I’D NEVER GIVEN MUCH THOUGHT TO DYING—THOUGH I’D HAD REASON enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I wouldn’t have imagined it like this.
I stared across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and she looked pleasantly back at me.
At least it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.
I knew that if I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be about to die now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.
The hunter smiled in a friendly way as she sauntered forward to kill me.
1. FIRST SIGHT
January 17, 2005
MY MOM DROVE ME TO THE AIRPORT WITH THE WINDOWS ROLLED DOWN. Though it was January everywhere else, it was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, and the sky was bright blue. I had on my favorite t-shirt—the Monty Python one with the swallows and the coconut that Mom got me two Christmases ago. It didn’t quite fit anymore, but that didn’t matter. I wouldn’t be needing t-shirts again soon.
In the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains on this insignificant town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its depressing gloom that my mom escaped with me when I was only a few months old. It was in this town that I’d been forced to spend a month every summer until I was fourteen. That was the year I finally started making ultimatums; these past three summers, my dad, Charlie, vacationed with me in California for two weeks instead.
Yet somehow, I now found myself exiled to Forks for the rest of my high school education. A year and a half. Eighteen months. It felt like a prison sentence. Eighteen months, hard time. When I slammed the car door behind me, it made a sound like the clang of iron bars locking into place.
Okay, just a tad melodramatic there. I have an overactive imagination, as my mom was fond of telling me. And, of course, this was my choice. Self-imposed exile.
Didn’t make it any easier.
I loved Phoenix. I loved the sun and the dry heat and the big, sprawling city. And I loved living with my mom, where I was needed.
“You don’t have to do this,” my mom said to me—the last of a hundred times—just before I got to the TSA post.
My mom says we look so much alike that I could use her for a shaving mirror. It’s not entirely true, though I don’t look much like my dad at all. Her chin is pointy and her lips full, which is not like me, but we do have exactly the same eyes. On her they’re childlike—so wide and pale blue—which makes her look like my sister rather than my mom. We get that all the time and though she pretends not to, she loves it. On me the pale blue is less youthful and more… unresolved.
Staring at those wide, worried eyes so much like my own, I felt panicked. I’d been taking care of my mom for my whole life. I mean, I’m sure there must have been a time, probably when I was still in diapers, that I wasn’t in charge of the bills and paperwork and cooking and general level-headedness, but I couldn’t remember it.
Was leaving my mom to fend for herself really the right thing to do? It had seemed like it was, during the months I’d struggled toward this decision. But it felt all kinds of wrong now.
Of course she had Phil these days, so the bills would probably get paid on time, there would be food in the fridge, gas in the car, and someone to call when she got lost.… She didn’t need me as much anymore.
“I want to go,” I lied. I’d never been a good liar, but I’d been saying this lie so much lately that it almost sounded convincing now.
“Tell Charlie I said hi.”
“I’ll see you soon,” she promised. “You can come home whenever you want—I’ll come right back as soon as you need me.”
But I knew what it would cost her to do that.
“Don’t worry about me,” I insisted. “It’ll be great. I love you, Mom.”
She hugged me tightly for a minute, and then I walked through the metal detectors, and she was gone.
It’s a three-hour flight from Phoenix to Seattle, another hour in a small plane up to Port Angeles, and then an hour drive back down to Forks. Flying’s never bothered me; the hour in the car with Charlie, though, I was a little worried about.
Charlie had really been pretty decent about the whole thing. He seemed genuinely pleased that I was coming to live with him sort of permanently for the first time. He’d already gotten me registered for high school, and was going to help me get a car.
But it would be awkward. Neither of us was what you’d call extroverted—probably a necessary thing for living with my mother. But aside from that, what was there to say? It wasn’t like I’d kept the way I felt about Forks a secret.
When I landed in Port Angeles, it was raining. It wasn’t an omen, just inevitable. I’d said my goodbyes to the sun.
Charlie was waiting for me with the cruiser. This I was expecting, too. Charlie is Police Chief Swan to the good people of Forks. My primary motivation behind buying a car, despite my serious lack of funds, was that I hated driving around town in a car with red and blue lights on top. Nothing slows down traffic like a cop.
I stumbled off the plane into Charlie’s awkward, one-armed hug.
“It’s good to see you, Beau,” he said, smiling as he automatically steadied me. We patted each other’s shoulders, embarrassed, and then stepped back. “You haven’t changed much. How’s Renée?”