Bella finds out that she can do magic when she is eight.
For a moment she thinks she imagined it. It doesn't help when she repeats her poem again and nothing happens. But maybe that poem is just used up. She makes up another, and that one works.
The rules aren't too hard to figure out. Poems don't always work. They have to rhyme, they have to scan, they have to be new, and even then they don't always work and they'll only do little things - but they usually work, if Bella doesn't overshoot.
And it doesn't matter if they're very new.
By the time Bella is nine she has a repertoire of spells that refer to the date. Some of them, which she likes to use more than once a day, she reworks to also refer to the time. She shows Renée, who finds her abilities fascinating and helps her with some of the wording, though no spell will work for her. When she stays with Charlie that summer she shows him, too, and he's less excited and more concerned but he doesn't tell her she has to stop.
The poems only do little things. She can clean her teeth by magic, and heal little scrapes and bruises she picks up when she trips and falls, and make herself not carsick or airsick, and - although since she cannot do this many times all in one day it is of limited use - move objects without touching them. But they make her feel special, and maybe one day she'll figure out how to make poems do bigger things, and then she can do anything, she is sure.
She gets two letters, the summer she's ten. They have strange shiny stamps and heavy vellum envelopes.
Dear Miss Isabella Swan,
We are pleased to inform you that your talents afford you a partial scholarship and a place at the Alta California Academy of the Arts Magical. Your dual residence has also qualified you for admittance to another institution, which will write you separately. Please reply by owl or return of post on the subject of whether you will be accepting enrollment with us or with the other school before August 10.
Should you choose to accept ACAAM's offer, you will enjoy a first-rate magical education particularly geared towards the seamless integration of Muggleborn students such as yourself, with a strong focus on Charms, Potions, and magic theory (see supplemental materials). You will be obliged to arrive two days before start of term for the SPAWN exams to determine your placement in skill level and for the subsequent guided shopping trip during which you will obtain your magical equipment (standard list below; may be supplemented depending on SPAWN results).
There follows a list of equipment ranging from "wand" through "robes" and "familiar (optional)", and supplemental material explaining what "Muggleborn" means and what the various subjects are and why she should prefer a Charms/Potions/theory focus to any other.
The other letter is much the same, except that it's from the Texarcana School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, and advertises a strong athletics program, Transfiguration curriculum, and Muggle Studies track.
There isn't any information on getting to visit either place. Bella carefully writes out her acceptance to ACAAM and her refusal to TSWW, and puts them in the mail.
Then it occurs to her that she'd really better tell her parents.
Charlie's at work, and this doesn't seem to her like an emergency, so she calls Renée, who is disbelievingly thrilled and says that this most certainly is something that warrants calling Charlie.
So Bella reads Renée the entire ACAAM letter, then hangs up and calls her father and reads it to him too, and he comes home early and reads it for himself, and says, "Well. I guess there's more to magic than those little poems, then, isn't there?"
"I guess!" says Bella with a brilliant smile. And she skips her plane to Phoenix and instead she waits at the end of Charlie's driveway on August 29, with a wheeled suitcase and a pocket full of spending money and all the excitement in the world.