pairing: mike/bella, jacob/angela, charlie/renee, edward/rosalie, emmett/alice
time frame: AU Twilight
word count: 1904
author's note: Not strictly Jacob/Angela, but they're featured. And there isn't any Jacob in the first chapter, although Angela's there... Cross-posted like crazy...sorry!
Chapter One: First Sight
It was a dark and stormy night. Please, do pardon the cliché. Renee was at my side, gazing out the frosted window. It was the middle of January and the miniscule town we were passing through, named after a utensil unless the town's sign was lying to me, was covered in a blanket of snow. If the snow wasn't scattered with cigarette cartons, straw wrappers, and folded-up copies of what appeared to be a local newspaper, it would've been like a scene straight out of an old Christmas movie.
"Pull in here," Renee muttered, drawing her ruby red-polished fingernail across the thick glass of the window. It drove me crazy. I told her such. She slumped back in her seat, daring to roll her eyes at me, and popped her white earbuds back into her freckled ears, drowning out my "nagging" with the classic tunes of Prince or, say, Kenny Loggins.
My eyebrows raised at her command. No 'please' or anything. God, my mother had zero manners. And don't even start me on her social tact. "Fine," I agreed begrudgingly, flipping on the turn signal. My old, beat-up Chevy pick-up bounced into the next lane. It might not have been as...how do I put this, aesthetically pleasing as a Coop or a Mercedes, but it ran well and I'd made all my payments on it. I loved the damn thing, no matter what anyone else thought.
"Here?" I questioned, jutting my chin in the general direction of your standard American diner. Renee nodded morosely, still upset that I hadn't let her drive. My mother could barely remember her own name, let alone the laws of the road. I hadn't let her drive my baby since The Accident last year. No one talks about it. It's still too painful, too fresh in our collective memories.
Renee unbuckled her seat belt the second I pulled my keys out. "Yeah." Her short auburn curls were concealed by a purple knit cap - one I swore belonged to me at some point in time. She tucked a few stray locks under its shield, before sliding out of the truck.
Stuffing my keys - a spare house key for our old home in Phoenix (for when Renee inevitably forgot hers) as well as my car keys - into the deep pocket of my windbreaker, I, too, hopped out the Chevy. The satisfying sound and feel of snow crunching underfoot greeted me. I was suddenly glad I'd donned my winter boots and insisted Renee wear her whale-patterned rain boots when she admitted she'd lost her matching snow boots. Renee wanted to wear her sneakers, but I'd been stern with her.
No. A word that often slipped through my lips. The hood of my windbreaker was up over my hair in a matter of seconds. I paid careful attention to walk slowly and avoid icy patches. Although I wasn't completely clumsy, 'grace' was hardly my middle name.
The few short steps leading up to the diner were gone in seconds and I found myself standing in the waiting area of a pathetic little diner, struggling to catch up to my free spirited mother. She was already toiling by the 'WAIT TO BE SEATED' sign, her thumbs darting to and fro over the keypad of her new cell phone. She loved that thing. I tried telling her using it too much would give her brain cancer, but, hey. She paid the bill herself (with a reminder from me, naturally) so I could care less how often she used the thing.
"For two?" the casually-dressed teenage waitress inquired. A blank notepad rested in the pocket of her stained off-white apron, which she wore over a plain white t-shirt and bootleg jeans. Rectangle-framed glasses sat on the bridge of her freckle-splattered nose. She was pretty in a plain, girl next door way. I wouldn't be surprised if her name was Mary Catherine and she'd been "going steady" with the boy next door since the seventh grade. She looked like that kind of person.
"Yes," I answered crisply, offering a weak smile. I hoped this girl didn't think I was a complete waste of space because of my, er, spacey mother. Chances were I'd never see this bespectacled girl ever again in my lifetime, but I still didn't want strangers in small town, Washington to despise me. I couldn't help it. I was born a people-pleaser. There was something in me that liked seeing others happy. My twisted soul valued it above my own personal wants and desires. While some would say it was a positive point, I categorized it with my many flaws.
"I'll be back in a flash to take your drink orders." The waitress girl blushed and I was positive it was at her use of the phrase 'in a flash.' It was the type of thing a desperate, single mother might use or, say, someone hosting a lousy party. As in, "I'll be back in a flash, folks! Don't hesitate to grab some punch!"
I beamed up at her. Poor girl. I hoped she wasn't too embarrassed because she seemed pretty nice. The only thing I hated more than displeasing people was displeasing kind people or those I loved.
"So, Bella baby," Renee started, unfolding and refolding a cream-coloured napkin. "I really like this place, don't you?" She looked up at me, unblinking, with her blue eyes unnaturally wide.
Uh-oh. My let's-live-here! senses were tingling. I tried to peel away the pained expression from my face, but it wouldn't budge. Renee's lower lip puckered into a pout when she noticed my lack of enthusiasm.
"It's great," I lied through clenched teeth, hoping waitress girl truly would be "back in a flash" to take our drink orders. I hope waitress girl knew well enough to add a splash of rum to the Diet Pepsi I would undoubtedly order.
"I thought so too," she answered dreamily, cupping her chin with her hand. "Wouldn't it be great to live in this quaint little town?"
Even if she had the heart of a romantic teenager and I that of a logical forty-something, I still dragged out a whine in the form of: "M-o-o-o-o-m."
Her dark blond eyebrows shot up and hit her hairline. "What, now? What's wrong with this sweet little place?"
"Nothing, per se." My eyes darted around the particular homey diner. Everything about it was typical. Standard. Painfully normal. There were checker print table cloths covering cheap wooden tables, large windows that showed off the abysmal aftermaths of a blizzard, and not a single person in the place look like they'd ever ventured outside of their terribly small town. "But what's so great about it? You can't be saying you're so compelled to move here from what you've seen in this little hole-in-the-wall diner?"
Renee frowned mournfully. "You take all the fun out of everything, you know that?" I gave her a yes-I-do look and she continued on her mini-rant, "Just once, don't you want to do something on a whim?"
From the corner of my eye (amazing peripheral vision was just one of the skills needed when acting as the parent to your scatterbrained mother), I could see the cheerful-looking waitress bound over to our table. Her ponytail of smooth dark hair flew up and down with each step she took. She'd be quite pretty if she put a little more effort into her wardrobe - like you should be talking, an Inner Voice muttered -, then again, I'd only seen her dressed for work at a crappy little diner. She might be a contender for Miss USA when she was at a high school party or sitting through Biology class or whatever normal kids my age did.
I hadn't been to regular school since... Well, since my mother married Phil Dwyer. He was some minor league baseball player and she thought it was a grand idea for us to accompany him on his travels. He was a pretty good hitter, I'll admit, but my education took a fall when Renee and I hit the road. She claimed she would home school me, but really I did all the schooling. I ordered some AP textbooks from the Internet and studied from them, but I can't say I really learnt much.
Of course, when The Accident occurred... my minimal schooling halted altogether. Renee and I started taking an impromptu tour of the United States straight after the funeral, stopping in all the small towns and avoiding urban centres at all costs.
"And for you?" The waitress cocked her head at me, a questioning look in her hooded eyes. I flushed - couldn't help it. Renee was gazing at me, too, curiously. I smiled bashfully when I told her a Diet Coke, please.
"Great choices." I hadn't even realized my mother had said anything, let alone made a 'great choice.' That tended to happen whenever I thought about Renee and Phil and baseball and funerals and our country-wide tour. Getting lost in my thoughts was nothing new to me.
"I think we're ready to order," Renee added, meeting my straight stare. I turned away from her, pretending to be consumed in the double-sided laminated menu. "I'll have a cheeseburger."
From behind the shield of my menu, I raised my eyebrows at her. Hoped my expression conveyed the message 'Manners,' well enough.
"Please," Renee added after a beat. She rolled her eyes discreetly at me. Who knew my mother was capable of subtlety?
"With what side?" I noticed the waitress had a soft voice. She seemed pretty shy and even her polite smile seemed to be hiding something. I decided that I liked her. If Renee ended up forcing me to stay in this barren land, I hoped this girl and I could be friends. Did she even live nearby? I wondered. Another thought hit me. As if anyone would choose to work or live here - of course she was from around here.
"French fries," Renee filled in. A hungry look took over her sparkling blue eyes. I resisted the urge to grin. Sometimes my mom's childlike antics were infinitely adorable. Then again: sometimes they drove me halfway to clinically insane.
"The same for me, thanks." I handed the waitress both of our menus. She smiled gratefully, tossing in a "Thanks," so quietly I thought I might have imagined it.
As soon as the brunette waitress left with our menus, Renee leaned in on her elbows. "See? Forks is full of lovely people," she whispered conspiratorially.
"I hardly think one nice person makes Forks 'full' of 'lovely people.'" I even went as far as to use air quotations. I know. I cringed while doing it.
And that was when I felt a shiver travel up my spine. It was a slightly unfamiliar feeling, but I'd some experience with it. In my old public school in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, I was used to the steely blue eyes of my classmates landing on me. The girls with their push-up bras and honey-highlighted pigtails would analyze every inch of me: from the scuffed toes of my Converse slip-ons to my ratty dark brown ponytail. And don't even get me started on my 'Snow White' tan. While Renee insisted it was a blessing, she could still tan like nobody's business. I've heard every pale joke in the book.
That was how I knew.
Someone was staring at me.