Chapter 18: Charlie
All of a sudden I had a huge craving for a banana split. Jasper asked me in a curious tone, “What are you yearning for, Darlin?”
I laughed, “A banana split.”
I tapped him on the butt before dashing to the kitchen. Halfway there, I was bombarded with the weirdest feeling. I stopped mid-step, causing both Jasper and Peter to look at me with concern. “Charlie's 30 minutes out. He left Seattle early. We need to hurry. Make sure all the groceries are in the coolers and clothes are on my bed to be folded. If not, Charlie will look for something in the dryer, only to see your clothes. Seriously, we need to hurry.”
They dashed around. Peter was taking clothes up to my room as Jasper dumped ice in the coolers. I started taking all of my food out of the fridge, setting it on the counter for Jasper. Peter came back down and finished for me, because my phone rang. “Hey, Bells.”
I knew it. “Hey Dad. Did you leave Seattle yet?”
He laughed. “Yeah, Bells. I’m actually only a few minutes from the station, but I need to stop in. I should be home in about 25 minutes, alright?”
I looked pointedly at Jasper and Peter, “Alright Dad. Thanks for coming home today. I know they still need you on the case.”
He sounded tired but happy as he said, “It's no problem. I'll see you soon, Bells.”
I replied automatically, “Bye.”
I flipped my phone shut as they looked at me in awe.
Okay, what did I do this time? “Does anyone want to fill the human in?”
The laughed, and Peter said, “Little One, I think you're takin' on more of our traits. Ya just stopped outta the blue, tellin’ us somethin' ya shouldn't have had a clue about. Charlie just confirmed it. There's no way ya shoulda known he left early without someone tellin' ya. Ya truly are amazin'.”
I didn't really understand it all. “Oh...” was all I could think to say.
It was pure instinct. I felt it and reacted. Wow. “I don't understand it, but I just felt it… like a warning alarm that went off. The knowledge was in my head, so I told you what needed to be done. Instinct.”
Jasper grabbed both of the coolers to start up the stairs with them, Peter and I following right behind. “They need to be set on the floor in the closet, now that it's practically empty. That way Charlie won't see them. The luggage is fine... so are the boxes. Make sure your phones are out of sight, with the chargers in my laptop bag. Charlie will come into the room, so nothing out of the ordinary can be seen. His ability to notice things is sharp right now, with him working this case.”
I stripped out of the cleaning clothes, pulled out a bra and thong set, then found something to wear.
I got dressed in all but shoes, then headed back down to the kitchen. My vampires tagged along. “What are you guys going to do while Charlie and I eat?”
I didn't want them far, but they might want to hunt before we leave tomorrow. Peter spoke for them, “We're gonna use the laptop to find a health food store to get more groceries outside of Washington. Plus we need to find a mall to get a few things at. Is there somethin' you want us to do?”
I thought. “Can you try to keep the emotional climate down here good, Jazz? I'm kind of nervous about his reaction.”
Jasper smoothed the backs of his fingers against my cheek, “Darlin, everything will be fine, but I'll help any way I can.”
He pulled me to him to hold me close. My nervousness started melting away. I sighed in content, then whispered, “Thanks, Jazz.”
I left his side to start pulling the marinade ingredients from the cupboards and fridge. I also grabbed the fresh green beans from the crisper drawer, setting them next to the sink. We talked happily while I got the marinade ready, but soon they both shot out of their chairs. They came to my side quickly, with Jasper nuzzling into my neck as he said, “Charlie's coming down the street. We'll be right upstairs in the bedroom.”
They each kissed me, then dashed away. I turned back to the sink, rinsing and trimming the green beans, then placed them in the steamer basket when I finished.
Charlie walked in the door, hung his jacket and gun belt, then kicked off his shoes. As he walked into the kitchen, I pulled a beer out of the fridge and set it on the table for him. “Hey Bells. Wow, the house looks good. You must have been really busy while I was gone. The floors look better than they have in a while. It looks like you did a lot of hard work.”
Let him take this how he wants to. Hehe. “Yeah, I spent all morning either on my hands and knees or with a tool in my hands. The bathroom, laundry, floors, kitchen and living room are all done.”
He sat down, silently taking a closer look at me for a minute. Oh, shit. I hope my physical changes aren't too apparent. “You look really good, Bells. I missed you while I was gone.”
I wiped my hands on a towel before walking over to Charlie. I bent down, hugging him tightly. “I missed you, too, Dad. We're having marinated salmon, steamed green beans and baked potatoes for dinner. I'm going to get the potatoes ready while the fish marinates, so we should be able to eat in about an hour. That sound good?”
He smiled, “Yeah. Sure thing, Bells. So... ummm.... what's this surprise you have?”
I laughed. Never one for surprises. Huh, wonder where I get it from. “Don't let the suspense kill you, Dad. Let me get a drink, then I'll sit down and tell you... but I need to run to my room and get something first.”
I placed my juice on the table, dashed up to the room, grabbed the U of T letter and my GED certificate, blew kisses to my guys, then ran back to the kitchen. I sat down with the papers laying face down in front of me, taking a long sip of my juice. Charlie looked like he was bursting at the seams. “You're killing me here, Kid. Tell me already.”
I laughed, handing the papers to him without saying a word. I had a smile on my face as he studied them. “H-how? W-when? This is... wow.”
I took another sip of juice before I started my rehearsed story. “I've had really good grades, as you know. High school was just like I was going in slow motion. I found out that with my scores I could take the pretests for the GED and possibly graduate early. I got the letter from University of Texas accepting my early admission, but it was contingent on me graduating early. I took the test and passed with flying colors. I need to be down there and ready to start class by Thursday. By the time I drive there and get settled into a place, well... I have to leave tomorrow morning if I'm going to have enough time to get settled. I have already called the dean, and the principal faxed him my test results. I'm now enrolled in the University of Texas.”
I sat there silently while I watched Charlie look from one paper to the other. With each look at the papers, his smile grew just a little more. A tear fell onto his right cheek before he choked out, “Isabella, I'm so proud of you. So, so proud, Baby. How did you keep this a secret? Especially in Forks?”
I laughed. “It wasn't easy. Mrs. Cope will probably be mad at me for years. Seriously, Dad... years. I did the pretests online, then I asked the principal if we could do the test and have the results quickly, because you were out of town and it was a surprise. He agreed to keep the sign-out papers as well as my GED results locked in his desk until tonight, so that you could be the first one to know.”
He smiled, “Bells, you're a down-right sneak sometimes. It was for a good cause, though. This is the best surprise I've had in 18 years. I love you, Isabella Marie.”
I gave him a watery smile, “I love you, too, Dad.”
I was choked up, so I took another sip of juice. “How much more packing do you have?”
I got up to wrap the potatoes for the oven, saying, “I still have a bunch of laundry to fold and pack, but most of the big packing is done. There's a box of donation stuff that I'll leave in the room. If you could please drop it off, I'd appreciate it.”
He nodded, “Sure, Bells. No problem.”
I finished wrapping the potatoes with Charlie saying things like 'Wait until Billy finds out...he'll want to go fishing to celebrate,' and 'The boys down at the station will be so proud, Bells. You know how all of them think of you as their daughter, too,' or my favorite, 'I can't wait to tell Sue the next time I'm down to the rez. She's always telling me how smart you are and how you love spending time there.'
It was true. My friend Jacob was there. We used to make mud pies when we were little, so now he treats me like one of the guys. I loved that there was no pressure there. I'm his little sister as far as he's concerned.
I think Charlie is sweet on Sue Clearwater.
His long-time friend Harry died not long ago, so Charlie's been helping her out with her son and daughter. They've had a rough time since their dad died.
Charlie didn't know about the big secret on the reservation, though. My friend Jacob? Well, he's a shifter. He phases into a wolf whose shoulders reach above my head. There are around 13 wolves on the reservation. They are the protectors of the tribe from vampires. They aren't going to hurt the Cullens, though. They have this treaty... Cullens don't bite or kill a human and stay off rez land, so the wolves won't attack or reveal their secret. It's not an easy truce. Some of the wolves are hotheads, but Jacob being the leader, tries to keep them in line.
When I finished wrapping the potatoes, the oven was preheated, so I popped them in. I was starting to feel antsy, not knowing what was going on with my vampires. I couldn't see them in front of me, so I wasn't too happy right now. I needed to see them. I needed to feel them.
Just then I felt Jasper pushing calm, peace and love to me. It didn't work as well this way, but I felt him in emotion form. “Hey, Dad? I really need to do a little more packing, as well as laundry folding, so I'll be down in time to put the fish in the oven and the green beans in the steamer.”
He nodded his head, smiled, then said, “Okay, Kiddo. I'm just going to look over this case file again. Maybe being somewhere peaceful will give me a different perspective, you know?”
I nodded, “Good luck, Dad. I really hope whoever did this gets what's coming to them.”
With that, I ran up the stairs to my room, closing the door quickly. They both surrounded me in an embrace as soon as I got the door closed. “I hate being away from you. I wish there was a way you could be there during dinner,” I whispered into Jasper's chest.
Peter was brilliant. He came up with the idea of Jasper stopping in with his friend, letting him know that he had found a place in Port Angeles, so he wouldn't be staying at the Cullen house any longer. Charlie would, of course, ask them to stay, and they would be able to stay during dinner. We didn't have to worry about Peter's vivid red eyes, because he always keeps a pair of contacts handy. Man, do I love my sneaky vampires.
I told them I needed to finish folding the laundry because Charlie would be coming up in about 10 minutes. They smirked as they pointed to the bed. All of the laundry had been folded, with Charlie's clothes sitting off to the side, already separated. I didn't see any of the guys' clothes, so they must have already packed them.
I needed a pick me up, so I kissed both of my guys before opening the closet door. I pulled out the first chocolate bar I found, then plopped down on the rocking chair. I ate it quickly, then went to sit on the boys' laps, since they were sitting on the floor next to each other.
I ran my fingers through their hair, kissing each of them several times until they heard Charlie coming up the stairs. They dashed into the closet, closing the door as I unfolded a few pieces of laundry. I started refolding a piece just as Charlie knocked on the door. “It's open, Dad.”
Charlie walked in the room, “Wow, it looks different with all of your stuff packed up. I was going to see if you needed help with the laundry, but you have it done already.”
I smiled, “Yeah. I was folding for a while before I went down to start dinner. I just have this last piece to fold, then it's all done. That pile there was what I found in your room that looked dirty. I'll put your sheets back on as soon as I put the fish in the oven. That way you have fresh sheets when you're ready to turn in. I know you've got to be tired with all you're doing for Sheriff Jackson. Did you see anything in the case file that would help?”
He frowned, “I'm afraid not, Bells. I just can't wrap my head around it. They all seem to be linked, but any clue we get always... always... leads to a dead end. Several times it's felt like whoever is behind this is a ghost. Poof, just disappears into thin air. There are also the questions... like all the ones missing. We haven't found them, so we are going on the assumption that they are still alive. If they are, where are they? What is this person doing with such a large group of missing people? Somebody... somewhere... should know something. We've checked every abandoned place we could. I've even gone over all the old tunnel ways and things of that sort. Nothing has turned up. I just don't know where to go from here, Bells. So many people... they need to be found before something happens to them. I would be crazy if you were one of them, so I know why the families are calling or coming in all the time wanting more information. I would be doing the same thing.”
He ran his hands through his hair as he sighed. I hated seeing Charlie feeling like this, “I know it's frustrating, Dad. You're doing literally everything you can to find them. I know you also worry about me but look. I'm safe and healthy, plus I'm going to be nowhere near Seattle for the foreseeable future. Please, please, please... promise to be careful on this case. Use lots of backup all the time. Even if you think the clue will lead nowhere, don't follow up without tons of backup. If the person behind this can be holding that many victims, they have to have help, right? I just don't want anything to happen to you. Now, changing the subject, I'm putting your clean laundry in this basket. Will you put them away, or do I need to when I put the sheets on the bed?”
I smirked at him. He looked at me with a smirk of his own, “I think I better go put them away right now, so I don't have to hear about it later.”
He helped me put his clothes in the basket, then took it down the hall to his room, closing my door on the way out. My vampires were smiling at me when I opened the closet door. I grabbed a few pieces of fruit out of a bowl in the cooler, quickly eating them. “I need to go down to finish dinner. You guys should show up in the truck in about 20 minutes. That will be a few minutes before dinner is on the table. I love you both.”
I hugged them to me for a minute, then reluctantly stepped out my bedroom door.
I went back down to the kitchen, pulled the fish from the fridge, then placed it in the pan. I popped it in the oven before washing up the few prep dishes there were. When I got to Charlie's room, he was just finishing putting his clothes away. “You know, that's not a bad habit to be in if you intend to invite a certain rez resident to the house... for say, I don't know... dinner? I think that might make a good impression. Just order take out... do not try to cook.”
I giggled at the look on his face... like he was busted. Yeah, I'm on to you, Charlie Swan.
“What, Dad? Like I haven't noticed all the time you've been spending with Sue at the rez. I think it's good. She's a good person, plus she's very loyal and protective of the ones she cares about. I'm the daughter of a damn good police chief, in case you’re wondering, so I tend to notice things. Just make sure you have fun, Dad. Life can't be deadly serious 24 hours a day. If you can't find someone to laugh and be free with, life wouldn't be worth squat. I like her, Dad, and I know she'd be good to you.”
Charlie got choked up, “I didn't want to say anything yet, because Harry just died not long ago. We've just bonded over his passing, and I've been finding little things I like about her every time I see her. We're still in the beginning phase, what with the kids having such a hard time. We'll see how things work out. And Bells? Thanks... it's good to know you like her. She's fond of you, too.”
I smiled, then got to work putting the sheets on his bed. When I was done, I went back down to the kitchen. Charlie was sitting in his chair in the living room watching something on the sports channel. I got the plates and silverware onto the table, then grabbed 2 juices out of the fridge, putting them in a tall glass next to my plate. I grabbed Charlie another beer, setting it next to his plate, then the doorbell rang. “Dad, can you get that? I have to get dinner out of the oven.”
I knew who it was, but Charlie needed to be the one to answer. Jasper would put the mojo on him if needed.
I took the fish and potatoes out of the oven, turned it off, then got a serving bowl for the green beans. I put hot pads down in the middle of the table for the food, putting the potatoes on a plate before I carried the food to the table. I looked up to see Dad entering with Peter and Jasper. I smiled as Charlie said, “This is Jasper's friend, Peter. Peter this is my daughter, Bella. Bells, they already ate dinner, but I invited them to stay so they could find out the good news. That's okay, right?”
I smiled widely. This would be a good show. “Hey Jasper. Nice to meet you, Peter. Yeah, that's fine, Dad. Oh, hey. Jasper, how are your classes going? Did you find a place yet?”
Dad pulled 2 extra chairs up to the table before he sat down, motioning for the boys to do the same. They politely waited for me to sit before they did. As I was making plates for myself and Charlie, Jasper said, “Classes are good. I like the subjects I'm taking, so that helps. I did find a place, actually. Peter and I grew up together before the Cullens adopted me. We still kept in touch, but lost track of each other when I moved here. Come to find out, he lives not too far from campus. He needed a roommate for his 3 bedroom apartment, so he put an ad in the paper. I happened to answer the ad. Low and behold, it was Peter, and I now have a place to stay. It's been nice catching up with lost time.” I said with a small smile, “Wow, Jasper. That's really nice. I'm glad it worked out for you.”
I sent all the love in me to them, knowing he would project it to Peter.
We ate and talked for a few more minutes, then Charlie said, “Well boys, Bella here gave me some excellent news earlier today.”
He looked at me, smile beaming, “She graduated early… even got early admission to the University of Texas!”
There was a round of excited 'Congratulations', 'Well done', and 'You must be so proud, Sir'. I responded with wide smiles and thank you’s.
Peter piped up then, “We happen to be from Texas, originally. I find the change in temperature quite different. Have ya lived in Forks your whole life, Bella?”
I smiled as I said, “No. I had lived with my mother in Phoenix since I was little, then moved here during my junior year. Forks has been good to me, though.”
I ate a few more bites to stop my grin while Peter said, “Yes, I find there are some things in Washington that I would be lost without. So when do ya leave? Ya must be anxious to settle in.”
I laughed at that, “Yes, I leave first thing tomorrow morning. I can't wait to feel the sun on my face and the heat again. There's just something about the difference in the sun down south.”
We talked about a lot of things while we ate, and Charlie was the proud Papa throughout dinner. When I was getting ready to clear the table, Peter and Jasper stood up to leave. “Chief Swan, it was good to see you again, but we need to be going. We still have a drive ahead. Bella, congratulations again on your achievement. You have my cell number? We'll have to keep in touch.”
I smiled in agreement, “Yes, I have it. Thank you, and drive carefully. Peter, it was a pleasure to meet you. Maybe we'll talk again when I get in touch with Jasper.”
He smiled, nodded his head, then said, “Yes, Bella. It was nice meetin' ya, too. I'll hafta make sure to be around when Jasper talks to ya next. Have a safe journey.”
Charlie walked them out, then came back in to sit down. “Those are some good kids. I really like them. So, would you like some help with the dishes?”
I shook my head, “Nope... but if you could put the leftovers in the fridge, that would help.”
He patted my shoulder, “Sure, Bells.”
He stood up to put the leftovers into the Tupperware I had set on the counter for him. He put them in the fridge, then came over and surprised me with a large hug, whispering, “Bells, I'm so proud of you... you always make me so proud, everyday, to be your dad. Promise you won't forget about your old man. Call me when you stop during your trip for the night. I'll worry if I don't know you're alright. Drive carefully. I need to go to bed, but know that I love you, Bella.”
I had tears in my eyes when he finished speaking. I whispered back, “I love you, too, Dad. I could never forget about you. You're the most important man in my life, and I'm so thankful I have you as my dad. I promise I'll call when I stop for the night. If you need me to, I'll call when I stop for lunch. Go ahead and get some rest. I need to turn in soon, too. I have an early morning ahead. I love you so much, Dad. Good night.”
I tightened my arms around him for a few seconds, then kissed his cheek before I let him go completely. I grabbed the rag off the sink to wipe the counter down as I heard him walk up the stairs.
As soon as his bedroom door closed, my hands flew up to my mouth to cover the sob that broke free from my lips. I slid down the wall next to the kitchen door, letting the tears fall. Charlie and I had never been ones to get mushy about how we felt for one another. It was an unspoken thing with us, we both respected it. I knew Charlie loved me, just as he knew I loved him.
No words needed to be said. But tonight he did. Tonight I did. It was heartbreaking to leave him, knowing that soon, I would never see him again.
I was in Jasper's arms and up the stairs seconds after my butt hit the floor. He closed the door to my room quickly, then Peter was there helping me stand as Jasper started to disrobe me. Once they got me nude, they pulled the covers down, both stripped to their boxers, then had me lay on my stomach.
My crying had stopped, but my heart still hurt for leaving Charlie. Jasper was caressing me as Peter retrieved my oil, fruit and chocolate. Once he got all of it put on the nightstand, he picked me up to lay me on his chest.
I was in my sleeping position, so I didn't understand why the oil was out. Jasper whispered as Peter handed it to him, “Peter's gonna hold you, feed you some chocolate and fruit, while I work on your back, Darlin'. If you need your legs done, we can switch positions in a while. I wanna concentrate on your back right now.”
I nodded while snuggling into Peter. I was tracing the lines of his muscles on his chest when he started purring. I sighed in content. “I love it when you two purr for me. It's one of the best sounds in the world.”
Peter's purr grew in strength, the vibration of his chest soaking straight through my very being, caressing every part of me.