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Swans and Spiders

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Chapter One: The Move


Bella sat in the front seat of the car on their way to the airport. Her sister, Penny, was sitting in the backseat, staring out of the window gloomily. Then again, Penny did just about everything these days with a near constant aura of gloom. Their Aunt May was driving, of course, and by the look on her face, she had also noticed Penny’s mood.


‘You know kids, you really don’t have to do this. Your uncle Charlie would understand if you decided to stay with me.’ May had said much the same several times already, ever since the decision had been made. 


Bella waited to see if Penny would respond, hoping beyond hope, really. Penny had agreed to the move, but hadn’t really expressed much of an opinion on it. Bella let the silence stretch out for only a beat more before she responded to May herself.


‘It’s all sorted out already, May. It’ll be great for us to spend time with Charlie, and you’ll be off travelling the country with your new husband.’


May smiled in response to that, getting a sappy look on her face that surely meant she was thinking about said new husband. Benjamin Parker certainly seemed to be a good man, most importantly he made May happy. Even if Bella wasn’t even close to sure just what the man did for a living, and why it necessitated moving around as often as he did. 


Whatever the reason, it was a large part of the reason why Bella and Penny were moving in with May’s older brother, their uncle Charlie. Another reason was Penny.


When they finally arrived at the airport, May saw them off with the tightest of hugs that belied her small stature. 


‘Call me as soon as you arrive, and say hi to Charlie for me.’ May said as she stepped away from crushing the air out of Penny.


‘We will. It’s gonna be great, May.’ Bella reassured May, before grabbing Penny’s hand and leading them away to board the plane. 


The small town of Forks, Washington, to put it lightly, was a long way from May’s home in Queens. It was sickeningly green, bitingly cold and always, always raining. Penny used to joke that the only ray of sunshine in the whole place was their Uncle Charlie. Bella loved Charlie as much as Penny did, but was much less fond of the town itself. Bella had discovered, during the one and only time she and Penny had gone to visit their other uncle in Miami, that she much preferred warm, sunny weather more than anything else. She’d have it all year round if she could.


But the move to Forks was about more important things than the weather. It was about giving May space to enjoy her new life with Ben. It was about getting Penny away from Queens, in the hopes that a change of pace would somehow help uplift her solemn moods. It was also about spending more time with their Uncle Charlie, who had been Bella and Penny’s only major father figure throughout their lives.


The trip to Forks was ultimately very, very long and painfully silent (God, Bella had never thought she’d miss the way her twin used to ramble excitedly about anything and everything). The end goal though, was more than worth it. Bella knew this immediately, when Penny jumped straight into Charlie’s waiting arms without hesitation. When Bella caught up to them and Penny pulled away, Bella was relieved to see a light in Penny’s eyes that hadn’t been there in way too long.


Charlie had been, unsurprisingly, rather happy to have Bella and Penny come and stay with him. They had stayed in Forks, with Charlie, many times before, usually for a few weeks every summer. Bella might have argued for visits just about anywhere else, but Penny loved staying in Charlie’s house. 


Apparently, Charlie had already gotten both Penny and Bella enrolled in the local high school, and was going to help them get a car. Well, he was going to help Bella get a car, as Penny had yet to get her licence.


‘It’s good to see you, Bells.’ Charlie greeted me with a hug no less loving than he did with Penny. Charlie absolutely gave just about the best and warmest hugs in the world.


‘You too, Uncle Charlie.’ Bella had to remind herself to tack on the ‘uncle’ part. May didn’t mind it when she and Penny just called her ‘May’, but they were naturally more familiar with the woman who had raised them since their parents died.


‘How’s May?’ Charlie asked as they all climbed into his cruiser. His police cruiser, because Charlie happened to be the Police Chief of Forks. Being the nieces of the chief had its perks, but also came with a healthy serving of embarrassment whenever they spent time around the other kids in town.


‘Really good.’ Bella answered Charlie, ‘She’s looking forward to hitting the road with Ben.’


‘Looking forward is an understatement, May’s ecstatic about running away with her new man.’ Penny piped up from the back seat, causing Bella to near hit the roof of the car when she jumped. Charlie gave Bella an odd look, before glancing briefly at Penny.


‘That’s good. Ben seems like a good man, which is no less than May deserves.’


‘I think we can all agree on that.’ Bella said, as she tried to discreetly use the rear-view mirror to watch Penny. She really was looking much better already. If only Bella knew what was even wrong in the first place, maybe she’d be able to help fix whatever the issue was. Still, the move to Forks already seemed to be working out, and they hadn’t even arrived yet.


A little while later, Charlie spoke up again.


‘So, I know I said I’d help you girls find a car, but I may have already bought you one.’


‘Oh no, Uncle Charlie, you didn’t have to do that.’ Bella bemoaned. What was it with their uncles always trying to buy them things? Sure, Charlie was nowhere near as bad as their other uncle, but still. Bella had been saving specifically to buy a car herself.


‘I wanted to, honestly. I didn’t spend a whole heap, mind. Got it off an old friend, Billy. You girls remember Billy Black?’


‘Sort of.’ Bella said warily, ‘How much did you spend, and how old is the car exactly?’


‘Well, it’s more of a truck, actually. An old Chevy.’


‘Just how old are we talking here, Uncle Charlie? Older than Bella and I?’ Penny teased Charlie, and Bella succeeded in not jumping out of her skin this time.


‘Little bit older, yes. Billy bought it in ‘84.’ Bella and Penny were born in 1990, still…


‘Uncle Charlie, did Billy buy it new?’ Penny teased again, actually leaning forward a bit to give Charlie a joking side-eye.


‘Well, no. I think it was new in the early sixties, late fifties at the earliest.’


Bella couldn’t help a smile, seeing her twin so animated.


‘Thanks, Uncle Charlie, I’m sure it’ll be fine. I doubt we’ll do much more than drive it around town anyway.’


‘It runs great, I promise. They don’t make cars that sturdy anymore.’ Charlie reassured us. ‘I just want you two to be happy here.’


So did Bella. She especially hoped that Penny would be happier here. They didn’t talk too much after that; of the three of them, Penny was the chatterbox. Or she used to be, whilst Charlie and Bella were alike in that they were of the quieter, shyer sort. Penny managed a few questions about the latest town gossip, before falling back into her new normal. Which was to sit as quietly as possible and brood. Charlie clearly noticed, as evidenced by the concerned look he shot towards Bella. She shook her head minutely in return; she would try and get Charlie alone later to talk about it.


Whilst its environment wasn’t Bella’s preferred one, Forks was undeniably beautiful. Compared to the streets of Queens Bella and Penny had grown up walking, it was almost entirely alien in its beauty. Green was the predominant colour everywhere you looked, from the tree leaves and tree trunks covered in moss, to the grass and ferns that covered the ground. Even the air somehow smelled green.


Eventually, they made it to Charlie’s house. It was a modest three-bedroom home that had been left to Charlie by his mother, Bella and Penny’s grandmother, Freya Swan. It had been the house that Charlie and his siblings had spent most of their childhoods in, including Bella and Penny’s late father, Richard. Charlie had been the only one of the three siblings (Richard, May and Charlie) to stay put in Forks.


To Bella’s pleasant surprise, the aforementioned truck was already parked in the driveway when they pulled up. The Chevy was a faded red, with big, rounded fenders and a bulbous cab. Totally unlike anything you would see in NY, but Bella found herself instantly enamoured. The thing looked like it could take on a tank and come out the other side without so much as a dent. Something about it just soothed Bella’s accident-prone heart.


‘Wow Charlie, I love it!’ Bella exclaimed, leaving the cruiser to get a closer look. Maybe being here in Forks would be good for Bella too, not just Penny. The idea of heading into school on Monday seemed much less daunting, knowing that they wouldn’t have to walk in the rain or accept a ride from Charlie in the cruiser.


When Bella was finished admiring the Red Beast, she looked back over to Penny and Charlie, who were unloading the twins’ luggage. They hadn’t brought much, just a suitcase and duffle each, so it had all fit easily enough into the cruiser's trunk. That Bella was excellent at utilising available packing space to its maximum effectiveness certainly helped.


‘I’m glad you like it, Bells.’ Charlie grinned as Bella made her way over to help.


‘Looking a bit smug there, Uncle Charlie.’ Penny said, giving Charlie the side-eye again.


‘Well, so what if I am? I can’t give you fancy presents like your other uncle can, but I try my best.’


Bella felt her heart clench a bit at that. ‘We don’t need fancy presents. And there’s no competition for favourite uncle.’


‘That you know of.’ Penny quipped.


With three sets of hands, it only took one trip to get all of their luggage inside and up the stairs. Bella and Penny would be staying in the west bedroom that faced out over the front yard. There was a third bedroom, but Charlie had long converted it into an office as Bella and Penny had never minded sharing a room. The room itself was comforting in its familiarity. It hadn’t changed all that much as Bella and Penny had grown up. The walls were still painted baby pink, and the single beds on either side of the room had been there since the twins were about seven. The only additions were some new curtains and a pair of desks that Charlie must have put there in anticipation of their arrival. There was also-


‘Um, Charlie?’ I called out, ‘Did you know that there are two brand new laptops on our desks?’


‘What? Oh, damn it all. I must have had a delivery.’


‘Must have.’ Penny agreed, already sitting down at the desk and opening her laptop. ‘Deliveries’, as they usually called them, were usually gifts sent by their other uncle, Charlie’s half-brother. The man wasn’t able to visit either his half-siblings or nieces often, and tried to make up for it by sending extravagant gifts. The laptops, Bella was sure, would be nothing less than the best Stark Industries currently had to offer. Bella was happy with a computer as long as it managed to do only what she needed it to, which wasn’t often much, but Penny was a total techie. She at least, would be pleased as punch with this latest delivery. Sure enough, Penny turned to Bella with wide, excited eyes, the glowing laptop screen highlighting her face.


‘Bells, I’m pretty sure these are custom made.’ Penny breathed out reverently. Ok, anything that could make her twin sister smile like that, these days? Was just about perfect, in Bella’s opinion. 


Leaving Penny to her tech induced euphoria, Bella snagged her and Penny’s toiletries and made her way to the small bathroom they usually shared whilst staying here. It didn’t take long for Bella to put everything away, but she wasn’t in a hurry to go back to the bedroom. Everything so far was going well, better than Bella had thought it would. She held in a sigh though, looking at her reflection in the mirror as she thought about starting school on Monday. 


At least her ivory-pale skin meant that she would likely fit in with most of the other kids at Forks High; Bella had always tried to soak up whatever sunlight she could, but it seemed a useless endeavour. She was pale no matter what, and that wasn’t about to improve in a town that spent most of its time under heavy cloud cover. Her dark brown hair, despite its red highlights (which by the way only showed up under sunlight) only served to accentuate that paleness. She was slim, but not particularly athletic, and only a bit taller than Aunt May, who was tiny.


Penny looked very similar to Bella, even though they were fraternal, not identical twins. The only real, major difference was that Penny was a few inches taller than Bella. Even Penny’s curlier hair was a result of how short she wore it, compared to Bella who had let hers grow to her mid back. At some point, the curls had softened into waves, thanks to gravity. Or at least, those had been the only major differences. About two or three years ago, Penny had developed a slightly more muscular frame, and whilst she used to be just as clumsy as Bella was, she certainly wasn’t anymore. If anything, Penny had become downright graceful.


Penny used to be better at making friends, too. Bella still didn’t know what had happened there, but it was very recent. As it was, Bella was more than a little worried that neither of them would have an easy time at Forks High. The place was bound to be so very different to their old school, Midtown High. The size difference alone was staggering when Bella thought about it, and all of the kids here will have known each other since elementary. Finding a place in all of that would not be easy. Bella had never related well to other people her age, apart from her twin. Sometimes she wondered how she could ever properly belong anywhere, if maybe she just didn’t interpret the world the same way everyone else did. With Penny as she was now, Bella felt more lost than ever.


Dinner that night was a quiet affair, with all of them heading up to bed early.