Chapter One: The First Step is Admitting
The basement of the local church in my tiny town is small and dim. The scent of coffee and donuts waft through the air, and I briefly wonder if this is used as some sort of torture device to lure us from one addiction to yet another. The idea of abandoning my long-time hidden addiction for caffeine and sugary treats is a tempting one, but I know even coffee and sweets wouldn't squelch the need for my secret vises. Hell, I'd even started shamefully smoking cigarettes as a tool of avoidance. It doesn't work. Instead, I now have TWO addictions.
There is a semi-circle of metal chairs in the middle of the room. Haggard looking guys and girls, some older than I, some younger, sit in the chairs. Their faces droop and are lined with distress and hard times. I probably look just as rough. When I got dressed earlier tonight I noticed the dark shadows beneath my eyes and my brown hair, once full and shiny, now hung limp and lackluster past my shoulders.
A tall man in his mid-twenties stands near the front of the room. He looks vaguely familiar, and it doesn't take me long to identify him as Mike Newton. Mike Newton is quite a catch in our small town. It's probably the blonde hair and sparkling sky blue eyes that draw the women in the most, or possibly the fact that he's a business owner. Mike owns Newton's Sports Bar, and I immediately find myself snorting over the irony of the situation.
A sport's bar owner in an AA meeting. How ironic.
Mike frowns at the sarcastic grin on my face. He's probably remembering the torment Rose and I constantly inflicted on his dweeby ass in high school. He motions for me to sit among the group and I do. The other basement dwellers are unfamiliar to me, which means they are not locals. Although AA is supposedly anonymous, everyone knows there are no secrets in small, Southern towns. These people are probably intelligent enough to switch towns to hide their shameful addictions.
Now, why didn't I think of that?
Mike, apparently, is the chairperson of this illustrious club of troubled souls. He stands in the middle of the semi-circle of chairs, glancing at our distraught faces as he speaks. When he meets my brown eyes, I advert my gaze to the styrofoam cup of coffee clutched in my hands. I not only try to avoid Mike's stare, but also the smell of body odor drifting from an extremely red-faced man to my right. This dude looks as though he hasn't seen a tub of water in a year.
"Do we have any newcomers who'd like to stand and introduce themselves?" Mike asks.
My eyes dart up from the dark swell of liquid in my hands. Mike meets my stare head-on, pleading with his eyes for me to stand. I take a deep breath, knowing that this was the reason I was here, to admit I had a problem. I stood, sat my cup of coffee on the metal chair, and carefully smoothed out any wrinkles in my black dress pants.
"My name is Bella Swan," I begin, taking a deep ragged breath as I met the smiling, friendly faces of my basement companions. "And I'm a fanficaholic."
Relief. Sweet relief. My body was consumed with it. A weight lifts from my chest and I even find myself smiling a bit. Thank you, Lord! The folks in the room stare at me with confused eyes as I grab my coffee and attempt to sit back down, but Mike quickly interrupts me, freezing me in my actions.
"Bella, what is a fanficaholic?" he questions, placing his hands on his hips and cocking his head to the side as he studies me. "I've never heard that phrase."
"Oh, I apologize," I tell him, giving a small little giggle as I thoroughly confused the group of strangers glowering at me. "Fanficaholic. I'm addicted to fanfiction. Moonlight fanfiction, to be exact. Ever heard of Moonlight? It's a series of books written by Stephie Mayner. It's all sparkly vampires and forbidden love. I started reading the fanfiction for the series around four years ago, and I've been writing fanfiction based on the series for about two years now. I'm pretty sure I'm addicted."
The room is, at first, stunned silent at my admission. My eyes dart nervously around the crowd and I'm met with judgmental glares. Some people are now snickering, no doubt concluding I'm a total fanfiction dork, which I am. How dare they! My face heats up as Mike gives me an incredulous gaze.
"Is this some sort of prank you and Rosalie have cooked up?" he asks suspiciously. "You do realize this is a group for individuals seeking help for their alcohol addiction?"
Mike is obviously remembering what troublemakers Rose and I were in high school. Geeze, some people never let things go. So, I put a potato in the tailpipe of Mike's truck ONCE and he's still holding a grudge. Then there was the time Rose snuck a dissected cat from the bio lab and tossed it in the open window of his truck...
"No, this isn't a prank," I mutter. "It was Rose's stupid idea to come here. She said this would be a safe place; a place where no one would judge me. I guess she was wrong."
Those words caused the quiet giggles and snickering to diminish as the group members glance guiltily at one another. Angry tears spring to my eyes that I curse, because I may be a lot of things but I'm not a crier. Not unless it involves watching The Notebook...or listening to classic, sad country songs, but that's beside the point.
Mike tries to stop me as I leave the room, but I shrug him off. I mutter some stupid apology about the potato in his tailpipe that causes him to slow his pace behind me. I shove open the glass doors and burst into the night, refusing to acknowledge the increasing shuffle of feet behind me.
"Bella, please wait," Mike pleads, gently cupping his hand around my elbow just as I make it to my old, beat-up baby-blue Chevy pickup truck.
"No, it's fine Mike," I say, sniffing away the tears as I wrenched the door open. "It was a stupid idea to begin with."
"Hey, you said it was Rose's idea," he jokes with an easy expression on his face. "She's not the brightest crayon in the box, and we all know it!"
I can't help but laugh at his words as I quietly appraise him. Who would have thought nerdy Mike Newton would one day turn out to be so handsome? And smell so good. The scent of some manly body wash drifted in the stiff, Southern heat from the short proximity of his body to mine.
How the tables have turned, I think bitterly, chuckling silently to myself as Mike gives me a questioning smile. Mike Newton was the pimple-face bookworm in school who could never get laid. I was the girl popular only by association because of my friendship with Rosalie Hale, the hottest girl in school.
Now I'm Bella Swan, no longer riding on Rose's coat tails, but also not doing much of anything else impressive with my life. I was a freaking fanfiction addict for Christ's sake! Mike had turned into a successful bar owner and humanitarian, helping those struggling with addiction problems. Overwhelming guilt flooded me.
"I'm sorry for the way Rose and I treated you in high school," I whisper, watching remorsefully as his smiling face falls slightly. "If I could take it all back, I would. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, Mike."
I climb into my old truck and fire up the engine. Mike stands a few feet away, watching me with a strangely wistful look on his face. He gives me a tender smile and a small wave. I smile back, although it feels more like a grimace. Slamming my foot on the gas, I chug out of the church parking lot and into the dark, hot night.
The tiny white house Rose and I share is lit up like Christmas night when I arrive. I park my old Chevy, pass a few heavily-scented peach trees in the small front yard, and climb the porch steps, falling tiredly on the white porch swing. The chains clink and the wood groans as my body falls heavily on the swing. Rose, hearing the ancient truck pull into the driveway, walks out onto the porch to greet me.
Rose and I have been besties since the sandbox days. She's the yin to my yang. We're total opposites, but I guess the old saying about opposites attract is correct. Where I'm petite with soft curves, Rose is tall and fit from days on the tennis court or in the local swimming hole. I have pale skin that tends to burn and dark features; brown hair, brown eyes. Rose is tan with gleaming blonde hair and shiny sea-blue eyes. Rose is a looker and I'm just average. The only thing we really have in common is our fanfiction addiction, although mine is extremely more severe than hers.
"Where have you been?" she asks, plopping down on a white rocking chair, tucking her legs beneath her.
"I've been to my AA meeting," I mutter, throwing my arm over my eyes as I lay back on the swing and lazily using my right foot to shove the swing back and forth.
The desire to sleep is overwhelming, but sleep evades me. I haven't slept more than four hours in the past three days. I was knee-deep writing a new drama/romance and people were frantically demanding more updates. I'd survived on nothing but Diet Mountain Dew, sweet tea, and leftover chocolate candy from Easter for days on end.
"Bella, why in the hell did you go to an AA meeting?" Rose giggles, causing me to drop my arm from over my eyes and gaze dumbfounded at her smiling face.
"Because you told me to!" I huff, twisting my body into a sitting position as I glare at her. "I came to your bedroom last night and told you I think I'm addicted to fanfiction! You told me to go to a twelve-step meeting! When I told you there was no such thing around here, you said to go to an AA meeting! You said it was basically the same thing!"
Rose's shoulders began to quake in silent laughter. Tears formed in her eyes and poured over her pink cheeks.
"Bella, you know I talk in my sleep!" she gasps in between fits of laughter. "Oh, my God! This is hilarious! Wait! What happened? Did everyone laugh at you? Did they kick you out? Please tell me they kicked you out!"
"I hate you," I grumble, crossing my arms over my chest. "And yes, if you must know. They snickered and then Mike Newton kicked me out."
"Mike Newton?" she cackled, bending over at the waist as she laughed harder. "Please tell me Mike Newton's not the chairperson over the local AA meetings?"
"He is," I sniff indigently. "I apologized to him for the way we treated him in high school, not that you care."
"You apologized to that dork?" she gasped, dropping the laughter for a scowl. "How dare you! I'm not ashamed of torturing that loser in high school. Don't you remember how he spray painted 'for a good time call Rose Hale 555-2629' on the side of the field house right before the homecoming game senior year? I haven't forgotten it!"
"He only did that because you told everyone in school he played with My Little Pony's at your house in the seventh grade!" I reminded her.
"That was true!" she shot back, throwing her hands up in exasperation.
"So, you wanting to have a 'good time' wasn't true?" I question with a raised eyebrow.
The scowl drops from Rose's face as she gives me a smug grin.
"Of course it was true," she snickers. "Still is."
"That's what I thought," I mutter, scrubbing my hands over my forehead in tiredness.
"Are you going to get some sleep tonight, or what?" she asks with concern as she watches me. "We've got a busy day at work tomorrow, you know."
"I know, I know," I mutter, shoving thoughts of work aside as the ever present thoughts of fanfiction took its place.
"Well, I'm gonna hit the sack, Jack," Rose yawns, standing and stretching.
I nod, but make no move to leave the swing. Rose saunters inside, with a grace she naturally possesses and I so naturally lack. My fingers are twitching, but I hold still, waiting until I'm sure Rose is thoroughly asleep.
The minutes tick away and eventually two hours drift by. I know because I check the time on my phone every five minutes. The air is full of the choir of Georgia crickets and the neighbor's barking dogs. When I'm certain it's been long enough for Rose to get settled in bed, I creep inside.
The laptop Rose and I share is sitting at the desk in the living room taunting me. I pass it three times as I idly change into my pajamas and wash my face. When the agony becomes too much, I fall into the desk chair and power up the laptop, immediately clicking on my favorites bar and pulling up the fanfiction website I publish my fanfiction on.
I'm so engrossed in a new review a reader left me that I don't hear the soft padding of footsteps creeping up behind me. My face is inches from the screen when I hear the soft, gentle voice of my concerned best friend.
"Bella," she breathes, causing me to scream and jump about a foot into the air.
I turn, staring guilty at her with my hand pressed over my rapidly beating heart. Rose's face is no longer humorous or angry. There's nothing but true concern and sympathy dancing along her features. She's wearing a long, white, romantic silky nightgown, that, although modest, somehow makes her look like a porn star.
"Bella, I think you're right," she tells me, reaching out and tugging a limp strand of hair. "I truly believe you should slow down on the reading and writing fanfiction. It's taking over your life. You've resorted to sneaking around at night because you don't want me to know about it!"
I nod, slowly letting Rose's words sink in. She was right. I was sinking deeper and deeper into this fantasy world. I had to learn moderation. I must learn moderation!
"I'll try," I tell my best friend, in a voice laced with weakness.
Rose nods and gives me a small smile, but her face displays her true assessment of my words.
I'm lying and we both know it.
I thought it might be fun to write about some of the things I've noticed as both a fanfic reader/writer and incorporate it all into a fic!
I've read several fanfics over the years with Bella as a fanfiction writer, but never one with her AND Edward as fanfiction writers.
I'm writing this for kicks, so I don't really have a set schedule. In fact, I wrote this entire chapter this morning within two hours. That is the time limit I'm giving myself when I work on this story. My word count limit is around 2k, which is the shortest I've written, so I wanted to keep going after I hit the 2k mark.
I'm also using this as a training tool of sorts, because I am going to attempt EPOV throughout this fic. Y'all know I HATE writing EPOV, so this is a challenge for me ;)
This is also un-beta'd because AliCat is uber busy beta'ing my DSDW stuff, and NO this will not interfere with DSDW updates. I promissssee.
So, what do y'all think so far? If Bella is the Fanfic addict, does that make Edward the Review Whore?