Author: Veritas Found
Rating: K Plus / PG / All Ages // T / PG-13 / All Ages
Pairing: Edward Cullen x Bella Swan (slight hints at Jake x Nessie in the last bit)
Summary: Five looks at the relationship of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, as seen through the eyes of five passersby.
Warnings: Spoiler-wise, as long as you're current, you're good. (Fic is divided in five parts that start around Twilight/New Moon and finish post-Breaking Dawn.)
Need help on: General spelling/grammar would be lovely, but the main thing I'm concerned about is flow/voice. This started as an exercise in POV-writing that got out of hand, and it's written from five separate, anonymous POVs. If someone could give it a read-through and double-check on the voices, I'd be very grateful (basically, does it all sound like the same person or can you tell it's five separate voices?). Also, I'm a little unsure on the rating; I know it's one or the other, but because of one or two words I'm unsure on whether or not I should give it the stronger rating. Thanks!
It’s a small town, and compared to some it’s an even smaller high school. You would think getting lost in it, or even feeling like you could get lost in it, would be hard to do. That’s where I was, though. Feeling lost in the Forks High cafeteria. I had been born and raised here. I had grown up in the school system. You would think I was used to my classmates. You would think the transition from middle to high school would be easy. You would think.
But here I am, the very first day of my freshman year at Forks high, drowning. The morning had been one endless stream of “Welcome to High School, Here’s What You Need to Know” class after another. My bag was too-full with new books and syllabuses (syllabi?). My head was throbbing with a weapons-grade First Day Headache. My body was scrunched between Lizzie and Pam, two of my oldest friends from our babyhood playpen days. My head was between my knees in an attempt to block out some of the noise. I was wishing the day would just end already.
Two more hours, two more hours, two more hours…
“Oh, but Liz, it’s so awesome – my writing class has a bunch of seniors in it, right? And guess who’s in it? Guess who?” Pam asked. If I hadn’t been fighting the headache of my life I might’ve been interested enough to pay more attention.
“The blonde from the football team?” Liz asked, and Pam giggled. She reached around me to swat Lizzie’s arm, nudging me enough to make me groan.
“No, silly! Edward Cullen and Bella Swan!” Pam hissed. She whispered their names like it was some sort of national scandal. For Pam, it probably was.
Everybody knew the Cullens. In a town as small as Forks, you had to know the Cullens. Just like you had to know everyone else and their grandmother’s cat (mine went by the name Whiskers). Dr. Cullen and his wife were infamous for the five children they had adopted, and the infamy was only increased by how young they had been when they had done it (sometime in their early twenties). The adoptees were infamous in their own right, both for their good looks and their tendency to keep to themselves.
I had been treated by Dr. Cullen last year after a really bad fall. Pam had freaked out over a spider, and next thing you know I’m in the hospital with a broken leg. That was the first time I’d really seen them. As the story went, she had nearly been hit by a friend’s van (Pam’s unintended attack seemed like a joke compared to that). He had pushed her out of the way or something. There had been something about them, something in the way he looked at her and something in the way she held herself around him, that had screamed more – but at the time I had been in too much pain to really care about the business of high school students.
Pam and Lizzie’s giggles over the Cullen-Swan couple made me curious now, though. I lifted my head from my knees and looked around. The room was louder without the muffling.
They were sitting at a table a few rows away with some other seniors. Only two Cullens remained at Forks High since the other three had graduated the year before, but Bella Swan was obviously part of their group now. The throbbing in my head suddenly didn’t seem as bad as my eyes locked on Edward and Bella. I think my mouth might’ve even slipped open in shock. Or awe.
The way she was curled up on the cafeteria bench should have been uncomfortable, but it didn’t seem to bother her at all. She was tucked against his side, one of his arms slung across her back with his hand on her hip. He was slouched forward with his head propped up on the arm that was resting on the table. A tray was in front of them (I guess they were sharing?), and she would occasionally grab something from it. He didn’t seem to be touching anything there, though. Weird. Maybe the first day back was bugging him, too. I doubt it.
His eyes focused on her, and this warm sort of crooked smile twisted his lips. She was laughing as her friends retold what I could only guess was a very exciting story of some summer exploit, but every now and then her eyes would shift back to sneak a glance at him. He didn’t even have the decency to look away when she caught him staring, like he was perfectly content to let her watch him watching her. Weirdo.
His eyes flicked at me then, and he smirked at me. I looked away. My face was burning at being caught, but I don’t know if I was so uncomfortable because I had been caught staring or what I had been caught staring at. There was still something about them, something so…so…intimate that I just felt wrong for peeking into their little world. Dirty. Intrusive. (In your face, Mrs. Copper. Never say I didn’t listen to your vocab lessons.)
“You should’ve seen them, though, Lizzie! They’re so cute together. He spent the whole class just looking at her, and it ticked the teacher off so bad, but what was she gonna do about it? I wouldn’t be surprised if they get voted homecoming king and queen, they’re so adorable together…” Pam’s voice trailed off. I groaned again as I tucked my head back between my knees.
Then I could get some Tylenol and crash.
“Sure you don’t need anything, Bells?”
My eyes darted up at the question, coming from a nearby aisle. It sounded like Chief Swan, and a quick glance in the round security mirror let me know I was right. He was making his way back to where I was stationed at the pharmacy counter, and his daughter Bella was trudging along behind him. He looked worried, but that wasn’t much of a change from these past few months. Chief Swan always looked worried these days, when he wasn’t busy being angry or sad. More often than not the worry turned into straight-out fear. For her part, Bella looked…nothing like the girl that had shown up here a little over a year ago, but exactly like the girl that had been ghosting through town the past month or so. Her eyes were empty with heavy bags underneath, and she looked like she was swimming in the heavy winter clothes she wore. A month ago, they probably hadn’t been too big for her. Her hair wasn’t even as shiny or full as it had once been, and her arms were locked about her. Like she was trying to hold herself together, to keep herself from falling apart.
It didn’t look like it was working.
“Evening, Chief Swan,” I said when he approached the pharmacy. He placed a bottle of water on the countertop and nodded at me, his eyes never really leaving his daughter. I frowned as I glanced back at her; I hadn’t seen that girl smile once since…
“Need to pick up a prescription for Bella,” Chief Swan said. His voice was gruffer than I remembered, the tone of someone life-weary and worn. “Dr. Gerandy was supposed to call it in this morning?”
I nodded and turned behind me, looking through the bags of filled orders for Swan. I had the bag in hand a minute later, but I faltered when I pulled the bottle of pills out and properly saw the prescription. Sleeping pills. Dr. Gerandy had ordered Bella Swan sleeping pills.
My fist tightened around the bottle, scrunching the order slip around it as my mind went back to that night. I remembered joining the groups that went out looking for her when Charlie had raised the alarm, concerned when his daughter had failed to come home after school. I remembered searching through the neighborhood, the town, and the surrounding forest. I remembered the panic that had gripped him as he explained how she had run off to Phoenix a few months before, wondering if she had fled Forks again. I remembered the panic that had gripped us all when that Quileute man had emerged from the forest, a catatonic Bella Swan cradled in his arms. I remembered the ghost Bella Swan had become, the dead-like state she hadn’t left since that first night. The first night he was gone.
I remembered them, from a day that seemed so long ago now. They had come in after school to pick up some supplies for a project, some random essentials, or maybe just to kill some time before he had to get her home. I remembered watching her stand in the aisle, looking at a pack of glitter tubs and making some comment on them. I remembered the way he held her, the way he looked at her. I had never seen anyone look at another person with that sort of intensity, that type of devotion. I remembered seeing them and thinking they were different, lucky – that, out of all the failed high school romances kids were likely to live through – they would be the one that might actually last. The legendary high school sweethearts, together until death did they part.
And then I remembered the bottle of sleeping pills in my hand, and I remembered that for all their appearances he had left her, and I remembered what she had turned into once he was gone.
Damn him. Damn him to hell.
Ok, so it was like all over school, spreading like the wildfire any good gossip is: the Cullens. Were back.
And spreading even faster was the most shocking, most juiciest rumor of them all: the one we were all having a hard time believing: the Cullens were back. Edward Cullen was back. And Bella Swan was taking him back.
Was taking Edward Cullen.
Nobody could believe it, not even when they had arrived to school in that shiny silver car of his, or when they had sat huddled together at lunch, or when they’d held hands when walking to and from class. It was so strange, seeing them together – well, seeing how Bella was with them together. It was like the Cullens hadn’t even left in the first place, like Bella hadn’t turned into this freaky zombie person thing for the better half of past zillion months. It was like Bella was fine again, like she had always been fine. This was definitely what all of us in the Forks High senior class had trouble believing the most, because – no matter how she was acting – we remembered. Our class totally isn’t that big, and our town’s like barely bigger than our school, and everyone knows everyone. We’re like that old sitcom with the cheesy theme song, the one about the bar? Yeah, that one. Ok, so we’re not all thick as thieves like Lauren and Jessica, but if we see each other on the street we can still name the other and say hi. We know our stories, our families – the typical small-town life. We remembered how Bella was before Edward left, and we remembered how she was once he was gone. Ok? Ok.
Ok, so I wasn’t as close to her as Angela or Alice, but I was close enough to be worried about how quickly, how readily she took him back. That girl is out of her fool mind. The way I saw it, Edward Cullen was no longer any better than any of the other guys at Forks High – if anything, he was worse, loads worse. It was only a matter of time before his feet started itching and he skipped town again, and then she’d go right back to Zombie Girl Bella. She’d probably be even worse than Zombie Girl Bella, because it would be the second time he’d have left her. I don’t care who you are: nobody can survive that kind of heartache twice, and it had to be heartache. Bella also made the mistake of giving that boy too much of her heart in the first place, like he would’ve kept it safe like some white knight prince guy. Please, he was a guy.
And I’d heard Lauren talking about how Bella had tried to off herself a few weeks back, that she had jumped off a cliff down near First Beach during this really bad storm. The real kicker? This all happened the day Mr. Clearwater had died – yeah, her dad’s best friend dies and she decides to throw herself off a cliff. Anyway, I didn’t know how much truth was in that story – knowing Lauren, it was probably just a bunch of bull (she loves to spread gossip for the sake of spreading gossip, even if it’s all lies), but like I said: I remembered how Bella was once Edward was gone. Looking at it that way, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she really had tried to kill herself – the same exact way a repeat attempt wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Edward decided to take off again.
“It’s supposed to storm tonight. Alice thought we could celebrate your newly-earned freedom with a game of baseball later.”
He had parked that shiny silver car next to mine that morning, and he was leaning against it now as I stood by my door at the end of the day, looking through my purse for my keys so I could get out of here and get home. Dang, that bag was way too cluttered for its own good. Bella was with him, naturally, and she was practically laying on him as they stood around, probably waiting for his sister to get out of her final class so they could leave, too. Everyone was trying to get out of here, and the line for the exit was already huge. So I was looking for my keys, and they were all leaning on his car and she was just standing there playing with his shirt buttons like get a room, and I still couldn’t find my keys. Dang.
“Are you sure? After what happened last time? Maybe we could celebrate it instead with…I don’t know, a friendly game of family Scrabble?” Bella asked. Crap! Where the heck were my keys?
“Emmett refuses to play Scrabble with me anymore,” Edward said, and I swear, that chuckle he made sent icy chills straight down my spine. Like, creepy. Agh, I was getting really annoyed at my keys now. “Alice is the only one who’ll play board games with me now. She said everything should be fine, though, and Em and Jazz have been itching for a rematch. Are you sure you don’t want to play baseball with us?”
“I’ll referee with Esme, but yes, I’m very sure I don’t want to play baseball with you – yet,” she said, and my hand totally froze, like completely stopped searching at that. What did she mean, yet?
“Alice will be thrilled,” he said, and oh man, I regretted peeking the second I looked up. There was just something about the way he was holding her, the way he was looking at her, that sent total chills through me. They weren’t the same kind of chills his chuckle had caused, though – they were…warmer. The kind you get when the guy drinks the shampoo, or when the girl chooses the hick over the city slicker – y’know, the ones that race through you at the end of the movie when the guy finally gets the girl after an hour and a half of mishaps and misunderstandings, the kind that run through you when everything in the world just seems right. His hands were on her hips, where his thumbs could hook through her belt loops and reach up over the waistline of her jeans to rub against her skin. His head was bent forward, his eyes just locked on her and just…heck, his eyes were smoldering, and I don’t think I’d ever noticed how…golden they were before, either. They sparked with warmth and light and a zillion and one other emotions when he looked at her, every last bit of that feeling directed at that Plain Jane standing in front of him. She was still playing with that button, and I swear it was about to pop out or come undone or something, but she wasn’t even paying attention to it – she was just looking at him, looking up under her lashes with this coy sort of smile on her face. She looked flirty, and Bella Swan never looked flirty.
Ok, so maybe my judgments about Edward Cullen were a little harsh and maybe just slightly unwarranted. He certainly looked enthralled enough to keep from breaking Bella’s heart again while he was standing there, but he was still a stupid teenaged guy, and stupid teenaged guys were notorious for botching up perfectly good relationships. Well, so were teenaged girls, but I have to defend my gender. I’m obligated to. Still, looking at him that day, seeing the way he interacted with Bella, seeing the way he looked at her, I wondered if maybe I might had been wrong. Maybe he wouldn’t leave again. Maybe he really did love her.
“Did I tell you?” he asked, and that was around when I stopped watching – my keys still needed finding, and I still needed escape from the school parking lot, and that wouldn’t happen until I found my dang keys. I didn’t turn away before I saw that confused look cross her face, or the way his smile warmed when he saw it, too. “Alice has already made your ‘Team Cullen’ jersey. Emmett’s very upset with her for making you ‘number one’.”
Finally! There’re my stupid keys!
I swirled the ice in my drink before raising it for another sip. The music beat out loud and strong around me, rising and falling in heavy electronic tones familiar to the night club scene. Shouts and laughs, cheers and jeers filled the space not taken up by the music, the Seattle club packed almost to the fire code-threatening point. It was a typical Friday night, everyone who was anyone out at the local clubs to celebrate the end of the work week and the start of their weekend. Everyone was out to have a good time, hook up, or just dance (or, in some cases, drink) their troubles away.
The ice was melting in the heat of the club, but I didn’t really care; the drink was almost gone, anyway. The friend I’d come in with had found a pretty girl three songs ago and had been dancing with her since, leaving me to play the role of wallflower while I searched for my own potential hookup. And so I was left standing there against the wall, swaying to the pulsing music and scanning the room for a girl who caught my fancy. Despite the size of the crowd, there really weren’t many…and that was when I saw her (well, them).
They were towards the middle of the dance floor. The other patrons had cleared a space around them, either because they felt inferior or because they wanted to watch the three women dance as much as I currently did. The multi-colored club lights swirled around them, sliding over their skin like shadows on the water and casting bewitching hues on their forms. The supple fabric of their dresses, the gleaming metal of their jewelry, the silken strands of their hair, the pale tones of their skin – everything about them flowed together to shimmer under the lights of the club. There was a sort of other-worldly beauty and grace possessed by the blonde and the shorter of the two raven-haired girls, but it was the third enchantress that caught and held my eye, that left me completely captivated.
A sleeveless dress of some deep green hue swirled around her like sea currents, her dark hair adding to the trance-like quality of her appearance. I imagined, if it wasn’t swimming through the air around her, that hair would fall in gentle waves to around the middle of her back. Her appearance was fluid, liquid, seeming ethereal in the shadowy atmosphere of the club. Her beauty was natural, only enhanced by the few gold chains looped ‘round her neck and the light coating of make-up expertly applied to her full lips and smoky eyes. She was stunning, bewitching – qualities only added to by the smile adorning her face as she danced with her friends. Her movements were natural, as fluid as the rest of her as she surrendered herself to the music. The elfin girl next to her took her in her arms and twirled her, and that was the moment any hopes I had developed of maybe getting a chance to dance with the siren-like beauty were utterly and completely dashed.
The elfin girl had spun her straight into the arms of another man. A man who seemed to blend perfectly with their group, drifting with the same fluidity through the crowd to their sides and possessing looks that would make any professional model envious. He caught her with the practiced ease of a companion, a move that sang we’re together, and when she looked up to him it was obvious she had been awaiting his arrival. Her beauty increased tenfold when that smile split her face, and as she brought her arms up to lock around his neck the lights glinted off a final piece of jewelry, a ring slipped casually onto her left hand.
I swirled the ice again, taking another swig from the drink.
The rain drowned out the Ah-choo! as it tore through me chest, making me whole body shake with the force of the sneeze. I rubbed me wrist under me nose, trying to relieve the irritation caused by the cold. I glanced through the Plexiglas o’ the bus shelter, me eyes darting once to me watch to check the hour. The bus was running late, ‘n it was a heck o’ a night for it to be doing so. I didn’t normally mind the rain, but the damp air compacted on me already-frazzled body was tiring. A chill raced down me spine as a crisp autumn wind blew ‘round the shelter, splashing a bit o’ the icy rain in on me ‘n rattling the windows.
I shook ‘n shivered, waiting less than patiently for me bus. I was about to give up ‘n just call a cab when I heard it, but it wasn’t really what I had been listening for. Me head turned at the sound, a clear, tinkling sound like the ringing o’ bells. It seemed out o’ place in the stormy night, yet somehow seemed to fit in just fine. Walking down the road ‘n headed straight for (well, probably past) me little shelter, was a small family. The laughter was coming from a little girl, a wee lass of maybe eight years, with the most beautiful bronze-colored curls I’d ever seen. Her hair, like the rest o’ her, was damp with the rain, yet it still seemed to swing ‘n bounce as she twirled through the puddles. Her pink skirts clung to her legs, her little black shoes splashing water around her. She laughed ‘n giggled, smiling like this was the best place in all the world when the man next to her (a tall man o’ some native descent) scooped her up in his arms ‘n spun on his heels, spinning ‘em around.
“Jake, careful!” called the woman (surely no older than nineteen, maybe twenty?) behind him. The native looked back at her, offering a smile as he placed the girl down – but he refused to relinquish his hold on her hand. She laughed ‘n laughed, raising her arms ‘n demanding to be picked up again. His smile warmed as he obliged her, lifting her ‘n placing her on his shoulders for another few paces, ‘til she demanded to be put back down. I wondered if maybe he was an uncle or a cousin or just an old family friend. Surely they couldn’t be too closely related?
But they kept walking ‘n talking, laughing with each other – ‘n then I really noticed the two behind ‘em. I was surprised, shocked still for a mo as I looked at ‘em. They both looked so similar to the little girl, or maybe she looked similar to them – but they couldn’t be her parents! They both looked barely out of their teens, but…perhaps life had been kind to ‘em, ‘n they were older than they appeared? They were stunning, this beautiful little family; the woman with her long, dark hair and flawless grace, the man with his warm smile and striking golden eyes. They took me back to me days growing up in Bray, to the old stories o’ the world hidden around us – the stories of Faerie. They looked like they belonged in one o’ me Gran’s old tales, though they were dressed as any old city folk. The man was in jeans ‘n a button-down, the woman wearing a flowing, knee-length blue dress ‘n brown jacket.
There was just something about ‘em, something that spoke beyond their looks – something in the way their features warmed when they watched the girl ‘n the other man playing in the rain. His arm was placed casually over her shoulders, his other hand tucked into a pocket, while her arm was looped around his waist. Her free hand stretched up to lace her fingers with the hand on her shoulder. They looked so comfortable together, like they belonged ‘n just fit. Her head leaned on his chest, ‘n when the little girl jumped into a rather large puddle – splashing the other man ‘n completely drenching him in the process – her smile grew large as a joyous laugh came from her, the sound o’ echoing bells again ringing out above the rain.
“Nessie!” the other man cried while her parents (siblings? Cousins?) laughed. His smile was good-natured, though, his laughter joining theirs ‘n the girl’s after a mo of mock indignation. He took her hand ‘n swung their arms between ‘em, resuming their casual stride ahead of the couple. They walked past me, the man giving me a winning smile ‘n a friendly wave before his attention was brought back to the girl. She smiled at me before tugging on his hand, dragging him ahead to another series o’ puddles with a delighted squeal.
I jumped at a startled shout, me head turning back to the couple that still lingered behind. In the time I’d been distracted by the native ‘n the wee lass, the man had twirled the woman around, dipping her low as he cradled her in his arms. She laughed delightedly as he pulled her up, spinning with her a few short paces away from me little sanctuary. He smiled, the grin breathtaking, as he danced with her there on a nearly deserted, rainy city road. He pulled her closer ‘n slowed the dance, ‘n I almost felt guilty for watching, like I was intruding on a world that was all their own – ‘n they certainly seemed to be in such. They were happy ‘n content, smiling softly at each other as he hummed a haunting melody, the tune melting beautifully with the sound o’ the rain. He ended the dance, again dipping her low. She laughed, the sound breathy but still so clear, ‘n he lowered his head to hers. I looked away as they kissed, feeling like I really was looking in on something too private, too personal for outside witness. This was their moment, ‘n I felt mean for intruding.
Me bus pulled up before me, completely unnoticed by the laughing little girl ‘n the kissing couple. The driver, a bloke not much older than meself called Pete, smiled warmly at me as he opened the doors.
“Sorry for the wait, sweetheart,” he said, winking at me in that flirty way he had. “You wouldn’t believe the traffic on Lincoln.”
I smiled at him, sneaking one more glance at the blissfully oblivious couple. The man had righted ‘em in the time it took Pete to speak his greeting, ‘n now he held the woman close as he slowly turned ‘em in a dance that left me feeling more an outsider than ever.
“Mommy! Daddy!” the little girl called, ‘n their dance stopped as they looked up to see the girl do something behind me. I was surprised; they looked too young to be her parents. I would have sworn they were siblings or cousins. The man looked at me then, his golden gaze suddenly piercing, ‘n he offered me a smile. A chill raced down me spine, but I’m sure it was just from the weather and the cold. I nodded at him, smiling as warmly as I could as Pete asked me if I was coming or going.
“Coming,” I said, turning back to him. I boarded the bus, ‘n as we drove away I watched the little girl run up to the woman, leaping with an effortless grace into her waiting arms. The woman spun her ‘round, ‘n I watched as the man pulled ‘em both into a hug, kissing the woman’s cheek as the little girl wrapped her arms about their necks.
“Long night?” Pete asked me, drawing me attention away from the happy family. I looked at him, smiling in exhausted relief.
“Unbearably so, Pete,” I said, relaxing against the seat. “Unbearably so.”