Challenge Number / Title: #1 / Rocky Horizon

Date Posted: 1-31-13

Rating: M (future lemons)

Fandom: Twilight

Genre: AU

Content Descriptors: Angst, Romance

Character Pairing: Edward/Bella

#1 – Rocky Horizon - picture prompt.

Bright Light, Dark Room

Seeing life through a lens is the best and worst thing that's ever happened to me.

I tend to get so inside my own head, inside the glass between the world and me that I become detached. I'm oblivious to my surroundings. It's like being under water; everything is muffled and blurred except whatever my camera can see. I feel safe behind a camera, hidden from the world yet exposing it in every way I can.

My photography is well-known and awarded. My job pays me highly. My life is full of traveling around the state of Washington and documenting each experience. My house is small and cute. My clothes are simple and soft. My love life is...nonexistent.

The few men I've dated have given up on me. I don't know if I blame them. I live my life behind my camera. When it's not in front of me, my eyes are searching around, searching for the right angles, the correct lighting. It's beyond an obsession or addiction; it's part of who I am. I used to be outgoing, loud and carefree. I used to think I'd become a CEO of a company and boss people around. I thought business was the way to go, the option I should choose. I didn't realize how hard I'd fall for photography. One class in college was all it took. I had space for one elective. I had to choose – pottery or photography.

Photography won. My major was changed within four classes. My parents were confused but supportive. My friends thought I was nuts. I never felt better.

I love photography. I love how much it consumes me and takes me away. Photography gives me life meaning and makes it worth living. I'm alone, there's no one to pull me away from my work, so I live inside of it.

My parents say your job shouldn't be your life, it should just enhance it. In my case, I think it's both. It enhances my life and is my life.

My jean clad legs are cold from the rock, my elbows are going numb from the bumpy surface. I've been on this ledge for an hour now, taking pictures of the birds and trees. Capturing the sun as it descends toward the ocean. I can feel the pom pom on my hat bounce around in the wind. I know I should leave soon, but I don't want to miss the perfect shot, the one thing that pushes my work today from amazing to stunning. I always hate to leave a place because I'm worried I'll miss the best shot.

When I finally pull my eyes away from the view finder, I allow myself to take in the panoramic view. I pull my bag to my front and dig around for a granola bar, my only source of food for the day. My watch tells me it's past three. I should leave.

I don't make it off the ledge for another half hour. It takes me an hour after that to get to my car. I detour through the park, to watch the people and look at the pond. I took over a hundred pictures today, and my excitement to get back to my office and rifle through them could rival a child in a candy shop.

Each time I open up pictures I've taken on my computer, every emotion that flowed through me during the day comes back. Sad. Happy. Peaceful. Cold. Thoughtful. It fills me and takes me back to that moment. It's like the feeling I get while reading but it's much more visceral.

I get back to the office, plug in my memory card and grab coffee Every day for the last two years I have followed the same routine when I get back from a photo shoot: plug in my memory card, get coffee, and dissect every shot. I'm the harshest critic of my photos, I know that. I always find myself wishing I'd had the camera just a little to the left. I wonder what would've happened if I'd waited a few more seconds to take it. It is easy to get side tracked. I make myself focus. I make myself do my job. I can criticize myself later.

Forty pictures in, I get another coffee.

Sixty in, I get another.

Eighty in, I get a bigger mug.

Ninety in, I feel someone standing beside me. I don't realize how close my face is to my screen, how tight I'm holding my mouse. The photo I'm looking at is one that reminded me of a moment I'd rather forget, pulling me to a place with my mother years ago. My heart burns and my eyes fill with tears. I take a deep breath and lean back in my chair, wanting to separate myself from the memories and emotions.

"Bella." Eric, my boss, is standing to my right. "How's it going? You all right?"

"I'm good, just got lost in my own head for a moment there." My eyes discretely scan the room, seeing a couple people at their computers, filing paperwork.

"Would you be able to come with me for a moment?" He nods his head toward his office in the corner.

"Sure." I stand up, locking my computer. My number one rule is to never let anyone look at the pictures before they are published. I'm protective. I'm possessive. If it isn't on the website, in the newspaper or in a magazine, you won't ever see it.

Following him into his office, I expect to be told about a new assignment. I sit across from him, pulling my pink sweater down over my jeans. I wiggle my toes in my boots and push some hair behind my ears, he starts speaking.

"The company is undergoing a lot of changes, you know about the new management?" I nod.

"They have to make huge budget cuts. Huge, Bella." I nod again.

"I'm so deeply sorry to say this, but we have to cut your position. You're one of the most valuable assets we have at this company in our art and marketing department, but we can't afford you anymore. I tried to convince them otherwise, but they seem to think they can pay someone else far less to do your job, or teach one of the interns." I see him cringe at the thought. I'm too stunned to move.

"I tried, Bella. I promise I did. It's just not going to happen. You'll need to be out in two weeks. That should give you enough time to finish up this assignment and close out anything else you need to. If you need any recommendations or anything, I'm here." His concessions mean nothing to me right now. This job was supposed to be safe employment - not last me for two years out of school and drop me on my face. I was supposed to have security.

This was my dream job.

And now I've lost it.

A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.

Special thanks to TypoKween, the Amy to my Penny. Best prereader ever. You would not be reading this without her help/motivation. She's also doing the PTB Challenge- check out her story on her ffnet page, it's absolutely incredible!

Thank you to my PTB beta's darcysmom & mcc101180