Love story brings family from Las Vegas to North Olympic Peninsula

FORKS — Rianilee Belles, a native of South Africa who has lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was led to her new hometown by a now-mythical tale.

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer’s best-seller about young love between a mortal and a vampire, painted in Belles’ mind a full-color picture of Forks.

She could only imagine the rain-soaked town, the windswept First Beach at LaPush, the deep green forest where Bella Swan and Edward Cullen find romance.

Then, seven months ago, she packed up her family, left Vegas’ lights behind, and moved here.

“I love the rain,” Belles began. “It’s like a dream.”

But what about her 12-year-old daughter, Jenine and her 15-year-old son Jean?

And how did Belles’ husband, Travis, a Californian, take to the idea of living in a place where 10 feet of rain falls annually?

“He said, ‘What? What are you thinking?'” Belles admitted.

But she persuaded the family to go.

Travis got a job at the Clallam Bay Correctional Center, and the whole family found out about a form of entertainment that’s about as far from the Vegas strip as one can get.

It’s called the outdoors.

And the kids are into it, Belles said.

Discovered the outdoors

Jenine confirmed this, while adding that at first her brother and stepfather were ambivalent about Forks.

“But then they found out about the fishing, the hunting, the taking walks in the forest,” she said.

Now, the family feels at home here.

Jenine, a sixth-grader at Forks Middle School, said she prefers this place to the Nevada desert, thanks to the weather.

“Vegas is really, really hot . . . You just get lazy and fat,” she said.

In Forks, “there are lots of sports and activities,” and when it’s cold and rainy, “you can always put on more clothes.”

Jenine added that she has found it easy to make friends here.

She plans to try out for the gymnastics team this fall and for baseball in spring.

The 12-year-old was born in South Africa and moved with her mother and brother to Southern California and then Las Vegas.

“I like going to a new place, experiencing new adventures.

“When I got here, I was like, wow, this was worth it.”

Jenine is halfway through Twilight, the first novel in the series of four.

She, Jean and their mom plan to see the movie tonight, but Jenine said she’s been enjoying her own images of the characters.

She said she can only hope that Kristen Stewart does right by heroine Bella Swan and that Robert Pattinson lives up to her vision of Edward Cullen.

“I like the love and romance and the twists and surprises, the comedy, the adventure,” Jenine said, adding that the novel’s setting in her new hometown is “pretty cool.”

Thus Jenine summarized the story of Twilight, a teen novel that has lured waves of tourists to the West End all year.

And that drew a throng of fans to Port Angeles’ Lincoln Theater on Thursday morning, many hours before the movie’s North Olympic Peninsula premiere at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The appeal of the novel and the film fairly saturates the age spectrum.

Belles said her son, Jean, called Twilight a “girl book,” but then read it for insights into what girls want.

Mom can only hope Jean picks up Edward’s manners. The character “is the ultimate gentleman,” Belles said.

In Port Angeles, there lives at least one adult male with a voracious appetite for Twilight.

He is Gary Cohn, superintendent of the Port Angeles School District.

Cohn and his wife, Sue, have had many long talks about the story of Edward and Bella. They love, among other things, the tension that courses through the books.

Edward the vampire fascinates, Cohn said, because “he’s struggling with what he is; he’s trying to rise above the hand he’s been dealt.”

Cohn added that many of his colleagues across the school district are as enchanted.

He’s rented out one of the Lincoln’s auditoriums this Saturday morning, so he can treat about 150 teachers and staff to their own screening of “Twilight.”

Sequim fans

Even in sunny Sequim, one needn’t search long for Bella-and-Edward fans.

“The fact that this story is in Clallam County is pretty fabulous,” said Sequim High School student Jenae Stratton.

The 17-year-old plans to see the movie sometime but urges her peers to read the books too. They “bring up the imagination,” she said.

Kelsey Sevieri, also 17, was devouring Twilight while awaiting the Clallam Transit bus Wednesday night.

She’s a Running Start student at Peninsula College who moved to Sequim a month ago — and who looks forward to taking a trip to Forks with her father.

The pull of the tale is simple, Sevieri said.

For teens, “the suspense keeps building and building.”

And for adults? “It reminds them of their first love.”

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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