Warm rays of sunshine flashed through the trees down to Bella's head. She squinted up at the sky and the trees towering high above her. The tree branches were swaying gently as if waving "Hello, good morning!"
Confused, she turned, taking in her surroundings. "Ah…" she sighed softly in delighted surprise. She was in a lovely spot of nature she was growing to love: the deep lush and green meadows in Forks, Washington.
It was a small clearing, private and quiet, a place for lovers and whispers and secrets. She couldn't remember how she got here, but she sat down to wait. Surely, they would come.
Excited, she wrung her hands restlessly, glancing around the meadow again to make sure she wouldn't miss their arrival. They would be here any minute now.
Footsteps approached, she turned excitedly, ready to welcome them, but they never seemed to get closer. Frowning, she tried to pinpoint where the sound was coming from. Suddenly, the footsteps grew louder, rapidly approaching.
The trees swayed side to side in wider motions, anxious of who was about to arrive, preparing to protect her if need be. Bella stood slowly into a defensive stance.
Hateful dark eyes appeared, floating in the green of the forest, belonging to someone she knew, someone so familiar but she couldn't put a finger on who it was.
The trees began to sway frantically, telling her to run. A cold breeze blew through trees, freezing them still, and making Bella shiver.
Suddenly the meadow swirled into green pools of abstractness, the scenery changed. She was back in Naro, on the rooftop of the abandoned factory where it all happened.
"No, no, no, no, no…" Dread settled heavily in her stomach. She knew what was going to happen next and she couldn't do anything to stop it.
It happened all over again, Fabrizio jumping in front of her just as the mafioso shot at Bella, Fabrizio's head snapping back with a wet guttural sound as the bullet flew through his skin, his blood sprinkling across her face.
The sky darkened immediately, the clouds gathered, a deep growl of thunder resounding from within. The electricity in the powerlines surrounding the area, the soil of the earth, the wind, and the rain forming in the clouds came to her aid, lifting her high above the rooftop so she was towering over everyone.
The crowd that had formed surrounding the abandoned factory dispersed, people ran screaming, others tried to record with their cellphones.
Most of the mafiosos ran but Acciai still tried to shoot at her. The wind swirled into a twisting whirlwind surrounding her, warding the bullets away, protecting her.
Electrical current buzzed and crackled in her arms and palms of her hands, her veins heated and glowing with the support of the Elements. She clenched her fists and roared, throwing her fists towards Acciai, the surge of electricity coming out from her fingertips too strong and too large of a blast for her to control.
She was thrown off the building with the surge, falling but catching herself just in time, the wind holding her, hovering over the ground before blasting her up to the roof again to finish this once and for all.
But everything was in flames. Acciai was lying on the rooftop, unconscious, the building on fire. Bits of debris flew to the ground. The lighting and thunder crackled and roared in the sky, the wind billowing, the fire roaring, flames dancing out of the windows of the old factory.
Ambulance and police sirens rang in the distance, speeding towards the danger.
"No, no, no, no…" This was not what she meant to happen.
Bella woke up with a violent jolt, her hands clenched into trembling fists in front of her.
The was a pounding on her door, the doorknob rattling. She was confused. Charlie never knocked the door like that, he never even woke her up like that.
Then she remembered her family was here, it could be Dante getting back at her for how she bugged him to open the restroom door last night.
She jumped out of her bed with a growl and stormed over to her door, ignoring the freezing floor that bit at her bare feet.
With insults ready at her tongue, she flung the door open.
"Oh…" she was surprised to find her aunt, uncle, cousin, and father standing at her door, all wearing frowns of concern except for Dante who was glaring angrily at her.
Dante scoffed. "Hmpf. She doesn't even know what she's doing, Uncle." He shook his head in disbelief at Charlie, crossing his arms.
Bella wanted to snap back at Dante but didn't know what they were talking about.
"Cara bellissima," Fiamma took Bella's hands in hers. She opened her mouth to continue but after taking a look at Bella's face, she decided to say instead, "Let's have some breakfast."
They followed Fiamma and Bella down the stairs, everyone quiet. Bella looked over at her father.
Charlie's brow was furrowed slightly. Bella was relieved to see him, wanting to ask about the attack last night and about the bear sighting she read about.
But the silence was heavy. "What's going on?" Bella asked again, bewildered.
Dante scowled disbelievingly at her. Seeing that dumb blank look on his younger cousin's face stirred a deep irritation in him, he hadn't realized how stupid his younger cousin still was since he hadn't seen her in nearly a year.
He had woken up, pissed and annoyed, to find the house freezing, ice all over the walls and windows. His hands and lips had been blue from the cold. Had he not woken up and alerted his family, they surely would have frozen to death.
He and Bella being the only ones in the house with the ability to connect to the Water Element, he knew Bella was the one involuntarily causing the ice.
Dante roughly grabbed the back of her neck, forcing her to turn her head to the window next to the stairs. "Look."
The window was encrusted in ice, inside and out. The walls had a film of thin crystal-like sleet of ice from top to bottom.
The house was freezing.
Fiamma and Charlie continued to walk down the stairs, walking around the rooms of the house with their arms extended, bringing warmth back.
"It happens, Bellissima, it happens." Demetrio gave her a wry smile, smacking Dante's hand off the back of Bella's neck and wrapping his own arm comfortingly around her shoulders.
Feeling like she was being treated like a child for not being given a direct response, she pulled away from her Uncle's embrace. "Okay," Bella shook her head, trying to clear her confused thoughts and sleepy stupor, "What is going on?"
Fiamma walked back to join them in the kitchen.
"Bella, you caused the ice. Elementals that have poor control over their Connection to the Elements allow the Elements to take control of them when they are experiencing turbulent emotions." Fiamma explained, still looking at Bella carefully.
"In short, you are an absolute amateur," Dante hissed through gritted teeth, his fists clenched at his sides. "This was so irresponsible of you! We could've frozen to death in our sleep. No wonder your father requested for my aid," he nodded to the living room where Charlie was, "You have absolutely no self-control, nor knowledge of the Water Element."
Bella's brow twitched furiously. "First of all, I didn't do this on purpose! Second, this is ice and snow, Dante, not water!"
Dante's look of disgust deepened. "Ice and snow are forms of Water, Isabella. Really, as the future Council Leader, and as heir of the Castelli lineage, you should know this by now."
"Dante, that's enough," Fiamma snapped, softening when she turned to face her niece. "Bella, learning to control your connection to the Elements is an elementary lesson. Without having control, you run the risk of exposing your connection to the Elements and hurting others."
"Like I said: you are an amateur," Dante hissed quietly so only Bella could hear him, deliberately bumping his shoulder into hers as he roughly brushed passed her. He went to the windows and started carefully waving his hand over the glass, dissipating the ice into mist that disappeared into the air.
Bella growled, clenching her fists but her heart was sinking as she remembered this was not the first time this had happened. Her first night in Forks, she had nearly frozen her bedroom. Charlie didn't berate or scold her for it, but now she knew she was the cause of it.
I really have no control of myself…
Seeing her crestfallen expression, Demetrio suggested gently, "Let's have some breakfast, huh?"
"No," Charlie walked into the kitchen, his face unreadable. "She starts school in two hours. Dante, can you train her before she goes in?"
Dante perked up at that, giddy with excitement, grinning like the Cheshire cat. "Of course, Uncle." He nodded graciously before turning to his younger cousin, his blue eyes gleaming gleefully. "Isabella, get dressed, pronto!" he snapped his fingers, gliding up the stairs.
Bella turned to glower at her father.
"It's best to get started now, we only have six more days left before Dante returns to Naro," Charlie ignored her glare, and started on cooking breakfast for his brother and his sister-in-law.
Demetrio and Fiamma decided not to intervene and quietly sat at the table.
Bella got dressed, muttering angrily under her breath the whole time, shoving her sweater over her head, jumping into her yoga pants and stomping loudly down the stairs. Of course, she was ready to go before Dante was.
Irritated with Charlie for throwing her towards her trainings so early in the morning, she decided to wait out in the truck, sourly eyeing the thick ice encrusting the pavements.
She briefly wondered if she was the cause of all the ice outside too, but didn't want to ask, fearing the answer.
Dante took his time getting ready, finally coming out the front door, dressed in a light blue tracksuit with a matching light blue gym bag.
He raised a skeptical brow at her truck.
"What." Bella growled as she backed out the driveway, already not in the mood to deal with her cousin.
"Interesting ride…" Dante sniffed, the truck smelling like peppermint and residual odor of cigarettes or tobacco but buckled up. "If we get into a wreck because of you and your behemoth of a truck, I am suing."
Bella gripped the steering wheel, resisting the urge to push Dante out of her truck. She drove slowly, warily eyeing the ice on the road.
It was colder than usual in Forks, the ice sleek and pristine on the pavement.
"Our Nonna Amelia could drive faster than this," Dante huffed impatiently, crossing his arms. "I'm being careful, there's ice on the road," Bella snapped.
"Can't you just dissipate the ice with your Energy?" Dante asked in disbelief.
"I'm not allowed to use my Energy outside of training…" Bella muttered angrily, keeping her glare on the road.
"Hmpf." Dante deadpanned before rolling down the window. The lever got stuck, the window only able to open halfway, but Dante stuck his hand out as best as he could and flicked his wrist side to side, the ice slowly crawling to the edges of the sidewalk, clearing the road for Bella.
"Thanks," Bella muttered, speeding up.
Dante only gave her a pointed look in response.
The ballet studio looked small from the outside, but the inside was wide and spacious, full of mirrors so they could see themselves from various angles.
"Wow…" Bella breathed in awe, her voice echoing and bouncing off the walls and mirrors.
"Focus," Dante snapped, "And put these on." He tossed ballet shoes at her head, but she caught them from the air in time.
She sat on the floor, struggling to tie them.
As a child, being raised and educated in the Elemental system, and trained for future Leadership, there was never any need for her to be enrolled in regular activities such as ballet or soccer.
But she tried to tie her shoes as best as she could, trying to make them look like the ballerinas she'd seen on tv before.
"So, why aren't we using Water? I thought this was a Water training, not dance class," Bella finally asked.
Dante had finished tying his ballet shoes before she was, he had removed his tracksuit, having black ballet tights and a tight white top on underneath, standing in front of a mirror and stretching one leg high in the air.
Bella's eyes widened at his flexibility and lean toned muscles.
Since she moved to Forks, Charlie prepared healthy breakfasts for her, and she made sure to cook healthy meals, too. She trained on her own when she could but none of her trainings, even the trainings back in Italy, left her nowhere near as flexible and toned as Dante was.
Dante let out an impatient and patronizing sigh. "Isabella, all I need from you is for you to do exactly as I tell you, so do not ask any questions! However, I have come to see, clearer now during my stay, just how truly ignorant you are so I will make the exception this once and respond," he cleared his throat dramatically before speaking, enunciating every word. "We will not be using Water because, clearly, what you lack is not connection to the Water Element but control of yourself."
Bella glared at his reflection through the mirror, but her face burned with shame. She knew it was true. She could easily connect to the all the Elements, but her connection to Water was messy, a force she could not grasp. Even her own father had pointed out how terrible her movements were, stiff and inflexible.
Dante threw her an irritated glare before coming into a graceful plie stance. "Ready? Now, we will begin wit- Isabella!" He barked at the sight of her messily tied ballet shoes, repulsed at how messy and careless she was. "No." He shook his finger at her as if reprimanding and scolding a child,"Like this." He kneeled and swiftly and neatly re-tied her shoes.
"Thanks," Bella muttered, remembering the steps he did so she could tie her shoes neatly next time.
He ignored her, going to stand in the center of the studio, his back straight, his arms held gracefully in front of him. "Now, watch and repeat."
In the next two hours, Dante taught her a drill of stretches for flexibility and agility, ballet exercises and workouts, telling her she would have an entire routine to memorize and perform by the end of the week for the family.
They used absolutely no Water in the training, nor did Dante refer to how any of the information he was teaching her would apply to the Element, so Bella found the entire training pointless.
Dante was frustrated with her lack of poise and grace, her slouched shoulders, her hunched back, her stiff arms and inflexible legs. He corrected her constantly.
Too groggy and tired from having to train so early in the morning, Bella kept quiet and tried to follow his instructions as best as she could.
By the end of session, Bella's hamstrings, calves, arms, back, and even her feet, were sore and burning. The session had been a workout, she had stretched parts of her body she didn't even know could be stretched, parts of her body were sore that she didn't even realize could be worked out.
Dante was unphased, energized and in a better mood if anything, by the end of the session, even being kind enough to drive them home upon seeing how exhausted she was.
Bella was upset the whole ride home, feeling a confusing and frustrating urge to cry.
She knew it wasn't Charlie's fault, he had reminded her about the upcoming trainings and about their family coming to help her. But she still couldn't help but feel betrayed at how callously he had thrown her into starting the trainings, especially so early in the morning. It felt like a punishment for having nearly frozen the family to death.
To Bella's annoyance, Charlie was still home when they arrived; he immediately went over to them, not asking any questions but his eyes imploring and surprised when he saw that it was Dante who had driven them back and how Bella dragged herself up the stairs.
Fiamma and Demetrio kept quiet, softly smiling at their niece, and shooting her looks of sympathy. They knew Dante's method of training was intense but effective, they had seen him teach and train younger Elementals back in Italy.
Dante smugly reported what they went over in the training to Charlie and his parents while Bella hastily showered and prepared for school.
Not wanting to be late for class, Bella only had time to pack a smoothie for her breakfast. Upset and sore, she didn't even bother saying goodbye to her family as she headed out.
She slipped and fell on her ass as soon as she stepped out the door, her sore legs giving out. "Fuck!" she swore angrily, struggling to get back up, the ice and concrete prickling her palms.
An extended hand appeared in front of her face. Charlie.
Angry tears built in Bella's eyes.
She felt stupid and clumsy without being able to tap into her connection to the Elements. She could've caught herself before falling, the ice wouldn't be so prickling and unforgiving if only she could use the Wind to prop herself up.
Scowling sourly, and still upset with how Charlie threw her towards her trainings so quickly and so early in the day, she begrudgingly took his extended hand to get up.
"Be careful on the road," Charlie murmured, his eyes intently examining her face. He could see the exhaustion in her face, the angry tears in her eyes, and her slow sluggish movements.
"Okay," She sniffed, brushing herself off, not looking at him while she got into her truck and backed out of the driveway.
Demetrio came out to stand next to Charlie as they watched Bella in her antique truck sputter slowly down the road. Demetrio chuckled as she turned shakily at the stop sign.
"She doesn't even know how powerful she is, Charles," Demetrio murmured to his older brother, swatting away the ice that began to fall steadily from the sky.
Charlie glanced up at the grey sky before looking down the road again, Bella completely out of view.
"I will expect snow if this continues," Charles sighed quietly before they both went back inside.
Bella sourly slammed the door of her truck closed a little too loudly and hard. She immediately winced. The truck was so old, sure it still had a lingering scent from the previous owner, but this was her first car, her baby.
"I'm sorry," she murmured, patting the door gently in apology before trudging to class.
Her body screamed with each step, an ache deep in her muscles and bones. Even her backpack felt heavy against her sore back and shoulders.
The morning classes went by quickly, she was functioning on autopilot until she could go home and nap.
There was a pop quiz in English, and an essay assignment due for the following week, nothing challenging; she played volleyball in PE, and Mike Newton stayed close to her, following her and walking her to classes whenever he could.
Mike Newton chattered nonstop as they walked out to lunch, Bella trudging along silently, too exhausted to even feel annoyed with him.
People were shouting excitedly, the cold wind biting at Bella's cheeks and nose as soon as they stepped outside but her mind was too blank to notice.
"Wow, it's snowing!" Mike smiled excitedly.
Tiny snowflakes floated down slowly from the sky, landing gently on Bella's face and melting into her skin like a cold and soft little kiss.
Bella pursed her lips sourly. "Damn, I can't even be exhausted in pea-"
She looked down, letting out a gasp of anger and disbelief.
Having had dressed in a rush, she had put on sneakers instead of proper winter boots. She had just stepped into a small mound of snow; her socks and ankles now damp from bits of snow seeping into her shoes. She wiggled her cold toes in her wet socks, furious and irritated.
Bella turned to look around angrily; she had been too exhausted to notice the little cotton fluffs surrounding the building and up along the sidewalk.
I swear to God, if one of these motherfuckers throws a snowball at me, I'm kicking their ass. She thought darkly to herself, refusing to be cold and wet, her eyes alert as the other students around them had threw snowballs at each other.
Naro was generally dry and warm, with occasional seasons of rain but never cold and snow like this. She had seen snow before in her travels, in her first trainings in the mountains when she was a child.
The weather in Forks wouldn't have seemed so dreadful to her were it not for the Council prohibiting her from using her connection to the Elements for activities outside of her trainings. It was frustrating to have to experience the Elements of the Earth from a standpoint of a regular human; connection to the Elements fueled her life, she was incomplete without it, tired, clumsy and not her full self.
Clenching and unclenching her fists, grief and bitterness flared in her chest as she remembered again that being sent to live here was her punishment, the consequence of her actions.
"You don't like the snow?" Mike asked incredulously, surprised at her furious expression.
Bella scoffed stiffly, ignoring the aching and soreness of her body.
"It doesn't snow in Italy, huh?" He gave her a sympathetic look.
"No." Bella groused, her nostrils flaring.
That confusing and frustrating urge to cry and to just lie down and sleep returned, Bella swallowed hard at the lump forming at her throat. "See you at lunch." She stormed off before a snowball could land on her.
"Bella!" Jessica laughed, jogging lightly to catch up to her. "Oh my gosh, Bella, it's just snow!"
"People are throwing that shit around so I'm out," Bella growled, adrenaline coursing through her veins as she gripped her binder, ready to use it as a shield if necessary.
Jessica laughed again, warily this time, knowing not to even dare try throwing a snowball at her.
The whole school chattered excitedly about the snow; apparently it was the first snowfall of the new year. Bella seethed quietly, upset, and sore and just wanting everybody in the school to shut up.
Walking to the lunch line with Mike and Jessica, Bella tuned out their incessant babbling about the snowball fight Mike was planning after lunch.
At the least the adrenaline from having witnessed the snow and getting her socks and shoes wet brought back her appetite. She groaned inwardly as she realized she had eagerly gulped her smoothie during first period, she was left to select from the cold and flavorless cafeteria food.
Yawning, she glanced around the cafeteria. She froze.
The table in the corner had five people.
"Hello? Earth to Bella? What do you want?" Jessica tugged on her arm, it was their turn in line.
Bella frowned, her ears growing hot.
In the midst of her family coming to visit, and having her first training earlier, she had almost completely forgotten about him.
"You okay?" Mike put an unnecessary but concerned arm over on her shoulder.
"I'm fine." Bella winced, reminded of how sore her body was.
She avoided looking over at the table as she followed Mike and Jessica to their table.
Exhausted from the training earlier, upset with Charlie for having her start so early in the morning, not being able to connect to the Elements outside of trainings, and anxious that Edward Cullen had returned and was sitting nonchalantly with his stepsiblings as if he had never acted strangely and had been mysteriously absent for a few days, Bella could feel her temper rising.
She forced herself to eat the room temperature cheeseburger and flavorless French fries, knowing she couldn't continue the rest of the day on an empty stomach.
The fact that she was going to have to "endure", as Edward Cullen had so eloquently put it when he tried to transfer out of the Biology class after her first day in Forks, sitting next to him again had her on edge. She was already having a hard day and she wasn't in the mood to put with Edward Cullen's hate.
Just one look, Bella. Just look over at the table once and if he's glaring at you again, just go home early. She told herself before taking a deep breath and risked a quick glance over at the table, unprepared for what she was about to see.
They were laughing.
Edward, Jasper, and Emmet all had their hair completely saturated with melting snow. Alice and Rosalie were leaning away as Emmett shook his dripping hair towards them.
They were enjoying the snow day, just like everyone else – only they looked like a scene from a movie, rehearsed.
Something was off, and Bella couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.
She observed carefully, trying to pinpoint what it was. There was something different about him today…
He doesn't look at pale as last time. She noted to herself. The dark circles under his eyes were less noticeable, not completely gone, just not as dark and grey as before.
As if he could feel Bella observing him, Edward Cullen turned.
Bella whipped her head back around to her table, fiddling with her fork. Shit!
"Bella, what's wrong?" Mike asked from across the table.
"You're awfully quiet today, are you feeling alright?" Angela asked, gently placing her hand on Bella's shoulder, frowning in concern.
"I'm fine," Bella cleared her throat, taking a swig of her water bottle.
"Edward Cullen's looking at you," Jessica snickered.
"Shit," Bella swore under her breath before asking, "Does he look…" Furious? Murderous? Ready to kill? "Does he look mad?"
"Um… no? Why would he look mad?" Jessica asked, turning to look at the Cullens' lunch table again.
"Don't look!" Bella hissed, pushing Jessica's face towards their own table with her index finger.
"O-okay…" Jessica snickered but focused on what Mike was saying about their snowball fight.
He doesn't look angry so maybe he won't be angry for Biology too? She tried reasoning with herself as lunch was ending, a knot of anxiety tightening in her belly. You can do this, Bella.
Everybody except Bella groaned when they saw that it was now raining, washing away all traces of snow, icy ribbons down the side of the walkway.
Smug, Bella looped her arm around Angela's and walked with her to class, getting rid of Mike in the crowd of students disappointed at not being able to have their snowball fight after all.
Bella preferred Angela out of the whole friend group, Angela seemed the most genuine and sincere, and conversing with her was easy.
But Bella's palms started itching, adrenaline pumping in her veins, putting her in fight-or-flight as they neared their class.
She still couldn't help but hope that maybe she just hallucinated and thought she saw Edward sitting with his step-siblings at lunch, or that he was only going to attend a half-day and go home after lunch or something.
Once inside the classroom, Bella sighed in relief to see that her desk was still empty. It was a hallucination after all. She smiled to herself, in complete denial of the fact that she had just seen him at lunch earlier.
Mr. Banner was walking around the classroom, distributing one microscope and two boxes of slides to each table. The class wasn't going to start until a few minutes, so the classroom was buzzing with conversation.
Bella sat right in the middle of her desk, like she had been accustomed to sitting these past couple days with Edward Cullen's absence. She stretched lazily, yawning again, popping her sore shoulders, so eager to believe that the Edward Cullen was not going to be in Biology.
She wondered again if he decided to skip just to avoid her, she wondered if he truly hated her that much, but she decided she didn't care, she just couldn't wait to go home and sleep.
She rested her forehead on her hands down on her desk.
Exhaustion drifted her into a stupor, a thin line between being awake and unconscious. She was snoring softly but heard very clearly when there was movement next to her.
Bella jerked up immediately, whipping her head around to face Mr. Banner, excuses and arguments ready at her tongue for as to why she was dozing off in class, only to look up into the stunned golden eyes of Edward Cullen.