My New Life is @quirkyalone98
Chapter 13

Just my luck, I chanced upon the Cullens just parking their cars. I jogged faster towards their direction, waving at Emmett who noticed me when he jumped out of his truck.

In my excitement, I nearly bumped into Rosalie who just got out of her car and walked out of the space in between her car and Emmett's truck. Luckily, I managed to slow down to a stop just in time.

"Hey, Rosalie," I greeted in a rather breathless voice. I'm sure it was from all the running. Definitely not because of how pretty she looks up close.

And right on cue, I saw her frown.

"Watch it, Swan."

"Good morning to you too, sunshine."

The furrow between her brows deepened.

Unfazed, I quickly walked around her to meet up with Alice. As I approached, she had both hands on her hips as she raised a brow at me.

"What did I say about poking the lion?"

"Umm...poke it some more?"

"I'll be sure to bury your corpse once she bites your head off," she replied with a shake of her head. But she grinned at me nonetheless.

She then eyed me.

"Why are you all sweaty?" Alice inquired..

"I jogged to school."

"You what?!"

"Just a bit of exercise."

"Did you or did you not just get a shiny new bike yesterday?"

I huffed.

"Charlie wouldn't let me," I muttered.

"Aww is wittle Snow Bells having a hissy fit?"

I glared at her.

"You're the 'wittle' one here, Tiny," I shot back.

"Hey hey hey. Let's not fight ladies," came Emmett who pulled us to him and then raised us from the ground.

"Put us down you big troll!" Alice exclaimed.

I couldn't help the laugh that escapes me, my mood immediately brightening as I goofed off with the two. We walked inside together and eventually parted ways in the hallway. I had to go make a quick change of clothes in the girls' locker room.

On my way to class, I found myself getting cornered by Jessica who skipped the greetings and just started questioning me about yesterday. I reluctantly answered her as best as I could.

She would have asked more if it weren't for the warning bell. I sighed in relief when I found a reason to end this interrogation. However, I started getting texts from everyone. Well, the majority of them were from Jessica. The incessant vibration in my pocket annoyed the hell out of me so I responded diligently to their questions in between classes.

Just from that, I decided I was sitting with the Cullens during lunch.

"Hello, Bella," Edward greeted me at lunch.

This earned him surprised gazes from everyone including me.

Oh, I can already hear the whispers. One gaze, in particular, struck my back from Angela's table.

I remember our conversation from last night, but actually getting a friendly greeting from His Broodiness was still shocking. I blinked and acted casual as I sat down.

"Hey, Squidward."

His face told me he didn't like the nickname. His siblings seemed both surprised and amused by our greetings.

I even saw Rosalie's lips quirk up.

"At least you know Spongebob," I said with a chuckle. "You're not completely hopeless after all."

"HOLD UP!" Alice exclaimed as she pulled me down to sit beside her. "What the hell, Bella?!"

"What?"

"Are you guys all buddy buddy now?" Emmett asked.

I shrugged.

"I guess."

"I knew you guys would be friends eventually," Alice said gleefully as she looked at both of us.

"Definitely a bad idea," Rosalie mumbled in her seat.

Edward shot her a glare which Rosalie ignored as she focused her attention on her phone.

"You'd think I wouldn't want to have anything to do with a guy who stalked me to my home and pulled me out of my house in the middle of the night, right?" I rambled on while fixing an accusing gaze at Edward.

"I said I was sorry," Edward mumbled.

"Just don't go throwing stones and breaking my window again," I reminded.

Edward avoided my gaze and shrunk in his seat.

"Yes, ma'am."

"HE DID WHAT?!" Alice exclaimed. "He didn't mention that."

"Like I said, Squidward over here threw a stone and broke my window last night," I repeated.

Emmett guffawed while hitting the table, causing all of our lunches to bounce off. Rosalie frowned at the disturbance and immediately slapped his arm to quiet him down.

"I can't believe you. Esme will be furious," Alice chided him.

"She won't if you won't say anything," Edward said as she looked up at her sister expectantly.

"Of course WE WILL," Emmett said with a laugh.

Edward groaned.

I chuckled. Who knew teasing him was so much fun?

"Even though your sister always glares at me," I point at Rosalie with my thumb. "I have a better impression of her than you."

"I'll work on improving your impression of me," Edward promised.

Meanwhile, Rosalie broke her gaze away from her phone and looked up at me.

"I'm not 'always' glaring," she snapped at me.

I rolled my eyes at her.

"Looking intensely then," I corrected.

"Some might even say, she's intere-" Emmett's teasing was cut short as Rosalie punched his shoulder.

"Don't even dare finish that sentence," Rosalie glowered at Emmett.

Emmett held up his hands in surrender.

"Kidding!" he said.

Alice giggled.

"Don't mind my sister and her beady eyes, Bella. She just enjoys scaring people," Alice said as she fed me a french fry.

"That's me letting people off easy despite all the shit they talk behind my back," Rosalie retorted.

Curious, I asked, "What would you do then? If you didn't let them off easy, I mean."

Rosalie smirks at me.

I felt my heart speed up.

"You don't wanna know, Swan."

"She'd castrate them," Edward suddenly said all too seriously.

I looked at him and then at Rosalie with wide eyes.

Were those her honest thoughts or was he just guessing?

"Shhh! We will have none of that when we're eating," Alice chastised.

Things quieted down after that and we each busied with ourselves. I focused on eating while listening to Alice chat with Emmett and Jasper. Edward stuck to listening to music on his phone. And Rosalie was back to scrolling through her phone.

As I continued to chow down on my food, my eyes would wander her way.

Like always.

This is why I limit having these lunches with the Cullens. I'm afraid I'll get caught sooner or later.

I tilted my head to the side as I eyed the arch of her brows down to the bridge of her slightly scrunched up nose. Her pursed plump lips were dyed with golden brown lipstick that matched well with her smokey eyeshadow. My eyes then traced up along her defined jawline to her high cheekbones.

Her hand then came up to comb her fingers through her long blonde locks. I watched in slow motion as her hair fell down in waves, framing her face perfectly, and came to rest on her shoulders.

Talk about eye candy.

And she always smells amazing. Aside from their sweet smell, she still had a distinct personal smell on top of whatever expensive perfume she uses.

I just noticed it one day. Whenever I walked around the school, my nose could always pick up her scent in the hallways. At first, I found it weird. I thought I was imagining things because I could smell her, and yet she was nowhere in sight.

But everywhere I went, her scent was there. Sometimes it was strong, sometimes it was weak. But it was there.

Always lingering.

Just hanging in the air.

Addicting.

And it's been slowly driving me crazy.

[You're staring, lass. Again.]

I don't know what you're talking about.

[Sure~]

She's just in my direct line of sight.

[Of course.]

I'm just curious about what she's doing on her phone.

[So you were staring HAHAHAHA.]

Shut up.

I was then startled by Alice suddenly speaking beside me, "She's shopping."

"Shopping?"

She gestured at her sister.

"It seemed like you wanted to ask," she said with a wink.

"Was just curious."

Her smile turned into a sly smirk.

"What else are you curious about? Don't be shy. You can ask me."

"I-I'm not…curious," was my unconvincing reply.

I opted to look away and stuffed my mouth with food. Alice giggled at me and turned back to face Jasper and Emmett.

Once I was done eating and let the food settle in my stomach, I nudged Edward's leg under the table to get his attention.

"Hey," I said. Once he met my gaze, I smiled at him. "You know, I was just teasing earlier, right? I've already forgiven you for my window."

"I know. And I admit, I do deserve it after last night," he said with a small smile. "I promise to pay for the damages."

"Well...if you insist."

"I do. Think of it as my way of redeeming myself for my actions."

"So we cool?"

I raised my fist towards Edward. He stared at it then glanced at me questioningly. I sighed while Emmett barked a laugh. Alice offered a giggle of her own.

"You do it like this, bro," Emmett said as he balled Edward's hand into a fist and guided it to bump with mine.

I shook my head.

"We're gonna have to work on keeping you up to date, man," I joked.

"Good luck with that," Emmett said with a chuckle.

Just as I was about to stand up to throw away our trash and return our trays, I stopped midway and faced them.

"You don't mind if I give you guys my number, do you?" I asked them. "This way you can just call me to talk instead of visiting me in the middle of the night."

"You're never gonna let me live that down, are you?" Edward said with a groan as he gave me his phone.

I smirked.

"Long enough so you'll have second thoughts about doing it again, creeper," I said. "Speaking of, why couldn't you have just given him my number, Tiny?"

"Woopsies?" Alice gave a sheepish grin. "It's not like he asked me either," she continued to say with a pout.

She had a point that made me look at Edward questioningly.

"I wasn't...I just felt like it was better to speak to you in person."

"'In person', huh? Maybe you just wanted to see her?" Emmett said suggestively.

Edward leaned away from Emmett who was hitting his side with his elbow.

"Stop that. And it's not like that."

Emmett turned to me.

"What about it, bro? His face ain't too bad, right?"

My face blanched in disgust at the thought of me and Edward together. Romantically.

"I'm gay," I blurted out.

The table went deadly silent after that announcement.

I swept my gaze around the table.

"Is there a problem?" I asked, my tone going defensive.

"Of course not!" Alice immediately spoke up. "Even from yesterday's conversation with your friend, I just didn't want to assume."

Jasper nodded his head along and offered me a smile.

Emmett turned to Edward with a pitying gaze.

"Don't feel too bad at being rejected, Eddie," Emmett said, wrapping his arm around his head to pull him against his chest in what I assume was a comforting hug. "There's always a first time for everything."

Edward's expression turned to that of annoyance as he removed himself from his grasp.

"I was already rejected last night," Edward said.

Alice gasps.

"You confessed and got rejected? So it's one-sided?" she asked as she looked between us. "Poor Eddie."

I burst out laughing as the others started misunderstanding. Edward looked at me with pleading eyes. Taking pity on him, I went about telling them that part of our conversation last night.

Edward visibly relaxed at that.

"Any chance I could be of service as your wingman?" Emmett offered.

"No offense, but you'd be a bad wingman," I replied.

He immediately sulked.

"They'll probably end up falling for you," I quickly explained.

He was quick to grin at me after I said that.

"Well I am plenty charming," he said with a puff of his chest.

I rolled my eyes at his statement.

I was relieved there weren't any bad reactions. I admit I said I was gay more as a reaction from the idea of Edward and me together than it was a confession. It slipped through my mouth before I could think. Once my brain caught up, I tensed at the way they turned silent. But once I heard Alice speak up and the rest followed, I relaxed.

Well not completely. I still haven't looked at Rosalie's direction.

It scared me that my admission would give away my thoughts the moment our gazes met.

As for her reaction to my sexuality, her short interaction with El yesterday was enough to set me at ease even if they were just joking. The same was true with the others.

It probably had a lot to do with finding myself already feeling comfortable around them.

Jesus.

There goes my self-preservation out the window.

Shrugging those thoughts aside, I went back to my previous question and asked the Cullens for their phones. One by one, I entered my number into their phones. Surprisingly, Rosalie gave me hers as well.

I bit down on a grin as I tapped my thumbs on her screen. As I handed it back to her, her fingers touching mine for a moment.

The light contact made me take in a sudden breath and paused.

We shared eye contact for a quick moment, her golden eyes glowed a deeper shade, almost brown. It was just a slight change which I would have missed if I blinked.

My heartbeat resounded loudly in my ears.

The brief contact was soon gone with a light brush of her fingers with mine as she got her phone back.

Looking away, I quickly picked up our trays and swung my legs over the bench as I stood up.

"I'm just gonna…" I didn't finish and gestured to the trays.

Not waiting for any sort of response, I quickly walked away, still hearing how hard the way my heart was pounding in my chest. Once I was a few feet away, I felt like I could breathe again.

After dropping off our trash and trays, I placed a hand over the side of my face. I frowned at how warm my cheek was and how it reached the tip of my ears.

Stupd crush.


"Are you okay?"

"What did I tell you about talking?" I snapped at him.

Edward put up his hands defensively.

"I just...you seem stressed. And you keep looking at your phone."

I groaned.

"Stupid Jacob still won't answer my texts."

I huffed in annoyance.

I've given up on sketching half-way through. We were both sitting at a clearing near the river. I've been quite in a bad mood as of late and thought maybe sketching would help me relax. Keep me busy. I also thought a change of scenery would be nice and thought of taking a walk through the trails.

It's a nice opportunity to hangout with Edward too.

Also because I didn't know who else to call.

Can't call Eric and Mike because they were being weird with me lately. Can't ask Tyler because of Lauren. Lauren is a big no for obvious reasons. Jessica was too noisy and nosey. And Angela was busy helping her dad at their diner.

So she moved on to her other friends, the Cullens.

Definitely not Alice because she'd probably complain about getting mud all over her Chimmy Joos. Emmett was busy playing a new game he just bought. I'm still awkward with Jasper and that's really just inviting trouble considering he had the most trouble containing his thirst. And Rosalie...well she's Rosalie.

And that leaves Edward.

Alice told me he likes playing piano and does music. That made us both artsy which means he's the best option.

My only option.

"You suck," I commented. There was barely anything on his sketchpad but a few faint scribbles and outlines even though we've been at it for some time now too. "I thought you'd be great with your hands since you play the piano."

He quickly covered his drawing with his hand.

"Music and drawing are completely different arts," he defended.

"And you still tagged along even though you knew what we were doing?"

He shrugged.

"I have nothing else to do."

I leaned back and laid down on my back. As Edward continued to draw, meanwhile, I stared up at the sky and watched the clouds slowly move up above. By now, I've gotten used to the weather. It was cloudy as usual, though faint streaks of light leaked through the clouds and managed to touch the forest floor. Years of living in Arizona, I have come to miss the warmth. I let myself bask in what little sunlight I could get today.

"This is nice," Edward suddenly spoke up.

I turned my face to the side to glance up at him.

"Nice? Really? Even though I've been nothing but a grump since earlier?"

He chuckled.

"Yes, even if you're a 'grump'," he replied. "It's been a long time, you know?"

"Long time?"

"Yeah…" He paused and then continued. "It's quiet. And relaxing how there are no foreign thoughts going through my head from another person."

"Ah."

"I like it. I like how I'm able to talk to you without me knowing what you'll say next. It keeps me on my toes."

"And that way you'll talk more. Gotta exercise that jaw too, buddy."

He smiled.

Damn. I bet all the girls would swoon if they saw that.

I heard him sigh, still a small smile playing on his lips.

"Sometimes, it just gets too much and I want to hear just my own thoughts for once. So I run. For miles. Far away until I hear nothing. And I'm all alone."

He then turned to face me.

"But with you, I can have that and feel a little less lonely."

He shifted his gaze back towards the forest across the river.

"Just like this. No thoughts. Head empty. And sitting quietly while enjoying the scenery together with a friend."

As I laid there, guilt washed over me. I've been a crappy companion since earlier despite being the one to invite him to hang out. And then hearing him being honest about his struggles and feeling lonely, I feel like an ass.

I abruptly sat up and scooted closer to him. I wrapped my arms around his shoulder and gave him a side hug. I felt him tense up.

"What are you-"

"Shut up and just let me hug you."

"Ummm...Okay."

"Sorry for being grumpy."

"Sorry I suck at drawing."

We shared a laugh.

[*sniff I suddenly feel bad for the vampire lad.]

Yeah….Thinking about it, I guess it's cool having a mind reading ability. But it sucks he can't turn it off. And they go to school everyday. And then there's his family at home. That's like having someone always invading your personal space on a daily basis. And there's nothing more personal than your head space.

[Now I feel bad for being in your head, lass.]

Huh, now that you mention it…

[I promise I won't speak much less a peep unless you inquire questions from me.]

You? Quiet? I doubt that. No offense.

[Hahahahaha you got me there, lass. But I'll make an effort. I understand you don't always need my input.]

Thanks. Although, It hasn't really bothered me that much to be honest. It's amusing hearing you so amazed by modern technology.

[It's a whole new world to me. Of course, I'll get excited.]

I pulled back from our hug but didn't scoot away and just sat close beside him. I grabbed my sketchbook and turned over to a new page. I then started giving Edward quick lessons and some tips on the basics of drawing. For a while, I watched as he drew.

But I broke the silence once I realized something.

"'No thoughts. Head empty', huh. I see what you did there. Been looking up at memes lately?" I asked.

"What's a 'meme'?"

I stared at him dead in the eye.

"You're joking, right?"

He shook his head.

"Is this another one of those things I need to learn?" he asked.

"DO YOU GUYS HAVE NO INTERNET?!"


My birthday came.

It was a Saturday, and like every person out there, I slept in. Usually, that would be the case. But not today.

"Rise and shine, Bells!"

I groaned as I felt the sheets pulled off of me.

"Go away, Charlie."

"Sorry, Bells. You've got a busy day ahead of you."

I sighed and reluctantly opened my eyes.

"Happy birthday!"

Beside my bed, Charlie was standing with a party hat on his head and a red foam clown nose on his face while holding a red balloon by its string.

Am I dreaming?

I sat up on my bed, finally deciding to wake up. I blinked a couple of times as I looked up at Charlie. He was also carrying a chocolate cake with my name written with icing on it. Like a naughty impatient kid, I stuck my index finger and swiped some of the icing and licked it off my finger.

"Mmmm. That tastes good."

"Can't say I can take credit for it. John's wife baked it," he said.

"But you still paid for it."

He laughed.

"I guess I'll take a little bit of credit. Now hurry up and get up, sleepyhead. Let's have breakfast."

"Okay."

As he was about to exit the door, I called out to him. He turned around to face me.

"Yes?"

"You look ridiculous."

We stared at each other for a moment before bursting in a fit of laughter.

"Take a shower first. You have paint smudges all over you," Charlie told me before finally leaving my room.

I look at myself in the mirror. He was right. I spent hours sketching and painting last night until early in the morning.

Lately, I've been seeing a recurring figure in my dreams.

They felt foreign.

But familiar as well.

I tried to sketch them but it always remained faceless. I could never see their face in my dreams. No matter how much I wanted them to turn around, their back remained facing me, their red cape fluttering in the wind.

But just from their back, I could tell.

Tall and strong.

And they gave off a strong aura.

Elegant and Graceful.

After numerous sketches, I got frustrated because all of them were just backs of this person. Feeling myself becoming restless, I put aside my sketchbook and proceeded with painting my assignment instead.

The topic was: Memory.

An hour later, I broke away from what felt like a trance. I stared at my painting in a daze. I furrowed my brows at what was in front of.

It was a castle.

A magnificent tall marble castle atop a rocky cliff.

I frowned.

Why did I paint this?

[That's...that's quite the magnificent castle, lass.]

Yeah...But why did I paint this? I've never even seen this before.

[Maybe you saw it in one of those shows you watch?]

I guess.

I sighed.

I set aside the canvas and made it lean against the wall as I picked up another blank canvas. I spent another hour or so, sketching and painting. This time, it came out how I wanted.

On my second time visiting Charlie, Renee, who came with me since I was still too young to be traveling alone, stayed an extra day because I begged her to. We all spent the day going around Forks, sightseeing what the place had to offer.

I remember how hopeful I was that this was a good opportunity to rekindle the spark between the two. However, nothing of the sort happened. They both acted civil and polite. Nothing more than that.

I felt sad at the end of our sightseeing.

Surprisingly at dinner, they talked, asking how each other's lives have been.

I stayed quiet and let the adults talk.

When it got to the part about love interests, my ears perked up as they talked. I pretended not to listen and focused on my food.

I chanced a glance at them and was surprised.

It was the first genuine smiles I've seen on both their faces. Renee recounted how she had met a guy named Phil. Charlie didn't look upset by the news and instead smiled at her warmly as he listened.

It was at that moment that it struck me.

I could never have my parents back together. It stung for a bit until I heard them laughing as Renee was teasing Charlie about a woman who's advances Charlie was oblivious too.

"That can't be. She's just really nice," Charlie said.

"Oh come on now, Charlie. No one's normally that nice unless they're interested," Renee replied with a roll of her eyes,

"I...maybe. Do you really think so?" Charlie asked.

Renee gave a snort.

"There's only one way to be sure."

"How?"

"Just ask the damn woman out, Charlie."

"I...but what if she doesn't…"

"Why wouldn't she? You're a good man Charlie," Renee said. "And even if she said 'no', I'm sure there'll be other women out there."

"Thanks," Charlie said with a smile. "And you're not too bad yourself." It came out awkward but sincere nonetheless.

Renee laughed.

"Thanks. I hope it works out for the both of us."

"Cheers to that."

They clinked their beer bottles together.

I found myself smiling.

They were happy.

I was taught in school how a family that stays together was a happy family.

But I learned at that moment that that wasn't always the case. People don't always workout and separate. And that was better than staying miserable together.

From that day on, what sadness I felt from their divorce was gone.

That night, when Renee tucked me in, she asked me how I was feeling.

"I'm okay," I answered honestly.

She scrutinized my face.

She sighed.

"I...I know you begged me to stay and made us all spend the day together so that your father...so that Charlie and I could talk. Did you...did you do all that because you want us back together?" she asked hesitantly.

I shook my head 'no' which surprised her.

"Yes, I did. But not anymore. I don't want you guys back together. And that's okay."

I saw tears welling up in her eyes which she quickly wiped off with her palm. She leaned down and kissed my forehead.

"Just because we don't love each other doesn't mean we don't love you, okay? We love you. Always remember that."

I felt my own tears building up.

"I will."

I walked into my art room and looked at my finished painting. The setting was at dinner. The lighting was warm to make it give it a lighthearted atmosphere. A little girl was sitting across two adults, a man and a woman. The little girl was smiling at the two adults which the adults mirrored as well. If you look closely, you may notice that both of the adults' ring fingers were faint marks encircling their fingers, visible due to the uneven skin tone with the rest of their hands.

It was rather simple. But it was the story behind it was what made it meaningful.

"That fits the topic well," I say to myself.

Just as I was about to walk back out of the room to take a shower, my eyes landed on the other painting. I know I painted it myself, but I felt amazed all the same at the magnificent white castle.

I could feel my hand twitch.

The painting was still rather crude. I could probably add more details. I wasn't sure why I was so confident. I wasn't even sure what I was looking at.

I know it's a castle, obviously.

But why a castle?

And why this castle in particular?

I don't remember seeing anything like it. I think of the medieval shows I've seen by chance. Nothing. Definitely not in Game of Thrones either. I'm sure of it after watching 8 seasons without skipping that opening intro.

Maybe in a documentary?

[Perhaps.]

Oh. Hey. Good morning.

[Good morning, lass. Good birthday to you!]

It's 'Happy' Birthday.

[Ah my bad. I bid you a Happy Birthday then!]

Thanks.

[Better get moving, lass. You have a big day ahead of you.]

After showering, I went down to meet Charlie in the dining area. He had breakfast and my cake placed on the table. My mouth was watering from the smell so I quickly sat down.

"I'm sorry if I can't spend the whole day with you, Bells," Charlie apologized. "But I'm pretty sure you'd prefer spending the day outside with your friends anyways."

I smiled at him.

It was me who suggested to my friends that we go to the beach since it was cancelled last time. I wasn't really big on celebrating my birthday so I'd rather we all just keep it chill and hang out instead. I told them no presents and to just bring food and drinks instead.

"It's okay, Charlie. Duty calls," I said with a mock salute. "Not so sure about that. I usually spent my birthdays indoors, stuffing myself into a food coma," I said.

"I'm sure you'll enjoy going to the beach. Get you some sun. A little bit of tan won't hurt you, kiddo."

"There's a reason I'm pale, Charlie," I retorted. "But you have a point. I do miss feeling like fried bacon."

Charlie laughed.

After finishing breakfast, we both got a slice of my cake. I moaned in pleasure because this was the shit right here.

"You can bring this with you to eat with your friends at the beach. It's too much for the both of us anyways."

I would have disagreed because I could probably finish this all by myself but I nodded.

"Ready for your present?" he asked me once I finished putting away the dishes. "Leave those. I'll do them later."

I wanted to protest since I felt guilty after he already took charge of breakfast. And he also bought me a cake. But again, I nodded and washed my hands instead.

He brought over a big box. It was fairly heavy when I quickly lifted it. I raised a questioning brow at him to which he just smiled and urged me open it.

My eyes widened once I got through the wrapper and removed the cover.

"You got me a helmet?!" I exclaimed a bit excitedly.

"Happy Birthday, Bells."

"This… thanks, Charlie," I said. "Does this mean you're letting me ride my bike?"

I looked up at him expectantly.

He nodded.

"Can't have it rusting away in the garage now, can we? I'm sorry if I was too harsh last time," Charlie said with a sheepish grin. "I'm just worried."

"I know. I'm sorry too for getting mad."

"It should go without saying, but please wear your helmet. Always. And don't go over the speed limit. I don't want to get a call from the station reporting my own daughter for speeding."

I grinned.

"I will. And I promise to not get caught."

He looked at me pointedly.

"Come on, Charlie. What if I get caught in the rain?"

"More reason for you not to speed. The roads can get slippery," he argued back.

"Fine," I relented.

"Good. But I'm still expecting you to use your truck more often once it gets fixed. Cars are much safer. Make your old man worry less. I've been growing more grey hairs since you've arrived."

With a goodnatured eye roll, I replied, "Yes, dad. And I doubt that's because of me. You're just growing old, old man."

"I'm not that old," he defended.

"But still old."

He shook his head at me. He then looked at his watch.

"Better get going, kiddo."

"Can I use my bike?"

"Alright."

"Yes!"

I made a fist as I cheered.

I hurriedly went up to my room and changed into a swimsuit Alice helped me pick out. It was a dark green two piece swimsuit. Looking at myself in the mirror, I can't help but blush and cover myself with my hands (as if that helped at all).

There's just no way I'll go walking around looking like this.

I quickly pulled a grey muscle tee and black hooded jacket over myself. I also put on a pair of black swim shorts before pulling a pair of black sweats over them so I can ride comfortably. I then packed a spare change of clothes into my backpack and slung it over my shoulder.

In the kitchen, Charlie had packed my cake in a box and handed it to me.

"Thanks. Gotta go, Charlie!"

Almost forgot. I grabbed my red balloon as well.

"RIDE SAFE!" Charlie calls out to me as I made my way to the garage. .

I whistled a tune as I approached my bike.

"Don't you look especially lovely today?" I complimented as I ran my fingers across the red paint job of the fuel tank. "Maybe because I get to finally ride you."

(A/N: Bella's bike is a Norton Commando 850)

I tied my balloon at its tail end and secured the box at the back of the bike with some rope. When I deemed it safe enough for the trip to the beach, I smiled to myself and finally mounted the bike. I sent a quick group text to Angela and the others that I won't be needing a ride and will meet them at the beach.

There was time until their designated meet up, and according to Google Maps, I could get there in about 20 mins. Instead of going at full speed, I let myself enjoy the ride, loving the feeling of independence riding solo gave me. Just as I arrived, I could see my friends parking their vehicles. I pressed on the horn to get their attention which was effective as they looked back at me.

I quickly parked next to them, and greeted them enthusiastically as I removed my helmet.

"Holy shit. That's hot," I heard Mike say.

"Nice bike," Tyler followed.

"Do you mind if I take a picture?" Eric asked me to which I nodded. "What's with the balloon?"

"My baby appreciates the compliments," I told Mike and Tyler. "Charlie gave it to me," I answered Eric, pointing at the balloon.

"Bella!" Angela called out to me as she hopped out of Mike's car. She then proceeded to give me a hug. "Happy Birthday!"

"Thank you," I replied.

"Wait a minute! Isn't this the bike that friend of yours came with?" Jessica asked as she came over as well.

"Yep! It's my present actually," I answered.

"That's a bit much to give to just a friend," Jessica said in a suggestive tone.

I rolled my eyes.

I haven't told them yet but I guess they have their suspicions.

"Even if I tried to give it back, she wouldn't let me," I replied. "On my last birthday, she bought me a bunch of expensive art supplies. I tried to pay her back, but I always found money magically appear in my bag or locker."

Being friends with El, I learned she was the type to give rather than receive. And even without her saying anything, I could tell El was rich despite living in a small apartment.

"Huh, so just a really nice friend," Jessica commented.

"She is."

I caught Lauren's gaze, who was sitting on the driver's seat. I assumed she drove Tyler's newly repaired van since his license was still confiscated. We nodded at each other in acknowledgment.

After the "almost dying debacle", Lauren had become more civil with me. If I could hazard a guess, it might be because I told Tyler to breathe easy since I told him Charlie will only be confiscating his license for a month or so. To my surprise, Tyler hugged and thanked me. He was almost crying too. I awkwardly patted him on the back, surprised and weirded out from the sudden action. I saw Lauren over his shoulder who gave me a look before looking away.

I guess she's thankful? That I didn't make a big deal out of things? It makes sense when you think about it. I know she likes Tyler.

Lunch with them became more chill without Lauren's snarky replies. It's nice.

After getting their bags, towels, and an ice box from their cars, we let the guys lead the way.

It was rather sunny out. A nice contrast to the cold wet weather in Forks. I smiled at the feel of sand getting in between my feet and flip flops as we walked some distance away.

[It's been so long since I've been near the sea.]

Me too. I could barely stand the heat and the sunburns after so I only went on occasion.

[The weather's quite nice for a dip.]

I guess.

[Come now, lass. At least swim for a while. It would be such a waste not to.]

Ugh...I'll think about it. Not making any promises.

Once we dropped our things on our spot, the guys wasted no time pulling out the water guns and shooting at each other.

We girls all looked at each other and shook our heads while proceeding to set up our things. Once we got the umbrellas and mats set up, as well as set aside our personal belongings to one side, Angela brought out the sunscreens and threw a bottle to each one of us. The girls started undressing, leaving only their swimsuits. I can't help but look away and busied myself with taking my own pants and jacket off, still leaving myself in my muscle tee and swim trunks.

I happened to notice them all staring at me.

"What?"

"Come on, Bella. No need to be shy," Jessica said in a teasing tone.

"I don't really plan on swimming anyways," I said with a shrug.

"I can see you're wearing a swimsuit nonetheless," Angela pointed out.

"Just in case you guys suddenly decide to throw me into the sea."

Just as the words left my mouth, I instantly regretted it as I saw the conspiratorial looks they shared with each other.

"W-wait...please don't throw me into the sea," I begged.

"Hmmm? What ever do you mean, Bella?" Lauren said, her eye twinkling as she shot me a smirk.

They all smiled mischievously at me which was all the response I needed to know that my fate was set in stone.

I groaned.

Me and my big mouth.

They shared a laugh while I busied myself in applying sunscreen on my arms and legs.

While the boys continued to play, the girls went to take a dip into the sea, leaving me to guard our stuff. I preoccupied myself with scrolling through my phone and listening to some tunes.

Tiny: How's it going, bestie?

Me: fine

Tiny: Having fun? :D

Me: i guess

Tiny: Are you wet?

I had to pull back away from my phone as I chuckled to myself, amused.

Me: flattered you think of me that way but i don't think Jasper will appreciate you sexting me

Tiny: I AM NOT!

Tiny: YOU PERV

Me: you can't expect me to stay quiet after texting me something like that

Tiny: Now I can't ask you for a swimsuit pic without you turning it against me ):(

Me: :P

Tiny: Can you still send one? Pretty please

Tiny: I wanna see if the swimsuit you picked fits you just as I imagined

Me: dude...

Me: GROSS

Me: you imagined me wearing a swimsuit?!

Tiny: Well I can't help it since you wouldn't let me inside the fitting room!

Me: because that's too much exposed skin for me to be sharing with another person in a small enclosed space

Tiny: That should be one of the perks of being your best friend :(

Me: No it's not

Tiny: Meh. That's fine. I have my ways ;)

I was about to ask but I doubt she'd tell me.

The others came after some time. Everyone was hungry and we immediately dug into the food Angela brought over from their diner. I also offered my birthday cake which we all consumed in no time.

"I know you said no presents," Angela began. "But we thought we should still get you something."

"I thought I told you not to bother?" I said.

"We know. But come on, birthday girl. It's your special day," Tyler said.

I sighed.

"Fine. I hope it's nothing expensive."

"Hardly," Lauren commented.

My gift was a dream catcher. It had the usual strings webbing and wrapping around a ring and feathers dangling.

"We know your truck still isn't fixed, but we thought you could hang it once you get it back," Mike explained. "Or maybe hang it in your bedroom."

"See? Nothing expensive," Angela said lightly. "We actually just picked it out on the way here on one of our stops."

"I still don't believe it actually works," Jessica stated.

"What works?"

"Well… the store we bought it from said it was legit," Eric explained. "Who knows? Maybe it is. The place was full of antiques and weird stuff."

"Oh really?" I said, looking at the dream catcher with interest.

"You mentioned you've been having weird dreams lately, so maybe it can help," Angela said.

"I'm sure it's just a sham," Jessica said. "But hey, whatever helps you sleep at night, right?"

"Thanks, guys."

I thought that was it, but Eric pulled out an album from his bag.

"I-I kinda also prepared something. Nothing special really. Just some pictures I've taken of us all since you've arrived in Forks," Eric said shyly as he handed it to me.

If I wasn't busy flipping through the album, I would have caught the slight glare Mike shot Eric's way.

I couldn't help but smile as I looked through the pictures. The others also joined and we laughed to ourselves when some pictures brought about particular funny stories.

Mike brought out a volleyball sometime later. Feeling bored and having sat long enough, I decided to join. We made a makeshift court by drawing lines on the sand and divided ourselves into two teams.

It was a nice exercise. I also took it as training of sorts. I adjusted my strength and speed as we played, careful not to hit the ball too strong and not to move too fast either. It's pretty troubling lately. I've already broken numerous pencils and brushes, I could cry.

[This is quite an effective training, lass.]

Right? And not gonna lie. I'm also having fun.

After some time, we took a water break and ate some snacks. I heard footsteps behind me but I didn't bother to look because I could tell it was the guys. I kept on munching on a sandwich, not knowing what was about to happen.

I suddenly felt squirts of water hitting my back. I immediately looked back to see the guys grinning down at me.

And suddenly.

*SPLASH

The girls each dumped a bucket of seawater on me.

I wiped the water off my face and moved the tendrils of hair sticking to my face as I looked up at them once again. This time, with a glare. They snickered at me as they looked down at my soaked figure. Lauren in particular was very much amused.

"You seemed a little parched sitting under the sun all day," Lauren said.

"Oh now you've done it!" I growled as I stood up and started an unofficial game of tag with them.

I could easily catch them but I found myself outnumbered. My so-called friends then each grabbed my arms and legs and started carrying me towards the sea. I protested and struggled but they kept going.

I closed my eyes and sighed as I felt my body being flung into salty water.

Once I finally surfaced, I shot them death glares as I marched to shore. They threw me satisfied smirks and cheered that they finally got me wet.

I crossed my arms in front of me as I held the hem of my soaked tee and pulled it off of me, with a bit of struggle, revealing the dark green swimsuit I was wearing. I decided to keep my swim shorts on.

I watched as they gaped at me in a mix of awe and surprise.

"Damn."

"Whoa."

"Holy shit."

"Girrrrlll."

"..."

"I didn't know you worked out?!"

I took advantage of their dazed reaction and picked up two of the water guns they left on the sand and began squirting at their faces. I laughed as they started running away from me, shielding themselves with their arms.

They retaliated not long after when they got their own water guns. A water gun fight ensued and in the middle of it, the others started throwing buckets of water at each other. After we ran out of water, I was still high on adrenaline and invited the guys for a swim. They didn't need too much convincing since we were all drenched at that point.

We all raced towards the sea and dove head first into the cool waters. We swam and soaked for a while. The boys proposed a swimming competition at some point to which I joined while the other girls spectated and judged.

It was fun.

We stayed at the beach well into the afternoon. It was still fairly sunny but we saw dark clouds on the horizon looming close so we started packing our things.

Just then, my nose picked up numerous scents closing in.

It was very familiar.

I whipped my head in their direction.

Shifters.

They were hard to miss as they were all in a group. They walked topless, revealing their tan skin and their muscles all bulging and flexing with minimal effort. Just like last time, they all wore jean shorts. Is that their pack uniform? Was that a thing?

They were walking this way. Their faces were all vaguely familiar from my not so pleasant encounter with them last time. Among the approaching pack, my attention was caught by one face I was very familiar with.

"Hey, Bella. We're done packing," Angela said to me. "Let's head out."

"Uhh...yeah. You guys go first," I told her.

She looked at me in confusion.

"I...I just wanna talk to a friend first," I told her.

Her gaze landed on them.

"Friends of yours?"

"No. Just one," I clarified.

Just then, Jessica came.

"Hey! What's taking you so long?"

Just as I was about to reply, I sensed them just a few feet away from us.

"Oh my god," Jessica let out as her eyes fell on the pack of shifters. "Who are they?"

My other friends joined as well which made me groan internally. They looked confused and stared wide eyed at the approaching group.

"Well well well. Look who's back," game a gruff voice behind me.

I closed my eyes for a moment and heaved a sigh. I turned around and faced them with a tight smile.

"We were just leaving," I said.

"Wha- not until I introduce myself first," Jessica said indignantly. She approached them, much to my shock, and flashed them a charming smile. "Hi there! I'm Jessica. It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Oh god," I muttered.

Jessica's smile immediately dropped as she was met with Sam's glowering gaze. She instinctively took a step back when Sam's towering imposing figure approached her. I pulled Jessica behind me and got in between them.

I leveled Sam's glare with my own.

"We were just leaving," I repeated.

This was still their territory despite it being open to the public. I can sense they didn't think too kindly to our presence. Well, mine in particular. I saw several of them looking my way earlier.

"Good to know," Sam replied. "Now run along, little girls."

Talk about hospitality. Their unwelcoming attitude really irked me.

"What's your problem man!?" Mike suddenly came forward.

Shit.

[Not good.]

I looked back to my friends.

"Stop it, Mike!" I scolded him. He looked at me in surprise because I rarely ever raised my voice at them. "Just go ahead. Please. Just...I just wanna talk to one of them and I'll come right after."

They looked hesitant to leave me alone but they did, carrying the rest of our things. Angela stayed for a moment and squeezed my shoulder before running after the rest.

I sighed in relief.

I turned back my attention to them, my eyes landing on my friend at the back of the group. He caught my gaze and looked away.

"I smell them on you," Sam commented with a sniff.

I furrowed my brows.

Was that why they were all paying attention to me since earlier?

I had an idea what he meant but I feigned ignorance.

I made a sniffing gesture at myself.

"Fish? Well I did go on a swim earlier," I replied.

He shot me a scrutinizing gaze.

[He's probably trying to figure out if you know something.]

You think so too?

"Can I talk to Jacob? Please?" I spoke up, making my voice uncharacteristically sickly sweet.

I saw Jacob flinch in my peripheral.

"Jacob," Sam called out.

Jacob reluctantly walked to the front and stood beside Sam.

As soon as he was in front of me. I realized something. He smelled just like the rest of them.

"Hey, Bella," he greeted me awkwardly.

"Hi."

I eyed Sam and the others.

"Can we go somewhere a little bit private?" I asked him. "To talk."

"Whatever you have to say to him, you can say it right here," Sam suddenly interjected.

"What are you? His boyfriend?" I snapped.

The rest of the back erupted into snorts of laughter. Sam immediately shut them up with a growl. Like an actual nonhuman growl.

I chose not to comment and just focused my attention on Jacob.

"So what brings you here?" Jacob asked me.

"We came to celebrate my birthday."

His eyes widened.

"Uhh...I see. Happy Birthday, Bella."

"You would have been invited if you just answered one of my calls. Not even one damn text."

It would be a lie if I said I didn't enjoy how guilty he looked.

"I'm sorry. I was...busy."

"Busy," I repeated, clearly not impressed.

He looked guilty as he avoided my gaze.

[He's one of them now, lass.]

Oh yeah. I can tell. The jean shorts certainly gave it away.

Now that I look at him with his pack, I guess he has been busy. He must have been preoccupied with getting used to this whole shifting business. I felt my annoyance and anger these past days dissipate as I now understood he was having his own struggles. It sure it wasn't easy getting thrown into this whole supernatural world so suddenly.

I took a deep breath and exhaled. I then offered him a small smile.

"I see. You were busy. But still…"

He flinched, as well as the rest of the pack, when he saw my hand shot up to his head.

"Dude, how could you cut your hair without telling me? I didn't even get the chance to braid it," I complained as I messed up his hair with my hand. "You suck."

Even with the bronze color of his skin, I can tell he was blushing.

I smirked at his bewildered expression. I guess he was expecting me to get angry at him.

"I'm sorry. I-" he didn't finish as the whole pack snapped their attention to the figure behind me.

I was confused at their defensiveness. They had all walked a little bit closer, their eyes glowering and jaws clenched together.

It took me just a second to realize as my brain finally registered the scent.

"What's taking you so long, Swan?"

My eyes widened at the voice.

I turned my head so fast I caught whiplash.

What the hell?!

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