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Habitat for love

Summary:
Edward is running, broken from a past relationship. Bella is searching, trying to find a place where she truly belongs. Both feeling pessimistic and jaded, they head to a third-world country to volunteer their time. Will the place they travel to escape be the place they truly find happiness?


Notes:
Disclaimer: No copyright infringment intended. The characters belong to SM. all the plot are belong to us.


1. Chapter 1

Rating 5/5   Word Count 7641   Review this Chapter

Habitat for Love

Chapter 01 - Decisions

“So, are we all going then?” Carlisle looked around the massive dining room table at his family, making eye contact with each member individually. Everyone nodded in agreement save for his son Edward who continued to sit stiffly, looking at his hands folded together on the table in front of him. So much like he himself was at that age, so trusting and full of good intentions. Carlisle couldn’t help but feel sorry for his middle son and the recent pain of heartbreak that he had to endure. Carlisle’s wife Esme stood silently from her chair and walked over to her husband. She put her arm gracefully around his waist and hugged him in a brief show of support before she addressed their son’s hesitation.

“Edward,” she began, her obvious love for her son showing in her eyes, “I know leaving so soon after the whole Tanya incident is horrible timing, but your father and I must go. Because of the situation in Honduras, so many important projects are not being completed. People are continuing to live without roofs over their heads and the longer we wait, the worse it’s going to get. We have been donating money to this organization for years now; we believe this time that it is important enough to give ourselves. We need to go, and we need to go now.

We would love for you to join us, however if you are not comfortable with leaving right now we will respect your decision.” Esme left her husband’s side, gracefully stepping to stand behind her son’s chair. She lovingly put her hands on his shoulders and gently rubbed them as a show of her support. She made eye contact over his head with her oldest son and looked at him, imploring him to help snap his younger brother out of his funk.

“Listen little bro, you gotta snap out of this.” Emmett leaned forward putting his hands on the table as he made eye contact with his younger brother who sat just across from him. He briefly looked up at his mother, when he saw that she was nodding her approval, he continued. “We all tried to warn you about Tanya. She was never one of us. You need to find someone who gives just as much of herself to you, as you gave to her. She was all ‘take take take’. That was never your style; you deserve much better than that.” Emmett leaned back in his chair moving his massive arm around the back of his wife Rosalie’s chair.

“I know Emmett.” Edward said through grated teeth. He hated acknowledging the fact that he was wrong. To acknowledge that everyone else was right in the same breath stung twice as much. “I should have listened to all of you when you told me how wrong she was. I know I need to move on and that this might be just the thing to help me do just that. Maybe I will join you, if they can use an extra set of hands. I’ll see if the hospital here can do without dad and me for awhile.” Edward looked over at his father for confirmation.

“It’s already been taken care of son. I was hoping that you would join us. We are both free for the next month.” Carlisle placed both hands on the table and leaned forward to try to take his youngest child’s attention away from her laptop. “Alice,” Carlisle addressed her from across the table, “can I count on you to organize the travel arrangements for us? We’ll leave as soon as possible.” Alice barely looked up from her laptop screen and nodded, beaming at her father as he placed his trust in her with this responsibility. She quickly turned her attention back to her laptop, already getting to work on their travel plans.

“Dad, are you sure it’s safe for the women to go with us?” Emmett addressed his question to his father, but his eyes never left his wife’s breathtaking face.

Rose smiled back at her husband and leaned into his shoulder. Being five months pregnant did not make for the best travel plans, but she knew in her heart she would be following her husband, it didn’t matter when or where he went.

“Of course Emmett. Even though we will be working in the surrounding villages, we will be staying in a large city with hospitals run by American mission organizations, and we will be joining other groups there as well, so we will have a larger number. It would depend on Rose, of course and how she is feeling. I also expect before we leave that you will ask Dr. Wayans for his approval first. Although, I must insist that if he says no, then that’s the final answer. Be assured, I will put my foot down on this, you two.” Carlisle’s voice was stern, but his face held only concern for his eldest son and only daughter-in-law. With two previous miscarriages, Rose and Emmett were very cautious with this pregnancy; taking no chances. Having made it this far, the whole family knew what a blessing this baby would be to the family when it finally arrived.

“Dad, there aren't any direct flights into Tegucigalpa, but Steve says there will be other groups meeting up in Houston this Friday and will be flying from Houston to Tegucigalpa as one big group. Alberto and his wife Anna will be meeting everyone at the airport on the Honduran side to take us to Catacamas.” Alice spoke the whole conversation simultaneously as she typed, never breaking her eye contact from the computer screen.

“Alice, I trust you can make these decisions. I also would like for you to begin organizing to have some items shipped directly there. Your mother has already had the Women’s Auxiliary from Forks Memorial set up donation boxes so those will need to be shipped there as well.” Carlisle looked over at his wife and smiled before turning his attention back to their daughter. “Can you help your mother with that task?” Carlisle looked at Alice with a question in his eyes.

“I’ll have it done by the end of today.” Alice said, only briefly looking at her father as she continued to type.

“Excellent. We seem to have this all down to a science.” Carlisle’s face showed his pride for his family as much as his words. “I’ll leave you all to your packing. Alice, you will email us the information and departure times?” At his daughter’s nod, Carlisle dismissed the group. He looked over at Edward and addressed his middle child again, “Edward, if I may have a moment with you?” Walking around to the edge of the table he gave his wife a kiss before patting his son on the shoulder to lead him outside as the group dispersed.

“What can I help you with dad?” Edward’s confusion wasn’t lost in his voice.

“It’s not what you can help me with; it’s what I want to help you with. I want you to know that I am here for you son, if you ever need to talk. Edward, things are going to be more difficult with Rose being there, I would like for either you or I to be nearby her at all times, just in case. I trust her completely and we could really use the extra hands, even if she is somewhat limited. I just want to make sure that if Rose needs any medical attention that you or I are there to give it to her. Also, I wanted to make sure that you are comfortable with her going with Emmett. I know it’s not easy to see them together, it must sting a bit for you and Alice to see them so happy.” Carlisle’s voice trailed off as Edward cleared his throat.

“I’ll stick close by her, don’t worry about that dad. I’m happy for Emmett and Rose. I’m thrilled that they are finally getting the family they deserve. What I need right now is a place to lick my wounds. I was seriously thinking of taking a vacation anyway. I just need to get away from Washington for awhile, since this trip came up, it fits right in. What better place to hide than Honduras?” Edward sat down heavily at the solid oak picnic table that sat outside.

“I’m proud of you son. You have so much to give of yourself. Maybe this is exactly what you need.” Carlisle sat down opposite his son as they continued to talk about the upcoming trip. They were soon joined by Alice and her ever present laptop.

“Guess what? My online friend from Florida, the one I keep telling you all about? She thinks her Habitat for Humanity group is going to be in the same region as us. I might actually get to meet her there.” Alice looked so happy, practically bouncing up and down on the wooden bench that Edward couldn’t help but smile. She didn’t even try to hide her excitement.

“Alice, only you could make friends with a complete stranger that you’ve never met. How do you get yourself into these things?” Edward nudged his younger sister playfully as he glanced at her laptop screen.

“Silly, I met her in a chat room that was set up by a responsible charitable organization. I have been chatting with her for almost a year now and she seems more like family than a stranger. Besides, I’ve done my research and I like the work that the group she’s with has done. I even talked dad into making a donation to their group.” Alice chirped away as she typed.

“Define ‘their’ for me Alice.” Edward looked over at his father, hoping that he would join in on his side to help Alice see how ridiculous she was being.

“Don’t be a jerk Edward, 'their’ is my friend Isabella and her friend Jasper. They have been doing charity work since graduating last June, just like me. Why do you always have to be such a snob?” Alice looked over at her brother with an incredulous look on her face. “Sometimes I can’t believe we are really related.” Alice shook her head sadly and went back to her typing.

“That’s enough you two.” Carlisle decided to jump in before they started bickering like teenagers.

“Well, at any rate, she’s going to be down there and I am going to meet her face to face. I can’t believe that I am flying all the way to Honduras to meet someone from Jacksonville.” Alice laughed briefly with her father while her brother continued to stare at her.

“Do you even know what she looks like?” Edward asked, still not trusting Alice’s computer.

“Well, the photos we sent over the internet are not that great. I think she has issues though because in every single picture she sent me, like all three of them, she is turned away from the camera. It’s almost like she’s hiding from it.” Alice pulled up the pictures and turned the computer screen to show them to her father and brother. “See, this is her right here.” She said while pointing.

Sure enough, the figure in the first picture was turned, hair flying to one side. She had obviously seen the camera and turned too late to have her face in the picture. The second picture was no better; the girl was now looking down at her shoes. The third one showed her face and what might have been a smile, but it was mostly hidden behind a curtain of brown hair.

“Alice, you can barely see her in any of these pictures. How can you trust someone who won’t even take a proper picture of herself?” Edward shoved the computer back toward his younger sister.

“She’s just shy Edward. She doesn’t like her picture being taken that’s all.” Alice defended her friendship even though she had never met the girl in the photograph.

“Really? How do you know she’s not in the witness protection program, or better yet what if she’s wanted by the FBI?” Edward’s case made valid points, but Alice was having none of it and looked toward her father for help.

“Edward really? How many criminals do you know would volunteer their time in a third world country filled with poverty?” Carlisle gently admonished his son.

“I personally don’t know any criminals. But I do know that it sounds like a perfect place for a criminal to go and lay low.” He said leaning forward, still not trusting their judgment.

“WOW!” Alice exclaimed, tired of seeing her friend maligned even though she herself still had yet to meet her. “Tanya must have really done a number on your heart. Are you ever going to trust anyone ever again Edward or are you just going to keep adding to that wall of yours brick by brick? You know, you’re right. Maybe this trip is just what you need to start trusting people and opening yourself up again.”

“No, I don’t think that’s the answer. I'm going on this trip to get away from people for a while, women in particular. And maybe it’s time you stopped being so trusting and held back a little. Maybe you should be more protective and maybe even start a wall to keep yourself away from preying people like this.” Edward tapped the laptop.

“You’re wrong Edward. I’m going to prove it to you. You’re just so wrong.” Alice slammed the screen of her laptop down with much more force than was necessary and then winced. “Now look what you made me do. I swear Edward. You need to start joining the living again. Why are you letting Tanya’s betrayal still affect you like this? Can’t you move on and forget about her?”

“I’m sorry Alice,” Edward began, realizing that his sister wanted only what was best for him. “You’re right. I promise to try very hard to work on my obvious resentment and to start trusting people again.”

“Good. It’s a start at least. Now, I am going to go inside and try to upgrade Emmett’s and Rose’s seat to a first class one, at least for the trip to Houston.” Alice reached for her laptop swinging her legs around to get out of the picnic bench.

“Edward, all any of us can ask of you is to at least try.” Carlisle spoke directly to his son.

“Yeah. Well I promise I will try. After all, it’s not like I am going to meet the woman of my dreams in some third world country.” Edward reached over grabbing Alice’s laptop to hand it to her as they all stood to go back inside to start packing.

**********

Bella Swan sat cross legged on her bed, staring at her computer screen as she waited for a response from her online friend. She was nervous about their upcoming trip, but she expected to feel something more. Even with Jasper’s calming presence accompanying her to Honduras, she wished she felt more at ease. At odds with herself since graduation, she just wished that she would feel, more, what? Excitement? Accomplishment? Bella couldn’t quite place exactly what she was looking for.

Regardless of her current train of thought, she knew that whatever it was she was looking for, she was unlikely to find it in the Honduran countryside. “Is there even civilization in Honduras”, Bella thought to herself, “or is it just a big expanse of nothingness?” Nothingness might be fitting, as that would be a good description for how she frequently felt about her daily life right now. Post-graduation life definitely hadn't turned out like she expected.

Since graduation day, Bella had been fighting off a general sense of unease. She knew what she wanted out of life, she just didn’t know how to go about getting it. That thought left her whole being with a dark cloud over her life. The one bright spot was her relationship with Jasper.

He always knew just what to say to cheer her up. Jasper had always known just what to say and do to bring her out of her funk. She had tried dating him for a few months back in their freshman year of college. That was a mistake quickly rectified as they both realized that they made far better friends than lovers. Ever since then they had become best friends and had an easy camaraderie with each other.

Jasper was the one person who truly ‘knew’ Bella. There was no way she would have agreed to go on this adventure with anyone else. Just as if he were materializing out of her thoughts, Jasper walked back into her bedroom with a plate full of sandwiches. He held it out to her silently and she gratefully took one, not caring where the crumbs fell. She chewed as the computer chimed and managed a smile as she sent back a response.

“So, what’s happening in cyberspace that’s finally turned your frown upside down?” Jasper smirked as he sat down on the bed opposite of her placing the plate between them.

“Well, as it turns out, the girl I’ve been chatting with? Alice? Her whole family is joining a group that is going to be down there the same time as we are. I might actually get to meet her face to face.” Bella’s face finally showed a hint of a smile, Jasper jumped on it. He let her ramble on and on about her online friend and all that they had talked about for the next few hours.

Jasper was worried about Bella. Ever since she broke up with her boyfriend of 2 years, she had been despondent. Jasper saw it coming but like a train wreck was powerless to stop it. Her relationship with Alec had become stagnant and stale. It was old and getting older. There was nothing there between Bella and Alec but a comfortable sense of familiarity. Unfortunately for Bella, Alec had already had a beautiful woman waiting in the wings for him.

Alec’s new girlfriend, Jane, was the antonym of plain, where Bella was the synonym. At least, that was how she saw herself. If she would just dig a little deeper inside herself, she would see all that she had the potential to be. It was true that their lives seemed anticlimactic right now, but Jasper saw nothing wrong with that. Bella, as content as she was with her lot in life, was always searching for the elusive something special. That one special place where she felt like she finally fit in and belonged. She never second-guessed herself, and once she had a decision made, she didn’t waiver from it, instead going along until it had run its course. Her relationship with Alec was a perfect example. Her relationship with her mother Renee was another.

Jasper knew that Bella’s relationship with her mother was strained at best. Where Bella looked out for others, Renee’s first thought was only of herself. In fact, Renee’s first, last and every thought in between were of herself. He knew that they loved each other dearly, but that was all they had in common. Renee was as flighty as Bella was grounded. Where her mother had never wanted to put down roots, Bella’s body ached to be firmly planted somewhere where her soul could be nurtured and allowed to grow. He knew that Bella carefully avoided conversations with her mother beyond polite notes and messages. Not because she didn’t love her, as Bella loved her mother dearly. But she could barely tolerate Renee’s latest flight of fancy and instead of confronting her, Bella choose to let her mother be.

“By the way, while I was downstairs, your mother asked where you were going to store all your stuff while you were gone. I think she wants to make sure you take it all with you.” Jasper picked up another sandwich ripping off the crust, then placing it back on the plate before biting into the sandwich. Without hesitation, Bella picked up the crust and began munching on it. It was one of their many comfortable rituals that had developed over time.

They looked around her sparsely furnished bedroom sharing a laugh as they ate. Bella didn’t really have a lot of ‘stuff’. Moving from city to city with her mother and then going through college, there never seemed to be a point in collecting ‘stuff’. In hindsight, she probably should have stayed with her father in Washington. Then her ‘stuff’ wouldn’t be a concern for her mother. “She’s only worried that if my stuff is here, she’s going to have to stay here with it. I’ll email my dad and ask him if I can store it with him in Washington. Maybe I can ship everything to his house. At least he’s been in the same state since birth.” Bella’s voice was strong but Jasper could tell the underlying tension was there.

She hated to think she was anything like the flighty and rootless Renee, but that was exactly the feeling that she was trying to avoid. It was a pretty easy decision for Bella to join this trip. The decision was even easier once Bella knew that her online friend was going. Jasper could have hugged the computer as well as Bella’s online friend for making this trip easier. He probably would have too, if he didn’t think Bella would get suspicious of him hugging a chunk of machinery. Bella just desperately wanted to find out where she belonged in the world and contribute something to it.

“How is Charlie these days? Didn’t you say he was running for an election or something?” Jasper picked up another half a sandwich again pulling the crusts off, handing them to Bella and knowing that she would eat them. She would never waste food.

“Yeah, and he won believe it or not. He’s now the Sheriff of Clallam County in Washington State; a nice promotion from the Chief of Police in Port Angeles. At least Charlie is doing something he loves.” Bella sighed as she opened up her email account to email her dad.

“Bells, snap out of it. We’ll go on this trip and you can figure out where your life is headed after we get back. We’re going to leave this Friday right? So, let’s pack up our crap and get started on this trip already.” Jasper leaned over and hugged his friend briefly before getting up to go.

*************

Edward was in his room packing, thinking over the events of the past few months. He walked over to the cd player, set it to randomly play, then moved to the queen size bed sitting down heavily on it. He would have given anything to have his small twin size bed back. Esme had made changes in his old bedroom as soon as he asked Tanya to marry him, the same as she did when Emmett had asked Rose years ago.

One by one their old bedrooms were becoming guest suites as Esme looked forward to family reunions with all her children and future grandchildren. Meaning only to welcome Rose and Tanya into the house, she hadn’t considered how profound the changes really were. But then again she probably wasn’t planning on either of her sons being dumped by their fiancé after they were found in bed with another man.

Never one to make Esme feel bad about changing his old bedroom, he let it go and kept it how she had redone it. He was now stuck with a massive bed that was just too big for one person and that felt alien and cold to him. Like all mothers, Esme had only Edward’s best intentions in mind so he couldn’t fault her for that, he realized as he stood to finish packing.

Of course, no one from his family would give voice to their fear that Edward was just a step on Tanya’s staircase and he would be discarded as soon as something better came along. Rather, his family only cautioned, time and again he realized, for him to just make sure that asking Tanya to marry him was exactly what he wanted. He thought back and wondered just when did his life get so complicated?

He tried to think back to everything his family ever said about Tanya, sadly he had to admit, they were right all along. In fact, he had to give them some credit. They all let him know he needed to get over her, but not one of them said ‘I told you so’, although he was pretty sure that Alice and Emmett were thinking it.

How had he let himself get sucked into such a horrific relationship with someone so superficial? He had always prided himself on being able to read people well and on making friends with good quality people. He always told himself that he would never become “that guy”, the one that lets a woman get her claws into him and has nothing more to offer him than being nice arm-candy. The woman he always planned to give his heart to was supposed to be someone his family would love instantly, someone he could be proud of. Someone who could just look at him and smile for no reason at all other than she loved him as much as he loved her.

This whole situation had turned his emotions upside down and left Edward questioning everything he ever thought about women and relationships. He wondered if he really was as good at judging someone's character as he used to believe he was. One thing he knew for sure was that the next time he would not give his heart away so easily. He would be careful and guarded. He would make sure she was someone his family loved before he let himself get too emotionally involved. “Well, at least I'm spending the next month in the middle of nowhere. I'll be able to take my mind off of women for a while” he said to no one in particular as he placed his last item in his suitcase and zipped it up.

*************

Bella made a mental list of everything as she watched Jasper load their luggage into the car, making sure they hadn't forgotten anything. “Clothes, towels, sheets, pillows, passport...my mind?” Bella had asked herself that question a number of times over the past few weeks that they had spent preparing for this trip. When she had agreed to this trip months ago it had seemed like a dream, something that sounded good in theory, but would never really happen. Now that this trip was upon them, she wondered why she ever thought this was a good idea.

It wasn't that she had anything against the country, the people, the project, or traveling in general. She was just nervous. She was entering the unknown. While Bella had spent the past few months researching the country and learning many details, such as the fact that they spoke Spanish, the average family income was approximately $900/year, education is only free for children until about 5th grade; there were so many things she did not know. These were the important things, such as where would she be going to the bathroom when they were out working in the villages, and do they actually have a plumbing system? Would the camp have electrical sockets? Should she have packed more granola bars in case she didn't like the food?

She wished she could be as confident about this trip as Jasper was. She hadn't seen him this excited since they had graduated. She was grateful that her friendship with Jasper had lasted so many years. With his help and constant companionship navigating the college campus and life in general was just easier. Jasper balanced out all of Bella’s insecurities. He knew how much she despised Renee’s flights of fancy, and he comforted her throughout each move. At least Renee always stayed in a suburb of Jacksonville, making it easier for her and Jasper to stay in touch and keep close.

Jasper had a much different upbringing in Texas and Bella suspected that was one reason why they didn’t last as a couple. She had just felt too insecure to stay with someone who wasn’t in her same class. Jasper’s family was as wealthy as she and Renee were poor. He had offered to help Bella time and again, but she was just too proud. Even now, knowing that after this trip, she would not be returning to Florida. She was going to try to make a life closer to her father in the rainy Pacific Northwest. She was confident that Jasper and his always handy trust fund would follow.

He didn’t have to work for his living but he didn’t flaunt his family’s wealth either. One of the reasons they got along so well, was although he didn’t have to work he certainly wanted to work. He wasn’t content to just live off his mother and father. He had to contribute; he was compelled to give back. Bella laughed as she thought back to the awkward time when they dated and again sent up a silent prayer of thanks that her friendship with Jasper outlasted their lust for each other.

As she made her way back into the dingy apartment she shared with her mother, she let her mind wander. While she packed up several of her last minute items, she thought of Renee’s brief good-bye to her that morning. She wasn’t able to cancel her hot air balloon ride so she wasn’t able to drive them to the airport. As if they didn’t have a backup plan. Renee was notoriously harebrained and they always knew not to count on her for anything.

Bella couldn't exactly put her finger on why she had so many reservations. There really wasn't anything holding her back. She was a college graduate with no potential job or relationship prospects. She assumed it was more to do with the fact that she liked comfort. She may not have led the most exciting life, but she was comfortable. She led a very easy going, low stress life. This trip was going to be something totally new. She would be stepping so far out of her comfort zone; she wasn’t sure she was ready for this. She hoped she was, because at that moment she heard Jasper yell.

“Bella! C'mon! Let's get this show on the road.” He said as he stood in the doorway of what used to be her bedroom. Having stripped it of all her ‘stuff’ and sent what she didn’t need to her father, the room now looked even uglier and more dingy than she had thought it to be. She shook her head sadly as they made their way back to the car in the parking lot.

As they climbed into the little car, Jasper looked over to her. “Are you sure you’re ready for this Bella?” He asked with more concern written on his face than was present in his voice.

“Here goes nothing.” Bella said as she slid her sunglasses into place and smiled.

*************

A long black limo pulled up to the drive at SeaTac Airport. A number of passersby stopped to see who would be arriving at the airport in such style. As the doors opened, out stepped a group of beautiful and immaculately dressed people. Each of them wearing designer clothing, and each of them was stunning in their own way. They had such an air of confidence about them, it drew people to stare at them. From the way they were dressed, you’d think they were having dinner with the Queen of England. By the looks on their faces, none of the people who passed them would guess that this group was headed to the remote villages of Honduras to take part in a charity event.

The Cullen family made it through check-in without any difficulty. Emmett, Rosalie, Carlisle and Esme had decided to book flights in First Class, while Alice decided she was going to take in the ‘full experience’ and travel in coach the whole way down. She was hoping that on the flight from Houston to Honduras she would have the opportunity to sit next to someone who knew more about the country and that she would be able to ask lots of questions.

Even though they arrived at the airport in the suggested time frame, by the time they got to their gate, they still had over an hour until it would be time to board their flight to Houston. Alice decided to pull out her laptop and log-in to the online forum one last time to see if there was anyone available that she could hound for last minute information. The next thing her family heard was a shriek of delight from Alice.

“Oh my gosh! Bella's on! She’s in the Jacksonville airport right now waiting to board her flight to Houston! What are the chances? I can't believe I'm finally going to meet her. I just know we are going to be the best of friends!” Alice looked over at her family and smiled. Everyone returned her smile except Edward, who mumbled incoherently from behind his American Medical Association Journal.

“What was that brother dear?” His sister’s eyes became narrow slits as she stared him down.

Edward just rolled his eyes and mumbled, “I doubt she's anything special Alice. You probably shouldn’t get your hopes up.”

“How can you say that Edward? You don't even know her! Bella is thoughtful and kind and sounds very sweet.” Alice defended her friend, not even knowing if she really was or not, but going with her gut feeling on this one.

“I know her better than you think.” Edward growled at his sister. “She’s from Florida right? You know, the only reason she is probably going to Honduras is to work on her tan, not to help work with the people.” To show that their conversation was over, Edward turned the page of his medical magazine and pretended to read it.

“I know she's wonderful. You'll see.” Alice shut her laptop as she huffed at her brother. Her patience was wearing thin with his constant pessimistic attitude these days.

A few minutes later they heard an announcement crackle overhead, “Now boarding flight 152 to Houston, Texas.”

***********

Jasper and Bella were navigating their way through Houston’s George Bush Airport. ‘Holy cow, this place is like a city in itself,’ Bella thought to herself. Their trip from Jacksonville to Houston had gone without interruption for which she was grateful that she was able to sit next to Jasper. Bella had spoken with Alice online briefly while they waited for their flight to board in Jacksonville. She had been talking with Alice online for quite some time and had grown to really like her.

It was a very rare occurrence that she found a girl that she could stand to be around, even online, for any significant period of time. In general Bella found most girls to be superficial and catty, spending the majority of their time talking about things she had little patience for and even less knowledge of. She only hoped that they would continue to like each other once they met face to face.

They were supposed to be traveling from Terminal B to Terminal E, for international flights. The sign up above said that they had to take the shuttle to get there.

“A shuttle? We have to take a shuttle to get from one part of the airport to the other? You Texans just gotta show everyone up don't ya? All that 'everything is bigger in Texas business'.” she lightly nudged him.

“Bella, you already know they make things bigger in Texas.” Jasper wagged his eyebrows playfully at her. She made to punch in him in the arm, but Jasper just grabbed her by the waist pulling her alongside him. To any other outsider they looked like a sweet young couple possibly traveling on their honeymoon to a tropical paradise. But between the two of them, they were just thankful to have found such a special friendship in one another.

They finally made is across the expanse of airport that was probably close to the size of Sequim, Washington, where Bella's father lives. Bella made one last stop at Starbucks. Who knew when she would have another opportunity for a hot cup of Joe in the morning. They finally made it to their gate and pulled out their boarding passes. They sat down as they waited for the First Class passengers to board.

Unfortunately for Bella’s nerves, it looked like they wouldn't be sitting next to each other on this flight. Bella was nervous about sitting next to a stranger who would try to speak to her in Spanish while she looked at them dumbfounded in return. Not that she was completely clueless, she had taken a few years of Spanish in high school, but that had been a long time ago she realized as she fished her pocket dictionary out of the bottom of her bag just in case. Growing up in Texas, Jasper had picked up on Spanish better than Bella and sat, unaffected listening to his iPod.

After watching her wrestle with her bag, he calmly picked it up and took the book out for her. He then took an earbud from his iPod and tucked it into her ear so the music could help calm her down as well. As Bella and Jasper sat sharing their iPod, listening to music in a cozy corner near their gate, they looked up and saw a group of beautiful, perfectly dressed individuals making their way to board in first class.

“What in the world are they going to Honduras looking like that for?” Bella questioned as she removed the bud to talk to Jasper.

“They must be planning to take a flight from Tegucigalpa to Roatan where all the tourists go so they can hit up the beaches. Surely they aren't planning to leave the main city dressed like that.” Jasper chuckled.

Bella looked down at her old jeans, high school t-shirt, and chacos. She was always more comfortable in this type of clothing. She couldn't bring herself to spend her money on designer clothes and handbags, but looking at this group of people, she couldn't help by feel a little self-conscious. Jasper, as if he could read her every thought, nudged her with his elbow as he leaned down and whispered “Stop worrying, you're dressed perfectly.”

Before they knew it, it was their time to board. As they stood, Jasper made a comment about them flying in the steerage compartment, which caused Bella to laugh out loud and quickly hide her crimson face under her chestnut colored waves as people turned to look. As they made their way through the rows, Jasper stopped, finding his seat. As he placed his bag in the storage bin above, he said “Don't worry, Bells. It's only a few hours. Take this time to get ready for our next great adventure.” And with that, he slid his tall frame uncomfortably into his seat.

Bella moved a few more rows back and was the first person to make it into her row. She removed her own iPod from her book bag and stowed the bag under her seat. She figured that if she needed to look distracted she could always pull a book out from it. Of course, this would all depend on who sat in the seat next to her. As she listened to her music with her eyes closed, she waited for the rest of the flight to board. She suddenly felt someone bounce down into the seat beside her.

As her eyes popped open, she was surprised to find one of those beautiful people sitting beside her and staring right at her face. She jumped just a little when she came to the realization that she had wrongfully assumed they would all be sitting in first class. The two girls studied each other for a moment. This girl looked awfully familiar to Bella but she couldn’t place it. She had a picture in her head, but the girl she was thinking of had longer hair, while this girl had short, spiky hair. But those eyes looked so familiar that Bella couldn’t believe that she would ever forget them. She gasped when it finally hit her who this person could possibly be.

“Are you...” Bella began as she continued to search the face that she had only previously seen in pictures.

“Bella?” The girl responded as she lunged herself at Bella to hug her. “I'm Alice!"

Bella sat there wide-eyed with her arms wrapped around this stranger. She was stunned at the girl’s overt friendliness, even though they had been chatting online for almost a year. She barely had time to move her hands out of her lap before she was sucked into Alice’s embrace. Nonetheless, she felt compelled to return the hug and was surprised to find that she was just as comfortable entwined in this girl’s embrace as she was in Jasper’s. The thought made her move her arms away in confusion. Could she possibly be friends with someone as beautiful and full of confidence as this?

“Alice, it’s so nice to finally meet you in person.” Bella said, trying to hide her confusion and embarrassment as she realized that the people nearby were now starting to stare. Alice seemed unaffected by it and Bella had the thought that she was probably one of those people that was used to being looked at, craving to be the center of attention.

“Oh I’m sorry, I almost forgot. I remember you mentioned that you don’t like being the focus of attention. It’s just so nice to finally meet you.” Alice sat back in her own seat and buckled her seatbelt, barely removing her eyes from Bella’s face. “Didn’t your friend come with you?” She asked, making pleasant conversation with Bella and trying to help her feel more at ease.

“Oh yeah. He’s a few rows up ahead of us. Is your family with you?” Bella took in a few deep breaths of the already stale airplane air and was starting to relax when Alice’s next words hit her.

“Oh, they’re up front in first class. I couldn’t let my future niece or nephew travel back here with the riff-raff.” Alice’s face paled even more as Bella looked down, pretending to study her iPod. “Oh my gosh Bella, that is so not how I meant it. I just meant that, well, Rose, my sister-in-law? She’s had such a hard time staying pregnant and I am just super concerned for her and wanted her to be as comfortable as…” Alice’s voice faltered as Bella cut her off.

“Oh don’t worry about it. I’m sure I’ve been called worse, maybe not to my face, but yeah.” Bella voice faltered off as she lost her train of thought. She glanced up from her iPod and dared a look over at Alice, hoping that she didn’t notice her eyes were stinging with unshed tears.

How could she have thought that someone as stunning as Alice would ever want to be friends with the likes of her? She made quick eye contact and gave just a hint of a smile to let Alice know that the words hadn’t affected her; she just hoped that the other girl fell for it.

“Bella, honestly, that’s not at all what I meant. I am just really concerned for my family. I wanted her to be comfortable and my dad and brother are both doctors so I wanted them all to sit together in case something happens. Please don’t be offended by it. I really am not the snob I just made you think I am.” Alice tried humor as a way to get back in Bella’s good graces.

“It’s no problem Alice, really. I didn’t take any offense at all. I am use to sitting in steerage.” And though the words were said, it was obvious that they were taken as a dagger straight through Bella’s already fragile heart.

“You did take offense to it though. I am so stupid Bella. There’s really no excuse for what I said and I am going to try to make it up to you this whole trip.” Alice stopped speaking as a voice over the intercom crackled.

“May I have your attention. Please place your tray tables in the upright and locked position as we prepare for take off. Our next stop will be Tegucigalpa, Honduras.”

“Oh Bella,” Alice said as she reached over and gripped her hand. “I just know we are going to be the best of friends.”

Bella just nodded her head slightly; her thoughts were focused solely on Jasper and his earlier words as she mumbled a sarcastic, “Next great adventure indeed.”