A/N: Hi there. Thanks so much for giving this lemony story a try.
I'm so excited that I finally get to publish it. The basic idea has been in my head for years, but it only started to really take form when I came across and started to write my plot bunny down as a fanfic. I've been working on this for about six months now, and the story is almost completely written. At the moment, it's being betaed. I'm planning on updating once every week, as long as the betaing and my tweaking at the last minute can keep up.
A big thank you goes to my betas Ange de l'aube, babykay18 and the moderators from Project Team Beta. Without them you would be reading a story almost without any commas. A special thank you goes to my friends and pre-readers Vampgirl79, who I also have to thank for the wonderful cover and banner she made for me, and Thepurplebookworm, who both have been by my side, encouraging me through the whole writing process. Thank you so much, and I love you, ladies.
Now, I'll stop babbling and let you read. I hope you'll enjoy this story and I'll see you at the end of this chapter.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, Twilight isn't mine but Stephanie Meyer's, but I'm glad that I'm allowed to play around with her characters.
Chapter 1 – The Box
"Ouch!" I cursed under my breath when my foot hit something in the darkness. I was sneaking out of a stranger's apartment on my tiptoes. I didn't dare switch on the lights to find my way out, afraid I'd wake the man whose name I didn't remember and who I'd left while he was asleep in bed just a few seconds ago.
He had fallen asleep as soon as he was done with his poor performance. Not only had he been bad in bed, it had also been impossible to have a halfway decent conversation with the guy. Of course, that wasn't what either of us had been after when, he'd hit on me a few hours ago at the club and, I agreed to go home with him. He had been nice and charming, really good looking, but when we were finally alone, he couldn't live up to my expectations.
"Baby, you leavin'?" a sleepy voice sounded from the bedroom.
"Shit," I murmured too quietly for him to hear. "Yes, I have an appointment early in the morning. I'm going home."
"Will I see you again?"
Certainly not! "Maybe. Just call me." I shut the door behind me and was down the hall and in the elevator before he could even notice that he didn't have my number.
I usually made sure they didn't. Over the years, I'd become a pro at covering my tracks when it came to one-night-stands, always taking certain precautions. I normally didn't tell the men my last name, or gave them my number, unless I was sure I wanted to meet them again, which might have happened once or twice. Never ever did I take anyone back to my place. I considered it a very private thing to show someone how and where I lived. And I also needed the freedom to leave whenever I wanted to, which was usually right after sex.
I wasn't proud of that routine but over the years it had proven to be the most practical way to satisfy my needs.
I didn't have a new partner every week — more like once a month. I tried to avoid it until the need became too strong. I probably wasn't a slut by the standards of the general public, but I was raised to cherish love and monogamy. So I wasn't happy with my promiscuous lifestyle.
I'd had a few short-lived relationships, but after a while, I always felt suffocated when the men proposed to take it to the next level. If I thought about them retrospectively, I knew that I hadn't been in love with any of these men. I'd let neither of them come close enough for me to fall in love in the first place.
I kept telling myself that I was a modern woman, taking what I wanted without compromising my independence, but deep down, I knew I was just unable or unwilling to make a commitment.
As I stepped out of the middle-class apartment building, where I had wasted the last hour, I stopped for a moment to take a deep breath, relieved that I was free and rid of the guy, before I hailed a taxi.
After I had told the driver my address, I sat back watching Seattle pass by as peacefully as it could in the early morning hours.
At home I took a shower, washing away the unsatisfying events of the night; another part of my established routine. The hot water was running down my body, rinsing off the remainder of the stranger's touch. I cleaned myself of his saliva in the spots his lips had kissed me or his tongue had licked my skin. I didn't want anything of him to stay with me. If it were possible, I would wash my brain to erase my memories of last night.
As I was done cleansing myself, I started to take care of my own needs,the ones the good looking but quite clueless guy had totally neglected. My high-end showerhead was just the right device to do so.
When I was finally clean and my tension was relieved, I was glad to slip under the covers and close my tired eyes. I still had about five hours left before morning.
The piercing ring of my cellphone woke me as daylight already crept through my bedroom window.
"Hello?" I mumbled holding the phone to my ear without opening my eyes.
"Good morning sunshine," cheered the voice on the other end of the line.
"Morning, Alice. What's up?" I looked at the alarm clock on my nightstand to find that it was 9 am. How could anyone in their right mind be that good-humored so early on a Sunday morning?
"Bella, I wanted to make sure you got home okay and was curious if Mr. Hotlips kept what his looks promised."
Alice's wild days had been over since she finally got together with Jasper. Before that, we used to go out together all the time, and Alice usually didn't go home alone. Compared to her, I had seemed like a paragon of chastity at the time. She didn't really miss those days but, sometimes she liked to feed off my adventures.
"Let me put it this way, I think we left the club at around two and I was home by three. He was boring and fell asleep immediately after. You could say I was left high and dry. And his place was a mess. Disgusting."
"That's a drag. He really looked hot." Alice sighed theatrically.
"Yeah, but that's not the point." I had to learn the hard way that looks were no indication for a guy's skills in bed.
"Well, you're right." She sighed again before she changed the subject. "Listen, I'm actually calling to remind you about the party we're having at our place next Saturday. You said something last night about having to reschedule dinner with your Dad."
I had already forgotten about that. I hadn't been to Forks in more than two months.
Charlie, my dad, and I had been really close as I grew up and I really liked his girlfriend, Sue. But their constant questioning about whether or not I had finally met someone special was getting on my nerves. They didn't know what had happened to me that had left me incapable of having a real relationship.
"Oh, the dinner. I had totally forgotten about that. Well, there's no special occasion or anything. I'll just drive over to see them today and make some excuse why I can't come next week."
"Okay then, I'll talk to you later. Bye."
Putting the phone on the nightstand, I rolled onto my back, growling in frustration about the early wake-up call. After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, I decided to get up.
I ate a quick breakfast of milk and cereal, then got dressed and got in my car for the three-hour drive to Forks. Having talked to Sue on the phone earlier this week, I knew they would be spending Sunday at home.
"Hey, Bells. What a nice surprise. Is something wrong? I didn't think we'd see you before next weekend." Charlie looked worried as he greeted me with a hug.
"Hey, Dad. No, everything's alright. But something came up and I won't be able to make it next Saturday. So I thought I'd just visit you today instead."
He stepped aside and I entered the little two-bedroom house I'd grown up in. Charlie was the chief of police in this small hole-in-the-wall town. My parents had bought the house right after they got married and Charlie didn't want to sell it after the divorce.
As we passed the hall to reach the living room, Sue Clearwater, Charlie's girlfriend came out of the kitchen, greeting me with a smile.
"Hello, Bella. Nice to see you. How are you?" she asked as she hugged me heartily.
Dad and Sue had been together for about twenty years now. I was glad he had met her soon after Renée, my mother, had left us. But they never got married. As a teenager I always wondered why. Now that I was an adult and had gained some perspective myself, I was sure that Charlie had been hurt too deeply by Renée to ever give another marriage a try.
"Hi. I'm fine. I just thought I'd come over — "
"She found something better to do next Saturday than to have dinner with her old man," Charlie interrupted me. But I was glad to see that he was smiling instead of being mad at me for canceling.
"Oh that's too bad. Well, never mind. You're here today. Actually, now that you're here, I cleaned out the attic the other day and I found some of your old stuff. Maybe you'd like to take a look at it and decide if you want to throw it away or keep it. It's in your room. Lunch will be ready in half an hour."
I went upstairs and as usual, I felt strange on the way to my old bedroom. I hadn't been in there in- about ten months. Since I had finally moved out for good six years ago I had avoided that room as much as possible, only staying overnight on the holidays. I felt uncomfortable every minute I spent in there.
Opening the door, I immediately saw that nothing had changed since I'd left. Sue cleaned the room regularly and though the house was small and they could actually use every square foot available, they had never redecorated it or used it for anything. They insisted that it was my room and would stay like that until I had a family of my own. They weren't aware that we were probably talking decades if not forever.
On the bed sat a box I recognized as soon as I laid eyes on it. After my initial shock, I approached it very carefully as if it were a bomb ready to explode at the lightest touch. When I reached the bed, I sat down on the edge of the mattress, staring at the box of memories for a good while. It was a square, brown box, one foot wide, high and deep, with a green lid.
Most of the boxes I had stored up in the attic were labeled, hinting at their contents. But not this one. In wide black letters, Sue had written my name on it. Even though there was nothing more on the outside of the box, I knew immediately, without having to guess for a second, what was in it. I could have named every single item, described each one meticulously.
Before even lifting the lid, I could smell the scent of its contents around me, stirring feelings in me of pain, despair and loss. I placed my hand palm down on the box to make contact with it for a while before I dared to lift the lid. It was as if I was afraid that something would jump out and attack if I moved too fast.
The first thing that caught my eye, lying on top of everything else, was a white teddy bear with a big red bow around its neck. Jacob had won it for me at the fair we had gone to with Alice and Jasper. He'd had to try several times before he finally won something he considered good enough for me. I took the stuffed animal out of the box raising it to my nose. Eight years later it still had that distinctive fair smell.
The next item that became visible was a little snow globe with a miniature Statue of Liberty inside. A gift to remind me of the city I had always dreamed about working in but had sworn to never set foot in again. Carefully, I took it in my hands and shook it, making the snow fall around New York's most famous landmark.
Then there was a black jersey dress with a zipper on the back that had never been completely zipped up. I had never worn it, only put it on once for a few minutes before … No, I couldn't think about that now. It hurt too damn much.
Next there was a ticket to a concert in Seattle dated July 21st 2004.
As I put that away, I saw three photographs that had been hidden underneath. From the first one, a portrait, a pair of brown eyes, set in a beautiful russet-skinned face and framed by thick black hair, were smiling at me. Before the lump in my throat could grow even bigger, I quickly put it away.
The next picture showed Jasper, Alice, Jacob and me making funny faces. I remembered that the picture was taken two days before the guys had to leave. Alice and Jake wanted something to remember the week we had together. So we set Alice's camera up in our backyard, put it on automatic release, and posed for a series of more or less stupid pictures. I could almost hear the laughter that was in the air that day. Back then it had felt as if we didn't have a care in the world. The last picture I had kept was one of Jacob carrying me piggyback, running across the sand at First Beach.
As I laid out everything on top of my bedspread, tears began to sting my eyes, desperate to be shed. I tried to fight them back as long as possible, struggling to be stronger than the overwhelming memories that had been released. But I lost the fight as a quiet sob escaped my throat and when I closed my eyes the tears started to flow.
I cried silently for some time, letting the memories crush me for the first time in a long while.
When I finally pulled myself together again, I put everything back into the box and placed the lid back on top. Wiping away the last of tears that had escaped my eyes, shed not for a guy, but for a girl that had lost all faith in love, I safely stored all memories of Jacob Black away before I went outside to the trash, so I could get rid of the box of pain.
During the whole three hour drive back to Seattle I tried to forget about that damn box. It had been months since I'd even thought of Jacob.
After we'd parted ways, I'd locked myself up in our apartment, unwilling and unable to interact with anyone but Alice. Jake had managed to destroy all the faith I had in people.
No one other than Alice and Jasper knew what had happened between him and me. But everyone knew that we'd had some kind of fight and were no longer speaking. Even Charlie, who was the least perceptive person on earth, understood that it was better to never mention Jake's name in my presence again.
It had taken me half a year before I agreed to go dancing with Alice for the first time. From the outside, I'd seemed to be back to normal but on the inside my wounds had been far from healed. In the months I had spent at home, I'd made up my mind to never again give a man the chance to hurt me like that, to never trust a man again.
But life completely without men didn't work. There were needs, physical as well as emotional, that needed to be taken care of. Since I was unwilling or unable to have a relationship and open myself up to someone who would probably hurt me again, I started to hook up with guys, always for only one night.
Over the years I had sex with many men. After a few years, I'd even made some attempts at having a relationship, but I didn't let a guy get emotionally close to me again.
I had enjoyed my afternoon with Charlie and Sue, but since that summer, I hadn't been able to stay in Forks longer than a night or two. However, every few months it was nice to go home for a few hours, and listen to Charlie and Sue spilling the recent gossip or to just watch the two of them living a happy life together. Deep down inside, I longed to have what they had but I felt like I was too messed up to ever accomplish it.
When I drove into my building's underground parking garage, I had banned every sad memory from my mind again, determined to live in the present rather than the past.
A/N: So, what do you think? I'm very curious to hear your ideas about what happened between Bella and Jacob.
I'm sorry that there was no Edward in this first chapter but I promise you, he'll make his first appearance real soon.
To keep you interested, here's a short teaser for Chapter 2:
… Never before had I felt this excited, just kissing a man. Usually kissing was only a gateway to sex, and I didn't particularly enjoy it. …
See you next week ;)