Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Twilight Universe. No copyright infringement intended.

AN: The story starts in May 2010. And thank you to SunflowerFran.

Chapter One: The Night We Met


"Okay, okay, I know I say this every time, but he is so hot."

It takes everything I have not to roll my eyes. The truth is that my best friend, the wonderful Angela Weber, does say it every time we see him, or every time he walks past us. Really, she once said it when she spied his name written on our class list. It's actually a little ridiculous, given that she's never said a word to him.

The poor boy.

"I mean, just look at him."

Despite my stance on the matter, I do look. Angela's not wrong, at least. He's definitely easy on the eyes, all tall and broad, with unruly hair, and mesmerizing green-grey eyes. Wait, did I just use the word 'mesmerizing?'

"It's not even fair," Angela says with a huff. "Nobody should be allowed to look that good... in clothes, no less."

I shake my head, my attention returning to the sandwich in front of me. It's tuna salad, which isn't really my favorite, but Jake brought it for me when he dropped off my denim jacket a little earlier, and I just couldn't say no. It's actually a good thing though, because we're dissecting in Biology next, and nobody needs to know what I ate for lunch when it probably - definitely - comes back up. So I won't eat it.

I pick at the crust of the rye bread, only half-listening to Angela go on about how hot he is. I've told her just to talk to him, in the hopes that she'll get over her crush and we can all get on with our lives. We've been able to deduce that he is, in fact, single, but even I have to admit there's something incredibly standoffish about him.

Edward Cullen is about as approachable as the demon lovechild of a porcupine and a snake. Please don't ask me how the baby-making would work, because I have enough nightmares as it is.

"What do you think he smells like?" Angela asks and, this time, I do roll my eyes.

"Probably like chlorine and the hellfire," I say, and she shoots me a dirty glare. I can't help my laugh. "Seriously, Ange, he probably smells like a normal human boy."

"But he's not a normal human boy."

I sigh, leaning back in my chair. She's probably right though. It's unlikely anybody in this place is normal.

Myself included.

Where are the rest of our friends? I can usually handle Angela's wild thoughts when Jasper's around. And, really, Alice is the one who fuels Angela's obsession with the boy whom we all know doesn't even know any of us exist. Jasper thinks it's because he believes he's better than us; Alice thinks it's because he's friends with Emmett McCarty, but I suspect it's actually because he's in his own little world.

Angela doesn't think anything about it because she's busy planning their future wedding.

No wonder Ben Cheney doesn't sit with us anymore. I'd hate to sit across from the person I have a crush on and watch them pine over someone else. I'm not that much of a masochist, despite what people think. Everyone knows he likes Angela, save for Angela herself. It's quite sad really, but even more so because he made us all promise not to say anything to her.

"Do you know where Jazz and Alice are?" I ask, hoping to distract her.

"They went off campus for lunch," she says, her eyes back on Edward. "The equivalent of date night, seeing as Jasper's got an away game this weekend."

I just nod, lifting my bottle of water to my lips and taking a sip. I'm surprised I didn't see them leave when I was in the parking lot meeting Jake earlier.

"Oh my God, he just ran a hand through his hair," Angela tells me, and I reason that distracting her is the only way I'll get through this lunch hour without pulling out my own hair.

I clear my throat. "How many words did Mr. Lawrence say he wants our Pride and Prejudice essays to be?"

"Six hundred to eight hundred words," she replies, barely missing a beat. "Though, he did mention that he wasn't against us going to one thousand if we felt so inclined."

I raise my eyebrows. "How many words have you already written?"

She doesn't look me in the eye, and I can see her guilt as clear as day. "Okay, so he may have amended the word count after I spoke to him," she says. "It's just that I barely touched the surface of the role of women in society, and I was already up to six hundred words," she continued to explain. "What was I supposed to do?"

"You do know that they have a word count for a reason, right?"

"Shut up," she says, chucking a French fry at me. "I'm all for the plight of women; you know that."

I do. Angela is the president of several school organisations, which includes the Waite Academy Feminist Alliance. I'm all for fighting the good fight too, but why did she decide that my being vice president was a good idea? I'm about as unorganized as the next person.

"Are you almost done with your paper as well?"

I look at her. "We both know I haven't even started, Miss Weber."

"It's due on Friday, Miss Swan, and today is Wednesday," she counters, bringing out her teacher voice and making me laugh. "Does your mother know?"

I groan, burying my face in my hands dramatically. "Of course she doesn't," I say; "she'd chew my head off if she did."

"I'm not saying I'm a cannibal or anything, but, if I were to eat someone; it'd probably be you."

I laugh, because what else can I do? My best friend is strange, but I have no choice but to love her. I'm just glad that we've stopped talking about Edward Cullen. There's only so much I can stomach in one day, really.

I latch onto the topic of cannibalism - what can I say, I'm desperate - and we start a discussion about the third season of the TV Show Bones and the recurring villain Gormogon. Angela was always a fan of Zack Addy, and she was pretty heartbroken when he didn't return for Season Four. Of course, I have to be the one to point out that he was guilty of helping a cannibalistic serial killer.

"But he didn't actually kill anyone," she defends.

"That may be so," I agree because the thought of Zack killing anyone is just so absurd. He's just so Zack. "It just makes you wonder, huh?"


"What logic would make a person do."

She looks at me for a moment. "Do you think we could somehow use logic to convince Edward Cullen to go out with me?"

And we're back to this, people.

I sigh before I look over my shoulder at the boy who turns my best friend into every single other girl in this school. It's no secret that the majority of the sophomores, freshmen, and some of the juniors - possibly even seniors - have a crush on Edward Cullen. He's what they call the Happy Triad in this strange place in which I now live: rich, good-looking, and ambitious. All three things that girls at Waite Academy find very appealing.

I don't think I'm one of those girls, but that's probably because I'm technically already spoken for. Now, at least. Let's just say I definitely made him work for it, that's for sure.

"Oh my, look at his smile," Angela says, sighing dramatically.

Someone help me. Please. I beg of you. Save me from this hell.

"He's just a boy, Angela," I say

"Of course you can say that, Bella; you've got Jake."

It's my turn to sigh. "Even if I didn't, I definitely wouldn't be perving over the poor, unsuspecting boy."

"But look at him, Bella. Just look. He's sexy as hell. Jessica said that she saw him in the pool the other day and she nearly died at the sight of his abs."

I shake my head. "Does your father know how much time you spend staring at a boy who is not your betrothed?"

"God no," she answers quickly; "he'd probably have a heart attack if he ever knew."

We share a knowing laugh because her father probably would. Reverend Alan Weber is the strictest man I've ever met, and I've been terrified of him since he first dropped Angela off at my house for our first sleepover our freshmen year. He'd insisted on coming inside to check that there were no boys anywhere in the house, which, admittedly, was new for me. I had to hold back a laugh when he came face to face with my little brothers.

It's probably another reason why Ben won't say anything to Angela. First, he'd have to go through her father, I'm sure. So I don't blame him, really. But then again, Angela is worth it.

At a few minutes before twelve-thirty, Angela takes our trays away, and I carry our bags. We meet up at the doors to the dining hall before we head to our lockers. It's a bit of a routine of ours that we adopted the first month I arrived.

Once we've collected our things, we bid each other goodbye and head off in opposite directions. While I have AP Biology next, Angela has World History, but she's going to stop at the library before class. At the start of the year, we tried to get into the same classes, but Waite Academy is set in its ways, and we're just lucky our brains are relatively on the same level when it comes to Math because it's the only class we share this year.

As much as I love Biology, I hate it too. The theory of it is great, sure, and I love learning about the human body, but I'm not a fan of the practical side of it. Well, my stomach isn't a fan. At all.

I enter the classroom with trepidation and make my way to the workstation I share with Mike Newton. On practical days, our teacher steals half an hour of our lunch break so that we can fit it all in. It's either that, or we have to come in on an afternoon - which is impossible to schedule with all of Waite's extracurricular activities - or on Saturday mornings. Suffice to say, we'd rather give up half an hour of our lunch breaks than wake up early over the weekend.

Today's investigation is already set up, and I can already feel my stomach turning at the thought of what's to come. I'm so not ready for this. Our table is in the third row, with a pair of students sitting in front of and behind us. They may or may not be in for a show today.

I sit perfectly still as the class fills, and I barely move when Mr. Banner explains just what we're going to be doing today. But I swear I all but jump out of my skin when our smiling teacher - the psychopath - sets a caged frog down on the centre of our table.

I back up as much as I can.

"It's just a frog," Mike says, somewhat amused by my reaction.

I glare at him. "I can see that, thank you very much," I say through gritted teeth. "But it's an alive frog, and it moves."

"Which is exactly why we have to kill it, Bella."

I think I make a strained sound in my throat because the two students in front of us turn around to look at us. Well, to look at me. Rosalie Hale, who could probably squish me if she wanted to, is smiling knowingly at me, while her partner looks slightly annoyed. But, then again, does Edward Cullen have any other facial expression?

"It smells awful, doesn't it?" Rosalie says conversationally.

My surprise must register on my face because she just shrugs before she turns back around. Edward Cullen's eyes linger on our frog before he too turns around, and the moment is gone.

"That was weird," Mike mumbles, as he gets down to business.

Honest to God, I don't know how I get through the lesson. It's a miracle, really, that I don't pass out or run out the door kicking and screaming. I do squirm in my seat, make embarrassing noises and vehemently refuse to touch it. Edward Cullen and Rosalie turn to look at us a few times, both of them rather amused by my antics. It's strange because it's not the bad kind of amused.

Not the Emmett McCarty kind of amused, I mean.

They just seem genuinely amused. And, if I hadn't been such a spaz earlier when Rosalie tried to talk to me; I think that she might have even done it again. Who knew that dissecting a frog could bridge the gap between high school social circles?

Really, Rosalie looks to be enjoying this as much as I am. She squirms too, and Edward Cullen doesn't try to coax her into touching it. Like me, she's taking all the notes, but I doubt her stomach is as unsettled as mine is.

By the time Mr. Banner calls an end to proceedings, I've already packed up my things, ready to bolt. I need to leave because my stomach's just about reached its threshold, and the lingering smell is almost as worse as the real thing.

"The write-up is due on Monday," Mr. Banner says, and I tap my foot impatiently.

"Easy, Bella," Mike says, glancing at me worriedly.

"I'm going to throw up," I murmur.

Edward Cullen turns around at the sound of that, his eyes wide.

I take a steady breath, which turns out to be a bad idea as I just get hit by another wave of nausea.

Oh, no.

"Shit," Mike says.

I grip the side of the table. No. I am not going to throw up in front of all these people. I won't.


I look up to see Edward Cullen holding out a bottle of Gatorade. The red one.

"Drink some," he says. "It should help."

I just stare at him.

He glances over his shoulder as Mr. Banner continues with his instructions, before he slips off his stool, unscrews the bottle, and places it in my hand, his cold fingers brushing mine. "Drink," he instructs, his voice surprisingly gentle compared to the slight scowl on his face.

I drink.

"More," he says.

I drink some more.

He watches me, and I watch him.

My stomach calms. Sort of. It's hard to tell when he's looking at me like that.

"Feeling better?" Mike asks me.

I nod, moving to hand Edward Cullen back his bottle.

"Keep it," he says, setting the bottle top on the table in front of me; "you still have Phys. Ed. to get through."

It's not lost on me that he knows what lesson I have next, but I can't focus on that because Mr. Banner finally dismisses us. I stand. Too quickly. I sway slightly, my hand reaching out for the table at the same time that Mike steadies me with a hand on the small of my back.

"Easy there," he says.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I know, if I can just get out of this classroom, I'll be okay.

When I eventually open my eyes again, the classroom is practically empty. Edward Cullen and Rosalie are gone, which makes me feel equal parts relieved and disappointed. Weird.

"Do you need to go to the nurse?" Mike asks.

"No," I say. "You go on, okay. I'll catch up in a minute."

Once Mike is gone, I ask Mr. Banner to write me a note, and I do end up going to the nurse. She doesn't even ask me questions; just gives me a knowing look and sends me to a bed. We know each other far too well by now.

I set my things down, and sit down on the edge of the bed. I still have Edward Cullen's Gatorade in my hand, and all I can really do is stare at it.

Edward Cullen talked to me. Angela is going to freak out.

"What was it?"

I look up.

Our school nurse, Sister Davis, is smiling warmly at me. "Biology, right?"

"A frog," I tell her.

She grimaces. "Nasty little things, aren't they?"

All I can do is nod.

"Lie down," she says. "We'll see how you feel in ten minutes."

I set the bottle on the table next to the bed, and move to lie down, but the sound of voices outside of the window stops me. I recognise at least one of them. Edward Cullen. I peak through the blinds to spy Edward Cullen and his friends Emmett McCarty, Jared Wang, Alec Marcus, Leah Eldridge, and Rosalie Hale. They look to be in the middle of a rather heated discussion, with everyone but Edward Cullen standing off the sidewalk, and closer to the parking lot.

"I can't," Edward Cullen says. "If I skip any more school, my dad is going to straight-up murder me."

"He won't even know," Emmett counters. "Come on, stop being such a pussy."

Edward Cullen looks over his shoulder, back at the school building, as if he's praying that some reason to stay will magically pop up out of nowhere. It doesn't, of course, because life isn't fair. So he sighs, heavily, and runs a rough hand through his messy hair. "Fine," he huffs. "But, I swear, if we get caught, I'm going to kill the whole lot of you."

I watch them disappear, absently wondering why Edward Cullen couldn't just say that he wanted to stay. It was as clear as day on his face that the last thing he wanted to do was leave school. Couldn't his friends see that? I shake my head as I move to lie down. What the hell do I know anyway? I'm too much of a pussy to ditch school.

And, my mom would straight-up murder me as well.

Which is what she almost does when I get home just after five thirty. It's not an unusual time for me, but she looks as if she's in another world of stress - running around after two rowdy boys and a teenage angst fest. I know I should be sympathetic to everything she does, but I'm just not. Not today.

I'm the perfect daughter. She's not allowed to complain. Seriously. She's lucky her daughter isn't one of the other girls from school. Then she could complain.

"I got a call today," she says as her greeting. "From Eli."

I groan internally. "Hello to you too, Mom," I say petulantly.

She ignores my snark; she usually does. "He says that you've missed your last two lessons."

That little bitch. I told him I wasn't coming back. I can't say I'm even surprised that he went behind my back and told my mom.

"I've had a lot of work," I say, moving through the kitchen. I mean, it's not really a lie. I do have a lot of work, but I also don't really feel like, well, music. She won't understand that though, so I don't bother trying to explain it to her. We've had a fractured - no, maybe disjointed - relationship since we moved to Seattle.

"Oh, Sweetheart," she says, suddenly trying to be understanding.

I don't respond as I open the fridge and grab a bottle of water. "I do have a lot of work," I repeat; "which is what I'm going to do now. You don't need help with dinner, do you?"

"No," she says. "I can handle it."

I don't waste a minute more, escaping from the kitchen and heading up to my room. I spent most of the afternoon with Angela in the library, quietly laughing over my inability to stomach dead frogs and practically dissecting every word that Edward Cullen said to me. She almost started crying when I told her about it, I swear.

We worked too. Sort of. Well, after the librarian had to ask us to keep quiet for the third time.

I've always been a good student, diligent and relatively hard working, but I'm losing my drive. I don't know where it's going, and I have no idea how to hold onto it. I mean, I get it, I'm only a sophomore, but everything counts these days, doesn't it? Every mark, every extracurricular. We have to start preparing for college at a young age.

So, I suck it up and get down to business.

An hour into my Pride and Prejudice paper, I get a text from Angela, telling me that Jessica told her that Edward Cullen got detention for bunking class. I'm indignant at best. Serves him right for skipping class, but then I also feel a little bit sorry for him. His father's probably laying into him right now about it.

I send her a quick reply, before I get back to work.

Dinner is uneventful. It's just me, my mom and my brothers. My dad's at work, which is kind of where he's been since he took that promotion and we moved here. I mean, I get it. He works hard for us; his family, to give us a good life, but I miss him, so I can only imagine how my brothers feel.

After dinner, Riley and I do the dishes. He's getting taller than me, even though he's two years younger. It's actually annoying, because his favorite thing is to point it out every opportunity he gets. Like right now.

I splash him with soapy water to get him to shut up, and we dissolve into a water fight that creates more of a mess than we're supposed to be cleaning up.

I head up to shower when he surrenders, and then I return to my work. Jake calls around ten o'clock, and we talk for almost half an hour before I tell him that I have a problem set to complete for Math, which I do. I remind him I'll see him on Friday - not Saturday - whisper goodnight, and then hang up.

My mom and Riley come say goodnight shortly after, but Max is already asleep.

We all say nothing about the fact that Charlie Swan isn't home yet.

"Did you hear?"

Whoever decided that Math first lesson was a good idea clearly wasn't ever a student. Angela is way too awake for this early in the morning. She's bouncing in her seat, which is what Alice does. It really makes me wonder about how I became friends with either of them. If anything, I probably didn't have a choice in the matter. They latched onto me, and that was that.

"Edward Cullen got out of detention," she says when I don't respond. "Jessica says that, apparently, his father came in this morning to speak with Harold, and that's that." She lets out a breath. "Can you imagine?"

I can. Edward Cullen's father carries weight in this city. As big and populated as it is, everyone knows who Carlisle Cullen is.

"If I ever got caught bunking, I think my dad would probably ask Harold to increase my detention," she says, and I laugh. I love how she refers to our school headmaster by his first name, as if they're the best of friends.

They probably could be, if ever they took the time to get to know each other.

Thursday is probably my favorite day of the school week. I don't have the physical Phys. Ed., and Mr. Banner usually lets us use our lesson to work on our write-ups. Really, when he's not being a psychopath and asking us to kill frogs; he's actually rather nice.

Jasper and Alice are around for lunch, which is a Godsend, now that Angela's discovered this power that Edward Cullen has. He can get out of detention as if it's some kind of magic. Of course, Alice indulges her, while Jasper and I discuss the upcoming FIFA World Cup in South Africa. I'm not nearly as excited about the soccer as my dad and brothers, but I'm keen to see how it all plays out.

Mike is already at our station when I get to Biology, and I suspect that he was probably making out with someone in here just before the bell rang. He's that type of guy. Asked me out every day for a month until I told him I had a boyfriend. I didn't then, but I do now, and doesn't he know it.

Jake's well known here for being the only non-Waite Academy student to walk on the Queen's Path between the dining hall and the main reception. I wasn't here for it, but it's supposed to be some big honor to be able to walk on it, and trust my boyfriend to be the one who just takes it.

As a result, Jake isn't liked all that much in these parts. It's what I get for dating 'the enemy.' Some junior even called me a traitor a week after our first official date.

"Did you get started on the write-up?" I ask Mike as I sit down, setting my bag on the tabletop.

"If you mean, did I open a document on my computer and stare at it for four long hours, then yes, I did," he says with such an endearing smile that I can only return it.

"Not exactly," I say carefully.

"You didn't show for Phys. Ed. yesterday," he points out, his voice dropping. "You all right?"

I look at him for a moment. As much of a goofball as he sometimes is, he's a goofball who very clearly cares. "I ended up going to see the nurse," I admit. "The nausea wasn't fun."

"You didn't miss much," he tells me with a shrug. "Jessica did get hit in the face though. It was pretty funny."

I chuckle despite myself. Oh, Jessica. We tried being friends when I first arrived, but it was pretty clear quite quickly that we weren't compatible. We don't see eye to eye on a number of very fundamental things and, to this day, I receive daily death glares just for being Mike's lab partner. I'm certain that, if I do end up dying in this place, it'll be caused by the strength of her stare.

Mr. Banner makes quick with his greeting before he leaves us to work on our write-ups. Mike and I spend the first twenty minutes going over our results and making sure that we're going to be putting in all the relevant information. We're so lost in our little world that it takes me an absurdly long time to notice that Edward Cullen and Rosalie are decidedly not talking to each other.

I don't know why it bothers me, but it does. Why aren't they talking?

Is it because of the whole detention thing? Rosalie was one of those trying to get him to bunk the day before. Is he mad at her? He's generally a guarded fellow, but it's so difficult to imagine him actually angry and showing it.

Apparently, he's the silent type.

I'll admit that a small part of me was convinced that he would ask after me, given what happened yesterday. It's stupid, I know. It's just that, behind the scowl, there was so much caring in his eyes; it was actually overwhelming.

Half an hour in, Rosalie finally speaks. "You aren't seriously going to ignore me for the entire period, are you?" she asks, already sounding irritated. "This is ridiculous, Edward."

He doesn't so much as flinch. I can't see his face, but I imagine it's still as a rock.

"I told you I was sorry," she presses, her voice dying down.

That makes him turn his head, slowly. "And I told you that I don't care," he snaps.

I flinch at the same time that Rosalie recoils.

"Edward?" she sounds, her voice smaller than usual.

"I mean, how stupid can you be, posting about our bunking like that?" he hisses. "It's such a cliché, getting caught by social media."

Rosalie says nothing.

He takes a deep breath, his entire body moving with the action. "Look, I'm sorry," he says, and I can practically hear the apology in his tone. "I just don't want to talk about this right now. I've already got a lot to deal with at home without all of this."

"Then what do you want to talk about?"

He's silent for a moment, before his face shifts, giving way to something I can only describe as mischief. Okay, I've been sitting behind Edward Cullen for almost eight months now, and I have never seen that look on his face. It almost floors me.

"Ribbit ribbit," he whispers, and Rosalie visibly shudders. "Ribbit ribbit."

"Edward," she threatens, and it merely spurs him on.

"Ribbit ribbit."

I let out a small giggle - oh shit - and he turns to look at me. I expect a scowl or even some anger, but he just looks amused. What makes it even worse is when he winks at me, as if we're in on the joke together. What is happening right now?

Angela would have died and gone to heaven.

I'm just confused.

"Stop," Rosalie says to him, but I take it as a direct order and return my attention to the work in front of me. It wouldn't do to come to the unnecessary attention of Edward Cullen and Rosalie Hale. It's nothing against them, not really. It's just that they're friends with Emmett McCarty, and nobody wants to be on his radar.

By the end of the lesson, Mike and I have planned out our reports as thoroughly as possible. Now we just have to fill them in. For the investigation, we're supposed to hand it two separate reports for individual marks, but we're allowed to work on them together. Mr. Banner doesn't mind that part, as long as he can see that each person put the work into his or her own write-up.

So this is the point where I leave Mike on his own. Early on in our partnership, he tried to get me to do all the work for both of us, and his failing grade was enough to let him know never to try again. We do get separate marks, which requires both of us to put in the work. I refuse to carry him.

After the bell rings, Mike and I walk to Phys. Ed. My absolute favorite. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are actual get-changed, throw-things-around-days, while Thursdays and Fridays are more focused on the health part. The good thing is that it's almost the end of the school year, which means that we're pretty much done with the curriculum.

Which, essentially, means we have a free period.

Jessica claims Mike's attention early on, and I use the time to work on my English paper. Well, that's what I tell myself I'm going to do, but I really just text Jake the entire time. He's supposed to be in Spanish, but his replies are as quick as mine are. I'd rather not know how or why - plausible deniability and all that.

Our usual date night is Saturday night, but we're having some of my dad's colleagues over for dinner, and I'm expected to be home. Of course, Jake made a huge show of having to cancel the hot air balloon and get a refund back for the hired Bat-mobile. He can be such an idiot sometimes.

Which is why, when I do see him Friday night, I feign disappointment that there's no red carpet.

He laughs, absently pulling me in for a hug. His body shakes from his laughter, and I feel myself relax into him. We've been through a bit, Jake and I, and I know we've got to hold onto these moments. He's a great guy, well-liked and parent-approved. The problem is that I've never fully understood where I stand in this relationship. I've never felt secure with him, which is why it took forever for us to go on our first date, and even longer for me to agree to be his girlfriend.

Apparently, being Jacob Black's girlfriend is a big deal.

Girls from his own school fawn over him and the part that gets to me is that he doesn't always ignore them. He likes the attention; the glory. Because he's practically worshipped, being a regional, school-record-holding track star. Whatever Jake is; the boy can run. Fast. He always jokes that it comes in handy whenever he has to get away from his girlfriend's father.

That's another thing. My dad and Jake have never actually met. Charlie isn't home nearly enough for that to happen. I reason that it's for the best, because Jake is a junior. I'm born in September and technically a year young for my grade, and I'm sure my dad would emphasise the fact that Jake is a year older than I am. He's a bit of a strange fellow, Charlie Swan.

I have a curfew, which Jake hates. It's ten o'clock on weekdays, and eleven o'clock on the weekends. Friday is ten thirty. It's a joke in my family, because the debate is still ongoing on whether Friday - in this sense - counts as a weekday or part of the weekend. Sunday's a little up in the air as well, but I've never been out past eight o'clock on a Sunday anyway. I'm usually home trying to catch up on my homework.

"What are you doing on Sunday?" Jake asks as he drives me home after we've waited as long as we possibly can to start heading back. We're creative when it comes to wasting time. Once, we even went into a midnight barber, just so Jake could get a haircut.

I think it's the rebel in me that wants to push our luck with my curfew, but I can't be sure. The good thing is, though, after this summer; I'll be able to approach the topic again and see what happens. Just have to catch my parents on a good day... which are becoming increasingly rare.

"Biology," I tell him.

"A bunch of us are going surfing," he tells me, seemingly ignoring my reply. "If you have time in the afternoon, I'd really like to see you."

This is where we clash a lot. I don't particularly like hanging out with his friends, and he doesn't like hanging out with mine. It isn't that I don't like his friends - okay, I don't like some of them. It's just that, whenever I'm with all of them; I feel as if I'm some kind of trophy that Jake won. It's conceited of me, I know, but I can't help it. He's different when it's just the two of us, and that's the Jake I like.

"Sure," I say. "I'll see how my paper goes. I've also got a test Tuesday, but I'll try." I say it, but I suspect he knows I won't. "Just text me the details."

He probably won't.

When we get to my house, he pulls up in front and turns off the engine. I check my watch. We still have eight minutes, which we put to good use when he leans over and presses his mouth against mine. It's much easier to forget about the things we don't talk about when we're not talking.

At exactly ten thirty, the light on the front porch flickers, and I can't help my giggle. My mom's long since given up on seeing out my curfew, but my brother was quick to pick up the mantle. Sometimes, I swear Riley lives for getting me in trouble. Well, I'm not going to give him the satisfaction. Not tonight.

"I should go," I tell Jake, leaning back and straightening myself out.

"But why?" he says playfully, pulling his face into a pleading look. He really does look like a puppy sometimes as he pushes out his bottom lip and bats his eyelashes.

"I have to," I say.

He sighs. "I'll see you Sunday?"

"Maybe." I kiss him once more, before I get out of the car. The air is a little chilly for May, and I fold my arms to keep the chill at bay as I make my way towards the house. Once I reach the porch, I turn to look back at Jake, but he's gone.

Is it weird that I already know we have an expiration date?

As I expected, Riley is standing in the foyer, looking smug. "Two minutes late, Miss Swan," he says, shaking his head. "I'm very disappointed in you."

I roll my eyes. "Says you. What have you been doing all night?"

He just shrugs.


At this, his eyes narrow slightly. "Max is asleep, Mom's in her room and Dad's at work. What's new?"

I swallow. We've fallen into a nasty pattern lately, and I don't know what to do about it. "You headed to bed?" I ask as I lock the front door. Can't be too careful these days.

He shakes his head. "I'm watching a documentary."



I shudder. "And there I thought I'd join you."


"I won't even deny it." I move towards him and place a hand on his shoulder. "Thanks for holding down the fort," I say, and he shrugs. "I'm going to head to bed, all right? I'm sure I'm going to need my strength for whatever Mom has planned for tomorrow."

He laughs, but I'm right.

From the second my mom viciously wakes me up at eight o'clock on Saturday morning, it's full speed ahead. While she's making a mess in the kitchen, she sends our helper, Anna, to clean up the mess that is the rest of the house. My mom must really want to impress the people coming tonight. For my dad.

Always for him.

The entire day flies past, and she almost forgets to feed us. When it's getting close to time, we're all sent to get ready. I swear Renee Swan even sends herself to get ready. Like, verbally. She stops what she's doing, taking a breath and then tells herself to get dressed. It was equal parts heartbreaking and amusing.

When I get to my room, I'm surprised to find that my mom hasn't laid out an outfit for me. She usually does. Maybe she trusts me to make a good decision. Or maybe she just forgot. There's always that.

When I'm ready, I head downstairs for the critique. It's part of my mom's charm. I meet Max and Riley on my way down as they're headed back up.

"Verdict?" I ask.

Riley shrugs. "Acceptable," he says. "Max got a 'handsome.'"

"It's the dimples."

He chuckles for a moment, before it tapers off. "Dad's home."


He nods. "Oh." And then they're gone.

I continue on into the lion's den, and find my parents in the dining room, where Max and I spent almost half an hour setting the table to perfection. They don't notice me, and I don't know if I should say something.

My mom takes the choice away from me.

"How does it look?" she asks my dad.

"Very nice," he says, and I cringe internally. You'd think that he's learned by now that he has to say something more. She's spent the entire day being a frightening dictator, in order to make the house presentable for his guests, and all he says is 'very nice.'

I don't miss the way my mom's face falls, but my dad does, and I have this sudden urge to say something. I open my mouth, only for the doorbell to ring. Maybe it's a good thing too because I don't even know what I would have said. Or even to whom.

My mom startles and takes a moment before she turns on her hostess mode.

"Charlie," she says to my dad; "go greet our guests." She looks at me for the first time, just noticing me. "Go get your brothers upstairs," she instructs. "Make sure they still look presentable."

I just nod, before I start to move; but the sound of my mom's voice stops me.

"Oh, and Bella?"

I look at her.

"You look very nice tonight, Sweetheart."

"Thanks, Mom," I say. "So do you." And then I race out of the dining room and up the stairs. I find both Riley and Max in Riley's bedroom, both of them with their jackets off and sleeves rolled up. I'm pretty sure that it's been only two minutes - how could they have done so much damage already?

"They're here," I say, interrupting their video game. I vaguely recognise it as Need for Speed, and I smile to myself. They haven't asked me to play with them since I schooled them the first time I played. Apparently, they have too much pride. Riley didn't speak to me for three days, and Max still calls me a 'hustler.' I'm not entirely convinced that he knows what the word means, but he heard Riley say it, and Max copies everything his brother does.

"Do we have to?" Max whines.

"Yes we do," I say, ruffling his hair.

He grumbles before he picks up his jacket off Riley's bed. I help him with his sleeves and do up his buttons, before I give Riley the once over. Now that he's interested in girls, he's paying a lot more attention to how he looks. It's a bit of a relief, but he now takes longer than I do to get ready. I've never been more grateful for my own bathroom. We'd be sharing if we hadn't moved here.

"Who are these people anyway?" Riley asks.

"Someone Dad works with," I say with a shrug.

"Will this help him get another promotion?" Max asks.

"I don't know," I say. "Maybe. Why? Are you planning on doing something?"

He grins at me. "No."

"Whatever you do, leave me out of it," I tell him. "I'm already in enough trouble about Eli."

"Why don't you just tell her that you don't want to play anymore?" Riley asks.

I look at him. "Have you met our mother?"

He chuckles. "We should get going," he says; "before she comes to get us."

Max squeals, before he races out of the room. Riley follows with a laugh, but I hang back for a moment. It's never really occurred to me that I could just talk to my mom about it. I don't know why but I get the feeling that she just wouldn't understand. Or, she won't even try to. We'll just end up fighting, I'm sure. It's better just to avoid the topic of Eli and my lessons, and hope that she somehow, by some miracle, forgets all about it.

I stop by my bedroom to check my phone, and reply to Mike's message about my findings. I'm vague at best, but not heartless. I also text Angela, complaining about the evening I'm about to endure. These colleagues of my dad's are probably going to be super boring, and ask all the same, awkward questions about school and how I like Seattle.

I don't.

It's always raining.

I really don't do well with the rain.

When I get downstairs, I can hear voices coming from various directions. Based on experience, I suspect my dad's taken the guests into the living room. My mom is probably in the kitchen, which is where I go. I expect to find her alone, so I'm wholly surprised when she's standing at the kitchen island with another woman, both of them busy preparing drinks and talking to each other as if they've been friends for years.

My mom smiles when she spots me. "There you are," she says, waving me over. "Come meet our guests."

I step into the kitchen.

"Esme, this is my daughter, Bella. Bella, this is Esme, her - " she gets cut off by Max, who comes running through the kitchen, closely followed by twin boys, who look a little older than him. "Max, slow down," my mom says, at the same time that the other woman - Esme - says, "Boys, behave."

I can't help my smile, as the women exchange an amused look.

"Should I take those to Dad?" I ask, gesturing to the tray on the counter.

"Please," she says.

There are three glasses on the tray. Two Scotches, I suspect, and a glass of red Gatorade. It's odd that my mom poured it out of its bottle, but I don't say anything. Really, the sight of it makes me think of Edward Cullen, which is just strange. I'm sure there are millions of people in this world who drink Gatorade.

It should have been my first sign, really.

Without another word, I lift the tray and leave the kitchen, my hands steady and my mind focused on where I put my feet. My mom is probably waiting for the sound of my fall. I make it through the foyer safely, and head towards the arch leading into the living room.

Which is empty.

I follow the voices towards the back of the house. They probably went outside.

I bypass the dining room, and go through the TV lounge that opens onto the back terrace, but the door is closed, and I can't slide it open with a tray in my hands. I contemplate balancing it on one hand, but I quickly shut that down. It won't end well. I know that much.

However, before I can set the tray down, the door slides open. Maybe someone could sense my presence, because they couldn't see me through the drawn curtain.

I step forward, my mind already registering my relief. I see a foot first, jeans on a leg, white button-down, and -

And I come face to face with none other than Edward Cullen himself.