January 11th, 1987 ~ Met Seth Clearwater today. He asked me to hang out.

"Do you know The Masens?"

I didn't know The Masens.

"Um, yeah," I lied taking a step away from the boy that stopped at my locker to ask me such a completely random question. He was tall even back then, maybe close to six feet. When he grew up he'd top out at six five. He had big, brown ochre eyes and thick brown hair that was shaved up the back and sides and fell over his eyes in the front.

It was a skater cut. Seth Clearwater was a skater. I wasn't. He held the skateboard at his side as evidence that he was different from most of the student population, including me. He smiled and edged closer, like we already knew one another.

We didn't. We would, though. We'd know each other well.

There wasn't much room in the hallway between classes. Over three thousand students were crammed into a school built for half as many. As a result, we were forced to share lockers. My locker partner, Jessica, gave me a dirty look as I kept trying to edge backwards to create some space between Seth and me. She elbowed me in my side and made an incoherent grunting noise.

"Ouch!" I squeaked.

Seth's eyes flicked over to her. "Watch it, Hair Helmet," he growled. He tapped his board on the ground in warning.

Jessica's eyes went wide and she high tailed it out of there.

I covered my mouth with my hand to hold in the laughter. Jessica's poof and perm were as hard as plastic, styled to stand straight up and out in defiance of gravity and fashion sense – a hair helmet, indeed.

Seth placed his hand against the locker above my head and leaned in towards me, so that his chest was right in my face. I hadn't noticed until that moment that he was wearing a Masens concert T.

I knew who The Masens were… somewhat. They were a band that the skaters and the kids that wore black listened to. They were one of those bands that it was impossible to know about. This was 1987; before the Internet, before Twitter, before Facebook – this was back when it was still possible for people not to know about things: big things - like bands, and little things - like G-spots. This was a time when a girl that was too shy to ask questions walked around the hallways of her high school in the dark, and sometimes a little embarrassed, just because of all the things she didn't know.

"So, you know them?" Seth asked, smiling down at me.

"Yeah, I guess," I lied again, probably just because he was talking to me. He was big, and cute, and he'd scared off Jessica. She'd been a bitch to me all year.

"Awesome, because a couple friends are coming over tonight to watch this bootleg concert video I just got at Record Stop."

"Tonight?"

It was a school night. I didn't know that people got together on school nights. I certainly never did.

"You wanna come?" he asked.

I did want to go. Seth's invitation was the most random and interesting thing that had happened in my uneventful high school career. I'd never spoken to him before and I didn't know a single one of his friends, but I'd watched them. I watched everyone; it's what I did.

The kids that Seth hung out with wore torn, black T-shirts and baggy plaid pants, their heads were all partly shaved, even the girls, and they had pierced ears, noses and eyebrows. And they listened to music that wasn't played on WBLI or WALK, and that wasn't sold at the mall. They smoked cigarettes and cut classes and hung out under the bridge down at the beach.

"Yeah, um, I guess I'll go," I stammered, trying to play it cool. Looking back, I'm not sure I even came close.

Seth's smile grew. "Where's your next class?" he asked.

"English, 216."

"I'll walk you," he offered, pushing himself off the locker. I noticed that he had some decent biceps under his baggy shirtsleeves.

"Okay."

People stared as Seth walked with me to my class. You might be thinking that I only imagined people were looking at me because I was a teenager, but, no, they were really staring. The jocks and the guidos and the nerds might not have hung out with Seth and his crew, but everyone knew who he was. No one knew me. It was cause for major gossip, at least between fourth and fifth periods on that particular day.

Seth was talkative as we navigated our way through the winding halls, but now I can't remember a thing he said to me. I'm sure it just went in one ear and out the other that afternoon as I watched people watching me and tried to smile and nod appropriately. I remember my cheeks burning, though. And I remember that he held onto his skateboard in one hand and kept his other hand deep in his pocket. I remember his swagger as he walked really close to me, close enough that I was scared I might have B.O.

He looked me over from head to toe when we stopped outside my Advanced Placement English class. "You're just so preppy. It's awesome," he said, still smiling.

I didn't know how to take that.

"I love that shirt," he went on, when I didn't answer.

I bought the blue mock turtleneck at The Gap. It matched my plaid blue skirt perfectly… and my tights. I was into monochromatic outfits those days.

"And those Keds," he added and kicked at my sneakers. "Nice."

My heart fluttered for no reason that I could fathom. Maybe it was his big brown eyes. Maybe it was because he seemed so eager. Maybe it was because a strange boy was talking to me. "Oh, um, thanks."

Seth finally pulled his hand out of his pocket. He was holding a little worn piece of white paper.

"Here's my address. And my number. But don't call. My sisters will answer and they'll make our lives hell."

Seth handed me the little scrap, warm and damp from his palm. He'd planned ahead. My mind reeled.

"Maybe eight?" he asked. Kids gave us wide berth and weird looks as they streamed around us into the classroom. People like Seth didn't hang out in front of Advanced Placement classes.

"Eight?" I glanced at the address. I'd need a ride. I'd need to talk to my father. Eight o'clock was probably still safe; I wasn't sure how I'd get home, though.

"Okay, eight," I replied as the warning bell rang.

"Cool, Bella. See you then."

xXxXx

I'd worked at Newman's Sporting Goods in the mall since the end of my freshman year. Every day after school I took a bus that dropped me off there, and I usually had about twenty minutes to kill before my shift started. That day I put every second of my free time to use.

I darted around the… helmet heads, giggling at the new moniker I associated them with, and I was careful not to bump into the more criminally minded dirtbags, and I was worried and excited that I might see some skaters, but I didn't, as I bobbed and weaved my way to Record World.

I didn't have much hope that I'd find what I needed as I rushed past a life-sized cutout of Jon Bon Jovi to enter the tiny outlet store. The gods of alternative rock must have been shining down on me that day, though, because tucked away in a sale bin, under about twenty-five old Captain and Tenille tapes, was a copy of The Masens. I found out later that it was the band's first, self-titled album.

xXxXx

I still have that cassette tape today. I rummage under the notebooks and letters and pull it out, turning it over in my hands. The clear plastic case is scratched and dull, but the insert is in pristine condition. I listened to The Masens so much over the years that the music is warped toward the middle of the album. Of course, I stopped playing it as soon as that happened.

I rushed back to Newman's right after I bought the cassette and I popped it into my Walkman and started from the beginning. I picked out as many of the lyrics as possible, and paused the music every few seconds to jot down the lines in a tiny little notebook as I took inventory in the stockroom.

I'd told Seth I knew The Masens, and I had this one tape to help me fake my way through.

The occasional falsetto was jarring, and the recording sounded fuzzy and rough and unpolished, and it all combined to make studying the lyrics really hard. Not to mention that there was some yelling and lots of unexpected tempo changes and there was mumbling, and talk of pinning and mounting and underwear and death.

I couldn't say I liked it, but I wasn't listening in order to like it. It was like an exam, and I was really good at acing exams.

I memorized the date it was published, the band members, the label, the studio it was recorded at, and the people that did the mastering, (even though I had no idea what mastering was). I remember staring at the blurry silhouette on the album cover, trying to come up with something appropriately artistic to say about it. All I could make out was a strong jaw, messy hair, and downcast eyes.

There was no way of knowing then, in that dingy suburban stockroom, that those eyes were bright green like the grass on the Presidio and that one day they'd been looking down at me.

I trace the silhouette that I hold in my hands, then flip the cassette and read through the list of songs. Halfway through the list, I pause.

I fell in love that day twenty-four years ago - halfway through the first side of the tape. I forgot about my crash course cramming about The Masens and I fell in love with a song. It was a lullaby about monsters and knives and death, but a lullaby nonetheless. It took my breath away.

"What's that, Mommy?"

I jump and nearly drop the cassette I'm holding.

"Oh, Baby, I didn't hear you come in," I reply breathlessly as my daughter wanders into the room, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"What is it?" she asks again, nodding at the cassette tape in my hands.

"I bought this on a very, very special day, Little One. The day I bought this, my life changed forever."

"Yeah?" she asks, instantly perking up, sliding closer.

I place the cassette tape in her hands. She looks at the silhouette of the lead singer on the cover. She traces it with her little finger. "He looks younger."

"To me, he was really old, but I fell in love… with his music, anyway."

"You loved 'm best of all, right?" she asks, bringing the cassette tape closer to her face and scrutinizing it more intently. It's hard to tell if she's referring to the band or to Edward Cullen's picture. It hardly matters.

"Yes," I answer. "The best of all."


A/N: I was blown away by the response to the first chapter! Thank you for all of the reviews and alerts and favorites! I would have responded if ff would have let me. Many thanks to my crew, MaryJaneStew & KikiTheDreamer for making this chapter more polished than The Masens first studio album.

There were questions: How much angst? How much heart fail? I don't know how to answer that, except that if there was any more angst than The Practice of Love I wouldn't be able to write it. Is there a HEA? Um, well, in life there are some happy endings and some not so happy. Argh... those were hard. Easier questions: Will the chapters be longer than the prologue? Yes. Will there be an update schedule? Maybe.

Until next time, xxx, M