Ch1: The Assignment

"Frankly I'm a bit fed up this year. No one can seem to get along so we're going to be doing things a bit differently."

I looked to Angela, apprehension written clearly on both our faces. It was the first day of senior year, what had happened to make Mr. Danvers pissed already?

"Each of you will be assigned to a partner."

Loud groans overtook the room. I suppressed the urge to fuss myself. Bitching about it wasn't going to help anything. Though I looked about the room wondering who my partner was going to be.

Angela was my hope, but I had a feeling that was unlikely given the tone with which Mr. Danvers had made the announcement.

He was now attempting to glare the class into submission.

"Believe me when I say whining is not going to help you." Everyone exchanged nervous glances. "As I said, everyone will have a partner this year. This partner will be your writing buddy for the year. That means every assignment you do, will go through them first. They will give you helpful criticism on your work. I have created a shared online folder where you will submit your assignments. To receive full credit you will have to critique each other and make edits based on the suggestions given."

Apart from the mystery surrounding who our partners would be, the idea wasn't a bad one. I wondered if we got any say in that. Truthfully, I liked Mr. Danvers our English teacher. We had him the last two years and he was always pushing us to do better, which is why most students disliked him. I liked the challenges though.

"In addition to being your writing partner, they will also be the subject of an essay." As he spoke, he handed out a grading rubric and syllabus for the paper. I was resisted the urge to rifle through the papers and waited for him to explain further.

"You are going to write a three-part paper on your partner. It should be about 10 to 12 pages long. Ultimately this paper is trying to get you to look beneath the surface, think about how our biases are built without us really even knowing each other. The first part will be your first impressions of your partner. This is from a superficial perspective. What do you think you know, whether that information came from rumors, quick first hand experiences, looks, whatever. You're just scratching the surface.

"The second part will be more in-depth. I will assign class periods for you and your partners to get to know each other better. You will need to meet outside of class though to be truly effective though. The idea here is that you are getting to know them. Looking past those first impressions to discover the human.

"The final part of the essay will be how this experience has shaped your perceptions of people you interact with on a daily basis. It should be introspective in nature. Think about the first and second parts, how you got to know your partner better. I know this sounds like a lot, that's why I'm making it a year long project. Everyone can manage to write this paper over the course of the year. And it will be a very large chunk of your grade. You're all seniors and I don't want to have to keep anyone from graduating because you couldn't be bothered to learn something new about another human."

We all sat in semi-stunned silence.

The project wasn't that bad, but the thought of not being able to graduate over it was another issue entirely. What if your partner didn't co-operate? What if you don't want to let people know you better? Maybe this idea was not so great after all.

"I know you're all full of questions about this right now, but just keep in mind that it is doable. And you have the whole year to do it. If there are problems, come to me immediately. There should be no excuse for not doing this project."

The glint in his eye told us he meant it. I had no doubt whatsoever that he wouldn't fail anyone that didn't take that to heart.

I glanced at Angie, she looked as nervous as I felt.

"As you might imagine this project would be rather hard to do with someone you are already friends with. Not to mention pretty pointless. I have gotten to know most of you fairly well over the years, and, therefore, I know not only who your friends are, but who you don't interact with too. I will give you all one week to tell me who you would like to be partnered with. The person you choose cannot be your friend. I re-iterate, I know who your friends are so don't think for one minute that you can get away with asking for your best pal." He gave us another hard look.

My stomach sank a little.

Angie would have been a great partner.

I looked around the room, trying to decide who I knew the least about. The problem was, almost all of us had been friends since grade-school. We all lived in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone. I mean sure we don't all hang out, but there was still a lot of familiarity in the room.

"I suggest you each think long and hard about who you want your partner to be. I expect effort from every person in this class, and if a partner is not co-operating there will be repercussions." I should hope so. "I want this to be a project where each of you challenges yourself. You all have the capability of looking inward to discover more about each other and yourselves."

Capability, sure. Desire no.

"Just one last thing. I do want you to be honest with your essay's. Sometimes first impressions are hurtful. Since the subject matter could be a bit sensitive, this is the one assignment your partner will not review. I will be grading on the content rather than grammar and spelling. I still expect you to do your best, but the content is really what I will be looking for."

Quiet contemplation took the room.

We were all looking about, assessing who we wanted to spend the next year getting to know better.

"I can see you're already thinking, so I'll give you the rest of the class to talk amongst yourselves and field any questions you might have."

Chatter started up almost instantly.

"This blows." Angie looked totally overwhelmed.

"Mmm," I agreed wordlessly. "You should ask Ben." Her eyes widened with horror.

"What planet are you on? I don't… I can't," she sputtered. I grinned.

"Yes you can. I mean if I can't be your partner, you might as well use this to your advantage. You don't know each other well, he's pretty sweet, and he's not an idiot so that will make your life easier."

She shook her head. I rolled my eyes.

"Come on. It's not like he even has to know you asked to be his partner. You could just ask Mr. Danvers. You know he has a soft spot for you, I bet he'd do it."

I was pretty sure she couldn't turn more pink. I gave her a look.

"Hey either that, or you don't say anything and get paired up with someone you don't like at all." My eyes immediately darted to Lauren. It wasn't that she was so bad, it was mostly just that she acted like our little town bored her. She'd been sent to our school in tenth grade from the big city of Atlanta (commence eye roll). It was just everything was a constant comparison to her life before. It grew old to listen to pretty quickly.

"Well what about you? Who are you going to choose?"

I looked around once again. No one particularly popped out.

"I don't know. Maybe I'll ask Tyler?" We sort of knew each other. We weren't friends, but we weren't entirely oblivious to one another either. We'd been at the same parties, had shared friends. It was hard to think of anyone that didn't fit in that category anyways.

"Oh, what about-" she stopped short as the person in question and another classmate came near.

"Hey guys." Tyler gave me a smile. The other person barely acknowledged me. Actually, he looked rather bored. I almost rolled my eyes at the notoriously aloof Edward Cullen.

I didn't know what to think about him anymore. Once friends, and now barely acquaintances. It made me sad to think about the distance that was now there.

"What's up?" Tyler asked leaning casually against my desk. I noted his crotch was a little too close to my face for comfort. I scooted back to give myself some room.

"Eh, just trying to decide who to make our victims. You?"

He laughed. It was a little too loud, but not overly obnoxious. I could work with that. I watched as Edward glanced in our direction. I tried not to be too distracted by his brilliant green eyes.

"Same. You wanna be my victim?" He flashed his pearly whites at me. He had a rather nice smile. To be honest the whole of him was rather nice. Medium height and build, tan features, dark hair. A girl could do worse.

Then again, a girl could do better. My eyes darted to Edward.

He was tall as ever, lean, and had that rugged devil may care attitude. Normally it was a huge turnoff, but somehow it really worked for him. Not that he had a particularly bad-boy image. He just didn't care.

Turning my attention back to Tyler, I gave him a half smile.

"Not really into the damsel in distress thing. But if you're offering yourself as sacrifice, I'm no snob."

He scratched his chin thoughtfully.

"Sacrifice huh. I might be down, if there's biting involved." He wiggled his brow suggestively, though in obvious jest.

I saw Edward roll his eyes. I ignored him.

"I don't know. Biting sounds like a vampire thing. I'm more of a zombie girl. I dig brains."

He laughed again.

"You're a trip Bella." Tyler told me shaking his head.

"Without the luggage." I agreed. "But yeah. I'm down to be partners if Danvers approves."

He nodded.

"Cool. Catch you later."

As they walked away, I got the distinct impression Edward was annoyed. It annoyed me that he was annoyed.

It's not like he had to come over to talk to us.

I tried to shake off said annoyance as I looked at Angie.

"What's up buttercup?" She was frowning thoughtfully.

"I don't know. Just don't like this assignment."

I gave her a playful nudge.

"Hey, cheer up. It's gonna be fine. You know Danvers won't let you fail if you get a crap partner. And I don't think that's gonna be an issue anyways."

"You don't know that."

"You should just go ask. It's not a big deal."

"Not to you maybe, but I'm not you Bella. I have a hard time talking to people."

She really did too. So shy, but with so much to give.

Making up my mind, I suddenly got out of my chair and walked towards the front of the room, where Tyler, Ben, and Edward just stopped. Only Edward looked at me as I neared.

Well more glowered really.

I turned back to give Angie a re-assuring smile. She was glaring daggers at me.

I proceeded forward, a smile on my face.

"Hey. Gimme your phone. Thought I'd give you my number so we can meet up for the assignment later." I told Tyler as I walked up. He grinned at me and tossed me his cell.

"Done." I said just a few moments later. I turned to look at Ben who was eyeing us quietly. He remined me a little bit of Angie. "You find your partner yet?"

Tyler laughed.

"Hey no take-backsies. You're mine now." His tone was playful, but idea of being owned bothered me.

"I belong to no-one mister." I gave him my best raised brow.

He threw up both hands in surrender.

"Umm. No, I didn't ask anyone yet." Ben told me softly. I liked that about him.

"You should see if Angie is still available; she's a great writer." I shrugged casually.

His eyes perked up.

"Oh yeah?"

I nodded.

"Yeah dude. I'd pick her if I could. She's been helping me with my writing since middle school."

"Oh. Cool. I'll be right back." He turned to walk back to Angie, who was still glaring at me. I have her a hard wink and thumbs up. She blushed bright red.

"Subtle." The sarcastic tone of a one Mr. Cullen announced.

I turned to towards him my expression what I felt like was cool and collected.

"She's shy. And she'd make a great partner. What's there to be subtle about?"

He glared at me in response. It was his go-to move. I resisted an eye roll and looked to Tyler who had an amused expression on his face.

"Don't mind Edward. He's always a dick." Edward scoffed and stalked away. "I think it's cool. You trying to set Angie up. And Ben really is a nice guy."

I gave him an innocent look.

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

He grinned.

"Sure you don't."

The bell rang, releasing me from responding.

"Well I gotta get to my next class. I'll see you later."

"Later Bella."

I walked away with the distinct feeling I was being watched. I had to remind myself not to be too flirty with Tyler. He was fine and all, but I wasn't interested in anything more than a class partner.

Making it to Angie I could tell she was both happy any pissed at me.

"So you gonna thank me or give me the silent treatment for a few hours?" I asked tapping my fingers together like an evil villain. She cracked a partial smile.

"I really should hate you. You're the worst."

"But also kinda the best." I put in. She shook her head at me.

"So Tyler huh?" She asked as we moved out into the hall.

I frowned at her tone.

"What? You don't think he'd be a good partner?"

"No, its not that. I just thought maybe there was someone else that would be better."

"Yeah, well duh. But I couldn't have you, so I'm just working with the available goods." She laughed at me.

"Not what I meant."

"Who did you have in mind? If you say Mike, I will throw up." She looked slightly horrified. Mike was definitely not on anyone's list. Much like Lauren he thought way too much of himself and was just super obnoxious to be around. And kinda of skeevy too.

"God no. I don't know. It doesn't matter anyways. I'm just ready for this year to be over so we can leave." I was certain there was more to it, but I didn't press.

"Amen to that sister." I nodded. "But soon we'll be off to college together and roomies for life."

She giggled.

"Don't you think you'll get tired of me?"

I gave her an offended look.

"Hell no. We're gonna go to the same college, live in the same apartment. We're gonna have a double wedding/ honeymoon. Our kids will grow up as siblings and when our husbands die, we'll grow old together. This is a life deal."

She laughed again.

"Got it all planned out, huh?"

I nodded emphatically.

"Yup." While I was being over the top, the sentiment was true. I did plan on us being in each other's life for always.

"Well if we get boyfriends we should at least consider separate rooms."

I barked out a laugh.

"That's negotiable."

With that we headed our separate ways to class, and I considered that it was unlikely I was going to find a boyfriend anytime soon.

Even if things with Tyler went well, I knew he wasn't who I wanted.

Green eyes came to mind.

I shook my head thinking it was going to be a long year if I didn't get it together.

AN: Just trying out an idea. Let me know what you think