There was little sun in Forks, if any at all. It rarely breached the heavy clouds that hung low over the town, but when it did, it lit up the place in radiance.
Green everywhere - that’s the first thing Bella noticed when she and her father entered the town limits. It was so green , almost like it was a whole nother planet. Planet Forks, Bella thought wryly to herself. Where sunshine goes to die.
Charlie wasn’t a big talker, so Bella tried to fill the silence by herself. He interspersed now and then with an “Uh-huh” or a “Yeah,” but aside from that he said little. Until:
“You think you’ll meet any cute boys at school, Bells?”
Bella froze, almost choking on her own spit. This was one subject she’d never breached with her father before, not ever. And she was loath to start now. “Um,” she said, probably too quickly. “No.”
Charlie quirked an eyebrow. “That’s a shame, you know - there’s lots of nice kids in town your age. Lots going to the community college in Port Angeles.”
Bella hummed. “Sure,” she said. “I bet.” She tried to change the subject. “Hey, is there anywhere good to eat around here?” She was used to fast-food joints aplenty back in Phoenix, but here it seemed that every restaurant was a mom-and-pop place, wholly unfamiliar to her.
“Oh, sure,” Charlie said agreeably. “There’s my favorite diner, of course, and there’s… Well, there’s not much else. But we can eat at the diner tonight, if you’d like.”
She would like that. “Okay,” she said. “Sounds good.”
They drove in silence that wasn’t quite comfortable for several minutes longer before arriving at their final destination: the Swan house. It was just as Bella remembered, off-white and two-story, with a large front porch and attached garage.
“Is my room the same?” she asked quietly. If it was, she rather wanted to rush up the stairs, fling herself onto her bed, and stare at the ceiling for at least an hour before doing anything remotely close to unpacking. If it wasn’t the same, she didn’t know what she’d do.
“Yeah,” Charlie said. “It’s the same room, obviously, if that’s what you mean. And it’s barely been touched since - well, since you moved out, you know. New bedspread, though. Purple.”
That sounded good to her. She nodded and stared out the car window for a moment before leaping out of the stopped vehicle.
The driveway was slick. Her feet felt unstable under her, and she made sure to tread carefully as she made her way up the porch steps, beside the ramp that went up to the house. “Why the ramp?” she asked, curious.
“Oh, that’s for Billy Black,” Charlie said happily. “I built that a few years back.”
“Jacob Black’s dad,” Charlie said. “You know - you two used to make mud pies together at La Push.”
Bella thought she might have remembered, albeit vaguely. “Right.” She wasn’t sure on the details, though. “So why does he need a ramp?”
“Ah,” Charlie said. “I forgot you didn’t know. He started using a wheelchair a couple of years back, now.”
Bella nodded as she opened the front door and stepped inside. In the house, it was just like she recalled. The kitchen with its sunshine-yellow cabinets, which her mom had painted over two decades ago now. The living room, boasting a comfy-looking leather couch. The stairs were the same, too, and -
“One bathroom, still, right?” she asked.
“Yup,” Charlie said cheerfully. “Same as always, Bells.”
Great . She hoped Charlie didn’t take too long in the bathroom; she didn’t take much time in there, herself, most of the time, but the last thing she wanted to deal with was the frustration of a bathroom hog in the house.
“I’m gonna go look at my old room,” she said after a moment’s silence, and bounded up the stairs. There was the bathroom door, and then there was her bedroom door - she pushed it open - and yes, her bedroom was almost exactly the same as she’d left it. The grade-school pictures she’d drawn still hung on the walls, and the slanted ceiling had more drawings taped to it, too. The bedsheets were, yes, purple.
Bella set down the cactus she’d carried into the house. It was small and prickly - rather like her, she thought. She went back downstairs shortly to carry up her things, and found her dad had already unloaded them from the car.
“Dad - you didn’t have to go to the trouble,” she told him.
He looked up from carrying her things up the steps. “Ah, no trouble at all,” he said cheerfully. “Though I’d appreciate if you’d take one of these bags upstairs yourself,” he added. “Whatcha got in here - rocks?”
Bella smiled, but it was forced. She didn’t have lots of clothes, or many belongings aside from her drawing supplies, but that hadn’t stopped her dad from making jokes about the heft of her things. Not that she really cared all that much. It was just such a dad thing to do, she thought, and it would take some getting used to.
Phil had tried to make dad jokes like that all the time. They’d always fallen flat.
Bella grabbed two of the duffel bags and began to haul them up the stairs. They were kind of heavy, she realized - or maybe she was just out of shape. Either way, she managed to get them up into her room and, realizing that she’d just live out of them indefinitely if given the option, upended them onto her bed. Then she stared at the resulting mess in regret.
“Whatcha doing that for?” Charlie asked behind her. She hadn’t realized he’d followed her up the stairs.
Bella mumbled something about getting a head start on putting her items away.
“That’s fair,” Charlie said, still upbeat. “Hey - if you’re hungry, we’ve got snacks in the fridge and the pantry.”
“Cool,” Bella said without enthusiasm. But she was rather hungry, and she appreciated the small gesture that would make her feel more at home.
In the pantry there were Goldfish crackers, Saltine crackers, and Townhouse crackers. Lots of crackers, she thought, and what was there to put on them? She peeked into the fridge and saw a log of summer sausage, as well as some hard cheeses, like cheddar. She could slice those up and have a good snack, she thought.
That’s exactly what she did. She didn’t have much else to garnish her miniature charcuterie board with, but she still enjoyed the meat-and-cheese snack. She wondered if Charlie ever ate much more than meat, cheese, and pasta - she’d found Bolognese leftovers in a Tupperware in the fridge, too. If this was the case, she might have to intervene.
In the other room, Charlie was watching some sport on the flat-screen television. She wondered how he could afford a nice TV like that, being a park ranger and all. And she wasn’t interested in sports, not even a little - but she went and sat down on the couch next to him and watched it - it turned out to be basketball - for a bit before asking the question on her mind.
“Do you think I’ll like it here?” she said softly.
Charlie muted the game. “What do you mean, Bells?” he asked.
Bella shrugged noncommittally. “I mean… is it gonna be that much different from Phoenix?” she said. “Aside from the it’s-a-small-town thing.”
“How do you mean?” He turned to look at her better; she was sitting there with her legs pulled up to her chest.
“Is this really going to be a fresh start?” she asked, “or am I going to just… stagnate, again?”
Charlie sighed softly. “I think it’s a choice that you’re gonna have to make, kiddo,” he said. “Whether you, er, stagnate. There’s more opportunity here than you think; I’d bet on it.”
She shrugged again. “Okay,” she said finally. “If you really think so.”
And with that, she nodded, hopped up off the couch, and went up to her room. Charlie un-muted the TV as she left, and the sounds of the squeaking shoes and the ball hitting the floor resumed.
They went out to eat at the diner that night, just as Charlie had promised. He ordered a steak burger and fries, and Bella decided to get the same thing - it sounded too good to resist.
“You know, this is pretty bad for you,” she commented lightly as the food arrived.
Charlie grinned up at the waitress. “That’s what makes it so good!” he declared. “Heck, I’ve been coming here for who-knows-how-long and it’s always been just the best.”
The waitress smiled at the two of them. “So glad to hear that,” she said. “I’ll have to relay that back to the chef in the back; he’ll like to hear that.”
The two of them dug into their food as the waitress walked away. They ate in silence for a few moments, and finally Charlie spoke up again after putting down his burger.
“So,” he said. “General studies, huh?”
Bella nodded, swallowing a bite of her food. “Yeah,” she said. “General studies.”
“What about it appeals to you?” he asked. He was evidently curious why she would go into such a vague area of study.
“I can do anything with a general studies degree,” she answered automatically, then mentally kicked herself - she didn’t really want to give her dad a watered-down, PG version of why she chose it. “I mean.”
“It’s fine,” Charlie said, chuckling. “If you just don’t know what you wanna do yet, that’s fine. You’ve got plenty of time to figure that out.”
Bella nodded. Truth be told, that’s exactly why she’d chosen the path she was on. She had no idea what she wanted to do with her life as of yet, and she had a feeling that even as another few years went by between now and graduation, she’d still be uncertain.
“Yeah,” she said. “Cool, thanks.”
Charlie nodded too. “Finish your dinner, kid,” he said. “We can get blueberry cobbler afterwards, like we used to.”
Bella could hardly sleep that night. She tossed and turned in her bed, wrapping the purple blankets around her, then peeling them all off. She couldn't figure out if she was hot or cold, or too hungry or too thirsty, or what. Eventually she got up and decided to try having a drink of water; that ought to fix whatever was going on.
She crept down the stairs, watching the moonlight’s shadows stretch across the floor like fingers. The kitchen was dark, dim, the yellow cabinets looking almost gray in her night vision. Bella poured herself a glass of water and sipped at it, meandering about the little kitchen as she did so.
A howl ripped through the night air.
Bella froze, almost spilling her water. Was that - could it be - a wolf?
The howl was joined by another, louder howl. They sounded melancholy, as though something was terribly amiss.
Bella hadn’t realized there were wolves around here. She finished her drink and put the glass in the sink, telling herself she’d wash it in the morning. She went back up the stairs and slid into bed, feeling the still-warm sheets around her. The howling was still going, and it unnerved her. It sounded foreign, wholly unlike anything she’d ever heard before.
Before Bella drifted off to sleep, she wondered if the wolves were indeed unhappy, or whether they howled to rejoice in some great wolfy thing, like, perhaps, the moon.