Chapter 1: A Freshening Breeze
Disclaimer: By writing this fan fiction based very generally upon the work of Stephenie Meyer, I am not claiming ownership of Twilight or its characters. I am simply borrowing some of their characteristics.
Chapter One: A Freshening Breeze
'Give me freshening breeze, my boys, A white and swelling sail, A ship that cuts the dashing waves, And weathers every gale. What life is like a freshening breeze, So free, so bold, so brave?
Seattle, Washington, June 30th. High: 60 F Low: 50 F Barometric Pressure 30.2 inHg*, Cloudy
"SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER!
SCHOOL'S OUT FOREVER!
SCHOOL'S BEEN BLOWN TO PIECES!
NO MORE PENCILS,
NO MORE BOOKS,
NO MORE TEACHER'S DIRTY LOOKS…"
Alice Cooper was blasting out of the quad speakers my ex-boyfriend had installed in my truck and I was singing my heart out as I drove down the road. I, Isabella Marie Swan, felt both liberated and guilty. I felt liberated because I was finally leaving gloomy, cold and rainy state of Washington and was headed to the sunshiny, warm, and tropical state of Florida. I felt guilty because I wasn't a student anymore. Actually, I was supposedly the person that was going to be giving those dirty looks since my brand new diploma said so. But hell, teachers could celebrate the summer too, couldn't they?
And boy did I feel like celebrating. I had moved from Arizona to Washington the beginning of my junior year of high school. Mom had just remarried and, though I liked Phil Dwyer, my new step-father, being around honeymooners - especially if one of them gave birth to you - well, that's just ick. So I asked my father Charlie, who was also the police chief of the tiny town of Forks, if I could move in with him for the last two years of high school and of course he was delighted.
I loved my Dad but I was perpetually cold and depressed living in Forks under a continuous rain cloud most of the time, so when I applied for college I tried just about every school that was located in an area whose temperature rarely went below seventy degrees. Dad, because Dad was sensible, suggested that I also apply in-state as a backup plan. You know - just in case.
Well, guess what? Through local scholarships, I got the equivalent of a full ride if I stayed in state-in Washington. The schools that accepted me in the sunny south were pleased to have me if I was willing to pay full out-of-state tuition and that was the deciding factor. I couldn't afford to go to a warmer, sunnier school so it was four more years of purgatory, commonly known as the State of Washington to me.
If you ignore the weather, Seattle is a nice city and I actually enjoyed living there. I got a good education – summa cum laude in English Literature with a minor in Secondary English Education thank you very much – and the four years went by quickly. But you better believe when it came time for me to apply for a teaching job I looked in warmer climes.
The only problem was as I was nearing graduation it was next to impossible to find a job especially as an English teacher with no experience other than the practicum and student teaching experiences required of all education students. Seems like the boards of education country wide were reducing, cutting back, and simply not hiring.
Dad invited me to live with him again.
That scared the crap out of me. No way was I going back to frigid Forks - just no.
Then, the kind citizens of the Sunshine State itself did a wondrous thing. They voted in a mother f'ing amendment to their state constitution saying that no classroom in any public school in Florida could have more than a certain number of students. At the high school grades they were capping it at twenty-five. That meant those lovely Floridians were forcing the hands of their sixty-seven county school boards to hire more teachers. Many more.
In one afternoon, I applied for a teaching job in every county in Florida that had an on-line application and two weeks later I had three job offers. I picked the one that was furthest south: Parma High School in Bishop County, mean temperature seventy-five blessed degrees and only a handful of completely cloudy days in a year.
The second thing I did was to break up with my boyfriend. Mike was a decent guy and all but he wasn't interested in leaving his home state of Washington. Besides, he'd become more of a habit lately than someone I consciously chose.
We had been dating for about two years and the fire was gone. I was beginning to wonder if it ever had been there at all. When I accepted the Parma job I was surprised that he was actually upset about it. Seems he had expected to settle down with me. It took me a week to dissuade him from that idea.
Dad bought me a used Ford F-150 but it was in really good shape and only two years old. He said it was my graduation present and I was grateful. I knew that my old beater wouldn't have made it across the state line, never-the-less the whole nation. And when you thought about it Florida was about as far away as you could get from Washington without leaving the United States.
I had some money saved up and so I decided that I would drive across the country as soon as I could get myself organized. Mike was making it difficult to be in Seattle and it was the rainy season there any way.
Did I mention that it was always the rainy season in Seattle?
So anyway, two weeks after graduation I had packed up and was ready to hit the road.
One thing I'll say about a long drive, besides scarfing up tons of little bottles of shampoo and conditioner they give out at motels, is it gives a girl the chance to think. The majority of my thoughts focused on what in the world was wrong with me? Mike was a decent guy. He was good to me. He was easy to be around but he was also easy to not be around at least for me. I never missed him when we were away from each other although I was always glad to see him when we got together again.
All my friends thought he was great, even Charlie. The only person who didn't agree was my mother, Renée. She told me he was a drag. But then that wasn't surprising. If my mother had been born a couple of decades earlier she'd have been a hippie. Mike was too stodgy and conventional for her. It made me wonder how she ever got hooked up with Charlie because those two words sort of defined him. I suppose it did explain why she left him after I was born, though.
I couldn't help but think I may have made a mistake leaving Seattle after the first panic passed. And panic is exactly what I felt when Mike disclosed that he always planned to marry me. You know that fight or flight reflex? Well, it's real because I couldn't get away fast enough. But now the few thousand miles I had put between us got me to thinking that perhaps I was too hasty. Here I was running away to a place I had never been, to be among people I had never met, doing a job that I had never done. I must be crazy. A few times on my journey, I almost decided to turn around but then I remembered that while I was living in Washington my underwear of choice were long johns even in the summer and honestly, I just couldn't face that again.
Jacksonville, Florida, July 8th. High 90 F, Low 72, F Barometric Pressure 31 inHg
Originally, I was planning to drive straight to Parma with no side trips but my mother lived in Jacksonville now and though it was a little bit out of my way what was two hours out of a 50 hour trip? So, when I crossed the Florida state line instead of continuing south on I-75 I took a left on the I-10 and an hour later I was pulling into the driveway of my mom's and step- father's bungalow.
I had called her the night before asking if I could come so she was prepared. When I saw the sign out front, I was sorry I had given her a heads up.
"WELCOME HOME BELLY!" was spray painted on an old bed sheet hanging across the front porch.
Geesh, Mom. Now all the neighbors were going to think someone had a reverse lipo-suction or something. Phil and Renée were on the front porch yelling and screaming in happiness – I hoped - to see me. Knowing my mother it could be that she was screaming away the evil spirits that may have followed me from the Pacific Northwest.
Both of them ran out and hugged me at the same time. Unfortunately, I hadn't completely exited from the cab of my truck and we all ended up on the ground. They didn't pay any attention to that; they were still hugging me as we rolled around on the grass. This was normal for Renée. This is also why I didn't visit them too often. I can only deal with so much crazy.
But actually it was good to be with them for the moment. I never realized how much I missed my mother until I saw her again - sort of like I never missed Mike. Really, it was just more proof that there must be something wrong with me.
They ushered me up off the lawn and into their little eclectic bungalow. There was no place to sit in the living room just the floor. When I looked around Renée said, "Oh, just pull up a pillow and sit wherever you want. Furniture is so conformist and constricting."
That could mean they had to hock all their furniture to make rent or today they really believed that The Man was out to get us all by the nefarious use of chairs and sofas. I remember once when I was in middle school, The Man was brainwashing us through the electrical currents in our homes so we didn't have electricity for a few weeks. However, when Mom got her tax refund that year suddenly The Man stopped using the electrical grid to control our minds. I've always thought my mother's politics were completely situational.
"So Bella, why did you decide on Parma? That's old fogey-ville."
"Is it? All I cared about was that it was in the sub-tropics and they wanted me to teach."
"Well, they roll up the streets after nine pm on the Gulf coast."
"That's not a problem for me."
"Oh, I forgot. You like dull," Renée scoffed.
"Now Mom, why do you say that?"
"Look at your boyfriend. Michael Newt or whatever? By the way, why isn't he here with you?"
"It's Newton, Mom. Michael Newton. And about that… he's not my boyfriend anymore. We broke up."
"Mom…" I whined. She always was able to bring out the emo teen in me.
"Bella, he was all wrong for you."
I rolled my eyes.
"Truly, he was. When you were around him your aura wasn't just brown which is bad enough, it was beige." Mom shuddered from the horribleness of my unbecoming aurae.
"But now I think of it I could tell something was up with you, Bella. When you got here today I could see your aura is not beige anymore, it's changing and unsettled." She peered at the area around me as if she was trying to see more clearly.
I was so used to this weirdness I didn't even sigh but I did sort of wonder what her aura was. Tutti-frutti, perhaps?
Phil came into the living room with a bong. "In honor of your homecoming let's have a celebratory toke."
"Thanks but no thanks. I can't be around that stuff, Phil."
"Why not? No one here is going to narc."
"Probably the first thing they'll do when I get to Parma is make me pee in a cup. If pot shows up in my system I'll go on record as the having the shortest employment in Bishop County history."
Surprisingly Mom spoke up, "She has a point, hon. Just go out on the back porch and relax. I'll join you in a while."
"Okay. Remember though, this is good shit. May not last."
"Don't bogart the Columbian, honey," Mom called, "That's just rude." But Phil was already out of the room.
"Mom, seriously where do you get those terms? You sound like a seventies teen flick."
Renée just snorted and ignored my comment.
"So you dumped that dude, Bella. I am so surprised."
I shook my head, "I am not sure I did the right thing. Mike was a decent guy. Maybe he was the one?"
Renée coughed in disbelief, "Maybe? Honey if he was the one there would be no 'maybe' about it. You would know. There would be something about him that just won't let you go. Your spirit will recognize him before your mind will even know he exists." She smiled and gazed off at nothing, a nostalgic look on her face.
I vainly tried to not roll my eyes. Renée was all into the metaphysical side of reality. From my long years of living with her, I could tell you that she simply liked to distort what was real to suit her own preferences. That got her in trouble more than once, let me tell you.
Renée saw my expression and sighed, "You know Bella, I may be a fruit loop about some things but I do know about this. Falling head over heels in love happens. It just hasn't happened to you, yet. I was so afraid that you would settle for 'comfortable' because you didn't believe there was an 'amazing' out there for you."
She leaned forward, grabbed my hand and looked earnestly into my eyes. "Do me a favor honey, don't 'settle.' Hold out for 'amazing.'"
Curiously, that phrase echoed in my head for the rest of the evening and on into my dreams. Hold out for amazing. How I truly wished Renée was correct. But I didn't know. Maybe there was something wrong with me that I couldn't feel that spark. Maybe I was doomed to only to settle. Maybe I was so used to being independent and self-reliant that feeling so intensely connected to another person was beyond my capabilities.
Evidently The Man was forcing his conformist ways on the unsuspecting with mattresses and box springs as well in the Dwyer household. After a night of sleeping on a pallet I decided that my back couldn't take a longer visit. After treating Renée and Phil to breakfast at Denny's, I headed for Parma.
Parma, Florida, July 9th. High 92 F, Low 75, F Barometric Pressure 30.4 inHg, Clear
Six hours later, I was pulling in to the Bishop County School Board administrative center. I figured they could direct me to some places to live and I wanted to ask if it was okay for me to visit Parma High before I was actually required to be there.
I walked up to the receptionist feeling pretty skuzzy after my drive and explained what I wanted and she had me sign in and pressed a button so I could pass the doors that led to the offices behind her. The first door on the left was the personnel department.
"Hello," I said as I approached the desk, "I am Isabella Swan and was recently hired to teach at Parma High School. I just got into town and was wondering if you could suggest where I could find a place to live?"
"Oh, sure!" she waved her hand across the room. "Look over on that bulletin board. People put notices up there for that sort of thing all the time."
I spent a good ten minutes reading the various notices and found several that looked promising. The HR lady gave me a "welcome to Parma" packet which included a map of the area so I could find my way around.
I drove over to a nearby McDonalds and sat in the restaurant with a coke, Big Mac and fries and located the various addresses on the map. The first thing I noticed was that Parma High was smack dab in the middle of the town and not too far from the beach. Ideally, living close by the school would be the best but I was sure the prices of those apartments were prohibitive. It wouldn't hurt to look, though.
I spent the good part of the afternoon driving around town in awe of what I found. It was a tropical paradise-simply beautiful- but pretty ritzy. It wasn't likely that I could find a place I could afford near the school as I had hoped but I just couldn't help looking. It was everything that I dreamed about while living in the cold north. The palms trees, the quaint shops, the white beach, the blue water; it was like a travel advertisement come to life. One of the addresses that I had written down was in the older section of town. These houses were one story and relatively small but surrounded by lush vegetation.
In a shady cul-de-sac about four blocks from the high school, I found the address. This house was shaded by a huge live oak tree in the front yard. There were garden gnomes peering out at me from the flower beds and even a pink flamingo or two edging the driveway. This ought to be interesting. I went up to the front door and knocked.
The asthmatic barking of a little dog signaled the approaching owner. I heard a bevy of locks unlocking and then finally the door opened and the cutest little old lady stared up at me from behind bifocals. Her hair was a mass of permed curls and she was wearing a brightly colored muumuu with large hoop ear rings, necklace and bracelets to match. Her bright red lipstick accentuated her happy smile as she said, "You rang?"
I couldn't help but to chuckle, "Hi, I am Bella Swan and I got your address from the school board offices saying that you had an apartment for rent?"
"Oh, yes! I only rent to teachers, though. Are you a teacher?" She peered at me myopically. I must not have looked the part, I guessed.
"Well, I will be a teacher. I was hired recently to teach starting in the fall at Parma High. I am looking for a place to live."
"Oh!" she was delighted. "Come in! Come in! Welcome. Please sit down."
Contrary to my mother's home this place had an over abundance of furniture and, unsure of where I should sit from the many choices I had, I looked at her for direction.
"Sit here and let's talk," she indicated the sofa that was near the front door. She sat across from me in an old wing chair and the minute she sat the elderly Chihuahua jumped into her lap.
"My name is Eleanor Cope. I was the librarian at Parma High for thirty years before I retired. Parma is a great school to work at."
"I am looking forward to it. I came down early so I could get settled in before I needed to get to work."
"That was smart. You'll have a lot of work to do!"
We talked a bit about where I came from and what I studied and why I picked Parma to move to. She asked me about my hobbies and habits and she told me a bit about the school I was going to be teaching in. Evidently, she still knew a lot of people who still worked there.
She went through a list of requirements she had for a renter and I found that I could easily follow her mandates. She didn't want smokers or heavy drinkers or loud music past ten o'clock. She didn't want people coming in and out at all hours and she asked that occasionally her renter take care of Poncho the dog when she would go to Miami to visit her sister.
"Do you have any questions, Bella?"
"Uhm, are you renting a room in the house?"
Eleanor chuckled, "No. That would cramp my style. I have a guest house out back that isn't very big, but I think it is plenty big for a single girl like you. Come on back and I will show it to you."
Under the supervision of old asthmatic Poncho, she led me through her house and across the backyard to a smaller building that sat there. It was ideal for me. It had only three rooms - a great room that included a sitting area and a kitchen and a bedroom with a bath attached. Eleanor went over to an air conditioner that was in a window and turned it on. In a few minutes it had cooled the air quite considerably.
"This unit cools the whole place but you have to leave the interior doors open so the cooled air can circulate throughout."
She was right; it was small but plenty big enough for me. There was a carport where I could park my truck out of the weather, even. She opened a closet in the kitchen and showed me a stacked washer and dryer. Like I said, this place was perfect.
"These floors are terrazzo and keep things cool in the heat as do the ceiling fans. Unfortunately, there is no heater but we rarely need it this far south. If we do get a cold snap I have a space heater you can borrow but usually wearing a sweater is enough to get you through."
Wow. No heat. Imagine living in a place where that wasn't a necessity. I was joyous. "How much do you want for rent, Mrs. Cope?"
"Oh, call me Eleanor. Usually places like this so close to the beach go for at least a $2,000 per month but I am more interested in a good tenant than the money. How much do you think you can afford?"
I know I had lost all the color in my face. Two thousand dollars a month? That was definitely out of my price range.
"Well, I am afraid that I can't afford half that, Eleanor. The most I can do is $800. I am really sorry to have taken your time." I sighed because I could really see myself living here. It was close enough that I could easily ride a bike to school and it was only about two blocks from the beach.
"Hmmm. How about I rent it to you for $800 but ask you to do some work around here to make up the difference."
My heart beat a little faster. "What sort of work?"
"How do you feel about gardening and mowing the grass?"
"I have no problem at all with that, Eleanor. Actually I enjoy it."
"Well, then here's the deal. I am getting too old to keep up with the lawn and flower beds. I expect $800 the first day you move in and then the same on that day every month thereafter. The electric and water is attached to the main house so that's included with the rent. I would like you to spend at least five hours a week doing yard work. That would make the difference between the going rate and what you could afford. That seem fair?"
Five hours a week? If I put an hour a day I could knock that out in five days time. I looked through the windows and could see the yard wasn't that big.
"It seems fair, Eleanor. Thank you." I stuck out my hand and she shook it.
"Deal! When are you moving in?"
"Well, I could move in today. I don't have any furniture but I could take care of that pretty quickly, I think."
"We have some good resale shops here and you have a truck. It shouldn't be a problem to get what you need relatively cheap."
So, I spent the next hour or so moving my stuff out of the truck into the house. I figured I could sleep on an air mattress I brought with me until I could take care of getting a bed. I was so excited. This seemed to be working out very well.
The place really needed a good cleaning so I changed out of my jeans and t-shirt into shorts and a tank top, hopped into the truck and drove down the street to a grocery store. It happened to be just a block away from Parma High School and I couldn't resist stopping there first to check it out.
The school was beautiful. I had never seen a public school that looked so appealing. It was built out of red brick and made up of twelve different buildings like a college campus. There were lushly landscaped common areas with lots of benches and tables scattered around. Not surprisingly, the doors to the buildings were locked so I peered in through a window to check out the classrooms. They were tricked out. I could see a white board covering one wall and there was a LCD projector hanging from the ceiling. There was a teaching station that had a computer and some other equipment. It seemed they didn't stint here in Bishop County.
Seeing as much as I could through the window, I walked over to where the sports fields were. There were cars parked in the lot near it so I figured there may be people there who could answer a few questions about the school for me.
The gate to the football field was open and I walked through and saw some people running around the track. It must be one of the athletic teams doing summer conditioning practice during the break. It felt so good to be out in the sun that I climbed into the stands to sit for a bit and just admire the day. There was a warm breeze stirring the air and I was enjoying feeling the sun beat down on my body as I settled onto one of the benches. I stretched out my legs and leaned back basking in the blessed heat.
I grew up in Arizona and I knew the necessity of wearing sunscreen for someone like me who has a ghostlike complexion so I had slathered it on before I left my house. I long time ago I gave up trying to get some color to my fish belly skin. All I did was burn, peel and then was white again. I hoped I wouldn't stick out too much down here in the sun.
I looked again at the people running around the track as they neared my position and my attention was suddenly focused on one of them. It felt like every molecule in my body suddenly was aligned on him.
He was beautiful. Honestly, I had never seen a man as drop dead gorgeous as that. He was tall with well muscled arms and legs but they weren't bulging "'roid" muscles, they were lean and sculpted. He had reddish-brown hair that was on the long side but not something my hippy mom would swoon over.
The runners came to a stop in front of me and I actually gasped when Mr. Gorgeous stopped running and pulled off his t-shirt to use it to mop his brow.
My heart was actually fluttering as I grasped my bottom lip with my teeth and I – well, let's be honest- leered at him. I had never seen the likes of someone as god-like as he was. He was talking to a few of the kids that were with him and he laughed, flashing a brilliant smile. The kids went to pick up a few soccer balls that were lying about and put them in a bag. The gorgeous man turned to walk through the fence that bordered the track and as he did he must have noticed me sitting in the stands probably looking completely witless.
"Can I help you?" he asked coming nearer.
Oh. Time for me to talk and not sound like an idiot. In my current frame of mind stunned by this dazzling man that may be a hopeless quest. I stood up and walked over to the railing, "Uhm… perhaps? Do you know if the school office will be open tomorrow?"
He smiled at me and I had to consciously try not to drool. The electricity in the air was palpable.
"There is usually someone there after eight but in the summer they leave around two or so. Whom did you wish to see?"
Oh, he used "whom" correctly. My heart rate was slightly elevated before but now it was pounding away like I had run a marathon. I truly panted after good grammarians. This caused the rest of me to feel sort of numb. I hoped my mouth wouldn't betray me for a fool.
"The principal or his secretary?"
"They both should be there, I think. You could call first to see. Do you have the number for the direct line? They usually don't pick up the main one in the summer."
"No, I don't."
"I'll give it to you. I have it in my car."
He was standing right in front of the stairs and politely waited for me to join him before walking out to the parking lot. Everything had been going well and I had yet to make an idiot of myself but I wasn't finished, yet.
Of course you know what was going to happen. As I descended the stairs, I set my foot wrong and tripped down the last two steps. I was going to wipe out right in front of this Adonis and I could feel the embarrassment even before I hit the ground.
But I never hit the ground. Suddenly, strong, lean arms were about my waist and I was caught safely against a hard chest - an Adonis-like hot, naked, divinely sexy chest. I looked up to begin to babble my apologies when deep green eyes edged by long dark lashes looked down into mine and the world stopped turning. All there existed for me in that moment was being held in strong arms with my gaze interlocked with his and my breath baited.
It seemed like an hour passed in that moment. The sun completely changed its course. All movement froze for that eternity but I knew it was just seconds before I realized where I was; held up like some graceless stumblebum by a perfect man I hadn't even met. I knew I was thinking in hyperboles and mixed metaphors but I was an English major. Sarcasm keeps me centered.
Oh, how mortifying. I shivered and stepped out of his embrace.
"Excuse me. I'm normally not such a klutz," I lied as I blushed ten shades of red.
"It's okay. I was glad I could catch you. That would have been a nasty fall."
"I'm so embarrassed."
"Don't be. I enjoyed it." He winked at me.
I just blushed more. I knew he was being polite. Here I was, sweaty, dirty and silly, tripping down the stairs so very ungracefully and flinging myself at him. I was such a dolt.
I followed him out the parking lot and he led me to a late model sporty Volvo. Yeah, I know. Volvos aren't sporty but I think it must have been the proximity to this god-like being that gave it that appearance.
He opened his door bent over and leaned inside. I got a heart-stopping look at his perfectly fine ass that was covered only by low slung athletic shorts. I immediately imagined digging my nails into it as he flexed in and… I just barely stopped from moaning. Truly, I had to quit this or he would have me arrested for molestation. If possible I blushed even more.
He was soon able to retrieve the number I needed. He tore off a piece of paper from a notebook he had and wrote it down then handed it to me.
"Here you go," he said with one of those delicious smiles.
At least he was facing me and I no longer had the view of his amazing rear so I could respond semi-coherently, "Thank you and again, I am so sorry for crashing into you."
"Like a meteor," he mused, smirking a bit.
I know I looked confused but I mumbled my thanks again and quickly turned to go back to my truck which I'd parked across campus. As I turned a corner around a building, I looked back to see him still standing there watching me. He probably couldn't imagine a more cloddish idiot.
Sighing, I finally got to my truck and climbed back into the cab. I looked down at the paper he had given me and unfolded it. He had written two things: "PHS Office: 555-2203" and then below it "Edward Cullen – 555-7880."
This time my heart pounded its way into my throat. I had never in my life felt like this. There was a curious electricity zinging through the air now. My body still tingled where he held me and I was shocked to discover I was shaking. It felt entrancing, magnetic, and absolutely amazing.
Out of nowhere I heard my mother's voice telling me, "… Bella, honey, hold out for amazing."
* Barometric Pressure is defined as the pressure exerted by a column of mercury of 1 inch in height at 32 °F. It is a method of forecasting storms. The lower the number, the stronger a storm will be. The higher the number, the clearer and fairer the weather.