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School started and I found myself exhausted, but loving it. Jessica Stanley and I were co-teaching her literature class for the first month, and things were going well. She was gracious about sharing her space, and I felt like we could become great friends.
I passed Edward in the hallway from time to time, but we didn’t see each other very often during school days. It was silly, but being a teacher in a high school wasn’t that different from being a student, in that you really didn’t want to see the principal.
Weeks passed, and I was glad to be going to work every day. Each morning, the alarm clock’s beeping forced me out of bed. I was doing better, trying to focus on my future, but there were days when I would have stayed in bed if there wasn’t a classroom full of teenagers waiting for me. They reminded me that life was all one giant cycle. When you finish high school it’s both an end and a beginning. I had to learn to look at my current situation the same way.
Jessica worked up until her due date and I realized that five weeks had slipped by. More than that, I realized that Alice had been with me for almost three months. I began to wonder if she was really planning to stay until I asked her to leave. Not that I minded having her around, because I didn’t. She kept busy while I was at work. She cleaned the cottage and unpacked my boxes—respectfully leaving Garrett’s things for me. She shopped, finding knick-knacks and unique things to accessorize the cottage, and managed to make friends with most of the population of Forks and Port Angeles in her wanderings.
It was all very nice, but also very unlike her. She had been driven since the day I met her, always working towards a goal: internships, graduation, her first job. Alice always had a plan. Yet as she sipped wine with me in the evenings and puttered around the Olympic Peninsula, she had no plan that I could see.
And then I caught her on the phone talking to her father’s secretary, Siobhan. Alice was discussing plans to box up her belongings and have them stored. Someone was going to drive her Porsche up from Phoenix. I was shocked. Alice never took anything from her father if she didn’t have to. He paid for college and bought her car and she accepted an occasional extravagant gift, but for the most part Alice Brandon lived her own life. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him, or even like him for that matter, because she did, very much, but she never wanted to ride on his coattails or use his name to get ahead.
Alice’s father, Benjamin, had been a music producer in the 70’s. He’d racked up a fortune by finding and promoting up and coming acts in the Los Angeles club scene. The stories he told and the photo albums he showed us were like a strange mix of Boogie Nights and Almost Famous full of groupies and bars, drugs and booze, and scantily clad women. Central to most of his stories and pictures was Alice’s mother, Tia. Benjamin heard her singing in a small lounge one night and fell head over heels in love, begging to produce her music and help her make it big. She’d laughed and said thanks but no thanks, then asked him to dinner.
Dinner turned into drinks at a club while he scouted a band, then breakfast in bed and their story began. Tia never cut a record, singing was just a hobby to her, and through her Benjamin began to understand that there was more to life than music. They settled down, got married, and had Alice, though not necessarily in that order.
They lived a charmed life, raising their child with one foot in the club scene and the other in suburbia until Alice was eight and her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
They moved to Phoenix to be closer to Tia’s parents. Benjamin bought a gorgeous house in a gated neighborhood, but while Tia was going through treatments, and in the end when she was in the hospital and hospice care, Alice lived with her grandparents; my neighbors.
My mom marched right over and introduced us, delivering a vegetarian casserole like that was something you did when someone’s grandchild came for a visit. Alice had given me this look, like ‘is she serious?’ I shrugged, then gave her a warning head shake when mom asked if anyone was hungry, and that was it. We were best friends. I stood with her family at her mother’s funeral and helped her pack the house when her grandmother died and her grandfather went into assisted care. She’d held me when I cried after my last trip to Forks and, on several occasions, she’d offered to help me kill my mother and hide her body when Renee had done something particularly ridiculous or irresponsible. We’d been together through so many things that it was hard to imagine life without her.
Despite having been apart for two years, I felt like I knew Alice better than almost anyone, but the conversation I overheard made no sense. It sounded like she was moving to Forks—for good—and I didn’t know why. I thought I was doing well enough, making friends and putting one foot in front of the other each morning, that she should be considering going home or back to the cruise line.
I hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but I found myself rooted to my spot in the hallway as she finished up her call. She slipped her phone in her pocket and turned around, gasping when she saw me.
“Bells! You scared me!”
“Sorry.” I leaned my shoulder against the wall and tried to look like I wasn’t freaking out. “What’s going on? Was that Siobhan?”
“What? Oh, yeah. She’s just taking care of some things for me in Phoenix.”
I raised an eyebrow. She knew that I was on to her.
“Please don’t be mad.”
“What’s going on? Why would I be mad?”
She wrung her hands together in front of her. It was one of the most un-Alice like things I’d ever seen.
“I’m moving up here for good.” I nodded. I’d already gotten that out of the phone conversation. “And I’m buying a bookstore. With Jasper. I’m going to move in with him.”
“Did you just say you’re buying a bookstore with Jasper and moving to Port Angeles?”
“He actually lives in Forks. Well, just outside of Forks. He inherited this house from his parents… Sorry, there’s time for all of that later. But, yes. That’s what I said.”
“How? When? Jasper?” I was shocked. Completely shocked. “Is this what you want?”
She nodded, grinning. “It is. I want it so much. We’re in love.”
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