Notes: It's been a while; sorry about that. I have edited the previous chapters and changed the title of the story.
All things considered, Edward found the visit with Principal Meyer to be relatively painless. He knew the story of him tripping and using Mike's face to stop his fall was totally out of the realm of belief, and so did Meyer, but unless Tyler or Mike stepped up and confessed what really happened, there were no witnesses to say otherwise. The only thing saving him from a likely suspension was that the only evidence – Mike's nose – was circumstantial, not hard. It was a mere technicality, but Edward wasn't one to raise his nose at good fortune. The culmination of his perfect record, grades, and previous behavior forced the Principal to begrudgingly give him the benefit of the doubt despite the fact that she wasn't born yesterday.
But whatever the reason, Edward walked out of the Principal's office scott-free. Were he not ominously walking towards the lunchroom to meet Bella, he may have even had a jump in his step. As it was, he was a condemned man and was walking down the hallway in a manner similar to a convict going to his execution. When he opened the double doors to the cafeteria, a deafening hush fell upon the room. In his two years at Forks High, never once had he been the center of attention the way he was right now.
A lesser man may have hung his head and walked sheepishly to his table, perhaps wanting to crawl under the floorboards and die rather than face down the accusatory stares of the student population. Edward, however, was not a lesser man. Or, at least he was trying to convince himself that he wasn't. He prayed to whatever god or deity that may be listening to keep his face free from any blush and his stride confident and true. After all, he may have been temporarily human, but he was still a Cullen. Mustering all the strength and arrogance he could find, he strode across the room to Bella's table as if he owned the place. He certainly didn't feel as confident as he hoped he looked, but one must try and maintain airs. If nothing else, he had his past to hold him up. Today he was Spartacus! One of the most revered insurrectionists! That is, until he saw Bella's face. The look she was giving him was quelling and any pride he felt at his revolt died instantly.
"Hey, Princess," he said easily, casually draping his body over the bench. "How is today's lunch?" Bella's jaw tightened and he saw her inhale and exhale slowly. Whatever was going to come out of her mouth he was certain wasn't going to be good.
"Putrid. Say," she said in a falsely casual tone, "I couldn't help but notice that a certain Mike Newton was absent from my last class. Normally I wouldn't notice such a thing, except, in addition to his absence there are these," she paused and narrowed her eyes, "reports from eyewitnesses claiming that you and Tyler Crowley were escorting a bloodied and battered Newton to the nurses office."
"Battered?" Edward responded hotly. "He had a little bloody nose. Hardly anything to balk over." He idly wondered how much Bella knew, and in turn, how much she believed. He didn't want to lie, but he didn't want to tell her all of what happened either. "The only reason he's not in class is because Carlisle came by to pick him up so he could patch him up at the hospital."
Bella gasped. "He was so wounded that Carlisle needed to come? And he's at the hospital right now?" Edward winced. He suddenly realized how much he missed the ability to think at vampiric speeds. He was reeling with what to do to appease his conscience and his girlfriend. The guilt was already making him feel ill and the thought of Bella being angry with him only amplified the knots tying up his stomach.
"I saw the entire thing, Bella," The soft voice of Alice from behind him startled him. The fact that he didn't notice her approach bothered him deeply. "Edward was provoked unfairly."
Bella's frown remained prominent and her shoulders tense, but he could tell the addition of Alice was starting to sway her to his favor. "So he was forced to respond with his fist?" Her tone was snappish, but her curiosity leaked through her annoyance. Edward wanted to drop to his knees and plead for Bella's forgiveness, but the fact that he could feel the entire lunchroom still watching him out of the corner of their eyes forced him to remain aloof.
Alice took a seat beside him and placed her palm on his thigh. "I agree that he shouldn't have reduced the situation to violence, but he was ready to walk away until Mike hit below the belt."
The furrow between Bella's brows deepened. Shit, that was never a good sign. "So because Newton made a few off color remarks, that gives reason for Edward to sock him?"
Edward could feel more than hear Alice sigh. "No, of course not. However, he was defending your honor. I had the misfortune of overhearing what caused him to fly off the handle. Newton most definitely had it coming."
This seemed to mollify her some, but she was still angry. Nevertheless, her curiosity seemed to be winning over her anger, because Edward could practically see her attempting to work out what Mike could have possibly said that would have caused him to react so violently. He wondered what he would tell her when she asked him in private later.
At that very instant, Alice turned to him and gave him one of those looks. Those looks that said she saw something and was screaming it out in her head right now, if only he were able to hear. Wanting to know what his sister saw, he excused himself from the table. "I'll be right back. I'm going to pick up something to eat." Recognizing her cue, Alice followed.
She wasted no time before launching into her speech. "Edward, first of all, when she asks, tell her what really happened. Don't edit. She'll be flattered that you cared despite her irritation that you vented your frustrations on fugly's nose." Edward opened his mouth to reply, but Alice wouldn't let him. "But that's not what I wanted you to see." She scrunched up her face, frustrated. "You know, it's really frustrating that I can't simply show you. Of all the times that I cursed your ability, it's so bizarre to think of you without it."
"You have no idea," he responded. "I feel completely disoriented. It's like I lost one of my five main senses."
Alice nodded, probably being able to emphasize due to her own "sixth" sense. "What I saw is difficult to explain, because I'm not certain, but I think it involves the wolves." Edward arched his brow but trusted her to continue. He was certain that this was as confusing to her as it was him. "I saw you and Bella at her house after school when suddenly everything goes blank. Nothing. Nada. It's like, one minute you're there and the next you're not."
"So you're assuming that your lack of sight is a result of someone from LaPush visiting Charlie—likely Billy," Edward concluded. Alice nodded. "So I'll just avoid Bella's house. It's as simple as that."
Alice shook her head. "That's what's so confusing; I don't think it is. It's like…something bigger is crafting this. If you avoid Bella, suddenly everything goes blank at the restaurant you choose. If you stay home tonight something happens that causes you to vanish tomorrow. If you avoid the restaurant, you disappear somewhere else. It's like, whatever decision you make inevitably leads to this…blankness. I don't know how to describe it and its very disconcerting." Edward took the offered tray from the lunch lady and walked to the register to pay. After he handed the woman his money, he responded. "But you're not certain it's the wolves; you're only certain that something in my future causes me to disappear temporarily."
"I just—," She paused, clearly frustrated. "I can't think of anything else that would cause you to vanish like that. It's even more disconcerting that usual because nothing has ever prevented me from seeing you before."
"No, in that we are agreement. It probably does involve someone from La Push. What I can't figure out, however, is why this seems "destined" to happen. The fact that it is apparently unavoidable is unsettling." Edward sighed. "Bloody hell, this day keeps getting better and better." They had reached the table so Alice refrained from comment.
"Emmett is about to do something stupid, so if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try and stop him." Alice smiled, inclined her head towards Bella, and flitted off to her table in standard Alice fashion. Sure enough, Alice got there just in time to snatch away what looked like a can of soda in Emmett's hand as was cocking it back to throw. Judging from the angle at which he was aiming, he was intending to hit Edward.
Edward rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Idiot." He twisted off the cap of his bottle of Coke and took a drink. After a few seconds, he frowned. "This is disgusting. I don't remember the exact taste of it from when I was a kid, but this? Wasn't it." He quickly replaced the cap and pushed it away from him.
Bella laughed. "You had Coke growing up?"
He chuckled, grateful for the reprieve in Bella's anger. "Believe it or not, Coca-Cola's even older than I am. It was quite popular and gaining in popularity with each passing year."
"Did you drink it back when they used cocaine?"
"No, they stopped using fresh coca leaves before I was born, which is where the trace levels of cocaine came from."
Bella stabbed at her spaghetti with a fork and twirled a noodle around the tines. She smiled. "I can't believe you know stuff like that."
Edward shrugged. "I've had time to read a lot of books."
Her smile widened. "I'll bet you have." She took a bite and quickly swallowed. "Pizza, Edward?"
He shrugged again. "I don't have to regurgitate it this time." He picked it up and took a bite, and made another dissatisfied face. "Ugh," He wiped a napkin over his mouth and spitting the hunk of mystery pizza into it. "I take that back. This is terrible! How can you stand to eat this every day?"
"I can think of a few girls who regurgitate it everyday." She glanced over in Lauren's direction and sighed. Bella set her fork down and pushed away the tray in front of her.
A look of disgust marred Edward's face. "I can't believe that I'm actually empathizing with something Lauren does. How disconcerting."
Bella arched her brow. "Somehow I'm thinking that it's not the quality of the food that causes our favorite plastic to puke it all up."
"Whatever. That still doesn't excuse the poor quality of cuisine this institution offers."
"It's a school lunch, Edward. What did you expect? Wolfgang Puck isn't going to mysteriously show up and fix us some gourmet meal. It's factory produced slop." Bella looked around at the other students who didn't seem to have any problem finishing what the school offered. "Besides, I highly doubt there are any individuals in this school whose palates are sophisticated enough to appreciate something of quality. Pizza and burgers are standard fare for Hicks, Washington."
"Let's get out of here. Let me take you out for a real lunch. La Bella Italia." Edward's smile widened. "In fact, I think I'm in the mood for ravioli and coke."
"We can't just leave school, Edward. It's in the middle of the day!" She frowned. "Besides, you're already in enough trouble as it is with your He-Man actions this morning."
"Bella," Edward reached across the table and took her small hands into his larger ones. Despite the fact that he was no longer a vampire, they still felt incredibly warm to him. "I want to make this morning up to you. I feel terrible about what happened." He dropped his gaze from her eyes to her hands folded in his. "I don't…" He paused, struggling for words, "like this. Not knowing what to do. Feeling…abnormal." He made a frustrated face and looked her in the eyes again. "Which is ridiculously ironic considering my family and I are nothing short of abnormal. I'm out of my element, Bella, and I'm struggling to cope. Please let me do this for you? Just this once, for it may be the only time I can."
If Edward were still a vampire, he'd be dazzling her right this moment. As it was, her frown melted into a smile and her eyes looked at him with adoration. A coy smile touched her lips. "I suppose skipping is good for ones health from time to time."
He favored her with a shining smile. "Come on, then. I've got the perfect story for Mrs. Cope."
Mrs. Cope leaned across the counter and traced her top row of yellowing teeth with her tongue. Edward fought a shudder and put on his most sympathetic face. "Mrs. Cope, I need a bit of a favor." He was grateful that he couldn't read her mind, but he didn't need to be empathic to know his humanity didn't lessen his allure in the aging woman's eyes.
Though Bella was standing right next to him, Mrs. Cope acted as though she wasn't in the room. "What can I do for you, Mr. Cullen?"
"I'm sure you heard about what happened to Mr. Newton this morning." He shook his head deeply. "Terrible accident, that." He attempted to look meaningfully into her eyes. "I haven't been able to concentrate all day. I'm so concerned for his wellbeing. Would it be possible to allow Miss Swan and me to go to the hospital to visit him?" He raised his hand to his brow and attempted to look despondent. "I'm afraid I won't be able to satisfy my conscience until I do." He reached out and touched the hand that was resting on the desk. "A sensitive woman like you surely understands how terrible I feel, right Mrs. Cope?"
Realizing her cue, Mrs. Cope was quick to respond. "Oh, you poor dear! How very sweet of you. Of course I understand! I'll excuse you from the rest of the afternoon. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you not knowing how the boy is."
"Right. Terribly difficult. And Miss Swan, too?"
Mrs. Cope glanced at Bella, as if realizing she was there for the first time. "Oh, Miss Swan. Of course. You two head over there straight-away."
Edward favored her with his best smile. "Thank you ever so kindly, Mrs. Cope. Forks High is lucky to have someone such as you working for them." He felt his stomach churn more than a little as the older woman's cheeks reddened. Before she could say anything in return, he placed his hand on the small of Bella's back and ushered her to the door.
Once the pair got outside, Bella released a horde of laughter. "That was disgustingly over the top and extremely out of character. Poor Mrs. Cope doesn't know what hit her."
Edward, who was slightly disgusted by the situation and nursing his wounded pride, frowned, "Being unable to read her mind, I had to use charm alone."
His response sent Bella into even greater fits of laughter. "Charm? That was you trying to be charming? Oh good god, no."
"I obtained our goals, did I not?" he snapped, frustrated by her reaction. He knew he was over-the-top with Mrs. Cope, but from reading her mind previously, he was certain that was the course of action necessary to get her to agree. He couldn't understand why Bella didn't see that.
Sensing his anger, Bella calmed. "I'm sorry, Edward. I'm not used to seeing you behave in such a manner. You're a Cullen," she emphasized, "And such behavior is beneath the image you have cultivated for yourself."
"You think I don't know that?" He raised his voice, causing Bella to shrink away just the slightest bit. "Do you realize how difficult it is trying to live up to myself? To attempt to maintain what has taken 80 years to perfect without any of the skills or abilities I'm used to having? How can one be extraordinary when he is nothing more than ordinary?"
Bella reached her palm up to his cheek and beckoned him down to her level. She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed her forehead with his. "You have never been ordinary, Edward Cullen. Whether that's as you are today or as you were a week ago, never once have you ever been ordinary." She kissed his lips. "I'm sorry, I keep forgetting how difficult this must be for you. If this is strange for me, this must be out of this realm for you. I'm sorry."
Edward sighed and closed his eyes, angry at himself for being unable to maintain as tight of control over his emotions and actions as normal. He placed his arms around her small waist and drew her closer to him. "No, no. I should be the one apologizing. I shouldn't have lost my temper. My behavior towards you and everyone else has been entirely unacceptable."
Bella cradled his face in her hands. She leaned forward and kissed him again. "Don't say that and stop thinking that. Everyone who knows you knows you're…under a lot of pressure."
Edward frowned, unable to release his guilt. "That's no excuse to lash out at loved ones…and Mike." He sighed and pulled her towards his Volvo. "To be perfectly honest, I had forgotten what a hot temper I used to have." He had a black smirk on his face as he reminisced. "My father and I used to get in these terrible rows over me joining the military. Looking back on them, he wasn't opposed to me being a soldier, he was opposed to me being uneducated. He thought that the military could wait." Edward sighed. "I, on the other hand, saw no use for books or blackboards. I had nothing but shiny uniforms and foreign places in my mind." He shrugged. "But I was only a kid back then."
Bella, sliding into the passenger seat, arched her eyebrow at Edward, who was holding the door open for her. "What does that make me?" Her question was meant to be playful and to hopefully lighten his black mood, but it had an opposite effect.
He looked at her in all seriousness, "Much smarter than I ever was." With that last remark, the car lapsed into silence. Bella was thankful to note, however, that Edward drove the speed limit this time.
I'd appreciate it if you'd show some love and let me know what you think. Concrit, beta, and editing tips always welcome.