A/N: This story has been floating around in my head for a while now. I ended up writing a very brief, version of it in the story exchange, but decided to turn it into a multi chapter. And set it in Australia. Tbh, I'm all researched out after The Fallen, and I want to write something I know. Also, heads up, Edward and Bella are seriously, seriously messed up. This fic is going to cover some pretty sensitive subject matter and will be heavy on the angst (but being me, expect some humour) so if you're only after fluff, then maybe give it a miss. Bella, most especially, is in bad shape. She's an absolute head case who's mastered a way to live without having to deal with all her past trauma, and if she doesn't frustrate the fuck out of you at some point, then I've failed. She'll get there, I promise, and this story will be 100% a HEA.
Thanks to Kim for being her awesome, stellar betaing self, and StarryEyedWriter for prereading.
If there's anything I think might get lost in translation, I'll cite it at the bottom of the chapters. There's also going to be alternating povs. This is the last fic I'll do this for, I think. I'm kinda over it.
Anywho, hope you enjoy.
I still think of her most days. Don't ask me why; I have no answer. In my mind, she's the one who got away—which is complete bullshit. She was never mine to lose.
She was just that girl in high school I had a major hard on for but never had the guts to do anything about. Until it was too late, anyway. Maybe it's regret that's really haunting me. Or the lack of "closure" as Jake insists it is, but closure from what? There's no unwritten rules about unrequited teenage crushes to explain why I've pined away for a virtual ghost for half my life.
My job doesn't exactly help, because she's everywhere. Every grade has one; the introvert who hangs out in the library during every lunch break. The girl who has zero interest in fitting in or conforming to the standards of the popular kids.
There's one in Year 11, and Jesus does she remind me of Bella; straight A's, almost perfect attendance, but a complete loner—by choice. She's not in any of my classes; kids like her don't tend to take P.E after the mandatory four years is over and they're given the choice of their electives.
I see her in the halls from time to time, a book stuck in front of her face, her glasses slipping down the bridge of her nose; completely oblivious to the world around her or the interest more than several boys have in her. It's not that she has any contempt for the other kids; it's simply that they don't interest her.
That's how it was with Bella. She was never rude, she never stared through me, or avoided me. Nothing like that. She knew who I was—I was the school captain; everyone knew who I was. It was just my entire existence was irrelevant to her.
That's what drove me completely mad, and made me want her more.
At that age, I was struggling with my own identity. Emmett and I had just moved in with our grandfather, and away from our mother's influence, and I was rebelling. As Pop would say, I was a 'smart ass' and was always being sent to the headmaster. That's where I was when I first saw her; while I was waiting to get the cane. Corporal punishment never really fazed out of private schools. Especially not one as exclusive as Sydney Grammar—the school which had produced the greatest number of prime ministers and high court judges. It's pretty poetic considering the front building resembles more of a court house than it does a school, but give the Housemaster shit and you paid, heavily. For forty grand a year, kids were taught strict discipline as a matter of principle.
By my third year I had become pretty desensitised to it, and I preferred physical punishment to the psychological mind-fuck I was used to at the hands of my mother. Being able to feel anything was almost therapy for me. The headmaster knew that, he knew our family dynamics, and he'd been in the elite education system of Sydney long enough to know how screwed up most of the families were.
Emmett and I were no exception. Either was Jake, or Bella, for that matter. We all suffered from Silver Spoon Syndrome in one way or another. As ironic as it is, Bella in a way was more fortunate than the rest of us. She didn't find out until after her entire life went to complete shit just how dysfunctional her own family was. It's probably why she always appeared to have her shit together, but I guess I'll never really know.
Whoever said money is the source of happiness obviously never had any. Sure, I never starved, but I was fucking miserable. So miserable I was a suicidal nine-year-old who jumped off the roof of my mother's house in an attempt to end it all. I only fell around twenty feet and broke my arm. It was our nanny who took me to Emergency. My mother was never even informed. The staff weren't stupid enough to interrupt her during one of her many spa/hair/nail/Botox appointments. The wrath that bitch would have brought down on the entire house wasn't worth any concern over me; the scapegoatof the family.
Yeah, Headmaster knew the hell I was raised in. I guess that's why he often chose the cane over the paddle, and went easy on me.
While Sydney Grammar is technically co-ed, the classes are segregated, and the girls have a separate entrance. Our entrance was opposite Hyde Park in the CBD of Sydney on College Street. The girls' was a block over in the Darlinghurst end of the city. The sexes are kept apart for the most part, while the only shared buildings are the library, gym, lunchroom, and of course, the main office, where the admin and Headmaster's office was.
It was June, halfway through the school year. I was in Year 9. I was sent to the office for being the unfortunate kid who was caught with the smutty note about Jessica Stanley that'd been circulating around the classroom. Though, if it wasn't for that reason, it would have been something else. Mr Banner was a miserable old bastard who couldn't stand me; he spent every class, his eyes on me like a hawk, waiting for the smallest excuse to throw me out. He knew the note was being passed around; he was just waiting for it to fall into my hands.
It's not as if I was complaining; getting the cane was a small price to pay to get out of class. I wasn't much of a scholar. For me it was all about sport. The school might turn out a lot of PMs, but I wouldn't be one of them.
Mrs Cope, the office administrator—who made every kid in the school aware of the fact that she hated her job—only rolled her eyes blatantly at me when I walked in before jerking her head to the row of chairs in front of the headmaster's office.
"The Cullen boy is here to see you again," she spoke dryly into the intercom before she resumed her typing and sighing impatiently to herself as if the thirty seconds of her time I'd taken up had set her back for the entire day.
I only smirked to myself, reached into my blazer and pulled out a stick of gum.
That's when she walked in, sandwiched between her parents. I couldn't see much of her, apart from the long, dark hair that fell halfway down her back, and the navy and yellow blazer of our school.
She was transferring from her first year at Pymble Ladies College, I heard her mother explain to Mrs Cope before she stated her name; Isabella Swan.
That perked my ears up immediately. The name "Swan" was familiar. I turned my attention to her old man; he stood beside her, his hand on her shoulder looking pissed off and put out and really damn intimidating. He was easily in his fifties, dressed in a tailored suit, and from his overall demeanour I guessed he was the famous Barrister Senior Counsel Charles Swan.
Yeah, no scholarships for this kid. She came from money.
I listened to the old cow, Mrs Cope, carry on about how good her grades were, while her mother, who looked younger and more expensively dressed than my own, filled in the required registration forms. This is when her father, huffing loudly to himself, pulled his Blackberry from his suit jacket and sat down on the set of chairs directly opposite me.
He ignored me, of course, but he'd given me a direct line of sight to his daughter. She wore glasses, but she was pretty, really pretty, but that didn't surprise me considering her parents. And I mean, if you go for that nerdy, good girl type. Which I didn't. I was fifteen, and at that age I didn't really have a type. I hated my mother, I knew that much, and considering she was the only real female influence I had, I guess she'd subconsciously affected my perception of the opposite sex.
For the most part I found girls to be annoying and weak-minded, and I absolutely fucking hated them touching me. Emmett thought I was gay. I wasn't gay; I just didn't like girls. At least, I didn't like the ones I was surrounded by daily. The little rich bitches and spoiled princesses who'd rip their undies off in a heartbeat for a dare. The ones who lost their virginity in the locker rooms of the gym and then openly bragged about it as if it was some sort of accomplishment. The same girls who spent every minute terrorising the boarders for their blue-collared backgrounds.
If they only knew half my genes came from the same background, I wonder if they would have paid me as much attention.
All I saw in the girls at my school was my mother in the making; shallow, pretentious, narcissistic, evil fucking bitches who'd make my life a living hell. I'd sworn of that shit before I'd graduated primary school.
But this girl... I watched her, closely. She was staring down at her feet, clutching something in both her hands. I quickly realised it was an inhaler; something she brought to her lips and breathed in a moment later.
She had asthma her mother explained to Mrs Cope. Chronic asthma, and they weren't comfortable with her boarding away from home at her old school.
She sighed softly to herself, looking irritated by being spoken about right in front of her, when her eyes quickly darted to me. She glanced at me for a second or two, practically expressionless, before she went back to staring at the floor.
But I wanted another look at that face, because...shit...
Blowing into the wad of gum in my mouth, I cracked it loudly, catching not only her attention, but Mrs Cope's. And her old man's.
He eyed me for a moment, much like Mr Banner, before he went back to staring at his phone, and just as the old crone, school secretary, barked out into the room.
"DISPOSE OF THAT GUM THIS INSTANT, YOU INSOLENT BOY!"
I smirked again, and pulled myself arrogantly from the chair to throw it in the rubbish bin in the corner of the room. That's when my eyes again caught hers. Her expression was slightly curious this time, but... almost bored before she severed my gaze and completely turned her back on me.
A minute later she left to be shown to class, and that's when the headmaster's door swung open and he grabbed me by the collar; yanking me roughly inside the room.
I didn't see her again that day. In fact, I didn't see her for the rest of the week. Not in the lunchroom, or the gym, or in the courtyard. I was forced to put the feelers out and ask Emmett. Emmett knew every kid in the school, the girls especially. He was the idiot they lost their virginity to on a dare. The biggest man-whore asshole there was.
My brother; my twin brother.
While we grew up in the same house, Emmett's childhood was the polar opposite from mine. He was my mother's golden child. The one who could do no wrong. The one she was always throwing in my face and pitting against me. I always had to bow to him, and if I ever did better than him at anything, at school for example, it'd send her into a blind rage and she'd beat the crap out of me. Then she'd stand back while he did the same, on her instruction.
Emmett's always been a giant. While I stand just taller than our grandfather at 6'2, Emmett is still four inches taller. He gets his height from our father apparently; though, neither of us ever met him. He died before we were born. When I was five, I found a picture of him in the hall closet in my mother's house. Emmett's his clone; whereas I look nothing like him. While we're twins, we're not identical. I look like my grandfather, Carlisle. Pop, as we called him.
It was the reason my mother despised me with a passion.
Until Emmett and I moved in with Pop, we hated each other. I detested the bastard. I hated him so much, I used to lie awake at night thinking up inventive ways to kill him in his sleep.
When we were in sixth grade, Pop put us into therapy. It took me a long time to realise Emmett was being just as emotionally manipulated by our mother as I was. That's when we eventually started to get along, and I could finally see him as my brother.
"Never heard of no Isabella Swan," Emmett replied to my question during lunch break, distracted as he was as we played basketball with Jake and a couple of other guys from our year.
"She's new," I probed further, stealing the ball from him and throwing it toward the hoop. It bounced off the backboard and dropped smoothly through the net. "Like last week new," I added with satisfaction when he turned to scowl at me.
"I dunno. Never heard of her," he reiterated, shoving me and wiping sweat off his brow with the back of his hand.
I didn't take it as a good sign. If Emmett had never heard of a girl, it usually meant she didn't exist. I was starting to doubt whether I'd heard correctly, and whether she'd even transferred to our school, at all.
"So..." He nudged me with his shoulder me that afternoon as we waited for Pop's driver to pick us up before stepping in line beside me, "I found out who that girl is."
"Yeah?" I turned to him a little too eagerly.
"Forget it, bro. Number one, she's a total nerd, and two, you know who her old man is?"
"Yeah, of course I know," I said impatiently.
"Plus, mate, she's in Year Seven. Practicing to be a sugar daddy already, are you?" He snickered.
"It's only two years—shut the hell up, asshole!" I retorted defensively. Emmett had a real talent for taking the piss out of me. "Anyway, where does she hang?"
"In the library—doing her homework." He rolled his eyes and made a loud gagging sound.
I was going to become intimately familiar with the library. Isabella and I, though? Not even close.
*Sydney Grammar School is an all-boys high school. I may have embellished about it being co-ed for the purposes of this story.