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Leaving Behind the Rain

Summary:
AU - Renee hates Forks. She takes her baby and leaves. This is the story of what Bella's teenage years would have been like if Charlie had followed them. Rain


Notes:
Disclaimer: This is fan fiction.


4. Chapter 3

Rating 4/5   Word Count 2766   Review this Chapter

Bella jumped out of her mother’s car with her backpack held over her head to ward off the worst of the rain, which would have worked well if it hadn’t been coming down sideways. She was soaked by the time she reached cover, but she turned and waved cheerfully to Renee, who was laughing at her from inside the car. She wondered if it would make her sad when she finally had her license and didn’t need to ride with Renee and Alex to school every day.

After spending most of the summer in Phoenix, the constant rain was wearing on her disposition a little, but she was excited to see her friends - especially Angela, who'd been her best friend all her life, and whom she had not seen for most of the summer.

She found her outside the English classroom, and they whispered for a few moments, but Bella had to keep moving. Algebra was first. And she was fairly certain she was going to hate it.

Algebra acquired a single redeeming quality as soon as she entered the classroom, however. Mike Newton had an empty desk beside him even though Bella was running late. He grinned at her as she sat down - just as the bell rang. "You made it. I was starting to wonder."

"Mom was running late again, and Alex gets dropped off first this year - he's got Mr. Whitmire," she answered, grimacing. Mike winced, too. They'd both had Whitmire for their first class of the day in eighth grade also. And they both knew that you didn’t EVER want to be late for his class. There wasn't much time to talk before class began, but Bella and Mike glanced at each other throughout the entire period, smiling.

Bella got through the morning classes without actually running into any of the Cullens. She was feeling a bit stressed by lunchtime, though. With Mike to think about and all her new classes, adding a bunch of vampires to the list of her worries was just getting to be too much.

She got some completely unappetizing food and sat down between Mike and Angela. Normally, that would have seemed like the absolute best place to sit, in the whole cafeteria, but they weren't the only ones at the table. Jessica was right across from her, looking a bit lost. "What's wrong, Jess?" she heard Angela ask as she sat down.

"Lauren went home early," Jessica responded, already perking up at the thought that she got to be the one to tell the story. "Eric told her he didn't want to see her anymore."

"Oh, did they start going out?" Bella asked. Being gone all summer meant she was out of the loop every September.

"Just a few weeks ago. Tyler and I went with them to the movies a couple of times. But that's not all," Jess said quickly, warming to her story. "She saw him go up to that girl, Rosalie, and ask her to Homecoming!"

"On the first day of school?" Mike asked incredulously. Austen sat down at the other end of the table, and Ben joined him. Eric was conspicuously absent.

"It was great!" Austen said. He had never been very friendly with Eric. "I've never seen anyone shot down so hard."

"Austen!" Angela scolded quietly, narrowing her eyes at him. She didn't like for anyone to be so unkind.

"Wait, so he broke up with her on the off chance that one of the Cullen girls would go out with him?" Bella scowled down at her tray, fairly certain that was the stupidest thing she'd ever heard. But Austen and Jess both confirmed it. She didn’t say anything else for a while, concentrating on her food instead. After a few moments, she gave up. It was disgusting. Why they couldn’t serve pizza on the first day, just to make it more bearable, was beyond her. She let her hands drop to her lap. They were only there for a moment before she felt Mike reach out and take one, entwining their fingers under the table where no one could see. She smiled down at her food before looking up at him. Conversation around the table continued without them.

Before the end of the previous school year, Mike had asked her if she wanted to go steady. They’d been friends for a long time, but at the time, she hadn’t really given any thought to dating yet. Jessica and Lauren, of course, thought and talked about nothing else, and she’d never been very impressed with them. She’d always just figured she’d probably be interested at some point, and she’d wait until then to think about it. She’d asked him if she could let him know in a few days.

And so she’d thought about it – when she SHOULD have been studying for finals. She’d thought about all the time she’d spent with Mike and realized that she really liked him a lot. When all the other boys had gone through their ‘girls have cooties’ phase, and stopped being her friend, he hadn’t. When the other guys had started getting nervous around her and consequently just stopped talking to her entirely, he hadn’t. And when the other boys had been mean or crude, Mike Newton never had. She’d come back to school for the last week of classes and stuck a note in his locker that just said, “Yes.” And they’d both smiled brightly through finals.

But she’d been gone away to Phoenix all summer, and she hadn’t been sure, coming back, what things would be like between them. She squeezed his hand and tried to pay attention to the lunchroom conversation again, deciding that she liked this quite a lot. Mike was exactly what she’d hoped he’d be, as she’d thought about him while she was away.

The conversation was less to her liking. “I can’t believe he isn’t here,” Jess was lamenting. Bella knew without asking who she meant, but asked anyway. “Edward Cullen, of course!” was the answer. Jessica giggled.

“Maybe he’s still sick,” Angela offered, sounding worried for the sake of someone she didn’t even know. She and her family hadn’t attended the house warming party. Bella smiled in spite of the topic. That was Ang.

Bella studied the Cullens for a few moments. From what Uncle Billy had told her, it was likely they could hear everything that was being said about them. They were sitting all together, except for the absent Edward, looking neither at the students nor at one another. Full trays of food sat untouched in front of them, and once in a great while, she thought it looked like their lips were moving quickly. They were so obviously different from everyone else that they stood out like a sore thumb. She narrowed her eyes and smiled over at Mike. “We should find out,” she said abruptly. And before he could stop her, she’d released his hand and walked over to their table.

As she went, she couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking. Uncle Billy had been very clear that she ought not to talk to them at all. They couldn’t find out that she knew what they were. Each of their perfect faces swiveled in her direction when she stopped beside their table. The oldest brother, Jasper, whom she hadn’t met before, was just as flawlessly attractive as the rest, as she’d expected him to be. She forced a smile, but felt her heart rate speed up. She wasn’t afraid of much, but she had to admit they were very intimidating all together as they were.

“We noticed your brother didn’t make it to school today. I hope he isn’t still sick,” she began, addressing Alice, whom she’d seemed to get along with best.

“Oh, no, he’s feeling much better,” Alice said smoothly, smiling in return. “He and Esme had to go back to Alaska unexpectedly – there was some adoption paperwork left unfinished,” she explained. Bella was impressed. They had the story down perfectly.

Alice stood, and Jasper with her. “I don’t think you’ve met Jasper Hale,” she said. “Jasper, this is Bella Swan.” Bella shook Jasper’s frigid hand without wincing, but he pulled back from her quickly, as though she’d harmed him somehow.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, tearing her eyes away from where they’d followed his hastily retracted hand. She might have paused a moment too long. The atmosphere suddenly felt tense, and Jasper’s eyes, which had seemed a light brown to her a moment before, appeared much darker. “I’m sorry about the food,” she said, gesturing to the untouched trays in front of them. “I wasn’t able to eat any of mine either. I’m thinking of – “ she paused as Jasper sat back down and looked away, and she watched his hands ball into fists. It suddenly occurred to her what his problem was. She met Alice’s eyes again and noticed how tense she looked. “I’m thinking of bringing my lunch from now on. Then, if I still don’t like it, at least no one will be able to tell I haven’t eaten and report it to my mother,” she finished bravely.

Rosalie’s eyes had gone big, and Jasper’s head snapped back in her direction. “Anyway, I’m glad to hear your brother isn’t sick. Maybe I’ll see you in class, Alice,” she finished, forcing another smile before she retreated back toward her own table.

If she’d been thrown into a lion-filled coloseum and returned victorious, Jessica Stanley could not have been any more impressed. “What did they say about Edward?” was the first question she asked, however. Bella rolled her eyes and repeated the lie. And then, very carefully and deliberately, she reached under the table and took Mike’s hand again. She’d noticed on her way back to the table that he looked unhappy, but she smiled at him and he squeezed her hand and smiled back.

Most of the school was so caught up in the gossip about the Cullens, which Bella couldn’t prevent but also wouldn’t participate in, that they missed all the subtle hints that something was going on between Mike and Bella. They hadn’t told many of their friends the previous year just because there was so little time left before summer vacation. But suddenly, it seemed to make things more fun, hiding their attachment right under Jessica’s nose. Angela, of course, knew all about it. Ben, with whom Mike was fairly close, didn’t appear to know anything, but Bella couldn’t be sure. Still, as long as it was just the two of them who knew, Bella thought it would be a secret for quite a while.

The only other class she and Mike had in common was gym, which was a huge relief. In the years before Mike had moved to Forks, gym class had been a nightmare for Bella. Without his help, she injured herself twice as often, so she was thankful to see him in the usual short and tee-shirt uniform when she emerged onto the basketball court. If she’d known how the class would go, she would have avoided him for the whole period. Instead, she went to stand beside him, and stayed near him throughout the explanation of rules. Volleyball. She wasn’t looking forward to it.

They chose teams. Mike talked Austen into choosing her somewhere in the middle when normally she knew she would have been last. She deserved to be last. And from the looks Austen was giving her, this particular favor had given them away already. She rolled her eyes at him as they all took positions on the court, and then she winced. This was just for practice. They weren’t supposed to keep score, just take turns serving, and try for three volleys with each serve. It sounded so simple. It SHOULD have been simple.

She hit it once, and it went over the net, and she blushed madly when people actually cheered. Her reputation in gym class was well known. But the success gave her confidence, which is why she tried so hard to get Eric’s serve when it came near her.

Eric had skipped lunch, but unlike Lauren, he had not gone home in tears. However, he WAS in a very bad mood. He served the ball hard. Mike, knowing this was going to be the case, tried to step in and bump the ball over, but all he succeeded in doing was startling Bella. She hadn’t been afraid of the ball, but she tried to back away at the last minute when she saw him coming, and predictably she went down hard, landing on her rear with her feet flying out from under her.

Just before he made contact with the ball, Mike tripped over Bella’s outstretched legs. With his hands clasped together in front of him, he didn’t manage to catch himself and the dull thud of his head hitting the polished wooden floor was a little sickening. Bella gasped and crawled over to him. Someone on the other team returned the ball – Mike HAD hit it over - but it bounced away passed the instructor as he trotted onto the court.

“Newton? You alright?”

Mike was already sitting up, blinking and holding his forehead. The skin hadn’t split, but he looked pretty dazed. “I think so.” Mike and Bella both sat on the bench the rest of the class. Mike was gently fingering the goose egg that was blossoming at his hairline, and Bella had pulled up the leg of her sweats to watch a matching bruise spread across her calf where he’d tripped over her. The teacher guided them to the bleachers before getting the game going again.

“I’m really sorry,” Bella whispered miserably when she was sure everyone's attention was off them, but Mike only laughed weakly. He knew better than anyone what he was getting into, taking the position beside her all the time. This hadn’t been the first time he’d been injured trying to help her, and wouldn’t be the last. He considered it worth it.

“Don’t be. My arms hurt more from taking that serve than my head does from hitting the floor,” he lied, smiling. Bella shook her head, aware he was fibbing, but appreciating it anyway.

“You should go to the hospital and make sure you don’t have a concussion,” she replied, knowing a thing or two about concussions.

Mike blinked for a moment, his eyes back on the game. He WAS still a little dizzy, which wasn’t good. “Maybe you can drive me, when we get out of here,” he agreed after a moment. He’d sworn up and down to the gym instructor that he was fine, so he kept his voice down. Bella frowned and put her hand on his shoulder worriedly, but removed it at once when a whistle rang out through the gym. Naturally that was Austen. She shot him a dirty look and he missed the ball while returning it, so she stuck her tongue out at him as well.

“Of course I’ll take you, but won’t your parents mind me driving the van?”

“Nah. We’ll have to call them when we get there, anyway. We’ll just tell them this was faster.” His eyes were on the ground by this time, and Bella noticed he was talking more slowly than usual.

“Mike, I think you should go now. Are you sure you can wait?” She couldn’t help but sound alarmed as he swayed where he sat.

“Now might be good,” he admitted. Bella put her arm around him and held him steady, calling for Mr. Stevens, who came back over, followed by the rest of the class, who suddenly all looked worried again where before they’d been joking about it.

She talked them into letting her out of the last class of the day so that she could go to the hospital with him, and then sat in the back of the ambulance trying not to worry. The EMTs, all of whom she knew by name, assured her that he was fine. Probably had a concussion that would have to be looked at, but otherwise they doubted he’d really done any damage. Of course, none of them were aware that they were taking him to a vampire for treatment. At least he wasn’t bleeding anywhere, but she couldn’t be sure their bruises wouldn’t cause trouble. She’d never been this nervous on a trip to the ER before. And she’d had more than her share of trips to the ER.