Dad does not know what to do with himself, as he walked through the kitchen today after work.
Mom and I are setting the table just as he comes in, and Mom smiles at him, but he doesn't return the favor. He just ends up going over to our small island in the middle of the kitchen, and taking off his jacket. Mom regards him curiously, but says nothing.
He takes off his jacket and holds it over one arm.
Then he switches it to the other arm. Then he throws it on the counter. He pulls it from the counter and hangs it over the back of a chair. As if there were a person inside, he pats the shoulders of the jacket. He doesn't look at me, but I can tell he really wants to, that something is bothering him, and my heart drops to my stomach.
A couple of minutes later, I am sitting at our kitchen table, counting the scratches in our old wooden table. There are a lot of scratches, so many that I can't keep up. Most of the stuff we have is old or cheap or both. My parents love flea markets and antique stores.
Not too long ago, my mom thought about opening her own vintage clothing boutique, until my dad reminded her how much she hated the business end of business.
My Mom holds something in her hands, examining it closely. "Where did you get this.." she asks. Not me, but my Dad. "Where did this come from, Johnathon?"
"Someone sent it to the store e-mail address," he says.
My mom turns to me. "Is this why you seemed so depressed before?"
I nod. I've officially become a mute.
"Who would do something like this?" She asks, pausing to look back down at the picture in her hands. I have my ideas, Mom, trust me, I would love to know, too. "Is this someone's idea of a joke Bella?" I shrug. "Did someone dress up as you?"
For a minute I think about saying,Yes! A joke! It's just a big joke! But I shake my head no, confirming both of their worst nightmares.
She places it back down onto the counter, where my fathers eyes are burning holes into the counter top. I thought the whole world, including the kids in my school, and my teachers seeing this was bad, but this is worse. This is a billion times worse. I thought I could hide it from them forever, but obviously, I've failed.
"So this is you?"
My eyes are on the floor, and I nod my head, yes.
"From Saturday night?" She questions me. And although I know deep down she is incredibly hurt for her only child, only daughter..I'm so glad that one of them is at least speaking to me, and not yelling, just speaking. More mute nodding comes from me.
Dad's hands tighten around the jacket shoulders, and he stares at me in disbelief. "God," he shakes his head. "Did someone force you to—"
"No! Dad," I say. "Nobody forced me to do anything I didn't agree to."
"I don't understand," he says. "How could someone take a picture? Did you let them?"
"No!" I shout, shocked.
But my dad doesn't stop. "Is that what's going on at these supposed parties nowadays?"
"John. . . ," my mom says. "Let her talk."
My dad snatches up the picture, half way crumbling it. I wish it would be crumbled, to piece. Gone. Forgotten. Forever. "Who is this?" he says, jabbing a finger at the naked chest floating above my hair.
"Nobody that you know," I mumble, looking away from him, but from the corner of my eye, I can tell that he is not happy with my response — in fact, he looks at me like I had just slapped him.
"Nobody?" He asks, his voice cracking slightly. His eyes are burning. "I will personally turn up to see this nobody right now, Isabella," he pauses, grumbling something to my Mom, who touches his shoulder briefly. "Nobody," he repeats, shaking his head. "I will fucking kill him, Laura," I hear him whisper to my mother, who rolls her eyes at my father.
I'm not crying. It's impossible that I'm not, but I'm not. I feel cold and hard, like marble. An Bella-shaped statue sitting at the kitchen table. My mom's lips are moving, forming words and then biting them back. Finally she says, "Is this your boyfriend?"
I almost laugh, but my marble mouth just isn't that mobile. "Sort of," I say. But then I frown. Was he ever really even mine? I don't think anyone could classify him as theirs. Because really, he was nobodies but him selves. "Not really. Not anymore, anyway. I broke up with him."
"Christ!" my dad says. He stares at me. "Tell me that you at least used protection."
"We didn't need protection," I said, frowning. "I mean, not for that. I don't think."
I cant believe I am actually saying all this, discussing all of this, with my DAD. This is not embarrassment. This is not humiliation. This is something ten times deeper, and colder, with different shades of darkness.
My Dad looks at me as if he has tasted something sour. "You don't need.."
My mom gives him a warning look and he clamps his mouth shut. She says, "So you were . . . with your boyfriend, and someone took the picture. Do you know who did it?"
"No." I say, shaking my head slowly, as bile rises in my throat. I somehow wish for some reason that Jessica were here, to defend my honor. She was the last person they saw me with last weekend before that damn party. "I have absolutely no idea, Mom. And. . . it's eating me alive as much as it is to you both."
Mom nods again as if she understands, but really, I know she doesn't. We all need time to process this, and although I have had a good twenty four hours to make process of this, it still hasn't completely registered until..now, actually. As I have to sit here in front of my parents, as their only child, a senior in high school, who should be able to make decisions wisely, and explain to them how I got down on my hands and knees in front of a boy who I thought had liked me in the way that I liked him, and gave him a 'heres-to-the-nice-few-months-of-the-summer-we-spent-together-but-this-will-never-happen-again' present.
"Who else has seen this, Bella?" Bella. At least Mom isn't using my full name, which means she isn't that angry with me. Even though we will most likely be frowned upon at the super market, and community functions that take place, that Mom and Dad take part in. Everyone will probably feel weird going into Dad's store, now, too. He may even lose business because of me. The thought makes me cringe from the inside out.
"Um.." I paused, biting my lip. "Everyone."
She winces. "Oh..." she gasps. "Bella!"
She cries as she rushes to my side, and throws her arms around me. She finally understands why I have missed the second day of my senior year. It wasn't because of the fake bullshit I fed her this morning, it was because of this. The picture. The stares. The whispers. The laughing. The people knowing.
And Edward, of all people. Not even caring, as he walked down that hallway Monday morning, with a broad smile on his face, and Pamela Markovitz glued to his side, hanging onto his every word.
"What do you mean, everyone?" My Dad says as he watches the pair of us. He's frowning so hard and so deeply that his dark eyebrows bunch up in folds over his nose.
"They've been sending it from phone to phone at school. For the last three days."
There's silence. I don't know how long. We can hear the clock tick. Mom just sits there with her arms wrapped tightly around me, and it is exactly what I need, although I am not usually one to show affection, but Mom is all for it. I guess I took after Dad with that one.
Dad breaks the silence. "I'll call the phone company first thing tomorrow morning."
"Why?" I cringe.
"To find out who was sending the picture around," he looks at me as though I am too stupid to explain any of this to.
"Can you do that?" Mom asks.
"I can try." His mouth was a thin, tight seam. "I'm sure it's the boy."
"Who?" I asked, furrowing my eyebrows at him. Surely he doesn't think Edward...no. He couldn't have! Why would he?
He points at the photo. "This one. He probably had some friend of his take the picture. Fucking bastard."
Mom gasps at Dad's vulgar language, but I'm used to it, because I also picked that up from him. "It wasn't him!" I exclaim, and my Dad crosses his arms. "He couldn't have known that..." I stop myself before going into detail of what I did to Edward to my parents.
That I would have ripped his shirt open, making his buttons fly everywhere, and spread that shirt like a curtain. That I would pull his belt from him before he had the chance to process what the hell I was about to do—before even I could process it.
But the dark thought crosses my arms that...maybe he did know. Maybe this was his idea. Maybe he wanted to ruin my senior year. The one I told him I was very excited for almost every time I was with him.
"Isabella!" Dad says, bringing me back to reality. "Known what? He couldn't have known what, exactly?"
I stare at him, dumbfounded. I remember when we used to play catch with the football when I was a little girl. I think Dad secretly wanted a boy, but I never hated him for his preference. Every Dad wants a son he can throw around and rough house with. I can still throw the baseball perfectly, and throw the football like a dude.
"That's a girl," dad would yell, encouraging me. "Steady, steady! You got this, Bella, just concentrate. Concentrate. There you go...you got it!" He would tell me, with a proud fatherly grin plastered brightly on his face. Now he's staring at me like he has no clue who the hell I am or where I've come from.
"I don't know," I shake my head, biting the inside of my lip. "Nothing, never mind."
He glares at me for a moment, before pulling his jacket off of the chair, knocking it over in the process, and just like that, none of us have it in us to speak any more. Dinner is wasted, but Mom says nothing as she cleans it up, and picks up the chair.
Dad spends that night in virtual silence while he does endless Google searches on laws regarding the transmission of photos over cell phones. My mom brings me hot tea and more hot tea and spends a lot of time trying to figure out what, exactly, she should say to me. We try to watch a new cop show — my mom loves cop shows and she got me hooked — but the episode is about these boys who date-rape a girl at some exclusive Manhattan high school. Neither me or my mom can take it. We turn it off and go to bed early. I don't sleep, so Mom comes in sometime around five in the morning, and just stands at the door, staring at me.
I pretend to sleep, and let her have her moment, although it's awkward for me. I feel like I have ruined our family, and the bond holding it together. I have kept the one thing I never should have from them.
Thursday morning rolls around faster, and Dad is up and out of the house before me and Mom can even join him for breakfast. Mom comes in and tells me to get ready for school, but when she sees my eyes, and sees that I've been crying, she immediately changes her mind. My mom, wearing her usual uniform of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, sits at the kitchen table staring off into space, a cup of coffee cooling in front of her. She looks like I feel. Dark circles, hair puffy and matted. The sun filtering through the cracks in the curtains highlights a web of wrinkles around her eyes.
"Did you sleep?" She asks me finally.
"Not really," I admit, biting my lip.
I look at her, and fight back tears. She doesn't say anything, so I finally break the silence. "I'm sorry.." I say, looking down at the table once more. "I really didn't mean to make Dad hate you."
"Dad doesn't hate me," she shakes her head. "He doesn't hate you either."
I snort. "That's not true."
"Stop that," she says. "Your dad loves you."
"He still wants to kill me."
"This is hard for him. For any dad. He doesn't want anyone to take advantage of you, sweetie." She takes a deep breath. "Sex is a beautiful thing. If it's with the right person. Was this . . . have there . . . been others?"
Mom struggles with the words as she says them, and I stare blankly at the wall behind her. "No," I whisper. "Just him."
"Cullen?" Her eyes bulge out of her head.
I nod slowly, knowing fully aware that Mom and Dad know exactly who he is. Hell, Dad even worked with Edward's Dad once. I shuttered at the thought of them talking about my picture, not having a clue in the world that Edward is the one in it. Luckily for him, he doesn't have long blonde hair that comes to the end of his back. He got away scotch free. That could be anyone's chest.
"I don't . . . I mean . . ." she is at a loss for words.
"I know," I whispered, as I grabbed a yogurt. As I take a bit for the first time, it tastes like glue as it goes down. "I really messed up, Mom."
She frowns. "We all make mistakes, Bella."
"Not like me." I shudder. "I don't think this ever happened to you or Dad. Hell, Mom, it hasn't even happened to Jessica!" I sob. "And she's slept with half of the school! Or how about his current fling? Pamela? Why isn't she labeled as a slut? Why is it just me?"
Mom just sits, listening. And that's all I need. Is my mother. A listener. Someone who loves me still. I wipe my eyes on my sleeves, and cross my arms, sitting back. I can't even finish my yogurt because I am so disgusted with myself. No one else. Just myself.
"Do you love him?" I stand and throw my yogurt away, completely avoiding her question. I throw on my converses, and grab my backpack. She chases after me. "Bella? Where are you going?"
"School," I replied, monotone. "If I get there within the next ten minutes, I won't be late. Can you please drive me?"
"You're not exactly..." she pauses, frowning as she looks over my outfit. She stops. "Yes, I'll drive you."
It's chaos as I open those school doors, and everyone turns to look at me. Luckily I can get through the hallway quickly without everyone's eyes on me, considering they had five minutes until the bell rung, and I also had my hair up, which was a dead ringer to who I was, and what I did last weekend.
I turn my phone off, and place it in my locker, before grabbing my English books, and shoving my bag into my locker. I quickly locked it, happy that I had first, second, and third period with Jessica, and Joel, my two best friends since the second grade. Just as I am about to close my locker, Jessica runs over to me.
"You actually came," she grins, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, Jess, I came," I sighed. "Although Mom was willing to let me stay home."
Her eyes widen. "She knows," she whispers, in shock.
"And Dad," I close my eyes tightly for a moment, and then nod as her eyes widen. "Yep. He had quite the stuff to say about you know who," I tell her. "Supposably he's a bastard that deserves to rot in Hell..or so Dad says."
"How'd your Mom take it though?"
I frown. "Surprisingly, good, compared to Dad. He still thinks he can get a lawyer and go around and have every person delete it from their phones, computers..from, everywhere. But, it took Mom this morning to actually be able to say the word sex."
"Jeez," she says. Cindy Trevelyan and Pamela Markovitz walk by. Cindy grins at me and gives me the thumbs-up sign. Jess scowls, then sighs. "It's bad now, I know. Really bad. But people will forget."
"Yeah?" I say. "When?"
"Soon. They always do."
I know they will, someday, but that doesn't help the frozen spot where my guts should be. That doesn't stop the stares and snickers and giggles in the hallway. That doesn't help the way my family will get shunned because of me.
All day, I bury myself in work, in words. I sink into them like a bath. My friends give me my space, but the teachers yammer all around me. Limits, amendments, oxygen cycles, Shakespeare. This is important and that is important and all of it will be on the test. I write, underline, highlight, repeat. I get text messages and delete them. A few people pass me stupid notes that I know say horrible things, and I shove them into my books or backpack without looking at them. At lunch I will go outside and burn every single on of them. Jess will throw the ashes out of her car window.
"What I really want to know is, who took that damn picture?" Jessica says. She's taken me to the diner to eat for lunch. "Do you really think that he had nothing to do with it?"
"I don't know," I say, shrugging. And I know it's because I am in denial. Part of me wants to believe it wasn't him. What was his motive?
Jess scoops up a spoonful of mashed potatoes and gravy, what she orders every time we come to the diner, day or night. Her eyes narrow. "What about Luke? He's still dogging you like he owns you."
"I don't think so," I say with a light snicker, and then an eye roll. "That was totally ninth grade. Let's forget I ever liked him, please."
"Because the guys you chase are so much better, drama queen," I roll my eyes, and she smirks.
She puts down her spoon. "Don't you want to know who took that picture, though? Doesn't this annoy the hell out of you, Bella? It infuriates me just thinking about it!"
"Well..yeah," I tell her, shrugging.
"Well, yeah?" She asks, raising her eyebrow. I stare at her eyebrow ring for a moment, and then snap out of it. "I would be going up to every bitch at that school until they admitted that they took it!"
"I just wish it never happened," I say. "I wish I'd never done it."
She tucks a stray curl behind her ear and sighs. "You love him, right?"
That seems funny to me. I love my parents. I love Jess and Joel. I love my cat. Edward is—was—a different story. He's like a creature from another planet. Can you ever really love a creature from another planet? I don't think you can. Can you someone who could jump on his spaceship and rocket off to Mars at any minute? "I...don't know, actually. Let me get back to you on that one."
Jess is getting annoyed with all that I don't know. "Yes, you did," she states proudly, as she scoops up more mashed potatoes. "Which is why you are always so weirded out with the friends-with-benefits thing y'all had going on," I listen as her Texas side comes into play, her accent coming out, and I giggle softly. She rolls her eyes at me, playfully, knowing exactly what I am laughing at, but she is not ready to change subjects so quickly, and let me off the hook. "You were always so jealous of all of those other girls, Isabella. You wanted to go out with him, remember?" She eats another spoonful.
I want to tell her the whole story. My parents the whole story. The world the whole story. I should tell her, but I know I just can't. She's my best friend and I need her to understand. But I'm not sure if she will. After Jimmy, I'm not sure if she can. So I agree with her. Yes, I was weirded out. Yes, I was jealous. I don't know what else I was—insane?
Obsessed?—but I think if I say "I don't know" one more time, she'll kill me, so I just sigh in agreement, and sip my Pepsi until it's gone.
Sixth period rolls around, and luckily..or not so luckily, Jess has let me live. I've gotten through most of my classes and even managed to eat two bites of Jess's potatoes at lunch. Even though I've got my eyes pinned to the floor, I catch Edward out of the corner of my eye, walking towards me. It is not the blonde hair that is a give away that it's me, but when he catches my eye, he is stunned for a moment.
He's alone this time, no gaggle of rockheads shoving phones at him, showing him the picture. Then he sees me. He never said much more than "hey" to me in public before, but this is a new low. His face stiffens and his eyes narrow, and his lip curls up as if he's disgusted, as if he can't even bear to look. He speeds up, passes me, and keeps on rolling, like a wave that jumps the beach and takes you out at the knees, knocking you down in its wake.
Did you like it? Did you hate it? Are you confused? Good. You were supposed to be confused. The story will unravel into something bigger, and everything should make sense in the next few chapters. Also, Bella's hair in the first few chapters is suppose to be really long and really blonde. That is why it's mentioned that she's a blonde in the photograph.
Review for chapter two!