8. PORT ANGELES
Jess drove faster than the Chief, so we made it to Port Angeles by four. It had been a while since I'd had a girls' night out, and the estrogen rush was invigorating. We listened to whiny rock songs while Jessica jabbered on about the boys we hung out with. Jessica's dinner with Mike had gone very well, and she was hoping that by Saturday night they would have progressed to the first-kiss stage. I smiled to myself, pleased. Angela was passively happy to be going to the dance, but not really interested in Eric. Jess tried to get her to confess who her type was, but I interrupted with a question about dresses after a bit, to spare her. Angela threw a grateful glance my way.
Port Angeles was a beautiful little tourist trap, much more polished and quaint than Forks. But Jessica and Angela knew it well, so they didn't plan to waste time on the picturesque boardwalk by the bay. Jess drove straight to the one big department store in town, which was a few streets in from the bay area's visitor-friendly face.
The dance was billed as semiformal, and we weren't exactly sure what that meant. Both Jessica and Angela seemed surprised and almost disbelieving when I told them I'd never been to a dance in Phoenix.
"Didn't you ever go with a boyfriend or something?" Jess asked dubiously as we walked through the front doors of the store.
"Really," I tried to convince her, not wanting to confess my dancing problems. "I've never had a boyfriend or anything close. I didn't go out much."
"Why not?" Jessica demanded.
"No one asked me," I answered honestly.
She looked skeptical. "People ask you out here," she reminded me, "and you tell them no." We were in the juniors' section now, scanning the racks for dress-up clothes.
"Well, except for Tyler," Angela amended quietly.
"Excuse me?" I gasped. "What did you say?"
"Tyler told everyone he's taking you to prom," Jessica informed me with suspicious eyes.
"He said what?" I sounded like I was choking.
"I told you it wasn't true," Angela murmured to Jessica.
I was silent, still lost in shock that was quickly turning to irritation. But we had found the dress racks, and now we had work to do.
"That's why Lauren doesn't like you," Jessica giggled while we pawed through the clothes.
I ground my teeth. "Do you think that if I ran him over with my truck he would stop feeling guilty about the accident? That he might give up on making amends and call it even?"
"Maybe," Jess snickered. '"If that's why he's doing this."
The dress selection wasn't large, but both of them found a few things to try on. I sat on a low chair just inside the dressing room, by the three-way mirror, trying to control my fuming.
Jess was torn between two — one a long, strapless, basic black number, the other a knee-length electric blue with spaghetti straps. I encouraged her to go with the blue; why not play up the eyes? Angela chose a pale pink dress that draped around her tall frame nicely and brought out honey tints in her light brown hair. I complimented them both generously and helped by returning the rejects to their racks. The whole process was much shorter and easier than similar trips I'd taken with Renée at home. I guess there was something to be said for limited choices.
We headed over to shoes and accessories. While they tried things on I merely watched and critiqued, not in the mood to shop for myself, though I did need new shoes. The girls'-night high was wearing off in the wake of my annoyance at Tyler, leaving room for the gloom to move back in.
"Angela?" I began, hesitant, while she was trying on a pair of pink strappy heels — she was overjoyed to have a date tall enough that she could wear high heels at all.
Jessica had drifted to the jewelry counter and we were alone.
"Yes?" She held her leg out, twisting her ankle to get a better view of the shoe.
I chickened out. "I like those."
"I think I'll get them — though they'll never match anything but the one dress," she mused.
"Oh, go ahead — they're on sale," I encouraged. She smiled, putting the lid back on a box that contained more practical-looking off-white shoes.
I tried again. "Um, Angela…" She looked up curiously.
"Is it normal for the… Cullens" — I kept my eyes on the shoes — "to be out of school a lot?" I failed miserably in my attempt to sound nonchalant.
"Yes, when the weather is good they go backpacking all the time — even the doctor. They're all real outdoorsy," she told me quietly, examining her shoes, too. She didn't ask one question, let alone the hundreds that Jessica would have unleashed. I was beginning to really like Angela.
"Oh." I let the subject drop as Jessica returned to show us the rhinestone jewelry she'd found to match her silver shoes.
We planned to go to dinner at a little Italian restaurant on the boardwalk, but the dress shopping hadn't taken as long as we'd expected. Jess and Angela were going to take their clothes back to the car and then walk down to the bay. I told them I would meet them at the restaurant in an hour — I wanted to look for a bookstore. They were both willing to come with me, but I encouraged them to go have fun — they didn't know how preoccupied I could get when surrounded by books; it was something I preferred to do alone. They walked off to the car chattering happily, and I headed in the direction Jess pointed out.
I had no trouble finding the bookstore, but it wasn't what I was looking for. The windows were full of crystals, dream-catchers, and books about spiritual healing. I didn't even go inside. Through the glass I could see a fifty-year-old woman with long, gray hair worn straight down her back, clad in a dress right out of the sixties, smiling welcomingly from behind the counter. I decided that was one conversation I could skip. There had to be a normal bookstore in town.
I meandered through the streets, which were filling up with end-of-the-workday traffic, and hoped I was headed toward downtown. I wasn't paying as much attention as I should to where I was going; I was wrestling with despair. I was trying so hard not to think about him, and what Angela had said… and more than anything trying to beat down my hopes for Saturday, fearing a disappointment more painful than the rest, when I looked up to see someone's silver Volvo parked along the street and it all came crashing down on me. Stupid, unreliable vampire, I thought to myself.
I stomped along in a southerly direction, toward some glass-fronted shops that looked promising. But when I got to them, they were just a repair shop and a vacant space. I still had too much time to go looking for Jess and Angela yet, and I definitely needed to get my mood in hand before I met back up with them. I ran my fingers through my hair a couple of times and took some deep breaths before I continued around the corner.
I started to realize, as I crossed another road, that I was going the wrong direction. The little foot traffic I had seen was going north, and it looked like the buildings here were mostly warehouses. I decided to turn east at the next corner, and then loop around after a few blocks and try my luck on a different street on my way back to the boardwalk.