Hi all, I'm anemotionallyconstipatedauthor and this is my ongoing work to fix my pet peeves in Twilight. It started as an assignment from my Creative Writing lecturer who wanted us to shake up a pre-built fictional world. I chose Twilight because I honestly disliked a lot - if not all - of it and that would make it easier for me to step out of Meyer's shadow and make this my own.
I'm idly going through and editing past chapters, so it might be worth skimming over a couple here and there. Please enjoy.
Also - I'm asking nicely for any criticism to be clear and constructive. I hate hate, as most people do, hypocrite that I am. I won't respond to pointlessly insulting reviews or people crying out at every little alteration. This is fanfiction: it's purpose is to shake up a preconceived story.
I promise to all my wearied readers that this story will be finished. I know the ending already and I really hope you all like it. I understand in advance if you hate my guts but this story is going to be as true to my protagonist as I can make it.
Sorry if I don't respond to individual reviews. I'm incredibly busy with an internship right now. It's not a great excuse but it is the truth.
Again, love and peace and all that jazz.
Gimme Shelter, The Rolling Stones
American schools were somehow both identical and completely different to British ones. Sure, they had that God awful cat poster tacked to the wall - whoever created and distributed that monstrosity needed to be shot - and there was the obvious mould on the ceiling, the broken radiator that blasted heat twenty four-seven rather than just occasionally in winter, and the iconic, blinking fluorescent yellow light sputtering above her, which always made her feel paranoid over possibly becoming epileptic. All of these things, flaws though they were, felt familiar. She could be attending any high school in the world with those details.
But, this school was also alien to her. For one thing, the small town of Forks wasn't quite up to date with modern technology and so, suffered through the unbearably slow, cube shaped computers that felt like they belonged in museums. If there was one thing she would miss Littleton's Comprehensive School for, it would be the power of Google and all its wonder.
Of course, she wasn't going back there ever again. It wasn't one of those 'problem child' situations - she hadn't killed someone or knocked out some Mean Girls' wannabe with one of the frying pans from Cookery class. Nope, instead, it was her worst nightmare.
Her dad died. He had a heart attack, plain and simple. Except it wasn't.
Because she wasn't particularly sure of how to navigate her life without him in it.
Just thinking about him made her feel that unrelenting, sharp ache in her chest. People didn't lie when they said you always remember the little things. Her father was longing memories of bright orange hair identical to her own, an awful singing voice that wailed to Led Zeppelin or The Moody Blues, brilliant omelettes or awful tea which was always too milky. He was what she took for granted, the things she thought were part of the scenery until they were ripped away from her.
It felt like a phantom stabbing. Everyone always thought of tears or absolute silence or zombification when it came to grief - but she hadn't reacted that way. She'd cried at the funeral, bawled into her brother's shoulder like a newborn baby, and then, in some mutually silent agreement, she and her sibling had tried to toughen up and continue living because they both knew it was what he would've wanted.
That didn't mean she wanted to talk about it to a stranger, however.
"How're you feeling?"
Her eye twitched. She couldn't stop it if she'd tried. Really? How are you feeling? She was feeling pretty damn bad and wished she was addicted to something, like cigarettes or cocaine or Gossip Girl, to take her focus away from her own head. It was a jumbled mess in her skull as it was, never mind this guy's attempt to poke around in it - a man who seemed to be attempting the role of Freud and Jerry Springer's love child. The guidance counsellor opposite her was portly, red faced and balding; not the inspirational, motivational, aspirational (anything, really, with 'ational' attached) person he thought he was.
"I'm feeling like chips," she replied, nonchalantly, shrugging. "Oh you call them 'fries' right?" She asked seriously. "You should know, those thin sticks you consider fries are not nearly, not on this Earth, as good as the stuff back home. Man, I really miss chips."
She blinked widely and innocently up at him, "Yes, Mr," she looked pointedly and rather sardonically at the in-your-face, proudly placed, Mr R. Davies name holder plastered boldly in front of her, on top of the oak desk, "oh, Davies, was it? Mr Davies. Does the R stand for Roger by any chance? I'm a huge fan of JK."
Said man's eyes practically begged to be rolled, but he clearly restrained himself if the vein pulsing on his forehead was any suggestion. She wasn't trying to actively give her counsellor an aneurism – she just really didn't want to do this. Guidance counselling was not her thing. If Jon didn't have to go, and her elder brother was most definitely less sane than she was, which was saying something, then she didn't think she should be confined to the stiflingly hot, incredibly awkward atmosphere, reminiscent of the nine circles of Hell, either. Instead, she was forced to deflect and joke her arse off until he freed her.
"Miss Brennan, you have attended two of these sessions so far, with little success. I realise moving to a new school, and a new country, is stressful given your… situation, but do you feel like you can take this session seriously?"
She thought about it. She really, really did.
"No. I doubt it," she said honestly, her voice monotonous. "It's not you, it's me. I'm just not that into you. Picture every clichéd breakup movie speech and apply it to me, you and our unfortunate situation." She leaned forward, trying to sound earnest for once rather than sarcastic, "I know I need to go through the stages of grief, hold hands with hippies, stare moodily at a lake and all that fun stuff, but honestly? I just want to attempt American high school. It's my first day. Last week, I didn't say anything because I hadn't officially begun; but now? Can I please be excused before I'm late for my first lesson?"
He sighed, rubbing his watery blue eyes wearily. "You may leave, Miss Brennan," he said, defeated.
With a small, triumphant, empty smile, Nora quickly hopped out of her seat, grabbed her satchel from the floor, and headed out of the classroom, breathing in a gulp of fresh… hallway air. Hm, maybe she'd wait to do the dramatic exit when she actually left the building.
Which wouldn't be until the gruelling day of torture, in the form of high school education, had ended. Joy.
She glanced down at her handy dandy school map, as well as the timetable, and attempted to guide herself, emulating Columbus, to her English class. Luckily, after a briefly awkward nod and handing over of the sacred 'new-girl-in-school' note to the teacher, she was told to snag the remaining seat near the back and practically slammed her forehead on the desk in an effort to escape the curious glances boring, unrelentingly, into her face. Ah well, at least the desk was cool and she wouldn't resemble a tomato when she was forced upright.
Eventually, the teacher - dismissing the need to introduce the new girl, and God did she thank him for it, the saint - explained that the lesson would simply be individual study, analysing certain chapters of the book, and left them to do their thing.
She would start reading and highlighting like a maniac, and forget about the horrific counselling session and all the memories she had forcibly tucked away to remember after school, in private.
Of course, that peace was soon ruined in the form of her hastily thrown, open bag.
"Bloody hell," she cursed, grabbing her sprawled textbooks and pens from the desk and throwing them haphazardly into her satchel. So much for neatness and organisation.
Pfft. As if she were neat or organised or able to function normally. Oh, pipe dreams.
Embarrassed, Nora tucked a thick strand of hair behind her ear and offered her partner - who she'd barely noticed up to that point - a sheepish grin. The ridiculously handsome boy beside her offered a small, polite if a bit distant smile in response.
Alrighty then. Not wanting to dwell on her own thoughts longer than she had to, she introduced herself, "I'm Nora." She offered an awkward wave, "and I'm not usually this clumsy. Sorry about," she gestured to where she'd knocked his pristine notebook and copy of the novel sideways in her rush, "that."
And honestly, she wasn't. She figured it was a mix of first day in a new school jitters and Jesus-Christ-I'm-living-in-a-new-country nerves.
"It's quite alright," he replied, quietly, and again, politely. "My name is Edward Cullen."
Edward, huh. She tried to remember if she'd ever met an Edward before and came up blank. She smiled, "You're the first Edward I've ever met. Not that that's impressive, really," she mused, "you can't exactly be impressive for something you didn't choose yourself. But I like meeting people with new names. It would get a bit boring if I just had a harem of Edward's," she muttered to herself.
Hm, that was probably a weird thing to say. Going by his slightly raised eyebrows, anyway.
She shrugged, "I tend to speak my thoughts aloud."
His lips twitched and she counted it as a win. "I noticed."
Her eyes narrowed, examining his absurdly flawless face. She wondered how much time it took him to perfect his bronze hair and compared it to those creepy Ken doll-styled boy bands that were becoming increasingly popular and increasingly self-entitled.
She despised perfectionism. She was too damn lazy for it. She supposed he did look good…
Oh, who was she kidding? His face irritated her. It was all pale skin, sharp cheekbones and a straight nose. Part of her wanted to punch him just so his nose would resemble a human being's rather than the cast of 90210. God forbid anyone remind her of that devil's spawn of a programme.
"You're not much of a talker, are you?" She said, tapping her pen absently against the counter and reading over today's chapter.
He looked affronted, for no reason whatsoever, and a little amused. In fact, his stare made her feel like one of those seals clapping for an audience at SeaWorld.
She was not a seal. Her glare hopefully clarified that.
On that note, she turned back to her novel for the second time, hopefully taking in what she was reading this time rather than staring at the words, dazed and blank like a Stepford wife.
All of the American education system confused her. Apparently she was a junior in 11th grade because she was still seventeen and, although she'd considered going in as a senior, she didn't want to ruin her chances of a good education; after all, if she didn't understand it now, why dive in the deep end and get eaten brutally by sharks?
That analogy got away from her a bit…
But, she was coping. Trudging through it like it was all an extended episode of Glee and she'd lost the remote. And boy, were these people chipper enough to get away with the comparison. She'd already been accosted by some blonde kid named Mike who reminded her of a spaniel on ecstasy; he had attempted to suavely guide her to the counsellor's office until her deadpan stare eventually made him back the hell off.
She was slightly upset that she no longer had the same lessons as back in England, either. Over there, one mathematics class was enough but here it was all Calculus, Trigonometry, yadda yadda. It was making her reconsider her plan to puppy-dog-eye Jon into swindling her away and becoming a feral child. The forest was plentiful; they might not find her.
But now she needed to focus.
English Lit was probably going to end up being her favourite lesson. She loved reading almost as much as she loved listening to music. Rather than sitting stiffly on her seat, she relaxed, imagining she was no longer in the classroom but sitting curled up in a blanket on the beach outside of her old house, back home. Waves crashing, gulls crying, and the strong scent of sea salt assaulting her nose.
The novel they were currently studying was The Road, which she admittedly adored. Perhaps she was a closet masochist.
Idly analysing her chosen quote, highlighter stuck between her teeth, Nora thought over McCarthy's words. Religion was a tricky topic for her; she didn't believe in God, in the sense of the benevolent, omniscient presence, and The Road's interpretation was something she could agree with. God or no God, there will always be suffering.
"Interesting analysis," her partner commented. She peered over at him, meeting his golden eyes. Golden eyes. Like honey. Odd.
But, focused on his face once again, she was reminded that there was not a single blemish, scar or stray hair in sight. It was more reminiscent of a porcelain doll than a human being.
Unnatural, her mind offered. And the word fit. His looks, perfect as they were, screamed of something abnormal; he looked polished.
But rather than dwell on her discomfort of it, she focused on his question.
"You don't think that the man relies on God as a reason to continue? That he purely exists to continue a biblical mission, guiding his son?"
"You disagree with me," she realised, looking at him.
He narrowed his eyes. "Not necessarily; I simply believe the man has realised that he's there to fulfil the role that God's given him. He states, clearly, that the child is 'the word of God', and therefore, following him is following God, Himself."
Nora thought about it; Edward was clearly humouring her and probably had more than one black and white approach to the text but she liked debating critical analysis, regardless. She desperately needed to let off some pent up steam, so perhaps ranting a little angrily at her pretty-boy-partner was the cure.
Indulging him, she replied, "I don't think that it's God that the man is talking to or that his role as the child's guide sustains him. I think his relationship and love for the child does. McCarthy seems to suggest that while God may or may not be present, He is undoubtedly indifferent to their suffering and thus, becomes non-existent as a result. I think the point of the novel is to show morality in a godless world. Morality, here, is achieved because of love, not religion – the man teaches the boy and himself to be the 'good guys' not for the sake of a Godlike being, but for the sake of the child. Every time he does something 'bad', the child distances himself, and in that way the child is the moral compass, not God. When the Man states that, 'If he is not the word of God God never spoke,' as you said, I don't think he's suggesting the option of godlessness is impossible. I think McCarthy is transforming the boy into the role God should fulfil but fails to."
She looked up and noticed Edward staring at her, thoughtfully. She would even go as far as to say there was a spark of surprise in his eyes.
"Are you an atheist?" He asked bluntly.
"Does it matter either way?"
"Yes," he stated, leaning forward. "A believer in God wouldn't imply that the world is godless."
"I'm not saying that. I'm saying that morality entwined with religion becomes self-interested."
He tilted his head. "Why do you think that?"
Nora huffed, threading her fingers together and turning to face him properly. "Because if religion becomes the compass of morality, then moral people are selfish – they're only being good because they have to be in order to reach their afterlife in heaven or whatever it is they believe in. Here, in this novel, the man encourages morality and being the 'good guy' for the sake of his son, and his love for the child. Not for God."
"That would suggest that the man in the novel is equally as selfish as religious believers, though," he pointed out.
She shrugged nonchalantly. "I'd say he's less so than most people. And I'd argue that the point is that the child is the selfless character. He's being good solely because he wants to be – he guides the man to be good because it's what right. Good has no purpose in a godless universe and yet, there they are," she gestured to her open text, "striving to be the 'good guys'."
They both paused and Nora could feel his stare on her face. His eyes were intense, blazing with something indefinable, as if Nora had touched upon something raw. She didn't mean to offend him but she always thought telling the truth of your opinion was more important than hurt feelings. Besides, her interpretation was just that - one interpretation of many. None were right or wrong, it was part of the reason she loved this subject so much.
"You're very... different, compared to other teens here."
She snorted, looking up with a bemused smirk. "Not particularly. I'm your stereotypical teen; I love coffee, Netflix and sarcasm. Perfectly normal," she glanced at him, slightly suspicious of... something. Something that was glaringly obvious. Something that - throughout their absolutely ordinary discussion, arguably since she'd first noticed how flawless he was, as if his skin were marble rather than malleable flesh - remained unknown. She didn't know why, but Edward Cullen seemed wrong, somehow, and that made her wary. But she pushed those thoughts aside for later dissection, instead quipping with an undertone of honesty, "Besides, you're one to talk about being different, Mr Photoshop."
Edward let out a laugh that seemed to surprise him, but still managed to frown at the same time. He looked troubled. "Touché."
She considered questioning him. Just turning around and asking him to explain to her why she felt on edge. She had an inkling that if she did, he would lie.
Suddenly, the bell rang loudly, dismissing the class. Chairs scraped back and the sound of chattering erupted as if it had only been paused.
And with the noise, came her acceptance of this enigma beside her. She had enough on her plate to deal with, without having to barge herself into someone else's secrets; that wasn't exactly tasteful. So, collecting her things, Nora breathed out a smile.
She enjoyed debating, had yearned for an intellectual partner to do so with. She felt that familiar adrenaline pumping through her veins, as if she'd stretched a muscle at long last; chiding her with just how much she'd missed it.
She turned to Edward once she'd packed up, noting that he'd already done so and was beginning to stand as well.
"It was," she pursed her lips, "refreshing to have a debate with someone who actually read the novel. So, I guess it was nice to meet you, Edward. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go act like a proper teenager and brood my way through lunch with music playing ridiculously loudly out of my headphones."
Edward smirked like the douchebag she knew he secretly was. "You realise this was only the first class. Lunch isn't for another three hours."
She rolled her eyes. Amateurs. "This is why they invented pop tarts," she replied, snagging the delicious treats from her bag, "to scoff between classes. Want one?"
"No, thank you," he replied, quickly.
"Calm down," she said, bemused by his sudden response. "No need to panic and ruin a strand of that perfectly coiffed hair of yours," she smirked, eyes taking in his reaction to her words: he looked distinctly uncomfortable. "See you in class, Eddie."