a/n : Just a thing I had bouncing around in my head for too long. It wanted out.

Thanks go out to my beta, Rainly. She did more work than me as usual. If it wasn't for her, this would be mush.

Additional thanks to Project Team Beta for my second draft betaing. Thanks guys. You rock.


Ethan Powell

January 7, 2149

Everyone saw the divorce coming. Even me. I knew since I was eight and a half that my mom and dad weren't meant to be. But they stayed together for so long anyway, and I counted the days until they would come to their senses and call the whole thing off. I just hoped it would be after I finished high school.

Hah.

Instead – of course – it had to be in the middle of my junior year.

"Ethan, I truly am sorry that it had to happen this way. I had no idea…" Mom said as she packed. Her short black hair, usually a perfect bob to frame her face, was tangled and wild. Her eyes were bloodshot and she kept rubbing at them between sentences. I imagine she didn't sleep much that night, after the longest shouting match they had ever had. "Your father and I…" She couldn't finish. Her eyes began to brim and she turned back to the suitcase on her bed, trying to keep the grief from me.

"I know," I replied. "I just don't see why I have to leave."

Her pleading eyes turned back to me again. "I know it's awful to ask you to change schools right now. Just awful. But you're not old enough to be out on your own. And I don't know if I could stand to leave you here with your father." The words were growing more and more sour every time she said them – your father – like it was an insult.

I sighed and turned back for my room. "It's not fair," I mumbled. "It's the twenty-second century for crying out loud. I'm a lot older than some out there, living on their own. Besides, I don't see what's wrong with staying here with Dad."

I watched a flash of pain cross her eyes. "We're leaving in a couple hours. Get your things together."

I didn't hurry. I knew she wanted to be out the door before he came home again from work, but I wasn't in the mood to help her avoid that awkward confrontation. Instead, I daydreamed about where we might go, what good might come out of this. She hadn't said where we were headed, just that we were leaving. And maybe, just maybe, it would be a good change.

Small towns suck. Years pass, everything changes and they just stay the same. So perhaps this would allow me to actually see something of the world, to get a broader view of what was out there for me. I kind of liked that idea. It was the only good thing I could think might come from the whole mess. Leaving behind my friends and school and limited future here was a sad thing, to be sure, but wherever I ended up…it was bound to make me a better man.

Right?

At least I'll have to get new clothes, I thought as I stuffed my shirts into a duffle bag. Wherever we were going, Walmart was certainly not good fashion sense.

"Jules Appleby calling," a quiet voice announced from the tiny phone clipped to my ear.

I hit the button on the side. "What do you want, Jules?"

"I heard about your mom and dad," she replied.

I threw a handful of socks into a duffle bag. "Who told you?"

"Does it matter? Everyone's heard by now."

I groaned.

"So, where are you headed?" she asked.

"I don't know, honestly." I started tossing random junk into a big drawstring bag. Pens, loose change from my dresser, a couple of rocks I liked that I had collected from the shore, a picture frame with Jules, Justin and me.

"Maybe you'll go someplace warm and fancy. California? You could become a famous actor and I'll say I knew you way back when. You could visit up here like everyone else does. Summer at the lake and all that. We'll make jokes at your expense all the time."

"I could go green," I said, nodding. California wouldn't be so bad.

"But hamburgers, Ethan. You'd miss hamburgers."

I tossed dimes into the bag, one at a time. They plinked against something at the bottom. "I'm gonna miss everything else anyway. Why not go for broke?"

"I guess so." She chuckled, soft and sad. "New York would be cool. You could take up racing."

"It's hard to imagine my mother living so close to so many buildings and cars."

"Well," she said. "Anything is better than Polson."

"You've got a point," I replied. Because that was the one thing I was holding on to. It would have to be better anywhere else. Anywhere.

***

At four-thirty my mom was rushing to get every last bit of our luggage into her giant car. The thing was an ancient light blue sedan, and she rarely used it. I think it belonged to her grandmother and still ran half on actual gasoline. As I stood on the porch I shook my head in disgust. If we were taking the car, we couldn't be going too far away. I could hear all my golden dreams of year-round sunshine and beautiful girls on the beach washing away with the sound of the upturned canister being emptied into the car's tank.

Jules had come over to see us off. She came up behind me, carrying the last bag from my room. I looked over at her and she gave a reassuring smile.

"Hang tough, kid." She chuckled, setting the bag down for a moment, and ran a hand through her blonde and black hair.

I rolled my eyes. "Right."

"Senior year is going to suck with you gone, you know."

"Of course it will. But I'll send you the latest and greatest from the coast."

It was her turn to roll her eyes. "Yeah, let me know what it's like to drive all the way to California." She also knew too well what the car meant. I grumbled.

"Is that the last of your stuff?" Mom called. She tossed the empty canister towards the garage and wiped off her hands. Dad was going to have a hard time using his lawnmower when we were gone. Maybe that was the point.

"Yeah, this is it," I muttered.

"Well…we better go then," Mom said. She gave a teary-eyed smile to Jules. "We'll miss you, hon'. All the best to your folks. Keep in touch?"

"'Course, Mrs. Powell," Jules replied. She opened her hand for a high five my way and I obliged her. "Call me?"

"Yeah," I said, and looked back to my mom who was already getting in the car. "My guess is soon."

"Guess this is goodbye then."

"Gonna miss you, Jules." We didn't hug. Who hugs anymore, anyhow? And mom was watching.

"You too, Eepers." I cringed, but allowed the nickname. There was no reason to refuse her anything at this point. And no one was around to hear it, so it wasn't that bad.

I headed down the front steps with my bags in hand. I could feel Jules watching me as I climbed into the front seat. I pulled the door closed and it rattled in the frame.

"Ethan, this will be good for us," Mom muttered. "A fresh start. And it will be good to be with family."

I huffed and waved to Jules, still on the porch. "Family?" I asked, finally biting the bullet. "Where are we going?"

"Your Aunt Madison has offered us some space. You know Carter went off to school last September, and she's kinda lonely anyhow." She started the car, pulling out of the driveway almost immediately. My back slammed against the seat with the force of her acceleration. Probably wanted to gain enough speed to make sure I didn't try to jump out. The wheels whined. "She's got plenty of room for us. And I think we could use a little support from people who love us right now."

I watched as Jules' surprised face grew very small, very quickly. A cloud of dust gathered behind us and she was gone.

Great. Just great.

I had nothing against Aunt Madison, per se. She was a nice woman. And Carter was a good guy; I liked hanging out with him when we got together for holidays. I had no real problem with the idea that I was going to be living with her, in his room most likely.

What I did have a big problem with…where they lived.

If there was somewhere worse than Polson, it was Forks.

The town was just as small as Polson, and had bad weather all year long. I was used to cold by now – Polson had its share of horrible winters – but all year long? Cold? No real summer? The place was just always raining. The beach was worthless as a result. I was trading friends and school in a place I grew up in for that? Polson was going to seem like paradise.

I sighed and stared out the window, wishing I had the nerve to jump, tuck and roll.

***

The drive was very long, which didn't help things between my mother and me. I spent a lot of it on the phone with Jules. We talked about nothing in particular. I told her where we were headed, and she laughed. (She laughed!) I should have been angry, but most of my mood was too spent on my mom to share it.

I did enjoy a couple things along the way. She let me drive through Idaho, and part of the way when we finally hit Washington. I guess she wasn't worried about police – or maybe she thought I could pass for twenty-one. Either way, we didn't have any trouble with cops. She was even comfortable enough with me behind the wheel to sleep a little – or maybe she was just so worn out she couldn't help herself.

When we finally pulled into town my mom insisted on making a stop at the local grocery store to bring some food along with us. Because we couldn't show up empty-handed, could we? She parked the car in the giant, unnecessary lot next to a row of bikes. We were going to look like outcasts in our car for sure. I hoped at least one person in town could afford a car – or that we were close enough to school that I could walk. I didn't want to be seen as the stuffy rich kid whose mom refused to give up her antique because she could still buy gas. That would be beyond embarrassing.

Or I guess there's always the rail. I could take the rail.

Inside the supermarket, Mom weaved through the aisles slowly, with no clear purpose. She would get lost in thought as her eyes fell on a box of cereal she held, not really seeing what they were looking at. A couple of ladies walked past us and I heard them begin to whisper between themselves as they thought they were far enough away to start the gossip.

Yeah, Forks was gonna be awesome.

"Mom?" I asked, shaking her shoulder a little bit. "What else do we need?"

She sighed and tossed the box of cereal into the cart. "Um. I…don't know. Stuff. A few more things…"

She pushed down the aisle again, this time at least appearing to browse the shelves. I wasn't sure how much more of my mother I could take. And she needed time away from me so she could be herself again. I knew she was just trying to put up a good front – not that it was working out for her.

"I'm going to go see if I can find a new toothbrush. I think I forgot mine," I said. She nodded absently with her blank staring eyes off in the distance. "I'll meet you up at the front."

"Okay, dear."

I turned away from her and wandered down the other way, passing the long row of cereal boxes again. I didn't really need a toothbrush so I just headed up towards the magazine rack. There were a few kids my age there, probably people I would see in school the next day - two girls and one guy. The girls looked like twins, both blonde, both short, but not identical. Sisters for sure. The guy was my height, with black hair that was shaved on one side. He wore a tee shirt for a band I had never heard of – just another piece of proof that I was not cool. Even in Forks.

Maybe I could meet someone now so I wouldn't have to be completely alone on my first day.

I walked over to the rack and picked up the magazine closest to me, trying not to stand too near to the group, but close enough that perhaps they would notice me and include me in their conversation. I eavesdropped as I pretended to flip through whatever it was I was holding.

"Nope, not hotter," one of the blondes said, giggling. The three of them were huddled around a magazine that the boy held in his hands. He was pointing at one of the pictures. "You're not going to be able to find anyone, Will. It's just not possible."

The other girl sighed. "Yeah. It's a tragedy. A Greek tragedy."

The guy chuckled. "Yeah, well. I don't agree."

"You wouldn't," the first girl said. "But if we asked about the girls? Find someone hotter than they are, I dare you."

"I could," he said, defiant. "If I wanted to. I just don't care. Why should any of us care anyhow? It's completely pointless."

"Not even the French cousin?" the second girl asked. "What was her name again? Starts with an 'r.' You know you like her, Will. Admit it."

The first girl cut in. "Ew, Will! She's way old. Gross."

His face turned red. "I do not. Shut up, Aubree."

I coughed and flipped another page. That seemed to finally do the trick. From the corner of my eye, the closer blonde girl looked over at me.

"Hey, someone new," she whispered to the other two. "There's never anyone new."

"I heard Mrs. Marshall's sister was coming into town with her kid," the guy – Will, I suppose – hissed back. "I didn't know it would be so soon."

The girl called out to me, "You Mrs. Marshall's nephew?"

I looked up, and was starting to wish I hadn't wandered over. The three of them stared back at me, sizing me up. I wondered what exactly was running through their heads.

"Um…yeah. That's me. Ethan. Ethan Powell."

"Nice to meet you, Ethan," the girl said. "I'm Ava Parson. This is my sister, Aubree. And this freak is Will Yorkie."

She seemed nice enough.

"Nice to meet you guys." I crept a little closer, setting the magazine back.

"Where you from, Ethan?" Will asked. He ran a hand through the side of his head that actually had hair. It was down to his chin.

"Polson," I replied. The girls' eyes were puzzled but interested. Probably hoping for somewhere glamorous. "It's in Montana."

"Oh," he replied. I watch all their faces fall slightly, and then they seemed to take in my wardrobe as if finally noticing my ratty jeans and plain blue tee shirt. Finally seeing me for the first time. He looked back down to his magazine.

"So, you starting school out here? Or are you just visiting?" Ava asked. Aubree was giggling about something that Will whispered to her.

"Um. School, yeah. I'll probably be there tomorrow," I replied.

"That's nice," she said.

Behind me, my mom called out, "Ethan?" I turned around to see her coming my way, her cart full. I had to act fast to head her off. I didn't really want her to meet these guys, and definitely didn't want her talking to them if at all possible. That would be…ungood.

"I better go," I said quickly. "See you guys tomorrow, I guess."

Will waved flippantly, and Ava and Aubree smiled. "Bye," Ava called.

I ran over to my mother before she got halfway to the magazine rack and steered her in the direction of the check out.

"Did you make some friends?" she asked. Her face looked better, actual interest lighting her eyes.

"Kinda, I guess." I started hoisting things out of the cart onto the conveyor belt. They passed through the scanner and I listened to the beeping as the total climbed higher. The machine filled the bags one at a time.

"That's good," she replied. "I'm glad."

She didn't ask about the toothbrush, but that wasn't surprising.

"I think this place is going to be good for us," she said, reaffirming her earlier statement. As though saying over and over was going to make it true.

"Maybe," I replied. "I hope so."

***

It was almost dark when we reached Aunt Madison's place, and it had started to rain. The house was easily over two hundred years old – a ramshackle two-story thing with prefab siding from the nineteen-nineties. That was probably the last renovation it had seen, and it was peeling from the layers of paint over the years. I wondered how long it had gone untouched. Aunt Madison just wasn't the fixer-upper type. With Carter gone I had a suspicion I would have a lot of new chores on my hands.

"Emma!" Aunt Madison called from the porch. Mom killed the engine and sighed. Aunt Madison walked down the short steps and out to the car, holding an umbrella. "I was starting to worry."

We got out of the car and I immediately started unloading bags from the back.

"Sorry. I should have called. We stopped at the store."

"You didn't need to do that," Aunt Madison said. "I have plenty. Empty house and all that."

"It's just a few essentials." Mom looked worn out. She turned to me, "Ethan, you got that?"

I was probably a little overloaded. I had all three of my bags slung over my shoulder and a grocery bag in each hand. But I was going to do this in one trip. I didn't want to go back out in the weather.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

I trudged up the stairs, pausing only once in the kitchen to drop the grocery bags on the floor and shake myself off. The house was quiet and all the rooms in back were dark. There was something very lonely about that – spooky almost. It would be silly for Aunt Madison to have all the house lights on, I guess. She was only one person, took up only one room. Why should any others be on?

I took my bags upstairs, flipping on the hall light in passing. That helped a little bit, but not much. It was still eerily quiet and I didn't like how the floorboards creaked under my feet as I walked. Someone needed to redo their house.

Carter's was the second to last room, after the guest room that I figured my mom would be using. I didn't want to disturb anything. He still had posters up on the walls, trophies from high school swim meets up on the shelves. His desk was practically a shrine to swimming legends that I had never heard of. Phelps? Anderson? He had pictures from almost every major summer Olympics going back to the early nineteen-eighties – a collage of winners from the U.S. up on their podiums, gold around their necks.

Thankfully, Aunt Madison had sectioned off one side of the closet for me to hang my things. I didn't want to unpack just yet, though. I set my stuff down in front of the closet and sat down on the bed. The few seconds of silence were enough for me. I shoved my hand in my pocket, fished my phone out, and clipped it onto my ear. I pushed the button on the side.

"Call Jules," I said. After a moment, the line rang.

It didn't take her long to answer. "Thought it would be sooner," she said.

"We stopped at the store," I replied.

"Mm. Fun."

"Have I missed anything yet?" I asked, desperate for something to think about besides my new boring life. The rain started to really pick up outside, pelting on the window like little ball bearings.

"C'mon, Eepers. That's ridiculous. You've been gone a day. This is Polson we're talking about."

"Right." No such luck. "And don't call me that."

"Keep dreaming, kid." She laughed. "Mostly, they're all talking about you. And how you're gone. And how your dad is alone."

"I wonder if mom will let me call him," I thought out loud.

"I'll pass something along if she won't. What do you want to say to him?"

Great timing, Dad. You're a jerk. An idiot. Why did you have to go and do this now?

"Nothing," I finally said. "It's fine."

"Okay…" We were both silent for a minute and I thought I could hear the music playing in her room – a mix I had made her. "How's the new place? What's Forks like?"

"It's like Polson. Only rainier."

"Sounds like my kinda town. I'm gonna have to visit sometime."

"You better. I don't know if I am going to make any headway with the guys at school very quickly. It's gonna get really lonely."

"Oh?"

"I met some of them at the store…" I gave her a play by play of the goings on at the supermarket, and she read it a little more hopefully than I would have.

"They sound nice. And it seems that Ava girl has a crush on you."

I sighed. "Stop it, Jules. Stop it right there. She does not."

She giggled. "Touchy. Methinks you agree, but won't say so."

"Whatever."

From downstairs my mom called up, saving me from any more of Jules' teasing. "Ethan! Dinner!"

"Gotta go, Jules. Talk to you later."

"Coward," she replied, and hung up.

Dinner was good; Aunt Madison already had lasagna waiting for us. I was finished with it a lot sooner than they were, though Mom didn't seem to eat much. After a little small talk I excused myself with the pretence that I was tired from the trip. I knew she wanted to vent to Aunt Madison, and she wasn't going to do that with me around. They were completely silent as I took my plate to the washer and set it inside, silent still as I walked upstairs.

I stopped at the top and listened, my hand on the rail.

"Oh, Maddy," Mom said in a broken whisper. "I don't know how to do this."

"Emma, you'll be fine. Ethan will be fine. It just takes time."

"Time. Right." She sighed. "I'm such an idiot."

"No, you're not. He is."

"Don't say that for my benefit. How long have you known?"

There was a long pause. A fork scraped on a plate. "At least a year."

Mom groaned. "A year? I'm such an idiot." Her voice broke at the end and I heard her start to cry. It was more than I wanted to hear.

I crept back down the hall as quietly as I could so they wouldn't know I was eavesdropping. Mom's echoing sobs followed me all the way to Carter's room.

***

First days in most places and most situations are very…awkward…for me. Some people do well in spotlights. I'm not one of them. I fidget, I'm nervous, and I never make a good first impression no matter how hard I try.

My first day at Forks High was no exception.

The rail stop wasn't too far from where Aunt Madison lived – where I lived, now – so that spared me the embarrassment of Mom driving me. I waited – not alone, because there were a couple of kids there from the closer houses, Aunt Madison's neighbors. I was silent, and kept to myself at the back of the crowd. I didn't recognize any of them. None of them recognized me. But I did hear a couple whispers and that made me think that perhaps the news was really spreading and I wasn't all too much of a surprise for them.

The big yellow machine stopped on the rail with a tinny huff. A creak sounded as the door opened and I heard the quiet internal clicking of the engine. But inside, the voices were deafening. Too many of them. Was the whole school on the rail? There had to be more than one rail going to school…right? Even Polson had two rails to the high school. Though, it had two sides of a humongous lake to contend with, but still…

I climbed inside and ignored the whispers as I made my way to one of the empty seats in the back, as far from the turning heads as possible. What I wouldn't have given to have Jules sitting next to me, talking to me, making me appear normal. Instead, I sighed and stared out the window, my head on the glass.

At the second to last stop, I recognized Ava and Aubree. They climbed in, chatting and shouting hellos to almost everyone. Ava nodded at me in passing, but didn't stop or sit nearby. Neither of them did. They found seats among some girls on the other side.

Will joined in on the last stop, and didn't even acknowledge my existence.

Well, there went all my prep work.

When we arrived there were only a few bikes in the lot. No cars. There were a couple of smarts I figured for faculty cars, only they would be willing to drive around in something so crazy looking. Even I knew that smarts equaled nerds.

The campus was not what I expected. It wasn't one big building, but a lot of little ones. And it took me a moment to spot the main office. Once I did, I jogged over – it had started to sprinkle and my stupid jacket didn't have a hood.

The ladies inside were expecting me, of course. The woman at the desk gave me a map and a schedule and asked that I come back at the end of my last class so she could double check my attendance in her computer. I was fairly certain she was the nicest person I was going to come across all day long.

When I stepped outside again it wasn't quite time for class. The students were huddled around, chatting and laughing in small groups, ignoring the rain. Easy for them. They all had hoods.

Just as I took shelter next to a building marked with a big '6' over the door, I noticed a car was sitting in the lot. A car. It was shiny and silver, much nicer than anything I had ever seen. I didn't even recognize the brand on the grill.

Before I could recover my open-mouthed stare, I spotted another car parked just a few spaces away. Black, and faster looking. There was a mild purr coming from each of them, and suddenly my mom's gas extravagance didn't seem quite so bad.

The cars were empty, save for the drivers, who seemed to be looking across the short distance at each other. A girl and a guy – both in their twenties. They smiled to each other, and the guy revved his engine. His dark hair was spiked short, he winked across to the girl and pealed out in reverse. He took off out of the lot, and I worried that a cop might go after him.

Though, from the looks of it, they probably couldn't catch him if they tried.

The girl rolled her eyes and chuckled, her soft bronze curls shaking back and forth with her head. She pulled out just a little bit slower and followed behind him.

Was I the only one staring? I looked around the yard and not a single head had turned. This was just every day to them, routine. I decided it was probably best if I did the same, and since I couldn't find anything better to look at, I stared down at my schedule, trying to get a better grip on what exactly was expected of me that first day.

History, building eight.

History. Perfect.

***

That first morning went by pretty much how I expected it to. The classes were small, the classes were predictable, and I was the only one who didn't already know everyone. Faces became less of a blur by lunch, and when I stepped into the cafeteria I recognized some of the students around the room. I could even match a couple names to the faces.

One in particular stood out.

Ava was watching me as I headed to the lunch line. She waved from a nearby table and motioned for me to join them once I got my food. I nodded and smiled, as the worst of it all seemed to be over now. I had someone to talk to.

I wandered over with my tray – an exciting egg salad sandwich and orange juice carton. Ava patted the seat beside her.

"Ethan," she said. "You remember Aubree and Will, right?" I nodded to the two seated next to her. They both waved absently and returned to some whispered conversation I had interrupted.

"And that's Nate and Charlotte," Ava continued. The pair across from me smiled politely. The boy had brown hair that crossed his forehead at a slant. The girl's was a brunette as well, but had a little lighter tint to it. Her hair fell in little waves to her shoulder.

"So how is your first day going?" Ava asked.

"Fine, I guess," I said. "How is it supposed to go?"

She laughed. "Fine. I guess."

It was then, as I tried to come up with something clever, something to keep Ava interested, that I first saw them.

They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from the majority of students as possible. There were six of them, three guys and three girls. They didn't look like they were talking, and they certainly weren't eating. Their trays of food sat in front of them, packages unopened, utensils untouched. They seemed to be so wrapped up in whatever little world they were in that they didn't notice a single other thing in the room.

Which made it easy for me to stare.

I didn't realize I was staring, really. I couldn't help myself. They were just – as dramatic as it sounds – captivating. They all looked very different. The guys were in good shape – one of them was huge, the one with the curly brown hair. And then the taller one was leaner, blonde. They both looked like seniors. The last of them was shorter, and younger, probably a junior like me. He had a head of shiny, bronze hair.

The girls were…beyond words. One was short, and elfish, with black spiky hair that shot out of her head at weird angles. The tallest one was blonde, leggy, and could easily have stepped off of a couple covers of magazines I had hidden under my bed back in Polson. The third girl…well…

She won.

Maybe she wasn't as traditional in her beauty, but she was no less remarkable. Her deep chestnut hair seemed to flow down around her, graceful even as she remained motionless. Her heart-shaped face seemed too perfect. She had full lips, and just as I looked down to them, they moved. A bare whisper or mumble passing through as she stared down at her lunch tray.

I wondered what she was saying.

And though they were all so different, somehow they were all exactly the same. Pale, near to the point of looking ill, with dark purple shadows under their eyes. I wondered exactly what was keeping them up at night that they would look so tired. And all their features were perfect. They all could have been in magazines, models or something. Bizarre, for a town like this one.

Ava nudged me and I couldn't help the question as it leapt out of my mouth.

"Who are they?"

Ava looked over to where I was staring and sighed. As she did, the bronze-haired boy looked up briefly as though someone had called out to him. His eyes flicked to mine, and then he turned to the brunette, who sat across from him, and smiled.

I looked back to Ava as fast as I could turn my head. No more staring, Ethan.

"That's Edward, Emmett, and Alice Cullen; Jasper and Rosalie Hale, and Bella Black. They all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife."

"They are very…different."

"I know," Ava said, resigned to the awed tone behind my words. She continued, her voice a little more bitter. "They are all together though. So there's no use trying." I guessed I wasn't the first guy to go looking after those girls. Heck, I probably wasn't the first anyone to go looking after those girls.

"Together?" I asked. I watched Will and Aubree become interested in the conversation. Aubree giggled.

"Emmett and Rosalie, Jasper and Alice, Edward and Bella," Aubree explained, her voice turning with the scandal. Her eyebrows peaked. "And they live together."

"Except for Bella," Ava amended. "I think she lives with her step-brother."

Aubree rolled her eyes. "Whatever."

"Which ones are the Cullens?" I asked.

Will joined in. "Emmett's the big one, Alice is the short girl and Edward is the younger one. They're all adopted. And Jasper and Rosalie are foster children or something."

"And Bella?" I asked.

"The brunette," Will said. "Her step-brother married Edward's cousin, or something like that…" He tacked the end on quickly and looked off to the wall on the other side of the room.

Aubree cut in. "They just moved here last year. All of them. Mom told us Dr. Cullen had an ancestor who owned a house out here…went untouched for a really long time."

"Oh," I replied.

The six of them stood, graceful and fluid in their motion, all alike. It was like a choreographed routine. I half expected them to break into a dance right there in the cafeteria, but of course, they didn't. As they turned and left I couldn't help but stare again.

Beside me, Ava sighed.

***

My last class was Government in building three. Ava walked me there from lunch so I wouldn't feel like a complete social leper. I was beginning to think Jules had been right about her. And I wasn't sure what I thought about that. Ava left me at the door and I watched her for a moment as she shrugged off into the rain, in the direction of the gym.

It was almost full when I finally walked inside. I scanned the room and found the only open seat was in the last row, near the corner…next to Bella Black.

My heart started to race.

What a silly reaction to a pretty girl. Okay, much more than a pretty girl, but still. I had never found myself that nervous around girls before, even ones that I liked. Just before I reached my seat, I tripped over someone's bag and the notebook I had been holding clattered to the floor. Before I had a chance to look up again, she was there, crouched in front of me, handing back the fallen notebook.

"Here you go." Her voice was light and musical. I looked into her eyes and couldn't help but find myself staring again. They were an intense golden color that I wasn't sure was even possible.

"Um, thanks," I finally replied.

She smiled. "No problem. First day?"

Nodding, I picked myself back up and fought against the blush as I took my seat. A few giggles passed through the room.

She smiled. "I'm Bella."

"Ethan. Is me. I mean… I'm Ethan."

So brilliant.

"Nice to meet you, Ethan. I hope you like it here in Forks."

"Me too." My voice was definitely shaky.

The teacher cleared his throat and we both turned to pay attention. Or at least pretend we were.

I should remember that class. I should be able to tell you what we talked about, what the lecture was on, what I wrote in my notes… The problem is, I have no idea what any of it was. I was far too distracted by the girl next to me. Her every breath, her every move, was graceful. From the corner of my eye, I watched her listening intently to the teacher, taking notes. Every once in a while I thought I heard a soft chuckle beside me and I would steal a glance only to see her face expressionless, eyes forward.

When the bell rang, I waited behind. If I was going to stumble, I didn't want an audience this time. I watched Bella rise from her chair and walk out of the room along with everyone else. But her movements made them all look like bumbling idiots.

Once I finally decided it was safe, I gathered my things and walked out into the rain. Ava, Aubree and Will were waiting there for me and I tried my best to pay attention to them. But it was difficult. From the stair I saw Bella meet up with the boy – Edward – and take his hand. They were turned away from me, walking toward the parking lot.

Life couldn't be more unfair.

Just as I had the thought, Edward's head turned and he gave me a small smile from over his shoulder. At least, that's what it seemed like. But he was probably looking at someone else. By the time I really had the chance to process the expression, he was back to looking at her. His smile grew wider.

The cars from the morning had returned, and the two of them scooted into the backseat of the silver one. They exchanged kisses on the cheek with the woman driving as Edward's younger sister took the passenger seat. She was so short, her face barely showed over the dash. She looked at me for the shortest second, her head tilted and her brow puckered – and then the car was backing out, pulling out of the parking lot.

And they were gone.

"How was your first day?" Ava asked.

"Fine," I said. "Just fine."


Thoughts?