She woke once again to the sound of heavy rain pounding against the lattice window. Had it been some nondescript cul-de-sac of suburban England, such weather would be perceived with distaste, or as a bad omen. But this was the Olympic Peninsula - a mystical place of ancient forests burying secrets beneath their roots, with their crowns shrouded in mists. Rain here was commonplace and a source of great comfort. Here, the rain lulled you to sleep at night, and during the day crafted music in the depression your footfalls left behind in the soft earth. Rain was an inescapable and beautiful part of life in Forks.
The drumming of raindrops on the roof was akin to the sound of a solemn heart that morning - like the heart that beat in her own chest and serenaded a mournful soul. She reclined into her pillows - weighty with sleep - but also held there by the strength of a memory that had wounded her deeply. She marvelled at the sensation for a moment, troubled by its existence, until she registered a face in the corner of her room. She blinked, focused, blinked again.
"Alice? What are you doing in my room? It's seven in the morning."
Alice snorted. "Mi casa es su casa." She replied, gesturing around herself and smiling sweetly. "And sleeping in is so wasteful of a day." She rose from the arm chair she had been sat in. "Anyway, I wanted to come and see you." She sighed as she straightened out an imaginary crease in her spotless outfit. Finally, the real reason for her impromptu visit became apparent. "I also know that Rosalie came here last night."
Amber settled back into her pillows as if the utterance of the name had struck her in the chest. "She did." She responded shortly as she stared up at the ceiling. "And then she promptly left." She could still feel the shock of Rosalie's furious gaze and the unsmiling face. How could anybody so beautiful be so callous?
Alice edged closer to the bed. Her face was racked with concern and sympathy. "Have I ever told you that my sister can be an ignoramus sometimes?" She said. Her expression seemed to be pleading for reprieve.
Alice was one of those people who could simper and entreat with careful words - that nobody could ever stay upset with her for long. Hence it was only a short while before Amber gave in. She sighed, patted the space beside her and stretched out an arm on the duvet. Bobbing on her feet, the pixie leapt onto the bed and wrapped her friend in a strong hug. Her delicate perfume washed over Amber and the human girl instantly felt comforted. "I am so sorry." She said remorsefully. "My sister is such an idiot."
"It is okay." Amber said, though she noticed how her voice quivered. "She took me by surprise." She hugged Alice back almost as tightly. "It just does not make much sense at the moment."
Alice pecked Amber on the cheek. Her lips were icy cold like a touch of frost on Amber's summer skin. "Well, Rosalie can be a bit frigid at times." She suggested.
"Is that what you call it?" Amber said, giving her friend a sideways smile. "She practically dismantled me." She did not explain just how uncomfortable or hurt she had felt that evening though it likely needed no elaboration.
"I fear I was attempting to be polite in the face of it all." Alice implied with a wink. The two of them giggled. She snuggled into the side of Amber. "So what did Rosalie say to you exactly?"
Despite her psychogenic ability, it was frustratingly specific to changes in decision. At best she could only see conversions in thought that would definitely affect the future of the individual. Her foresight had only leant her a perspective of Rosalie. She had seen her leaving the cottage late in the evening whilst Amber curled up in her bed and cried herself to sleep upstairs. What had caused the unfortunate events she had witnessed remained a mystery.
There had been little point in trying to ask Rosalie about it. The blonde had been infuriatingly avoidant of Alice. She found any excuse to maintain as much distance between them as possible and refused any offer of company. Even Emmett was denied a window into her woes. He was arguably the most thickheaded of them all and would have forgotten all about it by sunrise but Rosalie was too distrusting to take any chances.
The human girl hummed in thought as Alice twiddled a lock of her long beautiful hair between a thumb and forefinger. "She asked me where I had been and who I had seen. I told her and she said she does not want me hanging around with them anymore." She trailed off.
"Who was it?"
"Leah Clearwater." Amber replied. She was reminiscing on the altercation that she did not detect the tension that rippled through Alice.
The sprite beside her remembering something too. A distant memory when her family had come into contact with the tribe of La Push. She could still taste the fear that had painted the air between them. She remembered with clarity how Rosalie had snarled beside her like a feral beast guarding its kill. Rosalie who trusted very few and disliked men completely. She forced a weak smile as she felt Amber turn to look at her. Part of her was itching to be done with this charade and tell her everything. But she knew that if she did, Rosalie would probably kill her.
"What is it?"
"Nothing. I was just thinking about school." Alice lied.
Amber hummed acknowledgement and went back to listening to the rain against the slates. Alice returned to her silent deliberation upon the nature of her wayward sibling. As much as her beautiful sister portrayed nonchalance and a indomitably, Alice knew better. Rosalie was sensitive and vulnerable to inclinations of supposed threat which made her volatile and prone to lashing out. And despite her best efforts never to let her guard down, Rosalie was hopelessly and irrevocably hung up over this alluring human girl. Alice picked her words carefully.
"We have a long and complicated history with some of the families on the reservation. We rarely talk about it but just between us, Rosalie took it to heart and has held a grudge ever since. It's nothing to do with you sotospeak. But I think her concern may be that you'd be dragged into this squabble without good cause. And she really doesn't want that to happen."
"You were not there Alice." Amber reminded her quietly. "You did not see how she looked at me or hear what she said. I'm sorry, Alice, but she made it seem very personal."
Alice sighed painfully. She pulled Amber towards her again and held her. "I know. And I can only say sorry again." She rose to a sitting position and looked at Amber fervently. "But Rosalie needs you Amber. From the moment you first came to Forks High School, she has been incapable of overlooking you. And I simply cannot sit on the sidelines and watch my stupid sister mess up her only chance of finding something meaningful in her life. I had to intervene."
The presentation of anguish in Alice Cullen roused surprise in Amber. She had never considered Alice to be more than bouncy and optimistic. But she was starting to learn how compassionate and impressionable she could be.
"Rosalie is very lucky to have a sister like you." Amber said.
"Of course she is. I'm amazing." Alice said with another wink. Amber chuckled and untangled herself from the embrace. She disappeared into the bathroom for a shower, leaving Alice to her thoughts. The vampire could smell the sweet floral scent of the shampoo Amber washed her hair in, and the spicy aroma of the soap on her body. The fragrance of her body alone would be enough to drive even the most accomplished vampires to distraction and she forced herself to the window to look at the view, her mouth watering uncontrollably. She heard Amber padding back into the bedroom and opening a drawer to choose some clothes.
She heard her ask. "So, am I never to see Leah Clearwater again?" She sounded saddened by the thought. "I've known her since we were young. We used to spend the summers together when I visited Rhodey from England. We used to go searching for precious stones and gold in the streams. One year we actually found a small nugget. Leah let me keep it. She said it would remind me of her."
Alice didn't reply. She was pretending she could not hear her over the din of the rain pummelling the little house. She hummed a tune to herself and gazed out at the forest beyond the window. Such a funny thought - to look out at the timeless trees and consider yourself to be as old as they were. Behind her, the alluring human was calling her. "Alice, is it Leah that Rosalie has a problem with?"
"More so the elders." Alice suggested, reluctantly. She went back to her musical humming. "Enough of that for now. I just thought, why don't we have a sleepover?"
"You want to have a sleepover here?"
"No, our place." Alice corrected, working a smile onto her face and turning to Amber. "You know I have been trying to arrange a visit to our home for a while. Why don't we finally do what I planned to do and have it this evening? I could drive you to school today and take you back to ours afterward. Esme and Carlisle have been wanting to meet you. Esme would cook you a meal and we could all...hang out." She suggested hopefully. She had made it sound like a spontaneous idea when in truth it was a deliberate strategy to keep Rosalie and Amber close. And more importantly the unwelcome presence of the Clearwater girl as far from Rosalie and her prospective mate as was possible.
Not sensing the plan, the human gave Alice an amazed look. "I would be delighted." She admitted, not believing her fortunes. She remembered what Jessica Stanley and the others had oftentimes mentioned to her at school. Nobody - despite Bella Swan - had ever seen where the Cullens lived. And never had the Cullens actively invited someone from school to visit. "That is so nice of you, Alice."
Alice burst into laughter. "Don't look so shocked." She exclaimed. "It was going to happen sooner or later. I know, had it been up to my ridiculous sister, you have been a spinster by the time you visited. That just wouldn't do." Alice feigned an unhappy grimace. "As it's up to me now, I'm not waiting any longer. Esme and the rest of the family want to get to know you properly." She tried not to think on the inevitable outburst that would soon follow when Rosalie found out. But Emmett and Jasper immediately came to mind. Emmett was by far the strongest in the family and could restrain a furious Rosalie if the need arose. Meanwhile, her silent and watchful mate Jasper had always had a knack for controlling emotions. The two of them could ensure Rosalie didn't break anything more precious than her own pride.
She sincerely hoped it would not come to that; that Rosalie would see sense in the plan and go along with it. But this was Rosalie Hale after all and nothing was ever plain sailing where a one Miss Hale was concerned.
Amber was already piecing together a few extra clothes and a wash kit. "I have to buy your mother a little something in that case." She was saying. "It would be rude of me to receive so much and not give in return." She considered for a moment. "Does Esme like flowers?"
"Esme loves flowers. She's a very keen gardener." Alice said, taken with the act of kindness this human wanted to fulfil for a person she had not yet met. "In fact, she's been hoping to get a climbing plant for the front of the house. Maybe you could find something that would do the trick?"
Amber accepted the helpful suggestion with appreciation. "That is a good idea. I'll have to take a short walk to the garden centre at lunchtime." She deliberated.
Alice was a uniform blend of excitement and relief at that moment. When she had arrived that morning, she had been uncertain what would happen. As far as she could tell from the night before, Rosalie had put her foot in it. Would there be anything she could salvage from her sister's monumental blunder, she had wondered? Fortunately, for all involved, Amber was proving to be gracious and understanding, even at the worst of times - Rosalie was more lucky than she realised. Alice plonked herself into the armchair by the window once more.
"Esme has been dying to meet you. I will let her know you are coming." She chatted happily as she sent a text to Esme. "No doubt she will cook you something from her heritage. You like Italian food, right? By the way, Rosalie refused to spill the beans on you, so she will probably ask you a lot of questions. Rosalie's secrecy has been driving her mad."
"I like the sound of her already." Amber replied.
"She is technically our adoptive mom but the only mother we ever truly had. She will likely try and adopt you too. It is in her nature." Alice grinned. "She loves taking care of people."
"And your father?"
"Carlisle. He works late but you will probably see him in the morning."
Amber zipped up her overnight bag and looked at appraisingly. "There." She said with a complimentary nod. "Now, I'll just finish getting myself ready and we can go."
"If I may," Alice interrupted. "This is not just going to be any sleepover. Consider this a military operation."
"Sure. Operation Woo Hale." Alice's baptism attempt made Amber guffaw with laughter. "It's the best I could come up with at short notice." She whined. "I want Rosalie to realise how idiotic she has been and apologise. The aim of the game is to secure you and her a date."
The laughter stopped abruptly. "You're not kidding?" Amber's smile faded slightly, but not out of disappointment. Her eyes glinted anxiously and she crossed her arms defensively. "You are inviting me over to...woo your sister. Alice, did you listen to anything I said earlier? She could barely look at me without getting angry. What makes you think she will take notice simply because you put me in a different setting?"
Alice huffed and tapped her foot irritably. "Hear me out Sherlock No-Fun." She said. "Rosalie is at her least guarded when she is at home. She will not be expecting a surprise sleepover and she certainly won't be expecting to find you there. Which is why it is so perfect. She will be incapable of making up excuses to avoid us and you. So, we need to form a strategy and Operation Woo Hale is it." She looked smug and puffed out her chest importantly as she brandished a large leather satchel at her confused friend. "And it starts right now with a makeover."
It was not for the first time that they found Rosalie in a foul temper. Except it was worse than usual. The generally conversational Emmett had withered into a stoic heap behind the steering wheel of the Jeep as he drove them to school that morning. Rosalie sat beside him in the front passenger seat and smoldered. Jasper sat in the back and wished he could sink right through the chassis into the road. Edward and Bella were nowhere to be seen. Edward had made a sensible call and stayed the night with Bella. It was a strategy that was paramount to preventing a particularly nasty dispute - everybody knew how much Rosalie disliked the Swan girl.
Their beautiful sister was steeping in a silent fury. Her arms were folded across her chest in a way that suggested any word would rouse her to a paroxysm. Her pale face was more sallow than usual - she had refused to go hunting with them yesterday evening despite her obvious need. No matter how much Esme had asked her to join them she had turned away. It was obvious she was doing her utmost to avoid any situation that involved discussing her mistake with Miss Baudelaire - the one subject they all wanted to know about. So it was that she had stepped into the Jeep with eyes a deep dark black set in a visage of thunder.
As they pulled into their usual spot in the parking lot, they spotted Alice's dark blue 911 Turbo S. Alice was leaning against the hood of the vehicle, chatting away to none other than Amber Baudelaire. Jasper and Emmett knew Rosalie had seen them when she bristled and the air around her seemed to electrify. The feeling was so intense that it roused Emmett to speak up.
"Are you really sure you do not want to go hunting Rosalie? You've not eaten in days." He asked. "You don't want to hurt the Baudelaire girl do you?" His concern earned him a sharp hissing noise from the passenger seat.
"Okay then." Stifling his anxiety, Emmett parked up alongside the Porsche.
"-here they are." Alice was saying as they emerged from the Jeep, turning to give what Emmett translated to be a desperate smile in Rosalie's direction. He risked moving his hand back and forth beneath his chin and mouthing "bad idea" at Alice when Rosalie was not looking.
It was not at all a surprise to either of the boys that Alice had come up with a plan. In fact, she had considered no less than three plans to win Amber back. She had told them all about it as they stalked through the woods looking for prey the night before. Esme had been remarkably open to them.
"She requires a mate, Emmett." Esme had said as he faltered in shock and ran blindly into a rock face. "You remember what it was like for you when you had no mate." She was too busy stifling her own laughter to forget to reprimand Jasper, who was bent over howling.
"Sure." Emmett said as he caught back up to them, but not before pushing Jasper into a bush. "But I had you guys and I was never...never..." he paused as if trying to search for the correct word.
Jasper - who was picking thorns out of his curly blonde hair quickly stepped in before the choice words could leave Emmett's mouth. "...cold and despairing?" He offered, giving his brother a meaningful look.
"Exactly." Emmett agreed much to Jasper's relief.
"Which is why we need to come together and help her." Esme said kindly.
It was Esme's voice that now echoed in Emmett's head as he looked between Alice and Rosalie. With one last timorous look in the direction of his infallible sister he gave a small shrug, then walked up to Amber, picked her up off the floor and spun her around like a child with his favorite teddy bear.
"Good to see you again." He said as he placed her back on the floor. He didn't dare to look in Rosalie's direction. He could feel the daggers piercing his back. From the perspective of one Miss Hale, her brother had shown her up completely. She looked around as if expecting to see curious eyes looking back at her and hear whispers of how cold and heartless she was reverberating through the rain.
Jasper even bothered to make an effort - despite his predilection for avoiding contact with humans as much as possible. He strolled forward and tipped an imaginary cap to her. "A pleasure to finally meet you properly." He said in his rich Southern drawl. "And may I say how fine you are looking today."
"Why thank you." Emmett said, feigning a high-pitched woman's voice and batting his eyelashes. Everyone burst out laughing. Even the corners of Rosalie's mouth twitched. Encouraged by the mirth, Emmett began to strut around, pausing to plump up an imaginary bosom and blowing kisses at everybody. When he dared to grab hold of Rosalie by the waist and declare himself "smitten", she growled and folded him into a headlock which immediately had him shrieking. This only made them laugh harder.
It was during the height of this scenario that Edward's Volvo slid into a space adjacent to the other two vehicles and he and Bella stepped out. Aside from the fact she was one of those unfortunate individuals who dwelt in a state of permanent discomfiture, Bella seemed to be particularly unsettled about something that morning. She could barely look Edward in the eye, and when he went to put his arm around her, she quickly marched off into the school with her head hanging low. Evidently disturbed by the ordeal, Edward joined his siblings.
He caught Amber's eye and gave her a smile. "Hello." He said in a smooth voice. His eyes briefly darted between her and Rosalie. But the blonde was too distracted with torturing Emmett to notice. Her fury had erupted into intangible snarls and hisses whilst Emmett groaned and wrestled for freedom.
"Hello Edward." Amber replied, the creases of laughter still resting in the corners of her pretty mouth. She was pleasantly oblivious to the seriousness of the fight going on between Rosalie and her brother.
"What's wrong with Bella?" Alice asked Edward. She never missed a thing.
Rosalie thankfully held her tongue for once. She finally released Emmett and shoved him away from her before storming off toward the school without so much as a backward glance. Edward gave Alice a look and as if by some silent signal, Alice peeled away from the group and followed Edward a short distance to talk. Jasper took the moment to excuse himself and head on in to the school buildings to grab his belongings from his locker. All of a sudden, Emmett and Amber were alone.
"Rosalie can be so obnoxious sometimes." He moaned, rubbing his neck and glaring after her. "Cannot even take a joke. " He sorted out the twisted mess of his hoodie and look disgruntled.
Amber had the good heart to save him from total despair. "I think you make an excellent woman." She grinned. "And your joke was not lost on us." She assured him. She was pleased to see how her words cheered him up.
He smiled pleasantly at her. "You are too kind Miss Baudelaire." He said in a flawless impression of Jasper. It earned him a sweet laugh.
"You are good." He had perfected the characteristic lingual tones of the Texan.
"Jasper insists he does not sound like that." Emmett suggested with a bemused shrug.
"I would back you up. But at least tell him the accent suits him." Amber replied.
"I might just do that." Emmett said, thoughtfully.
His phone suddenly dinged, announcing an incoming message from Irena. Emmett had produced his mobile from a jacket pocket in a flash, his eyes alight with excitement. "I best go now. Irena wants to catch up. I'll see you later okay?" Emmett said and raised a hand to ruffle her hair in a friendly way. But a sudden sharp exclamation made him pause with his hand in mid air.
Alice was stood to one side with her arms folded looking less than pleased. "Don't even think about messing up my hard work." She said in a threatening voice. "Or it won't just be Rosalie wiping the floor with you."
Emmett immediately dropped his hand and gave a long, low whistle. "Women." He muttered as he strode off across the parking lot, settling for a hasty wave goodbye as he disappeared out of sight.
With all threats to her masterpiece now gone, Alice returned to her usual chipper self. She looped an arm through Amber's and practically dragged her toward school. "I am so excited about tonight, you wouldn't believe. I told Edward all about my master plan and he's in. He's going to tell the others about it later. I hope this works."
"I hope so too." Amber said, truthfully. She remembered watching Rosalie wrestling Emmett earlier and considered how she would certainly not like to be in that position if she could help it.