The sky mocked me. I swear it did. It had been so beautiful this morning - just a thin layer of cloud, shielding the sun just enough so Edward could display himself in public - promising a wonderful day. Of course, I had dressed accordingly. A light, white blouse over a plaid skirt that stopped mid-thigh - I did not feel comfortable with it and blame it entirely on Alice; it was all her doing, marking me as a fashion victim she felt obligated to save - barely enough to keep me warm but it was sufficient.
But that was all this morning. Now, as I stared bleakly out the cafeteria windows, thunderclouds were rolling in, big, black, and threatening, wheezing at the cosmic joke that was my life.
"You said it'd be nice today!" I stabbed my fork in Alice's direction as she slid gracefully into her seat across from me.
Alice frowned at the windows. "It was supposed to be nice today," she sighed, picking up an apple, then setting it back down. Her delicate features scrunched up as she stared at the fruit, concentrating hard for a brief moment before relaxing and shaking her head. "It's staying like this until past midnight. Funny."
"I'm sorry, what?" I raised an eyebrow, letting the sarcasm drench my voice. "Did you just tell a joke? Dang, I must've missed it. Was it good?"
She rolled her eyes, ignoring me. A flash illuminated the dark world outside the school as the lightning cracked across the gray sky from the heavens to the mountains in the distant.
"Well, this morning I could've sworn it'd be clear all day," she said, picking the apple up again and rolling it in her hand. "I've never been wrong about the weather."
"You must be getting old."
She chucked her unbitten apple at me with a doleful glare, which made me wonder if she remembered that I was still, unfortunately, very human. I yelped and managed to dodge it before it had the chance to do my head in. The apple hurdled past me and was about to crash onto the floor when Edward appeared out of nowhere, one white hand darting out to catch it.
"Impressive," I grinned up at him. He smirked and settled down next to me, holding the apple up with a triumphant smile.
"Show-off," Alice muttered and began attacking her pizza with a fork.
"Not your usual perky self, then," Edward noted, placing the apple on my tray. Alice shot him a dark look and he glanced at her curiously, probably trying to pick up on what the problem was.
"Oh, get out of my head," she griped, still intent on maiming the poor pizza in front of her. Edward just grinned and shook his head, still staring.
I felt a pang of guilt as I watched her demolish food she wouldn't even eat. Maybe I shouldn't have called her old. As Edward took in her thoughts, his expression changed from playful to confused.
"What do you mean…" he started, then narrowed his eyes. "You were wrong about the weather?! Is that possible?"
Alice didn't bother looking up as she set down the fork and reached for a knife. Uh-oh, I swallowed. Her pixie-like face was drawn up in an uncharacteristic broody frown and her usual dance-like movements were jagged and harsh, less like a ballerina and more like a frustrated cat.
Edward was silent for a moment, obviously contemplating the situation.
"You must've read wrong this morning," he decided. Alice's face contorted even more. "Well, it's possible. You could have unintentionally looked into tomorrow instead of this afternoon."
"Not likely," she grumbled, but the tension in her shoulders relaxed slightly.
"Everybody makes mistakes," He reassured her. Then a smug smile spread across his features. "Except me, of course."
The banana on her tray was flung at him so quickly that I didn't even realize what had happened until I saw Edward holding the banana in his right hand, his smug expression growing. Alice rolled her eyes.
"Enjoy," he had the banana peeled and in front of my face before I could say anything. I blinked up at him and raised an eyebrow.
"Hey, not even a bruise," I teased, poking him as I took the banana. "But that's expected. You're the epitome of perfection."
Edward smirked at the sarcasm dripping from every word.
"Nothing but the best for you," he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pressed his lips to the top of my head. Alice made a tiny noise and Edward whipped around to glare at her. "Hey, shut up!"
She snorted at that, "My dear, lovely brother. I don't care how perfect you are; you can't tell me what to think."
Edward mumbled something that sounded a lot like 'Idiot, psychosomatic sister… can't even figure out something as simple as the weather…'
Alice ignored him and laughed, a silvery bell of a sound that made me let out a breath I didn't realize I was holding. Life was so much better when Alice was in a good mood. The rest of the lunch break was looking up to be tension free and all thoughts about the horrible weather were forgotten for more interesting topics like my upcoming eighteenth birthday.
"Oh, stop it," I held up a hand, hoping to end the stream of birthday celebration ideas flowing out of Alice's over-excited mouth. "I'm not celebrating my birthday."
"Why?" she almost sounded offended, "Isn't it a great human tradition? Celebrate birthday, get spoiled with expensive gifts, tell everybody what to do…"
"Yes," I retorted, "Let's sing a song and celebrate how I'm one year closer to wrinkles, age spots, and arthritis. I can't wait."
"You're being a bit melodramatic," Edward chuckled, shaking his head.
"No I'm not! And it's not like you'd ever know," I retorted.
Lauren threw me a curious - and disdainful - look from three seats down the long table. I blushed, realizing that she had overheard me and was either questioning my sanity or completely confused. From beside me, Edward stiffened marginally, only relaxing after she decided whatever it was we were talking about wasn't interesting enough for her and turned back to her own discussion.
"It's not as bad as you're making it out to be," Alice insisted, her face shining. "Most people look the best in their late twenties to early thirties. You should be excited!"
"I'm ecstatic. Really."
Edward frowned at my flat tone. "Sometimes I wish I could get older," he said, tracing a finger across my shoulder and lightly up my neck. "Being stuck in high school for the rest of my existence isn't my idea of a good time."
Well, if you put it that way.
"Great," I groaned.
I gave both of the vampires a look. "I finally found something I can do better than Edward. And it's getting older. Fantastic."
Alice threw her little head back and laughed, voice tinkling like wind chimes. "Honestly, Bella. You're can be so strange sometimes."
"Not really. Nobody wants to get old."
"Eighteen is hardly old."
I sighed. "It's older than Edward… Edward?"
He wasn't listening to me. In fact, he was so far away from the discussion - his eyes fixed somewhere off in the distance, his entire body frozen - that he wasn't even breathing. I frowned, wondering if I should poke him, somehow jumpstart him to life.
I quickly glanced at Alice and she shared my look, noticing the odd expression on Edward's face. It could only be described as either enthralled or hypnotized. This was unlike him and for a few seconds, we both just stared at him, not talking, wondering if this was some awful idea of a joke.
When it became obvious that he wasn't going to suddenly break his frozen position and surprise us with an "Aha! I got you good!" I tried to poke him.
"Edward?" my pokes became more insistent until they turned into full-blown punches. Hard ones, too - fat lot of good that did. It was like punching into a building and I stopped because my hand hurt. He didn't even blink!
"What's wrong with him?" I asked Alice. She closed her eyes for a moment as she took a short trip into the near future, then looked at me and shrugged.
"I don't see anything… nothing unusual," she frowned.
"Huh," I muttered. My eyes scanned the cafeteria, trying to find what he was staring so fixedly at.
That's when I saw her. She was standing at the far end of the cafeteria, near the door, her face slightly tilted in our direction. Dark, red hair fell in sleek waves down her tall, beautifully proportioned body, nearly blending in with her all-black clothes. It was impossible to see her face clearly - though I was sure he could - but somehow, I knew her eyes were strained on Edward. My Edward. Immediately, I felt a wave of resentment roll through my entire body and I nearly trembled.
She twisted her head and followed my gaze. Apparently, she shared my thoughts. Her entire body stiffened and her hands tightened against the table.
"Oh … wow," she let out a low admiring sound, her voice breathy.
My head cleared instantly.
"Wow?" I hissed, glaring at my friend turned traitor. You did not call the girl your friend's boyfriend was ogling 'wow.'
"What?" Alice turned back to me. She caught the expression on my face and laughed. "Oh, don't be ridiculous."
I just sighed and looked back at the girl. She had finally turned her head and was making her way to the door very slowly, as if she knew somebody was looking and she wanted to stretch out the moment for long as she could.
"Something's not right about her," I murmured.
"I'm with you on that one. Nobody that stunning can be human."
Alice grinned. "Lighten up, Bella," she patted my hand with her cold, slender one. "Edward loves you. You know that."
Right. That was why he was so obviously fixated with that … that female and was completely igno -
"Of course I love you," his smooth voice cut into my thoughts and I felt a strong arm slide across my back. I jumped and spun my head around to look at his face smiling down at me. There was some confusion etched on his brow and his mouth tightened a little. "You're questioning me again?"
His velvety voice was a little harsh, as if I had somehow offended him deeply. My eyes slid to the cafeteria door. The girl - or woman - was gone. And Edward was back.
"No, it's just that - " I wasn't sure how to go on. I turned towards Alice, hoping she could help me out, but she was staring intently at Edward.
"Just that what?"
"It's - " I glanced at Edward's annoyed expression and back to Alice's growing frown. " - nothing."
"I hate it when you do that," he said, his entire face hardening. "It's really frustrating. Just tell me what's bothering you. I wont be angry."
I lowered my head as I spoke. "It's nothing, really. I - I just saw you staring at that girl and … came to some conclusions that I shouldn't have."
There was a slight pause, until he tilted his head and asked, "What girl?"
Alice stood up with her tray in her hands. "Well, I need to go see Mr. Starks about something," she chirped, already hurrying away. "I'll talk to you two later."
Edward's eyes flitted in her direction for a split second. "She's lying," he murmured. "The second she gets you alone, she's going to tell you something important. But Bella, what are you talking about? Why did you think I was staring at some girl?"
I decided not to confront him with anything and pressed my lips together.
"Must be my mind messing with me again," I mumbled. At first, he looked like he was going to object to my answer, but then he sighed and nodded. Lunch was almost over and people were already starting to file out.
He took my tray and slid off the bench, holding out a hand to help me up. As we walked together and talked, the uneasy feeling sitting at the pit of my stomach faded.
But somewhere in the back of my mind, I was fuming. Who was that girl?