Story Title: The Perfect Candidate
Summary: Charlie Swan is an unassuming single dad, raising his only daughter in the small town of Forks, Washington. When a disagreement between the president of the high school PTA and him spirals out of control, will Charlie step up to the plate and become the perfect candidate?
A big thank you to Mist for the wonderful banner!
Non-canon, All human
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of the Perfect Candidate. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Note: This is the story I submitted to the Commander In Chief Contest. Happy reading!
The Perfect Candidate
Charlie Swan sighed as the front door to his house slammed shut and his daughter stomped angrily inside.
"Bella, you know better than to take your anger out on the house," he reprimanded calmly. "Go back outside, re-enter the house the correct way, and then come to the sofa so we can chat."
Charlie took a deep breath and steadied himself for the onslaught of teenage emotions heading his way. It was tough raising a teenager, but even more difficult to do it alone. He had been a single father since his wife Renee had been killed by a drunk driver when Bella was just a year old. It had been just the two of them since then, and he did his best to instill good values in his only child just like his parents did with him.
He turned the TV off and focused his attention on his daughter who had just gently shut the door and walked to him. She sat down next to him on the sofa. She looked frazzled, as if she had been crying.
"Sorry, Dad. I didn't mean to lose my temper."
Charlie nodded. "I'm more worried about what caused you to become so angry. It's not like you Bells. What happened at school today?"
"I…" Bella dropped her face into her palms and started crying.
"Hey, shh… It can't be that bad, can it? What's wrong?"
She broke down and cried even more. All sorts of awful scenarios ran through his mind. Was it drugs? No, she was the best player on the softball team—a pitcher on the varsity team since her freshman year, and she could slug a ball with the best of them. He knew for a fact that coaches from Division 1 colleges were looking at recruiting her. She wouldn't blow her season by doing something stupid. Charlie ruled out drugs.
What other kind of trouble could a girl be in? His eyes widened and he slapped a palm on his forehead. He had to control his breathing so he wouldn't hyperventilate. He gulped before asking, "Are you… are you… pregnant?"
Bella's head snapped up. She crossed her arms in front of her chest and angrily blurted, "Pregnant?"
Charlie nodded his head. "It could happen. Your mother and I weren't much older than you are now when you were born."
"Dad! You need to have sex to become pregnant!
He wasn't ready to discuss sex again with his daughter. It was bad enough when he had 'the talk' with her just before she entered high school.
"Dad!" Bella continued indignantly. "I'm not pregnant. Oh my God! I've never even had sex! You need a boyfriend to do that, and there aren't any quality guys in Forks or La Push!"
Phew! She was still a virgin. He hoped she didn't meet any quality guys until well into the future. He wasn't ready for his daughter to begin dating. "Well, then, why were you crying?" At least she was no longer in tears. She was still agitated though.
She closed her eyes and leaned her head back onto the sofa. She turned to him with a serious expression on her face. "I wasn't picked to be captain of the softball team."
Charlie blinked. Did he hear her correctly? Bella, the best player on the team wasn't selected to be captain? Wait a second! How could it be? Not only could she play, she was a team player, too. Her teammates all looked up to her. In fact, Coach Dwyer just told him yesterday how she was up for Student Athlete of the Year, and he was pretty sure her teammates would elect her to be team captain. In fact, Principal Greene had said the same thing. Then again, kids could be funny, maybe they didn't vote for her because they were jealous.
"Bella, sometimes things don't always go the way we want, but we have to tough it through and learn from these experiences. The girl who won clearly got the most votes and deserved to win."
"What vote?" Bella asked through her gritted teeth. "Coach Dwyer simply announced that Alice Cullen was the new team captain.
"Did you say Alice Cullen? Is she even on the softball team?"
"She is—starting this year. She needed a sport for her college applications." Bella sighed and looked up at him. "It didn't matter to me whether or not I was voted team captain, Dad. It's the fact that another Cullen was shoved down our throats again that upset the rest of the team and me. She didn't even have to try out like the rest of us did. She was just given a place on the team and made the captain—yet again."
"What do you mean?"
"Alice or Edward Cullen head up almost every club they're in at school. Usually, the faculty mentor of the club just tells everyone who will be the captain because they're so afraid of Esme Cullen. Just because she's president of the PTA, she thinks she can lord it all over everyone. It's ridiculous!"
"Wait a minute… so you're telling me there was no vote amongst your teammates and Coach Dwyer simply declared Alice Cullen the new team captain?"
"Exactly. And she is already captain or president of every single club she's in." Bella balled up her fist in frustration. "Do you know what was worse?"
"She refused to run during practice because she didn't want to get sweaty. Eventually, she went to the bench to sit down and do her nails. And she's the team captain? Everyone on the team is mad!"
"Yeah, this is unfair to your team in every way, shape, and form. I'm going to have a chat with Principal Greene tomorrow."
Bella rolled her eyes. "Oh, sure, like that's going to help. Principal Greene is Mrs. Cullen's lackey."
"Still, I'm going to have a word with him tomorrow." He gave his daughter a hug. "Don't worry, Bells, we'll get this matter straightened out one way or another. I don't like the fact that you girls weren't allowed a say. The democratic process exists for a reason. Now, let's have some dinner. I made tacos tonight. It's Tuesday, after all."
"Taco Tuesdays are the best."
"They sure are."
The following morning…
Charlie Swan parked in one of the visitor parking stalls at Forks High School when he noticed a white Mercedes SUV parked in the space designated for emergency vehicles. He took down the plate number, although he knew exactly who owned the car, and walked into the building.
"How are you Shelly?" he greeted the receptionist, "Is Harold in?"
"He's in a meeting right now, but I'll check to see if he has time to see you."
"He'll just be a few minutes," the secretary said.
So, Charlie sat down and twiddled his thumbs while waiting. He hoped the principal wouldn't be too long, he needed to get back to his office. As Chief of Police of Forks, Washington, he had a busy schedule, but he always made time for Bella. As far as he was concerned, fatherhood took priority over everything. Sure, he didn't have time for every single meeting and event, but he made damn sure to go to the important ones like parent-teacher conferences and the majority of Bella's softball games. He wasn't a perfect parent, but he did the best he could as a single father.
About twenty minutes later, he was finally called into Harold's office. He noticed that Esme Cullen was still sitting across from the principal.
"Charlie, how are you? You remember Esme, don't you?"
"Of course I do. How are you?"
"Wonderful as always. Did you hear? My Alice was made Captain of the Softball Team, and it's only her first year playing." The woman smiled at him expectantly as if she were expecting him to congratulate her. Charlie ignored her. "Isn't your daughter on the softball team?" she continued.
"Yes, she is. She's the pitcher."
"Pitcher… Oh… that's an important position. Is she qualified enough to be pitcher? Because I heard she lost three games last season."
She had some nerve. Although he wanted to chew her out, Charlie decided to ignore her question again.
"Bella is the team's best asset," Harold Greene cut in. "She can pitch, she can bat, and she can catch. She's a fantastic all around player and we're lucky to have her."
Esme Cullen narrowed her eyes at the principal and then donned a fake smile on her face.
"Well, that's wonderful to hear. Did you know that my Edward is the president of the junior class and that Alice will most likely be prom queen?"
"How do you know she'll be prom queen? Is she even in the running?" Charlie asked.
"Of course she'll be prom queen. My kids aren't in the habit of being mediocre. Isn't that so, Harold?"
"Uh, yes…" the principal replied warily.
Charlie crossed his arms in front of his chest and glared at the other two occupants of the room.
"I'm glad we see eye to eye," Esme replied.
"What did you want to see me about, Charlie?" Principal Greene asked, changing the subject.
"I was under the impression that there were privacy laws involved when a parent requests a meeting with the principal."
"Yes, but Esme is the president of the PTA."
"I understand that, but she's still just the president of the Parent-Teacher Association, which doesn't give her any rights to be privy to any personal information pertaining to the students of this school." Charlie looked Esme Cullen in the eye sternly. "She is still a parent like the rest of us."
"Of course I am, and as the president of the PTA, I have the well-being of each and every student in mind."
"That's good to know."
"Is there a problem, Charlie? I've noticed you haven't shown up to any PTA meetings this year."
"That's because you schedule them while I'm working—while everyone who has a job is working—at 3:30 in the afternoon. I do have a job, you know."
"Yes, and that's why I'm here to look after the well-being of latchkey kids like your daughter."
"Now, wait just a second here! You're overstepping your boundaries, lady!"
"There's no need to become touchy, Charlie." Esme shook her head. "I'll just see myself out."
"Yeah, and when you do, make sure you don't park in the stall marked, 'Emergency Vehicles Only'. It's there in case an emergency situation occurs at school."
The woman responded with a simpering smile and then walked out of the office with her high heels clacking on the floor. Charlie closed the door behind her.
"Phew! I thought she'd never leave," Principal Greene muttered. "How can I help you, Charlie?"
"I would like to know how Alice Cullen, a girl with absolutely no previous experience playing softball, wound up being captain of the team in her first year—on a varsity team, no less!"
"Not you, too. You're the twelfth parent who has complained about this." He grabbed a notebook from his desk drawer and made a notation.
"There are only twelve players on the team, Harold—other than that Alice girl who needs to be on the JV team—if she gets through tryouts. Why is she on the varsity team anyway?"
"Well, uh… I can't disclose that information, Charlie. It would violate privacy laws."
"Is that so? Can you tell me why the other team members had to try out for the varsity team and Alice Cullen didn't have to?"
The principal didn't say anything.
"No?" Charlie responded when he didn't get an answer. "It doesn't seem fair to me that the Cullen girl was made captain of the softball team considering she's new to the team and hasn't put in her time."
"Uh… Maybe she's a born leader?"
"You keep telling yourself that, Harold." Charlie looked him in the eye. "I want the girls to be able to vote for their team captain. Fix this mess or you'll be hearing from me again, and for Christ's sake, tell that Cullen woman to take a hike!"
With that, Charlie Swan walked out of the office and to the cruiser. He noticed that Esme Cullen's Mercedes SUV was still parked in the emergency vehicle spot. He decided to issue her a parking citation, little did he know that with that action, he would start a war.
As soon as Charlie Swan arrived at his office, before he could even enjoy a cup of coffee, he looked up to see Lieutenant Ken Marshall standing outside the glass door.
"This is going to be a busy morning," he muttered, before motioning the lieutenant inside.
"Charlie, did Bella tell you about what happened to the team yesterday?"
"She sure did. I don't get it. How the hell can that Alice Cullen be on the team if she can't even play?"
"Because Mommy Cullen wanted her on the team and what Esme wants, Esme gets. My Katie came home angrier than I'd ever seen her yesterday. Apparently, the Cullen girl didn't even have to try out for the team."
"I heard. I talked to Harold this morning, but he had no answers for me."
"How the hell can he have no answers? It was under his direct orders that Coach Dwyer put Alice on the team and made her team captain."
Before Charlie could respond, Linda Mallory, his lifelong friend, neighbor, and the owner of Forks Beauty Salon walked inside his office. Her daughter Lauren, who had grown up with Bella, was also on the softball team. "That woman needs to be stopped!" she announced.
"What woman? Did something happen at the salon?"
"She's probably talking about Esme Cullen," Reverend George Weber, father of Angela Weber—one of Bella's teammates, surmised as he walked into the office.
"What about Esme Cullen?" Theresa Hale asked. "Did something else happen after yesterday's softball debacle?" Theresa's daughter Rose was also on the team with Bella.
"He talked to Harold," Lieutenant Marshall informed him.
"And I suppose Harold did nothing as usual," Harry Clearwater commented as he walked inside. His daughter Leah also played softball with Bella.
Before he could get a word in, a few more visitors entered his office, including Joanna Stanley and Shawn Wells, both of whom had daughters who played softball. There were a few other parents in the room whom he didn't know.
"Well? What are you planning on doing?" Coach Dwyer, the softball coach, who had just entered the fray asked.
He looked up at all the expectant faces. "Wait a second! How come you're all coming to me? Can't you all complain to Harold?"
"Complaining to Harold isn't going to get us anywhere! Esme Cullen has him by the balls!"
"I don't even want to think about that woman's hands on anybody's balls!" Harry exaclaimed. "Anyway, Susie is fighting mad, and she told me to tell you that this situation needs to be nipped in the bud."
"Once again, why me?"
"Duh, because you're the Chief of Police of Forks, Washington. More important, you're the town's golden boy. Everyone in town likes you, even the ones you've arrested."
"And what exactly do you expect me to do? I'm a law enforcement officer, I don't have much pull with the school department, and even if I did, I wouldn't abuse my privileges that way."
"And that's exactly why you're perfect for the job," Harry declared.
"He is, isn't he?" Reverend Weber noted.
"Absolutely! He'll fill the role perfectly," Linda Mallory chimed in.
"Well, then, we're done here, aren't we?" Theresa Hale asked.
"We are. Thanks for your time, Charlie," Coach Dwyer stated, and they all filed out of his office, leaving the Chief of Police wondering what the hell just happened.
The next day…
There was an incident at Forks High School involving a student suffering from a seizure during class. Charlie got wind of it as soon as it happened. Following the incident, Billy Black, the Fire Chief, visited him in his office.
"How is the Newton boy? Is he okay?"
"He should be fine. He's being admitted to the hospital overnight as a precaution."
"Well, that's a relief."
"And Charlie, you should be proud of Bella."
"Bella? How was she involved?"
"She was sitting behind Mike when he got his seizure. She kept her cool, put her sweatshirt under his head, and turned his head to the side to keep his airway clear. She sat with him until the ambulance got to him. You've got a great kid there, Charlie."
"Thanks, Billy. Maybe I'll get her some ice cream for her good deed today."
"Maybe you should, but Charlie, I have something else to discuss with you. When we got to the school, the parking stall for emergency vehicles had been moved to the rear of the school by the cafeteria entrance."
Charlie shook his head in disbelief. "Say that again."
"The parking stall for emergency vehicles was moved to the rear of the school by the cafeteria entrance—sign and all."
"What? I was just there yesterday. How could the sign be gone?"
Billy Black sighed. "It was that Cullen woman. It was replaced by a sign that reads… Well, here, you can look at it yourself."
Charlie took the offered up phone and took a look at the picture, "'Parking Reserved for PTA President?' What in hell? And you're saying that emergency responders have been delegated to the back entrance by the cafeteria service entrance?"
"Who the hell approved this? This violates the safety of the students, the staff, and emergency responders."
"I agree. We probably could have gotten Mike out of there faster if we didn't have to go through the cafeteria."
"Damn it! That woman is a menace! We need to talk to the mayor."
"About that, Charlie… I already did."
Billy blew out an exasperated breath. "He started yammering on about how much the Cullens have contributed to his campaign, yada, yada…"
"Excuse me?" Charlie stood up, absolutely incensed. "Campaign dollars? Isn't public safety more important to him?" He sat back down to think before grinning. "Why don't we talk to Carlisle Cullen? He's an emergency room physician. He should understand where we're coming from."
"I like your way of thinking, Charlie."
"Let's get going."
A few minutes later, both the police chief and fire chief were sitting in the staff lounge at Fork's General Hospital discussing the matter of the parking stall. They were becoming more and more incensed at Dr. Cullen's response to the matter.
"I understand your concerns and I absolutely agree with you, but my hands are tied in this matter. My wife can be… well, she can be…"
"Overbearing," Charlie suggested.
"A nag," added Billy.
"A bitch—she's an outright bitch! You have no idea what it's like for me to have to live with her. If she doesn't get her own way, she becomes vengeful and I just can't put up with that."
"And what about the fact that she's positioned your kids in leadership roles throughout the school. How do you feel about that?"
"I've been telling her that they can't achieve anything if they don't do it on their own. In fact, the twins have each come to me on their own to complain about their mother. Alice doesn't even like sports, and Edward detests being in the spotlight, but what Esme wants, Esme gets." Carlisle leaned up against a pillar with an exasperated expression on his face. "She drives me nuts. It's why I work such long hours at the hospital."
"That's not exactly a healthy marriage, Carlisle. You need to have balance."
"I know. By letting her do what she wants, she doesn't become vindictive and leaves me alone, thus creating a healthy balance for me." He looked at his watch. "I have to go to my employee yoga class now. It was great chatting with you."
The two chiefs turned to each other.
"What the hell was that? I never realized Carlisle was so spineless," Charlie commented.
"I guess it takes all kinds. Anyway, thanks for coming with me. We'll have to come up with an alternate plan to get our parking spot reinstated." Billy gave Charlie a pat on the back. "Fishing on Saturday?"
"I can't. Bells has a game that day. Sunday?"
"Sunday it is then."
Forks High School
On Saturday, Charlie joined the other parents to watch the softball game. He was so proud of his daughter. She had started in the town's little league baseball team when she was just five years old because she loved to watch the Mariner's play on TV. He had practiced with her daily. He played catch with her, brought her to the batting cages on the weekends, and even sent her off to baseball camps so she could hone her skills. It's what his parents had done for him when he was a kid, so he just naturally did the same for her. When Bella entered high school, she transitioned to softball and she was easily the best player on the team, but more important, she was humble and never lorded her skills over anyone. She was a team player, and everyone knew it.
Just as the game was about to begin, Charlie noticed Esme Cullen approach Coach Dwyer to speak to him. The coach's arms were flailing about in frustration while the Cullen woman smiled that irritating knowing smile of hers to him. The coach finally shook his head and recalled his team to the bench.
"This can't be good," Charlie voiced out loud.
"No, it can't," Harry agreed.
The entire team seemed to be voicing their anger, glaring at both Esme and Alice Cullen. In the end, the rest of the team returned to the field while Bella angrily sat on the bench along with Leah Clearwater, Rosalie Hale, and Lauren Mallory with a tearful Alice Cullen on the pitching mound.
"Come on, Alice! You can do it!" Esme Cullen cheered. She was the only one who cheered for the poor girl.
Alice threw the first pitch. The ball didn't even make it all the way to home plate—in fact, it didn't even go in a straight line. It ended up rolling somewhere near third base.
Charlie took a look at Esme Cullen and wondered how the hell she could keep a straight face through all of this.
There were three more similar pitches, and the umpire had no choice but to walk the batter to first. He called a meeting with both coaches, presumably to discuss the unqualified player pitching in the game.
Meanwhile, Charlie was more interested in the boy who had approached Bella to talk to her. Why the hell was he sitting next to her?
"Who the hell is that kid?" Charlie asked the bench.
"Oh, that's the new kid—Jasper Whitlock. He just got here from Texas. Apparently, he's an ace baseball player, and every girl in town has been batting her eyelashes at him.
"What the hell does he want with my kid? Is he flirting with her?"
"It sure looks like it to me," Joe Hale stated from the side. "Besides, Rosie told me he's only had eyes for Bella since he first walked into the school.
"I suspect it's because she's pretty."
"Pretty? She's only a junior in high school. Boys shouldn't even be looking at her."
"Oh, give me a break, Charlie! What were we doing when we were high school juniors? Do you recall the prom?"
"Oh, I remember the junior prom, Charlie," Linda Mallory piped in. "Remember when we went to Third Beach and made out like crazy afterwards."
"Linda, that stuff is personal information!"
"Nothing is personal in this town. Besides, Joe is right. Bella is gorgeous, and she has just the right type of look to drive the boys crazy."
"I don't need to hear that right now. We should be concentrating on the game." Charlie decided to call out, "Why the hell are your best players on the bench?"
Esme Cullen turned and narrowed her eyes at him. "Because all players need to be treated equally."
"Lady, they were being treated equally, but it's you who is being unreasonable. The girls are going to lose their first game because your kid can't play!" Sue Clearwater pointed out.
"My daughter is not the problem. Clearly, there's something wrong with the ball."
"There's no Deflate-Gate in softball, Esme! There's nothing wrong with the ball. Alice doesn't know how to play, admit it!"
"I'm not in the habit of…"
Before the harridan could respond to Sue, the coaches of both teams and the head referee interrupted her. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but we're going to have to pull your daughter from the game. It's clear she doesn't know how to play softball, and it's not fair to both teams to have her in the game or on the team."
"Excuse me, do you know who I am? I am Esme Cullen, President of the Parent Teachers Association of Forks High School! You have some nerve telling me my child can't play in the game. Who gave you that authority?"
"Whose authority? The Washington Interscholastic Sports Association. My decision is final. As of this moment, your daughter is ineligible to play on the Forks High School softball team!"
"That is outrageous! My daughter is captain of the softball team!"
"Mom, please!" Alice cried. "Stop! You're embarrassing me!"
"I'm embarrassing you? You need this sport to get into college. I made you captain for your own sake. You don't even know what's good for you!"
"I don't even want to go to college. I want to go to beauty school."
"As if I'd ever allow that!" She grasped Alice by the arm, and with one final glare at everybody, she stormed off the field, practically dragging her daughter behind her. The spectators on the bleachers all appeared to be in some form of shock at Esme's attitude.
Following the game, which Forks won 7 to 4, the parents all went to the diner along with their kids for some lunch. The prevailing topic was Esme Cullen, or rather how to get her off the PTA. Charlie was more concerned about that Jasper boy who had joined the group at the diner, and was sitting with his daughter. Just what the hell did he want with his little girl?
"We have to get Esme Cullen out of the PTA, and knock her off her high horse. Any ideas how to do it?"
"Someone has to run against her," Sue Clearwater stated.
"You should run, Sue. You're not afraid of confronting her," Charlie suggested.
"Oh, no. I don't want that responsibility. Besides, Leah is graduating this year and Seth will still be in middle school next year so I wouldn't qualify for the position anyway.
"I know exactly who should run against my wife," Carlisle Cullen, who had been sitting at the counter, declared.
"Okay, who?" Charlie asked.
"Yes, you. Your daughter is going to be a senior next year, she's popular, you're popular, and you know the difference between right and wrong."
"Hey, now that's not a bad idea," Lieutenant Marshall noted.
"Yeah, it definitely has to be Charlie. He's the perfect candidate. He'll knock that witch off of her broomstick and make things right for our kids!" Joe Hale declared.
"You're right, Charlie is the right man for the job," Theresa Hale agreed with her husband. "Besides, we've never had a male PTA president. It's time for equality!"
"You forget one thing. I'm not running. I refuse to run. I'm the Chief of Police and I have an entire town to look out for."
"So, it's an extension of your job, and it will only be for one year," Carlisle Cullen said. "Besides, after seeing Alice in tears today, I decided to take the bull by its horns, and file for divorce. Esme is an unfit mother and wife. She shouldn't be heading the PTA or any association at all."
"Isn't life going to become miserable for you?"
"Nah, I'll be fine. I rented an apartment on South Forks Avenue and I'm bringing the twins with me. Alice and Edward deserve better than Esme for a mother."
"That's great and all, but I'm still not running for President of the PTA."
"We'll see about that."
On Sunday, Charlie went fishing with his buddies while Bella stayed at home to finish her homework and complete her chores. For dinner, they grilled the salmon he had caught in the morning, and then relaxed in front of the TV to watch the Mariner's game together. Overall, it was a relaxing day, which they both needed because they were each going to be hit with a one-two wallop on Monday.
Police Chief Charlie Swan walked into the station, whistling a tune, completely oblivious to the buzz in town. He sat at his desk, went through his paperwork, and then called a meeting with his officers to go over the agenda for the week.
After his meeting, his fellow officers all whispered words of encouragement and support to him, thanking him for his service and leadership. He was touched that his staff felt such heartfelt emotions for him and decided to order lunch in for everyone on the station's dime.
Around four-thirty, Charlie headed home so he could get started on dinner. He decided to make spaghetti and salad. It was simple and quick. He had learned how to cook out of necessity after his wife passed away. It was either he cook, or Bella and he starve to death so he rolled up his shirtsleeves and learned to cook. Some of the neighborhood women stepped into help, like Sue Clearwater, Sarah Black, and Linda Mallory.
To this day, those three women were there to advise him on raising a girl. They were especially helpful when Bella needed her first bra, and after she got her period. He had no idea what to do or say to her, but with their help, he was pretty sure he handled it correctly.
Charlie whipped up the evening's dinner in a jiffy then sat down to read the Forks Daily while waiting for Bella to come home. He did a double take when he read the headline. "Police Chief Charles Swan Running For PTA President."
"Oh my God!" he cried at the exact moment when his daughter walked into the house.
"You heard the news?" she asked.
"Dad, what am I going to do?"
"What are you going to do? What am I going to do?"
"Dad, this isn't about you!" she argued. "It doesn't even directly involve you!"
"Yes, it does! How can you say it doesn't involve me? You're not the one who was put into the running without permission, Bells!"
She tilted her face up and eyed him with a quizzical expression. "What are you talking about, Dad?"
"What are you talking about?" he countered.
"I'm talking about prom."
"Prom? What does prom have to do with the PTA?" Charlie took a moment and then asked, "Why don't you tell me your news first."
"Good idea." Bella nodded her head. "Someone put my name in for prom queen."
"Wow! Congratulations, Bells! I'm not really surprised. I was prom king back in the day, you know."
"Dad, I don't want to be prom queen. I've never even worn a dress. I wouldn't even know how to put one on!"
"You'll be fine. You'll just ask Sarah, Sue, or Linda."
"I suppose… Now, what's your news?"
"Ah, my news. Read the headline of today's Forks Daily."
"'Police Chief Charles Swan Running For PTA President.' Really, Dad? Wow! That's great news! You'll do a way better job than Esme Cullen. You know, I kind of feel bad for her kids. They aren't allowed to make choices on their own. I think you'll make a great PTA president because you're such a terrific Dad."
"I…" Charlie sighed. He'd do anything to make his daughter smile, including running for the PTA. "Thanks, Bella. I'm doing it for you and the good of the town."
His daughter engulfed him in a big hug. "You're the absolute best!"
The following day…
Charlie was about to walk into the station when an enraged Esme Cullen approached him. "How dare you?" she cried, waving the newspaper in front of his face.
"How dare I what?"
"This! Why are you running for PTA President?"
"Why not? Because I'm the PTA president, and I've been the president since Alice and Edward started high school. They still have one more year to go next year!"
"And what? Bella is in their grade. She still has a year to go, too, which makes me a viable candidate. I think you've been at the helm too long, Esme."
"You know, I thought you were being petty last week when you issued that parking ticket to me. I also thought you were being ridiculous when you lodged a complaint about my daughter being on the softball team, but now I know you're just power hungry."
"You're calling me power hungry?" Charlie crossed his arms in front of his chest, incensed that she could make such an accusation about him.
"I'm going to give you this warning. I'm going to make life miserable for you and anyone who gets in my way," Esme warned.
"Is that all? Because I have a job to do." Charlie shook his head and walked into the station. He was greeted with a round of applause.
"You sure told that woman off, Chief!" Lieutenant Marshall patted him on his back. "Now let's get working on your campaign."
"We are not going to work on the campaign on the public's time. We have a sworn duty to protect the good citizens of Forks."
"You know, this is exactly why you need to be elected PTA president. You're so… good."
"Don't worry about a thing, we'll run your campaign for you. You just need to show up on election day."
"Who is 'we'?"
"Don't worry about who 'we' is—we've got your back."
Charlie shook his head for the second time in a day and walked into his office. He shut the door behind him and sat down at his desk when the phone rang. It was the mayor.
"Charlie, my good man, how are you today?"
"I'm doing okay."
"Good, good. I heard you were running for the PTA."
"It's about that. I'm wondering if it would be a conflict of interest for you."
"A conflict of interest. How so?"
"Well, you know, you're in charge of keeping peace in our town, you really shouldn't be in charge of the school, too."
"I thought the principal of the high school was in charge of the school. I would be running for PTA president as a parent with the best interests of parents, students, and faculty in mind. I wouldn't be in charge of anything really."
"Well, I guess you have a point there. I'm calling for another reason, I want you to wipe out the parking ticket you issued to Esme Cullen."
"No. She parked in a stall designated for emergency vehicles. I'm not wiping her ticket out."
"Well, that stall is actually hers now."
"Oh, really? I was under the impression that Forks High School is a public space."
"You know what I mean. Now I'm ordering you to wipe out the ticket!"
"You can't give me orders, Mayor. It's in the by-laws. It would be illegal for me to rescind the parking ticket, and it's illegal for you to ask me to wipe it out. By the way, this is a recorded line. I'll see you later."
Charlie hung up the phone, wondering what the hell Esme Cullen had on the Mayor.
A few days later, he had his answer when Edward Cullen, Carlisle and Esme's son, walked into his office.
"How can I help you, Edward?" Charlie asked. "Why don't you have a seat?"
"Sir, I… I…" He bowed his head dejectedly.
Charlie noticed he was a shy kid who lacked confidence. He didn't know much about him, but knew he was a good kid despite his mother. "Hey, it's okay. Are you in trouble? Did something happen to you?"
"Sir, I would like to report a crime."
"A crime. That's pretty serious. What kind of a crime?"
"Sir, I went home after school today to visit my mother. Uh… my parents are currently separated. I… uh… Well, the mayor was in my parents' bedroom with my mother."
"Oh… uh…" Crap! Charlie had no idea how to handle this one. Why was the kid coming to him? Shouldn't he be going to Carlisle? Charlie turned to Edward and asked, "What were they doing in the bedroom? Was he stealing something?"
"Sir, the Mayor had his pants to his ankles and my mother was… was… well, she was on her knees in front of him. Should he be subjugating my mother like that? And why did he have his pants down?"
Great! So the mayor was getting a blow from Esme Cullen. She must give really good head. No wonder he was doing her every bidding. Charlie turned to the innocent boy sitting in front of him.
"I think we should call your father, and you should tell him everything you told me. It is his house, after all."
"Yes, you're right."
Charlie gave Carlisle a quick call. He agreed to rush to the station.
"Tell me, Edward. Why did you come to me instead of going to your father with this?"
"It's simple, really. You seem like a really nice Dad. I always see Bella and you together, and the two of you are always talking. I can't really talk to my parents at all."
"Well, we'll make a change today by talking to your dad together."
A few minutes later, a worried Carlisle bolted into the office where Charlie and Edward explained the 'crime' the boy had witnessed earlier. Carlisle's reaction was to hug his son, reassure him, and have him wait outside of the office so he could speak to the police chief in private.
"Thanks, Charlie. I'm sorry Edward had to witness what he did."
"I am, too, but Carlisle, maybe you should have the 'talk' with him. You heard him. He thinks the mayor was subjugating his mother in some way. We both know what really happened."
"Yeah, I'm working on rebuilding my relationship with my kids. It's been tough, but we're making progress. By the way, I knew about Esme and the Mayor. I caught them making out in his car over by the Hoh Reservation. I snapped photos on my phone for evidence."
"I'm sorry, Carlisle."
"I'm not. All the evidence will work in my favor during the divorce proceedings. I'd better take Edward home. Thanks for talking to him. He looks up to you. He wants to be a police officer, you know."
"I think he'd make a good one. He's a good, honest boy."
The rest of the week passed without incident, and on the weekend, Charlie took his daughter to Port Angeles to buy a prom dress for her. She, too, seemed to be resigned to going. The good thing about his kid was that she was decisive. She walked into the shop, tried on a couple of dresses, and picked the one that looked better. There was one snafu when she tried to pull the dress over her head like a t-shirt, but the saleslady explained to her that she needed to pull the zipper down and step into it.
Charlie laughed when Bella asked, "What color Converse do you think will match this dress?"
The saleslady looked horrified, but she politely replied, "Pink or maybe white?
On Sunday afternoon, Charlie's campaign was in full swing when all of his fishing buddies showed up at his house to help him write the speech he was presenting in two weeks. As a bonus, their wives brought casseroles over for dinner so he didn't have to cook at all.
They were in the middle of discussing the changes he would make, including having PTA meetings in the evenings so it would be accessible for working parents, when the doorbell rang. Billy was closest to the door so he answered it.
"May I help you?"
"Is this the Swan residence?" a tall man with graying hair and a kind smile asked. He had a strong southern drawl and a woman and a teen stood next to him.
Charlie rushed to the front door. "I'm Charlie Swan."
"Hello, my name is Peter Whitlock. This is my wife Charlotte, and our son Jasper. We understand you're running for PTA President and we'd like to help with your campaign. We figured it was the best way to get to know people around these parts."
"Sure, sure. Come in." Charlie extended his hand to shake, and then introduced the newcomers to everyone. Of course, the boy was familiar. He was the one who had been chatting up his little girl at the games.
"Sir, is Bella home?" Jasper asked.
"She's across the street at the Mallory's. Let me walk across and get her for you."
"It's okay. I'll just text her. It'll save you a trip."
The boy had Bella's number? This was news to him. He'd better keep an eye on this Jasper kid.
Peter shook his head. "These kids with their technology. In my day, we had one phone in the house and it was attached to the wall in the kitchen."
"Oh, I remember those days," Charlie recalled. "So, what brings you to Forks, Washington?"
"My job. I'm the new head of pediatric medicine over at the hospital. My wife and I wanted a change from the harried life we were leading in Dallas."
"And how do you like it here?"
"It's a lot smaller, and the pace of life is slower, but we like it. I'll tell you this much, I like the fishing here. I've taken my boat out a few times already for some deep sea fishing."
Charlie cleared his throat. "You have a fishing boat?"
"I sure do."
And with that, Peter Whitlock had made several new best friends, including one Charlie Swan—avid fisherman.
On Friday afternoon, Charlie received a phone call from the school and rushed over to see the principal. Apparently, Bella was in some kind of trouble.
"What happened?" he asked as he rushed into his office.
"Charlie, this is serious. Bella was caught cheating on her math test. We found the answer sheet in her locker. Of course, this means she can't participate in any extracurricular activities for the rest of the season and the prom is absolutely off limits."
"Dad, you have to believe me! Someone planted the answer sheet in my locker. It isn't mine!"
Charlie believed her. Oh, he definitely believed her. His daughter would never cheat. He had instilled good values in her, and he knew she adhered to them.
"May I see the answer sheet, Harold?"
The principal pushed the sheet towards him. Charlie examined it carefully.
"Harold, this is the answer sheet to a Pre-Calculus class."
"Bella is enrolled in Trigonometry. In fact, she's enrolled in the slower paced Trigonometry class because math isn't her best subject."
"It still doesn't explain why she had the answer sheet in her locker."
"No, it doesn't. I recommend we take a look at the security footage so we know exactly who planted the answer sheet in her locker. Of course, I suspect you know who is behind this act of sabotage already. Who suggested you inspect Bella's locker in the first place? You rarely do random locker searches unless it's for drugs."
Harold blew out a breath. "Esme Cullen, who else?" He turned to Bella. "I'm sorry you were put through this. You may return to class. Have Mrs. Cope issue a hall pass to you."
As soon as she left the office, Charlie turned to the principal. "This is beyond the pale, and I would be within my rights to file a complaint. I want to see the security footage. I want charges pressed against the person who planted that test paper into Bella's locker in an attempt to sabotage her. What if it had been drugs or weapons, Harold? What then? You would have accused an innocent kid, and for what? Just so Esme Cullen could stay on her make-believe throne as PTA President? You're an educator, act like it!"
"You don't understand, Charlie. The orders are coming directly from the Mayor."
"Then stand up to him! I did. I'll back you up if necessary. So will Billy. This crap has got to end today! Now give me those security tapes."
Harold complied with Charlie's request. Together they reviewed the tapes, and sure enough, they witnessed Esme Cullen opening Bella's locker and planting the math test inside. Charlie took the footage with him. He planned on pressing charges against her—after the election.
The Swan House
Just before the prom…
On Saturday afternoon, Linda Mallory came over to the Swan household with her daughter Lauren to help Bella get ready for the prom. Linda and Charlie had grown up together, and graduated from Forks High School in the same year. She lived across the street from him and had provided a great deal of support for him throughout the years, especially when he needed female advice on how to deal with girl things. Linda was a single mother to her daughter Lauren. When the two were still young, Charlie and Linda had often coordinated schedules so they could swap out babysitting the girls while the other was at work, attending classes, etc. As a result, Bella and Lauren got along fantastically, almost like sisters.
"Bella, you are not wearing Converse to the prom!" Lauren chastised.
"The hell I'm not! These match my dress perfectly. Besides, Rose blinged them out for me. See, they sparkle!"
"They're still sneakers, Bella!"
"Girls, stop bickering this instant. Lauren, if Bella wants to wear sneakers to the prom, it's her choice. Remember, you were worried she was going to the prom in a tux." Linda turned to Charlie. "How do the girls look?"
"Wow! You both look beautiful and all grown up. I can't believe you're the same girls who used to dump oatmeal and smother it all over each other."
"You both clean up well."
"Lauren is always beautiful."
"I'm just girlier than you are, Bella. One day, you'll become a girl. I have great confidence in that."
"Now, listen girls, before your dates arrive, we should chat," Charlie said. "It goes without saying that your prom dates should treat you with respect, and vice versa. If either of you feel uncomfortable in any way, shape, or form…"
"We know, Charlie. We should call you and you'll come running," Lauren finished for him.
"And kick him in the nuts before running to get help," Bella added.
"That's correct, too."
A few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Charlie opened the door to find two young men at the door.
"Chief Swan, I'm here for Lauren," Tyler Crowley stated.
"How are you, Sir?" Jasper Whitlock greeted. "I'm here for Bella." He handed Charlie a pie. "This is from my mom. It's an apple pie."
"I'll have to call your mother and thank her.
"Shit, were we supposed to bring food for the parents?" Tyler questioned worriedly. "I didn't know. I can have my mom drop something off later."
Charlie chuckled, and then led both boys to the sofa to have a quick discussion about treating their dates with respect.
"Are you kidding me? Chief Swan, if I try anything with Lauren, Bella will kick my ass. Not only that, you'll string me up by the balls from the tree in front of your house," Tyler stated.
Jasper Whitlock's eyes widened in shock. "I would never do anything to disrespect Bella, Sir," he assured. "You have my word."
"Good, then we understand each other. Linda, what are we going to say curfew is?"
"I think the Newton's are hosting a post-prom party at their house until one am. I think one-thirty is a fair time. What do you think, Charlie?"
"One-thirty it is then. Not a minute later."
After the obligatory photo session, the two couples left. Charlie and Linda stood on the doorstep watching them long after they left.
"They're growing up too fast, Linda."
"I know. It's going to happen no matter what."
"I don't know what I'm going to do once she goes off to college."
"Oh, Charlie, Bella will always come home to you, just like Lauren will always come home to me. We're all they have. Besides, I'll always be right across the street from you."
"True." Charlie put his arm around Linda. "Come on. Let's see what that apple pie is all about."
"I thought you'd never ask."
Charlie and Linda had just finished having their apple pie when both their cell phones started ringing. They answered their phones to hear their daughters screeching incoherently into the phone. Concerned, they immediately jumped into Charlie's cruiser and headed for the high school.
They were met at the front by Esme Cullen who was blocking the entrance to the four teens. The boys' parents also showed up.
"What's the problem now?" Linda asked.
"I don't have a problem with Lauren or with either of the two boys. You may go inside." She turned to Jasper. "My daughter Alice is here without a date, you can dance with her. She's going to be prom queen, you know."
"Ma'am, if my date isn't allowed in, then I'm not going in," Jasper stated.
"Unfortunately, your date—Bella Swan—has been banned from all activities, including the prom for cheating on her Pre-Calculus test." Esme nodded with a satisfied smirk on her face.
"Mrs. Cullen, I do not take Pre-Calculus," Bella stated.
"Of course you take Pre-Calculus, all juniors take Pre-Calculus."
"I think I know what classes I take."
"Do you have a copy of your schedule here? Because until I see it, you are not entering the school."
Charlie looked Esme in the eye. "First of all, the president of the PTA wouldn't have knowledge of this sort of information. Second, even if you did inadvertently find something out, you would be breaking all sorts of privacy laws by bandying this information about. Now step aside, and let these kids through."
Esme inhaled sharply and turned her chin up. "Fine, but this isn't this end of it."
She stepped aside, turned on her heels, and made her way into the high school.
"That woman is batty!" Peter Whitlock announced. "No wonder you're running for the PTA."
"That's the one who attempted to pay Jasper three hundred dollars to ask her daughter to the prom, isn't she?" Charlotte asked.
"You're joking?" Linda stared at the couple open-mouthed. "It seems to me as if she has a vendetta against Bella.
"You know, I wouldn't be surprised if she personally rigged the results for the prom royalty elections," Beth Crowley opined and then shared a look with Linda. "We should go and supervise the process."
"May I join you?" Charlotte asked.
"The more the merrier. We'll see you back at your place, Charlie," Linda told him. "Save me another slice of that pie."
Charlie chuckled and invited the men back to his place to kick back and have some drinks while they waited for the women to return.
Prom went off without any further hitches. Rosalie Hale, a senior, was selected to be prom queen after Linda, Beth, and Charlotte had discovered the actual box with the votes in it stashed away in the janitor's closet.
Bella had enjoyed herself with her date Jasper. Apparently, they were now officially dating, which Charlie didn't like at all. He liked the kid, but he didn't like the fact that his daughter was dating. It did help that he liked watching baseball and always came over with his dad to watch the game with them. Bella would never go out on a date when there was a Mariner's game to watch.
In any case, Charlie had the PTA elections on the forefront of his mind. He had attempted to memorize his speech, but simply couldn't do it. It didn't sound like him. It sounded like a politician saying what the people wanted to hear. He didn't like it at all. By the time election day had come, he had decided to just improvise the speech. Charlie Swan walked into the high school and headed to the auditorium. He was surprised at the turnout for the meeting. It seemed as if almost every parent had shown up. Remarkable—considering it was 3:30 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Parents must have left work early like he did in order to come.
He noticed Esme sitting demurely on stage with her coiffed hair and designer suit. Charlie was wearing his standard jeans, t-shirt, and flannel shirt. He wasn't about to dress up for a damned PTA election. The townspeople knew who he was, they either took him as he was or didn't. It was that simple.
Charlie took a seat on the empty chair next to Esme. Principal Greene made a pretty little speech about the importance of the PTA, and then handed the microphone over to Esme who delivered the most long-winded speech ever, dropping useless platitudes in an attempt to win some votes. At the very end, she became vindictive, and this was the part, which provoked Charlie's anger.
"My concern, ladies and gentlemen, is that Chief Swan is constantly abusing his privileges as police chief. A good example of this is when his daughter Bella was caught attempting to cheat on her math test, which should have disqualified her from participating in any extracurricular activities including softball and the prom. Still, our good chief made sure his precious daughter was able to continue with sports and attend the prom, even to the point of threatening me with some sort of trumped up legal action. Now do we really want to entrust such a man with the well-being of our precious children? I thank you for your time and for your votes."
Principal Greene thanked Mrs. Cullen and then announced Chief Swan who was given a rousing applause from the entire audience. He was still upset by the last part of her speech, and he was going to make damn well sure she knew it. He turned to Esme.
"You have some nerve standing up on the podium and denigrating my daughter and me with your lies."
"They're not lies!" she argued. "I saw the test paper!"
Charlie held up a hand to stop her. "Ah! Don't interrupt me; you've already had your turn. Now I'm going to tell the audience the truth. It's true. Bella had her locker searched through an anonymous tip, and the answers to the Pre-Calculus test was found."
There were many shocked expressions and gasps in the audience.
"The thing is, Bella isn't enrolled in Pre-Calculus. She takes Trigonometry. Now why did she have the answers to the Pre-Calculus test? It's because someone had framed her by planting the test in her locker." He stared directly at Esme. "How do I know this? It's because I asked Principal Greene to access the security cameras to find the perpetrator. It was within my rights as the parent of the accused student to request that this be done.
"Now that we're clear on my daughter's innocence, I'd like to move on to the actual speech. Well, I don't have one anymore. I had one prepared, but it didn't sound like me so let me give this a try. The Parent-Teacher Association was formed to facilitate the relationship between home and school. It is run by parents for a reason, the PTA represents the parents because the school already has a principal, an assistant principal, a school committee and all sorts of bureaucrats to handle their side of things. Parents need a place to voice their concerns and opinions, and the PTA is the forum to do it. The PTA also is the place where faculty members can come to ask for help—whether it be donations to the classroom, fundraising for a field trip, or simply a concern about parents not obeying parking lot traffic rules, this is the place to do it.
"You're probably asking why you should vote for me. Heck, I don't have the answer to that. All I can say is that I'm a parent who will look after the best interests of your students. I want parents, teachers and students alike to be able to approach the PTA with any concerns they have. It's that simple. Thank you."
A round of applause, which nearly brought the house down, followed Charlie's speech, and he won in a landslide victory. Many of his friends wanted to celebrate, but he didn't see the need for it. He simply went home to cook dinner for Bella and him. Maybe they would celebrate with an ice cream cone later.
After losing the election, in a fit of anger, Esme Cullen resigned from her post forcing Charlie into the role of PTA President earlier than scheduled. He didn't mind. He spent the time undoing the mess she had made. His very first task was to take down the ridiculous sign reserving the parking stall for president of the PTA and to designate the space for emergency vehicles once again.
For the sake of the two Cullen kids, Charlie decided not to file a lawsuit against her for invading Bella's privacy. They were about to be hit with a barrage of unpleasantness stemming from their parents' divorce anyway. Instead, he mentored both kids. The following year, Edward Cullen graduated from high school and enrolled in the police academy, and Alice Cullen attended beauty school.
Esme Cullen ended up leaving the state of Washington following her divorce, and after word got out about her affair with the mayor. Carlisle Cullen happily moved back into his house with his children after she left. He was busy rebuilding his relationship with his children.
Meanwhile, Charlie and Linda decided to combine their families and got married during the summer just before their daughters started their senior year of high school. Not one person in Forks or La Push was surprised by this revelation. The fact that the two of them had been dating for years was the worst kept secret in the Olympic Peninsula.
Lauren Mallory continued to date Tyler Crowley through the summer, but broke up with him shortly before Halloween when she started dating Mike Newton. That relationship lasted until Easter when she began dating Riley Biers. They were still dating, and attended the University of Washington together.
Bella was voted by her teammates to be captain of her softball team. She ended up receiving a full ride to the University of Arizona where she played softball. Much to Charlie's consternation, she was still dating Jasper Whitlock, who also attended the University of Arizona alongside her.
Charlie Swan served out his term as President of the PTA admirably. With him at the helm, parents became more involved and teachers listened to their concerns more. The townspeople all knew he would serve them well. After all, it's why they had all decided to announce his candidacy. In fact, he had done such a good job that they were thinking that they needed a new mayor. He would be the perfect candidate for the job.