My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix. A cloudless, desert blue sky. I was wearing my favorite shirt, a sleeveless lace top. I was wearing it as a farewell gift, my carry-on was a parka.
My destination was a small town named Forks in the Olympic Peninsula in northwestern Washington. This town was under a near-constant cover of clouds. As such it rained more in this insignificant town than anywhere else in the United States. This town is where I was born. This town was where my mother escaped with me when I was a few months old. This was the town I felt compelled to spend a month every summer until I was thirteen, when I’d finally put my foot down. These past three years, Charlie, my dad, vacationed with me in California for two weeks instead. This was the town I exiled myself, with much horror.
I hated the rain, the cold. I hated small towns, especially their narrow-mindedness. I detested Forks.
I loved the heat, the blistering sun. I loved the vigorous bustling city, the societal freedom. I loved Phoenix.
“Beau, You don’t have to do this,” Renée, my mom, said to me- as she had a thousand times- before I boarded the plane.
She looks like me, with shorter hair and laugh lines. I felt a spasm of panic as I looked into her wide eyes. How could I leave her to fend for herself? Wait, Phil. Phil can take care of her, remind her of bills and food and get groceries. Can find her when she gets lost. Still…
“I want to go,” I lied, almost convincingly.
“Tell Charlie I said hi.”
“I’ll see you soon. You can come home whenever you want- I’ll come right back as soon as you need me.”
I could see she meant it, but I could see the sacrifice in her eyes behind it.
“Don’t worry about me. It’ll be great. I love you, Mom.” Then she pulled me into a tight hug for a minute, and the next I was boarding the plane and she was gone.
It’s a four hour flight from Phoenix to Seattle, another hour to Port Angeles, then an hour drive down to Forks. Then an appointment with my new doctor, Dr. Cullen, three hours after entering Forks. I wasn’t bothered by flying; my natural awkwardness screwing up my appointment, and the hour car ride with Charlie were another thing.
Charlie had been fairly nice about the whole thing. He seemed genuinely pleased that I was coming to live with him with any degree of permanence. He’d already gotten me registered for high school, gotten my medical files transferred, and was helping me get a car.
But it was sure to be awkward with Charlie. Neither of us were what anyone would call verbose, and I didn’t know what to say regardless. I knew he was confused by my decision, like my mother, I never hid my distaste for Forks.
When I landed in Port Angeles, it was raining. Not an omen, just an inevitability. I’d already said goodbye to the sun.
Charlie was waiting for me with the cruiser, as expected. He was the police chief of Forks, just another reason to want a car despite my scarcity of funds. No one wants to be driven to school in a police cruiser. Nothing slows down traffic like a cop.
He gave me an awkward one-armed hug when I stumbled off the plane.
“It’s good to see you, Beau.” He smiled as he automatically caught and steadied me. “You haven’t changed much. How’s Renée?”
“Mom’s fine. It’s good to see you, Dad.” I wasn’t allowed to call him Charlie to his face.
I only had a few bags. Arizona clothes were too permeable for Washington weather. My mom and I pooled our resources to upgrade my winter wardrobe, but still it was scanty. It all fit in the trunk of a police cruiser with ease.
“I found a good car for you, real cheap,” He announced when we were strapped in and on our way.
“What kind of car?” I was suspicious of that wording, ‘good car for you’ as opposed to ‘good car.’
“Well, it’s a truck actually, a Chevy.”
“Where did you find it?”
“Do you remember Billy Black down at La Push?” La Push is the tiny reservation on the coast.
“Vaguely.” He had three kids, I played with his youngest more.
“He used to go fishing with us during the summer,” Charlie prompted.
That would explain why I didn’t really remember him. I tend to block out painful memories.
“He’s in a wheelchair now,” Charlie continued when I didn’t respond, “So he can’t drive anymore and he offered to sell me his truck real cheap.”
“What year is it?” I could tell from his change in expression he was hoping I wouldn’t ask.
“Well, Billy’s done a lot of work on the engine- it’s only a few years old, really.”
He should know better than to think I’d give up that easily. “When did he buy it?”
“He bought it in 1994, I think.”
“Did he buy it new?”
“Well, no. I think it was new in the early seventies, or late sixties at the earliest,” He admitted sheepishly.
“Ch- Dad, I don’t know anything about cars. I can’t really afford a mechanic and I can’t fix it if something goes wrong…”
“Beau, the thing runs great. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
The thing, that has potential… as a nickname. I thought to myself.
“How cheap is cheap?” That I couldn’t compromise on.
“Well, honey, I kind of already bought it for you. As a homecoming and Christmas gift. Billy and Jake are coming over tomorrow and their gonna leave it.” He looked sideways towards me with a hopeful expression.
Wow. Free. And I almost forgot tomorrow was Christmas Eve. Maybe I could cook dinner as a Christmas present.
“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. Charlie wasn’t comfortable with expressing his emotions out loud. I inherited that from him. So I was looking straight ahead as I responded.
“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. And I never looked a free truck in the mouth – or engine.
“Well, now, you’re welcome,” he mumbled, embarrassed by my thanks.
We exchanged a few comments about the weather, which was wet, and then we came to the next big subject.
“You probably already know, your doctor here is Dr. Carlisle Cullen,” Charlie stated. “He’s a good man, with a nice family. When I got all your medical information transferred he called and said he would personally take you as a patient to keep small town rhetoric out of your medical business.”
That shocked me, most doctors I’d been to were all for small town rhetoric and denying the truth about me. Charlie must have seen the shock on my face, he started speaking again.
“He said he’s been a doctor for a long time, and when he saw your files he saw discrimmination based on personal beliefs. He said he wanted to fix the medical mistreatment.”
“Wow, I can’t believe that.”
“He’s a really good man, could be making millions at some big shot hospital, but he chose to help us instead.”
Charlie talked some about the effects Dr. Cullen told him would happen on testosterone until I told him I’d done my own research. I knew all the effects even the ‘scary ones’ as Renée called them. I mentally braced for the speech about how I was too young to go through with this. Renée told me that everytime I tried.
“Beau.” Here it comes. “If you’re ready to go through this, I have you under my insurance now. Dr. Cullen said he can word it just so and have it covered.”
“What did you expect me to say,” Charlie asked. “I want my son to grow to be a happy adult. I’m not gonna stand in the way of what he needs to be happy.” Charlie stared at the road to avoid looking at me.
“Mom kept telling me I was too young for her to let me,” I admitted. Charlie doesn’t talk shit about Renée, but it still felt weird to tell him about her shortcomings in accepting me.
“She sees too much of herself in you. You’re basically an adult already, and you’re only sixteen.”
We made some small talk before falling into an awkward silence. We stared out the windows.
It was beautiful, of course; I couldn’t deny that. Everything was green: the trees, their trunks covered with moss, their branches hanging with a canopy of it, the ground covered with ferns. Even the air filtered down greenly through the leaves.
It was too green – an alien planet.
Eventually we made it to Charlie’s. He still lived in the small two bedroom house he’d bought with my mother during the early days of their marriage. Those were the only kind of days their marriage had- the early ones.
It only took 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 belonged to me since I was born. The wooden floor, the light blue walls, the peaked ceiling, the yellowed lace curtains around the window – these were all a part of my childhood. The only changes Charlie had ever made were switching the crib for a bed and adding a desk as I grew. The desk now held a chromebook; secondhand technically. It was mine from school, Phoenix introducing them as part of the curriculum, Renée mailed it and reminded me to download skype. This was a stipulation from my mother, so that we could stay in touch easily. The rocking chair from my baby days was still in the corner.
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. He left me alone to unpack and get settled, a feat that would have been altogether impossible for my mother. It was nice to be alone, not to have to smile and look pleased; a relief to stare dejectedly out the window at the sheeting rain and let just a few tears escape. I wasn’t in the mood to go on a real crying jag. I would save that for bedtime, when I would have to think about the coming morning.
When I finished putting my clothes in the old pine dresser, I took my bag of bathroom necessities and went to the communal bathroom to clean myself up after the day of travel. I looked at my face in the mirror as I brushed through my tangled, damp hair. Maybe it was the light, but already I looked sallower, unhealthy. My skin could be pretty – it was very clear, almost translucent-looking – but it all depended on color. I had no color here.
Facing my pallid reflection in the mirror, I was forced to admit that I was lying to myself. It wasn’t just physically that I’d never fit in. And if I couldn’t find a niche in a school with three thousand people, what were my chances here?
I didn’t relate well to people my age. Maybe the truth was that I didn’t relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I was closer to than anyone else on the planet, was never in harmony with me, never on exactly the same page. Sometimes I wondered if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain.
Charlie knocked on my door to remind me about my appointment. The ride to the hospital was short. I got checked in just fine, weighed and measured.
“Would you like your father in the room with you,” The nurse asked, not looking up.
“I’d prefer to be alone, if you don’t mind, Dad.” I looked over to him, worried. He didn’t seem to care though.
“Alright, we’ll be going then. Dr. Cullen will be with you in a moment.” They left together, the nurse talking about some gossip or another with Charlie.
There was a knock at the door, and then Dr. Cullen walked in. He was young, he was blond… and he was handsomer than any movie star I'd ever seen. He was pale, though, and tired-looking with circles under his eyes. This man definitely looked like he shouldn’t be in this small town.
“Hello Beau, are you ready to get started,” He asked, his voice kind, melodic. It was almost entrancing.
I kept getting lost and stumbling over myself in our conversation. I knew what I was talking about, but Dr. Cullen’s very presence seemed to disarm me and amplify my awkwardness. I felt like I was a newborn deer and my words were these legs I’d never used before.
In the end, my awkwardness didn’t matter. He deemed me ready and stable enough to start hormone therapy. I got my first shot there during the same appointment and got all the follow-up appointments planned out. This appointment, this doctor, that was the best part of Forks. My excitement in getting where I wanted to be in life felt amazing, but didn’t stop the pain of moving there in the first place.
I didn’t sleep well that night, even after I was done crying. 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 told me he’d be back later, and Billy and Jake would be over around six. After he left, I sat at the old square oak table in one of the three unmatching chairs and examined his small kitchen, with its dark paneled walls, bright yellow cabinets, and white linoleum floor. Nothing was changed. My mother had painted the cabinets eighteen years ago in an attempt to bring some sunshine into the house. Over the small fireplace in the adjoining handkerchief-sized family room was a row of pictures. First a wedding picture of Charlie and my mom in Las Vegas, then one of the three of us in the hospital after I was born, taken by a helpful nurse, followed by the procession of my school pictures up to last year’s. Those were embarrassing to look at – I would have to see what I could do to get Charlie to put them somewhere else, at least while I was living here.
It was impossible, being in this house, not to realize Charlie had never gotten over my mother. It made me uncomfortable. I ended up leaving and wandering town, just to get away from that house. I saw people and teenagers who I’d assume would be my schoolmates in a few weeks, after the break. Most people stared, I was a new face, an outsider among them.
I found my way to the grocer and to the hospital with relative ease. It was Tuesday, the 24th, and the only part of the hospital open was the emergency services. There wasn’t much for me to do, so I ended up back at the house.
I rummaged through Charlie’s cupboards and freezer before finding enough stuff to make an acceptable meal for four. For a single guy who couldn’t really cook, Charlie had a surprising amount of food to cook.
I didn’t realize how long I’d been cooking until I heard the cruiser pull up and realized it had gotten dark out. Everything was done and I was setting the table when Charlie walked in.
“Wow, Beau. Did you go out and buy this,” He asked, staring at the dinner on the table.
“You had it all here, Dad.” He stared at me for a second, probably shocked.
“Billy and Jake will be here any minute, you’ll hear ‘em coming.” Charlie walked off to change out of his uniform. He was right, I heard a truck coming as he was opening his door back up. I was opening the front door when he finally came down.
“Beau!” Jake’s voice sounded like thunder when he yelled apparently. He looked fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of his neck. His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-colored; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones. he still had just a hint of childish roundness left around his chin. Altogether, a very pretty face. He wheeled his dad up into the house and pulled me into a hug. “How’s the weird book loving going?”
I smiled at that. “Fine, how’s being the baby?”
He shoved me. After that, it was easy to get everyone to the table, apparently they were hungry.
“This is good Beau, what is it,” Billy asked politely.
“Uh, honey garlic salmon, roasted green beans, and garlic roasted potatoes.” Bill nodded, and continued eating.
“Beau, lets make a marriage pact,” Jake blurted out as we were finishing eating.
“W-what?” I could feel the blush creeping up my face.
“Your cooking is amazing and I love it. And I already know I’m never gonna get enough of it,” He smiled as he spoke. Both our dads still staring at him. He’s such an idiot.
“I’m glad you like my cooking, but when I marry someone, they aren’t gonna be a baby.” Sarcasm dripped from my voice, and his smile dropped as soon as I called him a baby.
We all ended up sitting around the living room, me cross-legged on the chair, Charlie and Jake on the couch, and Billy on the other side. Charlie and Billy were laughing and carrying on, and Jake was writing on a piece of paper he had asked my dad for. Occasionally he would shoot me a look before looking back at his paper.
I ended up reading a chapter or two of my weathered copy of Wuthering Heights, which I brought downstairs when I woke up. I’d taken my contacts out before I started cooking, so I was stuck with my ridiculous round glasses.
“Okay, I’m ready now,” Jake announced after a time, the paper folded up in his hand.
“Are you sure? We can give you and your love letter more time, kid.” Charlie clapped a hand on Jake’s shoulder, smirking.
“It’s not a love letter, it’s a Christmas present. Beau cooked for us so it’s only right to give him a present.” Billy looked over at Jake who made a face.
I went to explain that I don’t really have anything for them, but they insisted dinner was more than enough. Charlie gave me the keys to the truck Jake had driven out, Billy gave me this cord bracelet that a friend of his made, and Jake gave me the paper.
Billy gave Jake some odd car part, and Jake gave him a necklace with a hand-carved wolf pendant. Charlie and Billy gave each other fishing stuff, and Jake gave Charlie a wood carved police badge. Charlie gave him a movie set of some shitty action movies and then said, “I’m not gonna give you permission to marry my son unless you two are together though, so don’t try proposing again.”
Jake and I groaned simultaneously and Billy and Charlie started laughing at us. We’ve had to deal with this since we were kids. Jake was never quiet about how taken he was with me.
The paper was this little note that said he wished we could reconnect, and gave me both his phone number and his email address. A bit overkill, but he was never one for subtlety. I entered his contact info in my moto, and on with the night we went.
We all hung out for a few hours, Jake explained the oddities of the truck, Billy and Charlie talked about fishing and baseball.
When it was time for them to go, Jake pulled me in for a hug, and they were gone with Charlie. While Charlie was out, I cleaned up, and set to making plans for my room. I wasn’t feeling very creative, so I looked to Pinterest and Tumblr for inspiration. I wrote down some outlining plans, texted Jake a thanks for coming, texted Renée a happy holiday’s message, and lay down in bed.
I resolved that I shouldn’t cry myself to sleep every night, but even with that, I couldn't keep the tears at bay. Christmas is one of Renée's favorite holidays. She may be over the top and a young soul, but even with that Christmas and Halloween were the two holidays that she went over the top in celebration of. This was the first Christmas I wasn't celebrating with her.
Throughout the week break prior to school starting, I decorated my room, skyped Renée, and cooked. I had started to fall into a pattern, one I didn't particularly want to fall into. I almost felt like I was on house arrest.
At least by the end of it my room looked like I lived in it, instead of just a random teenage room. I did a lot to the room; hung new curtains (that weren't see through), got a bookshelf that Charlie had stored in the basement, hung white christmas lights, and just got it to look like my own.
The bookshelf was originally my grandparent’s, and Charlie couldn’t bring himself to get rid of it. His sentimentality for them and their stuff made me wish I had known them. I was four when they died, and the most I could remember was a few images of them smiling at me. If they hadn’t been as sick as they were, Charlie might have left with Renée and I, and our lives might be vastly different.
Texting Jake had become a hilarious pastime, he constantly used ‘txt’ speak, and wrote about him and his friends doing dumb shit all break long. At one point Quil pranked a guy in the ‘gang’ that ran around the reserve and was on steroids. Jake and Embry tried to stop him, but he was adamant. He ended up in the water.
The day arrived that I was supposed to start school. First day as a sophomore in Forks. I was dreading it, the only new kid at a school with maybe 200 people. Phoenix had that many people in my class alone. There was no way I’d fit in anywhere. I was a sophomore in almost all junior classes, and on top of that, despite Charlie’s best efforts, I was sure that most people would immediately despise me for my ‘otherness,’ for everything I couldn’t help.
I tried to push those thoughts from my head. Life wouldn’t work if I went to school holding back tears. I ate breakfast and wandered around, alone, for a bit. I ended up putting another book in my bag. Then, I headed towards the door.
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.