“Thank you for flying with us! Your Baggage claims are A28-A32, check your ticket for specifics. We hope you enjoy your stay in Washington!” I did my best to return the over enthusiastic smile Kara the flight attendant gave but mine barely reached my eyes. Shoving my hands in my pockets I followed the overhead signs to the baggage claim area.
As I made my way down the escalator I realized my ticket was not in either pocket. Shit. Stepping off to the side I frantically searched my backpack for the, until now, insignificant piece of cardstock. “Fuuuuck!” I growled out stomping my foot slightly as I remembered where I left my ticket, on the plane in my seat front pocket. I felt my cheeks flush at the stares my sudden outburst drew from the people getting off the escalator. I moved further into the baggage claim area as my chest tightened and tears began to prick at my eyes.
My mothers disapproving glare flashed before my mind's eye. Renee had always hated my habit of misplacing or outright losing my belongings. Nevermind that she routinely pawned things for drug money in her doped out stupor. Any and everything that went missing was automatically my fault and she made sure to remind me how painful the consequences could be.
I felt my veins turn to ice as the familiar feeling of embarrassment and worthlessness slithered up my spine. Breathing was becoming an incredible task as a loud tone rang in my ears on loop seeming to come from all directions at once. I could feel everyone around me staring at the tears on my cheeks. I cast my eyes wildly for the restroom and made a beeline straight for it; my ticket and luggage completely forgotten.
If I hadn't been so frantic I would’ve been thankful to find the restroom completely empty. As it was all I could think of was trying to get my breathing under control. I quickly turned on one of the sinks to full blast cold water and gripped the porcelain sides tightly. I focused on the rushing water and the cool porcelain below my fingers.
I could hear my mother's voice cackling away in my head and I felt my muscles tense against the grating sound.
My breathing stayed ragged and spots of darkness started pricking at the edges of my vision. Dipping my head down I pushd half of my face under the spray of water. Droplets splashed in every direction soaking the top of my shirt and half of my hair. The cool feeling was a familiar shock and served to calm my breathing by triggering my body's cold water response. After taking a moment to be sure my breathing had evened I pulled back from the water and turned off the faucet.
Locking eyes with myself in the mirror I chuckled slightly at the disheveled dripping mess staring back at me. This was not my first panic attack by any means but it had been at least a year since such a small issue had sent me into so much turmoil and so quickly.
Renee would have a fucking field day with this the beating for making a scene in public alone would be-
“Nope.” I shouted and quickly shook my head to dislodge those thoughts before they could take hold again. Glancing at my watch I’d been in the restroom for nearly 20 minutes. I did my best to dry myself with some paper towels and took several deep breaths before heading back out into the now empty baggage claim area. Looking around I saw neither an airport staff member nor my luggage. I felt the familiar prick of tears in my eyes as the world became a blurry mess and I focused, once again, on keeping my breathing under control.
My heart and breath froze as I suddenly felt a firm hand on my shoulder.
“Hey Bells, you alright?” Came a gruff but familiar voice. Slowly my eyes settled on the kind eyes of my Uncle Charlie and I found myself better able to breath.
“I was worried when your luggage was here and you weren’t” He laughed motioning towards 2 duffles in his other hand before looking back at me. “How’d you get all wet?”
“How did you get my bags; I lost my ticket?” I ignored his question uninterested in recalling my visit to the bathroom.
“Oh I had your flight info and everything...Is that what’s got you crying? You lost your ticket?” I blushed at his questioning and avoided his curious gaze.
After an awkward pause Charlie cleared his throat.
“Well I guess you’re ready to get out of here. Probably tired after that long flight from Phoenix?.” He changed the subject and tried again to meet my gaze.
“Yeah, I’m actually pretty beat. I didn’t sleep at all I wanted to at least remember my second plane ride ever.” I regretted meeting his gaze at the dark look I saw there. Probably shouldn’t have brought up my first plane ride. Stupid.
Charlie cleared his throat again then turned and started walking. I took the hint and followed more than eager to leave the airport.
I paused as we entered the parking garage. “Seriously?” I questioned staring at the police cruiser before me.
“Yeah sorry I got called into work earlier and I had to bring the cruiser cause I came straight here. One of the downsides to being chief of police.” Charlie sighed as he finished loading my bags into the trunk.
“Are there any upsides?” I mumbled as we buckled in and began our journey.
“Well there is one.” he said cryptically.
I had enough time to turn and look at him with slight trepidation before he flipped on the siren and slammed on the gas throwing me back into my seat. After a few miles of Charlie's laughter he turned the siren off and slowed to a reasonable speed.
“Haha oh Bells you should’ve seen your face! I’m sorry but I couldn’t resist you set that up perfectly!” He continued to chuckle for a moment and I simply turned, crossing my arms to stare at the passing scenery. “Oh Bella come on don’t be upset it was just a little prank. I just felt the need for speed?” He offered the lamest joke possible.
“I’m not upset, I'm just tired.” I laughed to avoid scoffing and closed my eyes hoping to escape the awkwardness in the void of sleep.
2 hours later I was awakened by the sound of a slamming door. “Bella wake up we’re home.” Came Charlie's muffled voice from outside the car. Opening the door I quickly hopped out, stretching and yawning slightly, before surveilling my new home.
The lush green surroundings made me feel calm. I took in a deep breath and marveled at how fresh the air smelled. The sound of birds calling in the trees faded and I felt a sense of peace wash through me like nothing I had ever felt before. I closed my eyes and took another deep breath of air. The fresh scent had a lightly sweet tone to it this time that set my heart racing slightly.
“Come help me with your bags.” Charlie's voice cut through my moment very effectively. I took another breath but the sweet air had passed. Nothing lasts forever I guess. Sighing I took the offered duffel and followed Charlie into the house.
He led me through the entryway pointing out the hall closet and bathroom immediately to the left and the living room off to the right. We continued further into where the hall opened into the kitchen and dining area.
“Go ahead and set the bags over by the stairs there.” Charlie gestured towards the back of the kitchen while handing me the other duffel. “Then sit at the table with me please.”
Fuck. I knew the other shoe would drop eventually. Renee was all smiles and sunshine the first day until we got home too.
As I set the bags down I felt my hands start to sweat and my breathing picked up a little.
“You and I need to have a little chat about what’s to be expected now that you live here” Charlie’s tone was serious and my veins turned to ice. I sat down across from him and glued my eyes firmly to the table.
Let me guess Rule 1. Don’t let you know I exist. Rule 2. Don’t touch your stuff. Rule 3. Don’t eat your food. Rule 4. I don’t own anythi-
“I know you’ve been through a rough time Bella. Not just recently, with your mom, but everything you’ve had to deal with growing up.” I closed my eyes tight but still felt tears slip past at the reminder of my childhood. My stomach churned with shame from my past.
But that’s nothing compared to what you’ve got in store? Guess kind Uncle Charlie is another wasted fairyta-
“I want to apologize for not being there for you. I can’t change the past but I’m here to support you now.”
Fuck the what?! My head snapped up so fast I may have given myself whiplash. I was terrified to meet Charlie's gaze but I needed to see his face, he was looking anywhere but me.
I guess I have Dad’s side to thank for my aversion to feelings.
“I won't pretend that I know how to raise a teenager, especially one with your record, but I will promise to be patient, understanding and to do my best. Does that work for you?” He finished, voice wavering with unshed tears in his eyes and finally met my gaze.
This is way too good to be true. I simply nodded my head. I was speechless.
“Good! Now before I show you the rest of the house Bella I’d like to go over some ground rules.” Charlie smiled softly, wiping at his eyes. “Firstly you will have a curfew, 10:30pm on school nights and 1am on weekends.”
1 am isn’t Renee’s “I don’t care” curfew but some of the kids back in Phoenix had 10pm curfews weekends included.
Charlie paused and I realized he was waiting for my response.
I shrugged. “Cool.”
“When it comes to boys.” Charlie cleared his throat and I saw the tips of his ears run pink. “I just ask that you be safe, be smart and use protection. Don’t be afraid to come talk to me about anything. If you are uncomfortable with something , if you have questions or if you need anything. You ask me.”
“Yepcoolgotya” I most certainly will not be coming to talk to you about ‘boys’ or any teenage ‘changes’ Charlie don’t you worry. “Anything else?” I would really love to be talking about literally anything else right now!
“Finally, I understand that you are a teenager and this is an important time of discovery for you. The world is big, bright and ready for you to take it. You deserve it all Bella.”
I could see how much he really believed it in his eyes. He had a hope for me greater than anything I’d hoped for myself. My breath caught at the overwhelming support and I had to look away.
“Bella Look at me, this is important.” Charlie waited until he had my full attention to continue “I don’t know much about your mother or what you saw and did while you were with her. No judgements, however there will be no drugs in the house or in your system. Drug use is unacceptable in my household.”
Pump the brakes Chief there’s no way in hell I’m not getting baked in these woods.
“Do you understand?”
I studied Charlie briefly. Charlie you might be a cop... but you seem like the trusting sort of guy who wouldn’t piss test his niece… “Understood.”
“Good! I imagine there were very few rules when you were living with your mother so this will be an adjustment for you.”
An amazing adjustment. I thought to myself as I compared the many welcome differences between Charlies household and Renee’s. I smiled at Charlie as I felt my body relax. “I’m sure it won't be too hard.” I replied with a genuine smile.
“Alright well I know you’re tired and ready to get to your room but there is one last thing. Apparently it’s been designated by the state that you should attend therapy due to the...traumatic nature of your mother's death and your past. You were supposed to be going while in your mother's care all this time but...well I guess we know now why the records of you going are basically non existent.”
Let some random stranger poke around in my head? I felt the smile fall off my face. Hard pass.
“Don’t worry Bells I’m sure it will be fine. I’ve set up some meetings with a few therapists so we can find one before you start school in a few weeks.” Charlie offered me a reassuring smile before standing up. “Now how about the rest of that tour!?” He pumped his fist in the air before turning to head upstairs.
I laughed half-heartedly, to keep the lingering gloomy therapy thoughts away, before following behind with my bags.
“So this is the second floor of the house. First door on the left is my room. There is a linen closet down the end of the hall there and your room and bathroom are at the end of the hall to the right. Your boxes and furniture arrived a week ago and I put it all together but let me know if you want to rearrange it or anything and I’ll help you move the heavy stuff. Happy unpacking!” And with that he headed back downstairs to do Charlie things.
I made my way down to the room he’d indicated and pushed open the door. I took in the desk and chair pushed into the far corner near the open window. There was a full bed along the wall opposite which stood a dresser next to the closet. Beyond that was a door I presumed led to the bathroom. I dropped my bags to the floor as I kicked the door shut. Shimmying out of my pants and shirt I crawled into my new bed and succumbed to some much needed rest.
I sat bolt upright in bed my tshirt clinging to my body with the same sweat that soaked my sheets. Clutching at my chest, I cast my eyes quickly around the unfamiliar room, briefly checking every dark corner I found, before settling on the clock a top my dresser. 3:40 am. I sighed at the unsurprisingly, though very disappointingly, early hour. I could not recall what nightmare had disturbed me but I was uneager to return to sleep even if it were quick to come.
Bracing myself against the temperature change I threw off my covers and stood stretching my still sleep laden limbs. Shivering, I moved to close the window then I took another look at my surroundings much more familiar to my waking eyes. I contemplated unpacking the boxes that were strewn about as my shin connected with a particularly sturdy one but quickly cast that thought aside as my bladder made itself known.
After relieving myself I made my way down into the kitchen to see what breakfast food my uncle Charlie had on hand. My wishes for lucky charms were met with frosted flakes but I was pleasantly surprised to find out lactose intolerance runs in the family when I found soy milk. Whilst munching on my, very thankfully, lactose free breakfast cereal I made a mental note to pick up some lactose pills in town. I noted some foods I needed to pick up as well as some items for my bathroom before returning to my room to tackle my boxes.
By 6 am I was nearly done unpacking the bulk of my stuff from phoenix. I had just finished organizing my closet when there was a knock on my door.
“Hey Bells you awake already?” came the gruff but gentle voice of my uncle.
“Have been for a while” I said under my breath genuinely surprised he was bothering to check on me. “Come in” I said aloud watching as he opened the door stepping in fully.
“I came to grab you for dinner last night but you were knocked out. Woah I guess the extra rest did you good. Looks like you’ve made some headway here! I figured I’d need to give you a few weeks to get everything organized.” He said peering around at the mostly unpacked room.
“Yeah well I couldn’t sleep so I figured I might as well get it over and done with.” I responded as I turned to continue with the box I was working on before he’d knocked.
“I remember you being really messy as a kid.” He said ending with an uncomfortable cough as he mentioned my childhood. I nearly laughed at the awkward way he avoided meeting my eyes.
“We all grow up sometimes I guess.” I replied with a sigh. Charlie gave me a grateful smile at the easy out I provided him.
“Yeah well speaking of growing up I have to get to my grown up job as Chief of Police. I’ll be back around 6 to grab you for dinner and we can talk more about your appointments this week and on Monday we’ll get your schedule and have a tour of Forks high.” I nodded my understanding and Charlie offered me a smile. “Oh hey with all the excitement I forgot to give you this yesterday!” Charlie tossed a small box on my bed before leaving.
I walked over to find a new smartphone with a sticky note atop.
Work: 360- 555-1100 (911 in an emergency!)
~Now you can always reach me. Charlie.
I smiled at the note and moved to set the phone on my desk. Now that I was done unpacking I replaced last nights sheets with fresh ones before grabbing a long relaxing shower. The warm water felt amazing on my body after the nightmare and hours of unpacking.
After exiting the shower I set up my new phone being sure to save the numbers Charlie provided before sending him a text.
Thx for the phone! (it’s Bella btw)
A few moments later I heard my, freshly chosen, text tone go off.
No problem. Settling in alright?
I smiled at his quick and caring response. I think I am yeah. I texted Charlie my thoughts before spending the rest of the day exploring my new home.