Twilighted Beta: shabbyapple
Disclaimer: The characters all belong to Stephenie Meyer
Thanks to my awesome beta, Bethaboo for helping me get this story in shape!
“Isabella Marie Swan, please tell me you are not serious!” my mother wailed frantically into the phone. “You're not going to just uproot your life and move to a country filled with dangerous rebels and diseases for two whole years. I will not allow it!”
I knew I had to head this off before my mom got even more dramatic. “Mom, you really don't have a say in it anymore. I am 22 now and it's time I start choosing my own path in life. You know I was perfectly safe when I went on my study abroad before. This is slightly different, but it will be a good experience and a good thing to put on my job resume' someday. Besides, I want to help people anyway I can and this is something I am passionate about. I know I am doing the right thing, and all I am asking for is your support.”
She sighed, but after a moment's silence, replied. “Fine, Bella. I can see your mind is already made up and no amount of pleading will change it. You've always been so stubborn. Go follow your dreams, but make sure that you stay safe and come home to us. I love you and I am proud of the decision you are making, but something like this isn't always a thing a mom is prepared to hear.”
“Thanks, mom. I love you and I promise I'll stay in touch.”
“You'd better or I will have to fly over there and come get you.” I giggled thinking of my mom sitting on an airplane for 10 hours as she flew across the continent. She wouldn't be able to sit still and would probably drive the other passengers crazy. “Have you told your father, young lady?” her voice brought me out of my reverie.
“Yeah, I already told him. It's something I've talked about doing for so long and so he wasn't very surprised.” He had been expecting it, but he was still surprised and worried. I could just imagine his thoughts as he contemplated sending his daughter so far away from home all alone. While I could sympathize, it would hardly change my mind.
My best friend Jake felt the same way. He'd even offered to come with me, but I couldn't let him put his life on hold and leave school and his family to come with me. His girlfriend Lily certainly wouldn't thank me either. She and Jake shared a special closeness and I couldn't come between them. Jake and I had been friends since we were toddlers, and we too shared a special friendship. I knew he would do anything for me, and I for him, but I couldn't allow him to do this. I repeatedly explained to him that I would be safe and there would be no need to worry.
About six months ago, I had applied to join the Peace Corps. When I was in the college of nursing at WSU, I was invited to go on a study abroad to Africa. I had accepted and it had been the most eye opening experience of my life. Somehow, I couldn't forget those amazing people and the trials they had gone through, yet the hope and love that they continued to have. To say the experience changed my life would not be an exaggeration. From then on, I had a desire to help suffering people in any way I could and set my sights on the Peace Corps once I graduated.
As soon as the diploma was in my hand, I'd completed the necessary requirements and sent out my application. Though the process was grueling, it was worth it, and in the end, though I had never expected to be able to return to Africa, that was indeed where I was being sent. I was even more surprised that they were in Uganda, the exact same country I had gone on my study abroad to, although I was being sent to a different area. I would be the nurse in a small clinic to a young doctor who was also a Peace Corps volunteer. The clinic would be located in a small village outside Kitgum. I knew it was a rebel hot spot, and it would be dangerous, but I couldn't bring myself to feel the appropriate fear. I'd seen the documentary called Invisible Children, and had the fortune to talk to many of the survivors while there before. I knew that I just had to do something to help these people in some way. The people had so much to deal with in their lives, medical care was the least I could bring them.
All I knew of Dr. Edward Cullen was his name, but I realized he must be an extraordinary person to give up time establishing his medical career to volunteer to help people in need of his services. From what I could gather from my recruiter, he had barely finished his residency and handed in his application. This man already had my respect. I hoped he would prove to be as kind hearted and sincere as I already imagined him.
“Are you sure you have everything you need, son?” My dad asked as we loaded my luggage into the car. We were paying extra to have as many medical supplies flown out with me as we could, so we far exceeded the international flight limits of two 50 pound bags per person. We could have shipped it over, but there was no guarantee that it would ever have reached there. Flying with it was the best option.
I knew my father was proud of me. He was a doctor himself, and I had followed in his footsteps because of all the good I'd seen him do throughout my formative years. I desired so much to be like him, a compassionate, gentle, but passion driven man that would always be there for people in need.
Because of our financial situation, I was lucky enough to be in the position where I could volunteer my time for the next two years with only a minimum compensation. I did not need to worry about the crippling student loans that so many medical students graduate with. In fact, I was quite young to have completed all my schooling and my residency. At 26, I knew I seemed quite inexperienced to most patients at first glance, but I earned their trust quickly with my proficiency and knowledge.
I was a bit apprehensive about the situation I was headed into. Being the only doctor around for miles and having to make all the decisions and diagnoses was a bit intimidating. It would also be heartbreaking, I was sure. I was headed into a country that a few years ago had the highest number of children orphaned by AIDS in the world. Not only that, but there were so many other diseases and illnesses to contend with. It would be a difficult and emotional time, I was sure. I only hoped that the nurse who was assigned to work in the clinic would be proficient and well able to handle what we would be facing.
I had to admit, I was curious about her. The only thing I knew about her was her name--Isabella Swan--and that she was brave enough to leave her family and friends and go to a war torn country for two years by herself. Since we are assigned to live with one another for safety, I knew I would be getting to know her fairly well. I hoped that she was a person that was a person strong enough to handle the heartbreak we would be seeing, but also someone who would be sensitive enough to love the people and truly immerse herself in their culture.
I was excited to meet her and get to know her. We were meeting in London's Heathrow airport, and our flights arrived within minutes of one another so we had plans to spend our long layovers getting to know one another. We had a total of 15 hours in London, and I intended for us to make the most of it.
My mom and dad walked me to the gates. My mom had tears in her eyes, as I'd expected she would. I knew this was hard for her, but I was glad that she would still have my brother and sister to keep her company while I was gone. “Be safe, and write home often,” she whispered as she gave me a hug goodbye, “I'll see you in two years. Tell this Isabella to take good care of you.”
My dad had different advice for me. “Make sure you don't drink the water unless it is boiled," he warned, and then continued with a softer tone, "I know that you'll do fine and I'm so proud of you. Maybe I'll come over in a few months and see how you're doing. Don't forget that I love you.” He gave me a long hug followed by a few pats on the back.
“Bye mom and dad. Tell Alice and Emmett I love them, will you?” They were away at school and I hadn't been able to say goodbye in person. “And I'll let you know when I arrive,” I called out as I walked off, struggling to hold in my tears as well. We were a very close family and the thought of going two years without seeing one another was hard to take.
As I boarded my plane, I couldn't help take a quick look out. This was the last time I would be in this country for two years. I had so many feelings going through me I was almost overwhelmed. Fear, excitement, nervousness, and joy that I was finally realizing my life long dream. I settled in my seat to go over the Luo and Lugandan language dictionaries I had managed to acquire. I knew that Luo would be the most common language where I was going, but Lugandan would be useful as it was the most used language in the capital city of Kampala.
I walked frantically through the Heathrow airport, terrified that i was lost. Who knew that an airport could be so confusing. I had turned to go down a small hallway and it ended up literally going down. It wasn't stairs, but it did spiral down and it was hard to keep my luggage on the trolley. Luckily, it was only my carry on items and I had checked the rest of my luggage all the way to Uganda, or that trolley would have gone down by itself taking other pedestrians out in the process. I sighed in relief as I reached the bottom. Now, if I could only find the way to the place to buy the tube tickets, I would be in business. Unfortunately, I had grossly misjudged my ability to follow directions and I feared I was hopelessly lost. It would be a miracle if I could even find the gate for my flight within the next 15 hours and not miss it.
Finally, up ahead I spotted the sign I'd been looking for and almost jumped for joy. I had found it! I was going the right way after all. I almost raced to the small ticket machines before my common sense got the better of me. I had a tendency to take my exuberance to far. Edward and I had planned on meeting here and I didn't want his first impression to be of a lunatic running the unsuspecting pedestrians down with her trolley. I calmly walked forwards, but stopped in my tracks as I spotted a tall, auburn haired man leaning against a pole nearby. Instinctively, I knew this was him. He was incredibly gorgeous with his messy hair, jeans, and tight polo shirt. His body was incredible and I felt a funny feeling I had never felt before go through me when I looked at him. I was unsure of his eye color, but I was about to find that out. He had spotted me, and was coming towards me with intent. I was not easy to miss with the bright orange t-shirt I was wearing. It was our way of finding one another in this crowded airport when we had never met.
“Isabella, I assume?” he said in a rich tenor tone as he reached me. His voice sent shivers down my back. How I was going to live for two years with such a man, I had no idea.
“Edward. I am so glad that I found you. This airport is so confusing. Oh, please call me Bella.” I rambled on. I was a bit nervous and tended to chatter in those situations.
He looked a bit taken aback by my talking. “Let's go find a place to take care of our bags and then I'll show you London. You said you've never been here before right?”
“Oh, I have, just not out of the airport. I was here once before, not that you could tell since I have already managed to get lost today. We didn't have much of a layover and went directly from one flight to the next. I wanted to go sightseeing so bad, but it just didn't happen. Do you think we can see Buckingham Palace and maybe ride a double decker bus? I've always dreamed of that.”
By this point, Edward was looking at me with wide eyes. They were a deep green, almost emerald color and they matched everything else that was beautiful about him. I couldn't stop myself from talking so much, I was just too excited to be finally on my way and meeting the man I would be working with for the next couple of years. “Um, sure. I think we can manage that. I've only been here a few times myself and wasn't the one following the directions, so I hope we can find it. I think I can promise you a ride on a double decker at the very least. Let's go exchange our money for some pound notes and have fun!” he answered.
After we had exchanged our money, I followed him as we checked our luggage into a locker. He had checked his bags all the way to Uganda as well so it wasn't that much stuff. We bought our tube tickets and found a map and we were off. I was almost skipping with excitement as we boarded and made our way into London. It was fast! Much faster than any train or public transportation system I had been on at home. We had bought a ticket that was good for the day and mapped out our destinations before boarding. Edward was such a gentlemen. He always gave up his seat to the ladies when there was no room and he was always making sure that I was taken care of. I tended to trip quite a bit, and he was always there to make sure I didn't fall.
We didn't have a lot of time for questions since we hit one destination after another so quickly, but he did keep his promise. We saw Buckingham Palace and rode the double decker bus, and we even saw Big Ben and the London Bridge. It was an extremely fun-filled day, and by the end of it, I was exhausted. On our way back to the airport, Edward had to gently shake me awake several times so that I didn't end up in a heap on the floor. I had left Seattle at midnight and flown to JFK before flying to London. Those were some long flights, and though I'd managed to sleep a little on the plane, I was definitely tired again.
Once we reached the airport again, we collected our things and checked in through the gates at our airline. We sat each sat next to one another in the long row of chairs and began to share a little bit about ourselves. I found out that Edward came from a very close family with two siblings. His parents were still together after 28 years of marriage. He had become a doctor because his dad was. He had graduated high school a year early and received his bachelor's degree in record time. His medical degree was from NYU, and he had done his residency at Nationwide Children's Hospital because he ultimately wanted to go into pediatrics. He was even greater guy than I'd imagined and I was grateful that he was the one I would be working and living with for the next two years.
We'd been so engrossed in our conversation, we jumped when boarding for our flight was called. Having arranged for our seats to be next to one another, I was excited to be able to get to know him better over the next eight hours. We took our seats, buckled up, and soon we were taking off towards our future.
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