The town was quiet. Tour buses with curly, girly lettering on the side advertising Twilight tours were parked, idle and empty, in the gas station parking lot. We had come to the Olympic Peninsula for nature, for the deep green forests and the beach-log-lined swaths of grey-gold sand. But we needed milk for our coffee and to get it, we would have to face the vampires of Forks. We turned right at the battered sign for the Quileute Reservation and headed north.
I had not been to this depressed logging town since long before Stephanie Meyer populated it with creatures of the night and emo teens. During my last trip through, the villain was the endangered spotted owl. 'Save a logger, shoot a spotted owl' and 'This business supported by timber dollars' have been replaced by 'Team Jacob!' Lumberjack plaid has given way to pseudo-Goth t-shirts featuring the airbrushed sulking faces of Bella and Edward backed by a silvery full moon.
'Welcome, Twilighters!' said the sign outside the strip motel on the interstate. A little cart at the road side advertised 'Twilight Firewood.' I wondered aloud what that could be, how firewood had become a product associated with lovesick sullen highschoolers.
We parked the car in the slushy snow and walked along the main street for a block, maybe two, before pushing open the door to one of the Twilight themed shops. It was a big space, everything was black and red and silver. Life sized stand up cut outs of Edward and Bella and Jacob lurked at random intervals throughout the store. There were Twilight coffee cups and Twilight sweatshirts and Twilight shot glasses and velvet boxes containing special edition Twilight books.
The shopkeeper was at the back, shockingly pale, translucent, almost, with a bluish cast to his skin. He was dressed in black, the hood of his windstop polar fleece jacket folded in a complicated origami that suggested the high stand up collar of a cape. His hair was pale too, not yellow blonde, but a neutral color that disappeared into his smooth, ageless face. And his voice, as he greeted us, it was sweet and high and soft, a woman’s voice, with just a shadow of an accent.
I flipped through the guest book at the back corner of the shop. 'TEAM EDWARD!' 'Jacob, I love you!' 'Bella and Edward' inside a blue ballpoint pen heart. On the wall in front of me, a map, studded with pins placed by visitors from all over the globe.
'Are you on there?' asked shopkeeper. 'Where are you from?'
'Oh, we’re here,' I said, and then, looked for the husband’s home town. 'Both of us. Close enough, anyway.'
'We’ve got them in German, here…' The guy stood up, tall, easily breaking six feet, and pointed towards the box set of all four volumes. He’d picked up on my husband’s accent (Austrian) and identified his own (South African).
'I couldn’t make it through the second one,' I confessed. 'I watched the movie because I wanted to see the landscape. Does it get any better?'
'My wife loves them, she went through them all in a weekend, but I haven’t read the books.'
My brain skidded to a halt. I looked around the store at volume after volume after volume of Stephanie Meyer's series. 'You haven’t read them?' I repeated.
'Too busy, I guess,' he said.
The shop was empty, hell, the whole town seemed empty, save for the pouting cardboard Bellas and Edwards and Jacobs in every other window.
Outside it was snowing, hard, and we did not have chains. The gunmetal sky belied the time of day, it was only two in the afternoon. 'We need to get out of here,' the husband said. 'I am NOT spending the night in Forks.'
We turned the car back towards Kalaloch Beach. A cabin on the bluff waited, a sunset, the smell of the ocean. Just a mile past the general store, the sky opened up and the tall tall trees were flocked with fresh snow. Even the road, which had seemed treacherous and icy, was dry and clear. Another mile down the road, and we were blinking in the bright sunshine.