I own nothing.


March 19th, 2012

4:10 p.m.

Bella Swan is the smartest girl that I've ever met, but her father is maybe the most brilliant man I've ever had the privilege of interacting with. This guy knows every part to every model of car. He knows how to rebuild an engine out of practically nothing and he can install one in your shitty car in less than a week. He's also a walking Wikipedia page.

And he isn't even a mechanic, he's the chief of fucking police.

Charlie Swan is easily an intimidating six foot tall. His dark brown hair is long and pulled back into a braid behind his head, and his masculine voice burrows scary-deep octaves. He has several different arm tattoos, and one of the fattest titanium wedding bands I've ever seen in my life. He has a beard that's five inches too long, and eyes that match his daughter's.

If it weren't for this genius, I might not have ever met Brightside. I should be kissing the ground he walks on, but I choose to kiss his ass instead.

"Are you sure that you want to do this?" I ask, as I hand him the keys to my sun-spotted death-machine. "It's a lot of work."

My car, for lack of a better word, is fucked.

Charlie is going to replace an engine that would normally cost over two grand to fix, and he's going to do it for me for less than five hundred. "Don't worry about it." Charlie waves a dismissive hand after he's inhaled one of his cigarettes. "It's no trouble at all."

"Dad usually picks up shit cars at the salvage yard to work on," Bella informs me around a straw she's been gnawing on for the last half-hour. "If he wasn't working on yours, he'd be rebuilding one of his own."

We're standing in the Swan residence's garage, under a too-bright overhead light that would normally sketch me out. Charlie is sitting on the hood of my car while he scrolls through his phone in search junkyards. My favorite person in the world is beside me, drinking a Coca-Cola Slurpee loudly, while she comments on her father's diagnostic and avoids making eye contact with me.

It's fine. I mean, we're in front of her dad. It'd be weird if she looked at me. Right? It's not like she hates me or anything, or else she wouldn't have helped me out in the first place.

"Oh shit, would you look at the time?" Bella points to her phone, and I furrow my brows while she leans into her father. "It's four-twenty!"

Charlie laughs at his daughter, and they share some sort of unreadable disbelieving look. Brightside smirks, and Charlie shakes his head at his daughter. "You're not cute, Bella. Take your friend home, and don't talk like that around me."

I can't tell if Charlie is just saying that because I'm here, or if he really thinks his daughter isn't cute.

"What if Edward wants to stay for dinner?" she asks, sticking her face intrusively close to his. "Mom's bringing home chicken. What if that's his favorite, dad? Dad. Dad, what if he wants a wing? What if I want him to―"

Charlie raises a hand to cut her off. "I don't care what you do. Just leave me alone."

Brightside looks victorious. She snakes her hand down my arm to grab my hand and she pulls me towards the door, out of the garage. "You don't have to stay if you don't want." She looks back at me as we cross her yard. "But I'd like it if you did."

I don't respond, even though I want to tell her I'll never leave if she asks me to. I just keep my mouth closed as I follow her into the house. She leads me into a kitchen that's smells like wet paint and is colored a bright sunshine-yellow with sunflower-print wallpaper beneath the trim lining the middle-walls. I think I'd have a seizure if it didn't seem so fucking nice.

She tells me to sit, and I obediently drop down on an empty stool.

She clicks her tongue in her mouth, and I hear the mute tap-tap-tapping of her flats meeting the linoleum floor. "I couldn't get you to get a Slurpee with me, but I bet you like soda, right?"

I don't answer. I bite my lip and stare head-on, avoiding her gaze.

"Oh, come on!" she exclaims. "You really don't drink soda?"

I finally look up at her and crack a smile. She's standing by the fridge, one foot out, with her hand posed in her hip. "I like some sodas. Sprite is good."

"Ugh." She touches her stomach. "You're giving me a belly ache with that talk. What about tea, country boy?" She sways over to the cabinet to retrieve a glass. "You like sweet tea?"

"Um…" I nod, knowing she isn't going to give up. If there's one thing that I've learned about her in the last few hours, it's that Brightside is a people-pleaser. Until everyone else is comfortable and situated, she can't be comfortable and situated. "Yeah."

She pours a glass of tea out on the kitchen table for me and smiles as though she's pleased with herself. "Good shit?"

I laugh at her, finding this girl so strange and amusing.

Most girls wouldn't do this. Most girls wouldn't treat the boy they just slept with like a welcomed house guest. They wouldn't offer him a glass of tea, and pretend like everything is fine. Most girls would find this awkward, and they probably wouldn't smile half as much as she does.

Bella Swan is not most girls.

"Um, yeah."

I'm more like most girls.

She nods carefully and walks backwards until she's rocking back against the kitchen counter. She sucks her bottom lip between teeth and shifts on her heels for a moment. "Um, I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry that I didn't get the chance to say goodbye the other morning. My dad threatened to put out an APB on anybody who was at Jake Black's party."

I bark a laugh, and stare down at my shoes. My old Nikes are muddy-grimy and ripping at the ends. I feel so out of place, looking down at my crappy muck-caked shoes on this nice clean kitchen floor.

"I put my number in your iPod."

I keep my eyes trained on my dirty kicks as I nod. "Yeah, I know."

"You didn't use it." I look up finally, and see the somber look on Brightside's face. She has her jaw slightly slacked, her eyes narrowed, her cheeks almost pale. She shakes her head when she catches me looking at her. "I mean, you didn't have to―"

"I wanted to," I interrupt, standing. I don't know why I'm standing, but I am. "Really, I tried to, I just don't have a phone."

Her mouth opens wider in realization. "Oh! Oh." She nods, like she's agreeing with me. "Oh-kay."

There are some things I'm too stupid to do. Being smart is one of them.

I don't know if Bella Swan was a virgin before she met me, or if she's ever even been kissed before. I don't know if she regrets having sex with me, and I don't know if she's just pretending to be friends with me because that's the kind of incredible person she is. I don't know if we were safe that night, or if Bella's just on birth control and she hasn't said anything about it.

These things are important, and I know that I need to ask her.

"Um." I lick my lips and blow out a frustrated breath. I need to do this; just say it. "Are you…"

"I'm on the pill," she blurts out. I look up at her with furrowed brows, confused by her sudden outburst. Am I that fucking transparent?

"The pill?" I ask, like the dumbass I am.

She has her arms crossed over her chest, her face beet-red. She nods, chewing on her bottom lip. "Uh, yeah. And I'm not exactly freaking out or anything, because, you know, I, like, just had my period, and girls aren't really fertile until later on."

"Uh." I rub my eyes, trying to understand what the fuck is happening right now. My mind is reeling, and I'm developing a serious fucking headache. "So, you're … um?"

"Really, I promise you don't have to worry about diseases or anything either." She stands up straighter then, no longer needing the counter for support. "I'm clean. One hundred percent. Are you … clean?"

She says it all so fast that it takes me more than half a minute to process it all. "Um, I'm clean. I swear, but don't tell me not to worry about it." I drop my gaze back down to the floor. "I was worried about you, like I wondered if that was, um …"

"I wasn't a virgin." She laughs kind of, and I look back up. "I mean, I was. But I wasn't one last week."

I don't really feel any better, but I kind of do. I feel pissed and grateful at the same time, which is one cocktail of emotions I hope I never have again. Mostly, I hope whoever took her virginity didn't go about treating her like I did.

This girl is making me into a better boy, and she has no idea.

"Yeah …" That's all I can really say.

"So, I guess you really need a ride to school from now on, huh?" She starts picking at the end of that damn hoodie. "I'm sure Emmett and Rose like to keep their passengers to a minimum."

I don't know what she's getting at, but I sort of like the direction she's headed in.

"I could, you know, pick you up and stuff." She shrugs, looking up at me through her bangs.

There's so much about last weekend, and tonight, and last night that I don't know about. I don't know what I'm doing with my life or who I am, and I don't know much about my own generation, even.

I am simple. Boring. And I always feel like I'm lost.

I don't know who I want to be when I grow up, or if I even really want to go to college after high school because my grades are terrible and I suck at life. Algebra confuses me, but the opposite sex does maybe even more. I don't really know how to flirt with a girl, and I'm pretty much the worst conversationalist on this planet.

I have one brother, and he knows everything about me. He knows about the three girls I've slept with, and he knows that I don't really have any regrets. Except for one, maybe.

Now, I'm not so sure that I do have any regrets. All of my problems seem simple, like the answer is right in front of me.

I look up to Brightside, and smile like it's the easiest thing in the world.

"Okay."