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"... Hi?" I greeted, though it sounded more like a question. I walked up to him, mystified in more ways than one, but kept a careful distance between us. His face was, without a doubt, perfect at every single angle, and I was tempted to take another step to get a better look. The sane part left of me kept my feet rooted to the limited space of ground that I had; he was standing right in front of my door, and I was very aware that my sisters were getting closer to the truck with every heartbeat.
Edward Cullen smiled so beautifully that I had to fight the urge to peek behind my shoulder to confirm my suspicion that he wasn't waiting for me after all, but someone else. Some pretty girl that was smiling back at him, standing right behind me, and I was just making a fool of myself. But he was blocking my way in front of my old truck, so there must be something he wanted from me.
"Hello. I didn't get a chance to introduce myself to-"
"She's over there," I cut him off and motioned to where Natalie would be by now, stepping forward to open the car door. Edward froze, causing my eyes to widen as I stopped walking to look up at him, our faces inches apart.
I was stunned by the closeness, and I could tell that he wasn't breathing. His face was so much more handsome than I would've thought possible; before I could really comprehend what he was doing, he placed a shockingly cold hand on my arm and gently pushed away from me, standing a good three feet away.
We stood there, staring at each other warily, waiting for one of us to say something. He was gazing at me curiously with his strangely colored eyes, as if I was the most intriguing person in the world.
"Bella, I want to go home. What are you doing?" I heard Carly call out to me where she was climbing into the car from the other side.
I sighed and turned to the rusty red truck, not looking back at Edward. But I stopped, confused; someone had opened my door before I had the chance to do it myself, and it wasn't one of my sisters. I turned around, thoroughly perplexed, but Edward Cullen was gone.
"Bella has a boyfriend."
"WHAT?!" Alan and Chris crowed with laughter. Charlie cut them off easily with glares that meant, shut up now, or no allowance for a month. Ah, the perks of having a football coach as a father.
Everyone at the dinner table finally stopped moving. Sophia and Delilah had to clamp their tiny freckled hands on Aaron's mouth so that he wouldn't spit a meatball across the room. Henry's tail stopped wagging as Eli dropped his fork in his spaghetti. The only sound was Mandy making small baby noises, giggling and cooing at all of our traumatized faces.
Good grief. If I planned an escape route now, I could slip away undetected, have Carly set up a diversion…
"Bella, is this true?" my mother asked with a smile, her cheeks a light shade of pink. I shot the smirking Natalie the best angry glare that I could muster before I spoke, fighting to keep my voice from cracking under the humiliation. Somebody was going to pay, dammit.
"Of course not. I don't know what she's talking about," I told the entire table, trying not to blush and look guilty when I wasn't. Sadly, this always happened to me, and I ended up looking like I was on trial for robbing a bank.
"She might as well! She orders me to not talk to him just so she can steal him away." I tried not to scoff. I was only trying to protect her from the seemingly callous and harsh boy that Edward had give the impression of being. This is what I got for trying to be a good sister. "You should've seen her face when he came to see me after school today. Bella totally scared him off."
I tried picturing the big gap of Natalie's brain that she reserved just for mindless accusations. "Who the hell is this him?" Charlie demanded. In my effort to hold what little dignity I had, I refused to respond to that.
"Edward Cullen." I was a little startled when Michael was the one who spoke up, grinning ear to ear as if he had just solved the biggest mystery of all time.
"I talked to his older brother, Emmett today." The image of the huge, older Cullen with dark curly hair that honestly scared me a little flashed in my mind as he continued. "I have gym with him- he's a cool guy. But anyway, he asked me if I was related to Bella, so I said yeah.
"I was wondering why he was asking about my baby sister when they're not even in the same grade, not to mention that he already has a girl." I rolled my eyes in embarrassment at this, watching his face turn the tiniest bit pink when he thought of Rosalie. (Haha blushing's in the family) "Emmett told me that his younger brother, who's a junior like Bella, had mentioned something about her. Thought it was interesting enough," he said, playful eyes boring into mine.
I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at my oldest brother. Even at this time, place, and situation, I still had the smallest speck of control left in me.
"Well, Bella, even if this Cullen boy's interested in you," I tried not to be offended by the way my father said this, as if he was doubtful that his daughter could attract a boy's attention, "I don't see why you need to be rude to Natalie." Carly snorted, but everyone ignored it.
"It's not like that. I don't care if Natalie talks to him; he's not my boyfriend, and he is not interested in me. Kids at this school just take any chance to gossip about the new family that transferred in the middle of the semester, and apparently that includes Emmett Cullen."
Charlie visibly relaxed. Of course. Natalie having a new boy pursuit was nothing new to him, but the second it came to me, it was a totally different galaxy. Was it really that hard to believe that I couldn't bear the possibility of attracting at least one guy?
The next day was Saturday, which meant two things: grocery shopping, and family dinner with my future brother- in- law, Jacob. The first part I didn't really mind, but the second one was enough to make me want to crawl back into my bed and hide for the next ten years.
Despite the continuous rain, I woke up very early from a sleepless night before anyone else was awake. I crept down the stairs, knowing that I should enjoy the silence while it lasted. I made sure to close the door carefully when I left the house and drove around to find the only grocery store in Forks.
The sky was still so dark, but it didn't stop the unbroken line of cars at the lone stoplight that I sat at. I relaxed in my warm truck, watching the lights zoom past me in the darkness.
My mind drifted to Edward Cullen, once again, and I could feel chagrin warming my cheeks in the dim green light of my car when I stomped on the gas to start moving again.
What was his deal? First he's cold and indifferent, then he falls off the face of the earth for almost two weeks, only to drop right back in, trying to make conversation and waiting for me at my car as if we were old friends. I honestly didn't know how to feel about this person.
Was he talking to me so that he could get to Natalie like she said, or was it something else? I hadn't exactly given him the time to explain himself with my charming stubbornness. I just couldn't wrap my mind around any boy- especially one like Edward Cullen- being interested in me.
He must want to be with Natalie; she was always striving and succeeding to be perfect, obviously a great match for Edward Cullen. But for some reason, this made me extremely sad, knotting my stomach into billions of tangles that clenched whenever I thought of him.
I shook my head, attempting to erase my thoughts when I pulled into a space at the store and pulled my hood up to shield my face and hair from the rain. As I walked into the mart, I noticed that the only other car in the front parking lot was a shiny, silver car in the light of the street lamp, but brushed it off. (Pahahaha)
I grabbed a cart and started through the aisles, pulling out my long, wrinkled list of things we needed. Cat and dog food. I almost laughed; Eli had always loved animals, and we were constantly out of food for his mammal friends.
I took pride in keeping our house clean and orderly though all of the chaos and animals. If we kept the cats and dogs all out back and had company over, they would never even come close to guessing that we had ever had any animals in the house.
Spotting the massive bag of food, I tried unsuccessfully to heave it up and put it in the cart. "Ugh," I sighed angrily, finally able to lift it, but I was in no way capable of setting it in the cart without knocking over twenty shelves in the process. My eyes widened in shock when I started to fall back, the weight too much to handle against my unfortunate balance problems.
I cold, strong hand pressed against the small of my back, pulling me to stand up again. Seeming to appear out of nowhere, Edward took the colossal bag of food from me with the other hand, acting as if it was nothing when he easily placed it in my squeaky shopping cart.
"Does this happen to you often?" He asked me, grinning a crooked smile as he leaned casually against the aisle, releasing me.
"Nearly getting overwhelmed by a bag of dog food in grocery stores at four in the morning? Quite frequently," I responded, turning a dark shade of pink. He looked away suddenly, chuckling quietly under his breath.
"Why are you here?" I blurted awkwardly, hating how rude it sounded. Edward looked up, surprised.
"I have to pick something up for my father, Carlisle," he explained. I looked at him and arched an eyebrow; he didn't have anything with him, though I was sure this was the Carlisle Cullen that I heard about around school, who had adopted all of the Cullen children with his young wife, Esme. "I was about to get it when I heard your struggle all the way from the other side of the store. Thought that you would need help." I gave him a look.
"Funny." He smiled.
"Is dog food all you're getting?" he asked suddenly, reminding me of my other dilemma.
"Actually, I need cat food too, but…" I trailed off, deeply embarrassed. Of course, this made him laugh with delight. The beautiful sound distracted me from my annoyance. He had already picked up the sack of cat food and put it with my other bag when I looked up again. "Thanks," I mumbled, trying to sidetrack myself from his face by fumbling with my list.
"Anytime. If you don't mind my asking, why do you need all of this food? Are you trying to feed every hungry animal in Washington?" I gazed at him, debating whether to be annoyed or fascinated with his teasing tone.
I paused, and I could feel his amused eyes on me as I pushed against the basket before I could get it moving. He easily kept up with me. "My little brother likes animals," I told him. He raised his eyebrows, obviously thinking of my other siblings that he'd most likely seen in the small school. I sighed, wondering why I was telling him this.
"I have eleven brothers and sisters."
I waited for his response in slight dread, knowing it would sound something like Mike's. I picked up random items as I pushed on, waiting. But what he actually said surprised me. "You love them a lot."
"It's very easy to tell by how you talk about you family." I couldn't think of anything to say to that, wondering why he was suddenly talking to me again, thinking of Natalie. "I'm sorry, but you're truly interesting."
"Me or my sister?" This took him a while to process.
"Natalie?" he finally asked, sounding perplexed.
"That's who you were looking for yesterday after school, right?" I finally stopped to look at him, my expression blunt. He was staring down at me with now dark honey eyes, as if I had just questioned him in Portuguese, and he seemed very deep in thought. I had to avert my gaze so I could remind myself to breathe.
"Your sister is very attractive." I braced myself. "But the way she thinks…"
"What?" I asked, clearing my throat, crossing three more items off of my list. Did he just say "thinks"?
"I mean just the way she acts. Natalie seems more like a person that would be with Mike Newton. Like her friend Jessica."
"Oh." I tried to hide the feelings that coursed through my veins. He hadn't been wanting to see Natalie the other day? He didn't want her attention? "Then who did you want to talk to?" I pressed, daring to breach into an unfamiliar territory, and at the same time, trying to push the cart again with the extra weight of all of my other groceries. Darn animals. He smiled a perfect lopsided grin again and gently took it from me.
"You." I stared after him, my face warm, as he started strolling gracefully past me. I had to start practically jogging to catch up with him, grabbing a few last items as I went along.
"But… why?" I managed to choke out, bewildered. He gave me a look like I was slow.
"I already told you. You're interesting. I hadn't gotten a chance to say hi to you on your first day here, so I was going to yesterday. Apparently you didn't agree with my plans." I took an interest in the floor while he wheeled my now full cart down to the check out area. Evidently, I would have to wait for someone to help check out my groceries.
"Well, I guess you got the chance now… Hi," The look on his face told me this was the plan all along. For some reason, I couldn't find anything wrong with that.
"Hi," he murmured, stopping the cart gently in the empty line. I looked up at him, not breaking our gaze this time.
"Did you get contacts?" I blurted unexpectedly, not realizing what I was doing until after I said it. Something changed in his eyes then, like he was putting up a guard that I hadn't noticed had been put down until now.
"No." He stepped away from the cart then, but I still stood there, my brow furrowed.
"I should go get back to what I was supposed to get Carlisle." With that he turned and left in the opposite direction, disappearing in seconds.
"Miss?" The tired looking worker there that had finally showed up called out to me; it was now almost 4:30 and I had to check out. I walked up to my heavy cart, and I was surprised to touch the places where Edward's hands had been- it was ice cold.
I glanced back to where Edward had vanished as I wheeled the cart forward, but he was nowhere to be seen. I was outside the store, towing my purchases to the truck when I saw that the silver car that must've belonged to Edward was gone too.
My mind was whirling with everything that Edward had said on the drive back home, my thoughts moving to Natalie.
I knew her very well. When people first met her, she came off as shallow, or bratty, jealous, and self centered. But I had known her all of her life, so I could identify what she always hid on the inside. Natalie had always been insecure, and very sensitive when anything would be out of place or out of equilibrium in her life. Bring seemingly flawless was all a part of her delicate balance.
She would take up hours in the mirror, spending as much time as she could at sunny beaches to get rid of her pale skin to look the part of being clear of mistakes in every way. Part of her life would always be being picture perfect for everyone to see, having millions of friends and the faultless boy at all times. If that meant seeing millions of flawed boys, going through heartbreak after heartbreak to find one that she would deem perfect, so be it. She was searching for someone to cure all of her blemishes in his excellence, but that would be impossible, and she had always been going the wrong way to find this out.
If only she could see that Edward Cullen couldn't possibly be the answer. One look at his handsome, angelic face and family, I could imagine what she would see. How much of a fine quality diamond he appeared to be. But something about him… the way how everything is composed and isolated from the rest of the world gave me the impression that under all of the perfection were one million flaws of dark secrets that would only drive a person exactly like Natalie over the edge.
I sighed, wanting nothing more for Natalie to see this, but I knew it couldn't just happen like that. Eventually she would attempt to steal Edward's heart, and judging by what Edward had told me, it would only lead to disaster on her side. This would be, in her eyes, all my fault.
Maybe I could do as Edward had suggested a while before his abrupt exit- getting Mike to ask her out. I wondered idly as I prepared breakfast for everyone what I would have to do to get him to ask her out.
"So have you talked to your booyfrieeeend, Bellsie?" Eli teased me, grinning. I exhaled slowly out of my nose, huffing an exasperated breath.
"Boyfriend?" Alexandra hesitated, overhearing the remark my brother had made.
"This guy Emmett Cullen asked Michael about Bella in school. Something to do with his younger brother, Edward, talking about her. But," my father paused to wink at me, "according to Bells here, it supposedly means nothing. What about that, Natalie?" She smirked, and I wanted nothing more than to disappear right then.
Jacob had stopped his rambling with Carly, and a look of great relief washed over her face. Jacob just continued to stare at me with offending shock.
"If you ask me, I don't think Bella or Natalie should even talk with Cullen." I usually didn't pay Jacob any attention when he opened his mouth to talk, but this sparked my attention, curiosity getting the best of me. I couldn't help but notice how Charlie immediately gave his full attention to what Jacob had to say.
"Why?" I asked, not knowing why I felt so defensive about this.
"They're freaks- all of them. My old man believes in these little fairy tales about how we descend from like, coyotes or wolves. And the Cullens are the sworn enemies of our people, some sort of leech." He said 'sworn enemies" like he was talking about fairy dust or unicorns.
"You mean vampire?" Delilah piped up in her best school teacher voice. Charlie raised an eyebrow. Vampire? He was saying the Cullens were vampires?
"Sure, whatever. Stupid legend says that they're not 'normal' vampires. They don't suck humans or something. Animal blood instead- like that makes them suddenly good." He paused to cram more food into his mouth. "But it's just some 'scary' story he used to tell to freak me out. I don't believe a word of it, but whatever they are, the Cullens have always been weird people. Whether they've been living for hundreds of years or not."
I could only stare at him, my mind reeling. He had to be joking. It would be impossible. I couldn't fit Edward's angel face and the image of a vampire with fangs together.
"Leech or not, he's hot," Natalie sang, obviously not taking a thing about Jacob's story seriously. I sighed. Apparently nobody but Charlie did; Renne gave Alex a control you fiancé, look, and started feeding Amanda again.
"Charlie, I would make sure Natalie doesn't get too close to this guy, but you shouldn't have to worry about Bella, here. You know how she is with boys." Carly's mouth popped open, while Alex and Renee both smacked his arm, but I didn't really see any of it. Standing up from the table, I left without a word.
Someone knocked on my door, but I didn't bother to answer it. I shouldn't care what Jacob said- he was a pig. A thoughtless, without a sliver of common sense type of filthy mutt in every sense of the word. So why should I care? My mind was racing, going back and forth between Jacob's story and his hurtful words. I didn't notice that Carly had come to sit on my bed until she finally spoke.
"I have an idea, you know."
"Dad will kill you," I said in a bored voice, smothered by my pillow.
"If I'm going down, you and all of my other minions are coming with me." She had to stop now or I would start smiling. "Are you seriously going to let him get away with saying that? You're my sister for crying out loud! If you don't do anything, I will."
"Don't say I didn't try to stop you," I sighed, considering all of the things she would try to pull.
"Alright, just be downstairs before Lex and The Suicide Fiancé leave." I listened to her footsteps as she walked away and closed the door quietly. Ten minutes later I swallowed and walked down the first few steps of the top stairs to see Renee saying goodbye to Alexandra while Jacob was walking outside, talking to Charlie about the Mustangs.
It was quiet.
Then I saw it. The quick beam of a flashlight through the front yard. Please don't flash again, please don't flash again. Someone- probably Carly- flashed their flashlight once more. All systems go.
And of course, that's when Alex started walking out to the car. I shot down the stairs, my socks slipping on the hardwood, but I caught myself right before my face became a part of the floor. "Wait, wait, Alex," I said, a little breathless as I grabbed her arm in the doorway. She stopped, turning around to smile at me.
"Hey, Bells. Listen, I'm sorry about what Jacob said at dinner. I don't know what got into him; he's usually not like that…" But I wasn't listening, just nodding absentmindedly as Charlie walked back into the house, laughing at something Jacob said like it was the funniest thing in the world.
"Alex! Come on, it's a long drive, babe!" Jacob called from outside.
Right then, I could've sworn I heard Carly whisper, "GO!" from somewhere in the night. Because that's when the sprinklers all went off, drenching Jacob with freezing water. Suddenly I felt a lot better.
I couldn't help myself when I started grinning and turned back to Alex, who looked ready to jump out there and save Jacob.
"It is perfectly fine."
A/N: Whooooo ten pages. Got some important info on Natalie, hmm? It's important to the plot, so try to soak it all in and let her character in your mind growww. Okay, so the interesting Mike Newton action part I promised last chapter didn't exactly happen this chapter, but it was *mentioned*, so that counts right? I'll be updating my stories a lot more (hopefully) now, so please review. (: Ten reviews again, and I'll give all of you guys a popsicle. :D
B/N: It's actually 8 pgs long, but I'll let her have her glory. ^_^ I hope you like this chapter 'cause it took us hella long to put it together. Please review, and check out my new oneshot, "What Did You Teach My Daughter."