Almost immediately after Edward Cullen leaves her for good, Bella Swan falls in love with color. A color. Falls beneath the trapdoor of it, twists into it, keeps company with the color blue.
Now, blue. Cool blue glass panes, sunlit, casting shadows like mirage pools of water. Darkened veins beneath pale skin, rivers, maybe. Depression slurs her months together, combines them and stretches them out. Somehow minutes become longer than days themselves. It isn't supposed to make sense. After all, it started out as a distraction, she didn't mean for it to get so personal.
Charlie doesn't know what to do, she can tell. He's lost. He sits with her every night until she falls back asleep, a comforting hand on her shoulder. Beneath his palm she's quivering and nowhere-bound, directionless- it fills every corner of the room.
Bella returns to school after winter break, but it's only a formality. She sits in the back of all her classes, writing messages to Alice that she can never quite send.
Jessica and Angela invite her to their table at lunch. She would laugh out loud if she didn't think it would wound Angela unnecessarily. She's always liked her more.
Her new lab partner's eyes are blue. Dark, almost violet, she thinks. Do blue eyes see blue better? Probably not. Her hair is golden, her glare is permanent. At least something is.
Look, I need an A in this class. I'll write your name on all the projects just as long as you don't touch anything. Okay? the girl says, pink notebook adorned with cursive akin to calligraphy: Rose Hale.
Bella nods once. Welcome back to school. Her winter break was bad.
Rosalie Hale is probably going to rule the world someday. She's hard to look at sometimes. Bella knocks over a beaker by accident one day, and Rose yells at her until the teacher, uncertain what exactly to do, tells her to go cool it in the hallway.
Bella skips the rest of the class, opting to go mope beneath the bleachers with the kids who bum cigarettes outside the gas station at lunch and drive old trucks with sharpied names and drawings all over the dashboards.
She's out of her depth and realizes it immediately. They all freeze in unison when they see her and relax together marginally when they recognize she's not a teacher. They take turns staring at her. She thinks about leaving until some blue catches her eye and pins her feet to the ground.
Sitting on the end in a ratty lawn chair, a blond boy grins at her. Wolfish. Dark blue eyes, almost violet. Bella files through her mind for his name. Josh? Jake? No, Jasper Hale. Rosalie's twin brother.
You're Bella, right? he asks. He holds up his flask. An invitation.
They become fast friends.
There's something to be said about the quiet kinship of two people who refuse to be the first one to talk. Instead, they just eat lunch together under the bleachers and listen to Bella's moody playlists, passing his silver flask back and forth. When she does talk, in an effort not to spill out blue, the color, the theory, the feeling- she tells him about Edward in small doses. Jasper listens silently. He puts a hand on her back, hesitant at first, but when she doesn't flinch, he relaxes.
She's never really had a friend like him before.
After school, they pile into Bella's truck and drive the ten miles out of town to his house. Sometimes Rosalie is there glaring at her student government boyfriend (Liam or Luke or something), and Bella always starts to say hi before thinking better of it and disappearing back into Jasper's room under the weak guise of studying when really it's just Jasper smoking out the window and Bella sprawled on the floor counting the cracks in his dirty ceiling.
Rose is wound so tightly, Bella wonders how she functions. Even at her house, she gives off a palpable tension. Bella swears she can hear her ticking sometimes. Like a clock. Or a bomb.
She asks Jasper about her, why she seems so angry all the time, and all he can do is shrug. Don't know.
He's more sedate and funny in a self-deprecating sort of way. Bella can tell he thinks he's not the favorite twin. He's probably right.
On her drive back to Forks one night, Bella catches a glimpse of Jasper's name scrawled on her dash in messy boy handwriting with a lightning bolt next to it. She rolls her eyes at it, but at the same time, she thinks she might love him a little.
In Chemistry, Bella records while Rose does the heavy lifting, the measuring out, weighing, mixing, whatever you're supposed to do in chemistry labs. Bella wouldn't know. It's one of those rare days she's actually allowed to do something to help, but it's also Tuesday.
Copper hair and a tight frown, holding a hand up against the setting sun, Edward left on a Tuesday. Rosalie Hale wears blue earrings on Tuesdays.
Rose looks up at her through the old, nearly fogged plastic of her goggles. Blue. Did you get that? she asks, blowing an errant strand of hair out of her face.
Bella thinks she looks softer with her hair pulled back, wearing science gear over her expensive clothes. Latex gloves, black apron decorated with white paint by the senior class that graduated six years ago. Lily, it says across the chest. Lily. Bella tilts her head. Lily Hale. No. Never.
Bella? Rose says.
Bella shakes herself free and nods, flushing. Rose rolls her eyes and goes back to her chemicals, a flicker of a smile across her face.
Bella wakes up screaming again. Charlie is there. Hand to her shoulder, holding her to this plane. She hugs him, and he hugs back. He seems relieved. He knows how to hug, and that's something for once. It's bone-crushing. She needs it. They both need it.
The Hale house comes as a visceral shock at first sight no matter how many times Bella visits. It's about a half step down from a mansion, but still sprawling in size. It must have been something when it was new, but now it's just a rotten shell that's slowly being swallowed by the forest ten miles out of town.
Bella bounds up the front steps after Jasper. She hangs her coat on the wall, only mildly surprised when the entire mounted rack pulls out of the wall, crumbling a decent amount of old drywall with it. Bella has half a mind to ask Jasper if they're squatters. The whole place should be condemned.
Jasper causally tutors her in history from his windowsill. It really seems to be the only class he goes to regularly, and from what she's heard, it's only to debate with the teacher over the facts. He is Rose's brother after all.
She sits on the floor with her book in her lap, listening. In the next room, she can hear the faint murmur of quiet music and dull voices.
No, she says. Even through the wall, it has bite. Rose.
C'mon, please? It's been weeks, Ro.
Jasper stops talking when he realizes Bella isn't really listening anymore. He elbows the shared wall twice, and the voices stop.
He picks up where he left off. Bella never quite catches up.
Bella keeps to the wall in the halls during passing periods. She still can't tell if it takes more or less time, but because of it, she catches the tail end of a ring of senior boys' conversation.
They're all huddled around a phone attached to the arm of the boy Rose keeps around like a signature pet. There's a lot of ooh-ing, exaggerated fist-biting, and high-fiving going on.
The late bell rings and the boys disperse. The one with the phone turns around and knocks into Bella like a brick wall. His phone and her flask (blue, a gift from Jasper, he thinks it's her favorite color, he has no idea) clatter to the ground. Bella picks up the phone, still on the image they'd all been gawking over. Spiderwebs of cracked screen over a naked girl. She only glances for a fraction of a second before shoving the phone in his direction, swapping it back for her flask and murmuring something unintelligible before pushing into her next class. Late.
It doesn't fully click until she sees Rose holding hands with the boy from the hall. The realization hits like a blow to the back of the skull. What's it like to see in red?
You're staring, Rose says, eyes on the meniscus, eyes on the science, eyes on the A, the diploma, the degree, the paycheck, the retirement cabin, the gravestone. She glances up, caught between curiosity and annoyance.
Yeah, Bella says, blinking a few times, looking away. Sorry.
If your girlfriend sent you nudes, would you show your friends? Bella asks Jasper at lunch, under the bleachers getting wet from the drizzle.
No, that's fucked up. Why?
She doesn't say anything, and Jasper drops it. He's good like that.
Bella's not even buzzed yet when Rose's boyfriend and his buddies come over. They take over the living room with the warped floor (or sagging ceiling, it's tough to tell), their voices fill the old, rickety house. The way it settles and shifts, Bella feels like she's on a boat and they're the unruly pirate crew and she's a stowaway, sneaking a free trip, hiding in a barrel, marauding the marauders.
More people show up, but it doesn't feel like Friday night in the Hale house until there's a loud cracking sound and some cursing after. I fell through the FUCKING floor! What the hell?
In the next room, Rose's bedroom, Bella thinks blearily, she can hear the telltale murmur of Rose rejecting her boyfriend. It's about as familiar as the water damage on Jasper's ceiling by now. But it's different this time.
No. You're drunk, Rose says.
I'm not that drunk, Ro.
Logan, I said no .
Logan, stop! There are two distinct thuds against the wall. Bella shoots up. Jasper's already on his feet. Bella scrambles up just in time to see the fallout. She hears a sharp slap followed by You bitch!
Is there a problem? Jasper says, projecting his already huge presence throughout the room. Bella stops in the doorway, frozen. Rose's eyes are wide. She's trembling. Bella can see the fury distorting the air around her like heat waves.
The boy, Logan, is clutching the bright red side of his face. Bella hates him. She hates him and she can't even stand without swaying on her feet but she hopes this house swallows him whole.
Rose? Jasper says. She shakes her head. Get out, he says, clipped. Logan darts out of the room muttering something Bella chooses to ignore.
He melds back into the pirate crew turned small city of uninvited guests taking up the rest of the house. Bella's brain keeps teetering between half the town and million people. She can't really think straight. Not with Jasper squeezing Rose's hand and Rose looking right at her, right through her, seething, breathing hard like the air is smoke and the whole forest is on fire.
FUCK! someone says from the living room. Is that a raccoon?
Holy shit! Don't touch it! Eric… Seriously?
Stay with her, Jasper says, rolling his eyes. He leaves the room to go sort out the raccoon issue and closes the broken door behind him.
Rose stares at her for a few seconds more before sitting on her bed, the rage field around her dissipates. Her adrenaline from the slap waning, crashing. Bella glances around the room. It's pink mostly, or it was like fifty years ago and now everything is just gray with a hint of pink. Aside from the new-ish dresser and bed, it's pretty sparse. And it's the less rotten of the two side-by-side bedrooms. Something tells her Jasper insisted.
It's kind of absurd to think about. The most popular girl in school lives in a rotten mansion in the woods with her burnout brother and their elusive father, yet here they are.
Bella? Rose says, and Bella's eyes snap to hers. Are you going to just stand there?
Bella looks at the wall she'd been using for support and then over to Rose, sitting on the bed waiting for her. I'm a little drunk, she says because she feels like she has to. But I'm not drunk like Logan-drunk, I'm-
Drunk like Bella-drunk?
Yeah, that one.
Rose shakes her head. You're always drunk.
Bella surrenders and stumbles across the uneven floor before flopping unceremoniously on Rose's bed. Her shoulder clips Rose's on the way down and drags her with her.
Taken by surprise, Rose doesn't have the time to catch herself before the back of her head hits the wall. Some plaster rains down from the ceiling on top of them.
Ow, fuck, Rose says, dropping down next to Bella, forehead against her shoulder, bits of plaster in her hair.
This place is a fucking dump.
I think you're right, but it's been in my family for generations. My great-great-great grandfather built it with his bare hands.
Really? Bella asks, propping up on an elbow and looking down at her.
I don't fucking know, Rose says, pushing her elbow from beneath her. Bella laughs as her head hits the mattress again. Rose smiles at her then looks up at the ceiling, the new spot of broken-off plaster. Bella thinks that she looks like the kind of person people would build castles for. Had she been born a couple hundred years ago, entire countries would have fought wars for her attention. She would have hated that. Bella can tell.
Can I ask you something?
Why do you go out with Logan? He's kind of an asshole.
Rose sighs. He is, isn't he?
Uh, yeah. Every time he comes over he just upsets you. I'm pretty sure Jasper has a plan to get rid of his body one of these days.
We're… He was kind, she says, shrugging. When Jazz and I first moved here, he showed us around, introduced us. We didn't know anyone, and he was nice.
Just because someone's nice to you once doesn't mean you owe them anything. And it doesn't mean you have to date them either.
Rose looks away and the decaying wall. Her hands clench into fists for a moment before releasing. She signs and turns back, eyes watery, blue, violet. And Bella thinks in that instant how wonderful it would be to fall from the terrifying height of her. What it would be like turn a corner and see Rose there for her and her alone. What it would feel like to run a hand up the back of her shirt, palm against her spine, strong.
I'm sorry I'm such a bitch to you.
Bella shrugs. She thinks of Edward Cullen, the crooked turn of his mouth when she climbed into the passenger seat of his Volvo wearing a dark green bowling shirt over a long sleeve t-shirt.
There are millions, myriads of self-help books out there that spell it out like this: Drinking when you are depressed is like throwing kerosene on a fire.
Bella has never known depression to feel like fire. What kind of depression is backed by that passion? It wouldn't be depression. It couldn't be. That's the depression talking.
Rose pulls her back, pulls her blue flask from the inner pocket of her jacket. Cheers, she says, knocking it against Bella's head and taking a drink. She winces. Fuck, that's gross. You and Jazz are disgusting.
Bella swipes the flask and takes a swig, numb to the initial burn by now. Yeah. Can I ask you something else?
Again. Depends. Rose tugs it out of Bella's hands and drains the remnants.
Why'd you waste nudes on a tool like Logan?
Rose chokes for a second. What- How…? God, he's such a fucking asshole. She screws the cap back on and turns it in her hands. Isn't that what you're supposed to do with your boyfriend? Assuming he doesn't show them to the whole fucking school?
He doesn't have to be your boyfriend. Dump him.
Rose rolls her eyes. I'm busy. Can I ask you just one thing? Bella nods and Rose smirks. What'd you think? Honestly?
Of… Of your nudes?
Yes. It's a valid question.
Bella feels sweaty, flushed. Like she's in middle school and staring at the anatomy diagrams in her textbook for longer than appropriate.
Uh, good lighting? Um… tasteful? Yeah, tasteful. Great nudes. Eleven out of ten.
Tasteful? Fuck. You.
Tasteful means good! What do you want me to say? You're hot? You're the hottest girl I've ever seen? Is that what you want?
No, not particularly, Rose says. She sits up and looks down at Bella, then at the faded pattern on the bedspread. She tucks her hair behind her ear. Logan… he was my first kiss, my first everything, really. That's important to some girls, you know?
But not to you?
It should be. I know it should be.
But it isn't?
Rose brings her hands to her chest then motions outward vaguely, helplessly almost. I don't know. Nothing ever feels right anymore.
I'd drink to that, but someone finished it off. Bella sits up faces her. Some plaster crumbles under her hands. You know, this is the most you've ever said to me that doesn't have anything to do with phenolphthalein or like potassium or whatever. We could've been friends this whole time.
Rose rolls her eyes. You wish.
Rosalie Hale dumps Logan the following Monday, loudly, in the middle of the crowded cafeteria in true Rose fashion. She interrupts her dramatic exit to pluck Bella from her table in the audience and drag her with her the rest of the way.
She still doesn't let Bella help in Chemistry.
The three of them hang out more. Jasper seems relieved Rose has ditched her old crowd. Months pass. They don't have any more parties in the rotten house, and it's for the best really. The entire east wing collapsed last week.
Bella gets a letter from Edward in the mail. It's written in blue ink on a ripped-out piece of notebook paper with dark brown ringed coffee stains.
He's in college, has a new girlfriend, hopes Bella's doing well. Nothing to warrant a letter back. She writes one anyway. It's a heavy, listless, languid, spiritless feeling.
Bella wraps herself in it. She loves blue. Blue doesn't love her back.
She drives Rose home from the movie theater. They'd seen a movie about a bank robbery or something. Rose texted through the whole thing and Bella was lost in her popcorn. But Rose linked her fingers through Bella's buttery ones on the walk back to her truck. She takes it as a victory.
On the ride back, Rose digs a permanent marker out of the glove compartment and adds her name on the dash above her brother's. Bella is hit with a tidal wave of light, flashes of Rose, a million times over sitting in the passenger seat writing her name again and again all over the place, across the dash, around the frame of the windows, the ceiling, the steering wheel, the seat belt. Rose in leggings and flip flops, Rose in jean shorts and a red tank top- Bella's name on the toes of her Chucks, Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose.
She nearly swerves off the road at the contradictory heaviness and lightness of it all.
Rose tugs at her wrist. I'm driving, she says, head still spinning a little.
She gives in a few seconds later like she was going to anyway. Rose takes her hand in both her own and holds it in her lap. The crappy FM rock station fizzles out into white noise at the edge of town. Neither of them make an effort to turn it off.
Edward would have shut it off, but that was so long ago now. She's afraid to put a number to the days. Almost nothing feels as raw as it does when you're seventeen.
She pulls up in front of Rose's house, or lack thereof. She wouldn't be surprised if one day the whole place vanished into thin air- or rubble, more likely. Rose kisses her cheek, a quick peck, and thanks her for paying for the movie before climbing out.
In the light from the porch, Bella makes out Rose's name on the dash followed by a heart made of hearts and a raccoon with a speech bubble that says FUCK in Rose's curly girly script. She grins, and the word is out of her mouth before she can stop it.
And Rose does. She turns at the top of the steps, smiling as Bella climbs out of her truck.
Thank god, she mutters. I wasn't sure if you knew or not.
That this was a date.
Bella rolls her eyes, Of course, I knew. She didn't. At least, not completely. You want me to kiss you on your doorstep, is that it?
Not particularly, no. Rose says, a flashing grin. She descends the front steps, shoes crunching on the gravel back to Bella, palm to her sternum, she pushes gently. Bella's shoulder blades press against the cold glass of her window, and Rosalie is tall and pressing against her in the darkness, face so close, Bella's heart thuds so hard Rose can probably feel it, how embarrassing.
Nothing has any color in moonlight, least of all blue.
Rosalie kisses her softly, tentatively at first until Bella pushes off the truck to get closer. She doesn't know what to do with her hands, so she just grabs Rose, anywhere. Rose smiles against her mouth.
Inside the house, Jasper flicks the porch light on and off. Rose groans and flips him off. God, I hate him.
Bella smiles stupidly, dazed. The outside light gives up and drops off the wall, shatters against the porch. It shakes Bella out of it a little.
You really should move.
Yeah, Rose says. You're probably right.