It's a four-hour flight from Phoenix to Seattle, another hour in a small plane up to Port Angeles, and then an hour drive back down to Forks. Flying doesn't bother me; the hour in the car with Charlie, though, I was a little worried about. Charlie had really been fairly nice about the whole thing. He seemed genuinely pleased that I was coming to live with him for the first time with any degree of permanence. He'd already gotten me registered for high school and was going to help me get a car.
But it was sure to be awkward with Charlie. Neither of us was what anyone would call verbose, and I didn't know what there was to say regardless. I knew he was more than a little confused by my decision — like my mother before me, I hadn't made a secret of my distaste for Forks. When I landed in Port Angeles, it was raining. I didn't see it as an omen — just unavoidable. I'd already said my goodbyes to the sun.
Charlie was waiting for me with the cruiser. This I was expecting, too. Charlie is Police Chief Swan to the good people of Forks. My primary motivation behind buying a car, despite the scarcity of my funds, was that I refused to be driven around town in a car with red and blue lights on top. Nothing slows down traffic like a cop. Charlie gave me an awkward, one-armed hug when I stumbled my way off the plane.
"It's good to see you, Y/N," he said, smiling as he automatically caught and steadied me.
"You haven't changed much. How's Renée?"
"Mom's fine. It's good to see you, too, Dad." I wasn't allowed to call him Charlie to his face.
I had only a few bags. Most of my Arizona clothes were too permeable for Washington. My mom and I had pooled our resources to supplement my winter wardrobe, but it was still scanty. It all fit easily into the trunk of the cruiser.
"I found a good car for you, really cheap," he announced when we were strapped in.
"How cheap is cheap?" After all, that was the part I couldn't compromise on.
"Well, honey, I kind of already bought it for you. As a homecoming gift." Charlie peeked sideways at me with a hopeful expression. Wow. Free.
"You didn't need to do that, Dad. I was going to buy myself a car."
"I don't mind. I want you to be happy here." He was looking ahead at the road when he said this.
"That's really nice, Dad. Thanks. I really appreciate it." No need to add that my being happy in Forks is an impossibility. He didn't need to suffer along with me.
But I never looked a free truck in the mouth.
"Well, now, you're welcome," he mumbled, embarrassed by my thanks.
Eventually we made it to Charlie's. He still lived in the small, two-bedroom house that he'd bought with my mother in the early days of their marriage. Those were the only kind of days their marriage had — the early ones. There, parked on the street in front of the house that never changed, was my new — well, new to me — truck. It was a faded red color, with big, rounded fenders and a bulbous cab.
"Wow, Dad, I love it! Thanks!" Now my horrific day tomorrow would be just that much less dreadful. I wouldn't be faced with the choice of either walking two miles in the rain to school or accepting a ride in the Chief's cruiser.
"I'm glad you like it," Charlie said gruffly, embarrassed again.
It took only one trip to get all my stuff upstairs. I got the west bedroom that faced out over the front yard. The room was familiar; it had been belonged to me since I was born. There was only one small bathroom at the top of the stairs, which I would have to share with Charlie. I was trying not to dwell too much on that fact. One of the best things about Charlie is he doesn't hover, giving me time to think about my current situation.
Forks High School had a frightening total of only three hundred and fifty-seven — now fifty-eight — students. All of the kids here had grown up together. I would be the new girl from the big city, a curiosity, a freak. Maybe, if I looked like a girl from Phoenix should, I could work this to my advantage. But physically, I'd never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond — a volleyball player, or a cheerleader. Instead, I didn't have the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating myself — and harming both myself and anyone else who stood too close.
I didn't sleep well that night. The constant whooshing of the rain and wind across the roof wouldn't fade into the background. I pulled the faded old quilt over my head, and later added the pillow, too. But I couldn't fall asleep until after midnight, when the rain finally settled into a quieter drizzle. Thick fog was all I could see out my window in the morning, and I could feel the claustrophobia creeping up on me. You could never see the sky here; it was like a cage.
Breakfast with Charlie was a quiet event. He wished me good luck at school. I thanked him, knowing his hope was wasted. Good luck tended to avoid me. Charlie left first, off to the police station that was his wife and family. It was impossible, being in this house, not to realize that Charlie had never gotten over my mom. It made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to be too early to school, but I couldn't stay in the house anymore.
I donned my jacket — which had the feel of a biohazard suit — and headed out into the rain. It was just drizzling still, not enough to soak me through immediately as I reached for the house key that was always hidden under the eaves by the door, and locked up.
The sloshing of my new waterproof boots was unnerving. I couldn't pause and admire my truck again as I wanted; I was in a hurry to get out of the pouring rain. Inside the truck, it was nice and dry. Either Billy or Charlie had obviously cleaned it up, but the tan upholstered seats still smelled faintly of tobacco, gasoline, and peppermint.
The engine started quickly, to my relief, but loudly, roaring to life and then idling at top volume. Well, a truck this old was bound to have a flaw. The antique radio worked, a plus that I hadn't expected. Finding the school wasn't difficult, though I'd never been there before. The school was, like most other things, just off the highway.
It was not obvious that it was a school; only the sign, which declared it to be the Forks High School, made me stop. It looked like a collection of matching houses, built with maroon-colored bricks. There were so many trees and shrubs I couldn't see its size at first. I parked in front of the first building, which had a small sign over the door reading front office. No one else was parked there, so I was sure it was off limits, but I decided I would get directions inside instead of circling around in the rain like an idiot.
I stepped unwillingly out of the toasty truck cab and walked down a little stone path lined with dark hedges. Inside, it was brightly lit, and warmer than I'd hoped. The office was small; a little waiting area with padded folding chairs. There were three desks behind the counter, one of which was manned by a large, red-haired woman wearing glasses. The red-haired woman looked up.
"Can I help you?" "I'm Y/N Swan," I informed her, and saw the immediate awareness light her eyes. I was expected, a topic of gossip no doubt. Daughter of the Chief's flighty ex-wife, come home at last.
"Of course, I have your schedule right here, and a map of the school." She brought several sheets to the counter. She went through my classes for me, highlighting the best route to each on the map, and gave me a slip to have each teacher sign, which I was to bring back at the end of the day.
When I went back out to my truck, other students were starting to arrive. I was glad to see that most of the cars were older like mine, nothing flashy. The nicest car here was a shiny Volvo, and it stood out. Still, I cut the engine as soon as I was in a spot, so that the thunderous volume wouldn't draw attention to me.
I looked at the map in the truck, trying to memorize it now; hopefully I wouldn't have to walk around with it stuck in front of my nose all day. I stuffed everything in my bag, slung the strap over my shoulder, and sucked in a huge breath. I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me. I finally exhaled and stepped out of the truck. I kept my face pulled back into my hood as I walked to the sidewalk, crowded with teenagers. My plain black jacket didn't stand out, I noticed with relief. Once I got around the cafeteria, building three was easy to spot.
A large black "3" was painted on a white square on the east corner. I walked through the door, my anxiety mounting as i entered the small room. I took the slip up to the teacher, a tall, balding man whose desk had a nameplate identifying him as Mr. Mason. He gawked at me when he saw my name — not an encouraging response — and of course I flushed tomato red. But at least he sent me to an empty desk at the back without introducing me to the class. It was harder for my new classmates to stare at me in the back, but somehow, they managed. I kept my eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given me until the bell mercifully rang.
The next classes were just the same, everyone staring at me unabashedly when they thought I wasn't looking. I was the latest carnival attraction, on display for everyone to see. By lunchtime, I was fed up with the constant glares of my so called "peers". This was ridiculous.
I walked to the cafeteria with my hood up and my eyes on the floor, praying nobody would see me. Surprisingly, the cafeteria had a few empty tables, with seats clustered around the groups of friends that represented their respective cliques. I took a seat at an empty table, ignoring what seemed like thousands of faces staring at me.
Suddenly, the stares all subsided. I thanked whatever higher power was looking down on me and looked up at where their gaze was now directed. Five students, unnaturally pale, were walking across the room to a corner table, one of the few left completely empty. They sat down, not talking, or even eating, just sitting there. It was a little creepy. They all looked like they had been chiseled out of marble, ad they weren't even eating. I wondered if it was some bizarre mineral deficiency, or maybe a diet. They could all be models. There were three guys. One of them, by far the bulkiest, had curly, dark brown hair. The second was blonde, but he was taller and skinnier, although he still had defined muscles. They both looked like they had graduated. I wondered if they even went to the school. The last still looked like he could be in high school, or maybe a freshman at college. He was a brunette, and looked out of the three to be the least interested in the food they were all staring down at. There were two girls, too, one of them having blonde curls, tall, with a figure that you might see on Vogue magazine, the other with short-cropped black hair, shorter and thinner, but still pretty. All of them were almost unnaturally beautiful.
Suddenly, the shorter of the two girls stood up from the table, walked over the trash can, and dumped the entire tray of food in the trash can. Why even bother getting food if you weren't going to eat it? She walked back to the table, as if this event happened on a daily basis, and sat back down. I would have continued to question these people's motives for dumping their uneaten food in the trash, exempting the fact that once of them was staring at me. He was the brunette, the one who didn't look like he should have graduated years ago. I decided to return the stare, and he seemed to be almost smiling at me. I broke the stare promptly and redirected my gaze at my food, where it stayed for the duration of lunchtime.
It looked like I had biology next, so I pulled out the map and followed the route to the classroom. At least it gave me something to focus on other than the paranoia of being constantly observed. I opened the door to the classroom. It looked like everyone else had found a seat. And of course, the one seat that hadn't been filled was next to the mineral-deficient model. I gave my slip to the teacher, but I could feel his stare piercing into my back. Everyone was staring at me, why should he be any different? There must have been a reason everyone was staring at him and his friends, too. Maybe that was a sign to avoid him. Granted, sitting next to him wasn't going to make anything better, but it wasn't like I had a choice.
I glared at him as I sat down, and his expression was one hair short of growling at me. As the lesson droned on, he sat on the edge of his seat, and I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I tried to ignore the way that his fists were clenched, or the fact that this person who evidently hated me was sitting centimetres away from my throat. Finally, the bell rang, and he sprinted out of the classroom before anyone else had even gotten up.
I was confused. Depressed, even. The one person who knows what I'm going through can't even sit next to me for a single god damn lesson. I hoped to god that he was like that with everyone, that he was just the school weirdo. But somehow in the pit of my stomach I knew that it was something more than that.
P.E was uneventful, other than public humiliation from my lack of sport expertise. Finally, the day ended. Now all I had to do was turn in the slip.
To my surprise, weirdo was in the reception. I didn't intend to eavesdrop, but he was practically screaming it out that he demanded to change his Biology class. Good grief. I wanted to go over there and slap him, but I wasn't in the mood to get a detention, so I settled for the next best thing. I walked up, slammed the paper down on the desk, and walked away. I didn't bother turning around. I knew his eyes would just be glaring at me, full of hatred and whatever else it was that made him so fucking mad at me. I drove home with tears blurring my vision, wondering if everyone else felt the same way.