"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 days when she uttered those soothing words 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 could never be wrong when it came to Quinn. I had memorized every element of her body, every fiber of her hair, every pitch and accent of her voice. I was positively sure it was her—it was Quinn.
At that moment, I had thought that she was there an inch beside me and not six feet underneath the porous soil. But that would be preposterous and just absolutely impossible. I was there when she died and buried. There was no way she could have survived and lived after that terrifying incident.
Yet again, I always wished she did.
So was I 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 the whole time. There must be an explanation to this, else I would strangle myself, poke my eyes out, and feed them to the cows. I hated to think that I had some freaky psychotic thing going on in my head when I already had tons on my plate as it was with her death. I couldn't afford adding another one in the list.
"Bells? 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 my face with concern.
"You should mind the road, dad," I said. "You know I love to see the Police Chief getting arrested for hitting a deer in daylight."
He smiled, but did not retort to my sarcastic banter. I flashed a small smile at him and stared out of the window once again.
Charlie allowed me to brood as he drove in silence, which I was so thankful for.
When I arrived at the airport in Port Angeles half an hour ago, Charlie was already waiting for me with his squad car. He 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 Charlie saw me at the airport, he was happily, broadly smiling while he welcomed 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 give me a 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 Charlie was with me until now. I couldn't blame him, though. We were never really that close. And neither of us was carefree and outspoken. He was as shocked and flustered as Renee when I decided out of the blue to move back in Forks and live with him through senior year. They seemed to understand and gladly welcomed my decision afterwards.
As a matter of fact, Charlie got me enrolled for high school after telling him of my decision. He was not the kind of husband that Renee could be proud of, but he was a good father to me, at least. And I was proud of having him as my father.
In all honesty, I preferred living with him than with Renee, who wouldn't leave me alone for a second after Quinn's death. Charlie, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. He was thoughtful and sensitive. Though he might not show his soft side very often and act like an angry robot all the time, he respected me and gave me my personal space. It was good and refreshing to be alone sometimes. Being alone meant I didn't have to fake a smile and put up with other people's annoying personalities.
After traveling more than fifty miles from Port Angeles with a few and casual conversations with Charlie, we had finally made it to the end of civilization—I meant to Charlie's simple home in the middle of nowhere.
Everything was beautiful, and green. I didn't remember the place being so forested before. Maybe because I had not paid too much attention to my surroundings when I was younger, or I simply did not care at all.
It was four years ago that I last visited Forks. I remembered it was before Quinn and I met. Ever since I became friends with the love of my life, I had forgotten about the place and had started spending all my days with her. I had a bad habit of wiping out dull, useless memories in my head. That should explain the mental block I had of the place.
As we neared and slowed down on an open grass-covered land, which was the lawn, I immediately noticed a well-polished red Chevy 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 it, I would say the truck was properly and skillfully kept up by its owner before likely died some ages ago. I could imagine a burly, scary, old woman with thick, square glasses and a shotgun behind the steering wheel. I giggled inwardly at the ludicrous picture in my head. But that image stimulated a sea of curiosity in me. Charlie didn't need to have another car. He adored his squad car too much. Was there someone else living with him that we didn't know?
A new girlfriend, I thought as I narrowed my eyes at the truck.
"You like it?" Charlie asked after shutting the engine off.
I hummed, ignoring him while still eyeing the truck suspiciously.
Just as his question hit me, I turned around and looked at him. My eyes were wide in disbelief. Not able to contain my excitement any longer after seeing his mustache lift to a sheepish smile, I squealed giddily and blurted out, "Is that for me?"
He nodded his head.
I wasn't really expecting this from Charlie. Him buying me anything more than twenty-five dollars was just unreal, a miracle. I expected he would give me an old, rusty bike instead.
"Wow, thanks, dad!" I said to him. I really didn't like accepting anything from anyone, but I couldn't say no to this once-in-a-lifetime blessing from Charlie.
Charlie smiled, but he was clearly embarrassed by my unveiled enthusiasm. He scratched his head, averting his eyes from my gaze in the process. "Well, it was really cheap and, and well, I—I thought of buying it for you as a homecoming gift—I was thinking—"
I abruptly gave him a quick hug, cutting his stuttering short. I smiled brightly at him after our embrace.
"You didn't have to buy me a car," I said. "But thank you, dad."
Charlie was too stunned to react. I was never the one to show a bit of affection to my parents.
I went back gazing at my new—or not so new—truck. I got off the squad car hurriedly and 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.
"How's the interior?" Charlie said with a furrow on his brow.
"It's so cool," I said, feeling the steering wheel in my hands. "I like it a lot!"
Finally, after begging Renee a thousand times to help me get a car, Charlie bought me my own car—or truck—for free. I wouldn't have to suffer a long walk to school or ask Charlie to drive me with an ear-blowing singing siren on top.
"I'm glad you like it." He smiled awkwardly. I heard a sigh after his last word.
It only took me a couple of minutes to get all my bags to my room. I had only brought two or three bags with me from Lima. I left most of my clothes and my other belongings in Renee's house, since they would only remind me of Quinn and our happy, perfect days together. Bringing them here would defeat the purpose of coming to Forks. After all, I decided to leave Ohio, Renee and my childhood friends, to move on and start a new life.
The house was still the same, as I expected it to be. Nothing was new or changed. The two bedrooms were as small as I remembered them. There was one boxy bathroom in the second floor, which was obviously not for my own personal use; a tiny kitchen with a square table for two at the center; and a living room with an antiquated television set and a decent leather couch across the TV. Everything in this house was simple and small. Well, I couldn't complain. It's not like we needed a bigger one. This house was just perfect for the two of us.
When I entered the living room, it gave me a lonely vibe that made me think of elderly people waiting for their final days. I was not saying that the house was untidy and neglected, because it was not. It was actually pretty presentable, but it lacked something. It was not some fancy decors or furniture, not the paint on the walls, either. I just couldn't finger a word to it.
When I was wandering about the house, the very first thing that caught my eye was the old family portraits at the narrow hallway to the kitchen. There was a picture frame of Charlie and Renee on their wedding day, a few of my baby pictures, and a recent one of me and Quinn back in Ohio. I didn't remember sending anything to Charlie. Renee must have sent it to brag about my girlfriend. I took the picture with me and Quinn off the wall, staring longer at her lovely face. I smiled sadly, now knowing what was missing in this house.
It was us—me and Renee, in Charlie's life.
After exploring the house, which took me a minute, I went up to my room and unpacked my things. I placed the picture of me and Quinn that I stole from the hallway on the night table next to my bed. After I finished fixing 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 legs. 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 that there was. He must have forgotten to fill the kitchen with food.
And I was right. There was nothing at all but beers.
I groaned and sighed loudly after checking the kitchen. There was absolutely nothing in the fridge that was edible for consumption. What I found were beers and the greenish thing inside a rotten box that looked and smelled really disgusting. I didn't even bother ask what it was. It looked like an alien poop from outer space.
"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.
The idea of eating pizza for the rest of my days with him was just as bad as imagining eating my own shit.
I stomped out of the kitchen to the living room and purposely stood in front of him, totally blocking his view on the TV.
"Hey, can I have the key to my truck?" I asked, totally aware of my rude manner.
Charlie 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 for 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 barely caught it two-handed. He was still locking my gaze, puzzled by my action.
"I'll be back in a flash," I said and went out the house hurriedly. I got in my cozy truck and started the engine. To my wild surprise, it roared to life. It had a good sound, so much better than what I intensely hoped and prayed.
Not bad for a twenty 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 actually my first time to drive without an adult in the passenger seat so I was somewhat uneasy. Okay, I was lying. I was pretty nervous, but not as nervous as the idea of eating pizza all my life and that gruesome thing that only Charlie and the gods knew.
"Bella, honey, would you mind telling me where you're going?" Charlie said, stepping a bit closer to the truck.
"I'm going to buy us some food, dad. What you have in your fridge would kill me." I impulsively scrunched my face at the sickening feeling in my stomach when my brain recalled the look and the smell of that greenish thing.
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 unescorted. 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 society. That explained the woods and all the greens.
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 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, ACE Daily News, ACE Fishing, ACE Bank, ACE Transit, ACE Properties, and even the vending machines were all ACEs—Drink-And-Eat-All-You-Can ACE machines. I had a crazy imagination that Forks was invaded by an alien race called ACE. Seriously, whatever or whoever this ACE was, he was something.
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 halfway going back to Port Angeles. I found myself an enemy on my first day in Forks. 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 saliva asking for directions. I trudged over to the meat section and grabbed a frozen—
"ACE meat!?" I screamed, distressingly and thoroughly stunned when I read the label. I quickly covered my mouth with my hands, dipping my head to hide my flushed, embarrassed face. I felt every snoopy eyes on me, maybe thinking I already lost my mind and was such a waste for having a charming, pretty face.
I sighed wearily the umpteenth times today. I literally dragged myself around the store with heavy, hooded eyes. I had gotten 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 seven. I was in this outrageous ACE city for almost six hours. I was sure Charlie was worried sick of me wandering 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 at Forks High. I just couldn't wait to see the new faces of over three hundred students in my new school.
How deadly exciting, I thought sarcastically.
Charlie called me on my 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 sigh. Rolling my eyes, I patiently waited for him to speak his mind.
This will take a while, I thought, yawning.
After some time, 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. It was his job to keep the city safe, I told him.
I was in my truck when I felt my stomach grumble for the lack of food. I surely forgot how hungry I was. I had just remembered I still had to eat something. I did not eat anything after breakfast before Renee drove me to the airport.
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 freaking 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 Bugatti Chiron. I almost choked. I couldn't help but ogle at the stunning supercar. There was no way someone could afford that ridiculously expensive car and would eat at this diner.
I got off the truck slowly, not removing my gaze at the absolutely breathtaking, sheeny jewel in front of me.
"Missy! Yo, missy!" A deep, croaky voice snapped me out of my gaze. I turned my body toward the ugly voice on impulse. 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's your problem, you ugly twit!? I said in my head, but in actuality, I said, "Can I help you?" I sounded so damn nice. I even wanted to gag at my own kindness. This man deserved to be brutally kicked in the crotch. But I was born polite and well-mannered, so I only smiled and did that in my head.
"Move your damn truck away from that crazy mother-fucker." He pointed a finger to my awesome Chevy then to the Bugatti Chiron. It took me a while to grasp what he just said.
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. 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."
Everything went in slow motion, even when I turned my head toward the coolest voice I had ever heard. I was sure that the way I moved my head would put the Hollywood actors to shame.
My heart was beating so loud. It pounded so strong inside my chest.
Her voice was just so unique and perfect. Not even today's latest modern technology could create such perfect voice.
I felt my cheeks burning, my body sweating. The crazy, nervous feeling in my stomach made me shiver and squirm on my seat.
And finally, I met her gaze behind her Gucci dark glasses. She stood a few feet from me, comfortably leaning her back against the driver side of the Bugatti Chiron. 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.
"Nice truck." She smiled, flashing her perfect white teeth. I felt the sincerity in her voice, not a single hint of mockery or sarcasm.
For the first time since Quinn's death, I felt so alive. I could feel my blood boil in a familiar frenzy state of nervousness and excitement. We stared fixedly at each other. No one was moving an inch. I even forgot to breathe for a second there. There was like a wave of electricity rushed through me. But all of a sudden, a strong gust of wind broke off our stares. The unpleasant air current remained inside the truck, piercing through every pore of my skin. I felt so cold and fidgety. I was shaking. It was suddenly freezing in the truck. I looked at the mysterious girl once again, feeling a nauseous sensation in my gut.
She had a small curious twitch on her sexy red lips.
to be continued.
This chapter is a rewrite. Please tell me what you think.