Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chapter One: The Road to Yes



To buy toilet paper or milk: that was Bella’s choice. She recounted her money, five dollars and thirty four cents in change. It would be all there was until another check arrived tomorrow. If it arrives.

She weighed the pros and cons of the two simple items, both necessary. The milk—well, Alice drank the milk like a starved vampire drinks blood: 'til every drop is gone. Bella liked to keep at least a half gallon in the fridge, because at fourteen years old, the calcium was good for her sister. Or at least, that's what they say. Who ever they were, anyway.
The need for toilet paper was obvious, or course. But it was harder to steal milk than it was to lift an extra roll from a public john. So, milk it was. She tried not to be embarrassed as she counted out the quarters and dimes until it totaled the requisite $2.56. With a long line behind her, she felt their eyes and assumptions slamming into her back, making her face pink up, her hands shake, and the simple math complex.

Finally, after a heavy sigh from the dumpy cashier who acted completely put out by the handful of metal tender, Bella left with her purchase. She planned to swing by Dunkin' Donuts, who had their extra rolls in an unsecured cabinet. After buying one Boston Cream, she had four rolls tucked in her huge purse for the reasonable price of eighty-nine cents.

She hated stealing. She missed being able to say she was an honest person. More so, however, because she sucked at it. If she got caught and arrested, Alice would have no one. Nothing. The younger sibling would be put in a group home if not some shitty foster situation where the "parents" were only in it for the extra money. Both of their lives would be, for all intents and purposes, over.

“So don’t get caught,” she muttered to herself as she started up the old beater she drove and headed home. Her conscience was perpetually nagging her, but she knew her only option was to do whatever it took to take care of her sister.

The day had been another disappointing, fruitless day of job hunting. No one wanted to hire an eighteen-year-old girl with nothing but babysitting on her resumé. She'd been to every store on the main street through Forks, the diner, the county library, and both major grocery stores. She even stopped at Newton's Outfitters and nearly begged the owner's pervy son Mike. He'd adjusted himself none too casually, drank her in head to toe, and explained that his parents were absolutely not hiring, "as much as I'd love to work with you."

Bella took the "no" with grace and walked out of the store before she "adjusted" him with her knee.

The manager at the second grocery store had told it to her straight. “Five years ago, I would have been begging you to come and work here. Now, I’m pulling in crowds just for the part-time bagger position. The guy I’m going to hire has his master's degree in political science. I’m sorry, Ms. Swan.”

She had nodded and took back her resumé, wondering how the hell a master's degree made someone more desirable to bag groceries. It wasn't like that helped one decide to put the bread on top of the eggs. Staring at the resumé in her hand as she walked out, she thought to herself, At least this dude didn’t mark it up; I can use it again. Paper costs money.

As she pulled into the driveway, the grinding sputtering noises that accompanied the engine shutting down caused her to cringe.

“Please keep this truck alive,” Bella prayed to no one in particular. It wasn't just that it was her only means of transportation in this shitty little town. It was one of the last material connections she had to her father. She really missed him, especially on days like this. He was the local police chief until he was killed on the job a couple of years ago. Charlie had been a genuinely good guy, simple in his requirements, and loved his girls more than anything else in the world.

Gathering herself and filling her lungs with forced resolve, Bella slid out of the truck with her milk. Alice walked onto the porch with a huge glass filled with, you guessed it, milk. “Hey, Bells! Any luck?”

Bella smiled even though her heart felt like a raisin, laid out in the sun long enough that any hope she had left began to feel like it had long since dried up. “I had a real promising interview. I feel good about it,” she lied convincingly as her sister followed her inside.

Well, the power’s still on. That’s something.

Bella set the jug of milk in the door of the refrigerator as Alice began her diatribe of teenage concerns. Fall semester, and ninth grade for Alice, began soon at Forks High School, and the supply list had come in the mail. Bella bit her lip as she read over line after line of items. It really wasn't that many, but given their situation, it felt never ending. Even watching the sales and scouring the circulars, buying Alice everything she needed could easily cost her up to a hundred dollars. That was a hundred more than she had to spare.

Alice easily sensed the concerns rolling off of Bella. “Why don’t I talk to the counselor at school? I bet they have grants for school supplies or a donation bin?” the younger Swan suggested, hoping to alleviate some of Bella's stress.

Bella bristled, holding up her index finger to stop her sister. “You need it, I’ll get it. We don’t have to tell anyone. If your teachers start nosing around..." she trailed off, her windpipe tightening at the thought. "Well, you know what might happen. I can't have that.”

Alice sighed. They were both equally terrified of the possibility of being split up. No judge in their right mind would give an unemployed teenager guardianship of Alice. She was a determined and feisty young girl, but Bella was afraid she would slip through the cracks of the overloaded, and underfunded system.

Bella internally cursed Renee. Their flighty mother had finally given up the façade of pretending to be the adult in the household. Renee had always resented their father for "handcuffing" her to this "shithole of a bumfuck town," as she so charmingly put it during their several late-night arguments. Those nights, Bella was in Alice's bed, cradling her young sister and trying to cover her ears. Alice could hear just fine, but it made Bella feel a little better, as though it protected the silently crying girl at all.

Then, several months ago, just before Bella graduated from high school, the three that remained of their family got into a particularly vicious fight. Everyone was yelling at everyone else, slinging blame like sloppy mud pies. When nothing was resolved to her satisfaction (namely with blame elsewhere than her shoulders), Renee had packed her things and left without another word.

Bella had stayed up until dawn waiting for Renee to turn her ass around after a few wandering hours, as she had done a few times after a big argument, but their mother had taken most of her portable belongings this time. Staring out the window at the street, the sun slowly peeked over the horizon and blinded Bella with its harsh light. Usually a quiet, beautiful morning was a welcome thing, but instead of bathing her in the peace and comfort of the sun's warmth, it burned her eyes. Tears trailed down her cheeks, the skin hot with heartbroken fury.

It had been six months. Their mother had not come back. Charlie was dead, and now Renee was as good as dead. Alice had taken the news that she'd not returned with inexplicable stride, as though she always knew it would happen eventually. That didn't hide her own wounds. They'd been abandoned by their mother, after all. The only person that was supposed to love them unconditionally.

Both shell-shocked and numb for a few weeks, the house stayed as clean as it always had, because Bella and Alice worked as a team to clean it. Sometimes, they cleaned together, silently, in the middle of the night because it was something to focus on when the grief and anxiety wouldn't let them sleep. The girls leaned heavily on one another, though Bella refused to allow herself to break down in front of Alice. She had all the responsibility now and it was quite a burden to bear. Almost every shower Bella took for the first month was nearly a half an hour long, thanks to unstoppable crying jags. After the first water bill came in, she relegated any emotional outbursts to the truck, if she allowed it to happen at all.

After Charlie died, Renee moved them into a small rental house, selling the home they grew up in. The girls fought her tooth and nail, but in the end, they had no real say. There was little profit to be made, but Renee "didn't want to be tied down to anything anymore." The full connotations were not lost on Bella.

Any money from the sale, and any insurance money left went in Renee's bank account, to which Bella had no access. She eventually found out it had been closed soon after she left, anyway. Charlie's small pension was honored, and soon after his death, Renee had it delivered to that account in a lump sum, save the many taxes and fees.

Once Renee had fled, Bella was left with her meager savings from babysitting the Clearwaters' son Seth all through high school. That savings was now gone, and all that supported them was Charlie's Social Security checks that thankfully still arrived every month. She often wondered if Renee forgot about those, or had the decency to leave her daughters with something to live on. Not that it covered all their bases—far from it. And even that was sketchy. The checks were addressed to Renee, so Bella would forge Renee's signature. Angela, the kind soul in the form of a bank teller, would cash them no questions asked. She knew Bella well enough and trusted her. Bella felt like a heel every time.

The next day came and went; no check arrived. Another day, and another jug of milk ... no check. Desperate, Bella called the Social Security office in Port Angeles to inquire, posing as Renee.

"Hello, Mrs. Swan. The change went into effect this pay period, so you should have received it at the new address. Let me make sure I have the correct information ..."

The words began to blur in her ears, dissolving into mush as the representative rattled off Renee's new address. Bella didn't want to know, but she hoped it was "Hell." Hanging up without saying anything further, Bella collapsed on the floor. There was no more money, and there was very little she could sell. She would not beg; she didn't want charity.

Alice was thankfully at a friend's house, so she could allow herself to cry openly, snot-sobbing and grabbing dishes to break. However satisfying, the hurt remained, loud and overwhelming. As hard as she'd tried to hold on to everything, to control, to calm, to ... whatever she had to to keep them afloat, Bella felt like she was watching their lives slip like oil between her fingers. Alice was all Bella had, and vice versa. That is, until someone figured out how to rob them of that, too.

She didn't give herself too much time to wallow, however, as she wanted to make sure the mess from her tantrum was cleaned up before Alice came home. After running a washrag under the tap, she wiped the distress from her face. She took a deep breath and worked to sweep up the shards of plates she'd destroyed, and whatever else she'd managed to smash. As she dragged the broom across the tile, her mind wove and darted in and through dark places. There were things she could do to get money, but she'd have to alter her principles a little bit. She refused to strip, or prostitute herself—what kind of example would that be setting for Alice?

The kitchen was once again spotless when Bella headed out to the truck, a couple extra possessions in hand. It took a minute for the rusty old thing to wake up and run, but it finally started.

When she got to the pawn shop in Port Angeles, the needle on the fuel gauge was about to be buried in the red. If this crap didn't get her some money, she was going to be hitchhiking back to Forks. With her head held as high as she could muster the strength for, she walked into the shop, items in hand.

She set the case on the counter and ran her fingers over the ridges. Charlie probably wouldn't approve of her selling his Colt Police Positive revolver, but it could be worth a few hundred, and at this point, anything helped.

Next to the gun case, she set a pair of diamond earrings her mother had given her for her thirteenth birthday. They didn't mean anything to her anymore.

The large, muscular man at the counter looked at her face, saying nothing. He examined the earrings carefully, squinting through the loupe to see the details of the stones. He sighed and shrugged, setting the earrings back on the counter. "I'm sorry, miss," he said, and she knew what he was going to say before he took in the breath to say it. "These are Diamonique. Not worth a dime, I'm afraid."

A blast of hatred burned through her chest as she nodded curtly. "How about the gun?"

Opening the case, he had the same attention to detail in his inspection. A couple of grunts and a hum later, he asked what she wanted for it.

"Four hundred," she said, not waiting a beat.

He chuckled. "Yeah, sweetie, that ain't gonna happen. I'd go to two hundred bucks. It's in decent condition, but it's well used and not really that rare."

Two hundred dollars was great, but truth be told, she was hoping to find out it was highly collectible, or worth thousands. But she knew she was going to have to take what she could get. Bella took a long last look at the gun, resigned to parting with it. Before she could open her mouth, however, the man interrupted her.
"You don't really want to sell this, do you?"

Her eyes snapped to his. "Well, not really, but I don't have much of a choice, sir," she replied, her voice tired.

"Emmett," he corrected, cracking a smile. "For the love of all that's holy, please don't call me 'sir.' I hate that shit."

His sudden change in demeanor relaxed her a bit. Her lips tried to curve upward. "Emmett."

"So, you need money, obviously," he stated, looking at her like he was trying to tell her fortune. "What about your parents?"

"Dead," she answered flatly. "Look, I'm not trying to be a bitch, but I'm not here for counseling. I got bills, no money, and no job. Can you buy the gun or not?"

His smirk was the only noticeable reaction. "Feisty. I like it."

She narrowed her eyes, preparing to just walk out.

"Chill, baby girl, I ain't comin' on to ya or anything. I just like your spirit," he explained, leaning on his tattooed forearms. "Okay, tell you what. I'll give you the two hundred for the gun, but if you'd rather keep it, I have another proposition that could make you a shitload more than that."

She opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off again. "It's not prostitution or stripping, sweetcheeks. In fact, it doesn't involve sex at all. It may or may not be completely legal, but if you're willing, I'll give you a hundred just to listen."

Her eyes went wide. Could he be for real? A hundred bucks just to listen to his offer? She considered, flip-flopping back and forth mentally until she justified to herself that she'd already broken the law stealing toilet paper and napkins. She hadn't even answered when Emmett slapped a crisp hundred dollar bill on the counter and slid it toward her. She eyed it for a moment, flitting her gaze between the money and his face. Much like someone starving, she then snatched the bill quickly.

He smiled, amused, as he watched her shove it in her pocket. "An associate needs some help ... getting back something he lost."


Edward always knew getting involved with Aro was a bad decision, but when you're young, stupid choices and bullshit justifications are easy to come by.

Four years later, at twenty-two, Edward had two arrests on his record. Neither was his fault, but Aro paid him to take the blame. Given the threats he made against his family, he didn't have much choice. So he lied. He also molded himself into one hell of a talented thief.

Under Aro's thumb, he became prized for his abilities to breach any lock, any door, any safe—and in record time. As he was building this persona, he merely focused on not getting caught again. Edward didn't realize, however, that he'd been simultaneously digging his grave: he'd never be free from Aro at this rate.

That didn't mean he didn't have cojones to ask for it. When he walked into the back office in Aro's compound, he had no qualms about cutting the foreplay.

"I want out," Edward barked, his voice strong and unwavering.

Aro didn't immediately look up from the papers he was examining. Scribbling a messy signature and setting the overly expensive-looking pen next to the stack, he finally addressed Edward. "Is that so?"

The tone of his voice was sweet. Sickeningly sweet. And Edward knew that was a really bad sign.

"I've made you a lot of money, Aro," Edward declared, continuing. "I've—"

"Don't you dare tell me what you've done for me," he cut the younger man off, laughing quietly. "I should be listening to the laundry list of things I've done for you."

Edward's jaw tightened as his teeth ground together. Aro never did anything for him, except convince him to cut himself off from the people who loved him, taking advantage of a teenager with a bad attitude and the idea that the world owed him. Thanks to Aro, Edward's parents considered him dead; his former friends thought of him as a cautionary tale and a cracked-out thug (even though he never touched the drugs Aro's brother Caius pushed); and his little brother, Jasper, wasn't allowed to mention him by name.

Sure, Aro had paid him well, but it's not like he used his money for anything good. Because of the life he'd signed up for, any money not paying for rent, his car, or the like, went into a secret savings account that had Jasper's name on it as beneficiary.

Edward stared at Aro, holding his gaze. "Whatever the case," he said through his teeth, "I'm done."

Aro stood, walking slowly around the desk. "So, what are you going to do with yourself, my boy? Go back to school? You never did graduate. I think even McDonald's requires a diploma these days." He was smug, his sarcastically enthusiastic tone gnawing at Edward's every nerve. He stalked forward until he stood nose to nose with Edward. "Tell me. I delight in hearing your dreams."

Edward didn't flinch, didn't budge, but stared back into his dead, black eyes. "I don't care what I do, so long as my life is mine again," he growled, realizing it was the most honest he'd been with anyone, or himself, in years.

Aro held his gaze for a full minute before backing off, a smile slinking over his lips. His teeth broke through and he laughed, lowly at first, but it grew and built, layering amusement upon intention. "You always have had the gift of entertaining me, Edward. You love to surprise me, I find."

He turned and picked up a file from his desk, opening the folder and glancing carefully through its pages. Edward closed his eyes briefly, wondering what the cost for his life was going to be.

"I have a friend," Aro overemphasized the word, indicating to Edward that he wasn't a friend at all, but an enemy kept close, "who needs some assistance in a private matter. I believe you've heard of him? Carlisle Cullen? He's a very well-respected surgeon at the county hospital near that tiny town, Forks. There's a particular set of treasures that he ... lost, and I've promised to help him find it."

Immediately, Edward knew that Aro knew exactly where it was. In fact, Edward had probably stolen it for him. Cullen sounded familiar. This Carlisle person must have slighted Aro in some way, maybe turned down his "assistance" previously. Edward found it easy to interpret the way Aro worked, so much so that it bored him, sometimes, being able to figure people out so easily.

"Funny thing is," he continued, "I don't want him to find it. It's very important to me that it doesn't get found at all."

Here we go, Edward thought. Strategic placement of assets.

"You may recognize this?" Aro turned the open folder to face him.

Edward quickly scanned the contents, instantly familiar. His stomach dropped, but he nodded sharply, ignoring the feeling in his gut.

"I suppose you'll have to get it back. It's been sold, but all of my usual resources are at your disposal for its retrieval. You do this one last thing for me, and I'll consider your request."

Edward raised an eyebrow. "If I do anything for you, you'll do more than consider."

Aro's eyes widened in surprise. "I will, will I?"

"And it's not a request. I'm done," Edward sighed. "It was a statement."

Pursing his lips, the older man leaned against the heavy desk behind him. "I see," he said quietly. "You don't even want to part on positive terms, then?"

Edward considered this for a moment. "I suppose I'd prefer it," he admitted. "But it's not a requirement."

Aro burst into a fit of disturbing laughter. "That is precious!" He said finally. "You always had a talent for acting as though you had the upper hand, even during the most dire circumstances."

Edward rolled his eyes, tiring of Aro's attempts at mindfucking him. He'd watched the man break down the most hardened criminals to undiluted confusion with his odd, childlike compliments, fake enthusiasm, and backhanded insults.

"Listen, Edward," Aro began again. "One last job. Then, I won't even be able to remember your face."

"Or the face or name of anyone in my family," Edward added.

"Hmm," Aro teased. "That sounds like a 'yes' to me..."

Edward closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. "Yes."

Mrs. The King is the hottest kind of batshit crazy. I'm really glad she's my ficwife. She also loves good toilet humor, which makes us pretty MFEO. Best-known in the fandom for Poughkeepsie (GangstaMett and Priestsper!! I FLOVE YOU!), MTK is now slapping faces with her yeasty treat, Gynazole, and an angsty, supernatural mindfuck, The Revenger. Every Emmett she writes sets my panties on fire. Follow her on The Twitter, or check out her Fanfiction profile.

Shalu is a multi-talented chicka. She knits, designs art, and lucky for us, writes as well. Her specialty is Alice and Jasper themed love stories. She has a delicate way of writing that I just can't stop reading. Currently, she is writing Maelström, a slashy adventure for Edward and Jasper and Grim FaerieTale, a horror romance that keeps you on the edge of your seat, among others. A day spent clicking through her work is one very well spent. Check out her Fanfiction profile Here and her Twitter is Here.


LJM64 said...

Love the way this story has begun....very intriguing....can't wait to see how it unfolds.

Carola said...

Loved it! very interesting! Wondering if E and B will be looking for the same thing. Hmmmmmm..... I guess I have to wait and see. Thanks for this, this is a great idea and I am looking forward to see how it turns out! Love to all you great writers!

Vicki said...

Really excited about this idea, and a tense start to set it off.

Really looking forward to seeing the evil cliffies you set up for each other :-D

AzureEyedI said...

Gah. I'm hooked. Dammit, you two did it again! But I wouldn't expect anything less, either.

Thanks for writing a strong, determined Bella, and not the whiny be-atch of canon.

carminnemain said...

W00T! I am intrigued and in love!

You know you pwn me Shaluwifey! And as always MTK makes me heart go pitter-patter!

Great start shug!

love you bunches! Carmin

yogacat said...

I had no idea you started.
Someone tweeted the link.
Flove it.
I can;t wait for more fun

lisazj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lisazj said...

*Edited because I'm an anal bitch and hate spelling mistakes*

Interesting start, and what a great premise on writing a story. I followed KiyaRaven over here, can't wait to read more.

Hhmmm, ok. Edward is a professional thief but what makes Emmett think that Bella would be able to help get this "item" back? Can't wait to see how this goes.

Also, in any of the upcoming chapters, can someone please to be writing a house falling on Renee and killing the wicked bitch? Thanks!

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