To know a man's secrets is to discover his weakness, and thus control his will.
– Jeremy Aldana
I watch Gorgeous' retreating back, still trying to catch my breath. I honestly can't tell if I'm terrified or really turned on. He flew over here like an avenging angel, green eyes glowing like some freaky Halloween ghoul, the auburn in his hair seeming to intensify with his fury. Jesus, that was hot.
But as my heart slows down, it starts to hurt. Did he really think I would tell everyone or try to blackmail him? What the hell kind of shallow bitch does he think I am? I play the high school games I need to in order to survive, but I'd like to think I'm a decent person most of the time. Is this really what he's used to dealing with? Resting Bitch Face comes to mind immediately—yup, this is what he's used to dealing with. That skank would have his favorite hoodie, his class ring, and his dick on a keychain if she knew his secret.
It's sad, really.
God, I'm so fucked in the head right now. I'm still furious with him over the pictures, but every time I want to march up to him and tear him a new one, I just keep seeing a defenseless boy convulsing on the floor, at the mercy of his own body. I Googled epilepsy as soon as I got home that day, but there are so many different types and so much information, and I have no idea what he has. Where was he for two days? Was he sick like he said, or was it seizure-related? Was he that afraid I'd tell everyone that he stayed away from school?
Fuck. It doesn't matter. What he did to Angela was despicable, and his own problems are no excuse. As I start my truck, I see Emmett drive by in front of me, and Gorgeous is slumped down in the passenger seat, looking miserable. The pang of sadness that pierces my chest just makes me want to kick his ass for ever showing me that he's not perfect. Damn him.
"You ready?" Angela asks from beside me, her books clutched in her arms to head for Monday morning homeroom. It's been a rough few days for her, but what Gorgeous and Ken Doll did was so over the top that most of the girls have been sympathetic, and even some of the guys. But not the popular crowd, of course.
As I shut my locker, Gorgeous materializes beside me.
I close my eyes for a second, debating, but then I hear Angela's angry huff beside me. I turn away from Gorgeous and head down the hall.
"Bella!" he calls, and I glance back over my shoulder, starting to walk faster as he struggles to catch up.
"Bella, wait! Please?"
I slow my pace, and he catches up to me, but I don't turn to look at him. "What do you want, Edward?"
"Can we talk?" he asks, bending down a bit to peer at my face to try to get me to meet his eyes.
"We are talking," I point out. It seems my fucked-up head has decided that sarcasm is the order of the day.
"Two minutes," he says, dropping his gaze to the floor and then looking back up at me, but his chin isn't quite as high as before.
I sigh heavily, but he continues to stare into my eyes, his jawline soft, his posture submissive—almost defeated.
As I turn to face him, I see Angela's shocked expression a few feet ahead of me.
"I'll be along in a minute, Ang," I tell her, and the hurt in her eyes is unmistakable. Great.
Anger flares in my chest, but I follow Gorgeous into the little hallway that leads to the art room. As he turns around, he runs a hand through that glorious hair. I know it's likely a nervous habit, but the Sultan of Sarcasm who seems to be in charge of my head today plants the idea that he did it because he knows it'll drive me wild. Asshole.
"What?" I snap, but he just stares at the floor for a moment.
"I … I wanted you to know I'm not the one who edited those pictures of Angela."
I just snort and shake my head.
"You don't believe me?"
"Why would I? You knew what they were when I showed them to you."
Gorgeous' cheeks turn red, and he jams his hands into his pockets.
"See? Guilty as charged."
"Fuck!" he swears, and this time his hand rakes through his hair more forcefully. "All right, dammit! I took the pictures and gave them to Mike, but I didn't know what he was going to do with them. I had no idea he was going to humiliate her like that, or I wouldn't have given them to him."
He looks up at me, and I can feel my eyebrows reaching for my hairline. Is it possible he really didn't know? "Well, what the hell did you think he was going to do with them?"
"Um … well … I thought they were for, um … personal use."
I narrow my eyes as him, thinking hard. Personal—"Ew! That's disgusting!"
"Yeah, but guys do shit like that, and no one would have ever known. What Mike did was … awful."
I do a double take as all the horrible things I've ever heard him say run through my mind. "Is it more awful than the way you guys have shamed girls in the past? What the hell's the difference, Edward?"
Gorgeous heaves a sigh and closes his eyes, his brows pulled tight in a wince. "Look—fuck, Bella, I don't want to argue with you! I just—I'm sorry, okay? I never meant to hurt anyone."
Dammit, he really does look sorry. For some reason, I really want to hate him for this right now, but my resolve is fading fast. Truth tends to wash away things like that.
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to. You should apologize to Angela."
"You're kidding," he says, looking at me as if I've just asked him to eat shit. Well, I am asking him to eat crow …
"No, I'm not. She's the one you hurt here, not me."
"Well, you're the one who went ballistic on me …"
Now it's my turn to flush with embarrassment. "I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have—"
"Are you sorry because you saw me have a seizure and now you feel bad for me?" he interrupts, looking resigned.
"No, they're not really related. I'm sorry because I made assumptions about you and I shouldn't have. You were right; I don't know anything about you."
"Do you feel bad for me?"
"I don't know," I answer. I guess in some ways I should because of the seizures, but nobody likes being pitied. The look of shock on his face makes me pause. "Should I?"
"Umm ... no. I guess not," he says, searching my face.
"You might just be the first person I've ever met who doesn't," he answers, looking more vulnerable than I've ever seen him.
It's too much because, right now, all I want to do is pull him into my arms and shield him. I cross my arms in front of my books to prevent them from winding around him.
"Will you apologize to Angela?"
The bell rings, and it's as if we've both been doused in cold water. He straightens up, and I grip my books tighter.
"Think about it, Edward. If you're truly sorry …" I say before I turn away, leaving him behind with both of our truths for company.
When I walk into homeroom, Angela's eyes are downcast, but The Gothlet is practicing her short-range death-by-glare skills. Fuck, she can be scary when she wants to be!
Her eyes follow me all the way to my seat, and when I don't drop over dead, she looks a little disappointed. Her brows morph into the "what the fuck, Bella?" look, and I'm doing my best to pacify her, using hand gestures, when Gorgeous walks in.
The Gothlet's glare shifts to him, but for once, he doesn't glare back, and he doesn't say a word. His eyes meet mine, and I jut my chin out toward Angela, but his lips just form a thin line and he sits down in front of her. Coward.
As soon as we're out of homeroom and Gorgeous is out of sight, The Gothlet rounds on me. "Just what in the hell was that all about?"
Angela stands off to the side, not accusing but certainly listening.
"Gorg—um, Edward told me he wasn't the one who captioned the pictures."
The Gothlet stares for a moment before regaining her powers of speech. "Why would he tell you that?"
"Well … I may have gone apeshit on him about it on Tuesday after school."
The Gothlet's lips turn up in a smirk. "You laid into Edward?"
I gulp as the words "laid" and "Edward" provoke a completely different vision in my head, but I think I can pass the heat in my cheeks off as smugness. Yep, smug as a bug in a rug, that's me.
"Um … yeah? He showed up right after you left that day, and I let him have it."
"Was he the one who took the pictures?" The Gothlet asks.
Fuck. I was hoping we could get around this. Wait, why was I hoping that? He did do it, and I should be following the girl code here.
"Then he's just as guilty as Mike," The Gothlet proclaims, nodding her head.
"Thanks for bitching him out for me," Angela says, putting her hand on my arm.
"Yeah, you've got balls, Bella," The Gothlet adds, grinning.
Gorgeous doesn't talk to me in biology, but the silence feels thoughtful and not hostile, for once. Ever since last Tuesday, the vibe I feel between us is different—the heat is still there, but the distance and the anger don't seem to be. Regardless, I have nothing to say to him. He's hurt my friend and he's obviously not sorry, so there we are.
As I'm packing up my books after my last class, Angela walks up to me in a daze.
"Are you okay?" I ask, only half-paying attention.
Okay, now she has my full attention.
"Edward … apologized to me for taking the pictures."
"He did what?" I can't have heard her right. There's absolutely no way Gorgeous actually did what I asked him to do this morning. It's inconceivable.
"He apologized to me. He said it was wrong, and he was sorry, and he wouldn't do anything like that again."
"Shut the fuck up!" The Gothlet pipes in from Angela's other side. "Was he high?"
"No," Angela answers, still spaced out. "He was just … nice. Sweet, even."
It takes me a second to realize it, but that pull on my cheeks is my own doing—I'm grinning so widely it's almost painful.
A locker bangs open three down from mine, and the smile freezes on my face as Gorgeous' eyes widen. His bushy eyebrows draw together, and I nearly choke on the air in my throat as my heart seems to warm and expand. I close my eyes and drop my chin as heat sears my cheeks.
I bet he thinks that smile was for him. Well, it was, but he wasn't supposed to see it. Oh fuck it all, I can't believe he actually acted like a human today.
I leave with Angela and The Gothlet, but as we turn the corner, I catch Gorgeous staring into his locker, a goofy little smirk on his face. What the hell is he up to?
When I walk into biology the next day, Gorgeous is already sitting there leafing through his notebook.
I'm lowering myself into my chair when the sound of his voice from beside me drives all thought from my head, and I thump down hard on the seat, nearly tipping over backward.
Gorgeous grasps my forearm, but he lets go as if I'm on fire the second he realizes he's touching me. My skin prickles. I can feel every individual hair jump back up as if they're reaching for him, so I rub my hand over the spot self-consciously.
Did he just? And then he—I stare at him dumbly, still rubbing my arm until he glances down, and his cheeks turn a delicious shade of crimson.
"Usually, when someone says hi, you say hi back," he points out, his tone a little sharp.
Well, yes, but not when that person has never said hi before and they're acting all weird and confusing and you're attracted to them but they're an asshole and—
I stare at him, trying to adapt to this new version of Gorgeous, who offers social pleasantries instead of insults, and his handsome face morphs into a scowl.
"Fuck," he mutters under his breath. "I'm not gonna fall apart, you know."
"I'm still me. I'm the same person you sat next to before."
No, you're not because now you're talking to me. "Before what?"
"Before … last Tuesday. It's not gonna happen again. I just wanted you to know that." It sounds like something good, but as I look into his eyes, all I see is sadness.
"Not here," he says firmly, effectively ending the conversation.
The silence stretches on as we both stare at our desks, so I break it with what's been ricocheting around my head for the last eighteen hours.
"You apologized to Angela."
"Uh … yeah," he answers, but his eyes now shoot to mine in silent accusation. "I told you I was sorry."
"Yes, you did, but I didn't think you actually meant it."
"Maybe you don't know everything there is to know about me," he fires back, and it gets my dander up.
"I think I know more than most."
He tenses, and if humans could smell fear, I know this place would be reeking right now. He swallows thickly as his hands curl into fists. "Yes," he says quietly, and I know I've royally fucked up his attempt to have a semi-normal conversation with me. Fuck.
I want to fix it somehow, but it's like I've walked into one of Renee's flowerbeds. Even if I take the shortest path out, I'll still be trampling things, so I just sit there until Mr. Banner starts boring us with his lecture.
Edward steers clear of me for the rest of the day and the next one too. I want to say something to him, but I can't get, "I'm sorry I assumed you were going to be a dick but your moods change so quickly it makes my fucking head spin," to sound quite right in my head.
So I try to distract myself. We have a big English paper due next week. Maybe, if I go to the library, I can kill two birds with one stone.
The room is empty when I enter, but I honestly didn't expect anyone to be here. Most kids fly out of the building like bats out of hell within five minutes of the final bell—God forbid any more knowledge get into your head than is absolutely necessary.
I peruse the shelves, considering just reading something for fun, but dammit, that paper isn't gonna write itself. I locate a copy of Dr. Faustus and start looking for the similarities to Shakespeare.
Just as I'm really getting into what I'm reading, the library door swings open, and Gorgeous struts in like he owns the place. He freezes and his eyes widen as his gaze falls on me.
"Hi," I say, trying not to grin at how flustered he is. Clearly, he thought no one else would be in here.
"What are you doing here?" he blurts.
I furrow my eyebrows. "Studying. This is the library, you know, right?"
He smirks and looks down, then I'm the flustered one when his bright green eyes glint with mischief. "You're getting better at the saying hello thing."
"Yes, I've been practicing."
He walks across the room slowly, setting his bag on the table catty-corner to where I'm sitting.
"What are you doing here?" Do boys actually do homework? I think I may have caught a rare event in the wilds of high school.
"I'm waiting for Emmett to finish at football," he says as he sits, pulling out his physics book.
"How long is his practice?"
"Until five," Gorgeous answers. "I usually have plenty of time to get my work done."
"That's a long time to be stuck here. Why don't you just drive yourself in on the days he has practice?" He's a doctor's son—surely he has his own car.
He stares at his book for a long moment as a blush slowly colors his cheeks. Oh, shit.
"You don't drive, do you," I say, but it's not really a question.
He bites his lip and closes his eyes, and he takes two deep breaths before he speaks. "I don't have my license," he says, playing with the edge of his book. "I'm … not allowed to drive."
I stare at him, trying to comprehend what just happened. He could have told me he was lazy today and didn't want to drive. He could have told me it was none of my business. Hell, he could have blown me off entirely and changed the subject.
But he didn't.
Instead, he told me something that no one probably knows. The second thing I know about him that no one else does.
"Is that because—"
"Yes. It's because … I have epilepsy." He says it so quietly, as if the words taste funny in his mouth. I wonder if he's ever uttered them out loud before, other than when he yelled them at me.
"I'm sorry; I shouldn't have followed you that day—"
"It's okay, don't be sorry. I ... I never thanked you, for what you did. I shouldn't be alone when ... that happens. I could choke or hit my head—"
"You did hit your head," I blurt out, and Gorgeous buries his hand in his hair. "That was when I—"
"What?" he asks, looking as if he could vomit any second, and my heart squeezes painfully in my chest.
"That was when I held your head on my knees … until it stopped."
"I can't do this," he mutters, and he's up and out the door before I can even blink.
I stare again, but this time at the empty space where he was. What the hell just happened? It seems like I'm thinking that almost every time we see each other now—will I ever understand a single thing this boy does?
But I do know one thing.
For some reason, he's actually trying to talk to me.
A/N: Oh, Edward. Nothing is easy for you, is it? Teaser team on Wednesday night, teaser in Shadow Fics on Thursday, Chapter 8 will post on Monday. See you next week!