Disclaimer: Twilight is owned by Stephenie Meyer. I am only borrowing a few of her characters. The remainder of the story is my own. No reproduction is permitted without my written consent.
Death. It feels strangely like life. At first. Kept alive in the thoughts and minds of those who loved you, those you loved. Each thought is a spark of life, like the glow of a candle, or even just a match in a dark room.
But even in death time moves on. The flashes of life become ever dimmer as you fade from the memory of those whom you thought would never forget, until there is nothing. A gray sky fades to black.
There is still the rare flash when someone walks near your grave and pauses to read the headstone, acknowledging a life lived and lost long ago. But now, that flash, dimmer than the last rays of the sunset, is not enough to revive you from your sleep.
Chapter 1: Life
Life goes on even when you can't feel it, when you're numb, or held in a perpetual state of suspension. You go through the motions, wake up, shower, eat breakfast, go to work, go home, sleep, all with minimal emotion.
Somewhere in the deepest recesses of your mind you begin to get the creeping suspicion that life isn't worth living if you've built a wall between yourself and those you care about, even if it was built to shield them from your pain. When the source of the pain is gone, the walls remain, as real as brick and mortar, now isolating you alone in your own world. It's hard to find the will to tear them down. When your dreams have died, it's almost impossible to imagine that you can go back to being truly alive.
I pulled up the new house in my old red truck and paused to take in the sight of it. It wasn't really new, having been built many decades ago, but it was now mine. The house was a small white cape cod with green shutters next to the windows. It was built in the early 1920's by a man as a home for his new bride.
Mary, my realtor felt bad for trying to talk me out of buying it in the first place.
The house was almost too good to be true. It was everything I was looking for – reasonably priced, small, country setting. The nearest neighbors, a farmer and his family, were at least a half mile away. When I found the listing on the internet, I knew I had to snap it up fast.
Mary tried to discourage me when I first asked about it. She said that most people, when they got out there to see it, decided they weren't interested. I insisted. She asked if I believed in ghosts. I laughed, so she finally relented and scheduled a viewing.
When she drove me out to see it, I knew instantly that this was where I belonged. Even though I had grown up in the dry heat of Arizona, this just felt like home.
Mary showed me through the small kitchen and living room. Then she took me up stairs to see the two small bedrooms. The house wasn't quite as perfect on the inside. It looked like it had last been remodeled in 1970. The carpet in the larger bedroom had been green but faded to a mustard yellow everywhere except where a bed and dresser had stood for years. The other bedroom was smaller, but was covered in pink shag carpeting. The living room had cheap paneling on the walls and a popcorn ceiling that was now bare in spots. The kitchen was full of cheap brown cabinets with cheaper low-end counter tops. A spindly table and four chairs stood in one corner of the room. The finish was bubbled and peeling in spots, but it looked like it was solidly built. The whole house would need some work but there was nothing that couldn't be fixed.
"I'll take it!" I told the realtor, but I saw her cringe slightly. She said that there was one more thing I had to see, before I set my heart on this house.
She dragged me out the front door and around to side pointing south. There in the lot just past the yard was a small cemetery. It was well kept, with grass freshly mown. Many of the graves were decorated with flowers, or small flags to remember the veterans. Puzzled as to what the problem was, I turned back to the realtor.
"It's a cemetery."
"Yes, Isabella, it's a cemetery. It goes against the first rule of buying a house! Location, location, location! Houses near cemeteries have terrible resale value!" she lectured.
"But, it looks like a nice place."
"And I'm sure it is," she said, "But you are going to have an impossible time selling it. Who is going to want to live next to a cemetery? Too many people watch all those creepy ghost hunter stories." As alone as I was in the world, I didn't see how anyone, living or dead, could shake me.
"I'm sure nobody there is going to bother me," I said, rolling my eyes. "And besides, I'm getting a pretty good price now. I don't care if it doesn't double in value. As long as I can get out what I put in and I'm happy while I'm here why should I care about a few quite neighbors?"
She just shook her head, turned around and went back inside to start the paper work.
A horn sounded behind me, bringing me back to the present. My brother, Jasper, pulled the small U-haul into the driveway behind me. He climbed out of the truck, and walked out into the front yard.
"Well, Bells, it looks like a fine place, but I still don't know why you want to live out here in the middle of nowhere," he said, appraising the house.
"It's the only place I've found that just feels like home. Jake and I stopped in this town two years ago on our way to our honeymoon. Jake wasn't impressed with it. He said we were wasting our time trying to find a restaurant in this hick town." Nothing ever seemed to impress Jake. "We only stopped here for a few hours, but I thought it had a friendly feel. It's the kind of place you can get to know people, and really depend on your neighbors. Besides, they needed a second grade teacher and I needed a job."
"Yeah, well if Jake hated it then it can't be all bad." I gave him a pointed look that said drop it. Jasper had never liked Jake and I wasn't in the mood to rehash my past.
"But this isn't the neighborhood I would have chosen," he continued, looking over at the cemetery. "I hope they're friendly."
"Not you too!" I whined. "My realtor tried her hardest to talk me out of this place. This is my home now!"
"Well, you have to admit that it is just a little creepy," he insisted, eyeing the cemetery again. "Come on. Let's get this thing unloaded."
It only took us a few hours to get all my worldly possessions unloaded and carried into the house. When we were finished, we drove back into town to drop off the U-haul and grab some dinner.
The town didn't have much in the way of dining options to choose from. It had a pizza place, an ice cream parlor, a bar and grill called the Stoneman Tavern, and a small greasy-spoon diner. We headed into the Tavern and found a small table.
As we looked over the menu, Jasper asked, "So do you actually know anyone in this town?"
"Well," I replied hesitantly, "I know Mary Sanders, my realtor."
"She doesn't count. Do you have any friends here? Anyone who you can just go and hang out with?"
I played with the paper ring that had held my napkin and silverware in place, twisting it around my finger. "No, not yet. Once I start teaching I'm sure I'll meet lots of people."
"Bella, not everyone has gone through a loss like you have. I'm worried about you." Jasper always knew when I wasn't happy. He could sense it somehow. He was the only one to push at the walls I had built, looking for a weak spot. So far they held firm.
"Jasper, lots of people start out alone when they begin a new job. It's just my turn now. Besides, I like the idea of starting out in a new place where nobody knows me or Jake. Someplace where I can be myself and figure out who I am."
Before he could press on, the waitress appeared to take our orders. She was your typical country girl with long blond hair and blue eyes. She might have even been pretty if she used a little less hairspray and black eyeliner. She was clearly taken with Jasper because her eyes never left his face.
"Hi, my name is Amy and I'll be your server today. Would you like to hear our specials? " The way she purred the word 'specials' made me think she had something really special in mind in the back room for Jasper. He of course was totally oblivious as always.
"I'll have a grilled chicken salad and a coke," I said trying to interrupt her blatant attempt to flirt with my brother.
She scribbled my order down and turned back to Jasper. "And what can I get for you today?" she asked batting her long fake eyelashes.
"I'll just have the fried chicken and a coke," Jasper said handing her the menu.
"Oh, we only have Pepsi products. Is that okay?" she asked him.
"Sure," He said.
"Well, I'll be right back with your drinks." She turned and disappeared before I could stop her to change my order to an iced tea. I hated Pepsi.
"No tip for her," I grumbled.
"What's wrong with her?" Jasper asked. "She seems very polite."
"Jasper, you are so clueless. She was practically throwing herself at you." I said, exasperated.
"You're crazy. I think you are just trying to divert the conversation away from yourself and what you are doing in this hick town."
I leaned over the table placing my head in my hands.
Jasper reached across the table and took my hand. "I just worry about you. I know it's been a year since Jake was killed. I just don't want to see you pining away here all alone for someone who isn't coming back. You and Jake were together for so many years. It must be so hard for you to be alone now."
He just couldn't understand. As crazy as it sounded, I finally felt like I was getting my life on the right track, after being on the wrong one for so long. Now Jasper and the rest of my family were worried that I was going to throw my life away in some small town with nowhere to go. Worse yet, they all thought that my life, or at least the meaning in it, died in that car crash with Jake. The life had gone out of me long before that.
"When is everyone going to realize that I am capable of taking care of myself?" I snapped at him. "Yes, I miss Jake, but did it ever occur to you that things with him weren't exactly perfect? Look, Jasper. I don't want to talk about Jake now. I'm here for better or worse, and I intend to make the best of it."
Jasper frowned. "Fine. I'm sorry for bringing you down. Just promise me you'll call me if you need anything at all. I don't like the idea of you living all alone in that house."
The waitress returned, dispelling some of the tension, and we were able to finish our meal without discussing anything more awkward than my home improvement plans. The waitress finally came to clear the table and handed Jasper the bill folder with a big smile. "I'll take that," I said pulling it out of his hands. "It's the least I can do." She shot me a nasty look and left.
"Well, at least let me leave the tip. She was nice and I don't want you to stiff her,"
"She slipped you her number," I said, handing him the small scrap of paper that was folded in the bill.
Jasper turned red. "I'll pass," he said, jumping up from the table. "I'll meet you out by the car." Apparently he was now feeling the need for a quick getaway.
"Okay. I'll be right out. I want to pick up some groceries before we head back to the house."
I paid the bill and walked out the door. "Jasper, I think the grocery store is over," I stopped short.
Jasper was kneeling in the sidewalk next to someone. I ran over to them and looked over his shoulder. Passed out on the ground was a small woman with short brown hair. She was wearing cutoff jean shorts, dirty work boots and a bright green T-shirt that read 'Smith's Nursery'. "Oh my God! Jasper, what happened?" I asked him.
Jasper ignored me. He was about to lean down to check her pulse when she started to wake up. She shook her head and slowly propped herself up on one elbow.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
She kept her eyes closed tight as if she was afraid to look at him. "I'm fine. Happens all the time. I just need a minute."
She sat up and pressed the palms of her hands to her eyes as if she was trying to wipe away an image, then struggled to her feet. She was still a little wobbly, so Jasper caught her by the elbow to steady her.
The minute he touched her skin, her eyes flew up and locked on to his. Neither of them said anything. They just stared into each other's eyes like they were lovers who had been searching for each other all their lives.
"Are you sure you are okay?" I asked. I suddenly felt like I was intruding on their private moment.
At the sound of my voice their eyes broke contact and they jerked apart as if they suddenly realized that the rest of the world still existed around them.
"I'll be fine," she answered, shaking her head to clear it. "Like I said, it happens all the time." She dusted herself off and looked around at her feet, until she spied a ratty old bag that she must have dropped. She picked it up quickly and slung it over her shoulder, then turned back to us one last time. "I'm so sorry to bother you! Thanks for your help. I really have to be going. See you around." And she was gone. She darted down the street and into the restaurant we had just left.
Jasper was stunned. He just stood there staring at the door as she disappeared behind it. "Who was that?" he whispered.
"I have no idea," I replied. "She looks a bit crazy to me. Jasper, what did you do to the poor woman?"
"I didn't do anything! We were just walking down the street when she looked up into my eyes. The next think I knew, her eyes rolled back into her head and she dropped to the ground. Do you think we should go see if she is okay?" he asked. His eyes were filled with concern for this strange woman.
I shook my head. "She didn't look like she wanted our help. Let's get our groceries and head home."
Jasper took one last look back at the door then turned to walk back to the car with me.
It was evening by the time we got home. We were both worn out from carrying boxes and furniture all day. Jasper helped me to unload the groceries from the back of the truck, and then crashed on the couch with a beer to watch a ball game on my little 17" TV.
My body was tired, but my mind wasn't ready to shut down quite yet, so I excused myself and slipped outside to take a short walk.
I started by walking out front to take a look at the house, making a mental list of all the work that needed to be done. At first glance, the house looked picture perfect, but up close, you could see that it was in serious need of some TLC. The shutters next to the front window needed a fresh coat of paint. The white siding on the north wall was starting to turn green like moss growing on the north side of a tree. The hand rail on the back steps was rusty and loose. It would need to be completely replaced. It also looked like nobody had paid any attention to the flower beds in years. About half the house was buried in huge rhododendrons that had started to grow wild. I wasn't sure if I could salvage them or if I would need to start over.
Having made my way around the house once, I paused again in the front yard. The sun was setting, and it bathed the little white house in a soft orange glow. It would take a lot of work, but I could just see it as it was meant to be: my little white home with the green shutters, surrounded by flowers, maybe with a small vegetable garden in the back. When I was a child, I had dreamed of living in a place like this, but in my dreams I wasn't alone.
I shook my head to clear it before the tears could start. This was meant to be a new beginning. I would build a new life here. I didn't want to taint it with any of the pain from my previous life.
Turning from the house, I glimpsed the cemetery. The sun was going down, but there was still enough light for a short walk so I went off to meet my nearest neighbors.
The cemetery was small but well kept. As I walked among the headstones, I couldn't help feeling a sense of peace as I thought about the lives they represented. There were many couples, sometimes accompanied by children who didn't live long enough to leave their parents' side. I wondered about the single tombstones that were mixed in with the rest. For some reason they seemed lonelier than the others. A few had flowers and were clearly well tended, while others were not necessarily neglected, but definitely not visited regularly.
One grave at the far end of the cemetery seemed to draw me in. It was a lone gray marble headstone. Nothing fancy, just the finely carved letters of the name and dates. The only decoration was a small American Flag that had been recently planted by a veterans group on Memorial Day. He had been a soldier. A tear slid down my cheek, and for some reason I felt a profound sense of loss as I leaned down to read the words on the stone:
Edward A. Masen
June 20, 1899 – October 25, 1918
The light flared, brighter than it had in ages, startling and disorienting in its brief flash. But it was over almost as soon as it started, leaving behind only the ghost of an image. A face. The beautiful, sad face of a woman with a tear running down her cheek. I tried desperately to hold on to this image, to sear it into my consciousness before it slowly faded back into the endless black night.
A/N: This is my first multi-chapter story. I expect it to be about twenty chapters unless I deviate from my outline for some reason.
A/N: This is my first multi-chapter story. I expect it to be about twenty chapters unless I deviate from my outline for some reason.
Please leave a review. I promise to write back, and I will share a few lines of an Alice POV that I wrote, but chose not to include.