I'd given too much thought to life and death. My breath froze in my throat as I stared across the long room into blood-red eyes. It might have been a good way to die if it were in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Instead, I wondered if this was all for nothing. If any of my choices mattered? It was like a fixed game of cards, I would always be destined to lose. Still, even if I hadn't gone to Forks, I could convince myself that this was inevitable. If not me, then someone else. Terrified as I was, I didn't regret the decision to go to Forks. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, isn't it fair to fight to keep it, even at the risk of an end?
It was like walking through another world. I suppose, in a way, it was. I couldn't recall seeing as many shades of green in one place. Mossy canopy's blanketing the trees stretching from branch to branch. Leftover puddles from two days before sat on the dirt pathway of the Hoh rainforest, and the air was heavy with sunshine. Lush green plants spilled over the trail, some whose names and bodies I'd recognized at a glance, others I was itching to identify. Trees laid to rest haphazardly against one other, providing the nutrients needed for other saplings to try to survive this literal jungle. I stood in awe of a giant that had fallen long ago with three other full-grown trees whose roots wrapped around their trunk.
"This looks like it should be impossible."
Charlie's eyes crinkled, "Just wait till it begins to rain. It really brings out the color."
Charlie was like a kid, so unlike the memories, I'd had of him, which were few. When I'd asked him out here, he was initially disbelieving, wondering if I was the same girl Renee had told him about. But that faded away as we piled in his car, and I asked him more about camping and the surrounding area.
I'd stopped coming up here after I'd turned 12, and for the life of me, I couldn't remember why. It was like what happened that summer all but escaped me, and for some reason, I told Renee if Charlie was going to visit, he'd need to come down to do so. Renee was on board because then I wouldn't have to leave, and Charlie, well, he just wanted to see me.
Renee meant well. She always had when we lived together in Phoenix. But she was an anomaly to me. One of the things I appreciated was that she believes we manifest our own happiness. And it worked more for her than me. My mother was eccentric, forgetful, and childish. She didn't commit to hobbies for long. It was something that bled into our relationship. She pushed me towards any extracurricular she could think of in an attempt to find something for both of us to have in common.
She also drew people around her, something I noticed only when I was old enough to see it. Any fleeting relationship came and left almost at her bidding, at least until Phil. I didn't even know if Renee was aware of it. It was a core part of her, making people want to be close to her, also making people do what she wanted. It reached out like a voice inside my head telling me her intentions before she announced them. Worse, sometimes I felt compelled to do what she wanted without being asked. A niggling sense of anxiety would spread inside me if I didn't help her immediately.
When moments like that happened, I found comfort in my grandmother, Marie. She was quiet, so wonderfully quiet. Hard, loyal, even bitter, but she was the polar opposite to my mother. She was comfortable. Much like with Renee, I could feel something was different with her, there just under the surface, but I couldn't grasp it. It was frustrating. Even more frustrating when I felt compelled to attend another dance class.
The summers with my dad let me breathe. I was able to be a kid with him, no mother to mother. But being up there with him was hard. I was too sensitive, too aware of the ocean and the forest. It felt like buzzing on my skin. I felt like Charlie thought I hated being with him until I was twelve. Later that year, other changes happened.
In another ballet studio in a different part of Phoenix, I was doing pirouettes looking after my reflection in the mirror, the only one in the room. One spin, two spins, three spins until I froze. My breath stuck in my throat, looking at an elderly woman watching me dance. I faltered, fell, then the mirror shattered. I was screaming when the director found me. That was the last time I'd had to attend dance classes.
It was also when my grandmother got sick. Sitting on her bed in a room that seemed like there was a filter over it. She spoke in riddles, like in a dream, and then she was gone. We had a funeral and an official reading of the will. One where my mom got my grandmother's house, and I got some old jewelry boxes that I'd never seen before.
Those weeks without my grandma were the hardest. Renee couldn't focus on anything, and I found myself cleaning, cooking, and making notes on what bills to pay. After an exhausting day, late at night, I'd realized no one watered my grandma's flowers. Instead of sleeping, I slipped out to take care of them before I forgot.
Terracotta pots filled with light-colored soil. I didn't know if they needed food or if I should rotate them like I'd seen her do dozens of times. Cactuses, apricot blanket flowers, poppies, and succulents needed someone who knew them well to survive. Something Renee did not. I was heartbroken to find two pots of poppies already dead. I moved them to the porch giving apologies that I'd forgotten them before I tended to the others.
Clear-headed, I went into my room, hearing my mother snore lightly through the wall. I sat on my bed and took deep breaths till my eyes landed on the box from the funeral. I hadn't been able to look through them. There were three. The first was old, worn wildflowers engraved into the wood. I opened the box to find a dozen crystals. Dirty and large but pretty where the moonlight hit each side. Why my grandmother had these, I didn't know.
One had layers or smooth cold glass-like rock. Another I remembered from science class was amber. It looked like solid honey and felt warmer the longer it sat in my palm. A large chunk of amethyst sat in the box with some other stones. I pulled it out as well and found myself so exhausted I could barely focus. I'd felt the pull then to move those crystals to my window. That night I slept so deeply that my mother had tried to get me up several times in the morning, but I wouldn't budge.
My head wasn't as heavy, at least when I was in my room. In the house, I was stuck. Sometimes all Renee had to do was look at something, and I would move to fix it. I always itched afterward. When I was able to leave the house, I would go to the library and try to study there. If I kept myself occupied, I was less likely to be pulled away with something else. I noticed later that the poppies, which had looked dead the night before, were thriving. I'd written it off, thinking they just need to be moved.
I became a lot more interested in gardening after that. It seemed like I was even better than my grandmother. I was able to grow things our neighbors said weren't even native to Arizona and its heat. The yard was filled with peonies, dahlias, forget me not, lavender, violas, and delicate snowbells. I spoke to them, moved them too to areas they'd be more comfortable.
My mother saw how well I was doing with gardening and eventually joined me— at least until she picked up yoga— So I had to pick it up as well. I tried to talk to her about how sometimes it felt like I was doing things she wanted, but she wrote it off. She said it was the grief talking, that if I felt weird for helping, then that was grief too. I kept prodding until finally, she'd snapped at me for the first time.
She said, "These aren't normal conversations, Isabella. I can't make you do things you don't want to do."
I'd stilled, then said sorry. Going back into my room then waited for her to leave so I could breathe again. After that night, I felt like I should carry a pretty bluish white stone I found in another box. Whenever I had it, I didn't do what Renee wanted without her stating it firmly.
It helped to a point, and I was lucky enough that Renee didn't like to be seen as bossy. I learned that stone was a moonstone, and the glass-like rock was obsidian. I decided if they helped, then I should memorize as much of them as I could.
I'd also learned more about my powers. It was easier to find answers in the conversations that normal people might have. If I'd asked Charlie to show me around Forks to sense the energy and balance in nature, I'm sure he'd have called Renee on the spot and demanded to know what weird hippie stuff we did in Arizona. Or perhaps I wasn't giving him enough credit.
He wasn't Renee, who liked the sun and AC. He was certainly in touch with nature here as he crouched near the end of the bridge leading up a winding path to look into the rolling stream. I shook the unfair thought from my head, instead looking for the same things that led me to Forks to begin with. It was like there was perfect stillness. I gave myself a moment to tell Charlie I was moving ahead. He said he wouldn't be too long. I mentally noted the time and muttered something instinctual to give me five minutes before letting my body lead me where I needed to go.
Anytime this happened, it was almost like I was in a trance. When it first happened, I was alarmed and scared. Now it was like breathing, an instinct. I was being pulled along the channels to where the world needed me to be. I stepped over roots, my boots making little to no sound as tourists also seemed to fade away from the area.
The path segwayed, a swollen wooden fence leading me towards something amazing. The anticipation built in me with each step till the trail and fence disappeared. No one was here, and I felt my heart grow full.
A large maple tree covering everything I was under. Its gigantic expanse of space made me feel small, and I distinctly felt I'd stepped into its domain. It was as if it'd been given permission to get closer than anyone else in a very long time.
Treading carefully over the ferns until I was at the base of its trunk. I hesitated for the first time since stepping foot in the forest. It felt like I'd been holding this spot for hours. I wanted so badly to touch the tree, perhaps the oldest living thing I'd ever laid my eye on but felt like I was unworthy. It felt like if I took this step, then something would change irrevocably in me. Yet, it could hold all the answers to my questions.
I swallowed, closing my eyes. I thought, help me understand, help me figure what I needed to do. please. I sank my hands into the moss protecting the trunk. I felt like I swallowed something, then I was gone.
I started, looking around, Charlie kneeling in front of the stream. Tourists moving around us, chatting and taking pictures. It was like I hadn't even moved.
"You okay, kiddo?"
I coughed. "Never better. How long have we been here?"
"Only fifteen minutes so far. Hard to believe, right?"
I nodded, looking around. I couldn't remember the path to get back to the tree. Was I even there? "Yeah. Really feel like I can get lost here."
"Well, we wouldn't want that to happen. Elk can get pretty nasty when they want to."
I laughed, and it sounded forced. Hopefully, Charlie wouldn't be able to tell. I couldn't understand what'd happened. I gave myself a moment to stare off into the space I thought I'd gone, but instead, it felt like there was nothing there. I felt like a weight had been added to my heart, and the air around me felt lighter. It was as if I'd taken something from the forest.
I followed Charlie till we headed back towards the parking lot. Charlie gave me a pat on the back, then opened my door for me to get into his truck.
"So, on our way back into town, do you need anything? Woman named Betty has a shop around here with thicker clothes, or there's Newtons." He started the car, reverting back to the quiet, almost shy dad I remembered. "Renee mentioned you bought stuff before coming up."
I smiled, "thanks, dad, I should be covered."
Renee and Phil wanted to splurge, leave me with good memories. Phil felt guilty, though I wasn't able to pinpoint what for. I'd had a completely new winter wardrobe for coming up here. Renee had insisted that I could reinvent myself if I wanted. But her idea of reinventing myself differed from mine.
"Great," Charlie said. He was harder for me to read than others. It was comforting to transition from the overpopulated Phoenix. Something I'd learned this weekend was how earnest and genuine he was, even when he wasn't speaking outright.
"Mind if I?" He toggled the radio.
"Go ahead. I'll just enjoy the scenery."
Classic rock filled the car, then we were driving through the woods. I was grateful for the opportunity to zone out. The tree had shaken me just a bit. I wondered if I was over my head here, in an area so connected to nature, especially with me knowing how my magic could be affected here.
I didn't know what I was till I was a Sophomore in High school. When I'd suddenly pictured every answer to the first test of the quarter during precalculus. I didn't fully understand the material, and the teachers wondered how I could do so well on tests. It was an uncomfortable experience to take tests well but be clueless on homework. I had to study harder after that, at least until the answers stopped magically appearing in my mind.
It wasn't just math. I also knew when a couple would break up or when two people liked one another. It flustered me when I felt the attention directed towards me. I'd even heard some of their thoughts, something that always made me feel uncomfortable but wasn't completely commonplace. I figured as long as I didn't acknowledge it, then it'd be fine. Live under the radar.
But I wasn't entirely under the radar, especially with these powers always around me. I was walking to class one day when a paper I'd printed the day before was blown from my hands, and with a small yelp and outstretched palm, it was back in order like it'd never happened.
One of my friends, Sam, saw it and wanted to talk about it. That too stopped when I begged her to forget about it, and to my horror, she did forget. She even forgot we were friends. After that, the school year was stifling, filled with rumors of a falling out so bad that Sam pretended I didn't exist. She was more annoyed by everyone prodding to figure out what'd happened. She avoided me for the rest of my Sophomore year till she moved away.
I didn't have access to a computer. Renee never needed one after technology seemed to warp around her. After school, I went to the library and put my name on a waitlist to access a computer so I could look up my gifts.
I'd type what I knew Renee did and what I could do just to have a baseline to compare it to. The first page of google was wrapped in results of superheroes and magic, some mentioned witchcraft, and after reading through the fantasy on these sites, I decided to research more on witchcraft.
Websites with Wiccans and people attempting to reach inside themselves to communicate to their goddess talked about their powers holding nothing back. And while it touched on some of what I could do, it didn't cover everything, and much to a lesser degree. I couldn't recall making an altar, and while I did have crystals from my grandmother. I hadn't really done anything more than clean them and lend them my windowsill.
It wasn't until I found an image of an old book on the second page of some website that led me to a periodical on historical texts from Cambridge. The pages were yellowed but ornate, one in Latin and the other in a French journal. My eyes widened, and I felt my heart thud heavily in my chest. Even though I'd never taken a language course, I could read both clearly. I sat away from the computer, looking around me briefly to see if anyone cared enough to look.
Those who paid tribute to the gods would be given a sanctuary in their patron's temple. These acolytes of the gods would be chosen to receive the blessing. Through rigorous tests and trials, they may gain the god's favor and gifts to pass to their children. If a mortal were to interact with a god and form a union, demigod children would be borne and be heralds to their gods.
I reread the passage, wondering if it meant anything to me in specific. The French one, more straight to the point in its legend. Or at least what I hoped was a legend.
The hunts are hard here― men bewitched, cajoled, made to see things ― deep in the woods. Meanwhile, the witches are relentless in their hunts for us. It is near Normandy where we find the majority of the coven interacting with a small fishing village. These men and women siring children with each other and those children of God. I do not know what we shall do with the spawn of these unions. ̶M̶a̶t̶h̶i̶a̶s̶ ̶s̶a̶y̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶c̶h̶i̶l̶d̶r̶e̶n̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶G̶o̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ for our mission I can not view them as children. I must hold fast.
My computer screen blinked an artificial grey box in the corner for a five-minute timer, and I closed out of the screens, signing off. Demigods, gifts, witches, it was hard to distance one another especially knowing how truth and fiction were intertwined. Yet, there were my grandmother's crystals, my mother's compulsion, my father's apparent silence, and me. If I was a witch or had magic, I needed to learn.
I couldn't do that with my mom's presence, or Phil's, or even the city. So I did what I felt like I had to do. If we truly manifested happiness, then I could manifest something that would make everyone involved happy. Sitting on my bed, a table light on a book of rituals I'd checked out and skimmed before I sat crisscrossed with my arms lax. I closed my eyes and breathed. I waited till It felt like I was full of air, Phil Dwyer scouted for the minor leagues a state away.
The thought thrummed in my head like a drum, pressure building as static. The hairs on the back of my neck felt like they were rising, and I continued to envision it. Sun, baseball, opportunity, moving, Renee. It felt like a bubble filled with air till it was about to burst, and from me, I spoke a single word.
My eyes shot open, and I was hovering over my bed, suddenly thrown down to my mattress. The light bulb shattered, and I heard all the power leave my house as a neighbor's car alarm sounded nearby. I scooted off the bed, hearing Phil or Renee pad outside of the door. I'd cracked it open.
Phil was rubbing the back of his neck, searching through a dresser for a flashlight, "You okay? Sounded like you fell, powers shot."
"It's fine," my voice slurred, "I think the flashlights in the hall closet."
"Thanks," he left, and I shut the door, resting my aching forehead against it.
The next day, Phil proposed. A week after that, an elopement to Mexico was put off by a phone call for the Jacksonville Suns in Florida. When I heard the news, my stomach dropped. Florida wasn't a part of the plan, yet now I could see them clear as day, enjoying what Florida had to offer. And I just had to break it to them that I wouldn't be going.
Renee initially threw a fit, but Phil was kind enough to try and convince her. Maybe that was why he felt guilty. Maybe he'd wanted time with his wife without her seventeen year old daughter running around the house. Nevertheless, we talked to Charlie, who excitedly got things rolling on his end and bought a plane ticket. Now here I am.
I sighed, my eyes refocusing on the "Welcome to Forks" sign as we passed the loggers memorial.
"You okay, Bells?"
"Just stuck in my head, nothing to write home about."
"Nervous for school tomorrow?"
"No." I shook my head, watching him, "should I be?"
He coughed, "Not really. People know it's supposed to be your first day tomorrow."
"How?" I winced. It sounded off, "I just expected it to be a little more hush hush."
"Shelley— Mrs. Cope is also a volunteer at the station. The woman makes a mean blueberry muffin."
"You sold out information for baked goods?" I almost snorted, "I find that hard to believe."
"Like I said, it's a mean blueberry muffin." He chuckled, then cleared his throat, "Sorry, I forgot that you liked your privacy."
"It's fine." Suddenly, a vision filled my head of a kindly woman with red hair pulled into a knot on her head, large, with glasses. She held a tray out to Charlie, asking if his daughter was coming up for Summer again. Then Charlie, two bites into a muffin accidentally slipping and mentioning that I would be moving up in a month.
I shook the scene away. That was vivid. Like I was there, odd.
"You alright, kiddo?" He looked worried, "I'm sorry if I shouldn't have said anything."
I waved my hand, ignoring the butterflies in my stomach. "no, no, it's fine, really. Just glad to know what to use against you in the future."
"You bake? I thought you and Renee were like peas in a pod in the kitchen."
"Not exactly. How else do you think she survived for so long," I said. Charlie harrumphed. I could tell he was annoyed at my mother. Even though those two were useless in the kitchen, I had to learn. Now he felt like I grew up too quickly with her. I quickly added, "It's a good thing, really. I can't expect to go to The Lodge every night for dinner."
"Hey! The Lodge is a Forks staple."
"I'm not saying it isn't, but I think you probably know how to grill a steak, and I can handle potatoes. It might even be healthier."
Charlie grimaced, taking a corner down a neighborhood street mumbling about health. A second later, he said. "I actually wanted to ask if you wanted to go, you know, after your first day."
"To The Lodge?"
"Yeah," he scratched his nose briefly, relaxed driving through these streets. "As a welcoming thing, or congrats on surviving the first day. That's a thing people do, right?"
I felt a smile stretch across my face, "Yeah, I'd like that a lot, actually."
"Good then." He pulled into the driveway. "I'm glad we have a plan for tomorrow."
I nodded, "but we still need to eat something tonight."
"Well, let's see what's in the fridge." Charlie opened his door.
Outside, the sky had darkened to a stormy grey, not yet spilling over but trying. Charlie's house was a labor of love. At least I felt it was with the recently done up white paint and yard supplies near the door. It was a small two-story house with two bay windows from the outside and green steps leading up to the door with a screen. It had a small yard with a large maple tree. Inside, the air was warm and smelled like leather and wood.
I enjoyed the smell. It wasn't what our house in Arizona smelt like at all. My luggage was placed near the stairs, and I noticed some additional boxes that hadn't been there when we left.
He came in a second later, tapping mail in one hand, "Oh good, they came."
"Well, why don't you open it and find out." He set the mail near the table by the door. He pulled out a pocket knife then handed it to me. I took it, shooting him a pensive look. I wasn't about to kick a gift horse in the mouth.
I sat on the stairs pulling the box closer. When I bumped it, Charlie jumped, and I took that as a sign to be gentler. Cutting through the tape, I lifted the flaps then yelled. "You didn't."
"Woman at the store said it was the newest model." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I need to do some more things before you have access to the internet, but it should be good to go tomorrow."
Inside was a purple computer. I jumped to my feet, leaving the knife on the stairs, then rushed him in a hug. "You didn't have to, but I love it."
Charlie cleared his throat and wrapped his arms around me. "Course I did. You earned it. Besides, if this is how you react to a computer, then you're going to lose it later."
I pulled back a scrunch between my brows. I saw a large old red truck with new plates. I had to fight to keep my expression pulling away to gather my computer, "Thank you so much, Charlie. I'm going to move this up into my room."
"Need any help?"
"I got this if you could go through the food, though." I didn't wait for a response. I felt guilty for the truck for seeing the gift before it came and hoping my lack of surprise wouldn't read for disappointment.
Upstairs, I toed open the door to the left of the only bathroom in the house. My room was another surprise that had been ruined when Charlie was driving me back from the airport.
The room was originally my nursery, and I began to feel smothered by the memories. So much emotion sat in these light blue walls and peaked ceilings.
I could see Charlie, much younger, standing in the center of the room, staring at an empty crib. God, the grief. The curtains were whiter than their current yellow. The rocking chair that'd been moved to a corner sat in front of the window. Another vision filled its place. My mother, sad, watching the forest while Charlie left to care for his parents. Deep in postpartum in a rainy town that she couldn't see the light in.
Blood gushed from my nose, and I cursed, setting the box down, running next door with my head tilted up. I grabbed a handful of toilet paper and tried my best to block the flow of blood. At least now I was back here, not stuck in the past or the future. I leaned against the wall waiting for my nose bleed to end.
After a moment, I tossed the wad into the toilet and flushed. I turned the faucet on, waiting for the water to turn warm before I leaned down and washed my face, then my hands. I dried them off quickly, looking in the mirror to see if Charlie would notice.
I was pale, save for my nose. It was a little red from being pinched, but aside from that, my features were the same. My long dark hair was coming undone from the braid I'd put it in this morning. I took it out, quickly combing through it, even though I'd be taking a shower in an hour or so.
I was about to turn away from the mirror when I saw something in my eyes, typically chocolate brown, were now green. I blinked, and suddenly they were back. I braced myself on the sink. This was new, but I needed to get my magic under control. Needed to know that I could at least trust myself not to lose control.
I took a last deep breath before returning to my bedroom. Inside I still felt the heavy emotions, but I focused on the now. My queen sized bed and purple comforter, my desk in the corner, a white dresser that had obviously been refurbished, other miscellaneous things that filled the space made it seem more lived in. I'd missed them before, but small plants were on the windowsill and obviously in need of some water, but I'd get to that later. I quickly unpacked the computer so it can at least sit on the desk without fear of being pushed around.
I finished quickly, and I got the plants their drink. I was still rattled and trying not to shake as much when I left for downstairs. In one of the suitcases, my grandmothers―my crystals, sat waiting to be placed where they would do the most work in the house. I already felt like I would need to focus on the present here. Grounding the house and its belongings, clearing negative emotions attached to some of the older furniture, trying to add protection spells, I had my work cut out for me. Especially when I seemed like I was already testing my capabilities.
I moved all my other suitcases into the room. It was nice to focus, however briefly, on something mundane. Charlie called my name from the kitchen, and I walked through the living room to see him.
Charlie stood, back facing me with the fridge door opened. Food piled onto the laminated cabinets. The square oak table, surrounded by three odd chairs on a worn rug in the middle of the room. A bright yellow cabinet was open, revealing nonperishable food.
"I didn't know how badly I needed to get to the grocery store."
"I thought you only ate at The Lodge every Thursday?" I said, moving to look through the cabinet.
"Yeah?" Charlie looked at me funny, "how'd you know that?"
I lied, "you mentioned it when you asked what I wanted to eat when you grabbed me from the airport."
"Oh," he looked like he was trying to remember before shaking his head, "Anyway, I have bread, eggs, milk―"
"― flour, cheese, peanut butter, some spinach that looks like it's on its last legs, and bacon."
"So breakfast for dinner?"
"Breakfast for dinner it is." Charlie pulled out the bacon, eggs, and bread. "Lucky for us, I know how to fry an egg and turn some bacon."
"Do you want my help?"
"No, finish unpacking, so you don't have to scramble tomorrow for school. I got this."
I hesitated, wondering if I should do more, before saying "Thanks."
Back upstairs, I began opening up the dresser and transferring my clothes over. I cut tags from thick knit sweaters, pullovers, jeans, bras, panties, and socks. The colors I'd picked were dusky, earth tones, or faded and washed out. I had a couple of white tees that would go well with anything. I was stepping out of the box with some of these clothes, but it wasn't like I'd be able to return them from up here anyway.
I hadn't really been concerned with clothing when I was younger, but middle school kids didn't really hide what they thought of your appearance. I used to wear blockier clothes, something more for my grandmother's benefit. She liked traditional things. Then I had the phase of patches of color and crazy prints and loose hippie clothes from Renee.
If I really focused on how we used to shop, I was constantly being put in things or clothes were just bought for me. I rested my hands on a pretty blush colored cardigan. This was me, without anything seeping into my wants. I found it odd and new to lean into what I wanted. It was outside the itchy feeling I got when people nearby tried to push me into a shape they thought would work.
But I was nervous I was wrong. Maybe all those things before were me, and I'm fooling myself right now. Maybe these clothes were better suited in the store than in my closet. Maybe it was Renee's face looking over what I picked, her head tilted in confusion because it's not what she thought I should want. I took a calming breath, shutting the thoughts out. I was me. I focused on this room, on my hands, on my breathing. I was me, not Renee, not Marie, Me. I picked these clothes for myself.
Calmer now, I moved my hiking shoes and a couple of other pairs of boots to the closet. Putting some of the blouses on hangers. I'd bought thermal leggings, a pair of activewear, and then three jackets. One thick and tan, with a tie. Another jacket, this was the only thing I bought with a fur lined hood. It was navy and insulated. And finally, a plaid jacket. I looked at all my clothes in the closet, pleased, then I heard Charlie yell dinner was done.
I joined him in the kitchen. The table had ketchup and tabasco in the middle, watching him set a plate down with water and go back to grab another.
I sat, bringing my leg up under me. "It looks great."
"It's just eggs, bacon, and toast."
"Doesn't mean it's still not great," I countered, grabbing a fork.
He sat down opposite to me, "and did Phil cook when he moved in?"
I shot a look at him, keeping my voice neutral. "He did, he was better than Renee, but I was better than him." I could tell he wanted to ask more but refrained for my sake. Meanwhile, I had to learn not to answer anything I wasn't asked outright.
He grunted, "Well, that's good, I guess. Are you all packed away?"
"All my clothes are out. I need to pull out the stuff I bought for school from Arizona."
"The rooms okay, though?"
"It is. I love the plants."
"Yeah, I remembered you had a green thumb. Sue helped with the dresser and comforter. You remember the Clearwaters?"
"I do," I remembered their daughter, Leah, and her baby brother, Seth. I forked some food. "I hope the green thumb continues," I wondered how Charlie's house would look with added plants. Then seeing an opportunity, probed, "You don't mind if I garden or add anything to the house, do you?"
"Yeah, I know this is your space. I don't want to overstep."
His face was grave as he said, "Bells, you wouldn't be overstepping. This is your home, and If you want to change something, you can change something." His statement made me feel a tickle in the back of my throat.
"Thanks, Charlie, that means a lot." I swallowed, and for a horrifying second, Charlie thought he'd made me cry.
We both finished our meal, making small talk about the rainforest. He told me where a spare key was, above the window ledge outside then said it was going to rain tomorrow, so I had to dress warmly. We went over a loose schedule. I'd gotten some confirmation on my classes, at least the advanced ones that Charlie shook his head at, and I was able to joke around with him about having him help with my homework. I also told him I'd decided to leave a little earlier to get to school on time and familiarize myself with the layout.
I cleared the table. Setting a rule that the one who cooks doesn't need to do the dishes. Charlie seemed amused by the statement, but really it was making it easier on me. It was the first time in a while that I hadn't had to do both. I mentioned I was going back to bed, and Charlie told me to holler at him if I needed anything. That he'd be down here going through his bait box for a fishing trip with Harry Clearwater and Billy Black.
Back in my room, I sighed. I pulled my backpack out and got it ready, wondering how the butterflies in my stomach would make their presence known in the physical world. I grabbed a box gently from one of the suitcases. My crystals. I started placing them around my room where I felt they needed to go.
Over by the window, I fingered the lacy curtain that was placed there so whatever precious sunlight would still be able to come into the room. And while the window looked out into a smaller manicured yard, really it gazed into the deep encompassing wood. I stood, looking into the trees, wondering if this was really my new world. Suddenly, I felt something entirely different than ever before. A slight pressure at the base of my skull telling me that I was unsafe.
I stepped back from the window, pausing to take a breath before I opened my mind. I wanted to sense the feelings of anyone nearby and pinpoint what was unsafe. Nothing. Was it another premonition? I took a step and hovered my hand over the glass, nervous at the possible vision― especially if it was another one linked to the memories of this room.
My fingertips touched the cold surface, and misty images filled my mind. A man, darkness all around him, slowly inching my window up. Me, asleep on the bed. I pulled away quickly, holding my hand to my chest. How? Hesitating, I opened the window, leaning my head out to look down. This house wasn't exactly made for someone to sneak into my room. Solid walls with no footholds. Yet, so far, I'd never been wrong.
I debated what I could do. I didn't want to cause a power outage like in Phoenix, but nightly visitors seemed a bad omen as well. I took a breath in through my nose, resolute as I put my hands on the window. Thinking, I envisioned a bubble, one around Charlie, around me, even around Renee and Phil, then lastly around the house. Words, safety, shelter, permission, invitation, locked, and consent. I took it all and felt the familiar air pressure building around me.
My feet dangled, and I realized again I must be floating. The only difference between then and now was a conscious awareness of what was happening. The air around me felt heavy, like it was about to burst again. I felt something pull towards me. Another word thrust out from my lips, and the bubble popped. Landing on my feet, my hands slid down the wall as torrents of rain started to pour down outside.
Feeling giddy, I wondered, did I do it? I poked at the window, sweat dotting my forehead. I couldn't sense anything different, but I was looking at the sky, wondering if the rain was simply Forks or me. Looking at the table light, I bit my lip, happy that everything worked out. And then the power shut down.
Charlie had to reset the breaker. I could hear him cursing outside in the rain as I sat in my room feeling guilty. Sleeping was hard, not because of the pouring rain but because I laid in bed too awake. I wanted to know what it was I was doing wrong. I tossed and turned until the rain wore itself out. Power still not on, I pulled the blanket over me, wishing for heat until I felt it in the air around me, and then I was out.
In the morning, a thick fog had descended. I padded downstairs in my PJs to see Charlie in uniform at the table, bags under his eyes from poor sleep.
He raised his mug and said, "got the power up eventually. There's enough for you too."
"Thanks." I looked at the clock on the stove. It was an hour and a half till school started. I poured myself a cup of coffee, "What time do you go to work?"
"I leave in about an hour," he sighed, "but I'm waiting on something."
I yawned, nodding at him. Taking my coffee, I went back upstairs so I could take a shower. The water was slow to heat up, but eventually, the room was filled with steam. Washing my body with a clean scent of bergamot, grapefruit, and mandarin. I felt more awake as I shut off the water. I started squeezing the water from my hair and wrapped it in a towel before stepping onto the mat.
I treated my hair with a hairdryer and brush. Towel wrapped around me, I hopped to my room, then threw my PJ's in a hamper. I plucked at the clothes in my closet, pulling out a pair of washed out jeans and an olive colored sweater. I grabbed the tan jacket, then set it on my bed while I put on my boots.
I left my hair loose, pulling it to the side. I'd debated on makeup, something I rarely wore. Instead, I decided on moisturizer and chapstick instead. I felt fresh, coming down the stairs holding my backpack. Joining Charlie at the table, I decided to feed myself while he waited.
"So what are you waiting for?" my vision about the truck was still on my mind.
"It's a thing," He said evasively, "they're just takin' a bit."
"Who―" The sound of a revving engine pulled to a stop in front of the house.
"About time," He got up, and I followed.
He opened the door. There were two men and a teenager standing in front of us. All of them were wearing various shades of plaid and thick denim, their skin a warm russet color. The first man had shoulder length grey hair, a kind face, and he was almost as tall as Charlie. The other man carried the same wrinkles from smiling. Despite being in a wheelchair, he appeared to be muscular― stout. Meanwhile, the teen's long black hair was braided and hung over his shoulder. He shared the other dark eyes, slanted brows, strong jaw, and childish grin.
"Sorry for the wait, Charlie," the man in the wheelchair said. "Jacob wanted to come say hello."
"I was wondering what was taking you so long!" Charlie exclaimed with good humor, "I thought I'd have to drop Bells off in my cop car."
The other man had a twinkle in his eye, "we wouldn't want that now, would we?"
"You remember Harry Clearwater, Billy Black, and his son Jacob," Charlie said.
A memory of when I was eleven with Charlie at the reservation popped into my head, and I nodded, smiling, "Of course, how are you all doing?"
Billy made an ahh sound, "I'm doing good, just doing my due diligence and dropping off your present."
"Don't leave me out of this," Harry said, "It's nice to see you, Bella."
I smiled, thanking him, saying the same, when Billy rolled to the side. He swept his arm back towards the orangish truck, "Well, Bella, what do you think?"
I let my mouth drop open, turning to look at Charlie, "No! You didn't!"
I fought the urge to cringe, hoping my performance would be believable. I walked over to the truck, a vintage chevy, and started to examine the emotion coming off it in waves. This was something cherished and tender. I could see a vision of Charlie, Harry, Billy, and even Jacob, standing with oil on their clothes as they looked at the engine in a clean garage. Even without the visions, It was obvious that Charlie had put a lot of thought into it. I walked over back to the three of them and gave Charlie another hug.
"Wow, I love it! Now I don't have to worry about getting a car."
Charlie's relief washed over me. He'd been so nervous. He wanted me to be safe, wanted to help his friend too, and he hoped that this would be something I liked. "I want you to be happy here."
"I really appreciate it."
"Well, now, you're welcome," He rubbed his neck, mumbling that I was welcome, embarrassed but happy he hadn't felt like he messed up.
I fought the urge to rub my head, wondering why I could pick up on his feelings so well when it had been harder to tell what he was feeling these past two days. Beside me, Jacob was bursting with energy, practically vibrating with a chance to talk to me. He'd get his chance when Charlie mentioned he wanted to finalize the cost and payment with Billy and discuss plans with him and Harry.
"Glad your dad bought the car, now maybe Dad will let me work on another one." He grinned. It showed the youth he still carried in his cheeks. His voice was deeper than I expected, and even though he was a bit smaller than I was, I was sure he'd gain height the older he got. "So you really like it?"
"I do." I smiled, looking at the car, "I'm sure it runs great."
"Oh, it does. But it's really slow."
I shot him a look, "are you trying to get me to return it or?"
"No― no! Just a warning," He said hurriedly.
"Well, that's not daunting either."
He sighed, cheeks turning red, "just don't push it too hard past 60."
I laughed, deciding to end his suffering, "well, there go my drag race dreams."
His eyes lit up, latching onto the new topic of street racing and If I'd seen the Fast and the Furious 1 or 2. Then we went over to the truck so he could show me how to open the bed and the trick on how to fix the radio if the volume got too low. I was just about to say my goodbyes to everyone when Jacob spoke.
"It sucked you stopped coming up," He said, and for a moment I realized he might remember that summer I came up when I was 12. Then Billy shouted out for Jacob to come back.
"I'm glad you like the car, Bella, but we gotta get him back to school," Jacob left grumbling, and I followed him.
I wanted to ask what he meant, but anything I could think of saying, especially here, sounded weird. A small part of me wondered if I touched him. Maybe, I could see something. Instead, the three of them piled into Harry's car, and they waved as they drove back off towards where I imagined the reservation to be.
Charlie rubbed his neck sheepishly, something I'd begun to recognize as a habit. "So, I'm glad you like it."
"I do," I repeated, then he handed me the keys.
"Just don't go breaking the law or anything. No California stops or drag racing."
I rolled my eyes, "You heard that."
"I did. Jakes gonna talk your ear off from now on."
"Duly noted," I palmed the keys, grabbing my backpack from the porch. "All ready to go."
"Have a good day, Bells." We both walked to our cars. Charlied in his cruiser left first. Meanwhile, I was putting my keys in the ignition. The truck roared to life, louder now that I was inside it. The truck was nice and dry, and I was amused to see a can of "new car" scent placed on the dash trying and fighting a scent of peppermint, tobacco, and gas.
I took a second to feel how the Truck sat, how it felt to shift, to drive. I took a small test to see what accelerating and braking felt like. It wasn't a smooth ride, but it was better than walking nearly two miles every day in the rain. Turning the radio on, I fiddled with it, realizing I hadn't figured out the frequencies for Washington yet.
"Come on," I muttered, and then the numbers warped, filling the car with the same classic rock station Charlie had played when we went for our hike. I swallowed, just a bit put off. Shaking my head, I started driving towards school.
Forks High School, home of the Spartans, was just a little off the central town and the highway that made up Forks main road. It had only three hundred and thirty-two students. All the kids had probably grown up here, together. Even when I visited Charlie for the Summer, I'd only ever interacted with Rebecca and Rachel Black, sometimes Jacob if they felt kind enough to share me with everyone else.
A slow drizzle had started while I drove. Humming along to some Queen song. I turned into the driveway and almost wondered if I was in the right place. For being such a small town, their school was surprisingly modern. It had its brick building, large and maroon colored from the rain, which stretched out over the large block, and a large space that separated into a smattering of smaller buildings, and a secondary larger building that may have been for middle schoolers and elementary beyond that.
It didn't have a fence, or metal detectors, something my old school had. It was just open. Even from the front, I could see an extensive football stadium. People in Forks must take the sport seriously since there were awnings to protect the crowds from rain.
I was one of the first cars here, so I'd parked in a lot I assumed was for staff, just so I could quickly grab what I needed from the front office. I got out, leaving the dry confines of the truck, and paced towards the building. Manicured bushes lined the sidewalk, and I could make out where the cafeteria was even from out here. They had an area to eat outside, protected from the rain save for a few uncovered benches when it was sunny. And a chain link fence did exist, at least around an area for baseball and a long black track.
I entered the building, immediately seeing a sign above a door reading, Front Office. Warm air blew in my face, and the inside was bright, tinted with slightly yellowed lights. A large clock, ticking loudly, was on the wall opposite from me. The waiting area was small, with three padded benches. The brown carpet looked like it had seen its fair share of wet feet, but the long front desk was clean.
There were many plants everywhere in large plastic pots, mixing with wire racks of documents and fliers. No one was here, and there wasn't a bell to ring. Instead, I turned to look at a glass case filled with staff awards. Next to them a billboard filled with colorful papers, Prom an Endless Twilight, Join Spartan News today talk to Mr. Snyder, Volleyball tryouts, Go fast! Track team!, and A Midsummers Nights Dream cast list.
A gasp sounded from behind me. A woman, red haired and bespectacled from my vision, had her hand on her chest. "You scared the daylights out of me."
"Sorry, Mrs. Cope?"
She arranged herself and came over to the counter. "That would be me. Sorry I wasn't here. I misplaced my keys. Who do I have the pleasure of helping today."
"My name is Isabella Swan." Immediately her disposition changed, awareness sparking in her eyes. I figured she'd know me, especially going so far as to bribe Charlie. I knew I was probably the subject of gossip, at least amongst the adults in such a tiny town.
"Of course you are!" She turned, ruffling through a large stack of papers to get to a thin folder she was looking for. Opening it revealed two pages, my schedule and a map of the school. "These would be yours." She placed them on the counter, sliding them to me like it was an important contract.
Going through my classes, she pointed out where I should go with each one physically and then marked each with a little blue number and a circle on my map. With this level of detail, I wondered how often they got new kids, especially when I was told to come to her for anything. I was also given a slip for each teacher to sign to bring back at the end of the day.
"Thank you for your help. I hope you find your keys." She shook my hand before I left, and I bit the inside of my cheek before saying. "Hopefully, you didn't leave them in your car."
Letting out a small oh, she replied kindly, "That would be really unfortunate. I'm not that forgetful, though."
I winced. "Have a good day," I smiled weakly and left.
By the time I left the office, more people were filtering in and parking. I hurried over to my truck, hopping in to join the line of cars wrapping around the block. It seemed a lot of other people had older cars. I was subjected to being dropped off in Renee's sedan during the first two years of school more times than I could count, usually next to some kids in a Porsche. The nicest car here was a shiny Volvo. The rain seemed to glide off it as I gave the car a wide berth to park two spots down. I didn't want a lawsuit with whoever owned that.
I organized myself in the car, hoping I wouldn't get bogged down with rain. I double-checked the map, and the large black number I could see on the closest building held my second class. I got out of the truck, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. Honestly, when I'd decided to come to Forks to look into my magic or give myself practice space, I'd ignored this part. High school wasn't on my mind so much as not being compelled to move further away.
In the time it took me to study my schedule and map, crowds of teenagers stood around talking to one other. And unfortunately, I stood out enough that I got more than a couple of stares. I tried to ignore them, walking along the dirt path, looking as if I was checking the map even with a building ahead marked with a large black "3" in the corner, first period, English class.
Other students were heading the same way as me, and I just followed behind them through the door. It was a small classroom. The people I'd followed hung up their coats. I untied mine and did the same, pausing only to feel the still, very dry wool. I held my breath. It was definitely still raining outside. I patted my hair. Dry. I hoped no one would notice, but I was painfully aware of it. I didn't expect my magic to umbrella me like that, and I put it on the back burner to fix it later.
I took my slip up to the teacher, a tall balding man whose desks' nameplate said he was Mr. Mason. He gawked at me, then saw my name and gawked more. For a horrifying moment, a thought filtered out to me, This is Chief Swan's daughter?
Immediately, I put whatever shield I could up. I felt myself flush. It crept up my neck and rested in my cheeks. I should have worn makeup after all. He sent me towards the back without me needing to make introductions.
That was the clearest thought I'd ever heard. And upon examining everyone else in the room, their thoughts were just as clear. It'd never been this loud before. Maybe I'd heard a word or an intention before, but never with such clarity. What'd happened?
It was harder for my classmates to stare at me from the back, but they still managed. Their curiosity and loud, clear thoughts continued into the lesson. Making it hard for me to concentrate.
Who is she?
Where did she come from?
I didn't know we had a new student?
I wonder if she has a boyfriend.
She isn't that pretty.
What a hottie.
The buzzing got louder. I kept my head down, focusing instead on a reading list that contained works from people I'd already read in detail.
The teacher droned on and on, not giving me a reprieve from the voices and feelings and thoughts that were too loud to push out. I made a mental note to find a way to stop them from breaking through my walls. Especially when the bell rang and I sidestepped a boy whose thoughts on, Getting to me first. propelled me to leave faster.
I needed a moment. I was worried that something would happen, something I couldn't control. I found myself suddenly behind a building. Only a couple of students were nearby, too far to see anything. It was still raining, but nothing stuck to me. Come on, I thought, just make a typical first day of school. The panic in my chest was hard to contain. I blinked, feeling a stinging in my eyes, and felt dumb. Hard not to when it looked like I couldn't handle the first day of school.
I took a breath and almost sagged with relief when a raindrop hit me in the cheek, then the nose. I heard the bell ring, and I took another breath. Finding my next classroom was easy. The teacher, Mr. Jefferson, forgave me for being late, and I passed the class counting each breath. It seemed to make all the noise tune into the background.
My Trigonometry teacher, Mr. Varner projected his thoughts much like Mr. Mason, Seems too shy, he thought. should have her introduce herself.
I went to sit down a bit rankled by seeing how ugly that was. Why was I able to read minds now? This had never happened before. I didn't understand, but it at least allowed me to be prepared for when he told me to introduce myself. I didn't stammer or blush. Just said my name, smiled, and then took my seat. I don't dive into his head to see how he felt about that, but if he was going to be rude on purpose, I didn't really care.
After all those classes, I began to recognize several faces. Several people talked to me and asked me how I was liking Forks, I was honest. I loved how green everything was. I liked being so close to the ocean. It was so different. One girl, the same one from Trig, was in my Spanish class, and she sat next to me in both. She was smaller than me, by several inches. I was taller in these boots but kept my stride light, so we were at the same pace.
She had wild curly dark hair, which made up the difference in our heights. Her name was Jessica. Her moods and thoughts were erratic. She wanted to know everything, but in comparison to our classmates, when she thought of a question, she asked it a second later. She wanted to be friends badly. She thought my clothes were nice, that my hair was long, and other flattering things. A vision of her watching the women from Sex and the City let me know she wanted a larger group of girlfriends.
I hadn't realized I'd been scouted, auditioned, and made the cut till she was tugging me towards a table filled with other people in the cafeteria. One of the other kids from English made eye contact with me and waved. I'd realized a second too late it was the same guy that tried to get to me first. I quickly turned my attention back then just in time to make introductions.
Lauren had long hair the color of cornsilk. Her eyes were the color of seafoam, with pale eyebrows. And her voice carried a nasal quality to it, almost whiny. She didn't really seem interested in saying hello. Her thoughts overriding the eager chatter of Jessica, who was telling me about her.
Lauren was already annoyed with me sitting at the table, … so disgusting. You'd think she's famous― I pulled myself out and quickly darted my eyes to the next girl.
Angela was tall, like the girls I'd had dance classes with. She had light brown hair with honey highlights and gentle brown eyes with glasses that flattered her face. Her entire demeanor was warm, and I found myself touched by how kind she seemed.
I greeted them, asking if it was fine to join them. Jessica and Angela nodded and smiled. I sat my bag at the table so I could join the lunch line. I bought a turkey sandwich, cranberry juice, and water. I made a note to pack my own lunch in the future since It would add up. I sat back down at the table, ignoring another dirty look Lauren sent me, and focused on eating while Jessica kept asking about Phoenix.
It was hard talking and eating. Whenever I took a bite, Jessica would hit me with another question. I don't know how I managed to eat, but eventually, I pushed my tray away and listened to Jessica continue to talk. I looked over all the other kids in the cafeteria, making eye contact with many, feeling their emotions, hearing bits of thoughts. I felt an oncoming headache. It was beginning to be too much. If roughly 300 voices were this much, I don't know how I could visit Renee and Phil in Florida. I scanned the room, trying to find something else to focus on since Angela started worrying about Trig.
So many thoughts were about me, crude ones, jealous ones, boring ones, so many― and then there was nothing. Startled, I looked up at the table far across the room. I could pick up a bit from the others at his table, but he was silent. I hadn't even noticed him staring at me too. I was so focused on how everything else was reduced to nothing as I poured my attention into him.
He was sitting at a table with four others. They were barely there, but I could still make out the telltale feelings of boredom and disdain. The muscular one was amused and competitive, focused on the blond male behind him who wore a tortured expression. The blonde girl looked like she belonged at fashion week rather than under the fluorescent lights in the cafeteria. A smaller pixie like girl moved with grace as she took her tray to the trash then came back. She seemed by far the most animated.
I could make out reddish brown hair and that he shared the same pale skin like the others. But he was too far away to make out most of his features, not that they mattered. I wished I could be next to him just so I could sink into the quiet. When was the last time I hadn't heard or felt anyone else around me and could just be with another human being? I couldn't recall.
"Oh, sorry." I turned back to Jessica, and the chatter resumed. "Who are they?"
For a moment, her thoughts cleared, and I heard a shift in her voice, She noticed the Cullens. Fat lot of good it will do her, Jessica went on, I knew people would stare, but I don't know why Eric or Mike are staring at her like that... She's not even really that pretty. My eyes widened, and I wondered what happened to the same person who seemed so excited to get to know me. A rock settled in my stomach.
She still looked excited to answer my question. It even felt like she'd been waiting for it. She giggled, looking at the table stealthily.
Hiding her voice under her breath, she said, "That's Edward Cullen. The others at his table are his brothers and sisters. The big one's Emmett Cullen and Rosalie is the one that looks like she stepped out of Sports Illustrated. The one that left is Alice, and finally, there's Jasper Hale. They all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife."
"You said they're brothers and sisters?"
"No, you don't get it. They're all together together," Then lower, "dating. Emmett and Rosalie, Jasper and Alice. I mean, they live together, and it's fine and all but all types of wrong."
"But they aren't related?"
"Well, Jasper and Rosalie are twins and fosters." She continued without missing a breath, "They've been with Mrs. Cullen since they were both eight. She's their aunt or something. Apparently, she can't have any kids."
I said stiffly. "Doesn't make them any less of a family."
"But it's weird, right?"
"I appreciate you being kind to me," I said but then my voice filled with steel, "but I don't like to speculate or talk about other people's trauma, so in the future, don't."
Jessica reeled back as if she'd been hit. An uncomfortable silence settled between us, and the others at the table turned to look between her and me. I was trying to sort through the information she'd given me as well as the turn her thoughts had taken. I wondered if I could afford to burn bridges on the first day of school or not. "Listen, I'm sorry, forget about it."
Then, suddenly, she began again slower, almost on autopilot. The others seemingly believing everything was fine, returned to what they were doing. A lump lodged itself in my throat. Did I do it again? I bit my lip. Jessica seemed almost tranquil thinking, Forget about it.
I listened to her slow words, which picked up the longer she spoke. "Edwards... gorgeous, of course... but I wouldn't waste my time if I were you..." She rubbed her head, "He doesn't date. Apparently, none of the girls here are good looking enough for him― hey, you look sick, are you okay?"
"I'm fine." I stood, collecting my bag, "just realized I forgot something in class."
"Well, okay," she said, her brows pinched together. Maybe she had a headache, or maybe she was trying to recollect what she said. I didn't stay to figure it out.
My heart pounded in my chest. "It was really nice to meet you all." I started to leave. Biology was next, and I had fifteen minutes to lose it then pull myself together before I had to get my teacher's signature. Several people watched me leave, and I found myself turning, one way, then another, before finding a restroom.
Inside, I quickly checked all the stalls then went over to the sink. I was shaking. My hands and chest were chilled. I looked paler than I normally was, and again my eyes were green. I stood debating for the remainder of the time between classes if I should go home. Feign sickness. I doubted that I'd be able to pull it off. Suddenly the door opened, and I shifted, looking up into the pixie like Cullen. I didn't talk to her, just quickly washed my hands and left.
If anything, I felt like this was more of a reason to sneak out into the woods and practice. As it was now, I was dangerous. Walking around the hallway, I bumped into Angela. She took a step back, hesitating briefly before speaking.
"Hi," she tucked some hair behind her ear. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
I smiled, glad it was her who was here instead of Jessica or Lauren. "Yeah, thanks for checking in."
"I heard you say you had biology next. Is it with Mr. Banner?"
"You have it too?"
"Yep, I can walk with you if it's not too much trouble."
"I'd actually really appreciate that."
We walked down the hall. Angela was shy, and I felt like my tongue was made of lead, so we didn't talk much. We entered the classroom, a standard lab with blacktop tables. A line of plants followed along the row of windows. I stood helplessly by the door while Angela shot me an apologetic look and took a seat next to her partner. All the tables were filled save one near the central aisle.
For a moment, I couldn't believe my luck. Edward, the one I couldn't read, was sitting next to the only open seat. Walking down the aisle to introduce myself to the teacher, I stole a glance at him. He appeared relaxed, looking at me as I continued, his expression a bit curious. I saw him take a breath and then his demeanor shifted. He went completely ridged. A look of pure fury and hostility clouded his features and I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise.
I stumbled over a book bag, too distracted by him. His eyes were black, like obsidian. Mr. Banner signed my slip, kind thoughts washing over a bit of my surprise from such an aggressive look, and directed me back to the only seat near Edward. I kept my eyes down, not wanting to trip again but also trying to avoid his burning gaze.
I sat my book on the table, taking off my coat. I saw his posture change from the corner of my eye. He was leaning away from me, hand clenched on the desk, the other at his nose. I sniffed the air and smelled nothing out of the ordinary. I wondered if it was me. I felt my hand start to sweat. I'd rather not shake my hair in his direction, so thinking I was helping him. I swept my hair from one side of my neck to the other.
If anything, that made him worse. He looked as if he was carved from marble, and moving would make him crack. He also looked like he wasn't breathing. I was being selfish. I wanted to at least be cordial with him, so I could use his mind as an anchor. Even with my mind tuned to his, the only thing I heard was the lecture. Cellular anatomy. I took notes carefully for the first time today, only slightly preoccupied with him next to me.
His hand switched to his leg, clenched so hard I could see tendon. He was wearing a dark blue shirt, his sleeves pulled up to his elbows. His forearms were muscular, his body surprisingly so for someone who was supposed to be in their Junior year. He was as beautiful as Jessica had said. His jaw was square, and though it pained me to think of it, I could understand now why some people described others as looking like Adonis. His lips, if they were relaxed, would probably be full with a soft curve. His nose was long and straight. His forehead was covered by intentionally unruly hair, an unusual bronze shade and not nearly the reddish brown I'd thought.
I didn't even know I was looking at him as intently as I had been. "Sorry," I mumbled, seeing as he was staring intently at the counter.
He must have noticed. There wasn't a response from him, and I sat there feeling stupid because of it. It was a very long hour and fifteen minutes. When the bell rang, he stood, dwarfing me, and was out of the classroom before anyone else was out of their seat.
I sat still. I guess cordiality was off the table. I had never been hated so much by someone else, or perhaps it was fair to say that if I was, they hadn't worn it so openly. I gathered my things slowly, the chatter returning tenfold.
Jesus, wonder what she did to him―
Guess the new girl isn't Cullens type either―
I wonder if I could walk her to her next class―
I think I should reread Romeo and Juliet?
I settled back into Angela's mind, fighting the sting of tears. Annoyed by today and just a little bit hurt. I almost bumped into the next guy standing sheepishly by my table.
"Aren't you Isabella Swan?" he asked. He was taller than me, not as tall as Charlie, but still tall. He was cute, holding an earnest look to his face. Baby faced with pale blonde hair carefully gelled into spikes.
"Bella," I corrected him.
"Do you need any help finding your next class?"
"It's gym. I'd hate to put you out."
"That's my next class too!" He seemed so excited in comparison to sitting next to Edward. I'm sure if I'd sat next to Mike, I'd have to fight off notes while listening to Cellular Anatomy. We walked to class together, he kept chattering, jumping from topic to topic in an attempt to catch my interest.
He supplied most of the conversation. He'd lived in California till he was 10. He missed the sun, tanning, the beach. He was on the football team and it turns out he was in English with me too. Aside from Angela, he was the nicest person I'd met today. But as soon as we entered the gym he burst the bubble he'd created.
"So did you stab Edward Cullen with a pencil or what? I mean, I've never seen him act like that."
I shook my head, "I don't think I'm the type to stab someone with a pencil. He just didn't look like he was feeling well." I finished lamely. What else could I say, that he probably hated me the second he saw me.
"Yeah, he did look like he was in pain or something."
I nodded. It wouldn't be hard for me to hyper analyze what I did wrong. I also wondered about the way my hair had raised on end. I was glad that no magic had leaked out or unruly visions made themselves known. The last thing we needed was for me to have a nosebleed near him.
I looked at Mike, "Thanks for walking me." I gestured to the locker room and joked. "I think I got it from here."
"Okay, cool." he lingered before pumping his hands together, "see you out there, I guess."
I figured out from Coach Clapp that PE was mandatory all four years. Since I'd had dance class for a good portion of my youth, I wasn't too bad when it came to stamina and coordination. He was putting people through volleyball, eyeing them critically for tryouts. I saw Jessica waving to me from the gym floor when I walked out. I'd changed into the Spartans gym uniform of a grey shirt with a greek profile and blue shorts. If I'd known I was going to be on the floor today, I would have bought a hair tie and tennis shoes.
I was able to play one game. Coach Clapp wanted to see if I could set a ball, serve, and pass. I did alright, but I didn't really have any intermediate plans to join the Volleyball team. He took and signed my slip, letting me leave early since I didn't have the right footwear anyway. I got changed and left slowly to return my slip to Mrs. Cope.
The rain was gone, and in its place, the cloudy gray sky rolled silently overhead. I entered the main building and found the office quickly. Walking into the room that was predestined to be warmer than the rest of the building, I stopped, then immediately debated walking out.
"Please, Ms. Cope," I could make out enough of what he was saying. His voice was deep like I imagined wine to be. "Isn't there some other section I could switch to? I'm sure there has to be an open slot somewhere? Sixth-hour biology can't be the only option…."
So he could be charming when he wanted to be. At least, he seemed to be trying for charm. Mrs. Cope was a bit flushed as she shook her head to whatever he was saying. His attractive voice was low as he continued to give his case. I didn't need to read Mrs. Cope's mood or try to pry in her mind to understand what he was doing. He was trying to trade sixth-period biology for any other time slot.
Another girl opened the door, blowing air into the room. Edwards back stiffened, and he slowly turned to look at me with those black eyes filled with hatred. It was hard for me to grasp the immediate dislike. And a small part of me was filled with curiosity as to why he hated me. I almost wish I could read him, just to solve a puzzle.
Edward turned back to Mrs. Cope and hastily said, "Never mind then, I can see that's impossible. Thank you for your help." He turned and left past me, brushing against me briefly. I swore he shuddered while I moved out of the way. What a gentleman.
Mrs. Cope looked worriedly after him before waving me forward. "So, Bella, how was your first day?"
I sighed, "Well, I'm still in one piece. That's gotta be worth something. Right?"