I'm sorry that this was another slow update. I started swimming right around the last chapter was posted and that pretty much ruined my planned schedule. Two and a half hour practices a day doesn't put you in the writing mood, if you know what I mean. And then there's been so much drama within my group of friends that this story stayed at the back of my mind. And then there was still homework to do… So yeah – I apologize again. By the way – I can't tell you the what number forty-one is – you'll just have to find out.

Anyway, I am no longer replying to reviews for chapters six and seven – and to those of you who reviewed anonymously have to pm me if you want that gift. Again, same thing goes for this chapter – review and get a prize! I'm trying to hit a thousand.

Enjoy


Previously: "This, my friend, is Edward." She said. "And he'll be helping with number forty-one of your list."

Chapter 7

I remember in the third grade we spent a week learning about magnets in science class. A magnet had two poles, the teacher told us, a north pole and a south pole. Opposites attracted and, conversely, matching poles repelled each other.

Rosalie and I were a lot like those magnets. She clung to the arm of one side of the couch, and I to the other. Two people could've sat comfortably between us – which was saying something because it was a loveseat. Obviously we were both south poles.

I ignored Rose's antagonistic glare and focused my gaze on Alice, whose slim fingers were sliding through her frowzy mop of hair, and her face was scrunched with distress. She was sitting on the arm of Bella's chair, and Bella was glancing around nervously; I noticed that she was avoiding eye-contact with me in particular.

It was an awkward silence if there ever was one.

Not that I much noticed the stiltedness of the moment, as I was still feeling a throbbing ache where Rosalie had injured me. Alice had gotten me ice, but my ego wouldn't let me accept it. Something about holding cold relief to my crotch wasn't manly.

Finally – surprisingly – Bella spoke first, "Alice," Her voice was weak with shock. "What's going on?" She was looking pointedly at me for the first time since she had tripped. I was surprised how deep her eyes were, as brown eyes were normally quite flat in their darkness. I was so entranced that I almost didn't hear Alice's reply.

"He's a friend of mine." She sighed. "He was just dropping by for a visit before Rosalie went psycho." Rosalie's posture snapped straight immediately in response and her violet eyes flashed dangerously.

"I. Did. Not. Go. Psycho." She ground out, each individual word blazing with malice. "Don't make me sound like a mental case." Alice rolled her eyes.

"Oh, please, Rose. You basically ripped Edward's head off, and the poor guy hadn't even introduced himself yet!" Alice argued. Rose was struggling to hide her contrite look, but her bold features were so expressive that she failed epically.

"Well what did you expect me to think?" She muttered, glancing at me discreetly from the corner of her eye. "Random stranger, rifling through our books, on top of Bella," She lifted up her flawless fingers and ticked them off as she went through everything I had done, and Bella's face burned. "He didn't even give any explanation." She pursed her lips and glared at me warily. I said nothing. Alice could handle her better than me. By far.

"You were supposed to trust my judgment." Alice replied in a clipped tone. I sensed a storm brewing between the two of them and apparently Bella did too, because a second later she was standing between the two of them placatingly.

"It's over and done with. Let's not fight." She pleaded gently. "Besides…we have a guest." She peeked at me from under her thick lashes shyly and stepped forward. Her hand drifted to me in offering. "Isabella Swan. But I prefer Bella." I accepted her hand and gave it a slight shake.

"Edward Cullen." My voice was slow and cautious. I wasn't sure how much she had assumed when she had seen her bag slung around my shoulder. Surely that I was strange, at the least. What else she thought about me, I couldn't possibly fathom.

I didn't expect her to turn the bright red that she did. Nor did I expect her to yank her hand back as quickly as she did. She whirled away and mumbled quietly, "Rose. Introduce yourself." I drew my attention away from Bella and focused it on Rose, though I couldn't help but continue to feel confusion about the former's reaction.

"Hi. Rosalie Hale." Her voice was sharp and reluctant. I saw it as progress.

"Excellent." Alice said, no introduction needed. "Anyone for tea?"

"I have to get going." I said matter-of-factly. "Thank you though, Alice." I would've accepted, but I think Rosalie might have had an aneurism if I did. Obviously, now wasn't the time to push my tightly stretched luck. Alice looked like she had expected as much, and suddenly had a calculating look on her face.

"You don't want to walk all the way back to your apartment." She stated it as fact and not a question. I felt like a dog being told what to feel and it was a struggle to keep the scowl from my face at this thought. "I'll drive you."

I nodded my head obediently and slipped on my coat. Alice danced to a closet and plucked a jacket from its depths. I nodded with mechanic politeness to the others, and Alice and I were about to cross the threshold of the elevator when Alice suddenly slapped her forehead in an overly theatrical movement.

"Oh, no!" Her high voice keened in fake disappointment. "I can't! There's a big project for work I forgot about. Darn." I wondered how many times she had rehearsed this in her head. She drooped her way back into the room, but then perked up in a jerky movement, snapping her fingers together.

"Bella will take you!" She cried, as if it were some genius plan.

I was perplexed. Bella looked horrified. Rosalie was glaring daggers. And Alice was…Alice – overwhelmingly perky and excited.

"But…" Bella's sentence trailed off to the place where all unfinished speeches go – silence. I felt bad for her. She clearly didn't have any intention of driving me all forty-something blocks back to where I came from – not that I blamed her.

"That's okay, Alice." I said calmly, not having it in me to upset Bella. I wouldn't want to ride with me either. "Walking's fine." Alice's teeth snapped together in a grit.

"No, no, Edward." She said forcefully. "It's no trouble at all." The fiery look she gave me told me that I clearly had no such choice. Then she fixed Bella under her steely stare. "Right, Bella?"

Bella looked bewildered. "O-okay." She stuttered, flushing for what seemed like the millionth time, and I stifled a laugh. It was one of the funny, endearing traits that I had liked so much about her in the videos I had watched. She tripped forward next to me and we both stepped into the elevator together.

"Be safe!" Alice shouted with a wicked smile as the doors slid shut. Immediately the silence rang against my ears. It was a relief. I looked down at Bella. Never mind. It was terrifying.

Bella wasn't a much of a talker. And, truthfully, nor was I. But I felt obligated to try. "So…" My interjection floated through the air without response. Oh, nice stab at conversation, Edward, I thought sarcastically to myself. I tried again.

"Tell me about yourself." I forced out. She looked at me with her usual flushed color rosying her cheeks. Confusion swirled in her dark, pensive eyes.

"Like what?" Her soft voice lilted.

"Where'd you grow up?" I had tried to grasp at an easy subject, but she suddenly grew morose.

"Phoenix." Her voice was flat and unwelcoming. I decided not to probe her.

"How did you meet Alice?" I asked tactfully. She looked surprisingly grateful.

"College. We were both in a sorority. We bonded over freshmen rush week." She said with a sheepish sort of smile.

"Ah. Hazing?" I asked knowingly. She nodded and smiled. I grinned back.

"I was a nerd in college." I said. "Spent more time studying than socializing. Conversation isn't really my forte." She looked pleased for some reason.

"Me neither." Her head shook vigorously. "Too shy."

"Rush week must have been hell for you then." I mused to myself, trying to imagine Bella making an attempt to mingle with an entire room full of sorority girls.

"Yeah. I was lucky that I was a legacy. My mother did it too," She said, "Otherwise; I would've been rejected for sure." I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. The elevator doors opened unexpectedly and I jumped. Bella giggled at me and led me past the receptionist, who gave us a friendly smile.

We walked across the lobby to a white door on the other end and opened it. She led me down an echo-y stairwell and into a parking garage. "Thanks for returning my bag." She said suddenly as we tramped past the aisles of cars. "I really appreciate it."

I was so caught off guard that I could only reply with an "Of course." She smiled at me knowingly.

"Alice told me in the kitchen while we were scrounging for ice." Then she seemed to think of something. "How do you know Alice, anyway?" I glanced down at her.

"Long story. I'll tell you when I'm not so tired." I promised. I wasn't quite ready for charming Bella to think I was a stalker yet. Maybe next week when I wasn't so unfamiliar.

"Okay." She seemed disappointed. She stopped at an empty space. "Oh… Crap." She turned to me then apologetically. "I'm sorry, Edward. My car's in the shop right now…" She looked crestfallen and embarrassed.

"Don't worry about it. I usually take the subway anyway." I told her gently. "Go back up to your apartment. I'll be fine."

"Okay." She said slowly. She seemed to be chewing something over. I couldn't be sure what. "I'll see you later?" I smirked at the insecure question.

"Of course." I shot her a smile and walked away.


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izzy x edward