Not many people like the dark, they find it threatening but I disagree. For the longest of times there was nothing but the deepest darkness and love, so much love. All I could do was feel and it was wonderful. A touch, for there was a sensation of being held. A sweet smell I strain to remember; A silent cold kiss against my forehead, and a soothing voice that managed to distract me from the urgent yearning that overtook me at times. The thirst. This was all the unpleasantness I knew, it was all the misery I could perceive. Everything else was an enveloping warmth that appeased and pacified me.
"Isabella, Isabella." she whispered, her voice was the only sound I ever cared to listen. I knew that word meant me. My thirst was quenched promptly after igniting, with a sweet scented liquid that the arms that held me adoringly provided, so I hardly thought of it until it needed to be satiated again. A world where your needs are met, is a world of happiness. I was happy in this small universe that was my home.
One day, however, there was trembling. I was no longer held, which was a common occurrence. Many times I was left alone before being fed again. This time was different, she didn't come back. I was not afraid, merely impatient awaiting for her return.
I don't see darkness as threatening. When others think of the dark, they think of fear. I think of home.
"I'm on vacation, you know, I don't need this." after hers, that was the first voice I ever heard. A voice that seemed coarse compared to the melodic sound I was habituated to. I was beginning to feel thirsty, and I realized, the cold hard figure that held me snugly by her side was still gone. For a moment I was curious, wondering what the other voices meant, and for the first time, I paid attention to the sounds beyond those I already knew.
"It's probably nothing," yet another voice replied and it was as deep and as hoarse as the other one. "Must be some dead animal rotting. Checking it out will give an old woman some peace, Charlie, it'll just take a second." There were other noises, sequential thumps, brushing of fabric, crunching of grass and the sounds of other creatures: buzzing, crawling and more. At that moment I didn't know what the sounds meant, they were all noise to me.
"You better get me a beer. I did not come all the way to Phoenix to look for dead vermin." There was a sound, a throaty sound in response to that, the voice was now higher in its pitch as it spoke. There was an emotion to it I did not recognize. My curiosity flared and I paid closer attention.
"If it's something cooler than a huge ass lizard, I'll get you a beer." Then an intense interference to my darkness, a loud screech and there was light. I immediately disliked it. It was intrusive, it was blinding, it made everything so sharp and overwhelming.
"Oh God!" the second voice whispered. The emotion was repellent this time and I did not like it. I was suddenly uncomfortable. I yearned not to quench my thirst, but to be held again and taken away from the light.
"What the fuck?" said the first voice. All sound ceased except for that made by their breaths and two thumping sounds that were persistently rising in cadence. I paid attention to them for a moment, noticing how there was an almost indistinct gushing of liquid that accompanied them. More breathing, a whimper and a loud thump. The sound startled me, I was frightened. "Ernie, call for back up, now!" it was too loud, I started to cry.
I could not see anything because of the light, I shut my eyes fiercely. I heard my own cry added to the other noises, it stunned me, too since I had never heard it before. I wanted it to stop but I couldn't help myself. "Ernie! There's something here!" the voice said. Someone approached rapidly and I was too perturbed to pay attention to the sounds around me anymore. Then, I felt someone grabbing me. "It's a... a baby." The first voice said. His warmth and softness was as foreign as his voice. "You're going to be all right. You're going to be fine, honey." The voice repeated over and over again. Whatever was holding me was warm, soft and smelled like the liquid that always satisfied my thirst. I turned towards it. I tried to reach it. I did what I always did, I bit. "Ouch!" the one holding me recoiled. "I guess you're hungry." he whispered, snuggling me closer. "Let's get you out of here."
"Charlie, what is that?" the voice was back, the unpleasant emotion bursting in each word.
"A baby, Ernie, in the middle of all this. Can you believe it?" he complained. We were moving. I opened my eyes, the need to comprehend what was happening, overcame the dread that hindered my behavior. I could see now, but nothing made sense. I closed my eyes, again. I cuddled closer towards the one holding me, managing to ignore the fragrance emanating from him. I would not feed now. I was too confused.
"How many were there, Charlie?" the other voice asked.
"I saw two or three. The baby was in a blanket in the back. I didn't even reach the second room, but the stench was strong, there has to be more." I felt his voice vibrating around my body, as well as the thumping that I now understood came from within the one holding me. We stopped moving when we reached a shade. A warm hand touched my cheek.
"Who would do something like that?" the other one asked. He was closer and I did not like it. I started crying again.
"Shh, shh, honey. It will be fine." He held me closer against him. And I heard something in his voice. An emotion maybe, he was being kind. His warmth went beyond the one I could feel in his body, he was being affectionate to me like the one that held me before him. Regardless of the evident differences, they shared an emotion. I clung to that, the only thing I could recognize. "Whoever it was, they're gone. Let's go wait by the car Ern, I don't want the baby around all of this." It held me closer. I closed my eyes, I was so tired I knew sleep would come soon. I knew I could let go, he would take care of me.
Light wasn't so bad once you got used to it. Neither was Charlie, my father. I'd been right to trust him, once he found me he never let go. I was older now and I knew a lot more things, including that I loved him back.
We lived in Phoenix. We'd stayed in the city despite the fact that Charlie was not from around here. He was from a place called Forks, in Washington. We did go over there every summer though, and I realized I preferred it to the desert. The woods were beautiful, and Charlie's house was not as secluded. In Phoenix, he'd gotten an isolated property for my sake. Close enough for him to work in town but far enough that my interactions with others were limited.
I was different. In a myriad of ways, my dad didn't even know half of it. At first I didn't know, of course, you only notice the peculiarities about yourself once you compare yourself to others. With me it was no different. And like most people, I learned to hide what was not pleasant for others to see. Try as I may, some things were too evident to miss.
"Come on Bells, I'm almost done with my second serving and you haven't even touched your food." We were sitting down by the tiny kitchen table, he always came for dinner and I had a meal prepared. This was Charlie's parenting at his greatest, he loved lecturing me on my poor eating habits. I ate two meals a day and they mostly consisted of candy. It wasn't my fault, I only liked sweet things. And even candy couldn't really satisfy my hunger.
"I already ate while I cooked dad." I said with a smile an innocent look that usually distracted him. Finding that you can actually charm people into conceding your point was quite the discovery for me. He frowned, apparently I was losing my touch.
"Bells, I said I was on board with you being a vegetarian, but you actually need to eat something other than sweets to be one. Don't vegetarians eat that mushy stuff all the time?" I smiled. I became a vegetarian so I could excuse myself from an entire food group.
"You mean tofu?" he nodded distractedly as he took a bite of his steak.
"Yeah, that's it. And I haven't seen you eat any broccoli either." he disapproved. I whined and put some broccoli on my plate. I took a bite. He grinned widely. We ate in silence for a while. I still could hear everything though, his breathing, the food moving inside his mouth, his heart beating. I was just much better at focusing on what was important and tuning the rest out.
"Did you finish your book already?" he asked, always making an effort to make conversation and appear as if he knew what I did when he left for work and I was left behind to do as I pleased. I mostly just read anyway, I never got into real trouble.
"Which one?" He usually thought it took me over a month to read every book, which was a tremendous misconception. His brow furrowed in concentration.
"The one with the crazy man that talks to a skull?" I had to laugh at that.
"Hamlet? I finished it weeks ago. And by the way, I know that that is a cartoon reference." he shrugged and took another bite of his steak.
"I got my point across," I rolled my eyes at him. "Bells, I was thinking, you're going to get your middle school diploma soon." I was homeschooled. "And you know, you're older now, you shouldn't have to be stuck in the house all day."
"What are you getting at, dad?" I drank some grape juice. No amount of juice or any other drink for that matter seemed to do anything to make me feel less thirsty. I'd given up years ago.
"Would you like to go to school in town, with other kids, maybe?" he was anxious. I thought about his proposal, it didn't seem scary. In fact, it seemed exciting. Other people intrigued me. Most of the time I preferred to be alone but sometimes I wanted to go out and talk to someone other than the lady at the library, the man at the bookstore or Charlie.
"Would it be ok if I did?" we never actually talked about how different I was, but I had to ask.
"Yes. We can lie about your age," I raised my eyebrows, Charlie was usually very compliant when it came to rules. I had to be amused even if it was the wrong sentiment in this serious conversation.
"Dad! Look at you! All rebellious and wild. Are we to forget any remnants of respect for the rules that separate us from complete savagery-" he rolled his eyes and quickly interrupted my little speech on morality and wrongdoing.
"If you're going to school you better start talking more like a kid and less like an old lady." I laughed.
"Don't worry, I'll adapt my vocabulary to their sensibilities. I'll even make an effort to learn some slang. I'll be successfully corrupted by the end of the school year. I might even curse." I winked. He was no longer anxious and he had finished his dinner.
"I'm glad you see it that way, honey. I worry that you're not getting involved enough with kids your age because of that homeschool thing." I could hear how guilty he was, I touched his hand.
"I'm great, dad. You've done a great job." He blushed slightly and he smiled. We really were not good at talking about all the emotional stuff. He covered my hand with his nonetheless.
"I'm glad you think so, Bella. I want you to be happy." Charlie was always so unexpectedly sweet.
"I am." there was a brief silence and then I began to get uncomfortable with so much emotion being laid out. "Can I have some ice cream now?" It worked, he laughed.
"Only if you get me a scoop." I did. He was so happy with his banana pudding ice cream he didn't notice when I put away my untouched broccoli.
Jason should've told me. I knew Ernie the longest but that was why I didn't like him. He always acted weird around me. Like he was afraid or something. Even before he said it I could tell he was uncomfortable. I hugged my knees tighter to my chest, it was a good thing he'd made me sit down before telling me the news. I took a cushion and wrapped my arms around it, I wanted to feel some pressure against my chest.
"So you have a choice, but honestly, I would do what Charlie wanted you to do, Bella. Go to Forks, you have family there." he never looked at me as he spoke. He was staring at the floor. I didn't have a family. I had when Charlie was alive. Now he was dead and I was alone. I was an orphan again.
"If I go to Forks, what will happen to all of this?" I said looking around my tiny living room.
"You can take whatever you want, the rest I can sell. I'll just put it all in your account so you can use it up there." I nodded.
"Thank you, Ernie." With his purpose fulfilled, he walked toward the main entrance.
"If you ever need anything, Bella," I didn't need to hear the end of the sentence, it was false anyway.
"Thank you." I interrupted, I knew I'd never see him again. He left. I went to Charlie's room and wrapped myself in his old red flannel shirt. I turned off the lights in the house before returning to his room where I buried myself under his blankets to make it darker. Now I couldn't even see the light from the numbers in his alarm clock. I thought how I should disable the thing, he wouldn't need to get up at five anymore.
I cried as I did my best not to think about anything. I didn't want to think about what had happened, the funeral that would come, or the fact that I would move to an Indian reservation in less than three weeks with people I had only occasionally seen before. I thought about the fabric of his shirt, and his smell. I remembered the exact sound of his heart beating under me the first time he picked me up. I sobbed some more.
I fell asleep at some point, wrapped in the memory of my father. I dreamt of being held by my mother and the song she hummed. I didn't usually want to remember that song, because it made me sad and I had Charlie to cling to, there had been no need to remember. Now that I didn't have him, I could let myself mourn. I woke up with my parents' voices still clear in my head. Isabella my mother crooned. Bells my dad said, and I could hear the smile in his voice.
I could have lived here, in Charlie's old house, but Billy made it clear that my dad's last request was for me to live with them back at the reservation. No need to discuss it further. Their house was very small but I was used to living in a small place so I didn't mind. Billy was always very nice to me and Jake was around my age. Or at least the age that I appeared to be. I even looked a little older than him.
I was here for a week when the things Ernie sent finally arrived. Jake and Billy offered to help me unpack. It was mostly boxes since I asked Ernie to sell all of the furniture except for my rocking chair. Everything that belonged to Charlie I put in his room, from a big box of files to all his clothes. I still hadn't gotten around to dispose of them.
"Where do you want this?" said Jacob as he stood at the entrance of my dad's house with a box that had 'Kitchen' written in big black letters.
"The kitchen would be fine." I said and he smiled. We had the funeral in Forks so they were with me, Jacob seemed appropriately sad then. But right after that, he'd been smiling all the time. He was just so genuinely cheery.
"Will do!" he said happily and went on to the kitchen. I was deciding where to put some of my books since I had already ran out of space back at the reservation when I heard a loud creaking sound followed by a thump. I followed the sound into the kitchen, Jacob was standing in the middle of the room, still holding the box and one of the counter's yellow doors was on the floor next to him.
"Did that just break?" great, I hadn't been in the house alone for one hour and it was already falling apart. He nodded.
"Just missed my foot, too." he said, still in a good mood. He put the box aside and picked it up. He began moving the hinge that was still attached to it. "The hinge was loose, you might have to change the whole thing." That did nothing to improve my sullen mood. "And that counter top needs to be replaced." I wanted to immediately refute his evaluation, but the hole between the counter top and the sink, made my argument moot.
"Great." I said, loathing the overall decay of insignificant furniture. It was like an omen of bad things to come.
"Don't worry, I can fix it." to my surprise, he wasn't being sarcastic.
"Really?" forever smiling, he nodded.
"Just need some tools and some supplies and we'll be good to go. We can go around the house and see if anything else needs work. That way if you ever want to crash here, you don't have to be afraid that a ceiling tile will drop on your head." For once his enthusiasm seemed to move me.
"That would be great, Jake. Thanks." he grinned widely in response and I realized that that was the most positive thing I had said since I'd been here.
"Come on kids!" yelled Billy from the drivewar where he'd been talking to the moving guys "let's go get some dinner before we head back home, I'm starving!" Jake seemed excited.
"You'll love it, Bella, they have the best Rocky Road ever." I grinned. Genuinely. I followed him out and saw a very impatient Billy gesturing for us to get in the car already.
Charlie's plans to get me to school never came to fruition since by the time my middle school certificate was delivered it was the middle of the school year. We were going to wait until after the summer to enroll me in high school. He died before that happened. Billy however, didn't even think that being homeschooled was an option and enrolled me in Forks High School as soon as he was able. I would go to school in town since he wanted me to be able to socialize outside the reservation. So five months after Charlie's death, I was the new student in Forks High School.
I felt anxious from the moment I was in the parking lot. I had never actually been in a building with so many people at the same time for longer than a couple of minutes. Jake had been teasing me all week, making me even more nervous. Regardless of how amusing it was to be teased and tease him back, now all his jokes were taking a toll on my already faltering confidence. Jake liked to make fun of the big words I used, the fact that according to him I'd read more books than I was required to do in a lifetime and that I never watched television because I found it uninteresting. I knew he liked me regardless, but what if others did not share his opinion and only thought of me as weird?
Billy had given me his old truck as a welcome gift, so I drove it to school. I loved it since I was fascinated by the prospect of having something that was just my own. I went in the building and found the administrative offices easily.
"Hi, I'm Bella Swan." I said to the only person in the small office. She was wearing a purple shirt and I wondered if wearing a sweater would make me look overdressed. I never really minded the weather so I never knew if others were cold or not, I mostly guessed. She watched me curiously and then smiled widely after a brief pause.
"Welcome, Isabella, we've been waiting for you." she said with a smile and pried her eyes away from me. She took a piece of paper from a pile of folders and handed it to me. "Here is your schedule. I need you to ask your teachers on every class to sign it and at the end of the day, I'll take it back." I nodded, taking the paper.
"Thank you." I said and turned around. I hadn't completely stepped outside of the office when someone approached me.
"Hi!" He greeted me looking too perky for a Monday morning. I turned towards him and forced a friendly smile.
"Hello." His eyes widened a little and he was quiet for a long time.
"I'm Eric, you must be Bella." he stretched out his hand and I took it. He seemed nervous, a little fidgety. He looked at our hands. "You have very warm hands." Before I had time to panic about him noticing that, I noticed he was smiling widely. "Nice." he said and dropped my hand. "Come on, I'll show you where your first class is." I followed him and relaxed. So far, so good.
Maybe school wouldn't be so bad. People were staring, but then again, it seemed appropriate since I was new to the school. The rest of the day I met more people, they were all very friendly. I particularly remembered three girls, Jessica, Angela and Lauren. And aside from Eric, a boy named Mike that took over Eric's job of showing me the school as soon as we were introduced.
When I made it home, Jake surprised me by making dinner to celebrate my first day of school. He made pasta and salad but the best part was the dessert, he got some more of my favorite ice cream and a huge box of licorice just for me. Billy on the other hand, wanted to hear all about my day. We ate, played monopoly and then Jake and I watched TV before bed. These things reminded me of Charlie. I fell asleep with my head leaned on Jake's shoulder, I was already more content than I thought I would be again. People were not as scary as I'd thought, I realized with shock that I was looking forward to what lay ahead.