A/N: All my love to Pinkaquaclouds for beta-ing this thing over and over and over again. I sent this girl like a bazillion versions of these chapters and she hasn't flounced me (yet). Also a huge thank you to lyleslove294 for being awesome and pre-reading, even though she's a new mommy and busy as hell. Love you ladies!
And happy birthday, Pink.
Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to SM; I'm messing with her characters because it's fun.
This story is dedicated to anyone that has had to learn a valuable lesson. Especially those of you that had to learn it the hard way.
Between the Soil & the Sky
Chapter 1: At First Sight
It's my first day at our new house! I'm sitting on the porch swing. The view from here isn't very impressive.
Bella Swan adjusts the journal on her lap and glances up to observe her surroundings. Tapping her purple gel pen against the page, she narrows her eyes and searches the crevices of her brain for the right words to describe what she sees.
Fall leaves are scattered along the sidewalk, stuck to the dampened ground resulting from the recent rainfall. The weather and the environment are far from what she's used to. No, all of this rain and chill is nothing close to what Bella experienced during the entirety of her life in Phoenix. Fifteen years is a long time, after all.
It's easy enough to be able to describe the cheery yellow house that sits to the right of hers. The colorful garden in front of it is a rare sight for Forks. Bella, having yet to meet her neighbors, attempts to guess about its inhabitants.
She imagines a small family with two kids and a dog, but then her mind drifts to other possibilities.
Perhaps it's a young bachelor, lonely and elusive, someone who has a mysterious job and mysterious hobbies.
Or maybe it's an elderly couple, one with over fifty years worth of a love story to tell. Bella hopes that's true. She likes love stories.
Bella's meandering thoughts are interrupted by the stench of cigarette smoke. Wrinkling her nose in distaste, she looks for the source and finds it immediately.
Sitting on the porch of the black and white house to Bella's left is a teenage girl around her age. Black hair streaked with purple highlights and dressed in clothing of the dark variety, she sits with her elbows on her knees and a cigarette dangling from in between her small fingers.
Intrigued by this neighbor, Bella watches quietly from her spot. The stench of the smoke continues to drift in her direction and she's unable to suppress a cough.
The sound gets the attention of the strange girl, and Bella finds herself smiling in a manner that she hopes looks friendly enough.
The two girls stare at each other, both of them waiting for the other to say or do something. One of them is completely nonchalant, smoking away, while the other is plastering on a smile that she hopes looks friendly.
Bella doesn't move, but keeps the smile etched on her face in the hopes that the neighbor will smile back or do something other than watch her.
After a moment and another puff of smoke, the dark haired girl speaks up, raising her voice to be heard over the short distance between their houses.
"You look constipated."
Bella's smile falls as she stares at the girl in surprise. The dark haired girl laughs, though not unkindly.
"Come here," she says, jerking her head.
Bella takes a moment to decide whether or not that would be a good idea. This girl looks like she's from the wrong side of the tracks, but that only makes Bella want to speak to her even more. Besides, if she does get dragged into the black and white house against her will, her parents would be close enough to hear her screams.
Shaking her head at her wild imagination, Bella gets to her feet and momentarily strains her ears. She can hear her parents in the living room, dragging furniture around on the hardwood. They won't miss her.
Besides, she doesn't want to be the shy, introverted girl she was in Phoenix. Being more sociable would be a good thing.
Leaving her journal on the swing, Bella skips down her porch steps and approaches the neighboring ones.
"Nice socks," the neighbor comments once Bella is within talking distance.
Bella looks down at her knee-highs, which are purple with white and black stars printed on them. She's paired them with a black skirt and a white hoodie covered in purple polka dots.
"Thanks," Bella says quietly. "I like colors…" She wants to smack herself for the mundane comment.
"I don't," the girl responds, monotone.
Bella chuckles nervously. "Yeah, I figured."
The two girls smile at each other, and Bella holds her breath against the secondhand smoke.
"I'm Alice," the dark haired girl says, but she doesn't hold out either of her fingerless glove covered hands.
"You look like a Bella."
"You don't look like an Alice."
"My real first name is Mary, but let's just keep that between us."
"You definitely don't look like a Mary."
Alice laughs. "You can say that again. So, you goin' to Forks High?"
"I think so."
"Where ya from?"
Alice nods to herself and Bella reaches up to twirl the stud in her ear, a nervous habit of hers.
"What happened to Mr Swan?" Alice asks, nodding towards Bella's new home. "Woke up one day and they were moving stuff out."
"Oh, that was my grandfather," Bella says quietly, staring at her feet. "He passed away a little while ago and left the house to my dad. I guess my parents just wanted to try out small town life… again."
Alice snorts. "They're not missing anything special, that's for damn sure. Forks is a shithole. Sorry to hear that he passed. He didn't like me very much, but his rants were entertaining."
Bella doesn't know what to say. She didn't know her grandfather very well, and her memories of him are vague, dating back to her early childhood.
Bella's mother's voice makes her jump and glance back to her own home, the white and blue one right in the middle.
"I gotta go," Bella says ruefully.
Alice nods indifferently. "See ya around."
"Who's that?" Bella's mother, Renee, asks once Bella is back on her own porch. She's very pretty, with delicate features and blue eyes, though all is downplayed by her disapproving frown.
"That's Alice," Bella says, keeping her tone light. She knows what her mother is doing with her piercing blue eyes: judging.
"She doesn't look very friendly," Renee mutters, pursing her lips.
"She's actually really nice," Bella argues, retrieving her journal from the porch swing and clutching it to her chest. "I think we go to the same school."
Renee's sharp eyes cut to Bella's face, her thin brows furrowing with worry. "You need to be careful who you make friends with, honey," she chides. "I don't like the looks of that girl, and you really shouldn't be around her when she's committing slow suicide."
Bella suppresses a dramatic sigh, irritated at her parents' overprotective tendencies. Dictating who she should and should not associate with has always been one of her mother's most annoying habits.
"It's no big deal." Bella tries to pacify her mother by changing the topic. "Are you guys done with the sofas?" She tactfully pushes herself into the house, where her father lounges on a couch.
"Where'd you run off to?" he asks.
"Socializing with neighbors," Bella responds.
"Anyone interesting?" He only sounds half interested, so Bella doesn't try to engage the taciturn man in conversation.
"The girl next door is my age," she says as she heads for the stairs.
"And she smokes," Renee adds on her way to the kitchen. "Bad influence!"
"You don't even know her, Mom," Bella sighs. She exchanges a wide-eyed, exasperated look with her father. If there's anyone that knows her mother's tendency to judge harshly, it's Charlie.
"Just be careful, Bells," Charlie advises. "Not everyone around here is going to be as friendly as you."
Bella's well aware of the wisdom behind her father's words, but whether or not she's willing to heed them is another story.
No, she'd much prefer to learn certain lessons on her own.
The rest of the weekend is quick on the clock. The Swans are eager to settle into their new home and familiarize themselves with Forks.
On Sunday, the family climbs into the car and drives around town. Bella is overwhelmed by the stark contrast between Forks and her native Arizona. The damp streets and the seemingly perpetual greenery is a big change from the dusty, constantly dry environment of her hometown in Phoenix.
Still, Bella can't help but love Forks. Even growing up where she did, she never became fond of the sun and the sweltering heat. There's something about the muggy and cool atmosphere of her new town that she's quickly fallen in love with.
Bella finds herself gazing out the window of the car, admiring the puddles on the streets and the raindrop-embellished store signs. Her mind begins putting together a plot for a short story, perhaps a mystery or a paranormal thriller. It could be a murder mystery, or maybe a story about zombies or werewolves or-
"Look, Bella, there's your school," Renee's voice pulls Bella away from her thoughts and she quickly makes a mental note to start plotting later.
Instead, she follows her mother's finger, pointed at the red brick building that occupies most of the block.
Forks High School is smaller than Bella's high school in Phoenix, but it looks significantly friendlier. Of course, the lack of metal detectors and chain link fences contributes to that fact.
No, Bella just likes the color of the brick and how the green of the surrounding trees provides a nice contrast. She finds the dull green and red to be oddly romantic, and immediately the murder mystery in her mind becomes a murder mystery with a love story.
She thinks that Forks is going to be inspirational.
Later that evening, Bella is in the kitchen with her mother, both of them attempting to get the place as clean as possible while Charlie has gone to visit the logging company where he'll be working as an accountant. He has insisted on disinfecting every surface, even though the place is already relatively clean, and will not be satisfied until everything is up to par.
Bella's thoughts are far away from Forks as she methodically wipes down dishes before placing them in the cabinets. Renee mumbles to herself as she wipes down every appliance and surface, scrubbing diligently.
Their hard work is interrupting by the rich, reverberating sound of the unfamiliar doorbell.
"Honey, could you go see who that is?" Renee asks distractedly. She's glaring at a stubborn stain on the counter that doesn't want to surrender to her rag. "My hands are full."
Bella drops her own rag in an instant, bolting for the living room.
"Look through the peephole first!" Renee calls after her.
A beautiful, curvy woman with reddish hair stands on the other side of the door, her bright smile catching Bella off guard. Her slender fingers are clutching a large casserole dish and friendliness seems to be emanating off of her in waves.
"Hi," she says, green eyes glancing over Bella's shoulder and into the house. "Are your parents home?"
"My mom is," Bella says, shyness tainting her smile. The breeze carries in the woman's scent, the scent of cinnamon and lavender and warmth.
"I'm Esme," the woman says, briefly balancing the dish on one arm to shake Bella's hand. Her skin is soft. "I live next door, in the yellow house. Just thought I'd stop by and say hello, welcome you to town and whatnot."
"Nice to meet you," Bella responds, smiling. "Would you like me to take that for you?"
"Oh, sure," Esme says, handing over the casserole dish. "Careful, though, it's still very warm."
"Who's at the door, Bella?" Renee's footsteps echo behind Bella as she slinks away from the door. She watches as the two women greet each other before quietly slipping back into the kitchen.
The casserole gives off pleasant aromas as Bella places it on the counter. It makes her mouth water and reminds her of her empty stomach, causing it to protest loudly.
Bella hears the soft murmurs of her mother and Esme, and a moment later there's the sound of the door clicking shut.
"Atheists and hookers," Renee mutters, walking into the room with a frown on her face.
Bella bursts out laughing. "Mom?"
"Our neighbors," she sighs in frustration. She lifts the foil off of the top of the casserole dish and observes its contents with wariness before leaning down to give it a quick sniff.
"What about them?" Bella asks, staring at her mother in puzzlement. "Esme seemed nice."
Renee huffs, rummaging through a silverware drawer. "She may be nice, but… I don't know, I've never known anyone that was atheist before. It's disconcerting. And her husband is a sexologist." She whispers the word as though it were dirty. "Could there be a more inappropriate career?"
Bella groans internally. The topic is going in the direction of religion and Renee, being a devout Catholic, has more than enough to say about anyone that doesn't believe in the same. Though Bella and Charlie are nowhere near as religious as Renee, they like to humor her so as to not endure her wrath.
"That's not even the best part," Renee says. "I also caught a glimpse of that troubled young girl's mother, and boy did she give me an eyeful."
"According to Esme, she's a dancer in Port Angeles, but even dancers don't dress like street walkers. Esme said hello to her but she didn't even acknowledge her! Honestly, I feel like the gateway to Hell is around here somewhere."
Bella turns her back so her mother doesn't catch her rolling her eyes. There are times when her mother's judgmental attitude towards those that are different is too much to handle. The urge to shake her mother and yell at her to stop being so ignorant is always very prominent in Bella, though years of experience has taught her how to hold her tongue.
A few minutes later, Charlie comes home and Bella is grateful for the distraction. However, it's not long before Renee is filling him in on all the gossip she's derived.
Bella tries not to laugh at the wary, slightly frightened look on her father's face as he mother reiterates what she told Bella. Of course, now that Renee's speaking to her husband, she's more animated in the way she describes the hooker next door and the atheist sexologist's wife.
Charlie clears his throat uncomfortably once Renee is done with her tangent.
"Well," he says, stroking the graying stubble on his chin. "We'll try not to associate ourselves with them too much. Is that the casserole?"
Renee wrinkles her nose at the dish. "Yes. I'm hesitant to try it. Lord knows what they cook with."
Oh, they're atheists so they must cook with pig's blood or goat hairs, Bella's thoughts are viciously sarcastic.
"I'm done," she says instead, drying her hands on a paper towel. She's eager to get out of the room; the negativity her mother spews is thickening the air and making it difficult to breathe. "Anything else you need me to do?"
Renee purses her lips and looks around. "I think we're almost done. Charlie, will you help me take these boxes to the garage? Bella, why don't you warm up the leftovers from lunch?"
Bella sighs and nods, moving to the refrigerator as her parents move to the back door.
Renee pauses in the doorway. "Oh, and Bella? Throw away that casserole."
A second later, Bella is left in the silence of the kitchen. Once the leftovers from earlier in the day are in the oven, she sighs sadly at the food from next door.
Curiosity and the deep, usually hidden urge to rebel push her to pick up a fork.
With a cautionary glance out the window, she digs into the casserole and tastes it.
It's the most delicious thing she's ever eaten.
Bella is glad to finally be left alone in her new room.
It's not that big, but she adapts easily. The peach colored wallpaper is peeling and will have to be replaced immediately, and the hardwood floor could use a good polishing. Other than that, she's already comfortable.
What she loves the most is the window seat. There's really only one window in the room, but it's large and square and would let in a lot of sunlight if Forks favored the sun. Nevertheless, Bella plans on doing a lot of reading and writing from that very spot.
Grabbing her beloved backpack and a pillow from her bed, Bella sits down on the seat. It's not entirely comfortable, but the discomfort isn't something that a couple cute pillows can't fix.
Bella sits on her pillow and places the heavy backpack on her lap, unzipping it and revealing her most prized of possessions. She's got two of her journals, her fancy gel pens, her favorite young adult novel, and her entire nail polish collection.
Bella is aware of her slight obsession with nail polish, but she wasn't kidding when she told Alice that she likes colors. An advocate of self expression, she is quite fond of painting her nails a different color every week, and sometimes even every other day.
She pulls out her journal and pen again, ready to document this first moment on her window seat. For the first time since she arrived in Forks, she feels calm, serene, and completely at ease with the world. She savors the alone time in her new room, even if it is lacking in some furniture and still smells like rotting wood.
Bella glances out the window and is disappointed by the view.
A massive tree stands between her house and the yellow house, its branches and leaves blocking out most of the darkening sky. Some branches graze against the glass of her window, while the others gently tap the window directly across from hers.
Suddenly, the light in the window of the neighboring house turns on. From her seat, Bella can see part of a bedroom.
Dark blue walls.
An oak desk with an old-ish computer.
Part of a bookshelf, disorganized and overflowing.
A poster diagram of the human brain.
It's certainly a stark contrast to her own room, which so far only holds a lone bed and boxes of her other belongings.
A tall figure passes by the window, and Bella stiffens. She doesn't catch sight of a face, but the figure is definitely male. Black sweatshirt. Jeans.
Bella feels dirty watching, but her curiosity gets the best of her. This is obviously where Esme lives, but is that her husband, or does she have a son?
Bella watches as the guy next door flops down on the chair at the desk. He turns on the computer and leans back in the chair, fingers locked at the back of his head of messy reddish-brown hair.
She observes the broad shoulders and the pale fingers, though that's the only thing she's really able to take in before the guy leans too far back and ends up collapsing to the floor, out of view.
Bella squeaks in surprise and covers her mouth, holding back her laugh. The guy comes into view again, and this time she gets a frontal view.
His hair flops onto his forehead and he irritably pushes his square, dark rimmed glasses up his nose before brushing himself off. He doesn't notice the girl watching him from just a few feet away.
In a flash, he's sitting back in the chair, though he doesn't try leaning back again. Instead, he sits with his shoulders hunched, undoubtedly embarrassed at himself.
Bella giggles, intrigued by this character. He looks kind of like a nerd, though she doesn't want to label him as such without knowing him. Still, the glasses, clumsiness, and the poster of the brain do little to help his case.
Still, Bella can't help but feel an odd sense of warmth towards him. She wonders what his name is, and if he goes to the same school as her. He must be around her age, if not a little older.
Deciding that she's watched the boy long enough for it to become creepy, Bella tears her gaze away from the window and starts to organize her nail polish.
She looks through her collection and finds the perfect color for the week, especially since she'll be starting at a new school come tomorrow.
It's a nude shade, with just a tinge of pink, and it's called At First Sight.
She sits at the window seat, glancing one last time at her neighbor. He's tapping away at the computer now, shoulders hunched in apparent concentration.
It's odd, but Bella doesn't feel alone in this moment. With this stranger going about his business in his room, and she going about hers, she's experiencing an unusual sense of comfort.
Smiling slightly, Bella begins the process of removing the fading paint on her fingernails and applying the new color. Doing this focuses her mind and eases her worries, though her worries are usually far and few between.
For the next few minutes, the neighbors sit in a companionable silence that one of them doesn't know he is a part of.
After some time, when Bella is done with her fingernails and is moving on to her toes, the stranger next door stands up from his desk and stretches his long limbs.
Bella is oblivious to him now, completely absorbed in beautifying her cuticles. He turns and yawns, the yawn cut short when he catches sight of the girl in the window across from his.
He blinks at her, surprised, and then stares.
Bella's delicate brows are furrowed over her eyes as she gently and carefully applies the paint to her pinkie toe. Her tongue sticks out a little in concentration, a sight that draws the eyes of the young man.
He stands and watches her for another moment, knowing that she's the new neighbor. He wasn't expecting someone so young, let alone so pretty.
Realizing that he's watching her like a perverted peeping tom, he shakes his head and carefully steps away from the window.
Bella is done with her weekly ritual, and she carefully blows on her toes. She smiles at her feet and wiggles her toes, nodding in satisfaction at her work.
Absentmindedly, she glances out the window again.
Her neighbor's light is off, the blinds drawn.
A/N: Talk to me, people.
I was going to link to the nail polish colors that the chapters are named after on my profile, but this website still hasn't sorted out the link issue so that's going to have to wait. If you're a nail polish fiend like me and want to look it up anyway, it's At First Sight by OPI. Very pretty.
Come stalk me on Twitter. I like to chat. I'm xNimCee on there as well.
Updates should be weekly! I already have most of the story written so nothing should get in the way of updates.
That being said, you'll meet Edward next week. ;)