Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 3)

“Wow, Dad, it’s awesome! Thanks!” Serious enthusiasm this time. Not only was the truck strangely cool, but now I wouldn’t have to walk two miles in the rain to school in the morning. Or accept a ride in the cruiser, which was obviously worst-case scenario.

“I’m glad you like it,” Charlie said gruffly, embarrassed again.

It took only one trip to get all my stuff upstairs. I got the west bedroom that faced out over the front yard. The room was familiar; it had belonged to me since I was born. The wooden floor, the light blue walls, the peaked ceiling, the faded blue-and-white checked curtains around the window—these were all a part of my childhood. The only changes Charlie had ever made were switching the crib for a bed and adding a desk as I grew. The desk now held a secondhand computer, with the phone line for the modem stapled along the floor to the nearest phone jack. This was one of my mother’s requirements, so that we could stay in touch. The rocking chair from my baby days was still in the corner.

There was only one small bathroom at the top of the stairs, which I would have to share with Charlie, but I’d had to share with my mom before, and that was definitely worse. She had a lot more stuff, and she doggedly resisted all my attempts to organize any of it.

One of the best things about Charlie is he doesn’t hover. He left me alone to unpack and get settled, which would have been totally impossible for my mom. It was nice to be alone, not to have to smile and look comfortable; a relief to stare out the window at the sheeting rain and let my thoughts get dark.

Forks High School had just three hundred and fifty-seven—now fifty-eight—students; there were more than seven hundred people in my junior class alone back home. All of the kids here had grown up together—their grandparents had been toddlers together. I would be the new kid from the big city, something to stare at and whisper about.

Maybe if I had been one of the cool kids, I could make this work for me. Come in all popular, homecoming king–styles. But there was no hiding the fact that I was not that guy—not the football star, not the class president, not the bad boy on the motorcycle. I was the kid who looked like he should be good at basketball, until I started walking. The kid who got shoved into lockers until I’d suddenly shot up eight inches sophomore year. The kid who was too quiet and too pale, who didn’t know anything about gaming or cars or baseball statistics or anything else I was supposed to be into.

Unlike the other guys, I didn’t have a ton of free time for hobbies. I had a checkbook to balance, a clogged drain to snake, and a week’s groceries to shop for.

Or I used to.

So I didn’t relate well to people my age. Maybe the truth was that I didn’t relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I was closest to of anyone on the planet, never really understood me. Sometimes I wondered if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Like, maybe what I saw as green was what everyone else saw as red. Maybe I smelled vinegar when they smelled coconut. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain.

But the cause didn’t matter. All that mattered was the effect. And tomorrow would be just the beginning.

I didn’t sleep well that night, even after I finally got my head to shut up. The constant whooshing of the rain and wind across the roof wouldn’t fade into the background. I pulled the old quilt over my head, and later added the pillow, too. But I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight, when the rain finally settled into a quiet drizzle.

Thick fog was all I could see out my window in the morning, and I could feel the claustrophobia creeping up on me. You could never see the sky here; it was like that prison cage I’d imagined.

Breakfast with Charlie was quiet. He wished me good luck at school. I thanked him, knowing his hope was a waste of time. Good luck tended to avoid me. Charlie left first, off to the police station that was his wife and family. After he left, I sat at the old square oak table in one of the three unmatching chairs and stared at the familiar kitchen, with its dark paneled walls, bright yellow cabinets, and white linoleum floor. Nothing had changed. My mom had painted the cabinets eighteen years ago, trying to bring some sunshine into the house. Over the small fireplace in the adjoining, microscopic family room was a row of pictures. First a wedding picture of Charlie and my mom in Las Vegas, then one of the three of us in the hospital after I was born, taken by a helpful nurse, followed by the procession of my school pictures up to this year’s. Those were embarrassing to look at—the bad haircuts, the braces years, the acne that had finally cleared up. I would have to see what I could do to get Charlie to put them somewhere else, at least while I was living here.

It was impossible, being in this house, not to realize that Charlie had never gotten over my mom. It made me uncomfortable.

I didn’t want to be too early to school, but I couldn’t stay in the house anymore. I put on my jacket—thick, non-breathing plastic, like a biohazard suit—and headed out into the rain.

It was just drizzling still, not enough to soak me through immediately as I reached for the house key that was always hidden under the eave by the door, and locked up. The sloshing of my new waterproof boots sounded weird. I missed the normal crunch of gravel as I walked.

Inside the truck, it was nice and dry. Either Bonnie or Charlie had obviously cleaned it up, but the tan upholstered seats still smelled faintly of tobacco, gasoline, and peppermint. The engine started quickly, which was a relief, but loudly, roaring to life and then idling at top volume. Well, a truck this old was bound to have a flaw. The antique radio worked, a bonus I hadn’t expected.


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