Chapter One: The Cullens

After a positively miserable fifty minutes in P.E. (hand/eye coordination was not my strong suit), I headed into the cafeteria with my new-found friends, Jessica Stanley and Mike Newton. After I had loaded a sandwich, apple, and bottle of water onto my tray, Jessica and Mike directed me towards a circular table located near the windows, through which all that could be seen was the grey drizzle of the early afternoon. Shortly after taking our seats, we were joined by Eric, who-as he had done when I first entered the school-sidled close to me and once again began inquiring.

"So," he began with a warm but sly smile, "Isabella Swann…" He emphasized my name as if it were something to be revered. I frowned disapprovingly in response and turned my gaze back to my food. "Yes?" I asked reluctantly.

"You're sure we can't feature you in the school newspaper? 'New Girl From Arizona' is headline-worthy news around here."

I rolled my eyes, but smiled just the same. "I'd really prefer not to be front-page news," I told him simply.

Eric nodded his head fervently. "Got it. No feature." He wrapped an arm around me. "Don't worry, baby. I got you covered."

Mike cleared his throat loudly as I shrugged out from under Eric's unwanted touch. "And ixnay on the physical contact," I told him, raising a brow. I didn't like being hugged, kissed, cuddled, or otherwise touched really at all-and certainly not by someone I barely knew. Even hugs from Renee were difficult to bear most days.

I glanced between Eric and Mike, who were practically glaring at each other, their faces both flushing different shades of pink. I noticed Jessica daring glances toward Mike out of the side of her eye, and desperately wished I could somehow deflect the unwanted attention I was receiving onto Jessica, who clearly wanted it.

Luckily, both Mike and Eric became otherwise engaged when a girl I had not yet met sat down at our table, next to Jessica. She had dark olive skin and silky black hair, which was tucked behind her head in a graceful ponytail-the kind I had always hoped to achieve. My complete inability to do hair, however, meant that my ponytails often ended up looking like a rat's nest by the end of the day. It was for this reason that I often kept my hair down or pushed back with headbands. Simple and quick.

A sleek pair of glasses rested on the girl's nose. She smiled at me and then pulled out a camera from where it had apparently been resting atop her lap. "Hi," she said kindly, throwing me a welcoming and genuine smile-the first genuine act of kindness I had seen all day. "My name's Angela. I'm in charge of taking pictures for our newspaper and I was wondering if I could take one of your for our feature that's coming out this week?" She raised the camera, clearly expecting I would not mind.

I chuckled slightly and then raised a hand. "If you don't mind," I started, hoping to explain to her that I really was not too keen on having my face plastered over the front page of the Forks High School Newspaper. There came a sudden crash to my right, however, and I jumped, unable to finish my sentence. Eric had slammed down his meal tray in a seemingly dramatic act of defiance. Angela, Jessica, and I frowned at him in unison.

"We're not doing the feature anymore, Angela! Stop pestering her!" With a huff and a deep frown, Eric shoved himself into a standing position and then stomped away from our table, tray in hand.

Angela's face fell and she lowered the camera. "Sorry," she mumbled with a feeble attempt at a smile. "I didn't know."

I returned her smile. "No need to be sorry," I assured her. "You couldn't have known that I'm a socially-awkward introvert whose worst nightmares include finding myself at the center of anything." I gestured behind me to Eric's retreating figure. "I'm sorry about him. There was no need to belittle you for something you couldn't possibly have known."

"Yeah," Jessica agreed as she munched on a carrot. "He's just trying to get on Bella's good side because he thinks she's hot."

The smile returned to Angela's face and brightened her warm features. "Ah, I see. Makes sense. I'm Angela, by the way." She extended a hand.

"Isabella Swan," I replied, grasping her hand in my own and shaking it. "Though I prefer to go by Bella."

"Bella. Well, it's very nice to meet you, Bella. Welcome to Forks."

I returned the smile she had flashed at me and, for the first time that day, it was genuine. I glanced down at my food, picking different parts of it off as Jessica and Angela chatted idly about something. I wasn't paying attention, however; my thoughts were calculating how many minutes I had left until Biology-one of my favorite classes back home in Phoenix. I was hoping to continue my preliminary studies into stem cell research and nerve regeneration at Forks, though I had slightly lower expectations for the caliber of courses, resources, and opportunities that Forks would be able to provide, compared to Phoenix. Still, I was looking forward to the familiar escape that science always seemed to provide.

I was pulled away from my hopeful thoughts, however, when I sensed a distinct change in the atmosphere of the cafeteria. It seemed as if everyone was holding their breaths, quieting their conversations. I glanced around the room, but was unable to find the source of the unusual atmospheric change. "Has something happened?" I asked Jessica and Angela, who seemed to be immune to the strange feeling and were still chatting idly with each other.

Angela frowned slightly before glancing around. Understanding dawned on her features. She worried her bottom lip with her straight teeth and then smiled, turning slightly in her seat. I glanced towards where she had angled her body. Jessica followed, turning around in her seat. A wide grin then danced over her lips. "Oh," she murmured knowingly.

Creasing my brows together in confusion, my gaze swept across the area Angela seemed to have indicated. But I saw nothing out of the ordinary, save for a group of students that could be seen through the cafeteria windows. They appeared to be walking toward the door that would lead them from outside into the cafeteria. I frowned at Angela. "Them?" I nodded in the direction of the students, the first of which had opened the door and was taking a step into the cafeteria.

She nodded, raising a brow.

"Who are they?" I asked, though the subtext of the question was more akin to, Why has their presence caused the entire student body to quiet and stare?

"The Cullens," Angela began, crossing her arms and setting them on the table. "They're Doctor and Mrs. Cullen's foster kids, but… Well, they're a little different from most of the students here." I frowned inquisitively, turning my gaze back to the first pair of Cullens that had entered the cafeteria. I squinted, hoping to ascertain what exactly made them so different. It was when the two began walking closer to our table that I started to understand.

Firstly, the two people walking toward me looked nothing like the surrounding student body-or any high school student body, for that matter. The girl had blonde hair that cascaded down her back in perfect waves. She smiled at the boy that was walking next to her, flashing a set of perfect teeth nestled behind full and voluptuous lips. Her sharp cheekbones accentuated the fullness of her face-which, now I was looking at it, was completely clear of imperfections. She stood tall and slender and wore tight clothes that accentuated each dip and curve of her waist, hips, and thighs. She walked with purpose and confidence, wearing a small smile that suggested she knew just how alluring she was.

Despite the undeniably breathtaking beauty of the girl's features, however, it was her eyes that caught mine. They were a dark shade of gold that almost seemed to be swimming and glowing with attentiveness. The eyes scanned the lunchroom quickly as she walked by, passing over me, but never stopping to look further. And I couldn't help but wonder why she would stop and look at anyone else in the school, given the boy striding alongside her.

Like her, he was physically stunning-perfectly proportioned features, golden coiffed hair, and an impeccable sense of style. Unlike her, however, his physical features were far more distracting. He had huge, rippling muscles which looked as if they were threatening to break through the fabric that was constraining them. His forearms alone were bigger than my calves. Every inch of him seemed to be peppered with bulging veins-as if they were begging the user to lay off the weights. Next to the girl, he looked positively hulking. And yet, for a man of his size, he walked with impeccable grace and accuracy. Like her, his eyes were the same shade of mesmerizing gold. They swept past us without a second glance and it was then that I noticed the second distinction that made them so different from the rest of the student body.

The two, who were supposed to be adopted siblings, were holding hands in a way that was not indicative of a brother/sister relationship. I felt my eyebrows crease further together when, after taking a seat, the two shared a quick-but rather passionate-kiss. I turned a confused and questioning gaze toward Angela and Jessica. "Are they... together?"

Angela nodded with a knowing smile. Jessica grinned, seemingly eager to gossip about all the rumors surrounding the Cullens. She scooted closer to me. "The two you just saw walk in-" she gestured behind me, stabbing her fork into the air "-are Rosalie and Emmett. They're seniors this year. And yes, they're together together." She raised her eyebrows and then added, "They all are."

I frowned and was about to ask what she meant when the next pair of Cullens swept by our table. I glanced at them, taking in their alabaster complexions, graceful strides, and golden eyes.

"Those two," Jessica told me in a slight whisper, "are Alice and Jasper. They're the weirdest of them all. Jasper always looks like he's in pain and Alice literally always dances her way everywhere."

As Jessica said it, I realized she was completely right. Jasper's features, though beautiful and unmarred like his siblings, were crinkled in what appeared to be pain or deep concentration. His lips were pressed into a thin line and his eyes seemed to scan the room nervously; far more than Rosalie or Emmett had. Though he was physically stunning, he seemed to walk through the cafeteria with less confidence and ease than his brother and sisters.

I turned my gaze from Jasper, who was clutching a pair of books in his right hand, to the girl beside him, who had wrapped both hands around Jasper's free one and seemed to be leading him through the cafeteria. Whereas Rosalie strode with the assured grace and elegance of a well-seasoned runway model, Alice skipped across the floor with the litheness and weight of a ballerina. Each of her steps had a distinct bounce in them, and she wore an easy, dreamy smile on her lips. I watched as she quite literally twirled around Jasper-who remained rigid and pained-before continuing towards the table. She hopped slightly before taking a seat next to Emmett and then pulling out the chair for Jasper. I noticed her hair was cropped short into a pixie cut and that she wore a loose, light purple dress-which was very reminiscent of the flapper dresses worn in the Roaring Twenties-with dainty flats. Overall, she reminded me of a fairy.

"I guess you could say Dr. Cullen is more like a matchmaker than a foster dad," Jessica said with a scoff. "It's a little weird, if you ask me."

Angela raised a brow. "They're not actually related, Jess," she scolded before turning back to me. "They seem like very nice people, and they've never been unkind to me. Personally, the whole situation doesn't bother me that much. Each is the only family the other has."

"It's still weird, though," Jessica mumbled with a sly smile. "Especially considering they all live together."

I watched Alice place a tender kiss atop Jasper's cheekbone. "Do they ever intermingle?" I asked to no one in particular.

"No, they pretty much keep to themselves," Angela supplied, her arms still folded.

I turned back to my food. I could feel Rosalie, Emmett, Alice, and Jasper's presence behind me and I couldn't shake the feeling that something was off. Before I could inquire any further, however, the cafeteria door opened one last time. As I glanced in the direction of the opening door, I watched both Angela and Jessica turn expectantly in the seats. My eyes fell upon what I knew had to be another Cullen sibling; he had the same perfectly sculpted features and alabaster skin. There was something instantly different about him, however.

I glanced to Jessica as she sighed, "Edward," and then turned my gaze back to the final Cullen in question.

Unlike his siblings, who were all impeccably dressed in a way no normal high schooler should be, Edward wore a casual t-shirt, fitted jeans, and simple black dress shoes. One hand was curled loosely around a set of books and a notebook, while the other was tucked inside his pocket. He had bronze hair that had been styled to stand off his forehead. Though he didn't smile, intuition informed me that his teeth were, like his siblings, nearly perfect.

Though Edward walked with the same surety and grace as his siblings, I noticed there was something immediately different about him-apart from the rather obvious fact that he had not entered with a partner. Whereas Jasper, Alice, Rosalie, and Emmett had all entered with a sense of casualness-their postures relaxed, young, lively-Edward walked with his back straight and his eyes to the ground. His gaze did not seem to fall out of embarrassment or self-consciousness, however. Rather, it was as if he were listening to a particularly complicated piece of music, and needed the constant image of the tiles running beneath him to remain truly focused on the song's beauty and complexity. I suddenly realized another way he was distinctly different from his siblings. Whereas the other Cullens had golden honey irises, Edward's were dark black.

I heard Jessica practically sigh again as Edward neared our table. His gaze swept over the cafeteria before eventually settling upon our table. I couldn't help but notice the small-almost smug-smile that danced across Edward's lips as he cast his gaze upon me. It was as if he was expecting me to do or say something that he'd heard a thousand times before. Our brows creased in tandem, however, when our eyes connected for the briefest of moments. I frowned as the smile slid from Edward's lips to be replaced by an expression of deep consternation and confusion. His eyes flicked back to me for another brief moment, and it was clear that, whatever it was he had been expecting of me, did not happen.

And then, just like that, he had glided past us and taken a seat in the only remaining chair at his family's table.

I turned my attention back to Angela and Jessica and then raised my brows as if to ask, What's the deal?

Angela answered my silent question. "Nobody really knows. They've always kept to themselves and seem to prefer it that way."

"And you said Dr. Cullen is their foster dad?"

Angela nodded.

"Yet he's found nobody for Edward?" I asked sarcastically with an eyeroll. I hadn't liked the way he'd scrutinized me, seemingly disappointed by what he'd found.

"Maybe he'll adopt me," Angela giggled, laughing in such a way that indicated she was far from serious.

Jessica shook her head with a sigh. "Guess nobody here is good enough for him," she muttered bitterly.

I smiled and exchanged a knowing glance with Angela before returning to my food.

Once I'd finished my lunch, I stood and made to dump the remains in the garbage. As I turned around and headed toward the nearest trash bin, I glanced compulsively to my left, having had the distinct feeling of being watched. And I was correct. Edward's eyes were on me, intense and burning. The frown still remained, deep-set upon his lips. Though he could clearly see me staring back at him with a scowl of my own, Edward did not look away. Instead, he murmured something to Alice, who was sitting next to him, and then finally broke our gaze with a disdainful shake of his head. Though I was usually very good at reading people, I found I was having a difficult time deconstructing Edward Cullen.

My face burning with confused contempt, I tossed my food in the trash with more force than was necessary and then headed out of the cafeteria. I met back up with Angela in the hallway. "Is Edward usually so…" I searched for the right words. "Brooding?"

Angela contemplated. "I don't know if I'd say brooding. He usually just ignores most of us, to be honest. Though he's polite if he ever has to interact with you."

I nodded and smiled in thanks.

"Which class are you headed to?" Angela asked.

"Biology, I think." I pulled out my schedule, quite relieved when I found I was right. Biology was one of my favorite subjects (closely followed by Chemistry). Hopefully fifty minutes of microscopic samples would help me to forget how unnerved I'd been by the way Edward had looked at me. "Think you could point me in the right direction?"

"Of course. Go down to the end of this hallway, take a right, and then Mr. Molina's classroom is the last on your left," Angela told me, pausing outside her class.

"Thanks."

"No problem! It was great meeting you, Bella." She ducked into the classroom with a warm smile and wave.