[First published here and now, just trying to gradually fill in some gaps.]
It takes about three hours to get from Phoenix to Seattle, not counting airport security, the fact that half the time your bags have been mailed to Hawaii by mistake (didn't happen, thank all gods non-fictional and otherwise), and everything else that goes wrong.
Forks is, of course, on the corner of “no” and “where”. That's why you don't fly to it directly. You don't even fly to it indirectly. From Seattle you take a smaller plane, called a “puddle jumper” thus finally allowing me to get the joke in Stargate: Atlantis, to a smaller airport at Port Angeles, which is still not Forks.
Port Angeles bills itself as “The Authentic Northwest,” sorry rest of the Northwest, you're knock-offs, apparently. Then again, Forks bills itself as “The Logging Capital Of The World,” when I'm pretty sure it's not the capital of anything anywhere. So you can't judge things based on what they say about themselves.
More important is probably Port Angeles' official motto: The Center of it All on the Olympic Peninsula. The peninsula is mostly national park, which doesn't give a lot of opportunity to hit an airport and probably explains why “The Center of it All” happens to be located on the north shore. The point here being that “The Logging Capital” was located about an hour down 101 West from “The Center of it All”.
And that's how you get to Forks: take a big plane to a small plane; take a small plane to an hour long drive. Give or take. It depends on traffic conditions.
Three hours on one plane, another hour on a second one, that didn't bother me so much. An hour trapped in a car with my mother, Charlize, was another matter. I'd had no idea what to expect.
I'd only talked to her about this over the phone and via email. She'd been nice enough, even seemed genuinely pleased that I was going to be staying with her on a permanent basis for, basically, the first time in my life. But there had also been a lack of questions. Not a word wondering why I was leaving my entire life behind. No concern that my father's new girlfriend might be somehow abusive or otherwise bad for me.
There didn't seem to be any of the drama that should accompany such a major change in my life. A part of me was grateful. I didn't want the drama. I didn't want to be forced to offer explanations. But at the same time, part of me was wondering why it wasn't happening. Shouldn't Charlize, my mother, care enough that the drama would be inevitable and unavoidable? What did it mean that it apparently had been evited and avoided?
When we touched down in Port Angeles and I stepped out into the rain, I reminded myself that, while I might not be sure where she stood emotionally, Charlize had already started to help on the practical side of matters. She'd gotten me registered for high school and smoothed out the details involved in transferring schools in the middle of a term so that I wouldn't have to. She'd set up a bedroom for me in her house. She'd even promised to help me find a car.
That didn't stop my nagging feeling that things were going to suck, though.
Charlize was well aware that, like my father before me, I hated Forks. She had to be confused by my decision to come. She'd yet to bring that up. Not bringing it up at all would confuse me. If she brought it up inside the car that would be worse. The last thing I wanted was to be trapped in an awkward conversation because I was trapped inside a speeding car.
Not that Charlize was likely to be speeding, not too much at least. As the head cop in Forks she was outranked only by the mayor and even off duty and in her own car she tried to set a good, law abiding example.
My point is that as a passenger in a car I am always acutely aware of the fact that I'm trapped in an oddly shaped metal box that I cannot escape no matter how much the driver's actions or words might make me want to. An hour of going through that can be Hell.
On the other hand, car rides can be not-bad as well. Several hours of driving can be just fine.
* * *
The back and forth thinking ended when Charlize gave me an awkward, uncertain, one armed hug as I stumbled out into the rain.
“It's good to see you, Ben,” she said. She didn't mention it but I could feel her subtly adjusting the touch to keep me steady. Wet ground and I are not friends. She helped me with luggage and asked, “How's Ren?”
“Dad's fine,” I said. With Charlize I didn't have to lie, but I'm still not into long explanations and I'm not sure how much Charlize wanted to know about my dad's new girlfriend. “It's good to see you too, mom.”
I never could get into the whole thinking of people as “mom” and “dad”. Add a “my” to it so it becomes clear which mom or dad you're talking about and I'm there, but without a qualifier it always struck me as impersonal and odd. And whenever I tried to explain to anyone I struck them as odd. Such is life I suppose.
That said, if Charlize liked me to call her “mom” rather than her name, I was capable of that. Thinking about her as mom, on the other hand, not so much.
Everything I had fit into the trunk of her car. I travel light.