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A/N: This story was written in response to gemma smells like apple cake's challenge on the Twilight Challenge forum. Thanks to my betas, Cocoa and sillybella, for all their help.
I found that mentioning Emmett's education was unavoidable for this challenge so I chose to focus on it. Anyone that knows me knows I'm one of the first to declare that Emmett is not stupid. I still stand by that. He may not have finished school as a human, but that doesn't mean he is or was stupid. And as a vampire he's been through high school many times and has achieved a perfect 4.0 like all of the Cullens.
War of Northern Aggression – Another name for the Civil War, used mostly in the South.
Challenge: Write the conversation that led to the Cullen's deciding to go to school of some sort for the first time. The conversation must contain why they decide to go, how they will go about it and how do they prepare themselves.
I stared at the six expectant faces of my family, unable to believe what I was hearing. High school? They couldn't be serious. Why on Earth did we need to enroll in high school?
Rosalie slipped her hand into mine, and I felt slightly comforted knowing she would be on my side. Looking into her face, my hopes fell. I expected to see love and understanding. What I saw instead was fierce determination. She was serious about this, too. She wasn't on my side at all. "We're doing this, Emmett," she stated firmly.
"But, why high school? We've been doing okay. Why do we need to change anything?" I had so many questions, but 'why' seemed to sum them all up.
Carlisle stepped forward, calm, patient, the voice of reason. "There are enough of us now that we are easily noticed. We all agree that we would like to stay here as long as possible." I thought about our new home – isolated, large forest nearby, a bounty of wildlife bordering on overpopulation. "We can accomplish that better if we make ourselves as young as is believable. That means you all should be in high school. I believe we can pass you off as a seventeen-year-old and Edward and Rosalie as sixteen-year-olds."
"What about them?" I asked, nodding toward Jasper and Alice.
"Jasper is not ready for the unique challenge a crowded classroom will present," Carlisle replied matter-of-factly. Jasper tensed, and I saw a fleeting hint of relief cross his features as he turned to the window, letting out a resigned sigh. He had lived off human blood for many years. Curbing that desire was extremely difficult. He knew Carlisle was right, he didn't need the extra temptation, but I could see it irritated him. He didn't like admitting that he couldn't handle the situation any more than I would if it were me. And besides, he would probably enjoy going to school; he was always reading, looking for new information.
"Jasper will be staying here at the house or close by so that he remains out of sight. If someone happens to spot him and gets curious then we'll say he's nineteen and has finished school," Carlisle explained before turning to Alice. "It's your decision, Alice, if you want to enroll in high school or stay here with Jasper."
Alice cocked her head to the side, thinking. "I don't remember if I went to high school." She glanced at Jasper with a questioning look. He nodded encouragingly. "I think I'll go. It might be fun," she grinned, excited.
Fun? I guess I should have expected her answer. I felt I had gotten to know her fairly well in the three years since she and Jasper joined our family. But Carlisle gave her a choice; I thought she would want to stay with Jasper. I scowled at her. "You can be a fourteen-year-old."
Her smile grew. "Probably," she laughed, her voice tinkling, as she acknowledged my jab by sticking out her tongue.
Irritated, I stood quickly and strode to the window. They still didn't get it. Was I really going to have to spell it out for them? Shaking my head, I turned back to the room and studied my family. Carlisle was well-educated, of course. Edward and Rosalie had each been to medical school. I didn't know Jasper's level of education, but he was smart, book smart. For them high school was merely something that needed to be done in order to complete the illusion, not a problem. I had no experience with high school. I had no idea how I was supposed to act. What if my lack of a high school education prevented me from making everyone believe I belonged in the eleventh grade?
I stood straight with my shoulders squared, trying to hide my doubts, but they needed to consider the facts. "I can't be a junior in high school. I've never even been to high school." I wasn't embarrassed about my schooling, or lack of it. I had finished the eighth grade. That was two more years than any of my brothers. As the youngest, Momma had insisted that I stay in school as long as possible. But eventually I needed to quit in order to help full time on the family farm. It was not only a normal occurrence where I grew up; it was expected.
Rose crossed the room to stand in front of me. "I'll help you. I'll tutor you, if needed." We stared at each other for a moment before she raised an eyebrow as if she were daring me to decline her offer. I smiled and nodded. Of course she would help me. Keeping our true nature a secret was vitally important to Rosalie. She would do whatever she had to in order to help me make my cover story believable.
"I can help you with history," Jasper chimed in. "Especially about the War of Northern Aggression. There's so much the history books leave out or, in some cases, just get plain wrong. At some point people began believing the war was only about slavery when, in fact, it was really about states' rights." I grinned as Jasper reined himself back in and forced himself to relax, the effort to calm down visible to everyone in the room. There would be no better history teacher than someone who had lived through the Civil War.
Rosalie turned back to Carlisle. "I should be the same age as Emmett so we'll have the same subjects."
Carlisle nodded as Rose led me back to the sofa. "That's an excellent idea Rosalie."
Edward leaned forward, understanding showing on his face. "It will not be as difficult as you think. Think about how much you have learned in the eighteen years you have been with us and how quickly you could master something new. You will literally be able to pull all-nighters. It won't take you long to catch up with the rest of the students, and no one will ever know the difference."
"Actually, you'll have to be careful not to use the same wording from lectures and books," Rosalie interrupted. "Or someone might accuse you of cheating." I knew she was speaking from experience about that. A professor had once claimed she was cheating rather than admit a woman knew as much as he did about human anatomy.
"Besides," Edward continued. "Everyone has to go to high school for a first time. So what if yours is a little late?" With a careless shrug he smirked, "Even I wasn't born knowing everything."
We all chuckled at that.
Esme sat down beside me. "Emmett dear, if you do have difficulties we'll deal with them. Just remember that there are plenty of humans who have problems in school. Not everyone passes every class." I knew she was right. And I could do better than the students who simply didn't care about school. With a smile and a pat on my knee, Esme assured me, "No matter what, we'll all help you any way we can." She reminded me of Momma when she looked at me like that.
I was moved by everyone's willingness to help, but they seemed to have gotten the wrong idea. I wasn't worried about lack of knowledge as much as lack of experience.
Leaning forward I planted my elbows on my knees and clasped my hands together. Rosalie rubbed small circles across my shoulder blades as I rocked, unable to sit still. Staring at the floor, I stated in a low, flat voice, "Education is more than memorizing facts from a book. Life provides its own education."
"You're right," Jasper agreed. "Not all smart people are educated, and not all educated people are smart. In my day only the wealthy were educated. But that didn't mean that poor folks weren't smart." He gave a small laugh. "In fact, I knew college educated men who were about as bright as a clod of dirt and didn't have any common sense to boot." I looked up into Jasper's knowing eyes. He understood where I was coming from. "In your era, most folks didn't finish high school, let alone go to college. But it's safe to say you knew things that a college educated man didn't. You knew how to run a farm, care for animals, and raise crops. You also had the smarts to know how to get the best deal for those crops."
I nodded. My experience on the farm had taught me more than I could learn in any school. "So why do I need to go to high school?" I asked, exasperated.
I met Carlisle's patient stare as he spoke. "I'm not concerned with how well you'll do. You don't need to worry about what kind of grades you'll get. We simply need to fit in. You only need to attend school because it's expected. Not going will draw too much unwanted attention."
He waited a moment while I thought about what he'd said. "If we all agree," he began haltingly, looking to each of us, "then tomorrow I will enroll Emmett and Rosalie as juniors and Edward and Alice as sophomores."
I shook my head. I felt more confident about the situation, but there was still something that bothered me. "I don't look seventeen." Hell, I didn't look twenty. I was bigger than all of them, and people always thought I was older. Anyone would believe I was twenty-five before they would believe I was seventeen.
"Humans will believe whatever the birth certificates show. Our forged documents are flawless. No one will question them," Jasper stated with confidence. He had a point. It still surprised me when people accepted every one of our lies as fact.
The room was silent. They were all waiting for my agreement. I met Edward's gaze. A moment of silent brotherly support passed between us, and that's when I saw it in his eyes. He knew. He knew what really concerned me, what was behind my hesitation. I didn't want to let them down, to disappoint them, to disappoint Rosalie. He knew, and he would help me make sure nothing went wrong.
Edward's expression slowly changed. There was a mischievous glint in his eyes as he smirked. "I bet I can pull off sixteen better than you can do seventeen."
I sat up straighter. He was challenging me and he knew I never backed down from a bet. I'd show him, even if he did have the advantage of being closer to the age he needed to portray. "You're on!" I no longer had any doubts about pulling this off. I could do this and Edward had just ensured that I would. "Loser admits he doesn't know everything after all."
Rosalie smiled smugly as she looked from me to Edward. "That will be one time I will not want to miss hearing him talk!"
"Nice!" Alice beamed, and Edward's smirk vanished as her eyes refocused on the room, leaving behind the far away trance of her vision.