it. For the amount of money Renee paid her, Bella wrote that she'd make three meals a week, and keep her own room and bathroom clean. Nothing more. When she added laundry, mail pick up and bills, and other household things the pay rate increased. When she added early morning hunting for Renee's missing things, googling maps when Renee got lost and other Renee babysitting tasks, the rate went up again.
She was feeling ready for a battle when she printed those out, and she emailed them to herself as well.
"Swiss cheese head," She heard someone talking about her when she made her way to her home ec class, the class she had talked the teacher into letting her eat lunch in. Her lunch was carefully being held in her hands, and her eyes were focused to make sure no one tried anything. She hated high school. She was always on alert for a knife in her back. It had calmed a lot, but that was because she was reducing their opportunities to pick on what they thought was the weak link. Her amnesia made her the best target they would ever find, and her 'mother' made it impossible to fight back in any way, even by turning them in, because Renee might well just tell the principal that it was Bella that was spurning her old friends. From the books, it didn't seem like Twilight Bella was missing any friends when she moved. Why Renee insisted they must be here was a mystery.
By the time Renee was home Bella had left the mail in the mailbox, left the dishes in the sink, and was eating a snack rather than making dinner. Bella was also sitting at the table doing homework, which normally got done at school. She'd been too busy today to do it.
"Bella, we need to talk." Renee came into the room saying, and Bella saw her looking around the room and noticing there was no cooking going on. "I called Dr. Roberts to see if he had any other suggestions, and he thought perhaps we should try hypnosis, and if that doesn't work there are some experimental drugs that are looking somewhat promising."
Bella pushed her job descriptions toward Renee. "Renee, why would I want to remember fifteen years of being your caretaker, when did you put me in charge of everything? Was I six, ten? I hope you know you're never having grandchildren, I'm tired from raising you." It was harsh, but Renee was talking drugs to make her shut up and do the housework. She might claim it was about getting Bella well, but the timing was far too suspicious. Bella tapped the papers on the table, before picking up her biology book. "Let me know what you're hiring me for. I'll start work in the morning."
Her words must have hit hard, because Renee was crying when Bella left the room. It would have made her feel bad if Renee hadn't finally suggested drugs.
Renee gave her the silent treatment the next morning, and didn't commit to any job description, it was like she was ignoring the whole situation, so Bella made herself a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich, noted the bread was low and groceries needed to be bought, and made plans to buy herself a loaf of bread to keep in her room. Renee wasn't going to go grocery shopping today, clearly. Bella grabbed the change jar Renee kept on the entry way table and pulled out as many quarters as she could find before leaving to catch the bus. She wasn't buying her own food if she wasn't getting a paycheck.
That night Renee came home with no groceries and Bella made no motion to cook.
The next morning they only had water to drink and Bella didn't make any fuss about it as she filled her cup from the sink. Renee was not happy she was out of coffee, and slammed the pantry when she saw they were out of bread and Bella suspected today would be round two later. She left for the school bus before it could start when she didn't have time to deal with it.
Renee proved true to form and Phil started what would be his lifetime of cleaning up Renee's mess that night. Bella could have stayed bitter, but she saw his stepping up as a good sign. A truce was made, and an agreement was reached that Bella would get 50 percent of the money she saved the household, including the work she'd already done to Renee's accounts. Renee clearly didn't know what that number would be, hadn't even noticed the extra money she had. When they were done she did enjoy both their faced when they learned her base pay, the money she got from cleaning up Renee's defunct accounts, was 150 dollars and she warned them she expected to double that with shopping and cooking, at the very least. With Phil involved Renee couldn't back out now and save face. Bella did notice that Renee didn't bring up that she'd suggested drugs for the amnesia, and Bella wanted Phil to stick around so she didn't mention it either. He was a good guy and would see a dark side of Renee too soon if he knew that was her first reaction to an argument with Bella.