It actually started out as a pretty good day. My truck actually got me all the way to school without stalling, Jessica found someone else to annoy with her inane chatter so that Angela and I could discuss next week's editorial in peace, and I actually didn't injure myself or others in Gym. It wasn't until I got home that things took a turn for… well, not the worse. Just the bizarre.
Mom and Dad were in a weird mood. At least they weren't fighting again, but in truth, that would have almost been better. The fighting I could understand. They always fought. I knew they only stayed together because of me. Once I was out on my own, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I got the call that they were getting a divorce. They really should just do it already. They'd probably both be so much happier.
I'd stay with my mom, of course. Charlie is great, but I have a better relationship with my mom.
But, yeah… I got home, and my parents were sitting on the couch, looking like someone had just died. Turns out, someone had. My dad's best friend – the best man at his wedding, too – had been found in his boat near his place, slaughtered by some animal. We'd known Waylon forever. He played Santa every year for the town's Christmas party. He was a fellow officer on the force with my dad. Even my mom liked him, which was saying something. She doesn't like any of my dad's friends, really, except for Waylon and Billy Black.
They didn't even give me the chance to take my backpack to my room or strip out of my wet jacket. One thing Forks was good for… rain, and lots of it. A sunny day was a rare treat.
I sat on the chair, per my mom's instructions, dripping wet, then just watched as they stared off into space for centuries. Well, it seemed like centuries, what with how tense they were. For a moment, I actually thought they were about to announce their marital separation. But, no, that wasn't the news they were working up to telling me at all.
"Bella, honey, we got some bad news today."
My dad never spoke. Just my mom. She liked Waylon, like I said, but he was really my dad's friend more than hers. He didn't seem to have the ability to speak. He just sat there during the entire conversation, barely even blinking. I'd never seen him so rattled. I almost went to go hug him, but Dad's never really been a hugger, so I stopped myself.
But even with as bad as that news was, the formality of the conversation seemed strange. Like there was another shoe that was about to drop. My parents and friends have always said I am too perceptive for my own good.
"His entire family is out in Virginia, so that's where the funeral is being held."
Okay, so, the other shoe is that we're going to Virginia for a few days?
I shrugged – not because I didn't care, but to show that I was fine with that. "I'm sure my teachers will understand. We're doing the state testing, though, so I'll have to get a makeup date for it."
"No, honey… umm…"
No? What no?
"Your father and I will be going alone. Waylon's family has asked that we come out for a while. Help them with the funeral, the eulogy…"
Oh. Okay. I guess that was alright. I could probably stay with Angela.
"We made arrangements for you to stay with the Cullens for the next two weeks, while we're gone."
Or maybe not. But, the Cullens? I mean, Dr. Cullen was great – I'd seen him enough times during my accident-prone life to know that much – but his kids… Well, no one ever saw them. If it wasn't for the pictures of them in his office, I would swear Dr. and Mrs. Cullen didn't have kids at all.
They were all homeschooled, and they never appeared in public. The rumor around town was that they have some kind of rare skin condition. It was bound to be awkward, but with my dad's grief, and my mom's sullen mood, I didn't feel right arguing. I could survive two weeks of uncomfortable. I'd become a pro at surviving the uncomfortable. After all, Charlie and Renee excelled in creating that kind of atmosphere on a near constant basis.
"Um, okay," I muttered. There really wasn't anything else I could say.
"We're leaving for the airport in an hour," my mom informed me, "so you don't have to pack now if you don't want to. Just take what you need for tonight, and Edward will bring you back tomorrow, after school, to get whatever else you need."
Edward? There's a name you don't hear much. Well, not anymore. Old-fashioned names just aren't in style, even in the tiny town of Forks. Maybe he liked to go by Ed or Eddie.
I nodded stupidly – you know, that kind of head-bobbly thing one does when one has been thrown for a loop – then I stood and headed for my room.
I grabbed just the necessities. Nightclothes, a change for school tomorrow, toiletries, and my laptop. When I got back downstairs, my mom was standing in the entranceway, waiting. Dad hadn't moved from his seat on the couch.
"Edward is right outside, baby," Renee told me. "He's in the silver Volvo."
Ah. Yeah. I'd seen the car when I first pulled into the driveway, parked on the street nearby, and had briefly wondered why it was there. No one in our neighborhood had cars that nice. I saw that someone was sitting inside of it, but with the darkened windows, I couldn't tell who.
My mom hugged me fiercely, like I was going off to college and wouldn't see her for months. It felt… odd. I imagined the emotional scene when I actually did go off to college.
"Be good," she asked of me – a mom's typical words to a child before they went off for a sleepover – then she opened the door for me since my hands were full.
A strange feeling came over me as I carefully took the steps down to the walkway. Like I really was going off to college or something, and wouldn't see my parents again for months. My mom's mood was probably just rubbing off on me.
Dismissing it, I glanced in the direction that I'd seen the Volvo in earlier, and that's when I saw him. Edward, I could only assume, standing beside his car, his hands in his pockets, looking… bored? There really wasn't a single word I could find to describe the expression on his face. Confused, I looked away, down to my feet to make sure they were moving properly. As uncoordinated as I've always been, it would be just my luck that I would face-plant right in front of this guy.
When I looked back up, he was approaching me.
"Hello. I'm Edward Cullen. You're Bella?"
Obviously. And, wow. This guy could be on the radio. He had the smoothest voice I had ever heard. But, no, he was too beautiful for radio. I nodded. Again, stupidly.
"Allow me to help you with that," he offered, reaching for my duffle and laptop bag.
One word came to mind as I handed the items over… formal. Definitely not an Ed or Eddie.
"I was very sorry to hear about Mr. Forge. Were you as close to him as your father was?"
I followed him to his car, watched him place my crap in the trunk, and it was only then that I found my voice to answer him. "Not as close, but he's always been a good family friend."
He closed the trunk lid – effortlessly, yet it still slammed – and then he was facing me. "I'm very sorry for your loss."
I nodded stupidly once again. And then it felt like time didn't make sense as I made my way to the passenger side of his car. I actually startled when he reached past me to open my door. Very formal. I slipped into my seat, and I heard him close my door, but then it seemed like I merely blinked and he was behind the wheel, starting the car.
The drive to his house was strange. His body language was… I don't know… Stiff? His grip on the steering wheel was firm. Intense. And he almost seemed to be in pain. If I didn't know it to be impossible, I would've sworn he wasn't even breathing.
This was going to be the longest two weeks of my life.
His house finally came into view as he traversed the winding trail that led to it. And, okay, I'm not one for materialistic things, but wow. It was huge. The walls were actually made of glass!
We pulled up in front, and then a short blink later and he was at my door, opening it for me. Time was definitely distorted. Maybe I was more rattled by Mr. Forge's death than I thought, or outwardly felt.
"Wait here, please."
I did, only vaguely aware that he was fetching my stuff from the trunk. I felt tense in a way I couldn't ever remember feeling before, but there was no obvious reason for it, other than being out of my element. These people were strangers to me. Yeah, I knew who Dr. Cullen was, I'd seen him enough times at the hospital, but I didn't actually know him. I found myself really wishing I could have stayed with Angela. Maybe I still could. When my mom called to check in, I'd ask her.
"We can go inside now."
His voice shook me from my thoughts. Nodding, I followed him up the steps. A familiar face greeted me as we entered. Dr. Cullen always did have a calming effect. I attributed it to his bedside manner. I'm sure he had to comfort patients all the time.
His smile was kind but reserved.
"Bella, welcome to our home."
"Um, thanks," I said. Then, remembering my manners, I added, "Thank you for having me."
"Not at all."
The beautiful woman who said this was most likely Dr. Cullen's wife. She had a warm welcoming way about her that instantly put me a little at ease.
"Bella, this is my wife, Esme."
Esme? What an unusual name. But, somehow, it seemed to suit her. I tried to smile, but I was sure it looked strained. It felt strained.
"I'm so sorry for your loss, dear."
My warped smile dropped. "Thank you."
"How is your father doing, Bella? I know he and Waylon were good friends."
Before I could answer, I caught Edward shaking his head out of the corner of my eye.
"Yes, well, I'm sure he's very upset."
"Yeah." I replied to Dr. Cullen's comment the only way I knew how. Upset didn't quite describe what my dad looked like. He looked unhinged, in a stoic kind of way. Almost catatonic.
Then I noticed the four people entering the room, just behind the doctor and Esme. Each one of them was more beautiful than the last. A family of models. Great. Staying here for the next two weeks was going to kill my self-esteem, I was sure of it.
That was the thought that kept running through my head as the doctor introduced them.
Alice seemed unusually friendly, like we'd known each other all our lives. The big guy, Emmett, he seemed amused by me. Jasper – another unusual name – kept his distance, like he was almost afraid of me. Then there was Rosalie. She didn't care for me. I came to this conclusion because when she said hello to me, her tone was curt, and her eyes narrowed on me, almost suspiciously, when she did.
Weird. A weird family full of beautiful models. They all seemed related, though the story around town was that they were adopted. They all had the same porcelain white skin, and their eyes were all the same golden brown color. The skin tone was probably due to the skin condition they were all rumored to have, but the eyes? It was an unusual color, anyway, and with them all matching…
"Edward, why don't you take Bella to her room now. Help her get settled in."
Right. Edward. He was standing behind me still, slightly off to the side. I could see him out of my peripheral vision, but I could also sense his presence.
I could hear everyone in the room we had just left, speaking quietly as Edward and I climbed the stairs, but I couldn't make out what was being said. I could imagine, though. My presence was just as awkward for them as being here was for me.
I followed Edward down the hall, more at his side than behind him, until we reached the end. The door to the room in front of us was open, and I could tell as I peeked beyond the jamb that it was lived in. Like, it was someone's room, not just some guest room.
"Um… yeah. This is my room. Your room, for the next two weeks."
Wait. No. I didn't want to uproot anyone.
"You don't have to give up your room," I told him. Then I made the mistake of looking up at him.
Whoa. That's it. Just 'whoa'. My heart literally sputtered into an absurdly fast rhythm. His eyes were intense. Like they were trying to stare directly into my soul.
"I don't mind."
I blinked, trying to break eye contact, but found that I couldn't.
"I don't want to be a bother," I whispered. My voice sounded like it was a million miles away.
"You're not being a bother, Bella."
When he said my name, I felt a surge of adrenalin. He said it with such reverence.
"But, where will you sleep?"
He quirked an eyebrow, his expression somewhere between quizzical and amused. But he didn't answer. He just walked into the room and set my things down on his bed. A bed that looked like it hadn't been slept in a day in its life.
I followed him in, apprehensively. The outer walls of his room were glass, too. He had racks of books, a flat, widescreen TV hanging above his desk, and a shelf with a high-tech stereo and an insane amount of CDs. This kid wasn't spoiled or anything. But on a doctor's salary, I guess Dr. Cullen could afford the very best for his family.
On a police chief's salary, I was ecstatic to get an iPod from my parents for Christmas last year. My cell phone and laptop were deemed necessities.
"Is there anything else that you need?"
I needed my heart to stop racing, but since he seemed to be the cause of that, I doubted he could help me there. I shook my head.
"I'll leave you to get settled, then."
I blinked, and I could just make out his retreating form as he disappeared down the hall. How did he keep doing that? Or maybe it was me. Maybe I was blinking weird. I tried it out, but they seemed like normal blinks to me.
I scoffed, shaking my head as I began to wander. The window at the back – not a window, really, but like a door – opened up to the edge of the forest nearby. Ever so carefully, I inched to the edge and looked down. It was quite a drop. I'd break my neck for sure if I fell, but I didn't feel I had the right to close it up. Glad I don't sleepwalk. I've been told that I sleep talk, but since I'm always unconscious when I'm asleep, I could only take people's word for it.
The feeling that I didn't belong overwhelmed me as I sat on the edge of the bed. I just knew that sleeping would be impossible. I would be spending the next two weeks staring at a stranger's ceiling, watching the hours pass until the sun came up. I would be useless at school. How long can someone go without sleeping? I guessed I was about to find out.
They left me alone for the two hours that followed. I pulled out my laptop and tried to do some homework, but the strange surroundings made it difficult to concentrate. And then I smelled food. And, God, it smelled amazing. My stomach growled at me, demanding I go investigate.
I figured out how to get to the living room – just a reverse trip from before – but then I had to follow my nose to get to the kitchen.
They were all in there. There was a TV on the counter, tuned to some cooking show they all seemed to be following. I was standing there for seconds only when they all turned to face me, almost in unison. It was… eerie.
"Bella, I hope you're hungry."
My eyes shifted to find the source of the statement. Esme.
I nodded as my stomach growled again. Remembering my manners – something I'd never had to give a second thought to before – I asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"
Intimidating. That was the word. That's why my manners seemed to be a struggle to find. That's why I felt awkward. These people were intimidating. Not in the 'I'm afraid of them' kind of way, though.
"How very considerate of you to offer," Esme answered, "but you're our guest."
Okay, so that was a no. Was I supposed to just stand there and watch them? Leave the room and come back later? That was the intimidating thing. I didn't know how to act around them. It wasn't just a middle class/upper class conundrum. It was something else entirely.
"Edward, why don't you go see if you can find something on TV for Bella to watch before dinner."
I looked to the floor, uncomfortable. It was then that I noticed the boxes. Empty boxes, but with bright pictures of cookware and dishes on the sides. What, did they go out and buy new pots and pans, just because I was staying here for two weeks?
Edward walked past me then. His body language seemed to be encouraging me to follow him, so I did. I took a seat on the couch, which was facing a flat screen TV like the one in Edward's room, only larger. He sat after I did, also on the couch, but to the farthest edge that he could. Like he couldn't get far enough away from me.
He turned the TV on, but I only watched it blankly. And he wasn't watching it all. He was staring at me.
You know how when you're passing the scene of an accident, and you look, even though you know you won't like what you see? Yeah. That was what it was like. But like an onlooker of a grisly accident, I had to do it.
I turned to stare back, but as soon as I did, his eyes shifted away. He didn't seem embarrassed, like he had averted his eyes because he had been caught, but another explanation escaped me. I turned back to the TV.
Then, a few seconds later, I felt his stare on me again. It was unnerving.
It was about thirty minutes later – or maybe it was a decade… it sure felt like it was – and dinner was ready.
And just when I thought things couldn't get any weirder, they did.
To be continued…
Hello! I'm new to this fandom, and a new 'Twilight' fan as well. Please, be gentle (smile).
This fic will be a more 'domesticated' slant on Edward and Bella's love story. Alternative Universe, but with a lot of canon thrown in here and there, just in different ways.
I tried to get everyone in character as much as possible, but Bella specifically might seem just a tad OOC. Sorry about that, but I'm having a blast writing her this way. My beta tells me I have Edward pretty close to spot-on.
Just FYI, but I have a lot of this fic already completed – about half, actually – but will only be posting about two chapters per week. Why? Well, to put it simply, I'm a review junkie. I need them to survive, you see, so, the more I get, the faster I post. Wanna see more fast? Please review!
Thanks, and MTLBYAKY
I have written my first novel! 'The Mengliad' is available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle versions, and the sequel, 'The Registry's Secrets', will be available soon!
"There are a lot of beliefs out there. Some people think we got here by spacecraft. Some think we evolved, like Humans, but in a slightly different direction. Some think we were created by God, after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. However we came to be, the truth of the matter is, there are two species that are near-identical in every way that inhabit the Earth. One is Human, one is Mengliad."
What would you do if you learned that there was a separate Human-like species on the planet? Jessica Mitchell is about to be faced with that very question. The strange flu bug she seems to have caught quickly becomes the least of her worries. While on her way home from work, she passes out in Central Park, only to regain consciousness hours later, under the gaze of a kind but odd stranger. This Good Samaritan offers his assistance, and subsequently opens the gate to a world she knows nothing about.
Initially, Jessica is reluctant to believe what Craddock Daniels tells her, but after the unsettling reality sinks in, she feels she has no choice but to follow him and his friends. Changes are taking place, and she is now in danger because of them. Will Craddock be able to protect her? Does Jessica possess the strength to endure all that is happening to her? Can love really blossom under the direst of circumstances?
THE MENGLIAD is a romance adventure novel with a sci-fi flavor. At over 112,000 words, this story evokes a sense of how horrible it would be to have everything you knew pulled from under you.