A/N: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I don't own anything. Not even Boozeward. He belongs to the fab ladies at WArehab and they can do whatever they want with him (except allow him anywhere near water or feed him after midnight). Thanks so much for all your kind words and encouragement!
I was walking down the hall, everything seeming to radiate a blue tint. My hands looked deathly pale, the floors looked lavender, the walls looked cerulean, and the lockers… well, the lockers were midnight blue.
I was late for World History. The bell had rung, and people who rushed past me were going to make it. Unfortunately, my feet seemed to move slower. I was easily distracted by Mike Newton, who stopped to say, "Come to the beach with us on Saturday."
I was hungry, and the bake sale table captured my attention next. I bought a cupcake and ate it as I continued, rolling my eyes at Tyler when he threw a football down the hallway. We weren't allowed to play sports indoors like that.
I halted when I reached the double doors, staring out of the tall vertical window as I surveyed the courtyard. I could see the area illuminated like everything else darkened, the only thing visible—or allowed to be visible—a head of messy hair. Edward Cullen, more orange than blue, walked toward the doors, laughing about something someone had said, head shaking, boots stomping, arms swinging. He captured my eyes and my breath caught, my arms painfully squeezing the textbooks in my arms as he pulled open the door, sparing me an askew glance as he continued on his path.
I watched as he walked away with a swagger, talking animatedly and eventually ducking into a classroom.
God, he was so beautiful.
With a sigh of epically dreamy proportions, I returned to my quest to be punctual to World History. I cursed myself for being so easily distracted when I had important things to do. I had places to be, I kept reminding myself. We had a quiz. My whole grade depended on it—maybe even my whole life.
Panicking, I struggled to make my feet carry me farther down the south wing of the school, doors closing in my wake and making me jump with anxiety. I was late. I was so late. The teacher would never forgive my tardiness, and I'd be forced to go to the principal's office. I was sweating as I searched for the door, praying that my instructor would be understanding, just this once.
When I'd finally reached the correct corridor (for some reason, I kept wandering down the wrong ones), I was so relieved that I could feel my muscles loosen, a smile stretching over my face. Better late than never, I figured. I trudged forward, begging my feet to carry me faster. The door was in my sight, and I was determined to make it. If I could just ignore the rattle that came from my side, a vibration of the lockers, then I could get there unhindered.
But the rattle was very distracting, and my feet ceased their steps, as if independent from my body. I was frustrated and looked to the lockers with annoyance. They were still midnight blue, but one in particular looked almost black, the lock on it shaking just slightly enough for my eyes to catch the movement.
My throat tightened uncontrollably. Locks don't shake on their own like that. I'd seen enough ghost flicks to know that you don't go exploring unnatural noises and movements. Frighteningly, my legs carried me toward it anyway, and I could feel myself coil as I drew closer to the subtle "clinking" sounds of the lock grazing the metal of the locker.
My hand was surprisingly steady as it lifted to the padlock, fingers grasping the bottom and slowly pulling until a click resounded through the blue halls. I gulped as my eyes shifted from side to side, and then decided to spare the horizontal grates a second glance. I could only discern black from where I stood and had to stand my tip toes to get a peek inside, bracing my fingertips against the structure as I peered.
Brown eyes snapped forward, stared back at me with a gurgling noise.
I sprung myself back, only to collide with a hard chest. I was happy to not be alone, and I turned to tell the stranger what I'd seen, my heart racing as I panted sharp breaths.
"Something's in there," I informed, staring up and meeting the green eyes and blue coolness of Edward Cullen.
He looked different than before. He wasn't as orange, and his smile wasn't as soft. His posture was stiff and lacked the same grace he'd emanated during his walk through the courtyard. I gulped as I inched backward, careful to keep an equal distance between both him and the thing in the locker.
His lips pulled up into a smile that was craggy, exposing three of his left, gleaming teeth. "Really?" he whispered, his voice sounding cold. "What did it look like?"
Swallowing, my hands wrung as I explained in a stammer, "Uh, there w-w-were eyes. Brown eyes. They h-had these… veins, like bloodshot." I could feel the locker at my back though I had been so careful to keep away from it, I jumped, Edward seeming closer now as well.
"Hmm." He looked over my shoulder through the grates, his smile hardening, eyes crinkling around the edges. They snapped to mine. "Maybe it's looking for you," he ventured through jagged lips, grasping my arm and yanking me forward.
I was paralyzed as he reached to the lock and removed it, my breath coming in errant bursts as I tensed, awaiting the reveal of the thing with the eyes. The black door swung open and I held my breath, immediately releasing it with a gasp as he shoved me into the darkness.
With a shriek, I lurched upright in bed, heart hammering as my hair stuck to my sweaty neck. I swallowed lungfuls of air, pulling my hair away and clenching my eyes shut as I twisted it up into a knot atop my head. My hands shook when I lowered them to my nightstand to retrieve my lucky pen and I curled them into fists while calming my racing heart. With a vicious stab, I speared the pen through my bun, securing it away from my face as I scanned the empty room.
It was the coffin, I decided.
Seeing Charlie in that coffin was a really fucked up experience. When I died, I wanted to be cremated, for no other reason than I just couldn't spend eternity in a box. It'd been years since I'd had a nightmare like that. Being back in Forks probably had a lot to do with it, too, and I was bitter as I regarded the sun shining through my bare windows, warming my face and shoulders. I squinted against the brightness, and it didn't seem right. It felt almost… inappropriate. Rude. Inconsiderate.
My dad was dead.
The sun shouldn't be shining.
My mattress had no sheets, so I slipped easily from the bed, still wearing my clothes from the day before. The floor was cold as my feet slapped down the staircase. The living room was eerily silent; the entire house, eerily silent. I'd only been here for five days, and I already hated silence.
I turned the television on and cranked up the volume, just to make the house feel less… dead. The weatherman's booming voice echoed off the empty furniture as I prepared my coffee. Apparently, it wasn't going to rain until Saturday. Damn it.
My dad's old coffeemaker puttered to life once filled. It made the shittiest coffee. I had no idea how he handled drinking from it for… God only knows how long. I snatched my cigarettes from the kitchen table, eyes still blurred with sleep as I unlocked the door and exited onto the front porch. I lit a cigarette and stretched, looking out over the overgrown lawn.
Charlie had been sick for a long while. No one really knew, because Charlie hadn't wanted anyone to really know. He was a lockbox like that. No one could keep a secret like my dad, and no one would ever know just how many secrets he had. His biggest was probably the cancer, though. I didn't even find out until a week before he passed, and even then, he'd played it down to the point that it seemed like nothing more than a bad case of arthritis. He was idiotically genius.
I guess I hadn't really considered how long he'd been bad off, though. Not until I saw the house. It'd once been his pride and joy. Charles Swan didn't own much in this world, but there was his quarter acre of property off of Cedarcrest Road where a two-story house sat that he'd paid off with his blood, sweat, and tears. Of course, turns out, stage four prostate cancer makes it a little difficult to keep up.
The house, the yard, the driveway, the front stoop—it'd all gone to shit. And this big ole pile of shit? It was now mine.
I plopped onto the first step with a huff of smoke, rubbing my eyes as I adjusted to the sun.
I couldn't sell it. Maybe I was being sentimental or nostalgic or… whatever. It was his, and he gave it to me. That meant something, and even though it'd be really, really smart to sell and move back to sunny Florida where I had nothing waiting for me but a rented apartment and a job that made me want to kill myself, I just couldn't fucking do it.
I didn't want anyone else living in the house. It'd be a pile of shit to them, but to me… to me the brown spot on the lawn was where my beloved Chevy had sat for ten years. To me, that old decrepit swing set in the backyard was the first toy my dad had ever assembled for me. To me, it was childhood and laughter and the smells of warm coffee and Charlie coming down the stairs to ask, "Have you seen my other shoe?"
To me, it was home—his home—our home.
I butted my cigarette out into the soil of the large planter by the door. That plant was deader than a doornail anyway. I made a note to replace it with an ashtray as I retuned inside and drank my awful coffee.
By nine, I was awake, showered, dressed, and ready to spend my day applying for jobs. I might not have had rent to pay, but there were utilities and expenses and groceries and… shit. I really needed to get a move on. Charlie had left me money, truthfully, but it didn't feel right spending it on bills. That money was meant for something special and noteworthy.
And that's how I spent my entire day applying for jobs while feeling like utter shit. Charlie had only been gone for a week, and I was already thinking of ways to spend the man's money?
My head hung a little lower than usual as I drove from establishment to establishment. As always, I ruled out anything in a cubicle, anything with an elevator, anything shady on legal details, and any place that didn't ask for a background check. I put on a fake smile and—when gender allowed it—poked out my strategic cleavage and laughed—a lot.
I had seven job offers by noon.
"Really?" Renee breathed too heavily over the phone as she was prone to do when she was caught off guard. "That just doesn't sound like something you'd like," she remarked.
I sighed. "There isn't anything here to like, mom. At least the bar and grill gig comes with the promise of free food and beer." I could practically hear her smile at this. She'd been worried about me, that much was obvious. I continued with faux enthusiasm, "I like the shitty jobs, you know? There's less pressure. Everything is week to week, tip to tip. And you have to admit, it'll never be boring."
The Lodge's Bar and Grill was the classiest restaurant in Forks, which… wasn't really saying much, but, let's face it, my options were limited.
"You don't miss working at the paper?" Renee wondered. That was her code for "Don't you really want to come home to mommy?"
"Nope." I didn't. The paper had given me three ulcers and as great as Renee could sometimes be, I was ready to cut the cord. I should have done it long ago. I should have stayed and cherished my time with Charlie instead of running away like a coward.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda…
"Well, if it makes you happy, then what can I say? I waitressed a few times, you know. There was this one time in Phoenix, this little bistro, and the boss was this enormous Italian man, really surly guy. He had the biggest obsession with—" I nodded and hummed along, lolling my head back on the sofa. I struggled absently to craft of a decent excuse to hang up, even though I knew once I did, I'd be bored and alone again.
It was then that I heard the telltale thump-ump and scrape of a car driving too fast over the large bump in the driveway. I stood and walked to the kitchen, offering Renee a distracted, "That's totally crazy, mom," as I peeked out the curtains. I figured it was another officer from the station, coming by to check up on me. Either they were looking to honor their late Chief by looking after me, or looking for a good reason to waste tax-payers' dollars since there was nothing else in this town to do.
The car was silver, though, not a cruiser. And the driver was dressed in jeans and a sweater, not a uniform, and he didn't have a hat. He had a familiar head of coppery hair that bobbed over the vehicle and dipped as he assessed the damage to the undercarriage of his shiny car.
"I'll call you back."
I hung up the phone without even waiting for a response. I watched as he stood, wrinkled his nose, thumped at his tire with his shoe and ran his fingers through his hair. When he started for the door, I dropped the curtain and made my way into the foyer. The coat closet was dark when I opened it, but I didn't need the light to find what I sought.
My hand caught it immediately, wrapping around the cold metal and wood with a comforting chill. Before I could even hear a knock, I had the door open, and Charlie's shotgun pointed right at the middle of his chest.
He had the audacity to be smiling, those red lips curled and tucked into his flawless cheeks. Just as soon as it'd appeared through the crack in the door, however, it was gone. He staggered back a step, palms up in the air, eyes wide.
His mouth formed a muted "Whoa," before he said aloud, "You are definitely your father's daughter."
"Get the fuck off my property," I growled, pumping the shotgun with a pointed chunk-chink.
All grumpy old Clint Eastwood jokes aside, he looked like he was about to piss himself, which, honestly, would have been laughably karmic. "I just wanted to offer my condolences," he hastily explained. His green-apple eyes were fixed on the barrel, torso bending back ever so slightly.
My skin felt hot and purple on the surface, though my insides felt downright frigid. I quickly discovered, the tighter I gripped the gun, the less my hands could be seen shaking.
I was gripping it pretty damned tight. "And I just wanted to watch Wheel of Fortune without some sorry sack of shit showing up on my doorstep to piss in my cornflakes. Guess we're both kind of screwed."
He winced, inching backward with a long inhale. "I deserved that, but—"
I cackled in his face, the sound feeble and uncomfortable. "If you came here to discuss what you deserved, we'll have to sit down. It could take a while."
His eyebrows rose as his hands dropped, thumbs hooked into his pockets. Suddenly, he was the picture of ease, cocking his head to the side with smiling eyes. "Actually… if you do have a minute—"
"Are you fucking serious right now?" I wanted to jam the barrel into his chest, but I swore to myself long ago that I'd never touch Edward Cullen with a ten foot pole—even if bullets exploded from one end of it.
One hand went to his hair as he visibly considered my question, brows pinched. "Maybe… this is a bad time?" he hedged uncertainly.
"There won't be a good time," I assured in a flat voice, nodding my head at the street. "And just so you know, the station has officers patrolling this road, day and night." This was only a partial lie, but they'd offered, and I had no choice but to accept now.
His lips formed a silent "o" as he bobbed his head thoughtfully, averting his eyes. With a grim nod, he turned and gripped the flimsy railing, retreating in silence. I smiled inwardly as the dry-rotted wood gave under his weight, almost making him stumble and fall onto his pretty little face.
He stared at the crumbling remains that tumbled to the ground and looked at me over his shoulder, urging, "You should get that fixed."
I kept the gun aimed at his back as he walked to his car, only stopping to meet my gaze for a second before he ducked inside. He pulled out slowly—too slowly for a man whose life had just been threatened.
When I could no longer see his taillights, I lowered the gun. My hands were shaking so violently that I no longer felt safe with my finger on the trigger. I didn't return the weapon to the closet, though. I took it with me as I collapsed onto the couch in a limp, trembling heap.
I rubbed my palms against the denim covering my thighs, the jagged scars from a shattered locker mirror somehow stinging as if sensing his proximity. That would be an issue. I figured he'd moved away by now, though I'd never dared to ask anyone. It'd been there, nagging at the back of my mind ever since I'd boarded the plane in Jacksonville, but I'd pushed it away.
It was one more justification to leave.
I seriously considered whether to stay or leave that night as I lay in bed, the shotgun propped against my nightstand—out of anger, not fear. I knew the paper would take me back, Renee would help me get settled into a new place, and the house could go on the market and be sold within months. It was doable and undeniably tempting.
But I wasn't going to let him chase me away this time. I wasn't a swoony little ignorant girl anymore. I was something else, someone stronger. He thought he'd broken me, but he hadn't, for all of his many efforts. I wouldn't have been capable of living with the notion that he might think he'd chased me away if I fled now.
The scrape of branches against my window reminded me of my fingernails against metal, and I cringed. I hated remembering that day, that feeling of being trapped and powerless and suffocated. When I remembered the way I'd tried with all of my might to kick and push and free myself from that tiny space to no avail, I'd begin sweating. I'd rub my forehead and stretch my arms out, take deep lungfuls of stagnant air. Sometimes, I'd have to stand up and go outside, smoke a cigarette and take a walk.
I hadn't remembered it in so long. I'd almost forgotten how cold his eyes had looked as he'd stared at me through the reflection of a mirror, or the total disregard in the tightness around his brows, or the way his smirk had looked jagged and stony—like he'd just thought up the most amusing joke, but was keeping it secret. I'd almost forgotten how he looked so achingly beautiful on the surface, but how the darkness of his soul had made him the ugliest person I'd ever met.
It was vivid and bright now, though—a lot like the ignorant little girl that I'd left behind, trapped in the rank darkness of a dented locker.
I saw him again the following Saturday. I'd just finished my first day working at the Lodge and had stopped by the Thriftway to get some dish detergent and tampons. I was crabby and tired, and I reeked of grilled beef, Heineken, and irritable bitch.
The cashier was young and thankfully, didn't recognize me. I'd already run into several people while working and shopping in town. Keeping my hair up and secure with my lucky pen helped a bit, but once they really looked at me, I was a goner. I'd only lived in Forks for six months as a teenager and yet, no one from that school had ever forgotten me. It wasn't exactly flattering, seeing as how the only thing they remembered was the sight of me having pissed myself as I'd lain on the floor in front of my locker.
"That's ten fifty-four," the pimply boy squeaked, actually blushing as he bagged my box of tampons. I rolled my eyes as I thrust my debit card at him, annoyed at the way in which he handled the box like full on contact might curse him with a debilitating case of vagina. He gawked at the plastic rectangle and said, "Oh, I'm sorry. We only take cash." A point of his finger to a sign below the register confirmed this.
Who the fuck doesn't accept debit cards? I darted my eyes back and forth between him and the sign, feeling as if I'd been transported back to the fifties. I'd left my tips in the pocket of my jacket and was really pissed off about the extra trip to the parking lot. My feet were killing me.
With a huff, I grumbled, "I'll be right back."
But then a hand reached over me and laid a crisp twenty dollar bill before the cashier.
"Oh, I can't…" I began, turning my head to decline this stranger's obvious generosity. I froze when my brown eyes met warm green.
"It's no problem," he insisted with a shrug, smiling. His grin was jagged, and my eyes grew wide, heart thrumming loudly in my chest. I gulped against my will, incapable of forming further protest as I gawked openly at his craggy lips, feeling beads of sweat rise on the back of my neck.
The fucking cashier gave him his change before I could promptly tell Edward Cullen to shove his twenty dollar bill up his ass. I snatched my bag from the counter and stormed out of the store, ducking my head as the fine mist of a sprinkle fell from the sky.
I could feel him behind me and my fists clenched around the plastic handles of my grocery bag. "Leave me alone," I warned over my shoulder, peeking at him as he sprinted toward me out the automatic doors.
"I don't want to hurt you, I just—" His words caught in his throat as I spun around, enraged.
"You think I'm scared of you?" I screeched with incredulity. Edward Cullen believed that I'd cowered—that I feared him. It was unbearable. I'd fled all those years ago because I was humiliated, not intimidated. I walked right up to where he stood, staring up at him steadily as the rain speckled his hair. "You can't do anything to me. I'd really love to see you try though," I challenged, jaw tight as my fists curled. "Go on, try me." I stepped closer, daring him to so much as brush the fabric of shirt against my skin.
I'd dreamed of nut kicking him for too long. God, the catharsis that would bring was almost intoxicating. I yearned for it with every cell of my being.
His eyes flashed in frustration as he moved back, repeating, "I said I didn't want to hurt you, and if you'd give me a minute to talk, maybe you'd realize that I'm trying to apologize."
"I don't owe you shit," I spat, turning on my heel and fishing my keys from my pocket. They rattled in my hand as his footsteps followed me.
He spoke in such a rush that he never took a breath. "I'm more sorry about that day than you'll ever know and I'm trying to make things right, you know, turning over a new leaf? And I never forgot and never will, and I know you don't owe me your forgiveness, but I'd really like to earn it." By the end of his rant, I'd reached my car, and he was gasping a long inhale. He finished, "I'll do anything."
All I could register was "sorry about that day."
I spitefully wondered, what about all the other days?
"Anything?" I asked belatedly. "Go to hell." I caught a fleeting glance of his pained eyes as I ducked into the car, slamming the door and jamming the keys into the ignition. My tires squealed as I left him in the middle of the parking lot, the clouds finally opening and blanketing him in a sheet of misty darkness.
I caught sight of him in my rearview mirror, looking to the sky, jaw tight, eyes closed, arms limp as the frigid rain assaulted his face.
For the first time that week, I smiled.
A/N: Betas-PastichPen/Frenchbeanz. EZrocksangel/RevRag helped tooooo! Thanks guise! And thanks everyone for all those awesome reviews!
I posted Chapter 1 of a new angsty novella fic (Rising) on my LJ (link on profile).
If you enjoy reading Terribella and the bitch that lives in all of us, check out Girl Afraid (on faves list). It was rec'd today on , and I lubbs!
See y'all Wednesday! Hope your holidays are going well!