A/N Taking my first-ever stab at writing a fanfic after discovering this gem of a story by ffn author, violet eyed dreamer. She graciously allowed me to adopt her unfinished story, and is helping me out along the way with some rockin' beta skills. Please, please review!
It was late – approaching midnight – when the muffled sounds of Charlie's snores bled through my bedroom walls.
Anxiety had settled heavily upon me, and I had nearly worn a hole in the floor with my pacing for well over an hour; I was itching to get of this house.
Sneak out. I frowned at the correction from my guilt-ridden conscience.
The police chief's hormonal and flaky adolescent daughter sneaking out in the middle of the night – a scene worthy of its own after-school special, and likely much hilarity among my friends.
Images danced in my mind of the typical teenage shenanigans found in books: Concerts. Dancing. Kissing. Drinking. Touching. Sex.
Seventeen years old, and I had yet to discover the book wherein the police chief's teen daughter was secretly supernaturally duty-bound to fulfill a destiny she was sure was never intended for a severely shy bookworm type.
And, of course, she must engage in sneaking out of her father's house in the middle of the night to do so.
No such book had ever come across my path. And I read an awful lot of books.
Atypical: Isabella Swan, in a nutshell.
September 13, 2000
Too scrawny, too pale, too homely, too clumsy.
The epitome of awkward at twelve years old, nothing could have prepared me for the world, as I knew it then, to be flipped completely upside down. I woke on the morning of the September 13th with a start, and in a cold sweat, certain that someone had called my name. Frozen, I strained to quiet my startled panting and listened for the voice which had wanted my attention to repeat itself. Silence. Clearly I had imagined it.
The fuzzy red numbers of the alarm clock on my bedside table told me I could potentially steal another half hour of sleep, but the rapid and heavy hammering in my chest was having none of that. Yawning deeply, I threw back my comforter, hauled myself away from the delicious warmth of my bed, and half-consciously padded down the hall to the bathroom. Without so much as a glimpse in the mirror, I undressed and drowsily stepped into the soothing warmth of the shower. Limbs feeling heavy and head feeling cloudy, I was on auto-pilot, I began my morning routine out of habit and instinct.
Shower, brush teeth, fight with hair, dress, breakfast, wake Renee, hope to get to school on time.
Agitated and anxious, something was tickling just at the back of my mind. As I lathered the strawberry-scented shampoo through the bird's nest that was my morning hair, my thoughts fell upon the dream from which I had awakened.
Clouds draped low in a night sky. A rustling sound - wind in the leaves. The warm scent of sandalwood, freshly cut grass, and earth tickled my nostrils. Utterly… home. I ran toward it - faster than I thought possible. Desperate. Searching. Running. A battlefield. A gust of wind. Something at my legs - two cats circled my ankles. The copper scent of blood laid thick in the air here. Slain soldiers rose from their bleeding bodies. Drops of liquid gold on fingertips. Tears. I ran. Trees touched the sky – a forest. Rain. Cold. Daisies beneath my feet. A wolf. Warmth. Sandalwood. Freshly cut grass. Earth. Home. An elderly man, thick-bearded and one-eyed. I ran. The scent escaped me. Home escaped me. Cold. –
The dream was momentarily forgotten as shampoo slithered its way down my scalp, over my forehead, and straight into my eyes, where it licked like strawberry-scented flames. Twenty minutes later, I succeeded in removing the last bits of the offending shampoo from my eyes and stepped out of the shower on a mission to finish getting ready for school.
Somewhere between toothpaste and tangled hair, the significance of it being the 13th day of the ninth month of the year 2000 dawned on me, and as the fresh realization pounded into me with all the force of a freight train, my reflection in the bathroom mirror paled.
My 13th birthday.
Birthdays never were really my thing, even as a small child. Birthdays meant people fussing over you, drawing unwelcome attention to you. But this birthday was special. People make an especially big deal on a girl's 13th birthday, for reasons still lost on me.
And Renee being… well, Renee, I could only imagine the many tortures that were in store for me that day, and my imagination always was rather lacking when it came to my mother's antics. I finished dressing myself, appreciative that it was a Wednesday, and that most of that offending day would be expended at school. Unless, of course, Renee deemed the occasion skip-worthy. It would only take one phone call from her claiming that I had a cough and a bit of a fever. If I had to guess what my mother's version of paradise was, surely it would be a mother-daughter shopping spree.
Important, life-altering decisions hanging in the balance; like which shade of eye shadow made my eyes pop the most, and whether or not I should get a padded bra - never mind my disinterest in make-up and absolute lack of the necessary attributes for a bra.
I opted to skip breakfast that morning, and chose to forfeit my ride to school in favor of walking and not having to wake my mother. I left three notes for her, deliberately placed so that she absolutely had to see at least one of them, detailing my need for self-reflection as my motive for walking to school. She'll eat that excuse right up, my eyes shot to the ceiling at the thought.
To my great relief, my birthday was wholly unrecognized at school.
The morning, for the most part, passed much the same as any other. However, by 11 o'clock I felt on the brink of starvation. With another hour before my lunch period, it was all I could do to remain in my seat. I cringed at the audible snickers from my peers as my stomach violently gurgled and growled. Flames engulfed my face, my crimson blush relieving any person's uncertainty over the source of the horrific sounds. I shrank as much of myself as possible into my desk, wishing very much that I could just disappear. The very instant the bell rang, I did just that – out of my seat and out of that classroom faster than I thought my skinny legs could carry me.
Even my immense embarrassment over what had happened in the classroom could not rival my hunger. It was no small miracle that I not only found the cafeteria – I never had the appetite for school food, opting instead to spend those daily 40 minutes in the library – but that I managed to do so without tripping, stumbling, tumbling, or falling. I made my way through the lunch line, handed over my cash, and feasted greedily on the most gloriously delicious sausage pizza, peas, mixed fruit, chocolate chip cookie, and white milk my mouth had ever experienced. Ten minutes later, and not a single crumb left on my tray, my stomach was not sated. I returned to the lunch line where I expected I might get seconds. Wrong.
Instead of seconds, I shuffled my way into the principal's office, head down and face veiled behind a curtain of my hair. Warily peering through, I was greeted with a warm smile and a wave toward a chair placed in front of his desk. I sat, filled with shame and shock and humiliation.
"Well, now, Miss Swan, what can I do for you today, hm?" His voice, like coffee, was smooth and warm. A constant on the honor roll, I had been recognized countless times by the principal. He hadn't even bothered to look at the yellow slip of paper I'd handed him – my disgraceful behavior toward the cafeteria worker detailed in scribbled black ink by my English teacher, who was undoubtedly disappointed in me.
I bit hard on my bottom lip, attempting to prevent the hot tears that had pooled in my eyes from spilling over. I failed abysmally.
"Um… uh… well – I… I… I-I was just s-s-so hun-n-gry," the words that fell from my mouth were hardly distinguishable from the sobs.
An hour of incoherent sobs later, my mother was called to retrieve her hysterical daughter from school. My outburst in the cafeteria, which had ended in the lunch lady's tears, was chalked up to hormones, the word "teenager" being tossed around repeatedly. Being such a good student, and having stayed entirely off the radar until that point had its perks. I wasn't punished at all, save for a required apology letter to the cafeteria worker.
Ashamed, confused, and disturbed by my own behavior, I slinked away from my mother when she draped an arm around me in a soothing motion. What I had done was not okay, and I didn't want her to downplay it or make excuses on my behalf. We rode home in an awkward silence, my mood only further darkening each time I felt Renee's worried gaze fall on me.
By the time we pulled up to the house, I was unjustifiably annoyed. Ripping out of the car, I slammed the door closed just as my mother had started to speak to me. Annoyance transformed into anger – anger toward the portions served at lunch, toward the lunch lady, the principal, my mother, her car, the oppressive Arizona heat, my birthday, life, the world. Stalking toward the door, my hands began to shake as the anger became physical. The same had happened in the cafeteria.
I stomped into our house, leaving my gaping mother still sitting in the car, and went straight to the bathroom to lock out the world and wash away my rage in the shower. Only when the hot water had completely disappeared did I pull myself from the security of the shower. I toweled off and hastily retreated to my bedroom and the comfort of my well-worn sleep shorts and one of Renee's old concert t-shirts. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was sitting on my bedside table, half-read. I had a brief internal argument over whether or not I wanted to read just then, eventually settling in my bed to watch television instead. Political coverage lulled my heavy eyes and mind into dreamless sleep.
My stomach woke me – all gurgles, growls, and pain. Checking the clock, I supposed I must have slept for five or six hours. I contemplated never leaving my bed again, and was all set to stay put when my stomach protested again. With a grunt, I forced myself up and out of the warm confines of my mattress. It was dark outside, and I guessed it must have started to cool off since steam was rolling off the pavement of the street. I flicked on my lamp and assessed my reflection. Bird's nest hair. Flushed cheeks. Blood-shot eyes. Swollen nose and lips. All the signs of a good cry. I had hoped I had dreamed the whole day, but no such luck.
The house was dark as I walked to the kitchen; amazed when I got there that I had not bumped into anything. A note taped to the fridge told me that Renee had not wanted to disturb me, and birthday sandwiches were inside for me. A sigh fell from my lips, heavy with guilt over how I had brushed off my mother earlier. But even that guilt couldn't distract me one simple fact: sandwiches were waiting for me. Not just one or two sandwiches, but an entire platter of them sat on the middle shelf, wrapped in cellophane – the best birthday present I could have asked for. Of course an entire platter of sandwiches seemed a bit ambitious for a twig of a thirteen year old girl, but I surprised myself once again by easily downing the whole lot. And a carton of yogurt. And a banana. And two cans of soda. When I finished, I cleaned the kitchen and then myself, and went back to sleep for more dreamless sleep.
I slept hard, and I slept long. It was almost noon when I woke. I jolted from the bed as if a snake were in it and tore into the kitchen, where my mother perched on the counter with a cup of coffee extended from her hand in my direction. Feeling a bit bewildered, I accepted the cup and cradled it next to my chest, enjoying the warmth. She was eerily quiet.
"School?" I finally squeaked.
"Called you in, toots. You had a… rough day yesterday – thought we could talk." She hopped down from the counter, her pink satin robe fluttering out to either side like butterfly wings before settling back against her skin. I nodded, scrubbing a hand over my face in an attempt to hide my grimace.
"Talk. Yeah, sounds good…" I trailed off, unsure where to begin, and sipped at my coffee.
"So… do you want to tell me about it?" She spoke coolly enough, but her eyes were begging. What I had done at school bothered her more than she wished to let on. I still hadn't figured out where to begin, searching for help among the chips and cracks in the table, eyes landing on Renee's fidgeting hands. She picked at a cuticle. "We don't have to talk about it right now if you don't want to, Bella. You know how I hate the heavy. But we're going to have to talk sometime. And Charlie's worried too-"
My jaw dropped and my eyes shot up. "You told Charlie?!" My mother, the least motherly mother I had ever encountered tattled on me to my father, the most fatherly father I had ever encountered.
She tapped her fingers against the table for a moment while nodding. "He called last night, Sweetie, to wish you a Happy Birthday. Bella, he called at 5 o'clock, and you were asleep in bed. A little strange, don't you reckon? And I'm not going to keep him in the dark – he's your dad." The corners of her mouth twitched as if she had more to say, but couldn't. Or wouldn't.
Silence fell upon us for several minutes before I broke it.
"I-I don't… know… what happened…" I breathed. "I skipped breakfast, which, you know, usually isn't… a big deal for me. And I don't ever eat school lunch. But… I was so…" –I widened my eyes for affect- "…hungry. I –" I moved my hand up and down, gesturing toward my scrawny body – "ate a whole tray of food. And I was still just as hungry." She nodded, encouraging me to keep going. "Mom, they wouldn't give me a second tray – I asked, and then… practically… begged. And then…I just… I don't know… I lost it." The tears were welling up again. "I barely even remember… what I said, but… I know I made that woman cry." I sniffed and rubbed away a stray tear that had escaped my eyes. "I was so…angry."
I was focused on my hands in my lap, but I could make out the rise and fall of Renee's shoulders. A disappointed sigh, I told myself. There was no holding back the tears, the sobs, and the hiccups anymore. Renee was out of her chair and crouched in front of me in no time, smoothing my hair away from my tear-soaked cheeks, and hugging me to her tighter than I'd ever recalled her doing before. When did Renee become so maternal?
"Shh, baby, it's alright. It's okay…" she cooed, still stroking my hair and rocking me back and forth ever so slightly. On instinct, I breathed in the warm, comforting smell of my mother and felt a fraction of tension fall from me. Moms are completely awesome.
She pulled back a bit, eyes darting over me, examining my face. I was sure it was a puffy mess – the tears had stopped falling, but my face was still wet and sticky with them. My nose was sure to be swollen and red – same with my lips and eyes. But whatever Renee found there, it snapped her right back to her naturally crazy self. She briskly shot to her feet, raised her index finger in the air as if she'd just had an epiphany, and declared, "I'm going to make you some chocolate chip pancakes!" And with a bright smile, she spun on her heel and went straight to work doing just that.
Under normal circumstances I would have found Renee's impulsive tendencies amusing, even endearing. But I was in turmoil, having had the most bizarre day in my entire life just hours before. I had just had yet another meltdown – right there for Renee to see. And now I was left, mouth agape, snot-faced, tear-streaked – and she was making pancakes?! I was probably going insane, and my own mother's solution was pancakes? And when my stomach – which had been the source of all my trouble the previous day - betrayed me, growling at the thought of chocolate chip pancakes, it was the last straw. My ears buzzed, all of my hair stood on end, goosebumps painfully prickled over my skin. But I wasn't cold. I was burning up. Painfully hot – no, on fire.
She knew. Renee could sense the change in the air – that static electric pop. She whipped around, clutching a batter-covered whisk which hurled egg, flour, and chocolate chips onto the kitchen tiles. My vision blurred, but I could see the clear look of determination on her face as she cautiously approached me. What the heck is that all about? She touched my arm, gently curling her fingers around my wrist and tugged me to follow her. She silently led me to the backyard. I was certain I was going blind, my vision was so blurry. And the buzzing in my ears had gotten louder and higher in pitch – was I going deaf too? And now, instead of a pancake solution, Renee wanted to – what – sun-bathe my problems away? And just like that, just as a soft warm breeze swept my hair from my face, my anger consumed me fully.
Over my entire body, my flesh blistered and ripped.
Muscles tensed and cramped.
My head pounded and throbbed.
Limbs twisted, stretched, and contorted unnaturally.
Bones cracked, popped, snapped, crunched.
The buzzing in my ears had stopped, only being replaced with the most unnatural, blood-curdling screams of… agony, I realized. It wasn't until the nausea hit – wave after ruthless wave – and I was doubled over, dry-heaving, that I realized the screams had been coming from me.
Everything was spinning. Darkness was coming to claim me, and I welcomed the prospect of passing out – this pain, this heat was too much for me. I rolled onto my back, inviting the darkness and relief which never came.
My body, stretching impossibly, shredded itself. A million floating pieces came swirling back together, and just like that, my pain was over.
For just one small second, I thought I had died.
But then, with my eyes still clamped tight, I could hear… everything. Cars in the distance, animals – birds, dogs, lizards – making their noises, my mother's heavy heartbeat, the few strands of her hair that were moving just ever so delicately in the breeze. I could smell the hot pavement, a cigarette, car exhaust, chlorine and sunscreen – the public pool that was two blocks away? I could smell my mother's warm and comforting smell too. But there was something else, some other smell on her – anxiety?
How would I even know how to place a scent like that?
I slowly peeled my eyes open. Colors like I had never seen them – so bright and vivid. Each individual blade of grass. Every crack in the concrete patio. Moving my eyes toward my mother, I could see every hair and every freckle on her arms. Every laugh line on her face. She smiled somewhat hesitantly as my eyes found hers, deep blue pools of empathy.
Horrified by what I'd just experienced, I forgot my anger. I needed to back in my mom's arms, safe from everything. I moved to reach her, but found standing upright awkward and difficult. She took the initiative and closed the distance between us, eyes studying me, and placed a gentle hand at my cheek.
Huh, since when is Renee shorter than me?
"Baby…" she said, and I noticed the slight crack in her voice, "… I think there's something I should tell you."