Posting weekly, except for today. After this prologue, I'll upload the first chapter right away.
Beta'd by HollettLA!
IMPORTANT NOTE: My one-shot Baby, it's cold outside takes place after this prologue, which means you might wanna (re)read it before I post the next chapter. The one-shot can be found on my FF profile.
Secrets & Wishes
I'm pregnant ~Anonymous
My sister cuts herself, and I don't know what to do ~Anonymous
I gave my virginity to my boyfriend's best friend ~Anonymous
I'm gay ~Anonymous
She's turned me into a stalker ~Anonymous
Everyone thinks I'm thrilled to become a lawyer, when all I want is to play music ~Anonymous
My father beats me ~Anonymous
I don't even like the one I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with ~Anonymous
I cheated my way through high school ~Anonymous
"We're so proud of you!" Mom crushes me in a hug, Dad following, wrapping his arms around both of us. "Look at our girl, Charlie." She releases me, only to cup my cheeks. "Graduating high school at fifteen."
Sixteen in a few months, thank you very much.
I beam back, thinking about my move to the East Coast. Of course, my parents are moving with me—thank God—because I'll need their help. They're still shaken by my news, and it's going to take time for them to get used to it, but they've made sure I know I have their support.
"I couldn't have done it without you." It's nothing but the truth. I may be only fifteen, but I'm smart enough to realize I'm lucky. My 'rents are the bomb.
Like, I'm not even kidding.
James has helped a lot too.
"I think Edward and Kate are trying to get your attention, honey." Dad nods at something behind me.
Turning, I see my dad's little sister and her husband—he's also my English teacher, and she's my swim coach—signaling to every graduate in the gym. Which means they have been assigned to take care of the senior tradition here at Forks High.
It's a small school, so this year's seniors only fill two classrooms, and now it's time for us to carry on the Secret & Wishes tradition. My father took part when he went here, as did my aunt Kate, and my mother two years later. Now it's me.
"I'll meet you at the restaurant later?" I ask my parents.
"No." Mom fusses over me, straightening my hideous gown, then snaps off another photo of me. "We'll wait outside, baby. Gosh, you look so beautiful." She leans in and lowers her voice. "You're glowing."
I blush, mortified. "Mom!"
"Too soon to joke about it?"
"You think?" I roll my eyes and start walking toward the other side of the crowded gym. "See you guys later!" I call over my shoulder.
Okay, I love my parents, but they can be so embarrassing.
Twenty minutes later, the seniors have been divided into two classrooms, and I sit down next to Alice, my BFF.
"We're finally done, Bella!" She's so friggin' excited. "You have to promise we'll be best friends forever."
"I promise," I vow, and we hug. Unlike Alice, who is off to California next fall, I'm leaving in two days. Our house is already packed up. But…just because we're already moving doesn't mean I'm starting college next semester. There will be no studying for me until the year after. My classmates think I'm going to Brown since that had been my original plan. Well, it still is, but it's been postponed. "We'll write and call each other at least five times a week."
She nods. "At least."
"All right—listen up, everyone!" Mr. Cullen lets out a sharp whistle, looking superhot in his dark suit. Usually, he's in slacks and fitted pullovers, but this is a special occasion.
There's a reason I don't call him Uncle Edward. It would be too wrong with the fantasies I have.
My aunt—my swim coach—always roams the halls in yoga pants and long-sleeved t-shirts, so it was kind of a shock earlier to see her in a pretty dress.
She was even smiling, which is super rare. Dad says it's because she's happy we're leaving.
Yeah, our family is…different. There's a war going on between Aunt Kate and Dad, and they say I'm "too young" to know why.
Mr. Cullen doesn't smile often either, and it's such a shame. He's a total hottie, even though he's old—like thirty-three years old.
I flush scarlet at the thoughts and dreams I've had about him.
"Lusting over your uncle again?" Alice sings.
I slap her arm. "Shut up, bitch. Like you're any better." She's always making eyes at Jasper Whitlock. He's sitting two rows behind us with his football buddies.
Alice has sworn she's gonna give him her virginity before the summer is over.
She said the same thing before prom, but then he took Tanya Denali's virginity there instead.
After another sharp whistle from Mr. Cullen, he has everyone's attention, and he congratulates us on our graduation before giving us a scripted explanation about the tradition.
"In front of you, you'll each find two slips of papers," he says, leaning back against his desk. "On one, you'll write your secret, and on the other, your wish."
I don't know who started the tradition—only that it was started by students, not teachers—but as the years passed, the teachers got in on it, helping and organizing it. Not that there's much to organize, though I recall Dad telling me that it had gotten out of hand one year; the students started arguing 'cause they couldn't decide who'd get to bury the metal box with all our secrets and wishes. So, yeah…the teachers swooped in.
The walls in school aren't very thick, so we can all hear Aunt Kate in the next classroom giving a similar speech about the tradition. "No peeking." "Don't write your names on the papers." "No, that's correct—the containers will never be found again. Your secrets are safe."
We think it's the janitor who buries the boxes somewhere; the only rule is that it has to be on school grounds. But other than that…nothing.
It goes without saying that many students have tried to find the boxes over the years, but without luck. That's why some believe the janitor—or whoever—isn't burying them at all, but destroying them instead.
"When you're done, you can come here and give me your notes." Mr. Cullen holds up a shiny new metal box.
Biting my lip, I bring my pen to the first slip and write my secret.
Aside from my parents and James and his family, no one knows.
Secret: I'm pregnant.
There. It's off my chest. If only on a piece of paper no one will read.
I quickly fold the paper and hold it close, my breaths coming out a little faster. Then I proceed to write down my wish on the other slip.
Wish: That I become a veterinarian like my mom, and that I'll be a good mom myself.
With that done, I stand up and look around me nervously. Everyone else is still writing, and I wonder if they're confessing to something huge like me—the pregnancy. Probably not. I walk down the aisle toward Mr. Cullen and catch Emmett gritting his teeth at something, whatever he's writing. Rose looks like someone's kicked her puppy. Royce looks nervous. Angela is blushing, so maybe she's revealing what we already know: that she's in love with Ben.
Heck, I bet most of the girls are admitting they have crushes on Jasper, Ben, Emmett, or Mike. They're all jocks. Jasper and Mike are like football legends, and Emmett and Ben are swimmers like me. That's pretty much the only sports teams we have at Forks High.
As I reach the teacher's desk, it sorta looks like Mr. Cullen is dropping two slips of paper into the box himself, but that can't be right. I'm the first one here, and teachers don't take part in the tradition.
Clearing my throat, I take another step and get his attention.
He plasters a quick smile on his face and tilts his head at me. "You finished already, Miss Swan?"
"Yes, sir," I say, always getting all shy around Mr. Cullen. I can't help it! He's like…God, totally dreamy. It's too bad he seems so broody most days. His wide shoulders are kinda hunched, and there are often shadows under his eyes. But aside from that, he could be a model. I swear.
When he holds out the container for me, I cautiously leave the notes inside, then smile timidly at him. "Thank you for—you know. You've been an awesome teacher to me."
Understatement. Being two years younger than most of my classmates, it hasn't been easy to fit in, but Mr. Cullen sorta took me under his wing when I started high school.
Aside from Alice and James, I don't really have a social life. Books are my buddies—my passion. I love studying. It's like breathing—comes naturally. But, in any event, I'm glad Mr. Cullen has been there for me.
"You're very welcome." He inclines his head. And winks. Which, oh my God, he's never done that before. I might die. "You made it easy." Then his faint smile falters slightly. "Kate told me you're leaving Forks this weekend?"
I nod and swallow, still thinking about that wink. "Yeah… I mean, yes. We're moving in to our new house in Providence on Monday."
"You look excited." While his smile grows a bit, it looks like some of the light in his eyes dims. "I'm very happy for you. You'll excel at Brown, I'm certain."
My cheeks heat up at the praise. "Thanks. It's a long way to go, but…" I trail off, intimidated by my own choice, but I nod firmly, determined.
I'm not the first high school graduate to be knocked up and still manage to pull off school. After my, uh, sabbatical—with help from my parents and James—my dreams will come true. I'll get that degree in biology, and then I'll worry about veterinary school.
"Okay, I'm done!" Alice joins us and tosses her notes into the box. "Too late to regret it now." She surprises Mr. Cullen with a hug. "Thank you for these four years, Teach. Gotta go before I change my mind and kidnap that box. See you outside, Bella!" She runs out, leaving Mr. Cullen and me stunned.
"Well." Mr. Cullen chuckles and shakes his head. "She's something else, isn't she?"
"Yeah…" But now I also want a hug. "I'm gonna go, too. Um, thank you again, Mr. Cullen." Before I can chicken out, I step close and hug him. "For everything." Damn, he smells amazing. Like mint and spices and sunshine and hotness.
Firm body alert.
"Oh, uh—" He pats my shoulder blade, and I start to think he's very uncomfortable, but before I can let go, he gives me a squeeze. And the gentle patting turns into a stroke down my back.
"Have a good summer, Isabella," he murmurs, releasing me.
"You, too." I swallow against the dryness in my throat, and I'm pretty sure that's the first time he's ever called me by my first name. "Bye, Mr. Cullen."
Hit with a sudden wave of emotion, I don't look back as I leave the classroom.
I don't look back as we leave the school premises either, nor when we leave Forks.
Insert Baby, it's cold outside.