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Summary: Valentine's Day, Twilight. Three weeks after the Tyler's Van Incident, Bella finds herself on the radar for many a suitor as Valentine's Day approaches. Whatever will she do? And who in God's name is putting roses everywhere? Even in places impossible for a human to be? E&B Fluffic series.
One Dozen Roses, Part One: Mystery Rose
Three weeks. It had been three whole weeks since the Tyler Crowley Incident. I would've thought that he'd be over it by now. I would've thought that maybe he didn't hate me anymore. I could've sworn I would be right.
He was still ignoring me, as if I'd never existed. I wanted to shake him, throttle him, talk to him, and ask him what he was hiding from me. Every day, I would decide that today would be the day I would stop pretending he wasn't beside me for a whole hour. Every day, I would walk into Biology and see his rigid back and perfect posture. I would feel the courage drain from me until I was but a mouse, and every day I would predictably sink into my chair and ignore him.
Or rather, I tried to. I tried to sit quietly and pretend there wasn't a bizarre, handsome, mysterious man sitting next to me. I tried to act as though I didn't care, and at the same time I shied away, trying not to disturb the very air he breathed.
If he breathed at all.
Sometimes I wasn't so sure. He sat away from me, as always, and he was perfectly still. Like stone, as if I reeked or smelled of something terrible. And I'd always shy away into the corner and try and pretend he wasn't there. Once in a while he would move next to me, and my heart would skip a beat. Otherwise, I was careful not to give any sign of awareness. It was a good thing he couldn't hear my pulse.
Today was no different. Mike followed me into Biology. I really wasn't paying attention to what he was saying – I rarely did. I took one look at Cullen's perfect posture, and my courage to throttle him slipped away. Again. Meekly, I took my seat beside him, turning casually away so I wouldn't accidentally end up staring at him. Again.
Then, Mike deviated from my routine. He was supposed to go and sit down, and Mr. Banner was supposed to begin the lecture, and I was supposed to take notes and pretend that Edward Cullen didn't exist.
But Mike didn't sit down. He leaned up casually against our – my; no one was sitting next to me, remember? – desk.
"I was wondering what you were doing Friday evening," he asked nonchalantly. Suddenly, my Mike-senses were tingling. I became consciously aware as Edward tensed next to me, and I studied Mike coolly for a moment. I tried to think of what he was getting at before he said it.
"Uh, I don't know, probably something with Charlie, why?" I responded carefully, watching his face. Edward's tensed fist on the table seemed to tense even more. Mike looked perpetually confused.
"Don't you know? Everyone's been talking about it, Bella. It's Valentine's Day!"
I think my heart stopped. Did Edward just make a quiet choking sound next to me?
"V-Valentine's Day? The one with all the hearts and candy?" I didn't feel well. Mike didn't notice.
"I didn't realize there was any other. So what do you think? Would you like to go see a movie with me? Dinner and a movie? My treat, of course."
Quick! Think fast!
"Uh, That's really kind of you to ask me, Mike, but I'd have to check with Charlie first, you know. Make sure it's okay that I go out. I'll let you know tomorrow, okay?" I plastered on a smile and tried to look convincing. Really, I was just trying not to vomit. I prayed I could make plans with Charlie and use them as an excuse.
Mike's face fell a little, but he nodded, still looking hopeful.
"Okay, well, let me know, okay?" Mr. Banner had moved to the front of the room, and Mike unwillingly relinquished his place in front of my desk.
As soon as it was safe to do so, I smacked my forehead against the desk and just stayed like that, my hair pooling around my face.
"Must be something in the water," I mumbled. The boys had never acted like this in Phoenix. I could've sworn I heard a ghostly chuckle at my side, but when my eyes snapped up to glare at Cullen, he was looking at Mr. Banner studiously. I glared at the side of his face. Stupid Cullen. Stupid Volvo-
"Bella?" Shoot. I glanced quickly at Mr. Banner, and I realized he was waiting for the answer to a question. I hadn't even heard the question. Stupid Cullen! Stupid shiny-
"RNA," Edward murmured under his breath. Without taking the time to gawk at the first words he'd spoken to me in a month, I answered Mr. Banner.
"Very good, Bella! I guess you were paying attention after all. My apologies," Mr. Banner said before getting back to the lecture.
"Thank you," I murmured softly without looking to him again. He said nothing more the rest of the day, nor gave any other indication of his awareness of my existence. Stupid Cullen.
As if I had thought that sixth hour biology was bad, the entire day had just gone downhill from there. Under normal circumstances, I would've thought that Cullen speaking to me, even if it were just two words, would be cause for celebration. It wasn't. He'd ignored me the rest of the day. And he'd probably ignore me tomorrow. And the next day. That was fine.
Gym had been terrible, as usual. Who ever decided that tetherball was a good idea for a gym sport was insane. I had tried to hit the ball, honest. After my fourth miss – and my fourth smack to the face - and the ensuing bloody nose, Coach Clapp dismissed me from class. I'd gone to the nurse, and she'd given me some gauze to put against it. She had dismissed me early from school that day. As I headed for my truck, I'd noticed that the Volvo was gone. Strange. Then again, so was he.
I tossed my backpack onto my bed. Not a whole lot of homework to do tonight, but the most pressing thing to get done was find something to do with Charlie on Valentine's Day. Anything. Ice fishing, even.
Until he got home, however, I had to find something productive to do. Homework was easy. Memorize some trig formulae and do the homework from the end of the section in the Biology book.
It took very little time at all, and I opted to begin a paper for English that wasn't due for several more weeks, just so I could have something to work on.
After I managed to wrestle and beat an hour to death, I saved my half-finished paper on my computer and shut it off before heading downstairs to start putting together some hamburger patties for dinner.
I heard the door open and Charlie's footsteps as he walked inside. I heard the shuffle of clothing as he took off his gun holster and hung it up on the peg by the door.
"Smells good, Bells. What's cooking? Oh, burgers. Should I go light the grill up outside?" Charlie peeked into the kitchen, eyeing the patties I was patting together.
"Sure, Dad," I called over my shoulder. I heard the front door open again, and within five minutes I could smell burning charcoal. I set the patties on a plate and carried them outside, armed with a metal spatula. Within twenty minutes, we were sitting down to eat, dressing the burgers. I decided to broach the dangerous subject.
"So, uh, Dad, what are you doing Friday?"
Charlie glanced up, holding the sliver of onion over the juicy burger, giving me a curious look. Without answering right away, he glanced down to the food and finished arranged the onion, and then set the bun neatly on top before answering.
"Er, I have work, Bells. What's up?"
Oh. Right. Weekday. Think fast.
"Nothing, I was just wondering," I said. Charlie watched me for a moment before bringing his burger up to his mouth and taking a bite. He wasn't convinced, but Charlie wasn't one to push the issue.
I still needed a reason. I finished dressing my burger and started to eat, contemplatively. I could call Angela. She would totally bail me out. She would agree to make plans with me, and pretend we'd had them the whole time.
After finishing dinner, I washed the dishes and put them away before picking up the phone. I dialed Angela and waited impatiently for her to answer.
"Webber residence," a voice on the other line said. I didn't recognize it as Angela's, so I assumed it was her mother's.
"Hi, I'm Bella Swan, a friend of Angela's. Is she available?" I inquired politely.
"One moment," the voice answered. Within a few seconds, I heard the receiver pick up.
"Angela? It's Bella."
"Hey Bella, what's going on?"
I took a deep breath. Fingers crossed.
"What are you doing Friday?"
I held my breath, waiting for the answer.
I sighed with relief.
"Would you like to have a girls' night? Slumber party at my house?"
I bit my lip. Please, Angela, please. Help me out.
"Sure, Bella. That sounds like fun!"
Praise the stars. Angela was a saint.
"Great! Thanks so much, I think this will be fun. Although, I have to be honest about this… don't get me wrong, I would love to spend Friday with you, but this time it's particularly important…"
Angela had been completely understanding after I'd explained the Mike situation. She had actually started to guess what the story was before I finished it. She was wonderful.
I parked my truck in the parking lot and dropped out of the cab, careful not to slip on the ice as I landed. I shouldered my backpack, and made my way toward the school.
I saw Mike waiting leisurely outside the school, anxious as ever. Armed with an excuse, I headed for the doors. He peeled off the wall and quickly joined me at my side. I took a deep breath. Stay calm, and I could pull this off. I wasn't really lying.
"So so? Can you go? Or do you and your dad have plans?" Mike was far too eager.
"Well, no…" I started casually. "But I got to talking to my dad and he reminded me that I had plans with Angela. We'd planned a girls' night at my place that night. You're welcome to come… dress up, make-overs, pedicures…" Mike blanched.
"Eh, I'll pass. Maybe we can do the movie thing another time?" I smiled and gave a weak half-nod, hoping he would accept it and not push the issue later. He held the door open for me, I smiled again and ducked inside out of the cold. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the flash of a silver car pulling into the parking lot.
Curse the man, why did my heart flutter so? Mike walked me to my first class, and then grudgingly left me. I settled in, and the day commenced.
First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Lunch flew by, like they always did. During lunch, I always had the knot in my stomach. I tried not to look at their table. I really did.
Angela patted my hand under the table. I looked over at her and gave her my first grateful smile all day. We finished lunch quietly; I dumped my barely-touched food and made my way to Biology. Mike didn't accompany me.
I settled into my seat, careful not to look at Cullen. He sat tensely beside me, but I swear he had a hint of a smile on his face. He said nothing to me, unsurprisingly, the whole hour. Typical.
After a terrible ordeal in gym class, I hiked out to my truck, trying not to slip on the ice, get rundown, or do something equally dangerous and painful accidentally. I made it to the cab, and I shoved my key into the door. Yanking it open, I climbed in and set my backpack on the floor.
As I placed my hand on the bench seat next to me to help slide in, that's went I felt it. Something sharp.
Quickly, I lifted my hand from where it was on my seat, and I glanced down. There, next to where I sat on the bench seat was a single, perfect, red rose. My fingers had caught one of the thorns.
Who had put it in my truck? The doors had been locked. I'd locked them when I'd gotten out this morning, and unlocked them just now. Whoever put this in my truck… either got the windows down – and then back up completely, unlocked the door and then relocked it, or found some other way inside my truck. Who? How? And most importantly, why?
I lifted the rose up carefully, placing my thumb and index finger where there were no thorns. It was absolutely perfect. I could find no flaws in it. The stem was the most perfect shade of green, the leaves were unmarred, and the petals were the deepest red. The color of blood. And they felt like the softest velvet. Like Edward's voice, I thought.
Stupid. Why did everything have to remind me of him? It was ridiculous. Someone like him would never be interested in me. Never. Right?
I set the rose delicately across the dashboard. I would find a vase for it when I got home. I cranked the truck and put it into reverse before driving home slowly in the cold, deep in thought.