Author's Note: As usual, I must apologize for my delay in getting this chapter up. Real life has been very busy! I'm on staff with the site Twilighted dot net, and all the validating of fiction on there leaves me with less time to write. Furthermore, I recently found out that I'm pregnant, so I've been reading baby books rather than writing.
This chapter gave me the same issues that Carlisle's chapter did. Because Angela is such a good-hearted person, I kept wanting to delve deeper into her character, and kept getting ten pages into the story and realize that I'd gone into her background without actually advancing the plot of the story. I had two different drafts that I threw out entirely after fifteen pages (one started with Angela at the breakfast table with her family, while the other involved a long Angela/Edward conversation at the picnic tables). While each version revealed her kindness and compassion, neither were fall-out-of-your-seat funny.
The inspiration for this chapter came around when helping my best friend look for formal wear for her wedding. After trying on a zillion bridesmaids dresses, most of which were ugly, it struck me just how funny tux and dress shops could be.
This is my longest chapter yet. Blondie helped me to cut back about a thousand words of it, but it's still monstrous. Hope you don't mind.
Thanks a million to Blondie and saramomof5 for the beta work. Normal disclaimers apply.
Angela Runs Cross Country
"How much is this gift card for?" I asked, interrupted by the Here Comes the Bride door chime as we walked into tuxedo shop.
"A hundred and fifty bucks. That should be plenty; we should be in and out of here in about ten minutes," Ben said with a grin.
This time last year, Ben had escorted me to the Prom in dress pants, a white shirt, and a thin black tie. Simple, but handsome. Much nicer than the baggy dark blue jeans with a hole in the knee, blue baseball cap, and black Trogdor the Burninator t-shirt that he wore now. He still looked cute. Nerdy, but cute.
From the moment we walked into Western Tuxedo however, the attentive, gray-haired salesman bombarded Ben with questions about cummerbunds, vests, pocket handkerchiefs, top-hats, suspenders, cuff-links, etc, etc, etc.
"I just want a normal tuxedo," Ben explained warily, shifting his weight back and forth like he always did when he was out of his element, looking a bit like a buoy, bobbing in the waves in the ocean. "You know…black pants. Black jacket. White shirt. A tie." I stifled a laugh. He was trying to recreate last year's outfit. Why can't girls get away with wearing the same thing two years in a row? I wondered.
We'd just spent two hours at the only major department store in Port Angeles while I tried on dress after dress looking for something new and stylish for the Prom. Ben hadn't been much help. He'd had his nose stuck in a comic book the whole time.
When I pressed him on one dress that I really liked, he'd rubbed his hand through his hair sheepishly. "To be honest, Ang, you kinda look like a Shadowhunter bride whose skirt got attacked by a Ravener demon halfway through her wedding." He cringed, peering over the top of his glasses, which had slid down to the end of his nose. The round, wire-rim spectacles made his brown, almond-shaped eyes look twice their size and twice as beautiful.
It was hard to be mad at him when he looked at me like that.
I'd settled on the classic 'little black dress,' happy that I had the money to cover it and the shoes. The bizarre prom court gift from the Pacific Northwest Trust had included a gift certificate for everything except a prom dress. I'd considered going to GoodWill, and looking for something used, when the funds had serendipitously come in.
"What color do you want the tie? Is it a bow tie or a straight tie? Do you want a matching vest?" the over-zealous salesman asked with the enthusiasm of chipmunk on espresso.
"Um..black for the tie. And…straight, I think. And whatever with the vest."
"Tails on the jacket or straight bottomed? Three buttoned jacket or two? And what sort of material would you like? Silky? Matte?"
"Actually, what I'd really like is a velvet, powder-blue number, with bell-bottoms. Preferably with a ruffled pink shirt," he said in a very serious voice.
The salesman's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree about to trip a circuit breaker.
"I have one of those!" he said excitedly. "I knew they'd make a comeback! Is that what you really want?"
Ben was cracking up. "Dude. I don't care."
"Thank you sir. I'll meet you in the third dressing room in five minutes with some options, including the blue suit. Have a look around in the meantime, and if you see anything that strikes your fancy, pick it up. I'll find it for you in your size."
We wandered past a row of yellow, purple, and green zoot suits, which were apparently all the rage with the swing-dancing crowd, followed by a row of pure white tuxes, which my dad had told me were very popular with African American men (the color would have looked terrible against Ben's golden skin). We came to the dressing room without seeing anything of real interest.
There were three tuxes in the dressing room already, waiting for Ben, including the ridiculous power-blue number.
"I'll be right back!" Ben said, ducking into the curtained cubicle.
I figured that while I was waiting for him, I might as well take a look around, to see if there was anything I wanted to add to his dressing rack, so I wandered through the less silly sections, and tried to find something nice. Since I was going to be in a classy little black dress, anything that wasn't powder blue would work. Suddenly, I stopped, when I heard a beautiful voice.
"This is positively asinine, sis. I look like a carved penguin." The guy's voice was soft yet sharp, like a silk wrapped knife. The voice came from the other side of the rack I was wandering past. I stopped, fingering a gorgeous tux that looked like it was straight out of a James Bond movie, telling myself I was shopping. Truthfully, I was eavesdropping. The voice was familiar, and frankly, heavenly.
"But penguins are in!" an exasperated female voice said.
"Oh really?" the male voice said, in a tone that said You've got to be kidding me. "Where? Antarctica?"
The girl sighed. "Okay. So maybe penguins aren't 'in' yet. But they will be all the rage in the next couple of years. See, they're making this documentary called March of the Penguins, that's going to come out next year. It's going to make penguins very popular, you'll see. They'll be everywhere. Stuffed animals...key chains...coffee mugs...animated kids films with strong environmentalist messages and Brittney Murphy singing cover songs from Queen... "
"You've got be kidding. Will they be on the menu, too?" the first voice asked pointedly.
The female voice had an audible note of confusion in it. "Menu? What the heck?"
"Bella suggested that we move to Antarctica, to avoid any messy mistakes when she's going those red-eyed sleepless nights. But whatever. Admit it…I look ridiculous in this thing."
Bella? I recognized the two voices in that instant, with a start. It's Alice and Edward Cullen. At school they usually speak in such careful, reserved, polite tones. Here, they're teasing one another playfully—totally at ease. What was all that about living in Antarctica? Huh?
"Nonsense. You look fantabuliscious and you know it."
"Not as gorgeous as the bride is going to look…we've both seen how she looks in that dress…vibrant…heartbreakingly beautiful…alive." Edward spoke again, his voice thick as wool, sweet as honey, a study in contrasts. It was filled with sadness and happiness; hope and dread; triumph and defeat.
Alice shrieked, and the distinctive sound of leather hitting silk hinted that she was whacking Edward with her purse. "You weren't supposed to peek! Darn it all! I'm going to have to get the dress redesigned and come up with a new hairstyle! Darn it! Why do guys always have to peek? You know it's bad luck."
Bad luck? I must have missed something.
"Darn it? Don't you mean 'damn it'?" Edward asked sardonically.
"I gave up swearing for Lent two months ago and never picked it back up again."
He turned incredulous. "Since when do you celebrate Lent? I thought Carlisle was the only one in the family who did that."
"Since I found out about the fantastic Friday Fish Fries at Saint Mary's Cathedral, of course," she said in a half-serious tone.
Edward groaned. "Since when to we 'vegetarians' eat fried fish? Give me a break."
I never knew they were vegetarians. That would explain why they never eat the cafeteria food.
A low hissing replaced their conversation, and I felt guilty for eavesdropping. I stepped out from behind the rack of clothes and found their eyes fixed on me, as if they'd been expecting me. Both were standing entirely still.
Edward was dressed to the nines in shiny patent leather shoes, silky black pants with a strip of glossy material running down the outside edge of each leg. He was wearing a coat with tails that would have made Ben look very silly, but on him it was stunning. A black bow tie smartly finished the look. The tux looked as though it were lifted from another era. The nineteen-twenties perhaps?
"Um…hi," I said, waving to the two of them. "Fancy seeing you here."
"I didn't see you come in," Alice said at exactly the same time as Edward said, "I didn't hear you come in."
"What are you getting a tux for?" I asked curiously. "Did you change your mind about going to prom?" Bella had told me that they'd been planning on skipping prom to see her mom in Florida, and that the tickets were non-refundable.
"No," Edward said, after a long moment of standing frozen, like a deer in the headlights. "Um…we're still going to Florida."
I frowned. "Then what's up with the tux?"
There was an extended pause, during which Edward and Alice went as still as statues.
"I'm sorry, it's really none of my business," I mumbled, feeling awkward. I noticed a bit of lint on Edward's sleeve, and he immediately flicked it away. "Just so you know, you do look great, Edward."
Finally, Edward swallowed and spoke again.
"I'm standing up in a wedding in August," he said smoothly, apparently recovering whatever it was that had surprised him before.
"So am I!" Alice said brightly. "I'm going to be the maid of honor!"
"Let me guess…Emmett and Rosalie are getting married?" I couldn't think of anyone else in Forks who could be considering marriage. Edward and Alice glanced at each other.
"I um…we…we're not actually supposed to say anything about it for another three weeks," Edward said uncomfortably.
"It's all very top-secret," Alice murmured.
"Please, don't mention it to a soul," Edward pleaded.
"Uh…okay, I guess," I said in a mildly confused voice. "Three weeks, Huh." All of the sudden, it clicked, and I gasped, eyes narrowing at Edward. "Wait a minute. Is this the August wedding that my dad's doing?" He'd given me the two hundred dollars that the couple had paid in advance to buy my dress for Prom. The payment had come at the most perfect timing.
"Um…yeah," Edward said, a little lamely.
"He wouldn't breathe a word to me about who it was! Wow! I can't believe Emmett and Rose are tying the knot! They're both so young."
Alice surpressed a smile. "Yeah. But you know what they say…you only live once."
"And Rose and Emmett know they'll only get to get married once," Edward added, nodding vigorously.
"And life is so short and fragile," Alice added, looking amused.
"So, surely, they must make every day count. I mean…it's not like they've got all of eternity or anything." Edward said, laughing.
My head bobbed between them like I was watching a ping pong match. "But…" I was confused. "What about college?"
"People can go to college while married," Edward said sharply, suddenly defensive. "Dartmouth has married housing."
"Finances?" I asked in a small voice.
"They'll scrape by. Sure, they'll struggle financially, but all young newlyweds do," Alice assured me, with a wave of her hand.
Gosh, I wonder if they're planning kids…could she be pregnant? I wondered.
"Luckily, they aren't planning on having kids any time soon," Edward said lightly with a shrug.
"In fact, they're on a very good birth control plan," Alice interjected, grinning.
My mouth fell open when they answered my unspoken question, but I was saved from my embarrassment by a voice behind me.
"Heya Angela! Whatcha think of this?" Ben called, from behind me. He walked forward, wearing what looked like a charcoal gray suit. It looked nice, more dressed up than I was used to seeing him. However, next to Edward's bow tie and tails, he looked positively casual.
"It's…okay," I said in a voice that plainly said that it didn't really do anything for me.
"Drat. I was hoping we'd be able to get the first one I tried on and get out of here."
"Go try something dressier," I suggested.
When I turned my attention back to the Cullens, I was surprised to see that Edward had disappeared, leaving Alice standing there alone.
"He went to change," she said, jabbing a thumb towards the men's dressing room. Her eyes had gone distant and she looked worried, distracted…impatient even.
"We've gotta get going," she said in a dark voice, her mood abruptly sullen. She stared out the window. "It's getting dark fast. Pretty soon I won't be able to see a thing."
"I thought that's why they put headlights on cars," I laughed. I never would have dreamed of Alice or Edward being afraid of driving in the dark.
"Never mind," she said, before becoming very quiet, and suddenly standing a little too still.
"What's up with all the secrecy?" I asked trying to break her out of her weird funk. "I mean, sure, people getting married at nineteen isn't all that common any more, but it's not like they're still in high school or anything."
Alice didn't answer, but just kept staring out the window, as if all her hopes, dreams, and plans for the future had been stolen away, with a dejected expression of intense loss.
Presently, Edward reappeared, dressed in dark blue jeans and a white button-up shirt. Expressionless, he nodded toward Alice and joined her side.
"Farewell Angela," he said to me softly. He leaned closer to me, his dark gold eyes luminous. We were almost exactly the same height, and our eyes were only inches apart. His cologne was exquisite. I wondered where he'd bought it, and if it'd smell as good on Ben.
"Later," I whispered, suddenly a bit afraid, though I didn't know why. I felt my pulse racing.
"Please don't tell anyone…especially not Bella…okay?" he said with a soft, pleasant pleading.
"Sure," I said, finding it very difficult to breathe. He's standing too close! I instinctively took a step back. He nodded once, as if approving, staring at me with a peculiar intensity.
"Ta-da!" Ben yelled from behind, jerking me away from Edward's unnerving gaze. I whirled around to see him dressed in the powder blue, bell-bottomed, high-waisted velvet suit. The pink ruffles of the shirt made him look like an extra from That 70's Show. The awkward silence hanging between Edward, Alice, and me disappeared, as they burst out laughing; Edward's laugh deep and mirthful, Alice's pealing like a church bell.
"That suit!" Alice gasped, cracking up. "Edward! Do you remember…"
"Eleazar's wedding," Edward said between chuckles. "Of course! I swear--all the groomsmen wore those and thought they were so cool. You told them that they'd look back on those pictures one day and cringe."
"They didn't believe me, of course," Alice said smugly.
"What are you guys talking about?" Ben asked, strutting his stuff and pretending to be cool in front of the mirror.
"Sorry," Edward said, as if he realized that it is, of course, quite rude to share inside jokes in front of people who aren't in the know. "Alice and I have this older cousin, up in Alaska. A few um…years…ago, he got married and made all his groomsmen wear that exact outfit. Alice tried to point out how silly the idea was, but they all thought they looked great."
"You're kidding me," I said, looking at the revolting suit as though it were a piece of moldy cheese. "People voluntarily wore that? And not as a joke?"
"I kid you not," Alice said, grinning. "Even the bride thought those suits were hot."
"Your relatives have very odd tastes in clothing," I commented in as neutral of a voice as I could manage.
"They live in a very isolated part of Alaska," Edward said, as if that excused poor fashion. "They're not into much besides hunting."
"Do they fish?" I asked. Dad had taken me fishing in Alaska twice when I was a kid. It'd been fun.
"No," Edward said, looking very amused at the idea of his backwoods cousins fishing. "They're vegetarians."
I stared at him, but then decided to leave the subject of his herbivorous, hick, hunting relatives alone.
"So I take it this isn't the one?" Ben said, a mock pout on his face, splaying his hands out across the velvet material.
"It's…different," I said, mimicking the same thing he'd said when I'd been choosing my dress. I put quote marks in the air with my fingers as I said the word 'different.'
"Hey! 'Different', 'interesting', and 'unexpected' are all appropriate, neutral adjectives that managed to accurately describe your hideous prom dress choices without insulting them. Of course, those words also could accurately describe the Star Wars Holiday Special, and that was, as everyone knows, embarrassingly awful." He made a face. "Half that movie was in Wookese, and there weren't even subtitles."
"My dress has nothing to do with Star Wars," I sputtered, rolling my eyes. I had no idea what the Holiday Special was and hoped to remain in the dark.
"Everything in life has something to do with Star Wars," Edward said, matter-of-factly, to Ben's delight. Ben held his hand out, and Edward gave him a fist bump. Ben promptly winced shook his hand like it hurt. Serves him right.
"Too bad you don't have the matching platform shoes," I said. "Then I could have gotten the heels I'd wanted."
"Right...and towered right over me, Ang. We would've looked like Fezzik and Vizzini next to each other. You would've used me as an armrest."
"I'd never do that," I insisted, not bothering to ask which Star Wars characters Fezzik and Vizzini were.
"We need to go," Edward said suddenly, glancing up at the door with a concerned look on his face.
"Definitely," Alice agreed, seeming to remember that she was worried about something before. "It's gotten really dark out. Try the Armani, Ben," she said on her way out. "I think Angela will like it."
"Take care Ben…Angela," Edward said, nodding to each of us. "And good luck with Prom."
"Thanks," I said quietly, staring after them as they whisked out the door, graceful as the wind. The door's bell chimed as it shut behind them. A few minutes later, we saw the Volvo pull away at about a hundred miles an hour.
"You know…they're kinda…well…weird," Ben said to me, the moment they were gone.
I glanced over at him, eyeing his powder blue suit critically. "You know what my dad always says in his sermons about taking the plank out of your own eye before picking the speck out of someone else's?
He laughed, pirouetting around in the idiotic outfit. "Touché. I'll change."
As Ben turned to head to the dressing rooms, I noticed two extremely tall, dark, and handsome men enter the shop. They looked very much alike, like brothers, and vaguely familiar. I tried to remember where I'd met them before. They sauntered up to the counter, where the salesman was standing.
"Hello," said the first man. He sniffed the air, and then made a disgusted face. "Man it stinks in here. Smells like Ben-Gay."
"I don't smell anything," the salesman said, perplexed. I inhaled deeply through my nose. The store smelled fine.
"Doesn't matter," the man said, shrugging. "Anyways, my name is Sam Uley. I bought my suit for my wedding here, and was wondering if the alterations are done."
I suddenly placed the groom's companion. That's Bella's friend Jake from the Indian reservation, I realized. The one we were supposed to go out with the day Ben and I had the flu!
"My goodness! You two are tall!" The salesman breathed. I groaned.
"Uh…yep," Sam said, looking mildly embarrassed that the clerk was stating the obvious.
"I mean…you guys are really tall!"
"We know," Jake said, rolling his eyes. "It's not like we never figured it out."
"You guys are two tall glasses of water, aren't you?"
"I guess we are," Sam said. He started fidgeting with his car keys impatiently.
"How tall are you?" the salesman asked, amazed.
"Jake is six-foot-seven, and I'm six-foot-eight," Sam said in a frustrated voice, glancing behind the counter. "Can I get my suit?"
"How did you get so tall?" I stifled a smirk. If only I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me!
"We drank milk when we were kids," Jake said wearily, agitated now. "Look. We're kinda in a hurry, so…"
"Do you play basketball?" the salesman asked suddenly.
"No! God! I hate basketball! Why does everyone ask us that?" Jake grumbled.
"I bet you kids could get some great college scholarships of you tried out for Division One!"
"No. We're only into running," Sam said, frustrated.
"Running is part of basketball," the salesman said hopefully.
"My TUX, please!" Sam growled, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up.
The salesman's eyes bugged. "Right away sir," he muttered, disappearing into the back room with Sam, leaving Jake half-amused, half-irritated at the counter.
"I get that too, you know," I commented. Startled, he glanced over at me, his eyes narrowing, trying to place where he'd met me before. I continued. "I'm terrible at basketball. I'm better at photography, swimming, and working with kids. Yet everyone assumes that just because I'm tall, I should play basketball…or at least volleyball."
There was something inviting and warm about Jake's dark eyes. They made me want to give him a hug. "Do I know you from somewhere?" he blurted out. "Wait, you're Bella's friend…from that day at the beach?"
I stuck out my hand, giving him a friendly smile. "Angela Weber. Nice to meet you again."
He shook it firmly, with just enough pressure. "Jacob Black. My pleasure." His hand was unusually hot…burning, as though he had a fever. I pulled mine away quickly.
"Have you seen Bella much lately?" I asked. "For the last couple of months, every time I tried to get together with her it seemed like she had plans with you. Now she's grounded, and I never see her outside of school."
"Grounded. Yeah. Whatever. More like her time's been monopolized by her possessive boyfriend." A pained look crossed his face, which turned into a scowl. "No point in trying now. She spends every second of every day with him."
I nodded knowingly, and was glad that Edward and Alice had left before Jake showed up. This could have been awkward if Bella's rival love interests had run into each other here.
"She must miss you," I said sympathetically. "I know you two got really close over the last couple of months."
"She told me that you don't return her phone calls, and that it makes her sad," I offered. This was true. Bella had mentioned it to me one time, when Edward was out of town on a camping trip with his parents one sunny Friday afternoon.
"Really?" his eyes lighted, and he looked a little hopeful.
I nodded. "You should try to see her as soon as you can. I think she'd be glad of it."
"Wow," Jake said pensively. I suddenly felt shy and a little embarrassed. I didn't know what else to say to him. Jake didn't have anything to say either. We stood there in silence for another minute.
"Okay Ang! Third time's a charm!" Ben said, as he strolled into the lobby area. My breath caught in my throat. He was wearing one of those tuxes that were popular in the nineties, complete with tails, black cummerbund, and a bow tie. Sharp pleats framed the buttons of his shirt, and when he put his hands in his pockets, his jacket opened, revealing a black pair of suspenders.
"Very nice," I said, oogling a little.
"It does look very classy," Jake agreed.
"Whether it's the best or not, I'm tired of shopping, so let's get out of here," Ben said. He glanced at his watch. "I want to make it home by seven. Eric and Austin wanted to play Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit."
"Meh, Lord of the Rings," Jake said with a snort.
"What?" Ben squawked, visibly upset that Jake didn't worship the ground that Hobbits walked on.
"The second movie was so fake," Jake continued. "Those giant wolves looked all wrong. Their faces were all squished and their tails looked kinda stubby. If I were a giant wolf, it'd piss me off if people thought I was that ugly."
"They did look a little off from the way I imagined them from the book," Ben allowed. "But that's no reason to hate the movie. I mean…the action and the stunts were amazing!"
"I love you Ben," I said, grinning, putting my arm around him. "Even if you are a bit of a nerd."
The next morning I woke to the home phone in the kitchen ringing noisily. Groggily, I glanced at my digital alarm clock. Five-fifteen. Who in the world could be calling this early? I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and stumbled to the kitchen. Hopefully the ringing wouldn't wake my parents or the twins.
I answered the phone on the fourth ring. "Hello?" I said hoarsely.
"Good morning, Angela!" Jessica Stanley's bubbly voice sang, with far more cheer than I felt like anyone had a right to at this awful hour.
"It's five in the morning," I complained. "Why are you calling? The sun's not even up yet!"
She chuckled. "You were on my list of people to call on the phone tree."
"The what?" I asked blearily.
"You know…it's the school's way of getting news through the whole student body if there's an announcement that needs to be made outside of school hours."
"Oh. Am I supposed to call anyone?"
"Um…don't you have a copy of the phone tree list?"
"I don't think so. Why do you ask?"
"Hmph. Well, according to this copy, it looks like you're supposed to call Lisa Yarst and Ted Zelmer…that's it."
"Dang," I said with a yawn, leaning against the wall for support. I was dying to get back to bed. "I don't even have their numbers."
"If you want me to call them instead, I think I'm more awake than you," she chirped happily.
"Thanks," I said gratefully. "I owe you for that. I need more sleep."
"Not a problem."
"Right. See you at school."
"WAIT!!!" she screamed into the phone, causing me to jump like a kernel of popcorn in a microwavable bag.
"What?" I said, mildly chagrined.
"Don't you want to know what the news is?" she asked.
"Oh. Right." I examined my pajama top, smoothing the wrinkles. "Sorry. I'm really not with it before six, I guess."
"You'll never guess what happened," she said, in her favorite juicy-gossip voice. "The pool sessions are canceled."
"What???" I said, squinting. My contacts weren't in yet and my vision was blurry, which always made it hard for me to concentrate, for some reason. "Was it because of Tyler's accident with Edward?"
"No!" she squealed. "The pool is contaminated!" She paused dramatically. "Someone…no one knows who…but SOMEONE…"
"Pooped in the pool!"
My position changed from leaning against the wall to sitting on the floor, as my legs lost strength beneath me and I slid down. "You're kidding. Right?"
"I'm dead serious! The night janitor found the turd last night and confirmed that it was not a Baby Ruth bar. No one knows whether it's a senior class prank or if someone did it during class. But either way, it doesn't look like the guys will be oogling us in our swimsuits any more."
"Oh no!" I said melodramatically, holding the back of my hand to my forehead. "No guys staring inappropriately! Woe to us! What are we going to do?"
"Tell me about it!" Jessica said in an exasperated voice. I wondered if she'd picked up on my sarcasm. "I mean…I spent sixty bucks on my new swimsuit! It makes my boobs look great!"
I pressed my lips together, politely resisting the urge to let her know that her boobs actually had looked close to falling out of the suit and that I'd worried about the top half coming untied during the whole hour.
"I don't think it happened during our class," I mumbled, trying hard to keep my eyes open.
"Why do you say that?" she asked.
"Because everyone was out of the pool after the incident with Tyler, and no one saw any taper-tailed brown-trout then, did they?"
Jessica snickered. "No one was paying attention to the water. How do you know that it wasn't Tyler or Edward who freaked out and dropped the load in the water?"
Somehow, Edward Cullen pooping in the pool just seemed like an impossibility, though I couldn't exactly say why. "I don't know," I said, leaning my head back and closing my eyes.
"Well, anyway, there will be more time to speculate later. I've gotta make more calls after you. The most important thing for you to know is that we're going to be running cross-country on the trails behind the school. It's going to be cool out today, so Coach Clapp said to bring sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt so that you don't get too chilled. Bring good running shoes too. Okay?"
"Great. Go make those other phone calls, Jess."
"I will!" she said, a little too loudly and a little too cheerfully. I knew gossip was her favorite thing in the world, but this seemed a little extreme. "See ya at school."
As I hung up, I had to laugh as I passed the fridge. Stuck to the front of it, with a magnet, was my dad's Bible verse of the day. This one seemed particularly fitting.
Proverbs 27:14 "A loud greeting early in the morning is the same as a curse."
Smiling to myself, I rolled back into bed, glad that my alarm wouldn't go off for another hour and a half.
At lunch, I took my usual place at one of the long lunch tables with Jessica, Mike, Ben, Edward, Alice, Eric, Katie, Connor, and Bella. It was roomier than usual, since Tyler and Lauren were both still in the hospital.
"So how was dress shopping?" Jessica asked me, after we'd spent some time speculating about the poop-in-the-pool situation. "Did you find anything you wanted?"
I nodded. "Yeah. Classic little black dress.
"Those never go out of style," Alice commented brightly. "Why, I have this vintage dress from the nineteen-seventies that I still wear to special occasions!"
"I just got my tux," Mike said, flicking the top of his Mountain Dew bottle around. "I decided to go with a white coat and black pants."
"It looks so sexy on you," Jessica purred.
"I picked up mine yesterday," Ben said, between bites of Sun Chips, "after Angela got her dress."
"I had a great time at prom last year," Edward said wistfully, leaning the chin of his beautiful, pale face in his slender fingers of his right hand. His elbow rested on the table, next to his untouched food. He sighed, and like the day before, I noticed that even his sighing contained a softness covering some kind of heaviness.
"I had a great time too!" Alice said. "I had such a good time dolling Bella up!"
"And she looked awesome." Edward squeezed Bella's hand. "I don't think anyone can ever forget their first prom with their first love." He kissed the back of her hand. She blushed.
Bella's his first girlfriend? I thought, surprised. He was so handsome that the information was a bit shocking. He could probably have anyone he wanted. Then again, so could Bella. The boys at Forks High never seemed to stop watching her.
"Speaking of tux shops, you'd never guess who we ran into yesterday," Ben said to Bella.
"Who?" she asked, rubbing the back of Edward's hand against her cheek.
"That tall friend of yours from the Indian reservation! You know…the one we were supposed to go on that group date with, back when Angela and I got the flu?"
Both Bella and Edward froze. Alice visibly tensed up. Bella let go of Edward's hand, then blinked a few times, unnerved.
"You saw Jake yesterday?" she asked edgily. Her brown eyes dodged back and forth. Edward's eyes bored into her, as if he were trying very hard to read her expression. I ducked my head, feeling very sorry for Bella.
"Yeah," Ben said, laughing. "He was at the tux shop where his friend Sam—who's apparently engaged—was getting alterations done for his wedding." He frowned, making a face of distaste. "Jake had some really whacked out ideas about how the giant wolves in Lord of the Rings looked all wrong, but other than that, he's a cool guy."
"He was very nice," I said, carefully watching both Bella and Edward's reactions, trying to figure out if I should guard the conversation from going in a certain direction.
"We should plan another group thing with the kids from the reservation again," Ben said enthusiastically. "Since the group thing to the movies didn't work out. Do you remember that night?"
"I'll never forget that night," Bella said distantly. "That was the night that Jake…" she faltered, her voice trailing off.
"Anyways, Jake and Sam seemed really cool. I'd like to get to know them better," Ben jumped in, preventing her from having to explain what had happened with Jake the night we couldn't make it to the movie.
"They are cool," Bella said softly. "I've known the Blacks since I was in diapers. Jake's pretty much family."
Edward's jaw clenched when she said Jake's name. Obviously, he was uncomfortable with Bella's familiarity with Jake, and I realized that if the conversation continued, Ben would undoubtedly mention seeing Edward at the tux shop, too. That would be bad. I quickly jumped into the conversation.
"So, Edward! While all the rest of us are going to Prom, you're going to be enjoying the sunny weather down in Jacksonville, right?"
He shot me a grateful look, as though I'd just rescued him from instant death, before launching into all sorts of minutia about his and Bella's trip. He seemed very nervous; talking so fast that no one else could get a word in edgewise. Halfway through his monologue, I glanced over at Alice, who looked even paler than usual (if that was possible). She had her head slumped in her hands as if she had a headache.
"Do you need an Advil or something?" I asked her quietly, reaching for my purse.
"Ugh. No." She shook her small head, her spiky black hair swishing. "I'll be okay."
"Yeah. It's a tension headache."
"Not a migraine then?" I asked, concerned.
"Well, my vision seems a little blurry, but I've had these before. Stress from finals…you know. It'll pass."
Curious about Jake and Bella, I tried to figure out a good place to talk to her alone. I'd always gotten the impression that things were platonic between them, so I couldn't figure out why there was such tension between Edward and Jacob. Unless Edward was jealous of the time Bella spent with this other guy—this really tall, really good looking guy with a really great personality—and felt threatened by him, there was no need for this kind of awkwardness. Something else must be up. I decided that the girl's locker room would probably be my safest bet to bring the topic up without Edward listening in
Feeling shy, I approached Bella cautiously. She was standing in front of the mirror, pulling her long brown hair into a ponytail. "Sorry about Ben bringing up Jake at the lunch table," I said apologetically. "I could tell that that was awkward."
Bella sighed and bent down to tie her tennis shoe. "Don't worry about it, Ang. It wasn't your fault."
"If you ever need someone to talk to about it, you know I'm here for you," I offered.
She nodded. "Thanks, but I don't know how much you'd really understand."
"That's not the point," I said sympathetically. "The point is that I'll listen."
She smiled softly, and squeezed my hand. "Thanks. I may have to take you up on that." Together, the two of us walked out to where the trails into the woods behind campus began. The rest of the class had already gathered and were stretching and talking.
Coach Clapp sat in a golf cart, atop a tall cushion. Emmett Cullen stood, clipboard in hand, next to him. Emmett had a whistle around his neck, his long white tracksuit giving his pale skin a little more color than usual.
"Good afternoon class!" Coach Clapp said. The chatter slowed, like a freight train coming to a stop.
"Today's work-out session is simple. To my left, you see an entrance to one of the trails that winds through the school property. The trail is a two-and-a-half-mile loop, if you stay on the main trail. Please watch the signs. If you see a fork in the path, follow the blue marker. The other colored markers will take you onto trails that do not lead back to the school. If you take a wrong path, you may end up in the woods for longer than you may like. You have the entire hour to finish the loop. You may run or jog, but please refrain from walking. If you finish in less time, you can hit the showers and have some free time before your next class. Any questions?"
It was pretty obvious what Coach Clapp was doing. In the absence of the ability to walk or properly referee any sport, he was picking an activity that required minimal supervision. No one asked any questions; the prospects of getting out early cheered the class, most of whom had senioritis something fierce.
"Emmett will start the run. I doubt that anyone in this class will be able to pass him." Emmett waved cheerily, dimples deepening. "Try to stay within sight of the students ahead of you so that no one gets lost. Begin!" Coach Clapp yelled. Emmett took off into the dark, mossy forest, followed by Mike and Connor. The rest of the class took off in a pack. I stuck close to Bella, hoping for a chance to talk to her more. Her pace was slow, but I didn't mind. It would give us more time together. Struggling to find something that would take her mind off of the Jacob/Edward thing, I brought up something totally unrelated.
"Ben and I were hiking last weekend, and we thought we saw another giant bear thing," I said. We'd been out for a picnic just south of First Beach in La Push, when we'd noticed the animal standing about fifty yards away from us. I'd never been so scared in my life! It was all I could do to keep from screaming. Before I could really make out its appearance, it'd vanished, like it was sorry it intruded on our picnic. It was the oddest thing."
Bella's head snapped up. "What color was the wolf?" she asked suddenly.
"Huh? Um…black I think. Why do you ask?" I frowned as we jogged. "And what makes you think it was a wolf? It looked way too big to be a wolf. I was thinking that it must be a grizzly."
"Sorry." Her forehead furrowed, tiny creases forming between her eyebrows. "My dad's on the team of people who've been trying to track them down. So many people have disappeared, you know."
I nodded. "So there's more than one of them?" I asked.
She grimaced. "It looks like there's a whole pack of them. At least five, maybe more." She was breathing hard, having a hard time talking as we ran. I was in better shape, from the swimming, and was probably keeping too quick a pace for her. I consciously slowed down.
"Are they different colors?" I asked curiously. "I thought that grizzlies were just light brown. Or did your dad say that they are some kind of giant wolf?"
"I don't know," she said softly. "But I'm not too worried about Charlie. He can take care of himself."
We jogged for a while in comfortable silence, following the blue markers. The rest of the class was ahead of us a ways, and our voices were the only ones I could hear. After a few minutes, I talked a bit about Prom, while she talked a bit about her upcoming trip with Edward. I loved the way her eyes sparkled as she said his name. It was clear that what they had was real and true. It resonated with me, and I thought of Ben.
As we ran, the trail sloped up the hill. I didn't notice at first--but the more times Bella stumbled, I realized the trail had become more and more littered with branches and rocks. It didn't look like anyone had run this way in a long time. Suddenly, I stopped running and looked around me. Bella did likewise.
"Angela?" she asked, suddenly afraid. "Where are we?" I looked far ahead of us on the path, and could neither see nor hear any of our classmates. I glanced around wildly.
"I think we must have taken a wrong turn," I said, ducking under a branch that was too low for my six-foot frame to fit under.
"Crap. We must have missed a sign somewhere. We'll need to turn around, I guess," Bella said.
I spun around, but nothing looked familiar. "Um…we are officially lost," I said, heart sinking. I didn't want to be late for my next class, and at this rate it looked like we were going to miss it all together.
"I hate being lost in the woods," Bella muttered. My mind flashed back to that terrible day the previous fall that she'd been lost in the woods for hours on end, while the whole town was out looking for her with flashlights—the day the Cullens left.
"I do too," I said. "You never know what you'll encounter out he—" I didn't have time to finish the sentence, however, because at that moment, something happened that I never would have expected, even in my wildest dreams. A pair of shiny black eyes the size of baseballs poked out of a huge fern right next to Bella.
I gasped in horror. I backed away from the monster step by step, my heart thudding, adrenaline rushing, and found myself banging the back of my head against the branch I'd just ducked under. Ears ringing, head throbbing, I stumbled to my knees.
"Are you okay?" Bella asked, reaching down to help me up.
"What is t-t-that? I stammered.
"What?" Bella asked.
"That huge animal," I whispered, hand shaking, pointing at the beast that was standing just behind her.
"A rodent of unusual size?" she grinned, trying to pull me to my feet. "I don't believe they exist."
"Bella…look behind you," I whispered, feeling faint. She whipped her head around, her ponytail hitting me in the face.
The creature was beautiful and terrible. I'd always pictured wolves as being the size of dogs. This one was as tall as me, and at least seven feet long. It had long, shaggy, reddish-brown fur. Its eyes were huge and pitch black, like liquid globes of intelligence...but…my, what big teeth you have.
Seized with fear and unable to move, I froze in my spot, sorry that I was going to be eaten alive without a chance to tell the twins how much I really loved them. I prayed that we'd make it out of this situation alive.
Bella, on the other hand, reacted to the beast in exactly the opposite manner. Slack-jawed and slightly awed, showing no fear—only fascination—she slowly approached it. Her steps were careful, and her hands shook as she advanced, though the shaking appeared to be out of excitement, rather than terror.
"What are you doing?" I cried. "Get back here! It could hurt you!"
"No it won't," she said softly. "I'm positive of that." She sounded actually happy to see the beast! Maybe I hit my head harder than I thought and this is all a really bad dream, I hoped.
"Hello there," Bella said softly to the thing.
My goodness! I thought, heart pounding furiously. This girl's instincts are entirely backwards! Why isn't she screaming in terror? Doesn't she have any fight-or-flight response at all? Before I could yell at her to get back, Bella was standing nose to nose with the creature, mere inches away from its face.
"It's good to see you," she breathed.
The creature let out a small whimper and lowered its bottom to the ground, sitting on its haunches. Its tongue lolled out of its mouth, content and seemingly pleased at the attention she was giving it.
"Bella!" I screamed. "Get back from that thing!"
Ignoring my plea, she actually reached out and stroked the beast. She petted the fur on the top of its head, between its pointed ears, as though it was her pet dog. "You're sort of beautiful, you know?" she said to it, smiling. The thing jumped up in excitement, pawing the ground and wagging its bushy tail wildly. It let out a small howl, and Bella giggled.
"You didn't have anything to do with the pool, did you?" she asked.
"BELLA! GET BACK!" a seething voice said, from behind us. I whirled around and was stunned to see Edward standing there, shock and revulsion written across his face.
"Edward? How did you find us?" I wondered out loud, though the adrenaline pulsing through my arteries couldn't care less. I worried now that Edward might get eaten alive along with us.
Edward ignored me and (not unkindly) shoved Bella out of the way of the beast and stood to face it head on. It snarled at him, revealing long, pointy fangs.
"Go home," Edward yelled. "You don't belong here. You're over the line!" I'd never seen Edward like this before. He looked positively inhuman in his wrath. He was shaking head to toe, but not from fear (like I was), or excitement (like Bella had been), but with pure, unbridled anger.
The enormous wolf-thing crouched, as though ready to spring at Edward. He stood his ground, crouching in a similar manner, as though he meant to fight the thing.
"Stop it!" Bella cried, standing between her boyfriend and the russet-colored monster. "Don't hurt him! Please!" Why is she trying to reason with an animal? I wondered to myself. The animal must have responded to her in some way, however, because it broke out of its stance and eyed her sadly. It reminded me of the way King Kong used to act towards that annoying screaming blonde woman in the nineteen-thirties film: intrigued, even adoring, yet confused and frustrated.
"Go, NOW," Edward growled.
"Please go home," Bella begged. To my surprised, the creature turned and ran from us. About thirty yards away, it glanced over its shoulder, gave a long howl, and then it was gone.
Finally able to breathe normally again, I leaned against a tree, my legs no longer able to adequately support me.
"Are you girls all right?" Edward asked, his troubled eyes filled with concern.
Bella glared at him. "What do you think you were doing? Trying to provoke him like that? He wasn't going to hurt us!"
"Bella!" I shrieked, bordering on hysterics. "We just encountered one of those…things…that's been killing off the hikers, and instead of staying perfectly still or running away, you tried to pet it! What's wrong with you?" I was hyperventilating now.
"What is wrong with you?" Edward asked her, looking more upset than before. "You could have been killed!"
"I was just...I just needed to…I mean, I was curious," Bella stammered. Her face was red, and her eyes were filling with tears.
Edward peered at her, first with exasperation, then with tenderness. "Come on girls. Let's get back to school. Are you okay Angela?"
I nodded. "Just shook up."
"Let's go then."
The rest of the run was completely silent. Edward led us back onto the loop trail that we'd gotten away from, and from there we jogged smoothly back with no other complications other than Bella tripping over roots and occasional stones. I spent the time pondering over what had just taken place. Though the encounter was frightening, I couldn't help but feel as though Bella was right about the wolf. It hadn't snapped, threatened, growled, or even bared its teeth until Edward arrived and started yelling at it. I couldn't blame Edward for his actions—if I'd caught Ben trying to pet some grizzly bear or moose, I'd probably yell at the animal to get away as well. But why had it left us alone? Was it just curious, rather than after a meal?
We broke through the forest to find Emmett and Ben standing next to the golf cart, next to Connor, who was on the ground, moaning. Coach Clapp was snoring loudly in the driver's seat, drool running out of the corner of his mouth.
"Angela, you're safe!" Ben said, wrapping his arms around my waist. "I was so worried."
"Are you guys okay?" Emmett asked, his eyes darting from me, to Edward, to Bella.
Bella glared at her boyfriend. "Yes, we're FINE," she snarled.
An uncomfortable silence fell between us. Connor groaned, and I noticed some bruises on his face. It looked like a black eye was forming. "What happened to you? Did you fall, Connor?" I asked. I'd never been close to Connor, but I hated to see anyone I knew suffer.
"Connor thought it would be funny to rearrange some of the trail markers. That's why you got lost," Edward said angrily, his eyes flashing at the jock, who was miserably clutching his stomach…the wind knocked out of him. "When I heard him bragging about what he'd done, I knew that you two could be in trouble, so I ran back to look for you."
"You didn't punch him…did you?" Bella gasped, staring at the Connor's puffy lip and swollen eye.
"No, but I wanted to," Edward said, clenching his fist. Connor cowered behind Emmett. "Ben beat me to it."
I looked down at the tousled mop of jet-black hair pressed against my shoulder. "Ben?"
He looked up at me with eyes that burned so hot they could melt glass. "He put you in danger, Ang. I couldn't stop thinking about you getting hurt! And…well…"
Emmett laughed. "Ben flew at Connor like a Ninja! He had him flat on the ground before I could say hi-ya, and let me tell you, that's fast!"
My Ben hit Connor? He took on a guy twice his size for me? I bent down to reach his ear. "You're a fool, taking on a guy that big, but I love you." I kissed his ear, then leaned back to see red coloring his cheeks.
"It took three of us to pull him off," Edward added, putting his arm protectively around Bella. "I think Newton might have gotten a black eye in the tussle, too." Edward grinned happily as he mentioned Mike. I'd never understood why Edward felt threatened by Mike Newton; it was obvious who Bella wanted.
Bella hit Edward in the stomach, and then cringed, holding her hand to her chest. "Ow. I'm…um…going to get changed," she said, her tone biting.
Emmett chuckled. "Alice says you'll get changed soon, Bella, so cheer up."
Edward glared at him, and for the thousandth time, I felt like I was left out of some inside joke…a feeling I often got around Ben, Austin, and Eric when they were talking X-Men.
It was at that moment that I realized that it was because of Emmett that I'd have a dress for the prom. I knew that Alice and Edward had said that the engagement was secret, but I felt like I had to thank him, somehow.
"Hey Bella? I need to stop over and check something out with Emmett. I'll meet you back in the locker room. Okay?"
"Sure." She waved goodbye, and then began her trudge back to the school.
Tucking my hair behind my ear, I approached Emmett and the unconsciously salivating coach.
"Heya Emmett," I said.
Emmett looked up, surprised that I was talking to him.
"What's up, Angela?" he said, giving me a huge grin, displaying pearly white, very shiny looking teeth. I stepped back, surprised. I'd never been this close to Emmett before; he was almost as big as Sam and Jake. If only I could slip some of whatever made them grow so much into Ben's Diet Coke
"I know this is all supposed to be top-secret and everything, but I wanted to thank you and Rosalie from the bottom of my heart for paying my dad in advance for the wedding."
He waved his hand. "Don't mention it," he said. "Though technically it was Alice who wrote the check to him."
"I was able to use the two-hundred bucks to get a dress and shoes for prom," I explained. "I couldn't have afforded it if you hadn't paid for the wedding."
He beamed at me. "Always happy to help good people fall in love," he chuckled.
"Congratulations on your engagement," I said. "I'll make sure to keep it a secret. I know my dad isn't spreading it around."
"My engagement?" he said, bewildered. "I think you've got it wrong. Rosalie and I aren't getting married in August. Bella and Edward are the ones who wanted—"
"Who wanted the wedding to be in August," Edward interrupted, appearing out of nowhere. "But you two lovebirds can't bear to wait any longer, and have been trying to move it up to July. I'm sorry, big brother, but that's just not going to work. You know that Alice won't have time to get the bridesmaids dresses ordered if we have it that early."
"I—huh?" Emmett said, clearly perplexed, scratching his head.
"Rosalie will look stunning in a wedding dress, of course, as always," Edward said, talking entirely too fast. "But enough about that. You'd never guess this Em! Angela and Bella almost got attacked by this giant wolf in the woods!" His tone turned ominous at the word 'wolf.'
"No way!" Emmett said, his eyes narrowing at his brother, but going along with his conversation. "How big was it?"
"THIS big!" Edward said, holding his hands wide apart, like a fisherman bragging about his latest catch. Now he seemed to be joking about the monster we'd encountered. Wasn't he afraid of anything?
The conversation didn't look like it was going to get back to the wedding stuff (which I'd promised to keep secret anyway), so I excused myself and walked back to the locker rooms, wishing that I had a clue as to what the heck was going on.
Just another day in Forks, I thought wryly.