"I love you."
I could have sworn I heard Quinn's voice after I blew the tombstone a kiss. That was before I left the cemetery yesterday. Until now, the sweet-sounding voice and the nostalgic words were still echoing clearly in my ears.
I remembered the perfect days where she uttered those soothing words seductively against my lips. "I love you."
I couldn't get over it! That voice—her voice—was so soft, so mellow, and so convincingly real. I would never be wrong when it came to her. I had memorized every element of her body, every fiber of her hair, every breath she took. I knew all and everything about her. I was positively sure it was her voice—it was Quinn.
For a moment, I had thought she was there an inch beside me and not six feet underneath the porous soil. But come on, Bella! Wake up! That would be utterly preposterous and just absolutely impossible. I was there when she died and buried. There was no way she could have ever survived and lived after that terrifying incident, even Wonder woman couldn't handle that. Yet again, I always wished she did.
So was I only hallucinating? Was my mind playing some silly trick on me? Because I swore I wasn't dreaming. I was very much conscious and wide awake. There should be an explanation to this or else I would strangle myself, poke my eyes out, and feed it to the cows. I really didn't like to think I already had some freaky psychotic problems. I already had tons of issues going on and to think about and this shouldn't and couldn't be on my list. No. Please, just not now. Not ever.
"Bella? You okay, honey?" Charlie, my father, asked in a worried tone. I glanced at him, slightly turning my head to catch him staring at me, studying me with concern.
"You should mind the road, dad. Just love the idea of getting arrested for hitting a deer in a cloudy daylight." I said, rolling my eyes dramatically. He smiled, but did not retort to my sarcastic banter. I flashed a small smile and stared out the window once again in silence.
When I arrived at the airport in Port Angeles half an hour ago, he was already waiting for me with his squad car. Charlie was the notable Police Chief in this humble city of Forks. He was the serious and intimidating police officer, who would never wear a smile on his face. Renee often said that smiling would kill him rather than a bullet in his head.
However, when he saw me at the airport, he was happily, broadly smiling while welcoming me with an open arm. And the most amazing of all was this funny look on his face. It was too obvious he was mentally debating if he should hug me or not. He did the former, which was very awkward for the both of us.
I smiled to myself thinking of how ridiculously uncomfortable my father was with me until now. I couldn't blame him. We were really never that close. He was as shocked and flustered as Renee when I decided out of the blue to move back here and live with him. They seemed to understand and gladly welcomed my decision afterwards.
As a matter of fact, Charlie had already gotten me enrolled for high school. He was not that good of a husband to Renee, but he was a good father to me, at least. Though he might not show it very often and act like an angry robot all the time, he was still a caring, thoughtful, humble, and well. . . a not so very boring dad. And that had never bothered me a bit. In all honesty, I preferred living with him. He respected and gave me my personal space unlike Renee who wouldn't stop bitching until I did everything what she said. She was like Quinn, an actual control freak queen. But Q was just too sweet and charming to be ignored.
After traveling more than fifty miles from Port Angeles with a few casual conversations with Charlie, we had finally made it to the end of civilization—I meant to Charlie's humble abode. Everything was beautiful and green—too beautifully green, in all respect. I didn't remember the place being so forested before, though. Maybe because I hadn't paid too much attention to my surroundings when I was younger or I simply didn't care. It was four years ago since I last visited the place. I remembered, it was before Quinn and I met and since then I forgot about the place and had started spending all of my days with her.
As we neared and slowed down on an open grass-covered land, which was probably his lawn, I noticed a red Chevy truck parking in front of the house. Charlie halted beside the hefty truck since apparently the house had no built-in garage. From the looks of the truck, I would say it was properly and skillfully kept up by its owner before likely died some ages ago. I imagined a burly, scary, old woman with thick glasses and a shotgun behind the steering wheel. I smiled at the ludicrous picture in my head. That image stimulated a sea of curiosity in me. Charlie didn't need to have another car. He adored this baby too much. Was there someone else living with him that we didn't know? A girlfriend perhaps?
"You like it?" Charlie asked after shutting the engine off. I ignored him and narrowed my eyes, staring hard at the suspicious-looking truck. Hmm. . . I have a weird feeling about this.
Just as his question and realization hit me, I turned around to look at him. Not able to contain my excitement any longer, I squealed and blurted out. "Is that for me?" He nodded with a small smile. I wasn't really expecting this. Charlie buying me anything more than twenty-five dollars was simply unbelievable. A miracle! I expected he would give me an old, rusty bike instead.
I didn't like accepting anything from anyone, but I couldn't say no to this once in a lifetime blessing from Charlie. "Thanks, dad!"
Charlie smiled, undeniably uncomfortable of my unveiled enthusiasm. He scratched his head, averting my thrilled gaze in the process. "Well, I bought it really cheap and, and well, I—" Now I really got more curious. How cheap is cheap? Twenty-four dollars?
I didn't let him finish talking. I abruptly gave him a quick hug and smiled brightly at him after our brief embrace. I just got a new—well, not so new truck and had just saved my wonderful father from stuttering horribly in front of his beautiful daugh—Ouch! I bit my tongue, again! This had always happened whenever I was violently excited or talking too much nonsense. Ugh! Fucking tongue! Sorry Q, I hated my tongue right now. Quinn would kill me if I said that. Saying that to her face was a grave mortal sin. She sure loved my tongue very much. Hmm. . . that had always been a mystery to me. I really wondered why.
Anyways, Charlie's a modest man with a few words or maybe a man with no words at all. Speaking his thoughts aloud had always been his weakness. I greatly understood and empathized with him. I got most of my traits from him. Most.
"Cool." I mumbled absentmindedly after gazing back at my new truck. I got off the squad car hurriedly and directly examined the truck interior myself. It was simple, but nice and very well-maintained. The old stereo was still functional, much to my surprise. It had a very nice Clazzio black and red seat cover and the steering wheel was just as awesome. I could live with this. I could picture myself in it.
"I hope you like it, Bells." Charlie said with a furrow on his brow. He looked so agitated. Of what? Of maybe I would not like this stupid idea of him buying me a cheap and ancient truck?
"Of course! I love it! I really appreciate it, dad. Thanks again." I honestly adored it and absolutely appreciated it like a lot. Finally, at long last, I had my own car—or truck. I wouldn't have to suffer a long walk to school or beg Charlie to drive me with an ear-blowing singing siren on top.
"I'm glad you love it." He smiled sheepishly. I heard a sigh after his last word. Dad—always the meek and shy one.
The house was still the same, as expected. It was not new and not that old, too. It was not bright, it was rather pale and. . . lonely—so lonely that it was like the people living here always got depressed and tired of their miserable lives. Don't get me wrong. I was not saying that the house was dirty, it's not. It's pretty clean and presentable, but it lacked something. It was not some fancy decors or furniture, not the paint, either. I just couldn't finger a word.
When I was wandering around the house, the very first thing that caught my eyes were the old family pictures in the living room. I smiled sadly, looking at the almost-forgotten pictures. There was a big picture frame of Charlie and Renee's wedding over the small fireplace, my baby pictures with them in different backgrounds, and a recent picture of me with Quinn in Ohio. I smiled wistfully at the cute pictures. Now I knew what was missing in this house.
It was us—me and Renee, Charlie's life.
It only took me a couple of minutes to get all my bags and my other belongings to my room. There were only two small bedrooms in this house; one small bathroom in the second floor, which was obviously not for my own personal use; a small kitchen with a small square table at the center; and a small living room with an antiquated television set and a small leather couch in front. Everything in this small two-storey house was small. Well, I couldn't complain, could I? It's not that we really needed a bigger house. This house was just perfect for the two of us.
After I unpacked and arranged the things in my room, I went down to see Charlie sitting on the couch with his boots on the coffee table. He was watching this goofy sports show on TV with a bottle of beer in between his thighs. I sat next to him, paying no attention to the show. "You hungry, dad? I can cook something for dinner." I peeked sideways only to catch his worried and distraught expression. "Anything wrong?" Just by looking at his scrunched face, I was sure there was. It was either there's no food in the fridge or there was nothing at all but beers.
And I was right. I groaned and sighed loudly after checking the kitchen. There was absolutely nothing and if there was, it was either poisonous—the beers—or the thing was really disgusting to even look at. I didn't even bother dare knowing what it was.
"I can do a quick call for a box of fresh pizza." Charlie called from across the living room. His trembling voice was not so convincing. Fresh pizza. Fresh—Pizza. It was just the same!
The idea of eating pizza for the rest of my days with him was just as bad as imagining eating your own shit. UGH! This is really not ok! I told myself a thousand times. I should do something before turning into a pizza-loving freak.
"Hey, can I have the key to my truck?" I asked. I purposely stood in front of him, totally blocking his view on the TV. I was aware of my rude manner and if he was pissed about it, he didn't give any indication. He blinked once, twice, and puckered his face in confusion, inadvertently pouting his lips altogether. When I didn't bother to explain my rudeness, he reluctantly reached his right side pocket of his jeans and grabbed a silver keychain with two keys hooked to it. He softly tossed it to me yet I still barely caught it one-handed. He was still locking my gaze, puzzled by my action. "Thanks, dad. I'll be back in a flash." I went out the house hurriedly. I got in my cozy truck and started the engine. To my wild surprise, it roared to life. Wow. It had a good sound, so much better than what I intensely hoped and prayed. Not bad for a twenty-four dollar, ancient truck.
"Where you going? Want me to go with you?" Charlie asked as I shifted the gear to reverse.
"No. Relax, dad. I won't go back to Ohio." I chuckled at his awkward stance. He was leaning against the door frame, crossing his arms and legs with a funny pout on his face. His shoulders fell when I drove the truck to the wrong lane. "Really. I got this!" I said aloud, making him stop walking to my direction. I heaved all the air I could get, calming my nerves down. Ok, I can do this. I encouraged myself one more time. It's my very first to actually drive without an adult in the passenger seat so I was somewhat uneasy. Fine. I was pretty nervous, but not as nervous as the idea of eating pizza all my life and those gruesome things only the gods and Charlie knew.
"Bella, honey, would you tell me where you're going?" Charlie further queried, stepping a bit closer to the truck.
"Just want to buy things that are not nauseatingly disgusting to look at, which I'm proud to call it as food." I impulsively scrunched my face at the sickening feeling in my stomach. "Sorry, dad. Don't want to eat just pizza for the rest of my stay here."
Charlie begrudgingly allowed me to go alone after I told him I would need some time for myself. I promised him I would be home before nightfall with the groceries. I wanted to see and know the place by myself. They said the best way to learn was to experience it. And I wanted to experience it alone.
I had no idea it would take a long drive before I could reach the main road. I had just discovered that Charlie's place was really far from the modern society. That explained everything. No need to elaborate.
After ten minutes of heavy, slow driving, I eventually reached the center city—or should I say the ACE city. I did not notice this earlier when Charlie drove me home. Was I really in Forks or in the ACE planet? Almost all the establishments here were named ACE:
ACE Hotel, ACE Supermall, ACE Hypermart, ACE Enterprise, ACE Bookstore, ACE Café, ACE Diner, ACE D'Bar—whatever that means, ACE Daily News, ACE Fishing, ACE Bank, ACE Transit, ACE Properties, and even the vending machines were all ACE's—Drink-And-Eat-All-You-Can ACE machines. What the hell! Forks was being invaded now? Whoever and whatever this ACE was, he was some almighty, big, selfish, money-sucking fiend. This was just too much!
I was initially planning to go where there were no humongous signboards that had the word ACE on it. But much to my horrid dismay, I only found one inadequate kiosk at the very far end of the city, almost going back to Port Angeles. Really!? You gotta be kidding me! This ACE sucked big time!
I bitterly drove back and parked on the huge parking space in front of the ACE Hypermart. I went inside the store and reminded me of Walmart back home in Lima. I easily found whatever was on my mental list since I was so clever enough to use my eyes and brain to read and think. I didn't have to open my mouth and waste my time to ask for directions. I trudged over to the meat section and grabbed a frozen. . .
"ACE meat!?" I shouted at the top of my lungs, distressingly and thoroughly stunned. I quickly covered my mouth with my hands, dipping my head to hide my flushed, embarrassed face. I felt every snoopy orb was on me, maybe thinking I already lost my mind and was such a waste for having a charming, pretty face. Yeah, I know. Sorry about that!
I sighed wearily the umpteenth times today. I literally dragged myself around the store with heavy, hooded eyes. I already got everything I needed so far. Most of the goods I picked were not related to ACE; I was kind of glad and relieved that there was still something to choose aside from those ACE merchandises.
I glanced at my watch and was a bit shocked of the time. It was already thirty past six. I was in this outrageous ACE city for almost four hours. I was sure Charlie was worried sick of me being alone in this weird place. I inhaled deeply and exhaled loudly through my mouth before moving my heavy feet to the counter.
This surely was a long and tiring day. I needed to go home and rest. I hoped I could sleep well tonight. I still had to wake up early in the morning to cook breakfast for Charlie and get ready for my very first day of school as a Senior. Wow. Just couldn't wait to see the new faces of over three hundred students in Forks High. How deadly exciting! The creepy goose pimples on my body were celebrating with me right now. Great.
Charlie called over the phone, asking where I was and if I was okay—just the usual worried parent asking obvious questions. There was a long pause from the other line after I answered all his questions. I pulled my phone to check if our connection was cut, but the screen said he was still there. I put back the phone on my ear just in time to hear him sighed. Rolling my eyes, I patiently waited for him to speak his mind. This will take a while.
After a minute, he finally broke off the awkward silence, saying that he was badly needed in the precinct. There was some kind of emergency I didn't quite catch up since he was badly mumbling under his breath. I pretended to listen and didn't ask any question and told him it was fine and he could leave the house. Work is work, nevertheless.
I was in my truck when I felt my stomach grumbled for the lack of food. I surely forgot how hungry I was. I just had remembered I still had to eat. I did not eat anything after breakfast, five this morning.
It was getting dark and I didn't think Charlie left me anything edible for dinner. I started the engine and opted to eat somewhere, maybe at the local café down the street. I had no other choice. It was either to eat there or forget it and sleep with an empty stomach. My body was rebelliously reacting to the idea of cooking dinner for myself. I was really exhausted from the long travels and the stress I got from this fucking ACE city.
I drove past different ACE establishments before appearing in front of the classy ACE Café. I parked my truck on the vacant stop next to a not-so-strikingly-sensational silver Aston Martin One-77! I was rigorously screaming in my head. No. Way. There was no way someone could afford that ridiculously expensive car and would eat here.
I got off the truck slowly, not removing my intense gaze at the absolutely breath-taking, sheeny jewel in front of me. Wow. Just wow.
"Miss! Hey miss!" A deep, croaky voice snapped me out of my wild fantasy. I automatically jerked my body at the ugly voice. He was standing in an arrogant pose with an accusing look on his uglier face. He folded his hairy arms and looked daggers at me. What the!
What's your problem, you ugly twit!? "Yes? Is there a problem?" Wow. I sounded so nice. I even wanted to gag at my own kindness. This man deserved to be brutally treated. But I was born polite and well-mannered. Tsk.
"Move your damn truck further away from that crazy mother-fucker." He pointed a finger to my awesome Chevy truck then to the Aston Martin. It took me a while to grasp what he said. No way! No. No. No. Don't tell me HE—the ugliest son-of-a-bitch—was the owner of that precious thing!? I almost screamed in horror. No. Fucking. Way.
"Hey! Did you hear me, missy?" His voice deepened in a frightful tone of warning. He stepped forward, but I got in the truck before he could do something to me or whatever. I started the engine, glanced at the rear-view mirror, and was about to move the gear until a sweet, songful voice froze my entire body to a dead halt.
"Um. . . You don't have to do that. I'm about to leave, anyway."
LUB-DUB. In a slow motion, I impulsively turned my head with an exaggerated dramatic effect toward the coolest voice I had ever heard. I was way better than the one I'd seen in the movies.
LUB-DUB. Her voice was just so unique and perfect. Not even today's latest modern technology could create such perfect voice.
LUB-DUB. My heart was beating so loud. It pounded so strong inside my chest, a very rare feeling I only experienced with Quinn.
LUB-DUB. I felt my cheeks burning, my body sweating. The crazy, nervous feeling in my stomach made me shiver and squirm on my seat.
LUB-DUB. And finally, I met her gaze behind those extremely dark sunglasses. She stood a few feet away from me, comfortably leaning her back against the driver side of the Aston Martin. She was wearing an excessively huge dark grey sweatshirt with the hood almost covering her entire face. Although I couldn't clearly see her features, I could actually tell she was beautiful. Very beautiful.
LUB-DUB. "Nice truck." She smiled, flashing her perfect white teeth. I felt the sincerity in her voice, not a single hint of mockery or sarcasm.
LUB-DUB. For the first time since Quinn's death, I felt so alive. I could feel my blood boiled in a familiar frenzied state of nervousness and excitement. We stared fixedly at each other. No one dared to move an inch. I even forgot to breathe for a second. There was like a wave of electricity rushed through me. But sadly, the sudden, strong wind broke off the intensity of our stares. The unpleasant air current remained in the truck, piercing through every pore of my skin. I felt so cold and fidgety and shaking and did I mention I was really, really, really cold? What's wrong with me? I looked at the mysterious girl once again, feeling a nauseous sensation in my gut. She had a small curious twitch on her sexy pink lips. Who the hell is she?
to be continued.