Chapter 13

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or it's character names - those belong to Stephenie Meyer. Bittersweet Irony and it's characterizations, backgrounds, and plot lines belong to SweetVenom69. No copying, translation, or reproduction is allowed without my written authorization. © 2010 SweetVenom69.

Playlist selection: New Life by Depeche Mode

Edward POV


“Yeah?” I sigh and turn my attention away from staring at the television and toward the sweet, gentle voice of Esme, my mother for all intents and purposes.

“Jasper is waiting for you.” She nods toward the garage. “He wants to talk to you.”

I groan and turn off the television. He always wants to talk to me. Jasper has taken it upon himself to be my personal vampire shrink - talking, listening, giving unsolicited advice. It's pretty annoying, to be honest, but my brother means no harm. He knows how difficult it's been for me – this new life – living among strangers, completely at a loss of my former life, struggling to refrain from feasting on humans. Thankfully, I never succumbed to my vampiric nature and killed a human, but I came close a time or two.

That is something I'm very happy about – to have been “raised” by a family of vampires who appreciate humans, respect them. We were all humans once. I like to think that maybe I was an upstanding guy in my former life and not a sadistic serial killer or something. How fucking ironic would that be? I can see the headlines now: “Vicious murderer-turned-vampire only hunts animals now”.

From inside her room upstairs, Alice laughs and I shoot my middle finger in her general direction, even though she can't physically see me do it. I know she just had a vision of me deciding to check the America's Most Wanted website for a picture of me.

But that's just it! I have no fucking clue as to what my life used to be like. I could have been married with two kids and a dog. A job at the Post Office and have a mortgage and two car payments. Maybe I went on family vacations every year to Disney World or on a Caribbean cruise. Carlisle doesn't think that I was old enough for all that, though. He estimates that I'm in my late teens or early twenties. But of course, he doesn't know for sure. That doesn't matter though. What does matter is that there's probably someone out there who knew me, cared about me, was friends with me... I just want to know what I was like back then.

My current family has helped me immensely with transitioning into this world, but as each day passes, I find myself needing to know about my life as a human.

Was I a college student when I was turned? Or was I still in high school and a total band geek that couldn't get laid if I tried? Did I have a girlfriend... or a wife?

Seeing my family members with their mates ignites that twinge of jealousy every time they split off into couples. They hide away in their rooms to canoodle, and I'm left standing in my shower with my dick in my hand, trying to satisfy myself while simultaneously trying to block out the sounds of their lovemaking.

God, this life is so fucking lonely sometimes.

Then there's the “stay out of the sunlight around humans” rule. Yeah, I get why, but fuck, I love the sun. I love how warm it feels on my skin, and the sparkling is kind of cool, too.

A few times when I was hunting alone, I would find a secluded meadow, strip completely naked, and bask in the sunlight for hours. It was incredible – being one with nature. Even with those goddamn bugs buzzing incessantly in my ears. Why couldn't we live someplace without insects? They drive me fucking crazy with their little wings fluttering so fast they cause a loud humming in my ears. They whiz through the air, making a mad dash towards me because they are attracted to the prisms reflected on my skin. Why can't they be afraid of vampires like every other fucking creature? No, those pesky things are attracted to us. Like a fucking moth to a flame or some shit.

And then there's the million-dollar question... why the hell do I have a goddam tattoo of the Latin word for a butterfly on my wrist? Yeah, I Googled that shit. Now, I'm stuck with it for all eternity. Thankfully, Emmett stopped calling me “Little Butterfly” after a year or so of living with them. He can be such a prick sometimes.

But that brings me back to wanting to know about my previous life... and whether or not I'll ever find a mate in this life. It's not like I can skip down to the local bar and pick up a hot, female vamp.

See? It's a goddamn vicious cycle.

I trudge through the kitchen and exit into the garage, noticing Jasper leaning against his Ducati. His eyebrows raise as he analyzes my emotional state, checking to see if I'm in a decent mood or not.

“I'm fine, Jazz.”

“Uh huh,” he mutters, still monitoring my attitude.

I sigh and nod toward the forest, hinting to him that I want to run; I always feel better after I run. We head north toward Sappho and take down two elk near the highway. I'm not really thirsty, but the fresh ingestion of blood takes the edge off my anxiety. After we feed, we sprint east and race to the top of Sourdough Mountain, then settle down on an outcrop of boulders near the summit.

“You wanted to talk?” I push, tired of his constant watching me and waiting for my mood to change.

“Emmett told me that you were thinking about taking off by yourself for a while...” he hedges.


He doesn't say anything... just patiently waits for me to continue.

“I told you before, man. I just feel like I'm missing something in my life, or whatever you call this fucked up existence. I just don't want to stay in this podunk town, pretending to be something I'm not. Isn't there some sort of online dating service for vampires or some shit? I'm tired of being the only single one in the house.” I huff, picking at the tender grass next to my leg.

He laughs and shakes his head. “Not that I know of...”

“It's not just wanting to get laid – hell, I don't even know if I'm a virgin or not! I don't know anything about where I came from, who I am. I've never gone anywhere, seen anything. I want to experience something. I want that, Jasper. I need that.”

“I know.”

“Then there's the secret society of Emmett, Esme, and Alice.” He growls at my snide comment about his wife, but I ignore it. “All they ever tell me when I ask about where they found me is that I was in a cabin in the mountains of Arizona and my family was gone. Gone, as in left on vacation or as in dead? They always change the subject when I try to dig deeper; I want details. I know they're hiding something from me; maybe it's minor, but I feel I have the right to know. Sometimes I wish I had the ability to read minds.” I groan, frustrated with my waffling emotions. “I just hate not knowing what else the world has to offer me. I want to go to school and have a job. Travel to the desert and sky dive.” I turn to look at him, imploring with my eyes for him to understand. “Fuck, man, I've never even been to a God damned library!”

He nods and glances out at the view from our perch on the mountain. “Are you happy? I mean, in the grand scheme of things... are you content with being a vampire?”

I shrug my shoulders, not sure of the answer to his question. “I just feel like there's some empty hole inside of me that's craving to be filled.” I pause to peek up at him. “That's how I feel, Jazz. Empty. Maybe I do need to get laid,” I laugh.

He chuckles and claps a hand on my shoulder. “I know something that'll perk you up, bro,” he says with a small smile. “Let's go to the library. Maybe we’ll find something to peak your interest in all the wonders of the world. Maybe we'll even find you a mate while we're at it.” He elbows me in the ribs and takes off down the mountain, leaving me to follow in his wake.

As I speed through the moss-covered trees, I think back to everything that's happened in my life – my new life...

“Edward?” I don’t respond other than to turn my face toward that gentle voice. “Open your eyes, dear.”

My lids flutter open and I glance around, not recognizing the space.  There’s a woman in front of me and she’s holding my hand, rubbing the back of it soothingly.

I shift to pull away from her, but I bump into a wall... more like the inside of a car door.  What the fuck is going on?  I look back at the woman and she reaches her hand toward me, but I twist away again, somehow winding up in the cargo area of the SUV.  How did I just do that?  I barely moved!

“Edward, it’s okay,” the woman says with a warm smile on her lips. “We’re here to help you, darling.”  I’m confused as to why she thinks I need her help. She nods her head toward the behemoth sitting next to me and the tiny chick turned around in the driver's seat, facing us.

Why the fuck am I in a car with these people? Have I been kidnapped? Where the hell are we?

The chick nods toward the big guy and he raises his hands to show he's not trying to threaten me.

“Relax, man. We're not here to hurt you. Just have a seat and Esme will explain.” He waves his hand toward the woman in the front passenger seat.

“Who are you people and where are you taking me?” I'm startled by the crisp sound of my voice, and I suddenly notice the distinct sound of wind as it whirls past our speeding truck. Instead of the typical purr of an engine in a new vehicle, ours sounds like a loud, rumbly tractor-trailer.

The sky is dark outside, but the colors of the landscape and road signs are bright as if it were daytime. I can see leaves on the trees – individually – without having to squint. How fast are we going? I glance past the driver at the speedometer and notice we're approaching 167 miles per hour. Jesus, fuck!

“Calm down, Edward. This is slow for us, trust me.” The chick winks at me in the rear view mirror and the big guy next to me clamps a hand on my shoulder, keeping me from flipping into the back of the truck again.

“Alice, dear, why don't we pull off and get Edward fed. I'm sure he's thirsty.”

Now that she mentions it, my throat is dry and burning. “Yeah, I am, thank you.”

The truck exits the highway and into the parking lot of an abandoned rest stop. I hesitate to get out, but the big guy tugs on my arm and pulls me through his side of the vehicle.


The chick stares blankly into outer space for a moment and then blinks several times, nodding her head. “He'll do fine. I'll get him something.”

Big Guy keeps a tight hold on me, but I don't fight him. It's probably no use to try to get away.

“Edward, dear, this is Emmett,” she says with a smile and gives Big Guy a one-armed hug. He grins down at her but doesn't say anything.

She continues, “My name is Esme. I'm kind of the mother of the family.”

I nod slightly, already having gathered that information from her gentle demeanor and direction of handling me.

The traffic is light on the highway behind us, but I hear a low humming noise, sounds of twigs snapping about a quarter mile beyond the tree line, and a faint tha-dum tha-dum sound... like a heartbeat. I would assume it's coming from Emmett, but it’s resonating from the forest.

The heartbeat picks up in rhythm and a muted squeal starts and stops almost instantaneously. Suddenly, Alice is emerging from the woods with a goddamn deer in her hands. Uhh...

“Here ya go, brother. Bon appetite!” She smiles and tosses the doe across the parking lot, and it lands unceremoniously at my feet. What. The. Fuck?

My throat is scorching, but the taste flooding my mouth is slightly acidic, metallic, bitter. Before I realize it, I'm face deep into the neck of the animal, sucking and slurping the blood from it's body. The tha-dum tha-dum has gone silent.

I drop the deer from my grasp, but it only falls a few inches to the ground. I stare at my hands, freaked the fuck out as to how I managed to crouch down and raise the creature to my face as if it weighed nothing.

The blood that I just ingested – which I can't believe I actually did – has snuffed out the burning sensation in my throat, but I feel the need for more. Why? What's happened to me?

“It's okay, bro,” Emmett says, patting my back approvingly. “Next time, we'll let you take one down yourself.”


“Alright, guys, let's get a move on. We need to be back in San Francisco by tomorrow.”

We climb back into the SUV and speed north, Alice behind the wheel and Emmett by my side.

“Let me ask you something, Edward,” Esme begins, twisting around in her front passenger seat again. “Do you believe in the existence of vampires?”

Esme tells me about my new life – or non-life – and about my new family: her husband, Carlisle, and Alice and Emmett's spouses, Jasper and Rosalie. She explains the changes in my body, the physical abilities I now have. There's some sort of group conversation about the indescribable pain I endured and how long I was probably unconscious, but I tune most of that shit out.

I'm a motherfucking vampire.

I turn away from the chatter and focus my attention outside of the car. The dark forest passes by us in a slight blur, but I can still make out the details of the foliage... or lack there of. There's cacti and boulders, sand and nothing. Where the hell are we?

“We're in southern California, Edward,” Alice chirps. “Near Joshua Tree.”

How did she-?

“I get a vision of what will happen once someone makes a decision. I knew what you were going to ask before you actually spoke.” She glances at me in the rearview mirror, giggles, and then lowers her eyes to the road.

“So, you're psychic or some shit?”

Esme takes in a slight gasp, but doesn't turn toward me. I assume she doesn't approve of my cussing. She really does act like a mother.

Alice giggles and nods.

Well... Shit!

Alice drives us straight through the night to San Francisco. The ride is mostly silent, at least from my standpoint. I don't know these people, and I'm trying to wrap my head around what Esme told me; I'm a vampire.

I still can't believe it.

We pull up to a fancy house, apparently in the Sausalito area, according to Esme. Like this matters to me. I don't give a shit where these people live, but maybe I should since it's where I'll be living. Fuck, it's hard to grasp that this is my new family, that I fucking feed from animals. Shouldn't vampires drink human blood? Maybe I should ask...

“Technically, yes, but our family is different. We don't want to kill humans.”

I glare at Alice, hating that she can read my mind, or see my future, or whatever the hell it is she can do.

I wonder if I have any superpowers.

Emmett corrals me into the house, and I'm greeted by three other vampires – their spouses. Esme's husband, Carlisle, greets me with a warm smile and a manly handshake. Alice's husband, Jasper gives me a welcoming nod, and Emmett's wife, Rosalie, offers a half-assed smile.

Carlisle brings me into his study and proceeds to ask me questions about how I'm feeling, what's running through my head, and do I remember anything about my previous life.

I tell him that I'm not sure how I'm feeling. Confused, anxious, maybe a bit intrigued. It's not every day you discover you've been transformed into some mythical creature and expect to be fucking thrilled about it. I'm nervous about being around humans after my reaction with the deer. I'm worried about if I had a family that will miss me. Esme says that I will never be able to see them again. I can understand why, but a part of me is curious about where I came from. I mean, how old am I? I don't even know my fucking last name!

Esme joins Carlisle and I, and together they explain the dynamics of their family, of the threat of a visit from the Volturi – whoever those douchebags are - and the need to keep me in seclusion for my first year. That part freaks me the fuck out, but I think back to that damn deer, and I realize the importance of staying away from humans unless I'm with someone from my family.

The first few days, they drive me out of town – toward the mountains and valleys – to hunt. My first day, I watch Jasper stalk and take down an elk with relative ease. He leaves it in the brush for me and heads off in another direction to capture his own meal. The next day, Rosalie ravages a mountain lion and snarls at me when I get too close, admiring her stealth and grace as she pounces, attacks, and feeds.

The animal instinct in us is very confusing to deal with; the blinding possessiveness over food is strange and the automatic tensing of my muscles as I prepare to strike my prey. My prey... what happened to food? Cheese burgers and pizza pockets? Tacos and lasagna? I don't even know if I liked that shit in my human life.

By the third day, I've finally mustered enough courage to try this shit out myself. Just let your instincts take over, they say. Yeah, well, it's still a bit unsettling to attack a bear, but once I see first hand how impenetrable our skin is, taking down that fucker is a piece of cake.

Over the next two years, I learn to balance my predatory nature with my human nature. I'm slowly introduced back into society, but always with one of my family members with me. I only ever need to go to Carlisle's hospital from time to time and occasionally to the hardware store. I'm forced to feed regularly, even when I'm not thirsty; It helps with the scorching in my throat while I'm around people.

I quickly learn to stay out of direct sunlight, primarily around humans, to keep our shimmery skin from exposing us. It's kind of a pain in the ass; I really like the sun.

We stay in the San Fran area for another year. Apparently, the Cullens only stay in one place for a few years and then relocate to start over. They've changed their names a few times, forging all new identities, and severing all ties with their former lives to vanish without a trace. Thankfully, they've only adopted this surname and identities five years ago, so we have several more years before I have to get used to being someone else. I hardly know who I am, so it seems extremely difficult to pretend to be someone else.

After being with the Cullens for four years, Carlisle gets a new position at a hospital in Forks, and we move at the end of December. We settle into our new place, a new routine, but the novelty of this new life is starting to wear thin. I'm getting restless, needing something more, something meaningful, but I don't know what that something might be.

We arrive on the edge of town and walk at human speed toward the library. The skies are overcast, but thankfully there’s no rain in the forecast. Jasper keeps stealing sidelong glances at me, measuring my emotions. Normally, this would annoy the shit out of me, but right now, I'm too excited to be going someplace new... even if it isn't traveling the world.

As we reach the library door, I'm practically vibrating with excitement. The musky smell of old books wafts from the slight crack in the door jamb and mixes with the stench of mildewed carpet. We enter and are immediately greeted with a whisper by the librarian behind the desk. Jasper nods hello and heads in her direction.

“Good afternoon, ma'am. My brother and I,” he turns and waves his hand in my direction,”are looking for books on travel. Can you please point us in the right direction?”

The gray-haired woman blinks a few times, then steps from behind the counter and heads toward the far wall of the library. We follow her, but at the same time, I'm taking in all the genres of books – romance, self-improvement, sci-fi... hell, there's even a big display of a popular fictional story of vampires.

“Hey, Jazz... you see this shit?” I scoff and stop to point at the table covered in memorabilia and books.

He laughs and shakes his head.

The librarian shows us a section of dusty shelves chocked full of travel books and magazines. She leaves us and scampers back toward the circulation desk. I collect a few books, Jazz grabs a magazine from a nearby rack, and we head up toward a collection of tables near the front of the library.

I breeze through the books quickly, not finding anything in particular that peaks my interest, and slide them to the side of the table.

“So, what now?” I quietly ask Jasper. He shrugs and turns his magazine in my direction. I take it and look at the article on the page he's faced toward me. “'A Desert Oasis: A Traveler's Guide to Las Vegas'?”

He nods and teases, “No better place to live it up than in Vegas, baby!”

We laugh for a moment and then sit in silence for a while. I'm thumbing through the magazine, scoping out all the ads for resorts and bed and breakfasts, when something odd happens; I hear a woman's voice in my head.

“God, I hate running late.”

I shake my head slightly, trying to clear the sound. A few moments later, I hear the voice again.

“Dumb oaf doesn't even know his own strength.”

What the fuck? I glance over at Jasper, but he's casually glancing at a mother and her daughter checking out books at the circulation desk.

“I hope they have another copy of this...”

I stop moving completely, trying to hone in on where that female voice is coming from.

“Oh. My. God.” The voice pauses for a moment and then continues,”Many people have auburn hair, Bella. Many people have crazy bed-head too.”

Auburn hair? Crazy bed-head? Is that voice talking about me? Is that voice me talking about me? Can vampires go insane?

I turn to Jazz, to see if he's hearing the voice too, but he's staring at me, concerned. “Are you okay, Edward?”

I shake my head slightly and whisper, “I don't know.” I glance around me quickly, only noticing a girl by the desk, but no one close enough for me to hear her words in my head.

“I've got to be delusional.”

I snort. Yeah, uh, more like hallucinating, I think to myself. Jasper looks at me again, perplexed. Turning my attention back to the magazine, I try to block out the voice, but it doesn't help. I hear the voice mutter the word 'Phoenix' and suddenly, I'm getting really anxious.

I know Esme, Alice, and Emmett had found me a few hours outside of Phoenix, but we didn't know if I was from there or not. They took me from the cabin where they found me, not wanting me to wake up alone, confused, and scared. Carlisle had told me that my sire had abandoned me, that he or she was irresponsible for leaving me to fend for myself, and not teaching me to be discreet about my feeding habits. But something always felt as if my new family wasn't telling me the whole truth.

“Are you okay, man? Your nervousness and confusion are hitting me like a freight train...”

“I don't know, Jazz. I'm hearing this voice in my head. A woman's voice.”

“Why am I torturing myself? I've got to be delusional.”

He lifts his head up to scan around the library, then refocuses on me. “I don't see anyone, or smell any other vampires who could possibly infiltrate your thoughts, or anything. There's just a human standing by the desk, but she does appear to be staring at you.”

“At me?”

“It's him, I know it is!”

“Yeah. She looks like she's gonna be sick or something.”

“This can't be real. I must be fucking dreaming.”

I move to turn around to look at her, but my cell phone vibrating in my pocket distracts me. I mash the 'talk' button and whisper into the phone, “Hey, Alice.”

“Edward, I think you need to leave there... now!” Her voice is slightly frantic, but not overly alarmed.

“What's wrong, Alice? What did you see?”

“I don't know. It flickers with different scenarios, but I don't think you want to take a chance of a confrontation in public.”

“What do you mean a 'confrontation'?”

“Just come home now and I will fill you in.” And the line goes dead.

“C'mon, Jazz. Alice says we have to leave now.”

He nods, having already overheard the entire conversation, and we turn to head toward the exit.

“It's him, but why? How is he...? Where did he...?”

As we pass the circulation desk, a young woman is standing in our path, her heartbeat pounding in my ears. I swallow a mouthful of venom as I approach and skirt around her outstretched hand. “Excuse me,” I say to her.

“That's his voice! I'd know it anywhere!”

The girl's breathing becomes erratic, and her pulse races as I pass her, but that's not what causes me to make a beeline for the front doors...

No, that would be the girl I have never met, speaking my name with the same voice I heard in my head.


**The lake mentioned in Chapter 12 is Lake Crescent. See that posting link on the blog for a pic.

Chapter 12

Playlist selection: Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies

 Bella POV

I rub my hands up and down my arms, trying to get some friction, some warmth.  Jesus, it's cold in this room.  I glare at the air conditioner register in the ceiling as it blows cold air into the classroom.  I should have brought a sweater.  It's eighty-four degrees outside, and with the sub-arctic blast pouring from the vents, you'd think it was one hundred and fifty - these Washingtonians don't know what hot is!  This place has nothing on Phoenix. 

I'm pulled from my thoughts of home by the sound of a chair scraping across the linoleum floor.  Two more students file into the classroom and sit down at the next table.  The only seat left in the class is next to me, and I silently pray that someone sits there, needing the body heat to keep me from becoming a Bellacicle. 

I dig into my backpack, looking for a pen and pad of paper to take notes on, when the professor walks in and introduces himself to the class.

"Hi,  everyone. I'm Professor Banner, and welcome to Understanding Change in Natural and Social Systems - section 4055."  He smiles at each of us and pulls several papers from his man-bag. "Let's quickly go over introductions and then we can review the syllabus.  There's a lot for us to cover this semester."

He hands out the syllabi and returns to his spot at the head of our table.  There are only twelve students in the class and two lab tables situated in the center of the room.  The walls are plastered with diagrams and posters of various geological, marine, and botanical themes.  A large aquarium sits on the counter top at the back of the room and bubbles loudly.  It's water is low and a dark, murky green.

Professor Banner informs us that we will be paired up with a lab partner, and together we will be working on assignments and reports based on our research at the Center.

"Stanley?  Newton?  Where are you?" 

Two hands shoot up into the air, and the professor informs them of their new partnership.  Then he continues, "Next group is Mallory and Yorkie."  They both raise their hands and nod at each other in recognition. "Swan and Black?"  I raise my hand up, but notice no one else did. "Black?  Where's Jacob Black?"  Professor Banner glances at the remaining students and opens his mouth to say something else when the classroom door opens and a tall, dark drink of water walks in.  Jesus, God in Heaven, he's hot. 

"Sorry I'm late.  I'm Jake Black."

Oh, Lord.

Jake pulls out the chair next to me, nods hello, and settles in, digging out some pens, highlighters, and a notebook.  I blush furiously when I'm caught staring at his defined biceps from under the taut sleeve of his black tee-shirt.  Oh, yeah, I'm warm now. 

The rest of the class passes by in a blur.  I pretend to pay attention to Professor Banner as he drones on about the laboratory's do's and don't's, the lab report/paper due at the end of the semester, and the mandatory field trips to the forests and waterways around the Olympic Peninsula for specimen collection.  I twiddle a pen between my fingers, imagining how I could "accidentally" drop it onto the floor; then Jake would bend down to pick it up for me at the same time I do, and we'd stare into each other's eyes with unbridled lust and want, and then... 

"... numbers?"

I'm plucked from my daydream by the huskiness of Jake's voice.  He's leaning toward me with a curious expression on his face. 


He laughs. "I said, 'Since we're partners, would it be okay if we exchanged numbers?'"

I stare at him, processing this request, but then I glance down at the pen situated in his left hand... the same left hand that has a gold band on the third finger.  Great.  Mr. Hump-a-licious is married.  Well, maybe it's better this way.  God knows I can't handle any more love interests being hurt right now.  

Jake and I swap numbers, and then he walks me out to my truck.  I ask him to join me for lunch at one of the few restaurants in Forks, but he barks out a sarcastic laugh.  "Trust me, Bella, you don't want to eat at any of those places in town.  Well, maybe the pizza place is tolerable, but I wouldn't attempt the food in any of the other shitholes.  You're better off bringing your own lunch."

I laugh and thank him for his concern about my immune system, tell him I'll swing by my place for a quick bite, and then meet him back here in an hour for our next class.

The University of Washington's Olympic Natural Resource Center is a tiny campus on the outskirts of Forks, Washington.  A long, winding road leads you to the top of the forest covered hill where the facilities are situated.  It's a beautiful, modern campus, but I expected there to be more buildings, students, faculty, traffic... anything.  Instead, there's one single-story building for academics and another for "dorms".  I think my high school's gym would encompass both of these buildings. 

This is not what I had anticipated. 

Forks is not what I had anticipated.  The town is so small that it doesn't have apartment complexes or condos to lease, so I had to resort to finding a privately-owned rental. My place is a small efficiency, created from a remodeled two-story home and came mostly furnished.   I have a large window in the living room/bedroom space that allows plenty of light into my first floor apartment.  Notice I didn't say "sunlight".  There's not much of that here.  The only view from the window is of the wooden privacy fence that lines the property on the west side of the house.  There are a few shrubs against the perimeter and a tall pine tree off to the side.  The space inside the window is the perfect place for Carrumba's cage.  She'll enjoy watching the other birds.   

It's too fucking quiet in this town.  I get lost in my head - my thoughts - which is never a good thing.  I think about Edward and what he would say about living here. Would he like the small town life?  Would he have been happy being surrounded with the dense forests and plethora of insects?  And what about Riley?  Would he have been content with the early closing times of all the businesses?  He was such a night-owl, I don't know how he would have survived here without any nightlife, bars, or all-night diners.  Part of me is not sure how I will make do, either.  

I realize now that I should have Googled that shit before I accepted my grad school offer in Washington.    

Needless to say, Renee did not take the news well.  She cried, saying that Charlie and I were all she had left since the Masens died and she couldn't stand the thought that I'd leave her too.  She kept making me feel extremely guilty for moving so far away, but I needed to escape, to make a drastic change in my life.  I couldn't do it in Phoenix with the heart-wrenching memories of Edward and Riley all around me.  I had to leave.

Thankfully, Charlie agreed with my decision.  He understood my need to change things.  Although his haste to sell the Masens' house had caused a rift between us for a while, I knew it was something that needed to be done.  But it didn't lessen the sting of having to part with it.  I had to loosen my grasp on the physical items that were left behind when they died and focus on my future while still holding tight to their memories. There's no way I could keep their house if I was planning to start my life over in another part of the country.  I boxed up most of Edward's things and packed them into my truck to bring with me.  The rest of the house's furnishings were sold with the house.  The day of the closing was the day I left Phoenix.  It was time to close one door and open another.

My dad practically demanded that he drive to Washington with me and fly home once I was settled into my apartment, but I didn't think I could have dealt with his less than optimal ability to handle any potential emotional breakdowns from me.  Leaving my home, driving thousands of miles away to live all by myself was not something that I was really ready for, regardless of my stubborn insistence that I could handle it.  Thankfully, Angela volunteered to ride with me.  We convinced Charlie that it would be a girl's road trip and we'd be squeeing and gossiping the whole way, and he finally agreed to let Angela take his place as long as she allowed him and Renee to buy her an airplane ticket home. 

It took us three and a half days of driving in that old truck to reach Forks. 

To say it was utter culture shock as we arrived in town would be an understatement.  The trip up the 101 was scenic and very relaxing, but we both expected a larger community than the one that greeted us: logging trucks, mom-n-pop shops, and only one traffic light.  A large, cheery 'Welcome to Forks' sign was posted directly across the two-laned highway from a sketchy landing strip.  Angela's eyes widened, and she shrieked, "Oh, shit!  Charlie didn't book a flight to Phoenix from here, did he?  There's elk on the runway!"

"No, calm down." I laughed. "You leave from Sea-Tac."

Relieved, Angela grabbed the directions from the benchseat between us and navigated us to my new home.  We unloaded the truck, and Angela unpacked some of my boxes while I ran up to the Thriftway grocery/hardware store in town to grab some food for the week. 

We cried off and on for the next thirty-six hours, sad to be separated by so many miles, heart-broken at the circumstances that led to this situation, and anxious of our unknown futures.  I didn't want her to go, but I didn't need her to stay; I needed to do this.  

Angela left a few days ago to fly back home to Phoenix, and I cried the whole way to and from the airport.  

Now, I truly am alone.  I've only been here for a week, but I already miss Phoenix.

After I make a quick lunch at my place, I scramble into my truck and head back toward campus. 

Jake is sitting on a bench under the patio overhang when I pull up into the Center's parking lot.  We chat for a few minutes before heading to our second class together.  There are only two Colleges within the univeristy that are situated at the Center: the College of Forest Resources and College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences.  My program is housed in the former; Jake's, the latter.  He and I have several core courses that we share, but the specialized classes are separate.

"I hope you took my advice and stayed away from those gourmet gastropubs in town," he yells across the lot.  I nod, smiling, and hoist my backpack up higher on my shoulder.  "Good.  I don't want to deal with a lab partner who's moaning and groaning all afternoon from pains of dysentery."

I laugh and we make small talk as we enter a new classroom in the academics building. He tells me he's lived here all of his life, and being from a small fishing village on the La Push Reservation, he wanted to pursue marine conservation and industries for his native people.  When he asks why I chose the forest program, I just tell him that I always had a special place in my heart for nature.  I know my explanation is vague, and he quirks an eyebrow at me, silently urging me to tell him more, but I don't want to explain Edward and reopen those wounds right now. 

I started seeing a therapist a few months after I began my freshman year at UA.  I only saw her a few times and was discharged from her care until the incident with Riley.  I started seeing her again, but she forced me to revisit that dark time in my life after Edward died, and after four sessions I refused to go back.  I'm better off forcing those memories from my mind and pushing forward with my life.

For the next several weeks, I focus on my studies and quickly learning that Jake was right when it came to the culinary life of Forks.  He introduces me to his wife, Leah,   when she drops him off at the coffee house to go over our lab reports before class.  His car is broken down, and Leah needs the car to go to work.  She's a hotel manager in Port Angeles.  

"Bella, it's nice to meet you. I've heard so much about you."  Her smile appears genuine as she extends her hand through the driver's side window to shake mine.

I smile and tell her the same and that I feel like I've known her all my life.  We both glance over at Jake - who looks a bit sheepish - as he climbs out of the passenger seat.

"What can I say?  I love my wife... and my friends."

Leah and I "aww" simultaneously and then laugh when Jake begins to blush. 

A week before midterms, Leah, Jake, and Leah's friend, Rebecca, invite me to join them on a day trip to Port Townsend's Annual Fall Festival.  Since I haven't taken any trips to the area yet, I figure it would be a great opportunity to get a lay of the land.  Besides, I've been so bogged down with studying and writing lab reports that I can definitely use a day of mind-numbing sightseeing.

They pick me up at my apartment and we set off north on the 101.  In the past three months, I've only been as far north as Sappho and south toward the Hoh Rainforest for specimen collection.  The Olympic mountains aren't easily seen from Forks, but further up the highway, their snow-covered peaks rise from the landscape and stand regally as the backdrop to the terrain of the Pacific Northwest.  

About an hour into our drive, we arrive at a beautiful lake.   Small waterfalls trickle from the hills along the road side as the asphalt snakes along the southern edge of the lake, right along the waterline.  I practically beg for Jake to pull over onto the shoulder so I can take some pictures.  Rebecca points out a small viewing area up ahead, and we stop and climb out of the car, cameras in hand. 

Rebecca lives in Florida and has never been to the area to visit Leah and her new husband.  At least I'm not the only one who looks like a tourist, snapping pictures left and right.  She and I rush toward a rocky outcrop near the far end of the parking area and climb through the small grouping of trees that hang over the lake.

The water of the lake is fairly clear, and I'm amazed at the beauty of the mountains jutting right out from it.  We capture several pictures of the scenery and Jake asks another couple who has stopped to admire the view to take a few pictures of the four of us.  Finally, we climb back into the car and continue our trek north.

We stop in Port Angeles to drop off something at Leah's hotel, and then we are headed east toward Seattle.  Jake pulls off at a roadside diner with a giant statue of a bear and a logger in the parking lot.

"You'll love this place, Bella," Jake says, as he winks at me over Leah's head.

"Welcome to Smitty's!  Sit your butts down here," the middle-aged waitress barks with a smile, pointing to the counter seats.

We plop down on the barstools and glance around the restaurant, mouths gaped and eyes wide.  There's so much shit on the walls.  And when I say 'shit', I mean dollar bills, pictures, knick knacks...  it's a decorator's worst nightmare!  It's kind of cool, actually.  Jake proceeds to tell us about stopping here while with his family on trips to Seattle.  He orders four combos and we each give our drink request and return to reading the thousands of dollar bills and notes littering the walls and ceiling.

"Look!  This one says 1972!"

"Oh my God!  Bill Clinton ate here!  Look at this picture!" 

"Here!  Let's put one up!"  Leah digs out a dollar bill from her purse and we each take turns signing our names and Jake completes it with the date of our visit.  He climbs on the barstool and stands above the counter to tack it to the ceiling.

We devour our gigantic burgers and head back out toward Port Townsend. The Fall Festival is packed with vendors and patrons.  The overcast sky builds up to heavy thunder clouds and suddenly we are being pelted with large rain drops.  We make a mad dash toward the car, but as we reach the vehicle - parked at the edge of the nearby woods - I get that creepy, unsettling feeling again.  I haven't had that sensation since the night Riley died.  Almost as fast as I feel it, it's gone.  I quickly brush off the thoughts of Riley and settle into my seat, joining in the loud chorus of singing to the songs from Leah's iPod.

Jake and Leah meet up with me a few times outside of school for coffee and once for dinner at 'Chateau de Swan', as Jake likes to call my place.  Most of my time since the fall festival has been focused on school and our research project.  My parents fly up the week of Thanksgiving and stay at one of the local motels.  Renee insists on taking me out for dinner one evening, but I refuse and butter her up by telling her how much I miss cooking with her.  Of course, she knows this is total bullshit since I hate watching her sample everything we make while we're in the kitchen.

The second week of December, Jake and I schedule several study times at the Forks Public Library, to make final revisions of our joint term research paper.  I meet him at a table near the far corner of the library, books and papers strewn about the flat surface.

"Jake!  You started without me?"

He smiles and shakes his head as he rummages through his backpack. "No, I'm trying to find that map of the Elwah River - where we took that sample of sediment."

I plop my bag down on the table and search through my papers, grumbling when I can't find my copy of the map either.  After several moments of rooting through my bag, I wave a paper in the air and present it to Jake, smiling broadly at my find.  "Found it!"

He snatches it from my grasp and the map tears right down the middle of our specimen collection site. "Ah, shit!  Sorry, Bella."

"That's okay, Jake.  I'll just go to the circulation desk and request another copy.  This is where I got it from anyway. You just work on calculating the results from the water samples while I'm getting the map, alright?  We've got to get that shit done today."

He nods and turns his eyes back down to his notes, scribbling figures in the column of the page.

I glance at the map in my hand as I walk up to the circlulation desk.  The paper is ripped nearly in two, but could easily be fixed with some clear tape, but I'd rather not submit a torn topographical map with my research paper.  I want this to look professional, not like I'm back in my undergrad classes again.

As I round the corner made by the shelves of sci-fi books, I spot something that stops me dead in my tracks.  A man about my age - maybe younger - is sitting at a table near the DVD rentals.  He's facing away from me and his clothes are non-descript, but that's not what halts my feet from moving forward.  It's his hair.

I immediately blow it off as a coincidence.  Many people have auburn hair, Bella, I tell myself.  Many people have crazy bed-head hair, too.  He seems to be casually glancing through a magazine, not really paying attention to the articles.  A gorgeous blond man is sitting next to him, looking bored out of his mind.  He's not reading any books or magazines, but his eyes are boring holes into the man with the auburn hair.

I turn my attention back to the librarian at the desk and request a new copy of the particular map in my hand.  She takes my torn paper and disappears into the back office.  As I'm waiting, I chance a glance behind me toward the man.  His friend is staring at me with a confused look on his face, but the man with aurburn hair is just turning back toward the front windows. In that split second as he's turning away from me, I recognize his profile.

I've got to be delusional.

Staring at the back of his head, I try to convince myself that this man has lived in Forks all his life, that he's never been to Phoenix, never grew up with a girl named Bella, never died at the hands of a rabid animal on a camping trip with his family.  But there's something that's gnawing at me, clawing its nails through my head and my heart to verify that it's not him.  It's not possible!  Why am I torturing myself?  But as I tilt my head a little to the left, I can see a portion of his profile and I know without a doubt that it's him.

I've got to be delusional, I repeat.

My heart tells my legs to run to him, wrap my arms around his neck, and kiss him desperately, but my feet stay cemented to the floor.

It's him, I know it is, I tell myself.  But how? Why?  This can't be real.  I must be fucking dreaming. He's the same, but he's not.  Different.  His skin is very pale and his posture is rigid.  He's barely moving, barely breathing, and I'm wondering if he's holding his breath. 

I've got to be delusional.

He raises a cell phone to his ear, mumbling quietly into the phone.  His voice is so low that I can't hear it, and he runs his hand through his hair.  His wrist...!

It is him!  But why?

The blond next to him whips his head to look at me and glares.  The magazine drops loudly onto the table and they stand to leave.   

My body is frozen in place, my brain not able to process what I'm seeing.   How is he...?  Where did he...?

They move toward the exit but they must pass the circulation desk - and me - on their way out.  His face is trained to the floor as they approach me, so I reach out a shaky hand to gain his attention.  I need to touch him, feel him, to know he's really here -alive- and not a ghost.

"Excuse me," he mutters, glancing up at me and trying to skirt around my trembling hand.   

That's his voice! I'd know it anywhere! 

I feel like my body is going to crumble, my knees are wobbly and I grasp onto the counter next to me for purchase.  A sob is fighting to escape my throat, but I'm not sure there is air in my lungs to release it.  

Tears form and tumble from my eyes as my suspicion is confirmed - that's the unforgettable face of the boy I've loved my entire life.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or it's character names - those belong to Stephenie Meyer. Bittersweet Irony and it's characterizations, backgrounds, and plot lines belong to SweetVenom69. No copying, translation, or reproduction is allowed without my written authorization.
© 2010 SweetVenom69.