Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chapter Three: A Journey of 1000 Miles Starts with a Single Step ... or a Yellow Hummer

-


BELLA

Bella looked out the window in disbelief.

A Hummer was sitting in her driveway..

A bright yellow Hummer, to be precise.

It sat there like a giant Tonka toy—huge, shiny and ostentatious—and Bella jumped when the horn blared. Again.

"Jesus," she muttered as she pressed her hand over her heart. "I'm coming! Keep your damn pants on."

"Do you know who it is?" Alice asked nervously, peeking out from behind the curtains.

"No," Bella replied, "but I'm sure as hell going to find out."

She removed the chair barring the front door and opened it, trying to make herself look as tall and as confident as possible as she walked over to the huge vehicle. She was only slightly surprised when the window glided down to reveal Emmett smiling down at her.

"Hey, baby-girl, how's it hangin'?"

"Ah, well..." Bella sputtered, "there's a giant phallic symbol in my driveway, so I guess it's hanging low and large."

Emmett laughed as he opened the door and stepped out of the cab, patting the behemoth affectionately as he slammed the door.

"Yeah, she's a beauty alright. Crap mileage, of course, and pretty much gives a giant finger to the environment, but cool points? Yeah, she's got 'em."

Bella shook her head and looked up at him.

"So, Emmett ... why are you here? I mean, apart from showing off your giant penis-truck."

He chuckled.

"Well, I figured you could use a ride to Doc C's. His house is on a hill and after seeing the piece-of-shit truck you drive, I knew there was no way in hell that rustbucket could make the trip."

Bella's face immediately turned bright pink as her anger flared.

"Oh, wow. You must have a deathwish to say something like that about her truck," Alice said as she stepped off the front porch and walked over to them. "I know you're all big and muscle-y and all, mister, but if I were you, I'd start running."

Emmett smiled as he watched Alice walk toward him. "So, I guess this is mini-Bella, huh?"

Bella nodded and indicated her sister. "Yeah, this is my little sister, Alice. But don't let her stature fool you; the girl is freakishly strong."

Emmett held out his hand and said, "Is that so, little one? Maybe we'll arm wrestle some time."

"Anytime," Alice said confidently, shaking his hand and craning her neck to look up at his face. "I'm pretty sure I could take you."

Emmett laughed.

"Wow. Feisty, huh? Just like your sister. I like it. I'm Emmett."

Alice nodded. "I figured. Bella said you were big."

"Oh, yeah? What else did she say?"

"That your dimples were adorable."

He grimaced and looked at Bella. "Adorable? Jesus, woman, you called me adorable?"

"No."

"No?"

"No. I called your dimples adorable. I think I said you were kind of shifty, but strangely trustworthy."

Emmett nodded. "Funnily enough, that's exactly what it says on my business cards."

The girls smiled and Emmett gestured to his car.

"Well, ladies, the doc’s a-waiting. Shall we?"

They looked at each other and smiled.

"We shall," they said in unison.

...

Thirty minutes later they were standing in the living room of the most lavish house either one of them had ever seen.

"Holy crap," Bella breathed in awe. Alice nodded mutely in agreement.

Bella looked around the luxurious room and wondered what it must be like to have this kind of wealth. To be able to purchase art just because you liked it. To be able to afford fine furnishings and decadent decoration. To not have to watch every penny just to make sure your little sister didn't starve to death.

She had no idea what sort of proposition Dr. Cullen was going to make to her, but she hoped like hell it was something she was capable of doing. Because quite honestly, she was really fucking tired of being poor.

"Good morning, ladies," Dr. Cullen said warmly as he entered the room. "It's so nice to finally meet you both."

He extended his hand to Bella first, and he couldn't help but marvel at how much of a perfect blend of Renee and Charlie she was. Her eyes were definitely like her mother's, but where Renee's were cold and calculating, Bella's were warm and cautious.

"Bella," he said, taking her hand in both of his, "your father told me so much about you. You look exactly the way he described. He was so very proud of you. I hope you know that."

Bella nodded and swallowed. "I was proud of him. He said good things about you."

The doctor smiled. "Well, Charlie Swan was one-of-a-kind. He was taken far too soon. Did they ever catch his murderer?"

Bella shook her head, trying to push down the emotions that always choked her when she discussed her dad. "No. I...ah...I think they've stopped looking now."

Carlisle nodded, his heart going out to Bella for losing her father at such a young age. Of course he had his suspicions as to who had killed Charlie Swan, and one day soon, he hoped to air them.

He turned to Bella's sister.

"And you must be Alice," he said, extending his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Hello, Dr. Cullen," she said, smiling, feeling instantly comforted by his warm welcome.

"Please, call me Carlisle."

He looked at her fine features and jet-black hair, and in the same way Bella was very obviously Charlie and Renee's daughter, Alice was very obviously not. Her features were disturbingly familiar, though, and as recognition hit him, his suspicions as to why Renee left were all but confirmed in his mind.

He'd known Charlie and Renee for a long time, but he always suspected Renee had ulterior motives for moving with Charlie to this tiny town.

Even after all of these years, Renee was still dancing to Aro's tune. It sickened him and made him even more determined to stop Aro before more lives were ruined—his own included.

He gestured for the girls to sit and positioned himself in a nearby armchair. His housekeeper brought in a tray of refreshments, which included sandwiches and pastries, and the girls quickly helped themselves, looking sheepish, but hungry.

He immediately felt bad for not seeking them out sooner. He'd only found out about Renee abandoning them a month ago, but clearly, they'd been struggling for a while. When Emmett told him about Bella trying to sell her father's service revolver, he knew that she was desperate. Hopefully the proposition he offered today would go some way toward helping them, as well as himself.

They made small talk for a while, discussing Alice's impending school year and which subjects she enjoyed the most, but eventually it was time to get down to business. Right on cue, Emmett appeared in the doorway.

"Hey, short-round," he called to Alice. "The Doc has a kick-ass billiard table downstairs. Care to be painfully and mercilessly humiliated?"

Alice glanced hopefully at Bella.

"Go ahead," Bella encouraged, "but don't let him see what a pool-shark you are until he shows you the color of his money."

Emmett chuckled as Alice bounded over to him.

"Why do I get the feeling your sister isn't joking?"

"Oh, don't listen to her," Alice scoffed. "I'm terrible at pool. Really. But just out of interest, how much cash do you have on you?"

"Uh ... about eighty bucks," Emmett answered nervously.

"That'll do," Alice said happily as she grabbed his arm and dragged him away.

They left the room, and there was a moment of uncomfortable silence between Carlisle and Bella as the importance of what was about to be discussed filled the air between them. Carlisle knew that there would be a small element of risk involved in what he was asking of Bella, but he needed someone he could trust who wouldn't arouse Aro's suspicion. Even though he knew his old friend had transformed into someone he barely recognized, he highly doubted he would do anything to harm Renee's daughters, even if he did find out their identity.

"So, Bella ..."

Bella swallowed nervously and shifted in her seat.

"I understand things have been tough since your mother left?"

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak in case a vicious tirade against her mother escaped her mouth.

"I'd very much like to help you and Alice," Carlisle continued. "You see, I know someone who's looking for a housekeeper. It would be a permanent position which pays very well, and I would provide an apartment for you and your sister, as well as meet all costs for her schooling—"

"Apartment?" Bella interjected. "We wouldn't stay where we are?"

"No," Carlisle said, coming to the first catch in the arrangement. "Bella ... the job isn't in Forks. It's in Seattle. How would you feel about moving?"

She took a deep breath and considered it. There really wasn't anything left here in Forks anymore, and she'd certainly exhausted any employment opportunities in the small town. Leaving had already crossed her mind, but quite honestly, she was thinking of somewhere closer, like Port Angeles. Seattle was ... well, Seattle wasn't just a different city. It was a whole other world.

But still, a job? A well-paid job? And Alice's education would be taken care of? Dammit, it seemed to good to be true.

"What's the catch?" she asked, suddenly feeling very much like the overly-suspicious daughter Charlie had raised her to be.

Carlisle chuckled and looked at his hands, enjoying seeing his old friend so clearly in this young woman.

"Bella," he began, needing to give her some backstory, but trying not to reveal too much, "the woman you would be working for is ..." God, how could he possible describe her? How important she was to him? How much he missed her? "She's a very dear friend of mine who ..." —it kills me to be parted from— "... I haven't seen for a long time." It was a sacrifice he had always resented making, and considering how things turned out, one that didn't have its desired effect.

"She has two sons. One not much older than Alice, and the other ..." The other could be dead for all he knew, even though he desperately hoped he wasn't. "The other is a few years older than you. I haven't seen them for many years, but ... I very much want to know what's happening in their lives. All I would want from you is information. How they're doing, who they see. Perhaps some photographs. Nothing ... illegal as such, but certainly ... questionable."

Bella frowned. It seemed easy enough, and not overly immoral.

"If you agree to the job and the move, I would enroll Alice at the same school as the younger boy. I would like them to become friends. I want to know how he's doing in school, what he's interested in." Carlisle could feel familiar emotions stir inside him as he talked, but he needed to stay calm. He needed to be detached and objective.

"And the older one?" Bella asked. "Is he in college?"

If only, Carlisle thought bitterly. If only my old “friend” hadn't managed to get his claws into him, despite me distancing myself.

"The older boy is ... he hasn't been home in a while. Several years, in fact. Last I heard, he was in California, but I know his mother is worried about him. He used to be very close with his brother, and I'm hoping that he tries to contact him." Carlisle sat forward in his chair. "Bella, if he does make contact, I really need you to speak to him. Find out where he is. It's very important."

It made Carlisle sick to think of how much danger he was in, swimming with sharks and having no clue how much they thirsted for his blood. If Bella could find out where he was, he might have some chance of warning him. Saving him.

But of course all of that was academic until Bella agreed to his proposal.

Bella was studying the doctor very carefully. This was obviously a big deal for him, and although she could tell he was trying to stay calm, he was very clearly agitated. Desperate.

"I know I'm asking a lot," Carlisle said, sighing and clasping his hands in front of him, "but I need someone I can trust, Bella, and I truly believe I can trust you. Will you help me?"

Bella looked into the doctor's eyes and knew she couldn't refuse. Apart from her desperation to elevate herself and Alice from the pit of poverty they were currently occupying, she had a strong instinct that she was supposed to help Dr. Cullen, that it was right. Fated.

Perhaps this was exactly what she and Alice needed. A fresh start, away from all the bitterness that seemed to stain every memory she had of Forks.

Housekeeping? It was a job she knew she could do, and do well. Information gathering? She was a policeman's daughter. That had to count for something, right?

"Sure, Dr. Cullen," she said finally, smiling as the man's face lit up. "When do I start?"

The rush of relief that Carlisle felt was astonishing. He quickly stood and collected a large folder from a side table and handed it to Bella, feeling giddy with anticipation.

"This contains all the information you need. Please look it over and let me know if you have any questions."

Bella opened the folder and perused the contents.

"Esme Masen," she read, "124 Maple Drive, Seattle. Sons: Jasper, sixteen, and Edward, twenty-one."

She came across a photo of a beautiful woman with two teenage boys: one with hair like hers, the other fair. They were smiling and standing on the front steps of a house. The younger boy had a very familiar smile. She studied him for a moment and then realized why.

She looked up at Carlisle and smiled.

"Doctor Cullen," she said softly, "you have a beautiful family."

...

Two days later, Bella and Alice had packed up their entire lives into a small collection of boxes that were littered around their tiny house.

Bella was excited to move on. After Renee had sold their childhood home—despite having begged her not to, she hated leaving. She could see Charlie's spirit in every room, his shadow on every piece of furniture.

But this place? It held nothing of her father, and the memories she had of her mother here weren't worth holding onto.

Alice had been quiet while they packed. When Bella had initially told her about the move to Seattle, she was excited, overflowing with enthusiasm that Bella had a job and her new school had a wonderful arts program. But as the day of the move approached, she became more and more withdrawn.

The morning of the move, the house was quiet. Normally when Bella woke, Alice would already have music blaring from her room or be singing loudly in the shower, but today, there was a distinct lack of energy in the air.

"Alice?" she called.

The house was silent. She frowned and walked the few steps down the hall to her sister's room and glanced inside. The bed was empty, sheets and blankets neatly folded and sitting in a box next to it, but Alice wasn't there.

She made her way downstairs and found Alice standing in the living room in front of an open box, still wearing her pajamas, staring at one of the few portraits of the Swan family still in existence. It was taken about six months before Charlie was killed, and although everyone was smiling, it was clear no one was really happy.

When she heard her sister's footsteps, Alice didn't look away from the picture but asked quietly, "Bella, do you think Mom ever really loved us?"

The simple question almost took Bella's breath away, because it was one she often asked herself. The problem was, she didn't have a simple answer, and as she looked into her sister’s confused eyes, she sighed and said, "I don't know, honey. I hope so."

Bella never felt like Renee was ever truly with them. She seemed resigned to be a wife and mother to people she didn't particularly like, and who she wouldn't spend time with if she had the choice. Now she’d obviously given up the illusion of motherhood and had chosen anywhere but here, and anyone but her and Alice.

Bella hated her mother just a little bit more every day.

"I can't remember the last time she said she loved me," Alice said as she went back to studying the portrait, the false curve of her mother's smile sickeningly familiar. "Moms are supposed to say that to their kids, like, every day, aren't they? I mean ... that's what normal moms do, right? Stroke their daughter's hair and kiss them and tell them they love them?"

Bella sighed.

"Alice..."

"And you know the worst thing?" she continued. "I don't remember the last time I said it to her, either. I said it to Dad all the time, but Renee?" She turned to look at her sister. "Did she leave because I didn't say it to her, Bells? Could she tell I didn't love her like a daughter should love her mom? I mean, I kind of always knew she was going to leave, and I still didn't say it. Does that mean I wanted her to go?"

Bella hated that Alice even entertained the possibility that their mother's astonishing selfishness was her fault.

"Alice, don't be ridiculous," she said firmly. "Mom left because she was..." —a selfish bitch who should be charged with goddamn reckless abandonment and be locked in a cell with a bull-dyke named Frankie who regularly sodomized her— "... unhappy. Not with you, but with her life in general."

Alice nodded.

"I guess..."

Bella walked over to her sister and stroked her hair gently.

Alice sighed and put the portrait back in the box.

"When we move, she won't know where we've gone, will she? She won't be able to find us?"

"No, honey," Bella said quietly.

Alice closed the box and taped it firmly shut.

"Good."






KiyaRaven is the awesome creator of Asstard and Piss-Girl (The Screamers) and WindowWard (Grasping Darkness), among others. Check out her Fanfiction page for more.


NEXT AUTHORS UP:
CH4 coolbreeeze
CH5 Delandora
CH6 LolaShoes

CH7 dandyvamp

5 comments:

khytruckle said...

Interesting story. I'm really intrigued by this round-robin thing, and how all the authors will develop this plot.
Good writing.

yogacat said...

Did you guys plan this out? Is there an outline or plot points, or are you just winging it?
It flows so well and I love the way the pieces fit together.

Victoria said...

Oooh, I loved what you did here. Carlisle seems like such a nice man, and it makes me so sad that he can't be with Esme. Putting Bella in as her housekeeper is really very clever. It's going to be interesting to see what the other writers do with that :)

And I just have to say (like you don't know this already) I just love your writing, bb. It's so effortlessly beautiful, and a pure joy to read. You did an excellent job with this chapter, and as I said, I'm really looking forward to seeing what others will do with the puzzle-pieces you provided.

jujubakiller said...

I'm really liking this round robin thing. At first I thought it wouldn't work, but so far the chapters go along with each other very well.
Also the plot is really interesting, full of mistery.
I'm wondering if maybe Alice is Aro's daughter? Hmmmm....

lisazj said...

Oh niiiiiice Kiya!:..."—a selfish bitch who should be charged with goddamn reckless abandonment and be locked in a cell with a bull-dyke named Frankie who regularly sodomized her—" Heh, loved it. Fitting for Renee.

And shit, the plot has really thickened! Carlisle was trying to hide his family, Alice is....Aro's or at least, not Charlie's.

Dying to know what it is that Carlisle's trying to find and Aro's trying to keep from him.

Very nicely done, looking forward to the rest of the story!

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