Straight from the Textbooks
by ahhelga

Author's Note: Uh, remember me? No? That's okay, I didn't even remember this... Life sucks. I'm gonna skip the excuses till the bottom, because I know you're here to read these whopping 40-pages.

So! This is dedicated to two readers who actually really care. :P Lakers0604 and IcelandGirl812; I'm sorry for suddenly not responding to you guys. As I said above, life sucks. Some others worth mentioning, some of whom I didn't respond to: Zhee, Who'sTorchwoodHarryDoctorDraco, youngandmature, and Irritable Grizzly, who inadvertently gave me many pointers to help me out with this piece of crap. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Never, ever gonna happen.

Chapter 4 - Learners

In, out, in, out...

This was not working. Since when did I have to teach myself how to breathe properly? It's not as if this was going to be the worst day of my life... Was it? Damn, I had been so bent on figuring out who would be new students that I didn't think about what they'd think of me. After all, I wasn't that much older than them, and I had been in school the same time most of them were just in the next school over. Hell, a lot of them would probably recognize me as one of those guys that hung out with their older siblings...

And now I was their teacher.

Breathe, Edward. Breathe.

I stood at the front of the lab table that would act as my desk, waiting for the bell to ring, so the students could come to class. I wondered what the kids would be like. Had they already found out about me, "the new teacher"? Were they going to take advantage of me for it? Would they smell my fear? I had to laugh audibly at that; I was just scared of a bunch of high school students. Okay, I knew how cruel they could be. I thought of my own high school years, where I had been both the bullied and the bully (thanks to my best friend Emmett). And the kids got worse and worse with every year... I was going to be eaten alive.

A faint buzzing brought me out of my thoughts, and I realized that I hadn't shut my phone off yet. I grabbed the vibrating cell phone out of my side drawer and saw immediately who was it was from the ID.

"Hey, Emmett," I greeted cheekily.

"Well, well, well, Mr. Cullen," he replied smoothly. "The science teacher. How's your first day been so far?"

I couldn't help but roll my eyes at that, even if I knew he couldn't see me. "It hasn't begun yet, Emmett. It starts in a couple of minutes... You know this."

"Right, right," Emmett said absentmindedly. "It's not like those kids will miss you." He paused. "So anyway, I was thinking after you're done with the whole kiddie thing you'd come with me Volterra tonight to check out this chick. She's hot as hell, dude."

Volterra was the best strip club in our general vicinity. Granted, if you considered Port Angeles was in the general vicinity. Though, its slight distance actually made it the perfect location for Emmett and I. It was close enough to not feel like we're going out of the way, but still far enough to get lost in another world. It also offered some of the best women Washington had to see, and feel, and appreciate. It was run by a shady group of people, and it allowed all kinds of otherwise shifty and high-rolling activities. Even with that, it was respectable, and people went there for a good time.

And it was also a Monday. My first day as a teacher.

"Not tonight, Em," I said to him with conviction. "In case you didn't remember, which wouldn't surprise me, I have class to teach tomorrow as well. Maybe we can go Friday."

"But Edward!" Emmett whined loudly, stinging my ears. "There's this singer chick there, and she's only there until tomorrow! I can't just let her go to the next city without a complete welcome from ol' Emmett. I have to have her-"

"Fine," I groaned. I was going to regret this very, very much later on, but I just had to shut him up, or else he'd be on my case for days. "Fine. I'm going. Tonight. But I'm leaving early, with no drinks, no crazy shit, no women for me."

"What? No women?" Emmett cried. "I didn't even think that was possible for you."

I glanced at the clock. I had barely enough time to say goodbye to him. "In case you didn't notice, I'm a responsible little boy now, and I have a class to teach. So, I'll see you tonight after school, and no funny shi—stuff."

Emmett snickered at me trying to retaliate, but I didn't give him the chance to. I snapped my phone shut and turned it off before putting it away. He was truly a horrible influence on me, but he was my best friend. Someone had to take care of him. But, I didn't mind. We'd grown up together, and in many ways I was the yin to his yang. We just couldn't be separate for long. In fact, he was one the reasons I moved back here. For a while, he was planning to move to Seattle, and I would have been fine with that, since I often times preferred the city, but he had to take care of his family, and he was stuck in Forks for however long still.

I was fine with it; like I said, I couldn't stray from him for too long. I had already had gotten my Bachelor's, and done my requirements as a student teacher, so I was already set in what I could do for money in Forks. Though, coming back home wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I started my career as a teacher, even if it was the perfect setting.

I loved the idea of becoming a teacher; it's all I've wanted to do these past few years... but I wondered if it was best to teach at the school I went to, considering how close in age I was to my students. However, I knew Forks High School was the best option for me because I knew it so well. Not to mention the fact that my father had been a great contributor to this school.

Not that I'm haughty or pretentious or some spoiled rich kid. I did, after all, get where I am on my own. But still, it felt comfortable to be so close to my family. That was part of the reason why I wasn't against moving back where Emmett was. Other than Emmett, I chose Forks High since I didn't want to be too far from my parents. I felt a slight stab at my masculinity as I admitted that to myself.

The bell had finally rung, and my students started to finally trickle in. I'd gotten looks of all kinds - the shocked, incredulous expression; the cocky grin; shy and avoiding, yet still glancing back; a swoon or two... I wasn't cocky, but I knew that I was in some way good looking to some; otherwise, I wouldn't be attracting as much attention as I did whenever I went out. So, it didn't surprise me all that much that there were a few lingering looks from the arriving girls. (I wasn't cocky. Really.) Then the late bell rang, and I knew my time was up. This was it: my first lesson (well, not lesson, because I didn't plan to start actually teaching biology until tomorrow). I went up to the front of the class, at the teacher's lab station in front of the board, and introduced myself. As I talked about myself and this class, I took in my new students.

Everything was expected. I saw the familiar bored expressions I was well acquainted with in my time as a student teacher. There were the few interested still lingering, but at this point in my introduction, I didn't expect anyone to be so enthralled with biology. I knew very well that most were just here for their science credits. So, towards the end of class, I hinted at them I'd keep a blind eye to phones and iPods, which they caught on quick, and thought to myself that this was only going to set themselves up for disappointment; the first week was not going to be a relax time in my class. I knew that I didn't want to be an uncool teacher, because the teacher is really what makes the difference, but I remembered my own teacher Mr. Banner slacking off and ending up rushing the end of the year. I felt odd criticizing a colleague, as he was still a science teacher here, but for underclassmen.

The rest of my day followed similarly, with me piquing the kids' interests, boring them, and then my contemplation about the school year, in that order. There were few who caught my attention, and I didn't think that any would be as eye-catching as Emmett had been the first time I met him when I moved to Forks, but of course I couldn't determine anything from just the first day of school that wasn't even over yet. However, it was by the end of lunch when things changed.

I stood at the front of the classroom as my fifth period students filed in after their lunch break. This was my AP Biology class, the class that, if anything, would have at least a bit more interest in my teachings than that of the students in my regular Bio classes. I was looking forward to teaching this smart bunch of students. The first half coming in were what was supposed to be expected of AP - the silent, nerdy type. As the late bell crept closer, the rowdier bunch came to class.

The last surge of students was headed by this blonde boy who immediately grated on my nerves, with a couple of other guys, followed by a few girls, noisy and chatty, only getting louder when they spotted me at the front. Immediately they all huddled together to try and find seats closer together, but realizing that all the empty seats were scattered, they complained and spread about. I could only smirk; hopefully they wouldn't be near each other once I changed the seats according to last name. Then I noticed the last of their group.

Her pink lips were sealed unlike the other girls, but it was obvious that she was amongst the big, chatty group, no matter how out of place she seemed. She shuffled around for a spot when they all took seats, immediately avoiding the gaze from the blonde boy awkwardly, before briefly making eye contact with me. When her dark eyes glanced away from my own, I felt a slight intrigue. I pushed the feeling away, and considered her an oddball of the group. Maybe she was the one to watch out for, the most dangerous of the group.

No, I took note of the louder girls now at the front, who I knew would be a problem in this class. When I took roll call, I immediately had it engraved in my brain that I had to keep an eye on this Lauren and Jessica, and that blonde boy Mike Newton. Of course, I also took note of the girl who finally had taken a seat alone in the back; her name was Isabella Swan, and it rolled off my tongue easily when I called it out.

By the time class was done, it occurred to me that I should have gotten all my students to say something about themselves, but, thinking again, I didn't want to put anyone on the spot, nor did I want to hear Jessica and Lauren get too talkative again. Still, it would have been nice to hear from those students who didn't say anything at all to me... Well, I had the rest of the year to get to know my students, and hopefully I'll be like a friend to them.

When my own friend had called to remind me of our trip to Volterra after school, I still couldn't tell him no. After saying good bye to the rest of the staff, which was a surreal experience as most of them were my own teachers before, I got ready to go to Volterra. I was going to meet Emmett there, which made my Volvo my perfect getaway. I loved my car dearly, probably as much as I loved my family or Emmett, and I never seemed to take chance notto ride fast in it. I just couldn't help it. However, in this case, I ended up going much slower than I had ever gone before.

It took me about an hour to get there - longer than the average time of a normal speed. Monday night, and Volterra was pulsing with people. Honestly, I wasn't surprised. Immediately, I spotted Emmett, who was leaning against the wall, looking at me with a leery grin. We greeted each other without many words and made our way in. There was a crowd on the dance floor, and some scattered on the stage. I glanced at Emmett, who was grinning like a cat who caught the canary right at the redhead singing at the front.

Of course.

She was making lewd movements, but that only turned Emmett even more on. He patted me on the back and said that she was it. I nodded, and was soon left alone. But I wasn't left alone for long. A blonde sauntered her way over to me, and I couldn't help the smirk to come up to my features. In a word, hot. But, I didn't want this tonight. I told myself that over again. I looked for Emmett.

I couldn't see any sign of him, because this blonde was still in my face. Mentally sighing, I leaned into her ear, "Babe, I'm afraid tonight's not your night." I ran my hand along her curves, only to pause at her behind. I walked the other way, only taking a quick glance at her shocked expression. I knew very well what she was thinking.

But I just didn't care. I had to find Emmett, and help him get that girl, like I knew he'd planned. However, it seemed as if he didn't need my help. It wasn't even ten minutes, and Emmett was already grinding with that singer on stage. If there weren't any clothes, they'd be doing more than just dancing. I sighed, signaling to him that I was leaving. He grinned at the girl, and waved me off. I knew I shouldn't have even bothered to come. But, I suppose it was better to see Emmett off with someone than to have let him come on his own with a possibility of making a fool of himself... not that he wasn't right now, but at least he was going to get some action. I ignored the females throwing themselves at me, all too conscious of the fact that I had to make it home safely.

There was school the next day, after all.

I was more than a little ticked at myself for allowing myself to go to Volterra. I sped my way to Forks in twenty minutes on a trip that should have been forty minutes. I wasn't even there for more than fifteen minutes. What a waste of gas.

Getting home, I found myself thinking about my classes. Instead of feeling regret over not going home with that blonde tonight, I felt regret over going at all. After one day, I found that I simply couldn't care about getting ass. Okay, maybe that was a slight exaggeration; it's not like I'll give it all up for my students. I doubted I would even be that way with any girl - save for Tanya, but that was the closest it'd ever get probably.

I briefly thought that I should call Tanya, to see how she was, but I simply wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone for company, especially from a female (even if said female wasn't completely feminine). To tell the truth, I wanted to see my students again. I guess that meant the chatty ones too, but what I really wanted to do was to get to know the ones who would be hard to crack. I hadn't come across any so noteworthy in the day, but we hadn't even done any work yet, so I was willing to wait...

Thus, the first few weeks came and went, and things were generally normal. Once Emmett had spent the night with that singer chick, he said he had been "satiated enough"... That, and she had turned out to be a completely lifeless bitch. Since he was done with her, he had been less on my case on letting loose from my new responsibility, or maybe that was because I went out to Volterra with him twice in those first few weeks. And Volterra never fails when I'm in the mood. Those two times were a needed release from the schoolwork that was just starting to pick up. (I even had an eventful, long night with a dirty blonde.)

My regular Biology classes were expectedly...regular; it was my AP Bio class that mostly didn't realize how difficult of a time they would have. It was obvious who would prevail in the year and who would ultimately fail by the AP test. The first week was full of switching around; one Eric Yorkie moved into AP, while several other students switched out. I was surprised neither Lauren nor Jessica had dropped the class yet, considering that they were constantly gossiping even after I put the two on opposite ends of the room. I didn't want to stereotype their kind, but judging from their quiz scores and work ethic, they seemed to fit well in that crowd. Mike Newton, who I grew more agitated with as the days went by, was still in my AP class however. I knew that even if he switched out, he would still be my student, considering I was one of two science teachers. Though, he at least did the work and stayed on task.

Who surprised me, however, was Isabella Swan. After about a week of class, she softly corrected me privately, saying that she preferred to be referred to as "Bella." I wondered why she hadn't told me this earlier, because all the others who had shortened names told me almost immediately. Though, as more time passed, I simply found out she was shy. I had thought of her wrong in the beginning; she wasn't quiet because she was secretly a trouble maker. She was quiet because she didn't belong with the other loud kids.

She didn't belong, indeed. She surpassed all of her peers, even the typical "nerd", with high marks. After only three weeks, her work ethic was better than any university classmate of mine, and she didn't seem to cave under stress. This girl was ridiculously smart, too. I was in awe that any seventeen-, eighteen-year-old could be so intelligent. Anyone who was as smart as her should be labeled one thing: prodigy. The only thing that I seemed to notice wrong about her was her friends.

It was one day, just after the five week grading, when I realized this. I wanted to talk to Bella after class about her insight on my last test; she had written a brilliant response that could only be classified as college level work, and I wanted her to elaborate.

"Are you sure you didn't take this class before?" I asked her coyly, giving her a wink.

"I took an Honors class for Biology I, but not as hard as this..." she replied softly. There was a slight tint of pink to her face, and I felt slightly bad for embarrassing her. Surely she was the type of kid who couldn't see themselves in a proud light. Again, I was in amazed by her: humility, smarts, and...


Both of us flinched at the same time from the shrill sound of Tyler Crowley's voice. He was in my first period class. I had been feeling more annoyed by him by the day, and this wasn't helping. Tyler approached us from where he was apparently waiting for her in the back. A wide grin was on his face, and I briefly wondered what he could be so happy about, and why he was even here still. Then, he wrapped an arm around Bella for an embrace. The attempt was there, but from where I was standing, it was the most awkward hug I had ever seen. She gave him a smile that could've passed as a cringe and she only barely leaned into him. Her discomfort made mediscomforted.

"Ah, Mr. Crowley, don't you have to get to class?" I said to him in as calm a voice I could muster. I didn't dislike him, really. He wanted to be the "funny one" in class, who everyone laughs at, and who everyone thinks is cool. But while he had the popularity, and while he was loud, he simply annoyed me.

He didn't even amuse me, not like the other guys of his kind. But, seeing as he was my student, I had to treat him as equally as possible.

"It's only PE," he said. "Coach is cool with it if I get in late. Besides, I wanted to stay with Bella for a bit." He paused and looked at me for a while with a smile. "Because I am going to ask this girl to Homecoming."

"What?" Bella interjected incredulously. My eyebrows rose at her tone. Of course, it was obvious to anyone that she didn't like Tyler Crowley like that, but I'd think a girl would be pleased to find out that someone was courting her. "Tyler, I hope you remember what I said last year for the spring dance and what I told you for Prom... I'm sorry. Dances simply aren't my thing."

"Aw, Bella, I'm sure you'd have fun with me," he said, nudging her with his elbow.

She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Tyler." Then, she looked to me, as if she remembered that I was there. Her face was getting redder. "Sorry about this, Mr. Cullen. It's getting late now. May I have my note for my teacher?"

"Oh, yeah, sure..." I wrote it down quickly and passed it to her. She waved goodbye as I watched her leave. For some reason, I couldn't look away from the door.

Then, Tyler said, "Could I have a pass too, Mr. C?"

"I thought you said it was cool with your coach," I replied monotonously.

"Well..." Tyler started his excuses.

"Just get out, Tyler." My voice was final and as monotonous as I jotted down an excuse note. But, I couldn't look at him as he walked away, because it was through that same door that Bella Swan had walked out of. And for some reason, I felt like watching Tyler walk out would taint the image I had of Bella's hair swooshing behind her. She really was something.

I shook the thought off, trying to stop lingering on her.

Days went by, and they started to mesh with one another. School was easily falling into routine, as was my hanging out with Emmett; though, with Emmett, I shouldn't use the word "routine." He'd stop by during class sometimes, the girls fawning over him easily. At first it was actually a nice break from all the leering toward me, but it soon became a hindrance, since, after the girls got used to me, Emmett's appearance would only be a reminder to how good looking we were. (Again, I'm not cocky, really.) Still, he brought variety to the banality of my students' ever growing comfort with me, and overshadowed their true selves in the classroom.

One time, he slammed open the door of my class just before lunch time, effectively scaring everyone in the class. Most, including I, jumped a foot into the air once that door made contact with the wall as his booming voice called, "Mr. Cullen!" He was a hilarious breath of fresh air that could get on my nerves, especially when he'd start talking with my students about their older siblings who we all grew up with. He was taking up class time, and he definitely wasn't helping with their behavior. They were getting progressively chattier by the weeks.

By Homecoming, my classes were abuzz, and I could hardly do anything to stop it, even with the AP class. For the second time in the past week, I found Jessica not sitting in her assigned seat and next to Lauren. They were chatting about some mundane thing or another, their dresses and dates and whatever. I ignored them and the rest of the chatty class as I passed back papers to the student's seats. Even Bella was talking, which, though it shouldn't come as a surprise considering she was a teenage girl with a life, had me taken aback. It was Mike who was talking to her, and from what I could tell he too was trying to coax her into going to the dance with him.

I saw in my peripheral he touched her on the shoulder. I didn't know what she made of it; she neither inched away nor made any sort of positive indication, yet I couldn't even tell if she was even comfortable with it on there. I just had to hear what he was saying too. Making the rash decision to only pass out papers to the back for the time being, I made my way closer to them.

"...It will be totally cool and everything, you know it," Mike was saying. He was less prideful than Tyler had been, obvious from the nervous fidgeting with his pant hem, and the doubtful tone. Yet, he still seemed pretty confident, and I had to mentally scoff at it; as if Bella was into that sort of guy. Wait. Was she? "I mean, I'd say we're pretty close. It'll be fun."

Bella paused. "But I'm closer to Jessica. And you guys just broke up."

I knew my instincts were correct. I decided it was my time to intervene, "Mike, shouldn't you be back at your seat?"

"Mr. C, everyone's out of their seat," Mike tried to rebut lamely.

"Yes, but, fortunately for you, you're in my line of fire for the moment," I said to him with a slight leer. "So you're the lucky person who gets to go back to their seat."

He glanced over to his spot, which was now currently filled up by another student talking to the seat behind. "Yeah, but it's taken right now. I can stay here, right? She can be my partner for this assignment."

"I should just move you next to Ms. Stanley's spot," I said casually. "I think that'd be a very appropriate place for you."

I had to admit, I was being very cruel to him considering it was common knowledge of his and Jessica's previous relationship, even amongst teachers. I caught sight of Bella stifling a shocked laugh. I felt a little grateful for her amusement. On the opposite, Mike had a look of dread. It seemed his coming onto Bella was at an end.

"I think I'll just go back to my seat..." Mike muttered dejectedly before sulking away to shove the kid out of his seat.

Slightly embarrassed by what I just did, I didn't look at Bella again, and continued to pass out papers. I didn't want to have to admit that I just wanted to save her from some prying boy who was overbearing. It turned out to not be a big deal, and was soon forgotten as the week went by, when homecoming came and went. Everybody was abuzz the Monday after, still lively from their experience, even though they all had lived through it all just a few days before. I had to up the ante with the work.

It was all I could do to get them to focus again. Most of the students had a difficult time getting into the groove of things; there seemed to be no focusing on the labs, and they weren't reading their chapter homework. Luckily, some were persevering. Bella, from whom I didn't hear a single thing of Homecoming about, just worked diligently on her work, not speaking up nor doing much else. Not that it mattered if she did so or not: some of the more intelligent kids in the class were getting by fine with just writing down notes, which I'm sure she could've done as well. However, if she didn't, she wouldn't be able to tutor some of my slower students. Some of those students didn't deserve the extra practice, and she certainly didn't deserve having her time taken away (for free!), but she still insisted. In a nutshell, I was impressed.

Despite most of the students' disregard for work ethic, I found myself enjoying my classes. They may have been talkative and inefficient, but conversation was fun during class, and I tried my best to incorporate relatable situations to the lessons. Sometimes this worked easily and the kids knew their stuff inside and out. Other times... I had either fallen flat trying to be hip, or the activity was just too boring for them. Eventually my classes became my life. I had stopped hanging out with friends, and saw Emmett less and less except for the random dinners. My parents recently went on a cruise to South America, and I felt no need to go to Volterra, much less alone. I didn't even think Emmett went there all that much anymore.

As a result, the weeks were passing by slowly. However, time passes, and it was finally December, which meant winter vacation was nearing. The break would be nice; I would actually get to do nothing. Although, it'd be hell knowing that finals week was just before. I already had a final set up for my classes, but I wanted to perfect my AP students' final... AP testing after all was the most stressful part of the classes, so having as much practice with the stress would definitely help them. For this special "occasion," I had opted out for staying out at the library one Saturday so I wouldn't chicken out of the extensive work I have do to put this test together, as I would if I were at home.

The Forks library was... tiny, to say the least. So, it was a shock to find that I had complete privacy in the deep corner behind the classics aisle. The seclusion allowed me to work there for a couple of hours, getting a lot done, and finally finishing. When I was leaving, I skimmed the titles of the classics aisle I had stayed in, chuckling at the fact that I read most of these already. I was so deep into my reminiscing that I hadn't noticed there was another person turning into the aisle, leading us to bump into each other uncomfortably.

Her deep brown hair set the alarm for me. It was Isabella Swan.

"Oh! I'm so sorry!" she said, taking a startled look at me.

"No worries," I laughed. "Can't help being distracted, I understand."

"Mr. Cullen, I really am sorry."

This girl was too much. "I said no worries, Bella. I just wouldn't expect to find a student of mine bumping into me at the library."

She smiled sheepishly, as if I shouldn't have recognized her. I don't think I couldn't ever forget my preferred student. I hated to play favorites, but it was simply something that I just couldn't resist with her. I even believed she was a better student than any other person I had come across in myown schooling experience.

"So, are you liking the Forks library's variety?" I asked in humor.

I knew I didn't; I only came here to pick up necessary reference books. Apparently Bella didn't like it much, either, because she wrinkled her nose at me. "Are you kidding me?" she yelled through her whisper. "It's much too under stocked for me."

"Ah, so you're big into reading then," I noted. She nodded quietly and I smiled at her, pleasantly surprised. It was... fitting that she would be an avid reader. "Well, then we'll have to compare literary tastes sometime. I'm afraid I have to go now, but I'll be expecting a full list of your favorites soon. Maybe you can stop by sometime during lunch, and we'll see." I winked at her, because, well, I couldn't help myself.

"Sure, it'll be a date," she grinned at me. After a brief moment, she grimaced, realizing what exactly she had just said. Chagrined, she continued, "I mean, not really a date. That was just an expression. 'Cause of course, you're my teacher, and it can't really be a date; we're only comparing our tastes in books after all. So we're just going to hang out to compare. Yeah, hanging out, that's exactly what it is. Oh God, I think I'm talking too much now. I'll shut up."

Of course, I couldn't help the chuckle that escaped my throat. I didn't want to embarrass her any further, so I figured I'd take my leave now. "Good bye, Bella, I'll see you on Monday."

Waving as I walked backwards, finding myself lighter and much happier, and that good feeling lasted with me the whole day. Maybe I should surround myself around more of my favorite students sometime.

I found myself excited for Monday the faster it was approaching. I thought it would be difficult to get out of my all-work slump, but all I had to do was think about running into Bella at the library Saturday afternoon, and I felt my chest lighten. It was so heartening to find such a great student... No, not only a great student, but a great person. I was finding her more and more likable as a human, because I just knew she was good.

Needless to say, Sunday wasn't very productive. Every time I'd get to grade my students' work, I'd find myself anxious to get to Bella's paper. I knew she'd always surprise me, with her clever answers and expansive knowledge about the subject. By the end of my grading, I had a sloppily evaluated stack of papers and one heavily commented piece of graded work. I had to go over the other students' work again to not make Bella's stand out so much.

To distract myself, I called my parents, which wasn't much of a distraction at all, because as soon as they asked me how my grading was coming along, I had to share with them how great certain students were. I let Bella's name roll off my tongue easily, and I had to forcibly stop myself before I gushed too much. Though, my father caught on, and suggested that he should see any student that great in Biology for himself to encourage them to go into the medical field. For some reason, I lingered on that thought. It would be nice to see Bella successful; she was most certainly deserving.

When I finally hung up, all thoughts of work were pushed out of my mind. I eventually passed the rest of the weekend keeping myself occupied. I found hobbies I long abandoned. For some reason, I felt inspired to compose my own pieces when I haven't even fingered the piano since I had moved into my apartment. Suddenly I was guilty knowing I wasn't playing on the old piano at my parents' house as opposed to this knock off, because I wasn't getting the... uplifting effect I wanted. I made a note to buy another, one that would suit my high end needs.

I had also started running on a regular basis again. My old regiment died away after college, unfortunately, so I wanted to pick it up again. That first Sunday night killed me, actually. I was way out of shape, but it felt good to be free and, well, feeling fast. While I was no where near my old time, I knew I could work toward it if I kept up a routine every night.

Honestly, I was feeling better than ever, and I had a sneaking suspicion it was because I was inspired by a certain student of mine.

I almost wanted to tell her what her great work ethic had brought to me, but I knew that would be too weird, too revealing. So, I settled on getting to know what her secret to success was, and hopefully getting to know the girl behind the work. This was mainly the reason why, come Monday lunch time, I looked at the door, wishing to goodness that she'd walk in.

Unfortunately, she didn't.

That is, until five minutes before class began. As I was going to take out my iPod, playing Debussy, from its dock, Bella came in much harried, almost running into the room. Yet, after two paces, she stopped. We locked eyes wholeheartedly for the briefest moment. Despite the pause, she breathlessly said, "Hello."

"Why, hello to you too, Miss Swan," I laughed. "Here I was thinking you'd forget our little date." I decided to use her words against her.

Suddenly her light disposition turned heavy as a scowl reached her features. "Yeah, that's 'cause I was kinda held up."

My brows lifted into my hair, wondering what she meant, and I was going to press for it, but decided to drop it. Instead, I jumped into the conversation we dropped at the library. After all, I had to befriend the girl before figuring out who she was exactly. "I gotta be honest. I was excited for you to come down here for the chat. I don't really have anyone to talk to here, especially since everyone else is a generation ahead of me. They're not exactly interested in the same stuff I like."

It was true. Who would I talk to about contemporary music? Mrs. Cope? I mentally snorted at the thought. I was craving an intellectual to talk to; with that, I automatically knocked Emmett off that list. If I were being honest with myself, I was lonely. I found it fitting that I would find companionship with a student of mine. Of course I would take a more unconventional route.

Bella surprised me with her next words: "You're not alone there. I feel... distant from my classmates. I can say that I don't enjoy the same things that some of my...friends do, so I was kind of relieved for you to invite me here. I was... excited, too."

A blush spread on her cheeks, and I found it sweet that she shared this with me. But, I couldn't help myself but teasingly ask, "But then why did you come just before the bell if you were excited?"

Her embarrassment morphed into a grimace. "Oh, yeah. Mike had asked me out again, this time in front of everyone at the table. For some reason, it had become an argument with the others, and as much as I tried to duck out, I was pinned down. I ended up just running off. ...I honestly wouldn't want to go back and deal with them again..."

I thought about what she said. It was obvious she was so different from them (and from Mike, thank God). Suddenly she seemed so much older to me, so much more mature than her age. I wanted to keep talking to her, and it was then that I had struck an idea.

"Well, you can always tell them that you're getting tutoring from me," I offered. She looked at me, question in her eyes. "You know, so that you don't have to talk to them if you want to. I mean. It doesn't have to be all the time, just when something like this happens. God knows I could use the company around here during lunch times." I didn't even try to hide my loneliness with my voice.

Then the bell rang. It shook us up a bit, and I had forgotten what I had asked her for a brief moment. And then, as she walked to her seat, silently, she took a gulp of air. She paused; my breath caught. "Okay. Though, I'm afraid it'll be more often than not that I'm here. You'll probably get sick of me."

"I doubt that, Bella," I said jovially. And for the rest of that week, I felt good.

Despite her coming over at lunch, during class Bella erased what good natured relationship we had established, and simply acted as any other student. She was still diligent as ever when it came to her studies and going beyond expectance, and it showed to the other students. Some went so far as to emulate her, while others strove to beat her out. Of course, in every class there has to be the slacker, and in my AP class, the few who just figured it was too much work were obviously not ready for the practice test coming up soon.

However, as much as I liked to see my class working so well, it had been my breaks from work during lunch that had made me enjoy my week so much. I didn't talk to anyone really, especially since Emmett had been busy with his own life. Friends in Forks were out of the question. The only ones still in town were the washed up or the too engrossed in small town life, of whom I had no interest in making friends with. Don't get me wrong, I love my simple, solitary life. But when there was no one to at least chat with, it can take a toll on you.

And with Bella, I got that easily. Our favorite past time had started on Tuesday lunch, when my simply wanting to get to know her became a game of questions. It started out with inquiries like favorite colors, birthdays (she even boldly asked me how old I was), best friend, favorite classes... When we started out, questions were easy, but with every progressive answer she became increasingly more intriguing. By the end of the week, we came to know each other's interests really well, that I felt comfortable enough to ask her about her background and why she came to boring old Forks. She recounted her mother and Phil's marriage, and how she, so unselfishly, moved.

"...And thus I came to live in with my dad," she continued. "He's the Chief of Police here."

I tried to recollect the man I met a couple of times at town functions when my parents would drag me to them. All I got was snickering about his mustache. Of course, typical of what teenage Edward and Emmett would focus on. With a tiny town like this, everyone knew everyone, and it was strange I hadn't known she existed, especially being the child of a prominent figure. I finally picked something out from my memory of some local event; she was an unassuming 10-year-old to my 16-year-old bratty self, who wouldn't give a kid a second glance.

I suddenly felt very guilty for not hanging out with the very bored looking little girl.

But regrets weren't what this was about. I was getting to know her now, as the lovely young lady she grew up to be. So it had continued like that. In fact, I was so surprised at how easily we fell into conversation that I didn't realize until the last week before break how much I'd actually miss these daily talks.

It was on the last Friday before break when we fell into our first awkward silence. The lunch period was much shorter than normal, considering there were only the two classes left to go through. My AP class's was the last final of the last day, so there was a lot of build up and study time (hopefully). I knew after looking over it for the millionth time, my test was ready for my kids; the question was, were they ready for mine? I had no doubt that my star student would get an overall perfect 5 score. Still, it was the first thing I asked her.

"So, Bella, you think you're ready for this practice AP exam?" I grinned at her. "I have to say, I got from some of the hardest previous exams."

Her eyes didn't reach mine as she twiddled her thumbs. "Well... I have been studying a lot - I have to look like I've actually beengetting tutoring, after all." Then her cheeks spread out in a familiar pink blush. "But, I'm not too sure I'm... really ready."

"Nonsense," I quickly refuted. "You should know how glad I am to have you as a student. You're amazing."

Her face instantaneously flared up, obviously embarrassed. I suddenly regretted saying that. Was there a line that had been crossed? I was only complimenting her. Looking to her, I realized she was still blushing; she was quite an attractive girl, especially when she blushed like that. Lost in my thoughts, I didn't realize for a minute that we hadn't said anything, but once I did, it was more noticeable how deathly quiet it was.

She didn't talk, just continued to do her homework, but there was a sort of tension in the air. I couldn't pinpoint what had just happened exactly, but it was...uncomfortable. I contemplated clearing my throat to break the ice, but I couldn't do it. It was too much for me to handle, so I busied my hands with work. The distraction wasn't enough. I suddenly wanted to know what she was doing over break, yet I couldn't find my voice. I wanted to keep her talking, to keep this silence at bay, yet here I was, as awkward as a bumbling teenager. What the hell had happened?

Before either of us could say anything else, however, the bell rang. She quietly walked to her seat, and we were silent still.

Once class started, I realized I wouldn't be able to speak with her for another three weeks.

The thought didn't settle well with me. I was so glad I wouldn't have to say much during class, considering the final, because I was suddenly in an awful mood. My work was essentially what I lived for nowadays. What was I to do without the kids? Without the one who has seem to become my - only - good friend now?

These thoughts trickled through my mind throughout the period. As students began to finish, I felt the impending last moment between Bella and I. Stop being so melodramatic, Cullen, and do your breaths. In, out. More students turned in their exams, and were allowed to leave. It hadn't escaped my notice, however, that Bella hadn't turned hers in yet, though I knew she should have finished much earlier, before anyone else. My heart thumped steadily for the impending encounter.

Why was I so nervous about talking to my student? I knew my compliment made her feel uneasy, and I knew I hated the silence afterwards, but I also knew above all else that I didn't want to fuck this up completely. I cherished our student-teacher-friendship. It was a special relationship. This was why when she came up to me, after everyone had gone and left, my body was frozen stiff.

Even though her shadow was over me, I still hadn't looked up at her. Coward.

"This is for you, Mr. Cullen," her soft voice began. "I hope you have a good vacation."

With that, she placed a small box on my desk and ran out the room. I gaped. Oh, I was such a horrible, horrible teacher. No, not just a teacher. I was a horrible person. I ran off someone as sweet as Bella, simply because I was too scared to say anything. She probably thought I was just an asshole now. Opening the box confirmed my self-depreciation.

The most delicious looking decorated cookies sat there. They were arranged in a way that represented the mitosis process. It brought a laugh out of me, as well as a hardly-contained moan when I bit into the Interphase cookie. I felt overwhelmed by how lucky I was. Bella was truly a teacher's dream student.

As winter break begun, after I let these thoughts occupy my mind, I grew... bored. Without my students, I realized, I had nothing to do. The first few days were filled with looking for a new piano, reading, and getting back in shape, but after I had ordered one online, finished my book, and my DOMS was at its peak, I had nothing. With my hobbies exhausted, I could honestly say I was not enjoying my supposed vacation. Since Christmas was right around the corner, I thought it'd be prudent to go shopping for gifts.

To make it an experience, I decided to go to Seattle. A gift back to Bella immediately crossed my mind, but seeing as how I didn't have any idea what to get her (plus, I wasn't sure if I'd be crossing the line even further) I decided against it. My parents were easy enough; a note- and- sketch-book special for interior design for Esme, who recently picked up the hobby, and an iPod for Carlisle for his downtime at work. When I had gotten out of the store, I happened to see someone unexpected.

"Cullen!" I whipped my head around to find the big, bulking man that is Emmett McCarty.

"McCarty!" I couldn't help but grin in response.

It was a great coincidence finding him here in Seattle, but we treated it as if it was a normal occurrence. In fact, nothing much seemed to change between us, even if it had been over a month since I've properly hung out with him. Our banter was still the same old; Emmett with his usual snarky remarks, and I with my own rebuttals. We ended up having lunch and catching up, spending the rest of the day in the city.

"Have any lovely ladies in your life?" Emmett brought up.

I pinched the bridge of my nose, thinking, unless you count a meddling mother and a shy student, no. Instead, I verbally abused him in my brotherly love sort of way. Then I promptly changed the subject. I was tired of women, and more importantly, talking about them, so I brought up family. Soon, I was inviting him for the holiday dinner. Since he was going to be vacationing with his own family from the next day until the evening of Christmas, he promptly agreed to have an immediate break from his parents.

This was how I managed to get by during my winter. Once Christmas arrived, I was back to my jolly-good self, that even my parents were surprised to see me in good spirits. I only got happier once Emmett arrived. He of course made our night so much more eventful. Not to say it wasn't going to be fun without him, but he definitely made it funnier. By the end of the night, he had my parents in tears more times than I can remember (not that these were the only time Esme cried - it was instantaneous for her when she received my present).

After Emmett came by for Christmas dinner, we promised each other to hang out more again. Both he and I hated this fall out; that much was obvious.

However, for the most part, my winter break was still relatively lacking. I actually couldn't wait to go to back to school, since I felt like I had had enough rest. I was prepared to immerse myself in work once more, with allowance of Emmett to save me from myself again. It's just that, if break kept up, I would have seriously become a cranky old grouch with nothing to do.

Then there was that stupid blind date Emmett hooked me up with for New Year's. What a disaster. We were going to a party of our mutual friend from college, when Em sprung the date on me. They knew each other from a previous job and he seemed to have it in his mind that she was right for me from the get-go. Unfortunately, he couldn't have been more wrong. She was nice enough, but so awkward and unintelligent, we couldn't even get past the weather. Come the countdown, she made a hasty excuse to leave, and I was completely fine with it. Needless to say, I didn't want to try dating for a while to get back to work.

It only seemed fitting that I'd want to go back to school because of a disastrous date.

Finally we were back in session. It was a strange mixture to see from the kids: smiles were all around as they each recounted what cool things they did over break, while at the same time there was a vague sense of misery because they were back in school. I know my own uninhibited happiness shone as I greeted each and every one of my students with a grin just before going into lecture. They didn't seem to like the fact that I was jumping back into lesson, but I let them have an extra ten minute break after quickly finishing it.

Partly due to my good mood was the fact that I'd get to see Bella again. She was a valued friend, and I was genuinely interested to know what she had done all break. Thus, when it was time for lunch, I grinned, waiting for the door to open. However, come ten minutes afterward, when she would have arrived by now after retrieving lunch, there wasn't any activity. I shrugged, considering she may be catching up with friends in the cafeteria line or something. The minutes passed, and I found myself looking at the clock more often than I cared to... Finally I let myself sink into my chair as I realized there was only five minutes left of lunch.

Being anxious all break had made her lack of arrival exponentially depressing.

What if she didn't want to talk to me because of my comment just before break? What if she had been disappointed I didn't get her anything back? Or did she maybe realize during the holidays that she could - and should - spend more time with her peers instead of an old teacher like me? So many questions started to race as the bell rang and students started filing in. I didn't share the same grin with my AP students as I did with the others.

When class started, I looked to her seat in the back. It was empty. It made me feel slightly better knowing she was absent, and not just avoiding me. A tiny voice in the back of my mind said she was ditching because didn't want to go to my class, but I knew that was preposterous and arrogant of me to think so highly of myself. It's not like I dictated her life.

About ten minutes into my lecture, the door opened. I turned slightly from the board to see Bella shuffling in awkwardly. Feeling myself fume, I didn't want to alert the other students of my mood swing. I started writing on the board, my back facing them.

Coolly, I called out in a stern voice, "You're late, Miss Swan. You know how many points that'll be off your grade."

"But, Mr. Cullen, I—"

"I don't want to hear your excuses."

My voice cut through the air like a knife. I tried to do my breathing exercises, but it wasn't much help if I was self-conscious about everyone hearing my deep intakes. The dead silence in the classroom was almost painful. I turned around, tired of this when I saw all of their shocked expressions. I didn't dare look at Bella. Then I heard someone clear their voice: it was a nice, usually quiet girl, Angela.

"Excuse me, Mr. Cullen, but she was at the nurse's office. I can vouch for that because I escorted her there," she said.

Suddenly Mike piped in, "Yeah! I was there when she fell, it was pretty gruesome. Bella should have a note with her." As annoyed as I was to realize that Mike was with Bella, I looked over to her to confirm this claim.

I took long strides as I walked to the back, to her spot. She was looking at me with her wide, expressive eyes...and they were glassy. Her hand suddenly unraveled from the death grip on the slip she held before I tentatively grabbed it. I scanned the paper, realizing it was legitimate, before glancing down at the hand again. It was bandaged underneath her jacket. She must have put on her coat because she wouldn't want attention on what were probably bandaged arms. Fuck. Fuck. She was in goddamn near tears as I embarrassed my favorite student because I didn't let her give me a slip. I knew my irrational anger was because she didn't show up to our lunch meeting of the day, but knowing it was because of an injury made me feel all kinds of guilty.

"I'm sorry, Bella," I apologized gently. "I didn't realize."

Then I turned on my heel and continued lecture. It was hard to not look at her, but I didn't want to bring anymore unwanted attention. I knew just how shy she was, and I'm sure so much of the attention she got all day was disconcerting to her. It wasn't until the end of class did I chance a peek. As she was walking out, cradling her arm, she looked back at me, and gave a small smile.

Somehow, I knew we were going to be okay.

Still didn't excuse my horrendous behavior, though.

This preoccupied my thoughts all the way until the next day's lunch. You couldn't imagine the relief I felt when I saw her small frame walk through that door. She took her usual seat, and started eating. My throat felt thick as I tried swallowing. While I watched her eat in silence, I wanted nothing more than to just talk. But for some reason, I was captivated by the way her dark pink lips moved over the bread, and her teeth quietly biting into the contents of her sandwich. I never thought watching someone eat a sandwich would be so... so... interesting.

Either way, it was strange of me to just stare at someone taking in their food, so I looked off. I finally was able to ask her how her break had been, and just like that, our awkwardness had dissipated. Although, I did take into consideration that I shouldn't cross the line ever again. Comments like that made unnecessary drama, and I was just glad to hear how happy she was going to Florida for the holidays. Soon she was throwing questions at me back: who I spent my Christmas with, what did I get my parents, what was my mother like, etc., etc.

It was then that it occurred to me how much Bella was like Esme. Both were simple, but passionate; smart, but beautiful; firm in opinion, but kindhearted and caring. Because of this, I liked to bring up my mom to my student, and I even found myself wishing they would meet. It would certainly be interesting, considering how much Esme wanted me to bring a proper girl home to her. Though I doubt she'd appreciate it just being a friendly student of mine, not an actual girlfriend. A fleeting moment passed as I thought of what Bella would be like as a girlfriend, but I shook my head at it.

The rest of the days of the week continued on in our conversational manner. Because there was a slight shift in our dynamic over the stress of our past couple encounters, I distanced myself, which allowed some slumps in our conversation, leading my suggesting listening to music on my iHome to fill the silence.

"Any requests?"

"What do you have?" she countered, leaning over my lab table to see.

I scrolled through my iPod, arbitrarily calling out artists in the alphabetical list. "The Aquabats, Arcade Fire, The Beatles, Blink-182, Beethoven, Chopin, Death Cab for Cutie, Debussy—"

"Debussy sounds good," she interrupted, blushing once more. "Well, only one piece I'm interested. Do you have Clair de Lune?"

My eyes could have popped out at that moment. She knew not only my favorite composition, but requested it. My appreciation for Bella grew tenfold. I realized as she kept looking at me with those big eyes that I hadn't yet said anything. I expressed my sentiments, and was glad she was just as glad as I was to appreciate the composition.

For some reason, I played it every chance I got, especially when around her.

If she cared that it was on so much, she didn't complain, as our conversations continued with it often playing in the background (not to say other pieces didn't play; it was just easily the most played one). Little variations in our lunches alerted me to how close I was getting to her. One day, she started talking about the ridiculous stuff she heard in PE, specifically the girl's locker room.

"Lately it's all about rating a teacher: teaching style, street cred, hotness, credibility," she went on. "Mr. Jefferson is freaking crazy, war vet that he is, but funny. Mrs. Goff scored points in cuteness apparently, but she's a lost cause when it comes to teaching." I chuckled, remembering my own experience with admiring how "cute" the teacher was then. I encouraged Bella to continue. She hesitated, unsure this was appropriate for me to know because these were my colleagues. I had to assure her that while I worked with them, I certainly couldn't care less.

Scowling, she admitted, "Okay, well... Coach Clapp is considered 'The Asshole', while it's pretty true, I personally think that title is more deserving to Mr. Varner. But of course he's considered 'hotter' than Clapp, so there's moot point in mentioning who's really worse. Everyone here seems to dismiss personality as long as someone's hot."

She gave me an upwards glance to gauge my reaction. I wondered if she knew how they talked about me. She had to know that I couldn't possibly care what these kids thought of me. I was too curious, too much of a masochist. Suddenly, my masochism reached a new level as another thought came to me.

"So... how about me?" I moved forward in, so that Bella was now directly to my face.

Her eyes grew wide and she looked redder than normal. She was probably uncomfortable with my close proximity, so I leaned back. I didn't want her feeling difficult around me again. She relaxed slowly, and I immediately felt sorry to have caused her any discomfort. Bella didn't speak of it, of course; she was more tactful than that.

"What... what about you?" she replied, looking at me through her eyelashes. I pushed back that sudden urge to lean in again.

"How am I as a teacher?" I asked, playing with one of my cuff links awkwardly.

"What? You wanna know how much cred you have amongst the students?" she retorted, playfully lifting a brow. "Wanna know if you're the 'cool' one?"

I sighed, unafraid to come off as agitated. For some reason, I really wanted her opinion on this. I didn't just want what other kids thought - I wanted to know what she thought. And my need to know was irrationally prevalent. "I'm serious, Bella. What do you think? Of me?"

Her brows furrowed adorably in thought before she revealed, "You're easily the best teacher at this school, Mr. Cullen. If I'm going to be honest, you're my favorite. I mean, consider Mr. Mason, he teaches my favorite subject, and while he has good enough insight, it doesn't challenge me. Not the way your class does. And that's not because AP Bio is naturally hard. Not only that, you get us, the students. You're lax without being too lenient; helpful without being too overbearing. Not to mention you're funny, which explains why I'm here all the time." After smiling at me, she took in a breath. "You are just the best, all around. That's why I'm your friend."

Blushing, she shut herself up, continuing her homework. Leaving her to her devices, I stayed silent as well. I was pleased with her answer; it was exactly what I had wanted her to say. Yet, there was still something missing. It wasn't until she hadn't said it that I had realized I wanted it. The other girls were talking about which teacher was hot as well, and, for some reason, I wanted Bella to tell me exactly the same thing...

The girl's locker room was a common subject since then. Other times we'd talk about family - that is, whatever crazy antic my mother or her mother was stuck on at the time. Sometimes I'd mention whatever Emmett and I were doing over the weekend, aside from the dates and clubs and whatnot. Though those occurred a lot less, the few times I did go out for those sorts of activities were uncomfortable as ever. More often than not, Bella and I sat in silence, music pouring through my iHome, as we both worked. I found these moments best, because it was when I was allowed to take a good look at my student.

She was all kinds of beautiful. There was no way denying it. And it was at this point that I would wonder why on earth she'd be hanging out with me, her teacher, in a boring classroom doing boring homework. Bella's social life must have taken a hit with our "study sessions." I attempted to voice my opinion on this one day, but she shushed me immediately, in one of her rare but exciting moments of snarkiness. She assured me that if her social life was hindered because of this, she hadn't noticed, because everyone still treated her the same, and all else wouldn't matter. I nodded, amazed that she wouldn't care if they were talking behind her back, or had no one inviting her to parties and dates (though, I doubted there was a problem in this respect). The rest of this particular lunch was left in good spirits.

However, the bell rang soon enough and we were getting back to our student-teacher role instead of friends. As she was going to her seat, she turned to me, saying, "I'd watch out if I were you, by the way, Mr. Cullen. Yesterday I heard through the grapevine called the girl's locker roomthat Lauren is going to make an attempt at you today."

"Bella, that's preposterous," I scoffed. Regardless if a student thought I was attractive, there will always be a teacher-student line. No one would go through that, except for pervert teachers and stupid kids.

The girl challenged me with her eyes. Her eyebrows shot up, as if asking me to prove her wrong. And I was just about to, but Angela Weber had just walked in, and that friendship Bella and I had built was again erased. As I set up the class, I thought about what she warned. There was just no way. As soon as I heard Lauren's nasally voice, I whipped my head to the blonde. We made eye contact, and she stared me down; I don't know if it was seductively (I couldn't exactly tell), but either way, she broke the stare-down by whispering furiously to Jessica at her left.

I just shook my head and turned around. It was all my imagination, because of what Bella said. I shouldn't have to listen to her word so much. I shook it off and continued. Class came and went. It was a very normal day. I almost wanted to tell Bella right there, "See? Nothing at all." It seemed a silly misconception, until the kids were leaving. Jessica rushed out, pulling the last couple of students with her along the way. Bella slowed down a bit, giving me a look that clearly meant "I told you so" and glanced at Lauren. I watched Bella's retreating form, and then finally turned to the blonde, whom I realized was last in the room.

"Mr. Cullen, I've been having so much trouble on our practice tests lately," Lauren approached with as much of a puppy dog expression as she could muster. She just looked pathetic. "It's just that... those FRQs are so difficult! I can't think out of the box like Eric, or Bella, or... you..."

At this point, she leaned onto my table, giving me a view of her cleavage. "I was just wondering if you could show me your tricks later on... You know, to help me out with my needs..."

Oh my God. Lauren Mallory was making a passon me?

I had to do my breathing exercises. Bella was right. Of course Bella was right. Why wouldn't she be? Why would she lie about this? To arise a reaction? To see what would happen if you were hit on by a student? My inner voice was trying to taunt me with the prospect of her liking me, but I had to push it down.

"Um, there are many available tutoring sessions to help you with your, err, difficulties," I croaked out. I composed myself before going full throttle in teacher-mode. "If you'd like, you're welcome to join Bella and I during lunch. We usually get through all the problems; the extra ones in the booklet, that is. Lots of studying involved. If you can't make it, that's understandable. I know Mr. Banner is willing to help any of my students, and Bella is an after school tutor. I... um, unfortunately... have no extra time to give for, um, you."

She blankly stared at me for a beat before narrowing her eyes slightly. "I see. Well, I'll just have to see you around, Mr. Cullen."

As she stormed off, I couldn't help but wonder what Bella would think of this whole exchange. It was a good thing Lauren got that I was denying her, because that would be all kinds of embarrassing if I had to tell her blatantly. What a mess.

Of course, by the time I had told Bella the next day, she had been bursting at the seams in laughter. For some reason, that was worth a hundred Laurens attempting to bed me.

Even though something interesting to that caliber didn't happen each day, there was always some sort of gem. Emmett would stop by my house and we'd play video games. A call from a college roommate would surprise me in the evening. Esme would make my favorite meal, while Carlisle would share something engaging about some sort of injury a patient would come in with, like this girl who would somehow end up in the emergency room every month.

Bella would share a new piece of information; how a friend of hers taught her how to ride a motorcycle, how she'd get lost on the streets of Port Angeles, how she and her father would go on some midnight fast food run. While these things didn't sound all that... safe, which left me worried, it was still interesting to learn of her daily activities nonetheless.

It was a good time for me. Something about my life seemed to make me jovial; everything just fit into place. Granted, my sex life had been less than exciting, but porn and my hand were enough for what I needed in the mean time.

The subject would almost always be broached by my very bestfriend without fail. And speak of the devil, as I waited during another lunch time with Bella, my cell phone buzzed, revealing said buddy of mine.

"Emmett," I answered halfheartedly, almost to a point of grumbling, after pressing the 'Talk' button of my cell phone.

"Well, hello to you too, Mr. Cullen," the familiar booming laugh reached my ears. I chuckled slightly along with him.

"What's up?" I replied, letting the phone be cradled on my shoulder, as I used both my hands to straighten up my lab table. I had to make it look presentable, after all, for the daily visit. Then again, my work space had been much messier most days by this time. I suppressed a groan, realizing how unorganized I must come across.

"I've been thinking," Emmett began slowly.

"Uh oh, that's not good," I had to interject. I laughed freely as I held the cell phone now.

"Har har, ya jackass," he replied, heavy with sarcasm. "Anyway! I've been thinking that we need some chicks."

Great, should have expected this. Not a minute in the conversation with him, and he was already bringing up my lack of sex life. I furrowed my brows, suddenly wondering just really why that could be... I just simply didn't have the will to look for girls anymore, not the way I would when I had an urge to get over it. I mean, I was no Don Juan by any means, but I knew I had to let loose sometimes... Too bad that feeling just couldn't come to me nowadays. Well, it's not as if that feeling didn't come - I was just as sexual as ever - but it suddenly felt wrong to do so. Emmett was beginning to notice this too, it seemed. That was why he was calling; so I could get my "mojo" back. Too bad, Em, I was simply not in the mood to continue this.

"But God, last time I was out, the selection was just so damn awful," Emmett grumbled before I could get any word in. Before I knew it, he started rambling. "I mean, wouldn't it be perfect if your perfect woman just walked in at the perfect time to make your life a perfect life? I know what my girl would be like. She'd be a bombshell, maybe blonde...preferably blonde. For sure she'd have all the right curves. I used to think some good ol' Pam Anderson, but I was rethinking it, and I think I'd go for a Marilyn Monroe or that chick in Match Point, or 'Back to Basics' Christina Aguilera, not the 'Stripped' one. Does this mean my taste in women has actually matured? I mean, as hot as any old school Jenna Jameson could be, I'm thinking the classy look too. I mean, I would want her to not be tacky; sophisticated and a little feisty too! So I think I need to go looking for my perfect girl, starting tonight! And you're gonna help me search, since we're going to be looking for yourperfect girl as well! Now who'd you have in mind?"

I almost had to laugh at his rant, if I wasn't so stunned by Emmett's question. My perfect girl? It felt like a lump was in my throat, and I tried to swallow over it, but it was too much for me. Luckily, my voice didn't betray the peculiar nervousness in me.

"Perfect girl? I guess... she'd have to be educated, like me, or at least smart enough to hold an intelligent conversation. I'm tired of those stupid ones you keep throwing at me, by the way, Em. And I'd like her to not be so... shallow. Probably humble, I guess. The other girls are usually so pretentious and are so selfish. And of course someone with my sense of humor—"

"Edward, Edward, I'm talking about looks now," Emmett interrupted. "I want you to think of what'd she be like too, I guess, but focus on the looks."

Furrowing my brows, I tried to think on it. Hesitantly, I just shared what was on my mind, "Well, she'd have to be fit. I don't really care about how big her chest is, but I want the ass to be, well, a fucking nice ass. No tanned girls; I'm sick of them. In fact, I really like pale skin, especially if it goes well with the hair. I'd say the hair should be brown... I've always preferred brunettes; the blondes I've gone out within the past just... never worked. Definitely big brown eyes that'll go well with her deep pink lips... God, pink everywhere, actually. Like, a hint of it in her skin always, so probably someone who blushes... a..." My words slowed. "...lot."

For fuck's sake, I just described Bella Swan. I tried my breathing exercises. They didn't work. Fuck, fuck, fuck. What did this mean? Was I sexually attracted to her? Did I conjure up this fantasy because of her? Or did she simply fit the criteria and I never noticed? I mean, I knew she was beautiful... I constantly had to stop thinking of her that way after all... But admitting to myself that she was my perfect girl? Jesus, this was much, much worse than I previously thought.

"Yo, Ed, you there?" Emmett's voice brought me out of my reverie. "Why'd you stop? You were on a roll! I never heard of you so interested in a type; I mean, you hardly even notice what kind of girl you pick up. Now, I'm not saying that your best kind of girl is by any means the same as mine, but if those are the chicas you like, then hey, whatever, go for it. Then again, if you were gay, I guess I'd say go for it for that too—"

"Just - shut up, Emmett," I said, pinching the bridge of my nose. I tended to do this often whenever Emmett was around. I impatiently looked at the clock, and realized eight minutes had passed since the lunch bell had rung. That meant two more minutes... "Listen Em, I know it's my lunch time, but I'm actually expecting someone right now..."

Something that sounded like a cross between a chortle and a choke came from the other end of the phone. "Oho, so it seems you're actually having some needed female company then!"

My heart seemed to do double time at his words, but I tried to ignore it. "Actually, it's just a student. But she's going to be coming really soon, so I—"

"She? She's coming soon, you say? Is she jailbait? I bet she is, you sly dog you," Emmett just couldn't seem to stop. "Knowing your type though, she's probably the smartest of the class. Popped a boner when you saw that she got over a hundred percent on her last quiz?" He guffawed as my brows furrowed at his comment. Bella did often get over one hundred percent, but it wasn't a turn-on. Well, maybe it wasn't. "Oh man, is she sporting a unibrow? Or does she have the glasses-braces combo? I bet you'd like that."

"Shut up, Emmett," I said through my teeth as I began erasing the whiteboard of the previous class's notes, suddenly feeling like I had to defend her against Emmett. "You should know that not only is she the smartest of all of my classes combined, but she is also the most sought after amongst the male students."

I realized my response wasn't exactly the smartest when I heard him let out a low whistle. "Nice catch, Eddie. I bet that's some wild fucking there. Now are you going to be doing some illegalmoves? How about desk or chair?" He barked out a laugh once more.

"Emmett, I think I should hang up now," I snarled into the phone, as I started writing the warm-up for my AP class on the whiteboard. "You may have some weird sexual fantasies about me and my students, but let me tell you, there is no 'wild fucking' happening on top of any of the desks orin my chair."

"Mr. Cullen?"

Fuck. My. Luck. The astonished voice I heard couldn't be who I thought it was. Fat chance, I felt fate telling me. I spun around so fast, I almost dropped my phone.

Alas, that damned luck. "Bella!"

She was a few yards behind me, in front of the door, and she looked like she wanted to run out as quick as possible. I'm sure I looked the same.

I felt frozen, save for the quick breaths I was taking in. I barely had enough time to register Emmett's exploding laughter on the other end. Both Bella and I were so dead quiet that she could probably hear him loud and clearly. Our eyes were both wide. Neither of us didn't dare move a muscle, or look away.

Finally, Emmett broke our states, "That's her, isn't it? I'm going to let you have your funnow."

I snarled, "Shut the fuck up, Emmett," before snapping my phone shut. I should have been conscious of the fact that that I had cursed around her again, if she had been listening in, but I had to make my point clear in words that Emmett would take seriously. Then I realized how I must have come across: a pervert and a sailor, with the way my mouth was running.

"Please pardon my French," I grimaced after a long pause. "I'm so sorry you had to hear that, Bella."

She blinked at me twice before blushing down at the floor. It reminded me of my little confession to Emmett about my perfect girl, and I had to forcibly push the thought away. She set her tray of food on her usual desk before looking up to me with her big, doe like eyes. I licked my lips instinctively. God, I hope she didn't notice that. Not only was I going to look like a pervert, but I was going to look like a ephebophile. But technically, your ephebophilia is accepted; she's old enough for the gap to be small enough, and legal, even! I shook off the thought. Not helping.

"No, no," she rebutted softly, her voice growing with more confidence. "It's okay. The, uh, language is nothing I haven't heard before, especially from my peers. I think you should be more worried about the other stuff you had said." She gave me a small comforting smile. I felt my insides turn to mush.


She was right. The other things said with Emmett were much worse. Good thing she wasn't there when I was describing my perfect girl; how would that go down? But she could've been there when I was defending her against Emmett... would she even catch onto that? I hoped not. I didn't want her thinking I was talking about her, especially with an ending to our conversation like that. I wondered what on earth was going on in her mind. Without a doubt, I was now the creepy teacher to her. (What teacher otherwise would talk about their students that way?)

However, I didn't get to infer any of her thoughts, because she simply sat down and took out her homework, as per usual. I don't know if I should've considered myself lucky for this, because she could've just kept her awkward comments to herself, but I took whatever I could get. It was always so difficult to understand what she was thinking. Sometimes she was simply so easy to read, in terms of emotion especially, considering her blush and shy tendencies, but what those thoughts consisted of was a complete mystery. Often she'd randomly flush in the middle of doing her work, and I would never ever for the life of me figure out why. I supposed it was just one of those things about her.

So we continued in our regular silences, but I couldn't be as comfortable as I was used to, because of earlier. I kept thinking about what she thought of me now, if she heard much of it at all.

Suddenly, I was overcome with the need to touch her. Hug her, maybe, or even more... That wouldn't go down well the following days after the awkward phone call incident. But it was getting to be so much that I would constantly restrain myself around her. When she would talk animatedly about some place back in Phoenix, or lean in just enough for me to take a whiff of whatever tantalizing perfume she was wearing, I would physically pull myself back just to keep from stroking her cheek or, or, something...

The way things were going, I had to admit to myself that I had a...crush on Bella. There wasn't much I could do at this point, especially after the conversation with Emmett, and my constant appraisal. But, it was just a crush; a harmless crush that I wouldn't ever act on or deal with ever again. After all, she wasn't going to be my student forever.

Something about that thought made me frown. If I were honest, I'd rather be her teacher than not be anything; but it was just so, so wrong. She was... perfect. I'd defile her.

And now I couldn't even get her out of my mind.

Proving to be the sick defiler I knew I was, I simply... thought of Bella. The way she'd flip her hair away from her face to get a better view of the board. The slight bite on her lower lip as she thought really hard on her work. Or her messy scrawl whenever she wrote fast. Or that adorable blush... That blush probably reached most parts of her skin; how about when she was flushed? Unfortunately, my thoughts took another turn.

There was Bella, in the back of the classroom, seated at her regular seat. Class time, when it was most forbidden, and all that she wore was a blush.

I shook my head. No. No. I can't think like that. She was my student. I groaned, thinking, Oh God, she's my student. My breathing picked up, and it wasn't because of my anxiousness this time. It was every male teacher's fantasy, I knew, but I had no time to worry about creativity. I let my fantasy ride before my guilty conscience would get me out of it again.

Reaching for my trusty lotion at the side of my bed, I thought of Bella, and only Bella. Continuing my thoughts from earlier, I was mid-lecture, when I'd notice Bella brushing the hair out of her eyes once more, but this time, letting her light touch stroke allthe way down, in between her cleavage, through the button down, and a detour at her nipple to pinch it, continuing to the promised land where I can see from under the desk.

I don't know how my mind does it, but I can't help but admire the fact that she's wearing this pleated skirt, so that I could see her feathery light touch over her plain but drenched panties. She'd be teasing me as I'm teaching something or another - I'd forgotten the lesson completely. The bell rings, and I'd walk over to the back.

Bella's eyes widen as her finger does a last stroke over her pussy as she brings it up over the desk. My hand would softly graze over her shoulders when I walk around her to sit down in the seat next to her. My whisper comes hoarse, "I'd like you to stay in class for a while, Miss Swan, a long while."

She looks around, noticing we're alone. "Am I in trouble, Mr. Cullen?"

"No, Bella, not at all. But you tell me, do you think you've been acting like a... naughty student?" My resolve weakens around her. At this moment, I wish I'd have let myself give into this before. This is better than anything that would ever, ever get me off previously. Her breathing picks up, as mine comes out in spurts now. She's shaking her head.

"No? Are you sure about that?" I say, changing my mind. "You know, I do think you've been acting all sorts of wrong, Bella. What you're doing to me has been absolutely sinful..." She blushes as she looks away, adjusting herself in her seat. I groan, and grab her by the chin to look at me, and then to look down at my bulge. "See that, sweet Bella? See what your teasing has been doing to me? I can't focus in class because of those... dirty, fucking looks as you touch yourself."

In an uncharacteristic turn of events, she escapes my grasp to sit in front of me on the desk. Because of the fantasy, her under garments have miraculously come off, so that her glistening sweet juices coming from her sex is right in front of me. Slowly, not breaking our eye contact, she licks her lips, and uses her middle finger to separate her drenched folds, just slightly. "Can you focus now, Mr. Cullen?"

A low growl escapes my lips when I'd lunge forward, ripping her blouse off, revealing those spectacular tits that are always kept behind some ratty t-shirt. She's in her bra and skirt, and I know I won't be able to last long. This is going to be quick and satisfying and good for me. Suddenly my clothes have disappeared, and on top of that goddamn desk of hers, I take her hips and thrust it with mine.

Jesus Christ is this reallygoing to be quick.

I'm pounding, pounding, pounding. Her moans are clear as day, overpowering my deep grunts and vocal admissions of admiration for her. In turn, she her voice is just as incoherent, telling me "fuck, yes, Mr. Cullen, right there, you're so goddamn deep, you fucking keep going fast and hard, Mr. Cullen, fuck keep teaching me, my favorite teacher, Edward, ohyesyesyes yes, no one else, no one." And for some reason, once she starts talking about no one else, I lose my shit.


My sheets were a mess. Not only were they stuck to me because I was sweating profusely and my left hand's grip could rip a hole through it, but my spunk had seemed to reach even off my stomach and onto the side. It seemed I had a lot to let go that time. And boy, didn't I know it. It was the first time I ever trulythought of that typical teacher-student fantasy. While it was very, very satisfying, that same low-feeling exhaustion guys get post-masturbation filled me up.

What had I just done? Just because my new revelation allowed me to think of Bella in a less than platonic light, it didn't mean I had any right to masturbate to the thought of her! She was so innocent, so, so innocent. She didn't need someone out there thinking of her in this less than perfect light. Then again, your subconscious definitely portrayed every inch of her in a... perfect manner.Ugh, my thoughts were not helping. Breathe, Edward, breathe. I needed help.

Help was not going to come, because I wouldn't ever tell anyone of what I just did. Or the fact that I wanted to do it again as soon as I can. That thought aside, I had to sort my mind. Bella was my student, I was her teacher. Obviously. There was no way I could ever be close to her other than friendship, even after she graduated, because it would be too soon, too weird, too much. Besides, there was the fact that she definitely didn't think of me in that way. If she did, I'd have no restraint; I knew very, very well that this wasn't condoned and her Police Chief fathercould have me arrested. I cringed, knowing Chief Swan would take punishment to the next level if he knew what I wanted to do with his daughter. However, no one would be able know what I did in my private time, or what I thought... As long as I kept it platonic with her, I could let my thoughts go in private. I mean, it wasn't much different from porn, right? ...Right?

Groaning, I knew my logic was flawed, but I couldn't help myself now. Once I'd allowed myself this one time, it'd be difficult to restrain. She was just so... fuck. Too many adjectives could describe her perfectly: gorgeous, kind, smart, spunky, humble and sexy to the core. And the most ridiculous part was that she didn't even realize this! God, I was in deeper than I realized. It wasn't even purely physical. I just wanted to be with her.

Which is why I pushed back all my awkward feelings when I saw her the following day. And the day following that. She would have no idea the thoughts I had when I arrived home, and what I did with myself in these thoughts. Some nights, she'd take me in my teacher's chair, others it'd be in the hallway, but my favorite would always be in her damn seat in the back, where she'd constantly tease me.

One day of the same week of my realization, she was blushing during class, similar to my nightly fantasies. Though she blushed often, this was accompanied by her biting her fucking lip. If I'd allow myself to reallysee it, I'd see her legs squeezing together. Mid-lecture, I had to turn around so that I could suppress the ridiculous horniness creeping up on me. These days, it was like I was a goddamn pre-teen boy. I tried not to let it affect my work.

I was lucky enough to keep my feelings at bay when it was just the two of us. Though I had fleeting thoughts, I would never let them progress, just so I can allow Bella's presence to keep me at peace of mind. I'd be terribly sorry to see her go, and if I'd allow myself the thought, I'd know that my heart was hurting just from the thought of it.

It was closer to the end of the school year than I'd care to admit.

Our days were normal for the most part; sometimes someone would come in for a brief moment, like a photographer or a troubled student. Sometimes the normal was with the occasional moment meeting each other at some not-so-interesting school or town event. These instances where we'd see each other outside of the classroom, we simply smiled and went our own way. As much as it pained me, I knew I'd get my fill with her ten minutes after the bell rang for lunch. For some reason, this particular day, she came earlier than normal.

I heard her before I looked at her. She rustled in, quicker than usual, slamming her lunch down onto the desk she normally ate at. Something was curious; she was obviously... annoyed at something. I briefly wondered if it was me, but shook the thought off. She wouldn't be here if that were the case. I inwardly let out a sigh of relief. However cute it was to see her flushed skin and passionate eyes, it wouldn't make me feel any less bad if she was ticked at me.

"What's wrong, Bella?" I knew I had to tread carefully.

"Wrong? Nothing's exactly... wrong..." she said softly, while eating her food. It was typical of her. Of course she'd evade the subject she was mad about. I waited until she gave in. It took a little more than a minute of listening to her chew. "Charlie set me up on a date."

I coughed. Date? I hadn't liked the sound of that. But... Of course she had dates. I had forgotten she was still a hormonal teenager (a very attractive one - I obviously hadn't forgotten that). She was, of course, allotted to relationships. Instantly, I remembered my own, and the nature of those very dates. I scowled, thinking of some guy pawing her without any sense of respect. I could never do that to her. Yeah right, given the chance, without the worrisome age barrier or student-teacher relationship, you'd be all over her.

I decided to play masochist. I needed details. I needed to know that whoever it was had treated her well. "So, uh, when is it?" Who is it? Is he a good student? A good boy? He's from a well-to-do family, right? He treats you with the utmost care, right? Right?

"It was actually last night," she admitted lowly. I suddenly felt... rejected. There had been no mention of this date at all previously. She didn't consider me close enough to tell me these things beforehand. Well, duh, you're her damn teacher, not her best girlfriend, I mentally reprimanded myself.

"Oh?" Even my voice was just an octave higher than usual. It was painful to get my next words out. "Did you have fun?"

She groaned, sounding depressed. At this, a little hope rose in me. "My father and my best friend's dad seem to have it in their minds that their children would make the greatest of couples. I can see where they're coming from." My hope deflated. "But that's all we'll everbe. Friends. If there's anything I got out of last night, it was that." A soft, sad sigh escaped her lips. Jealousy rose in me, but it was not my place. If she was pining for some best friend of hers, who was I stand in the way? I could only encourage, especially knowing now that it wasn't just some douche, but an actual friend of hers.

"It is okay, Bella," I said soothingly. "If he didn't return your sentiments last night, who's to say he won't in the future?"

"Ugh, that's what I'm hoping for," she groaned yet again. "Maybe when I graduate - Jacob's a year younger than me... Maybe when I leave, he'll come to his senses."

I nodded my head, agreeing that absence would make the heart grow fonder. Although, I couldn't understand why he wasn't romantically fond of her now. "Why wouldn't he like you anyway? If he's your friend, he has to know how wonderful you are. I mean, I know if I was your age, I'd be crushing on you mad." Had I said too much? I knew I crossed the line, but I was hoping she would ignore it. After a moment's beat, I was stunned.

"Wha... is that what you...? No, no!" She exclaimed, standing up. Her face was a delicious red, so I fought the urge to lean in as a response to her outburst. "Mr. Cullen, you have to know that's not what I meant, at all! It's just that... that... he the one who likes me. Or, he said he had a teensy crush, but after last night, we know for sure that we cannot be together, period! I don't want to be with him, I don't like him like... that. I just couldn't. We're too much of friends."

You couldn't understand the relief I felt after she admitted this. However, I still had a niggling feeling about this Jacob. I couldn't help myself. I had to ask about him. Once she saw that I understood, she proceeded to tell me about how Jacob had been her best friend since she'd moved into town, all the while their dads had been best friends for the longest time as well. The Blacks had often come to the Swan abode for Bella's cooking (I found myself wondering her food tasted like, which led to another inappropriate thought of what certain parts of her tasted like), but what made last night different was that the Chief had left with Billy just as the Blacks arrived. Surprised, but all right with the night's development, the two made their way into the small dining room... which was made up like a Valentine's Day dinner.

The way she irately described the candles and soft tones that laced the room led me snickering, causing her to snap her head back at me. Jacob had made some sort of joke about it being a little swanky for them, but apparently, he was excited on the inside. She knew this because he told her with what they had found next. Aside from the dinner sitting at the table, there were movie passes to some typical romance playing at the nearest theater, good for only one night. She was shocked to the core, and so was Jacob, but he seemed to become happy at the prospect. He soon convinced her that it'd be good for them, not just to play along for their dads, but to see what it'd be like between them, if they were, y'know, on a date. Well. It turned out that they were awkward with each other in this sort of setting. The romantic dinner coupled with the romantic movie left them feeling weirded out, despite the fact that he actually did have a crush on her prior to the evening.

"Bada-bing-bada-boom, here we are," she finished. "I'm still pretty annoyed with my father. Last night hasn't left my mind, and not in a good way. I couldn't talk to Charlie at all this morning. The whole thing was so frustrating."

I smiled sympathetically. I knew that I was doing a happy dance on the inside, but for her, this was a complete and utter nightmare. Still... Jacob was her best friend, and often friends become more than friends. My scowl was starting to creep in, so I forced the thought away. Unfortunately, these sorts of ideas seemed to consume me in the days after. I already didn't like Mike, but more so now whenever he'd even get near Bella, my green-eyed monster would come full throttle and I'd have to "rescue" her. I coined that term considering she let it known to me that he made her uncomfortable. I couldn't have been any happier at the fact.

When we'd go over AP Bio review, which had been more and more frequent the closer we got to the test, people were getting more stressed. On their side, it was school starting to pile up coupled with the general complacency. Senioritis was hitting the kids hard, so I had to keep pushing my AP Bio students to keep them on their toes. For me, my stress was coming from not only grading their less than ideal quiz scores (luckily they seemed to get a hang of it afterwards), but from having to deal with my newfound jealousy. I couldn't handle the idea of Bella running off with some guy, especially in college. I knew she was just going to be in Seattle, but that was the big city, and big city kids would...take advantage of her. Scowling, this wasn't where I wanted my thoughts to go.

School was getting harder each day with Bella, not just because of my jealousy. I wanted her. And I couldn't. Not with knowing how much of a creep I'd be, and how her father would have my head. She was too much for me. It was getting to be too much for me.

After the whole Jacob fiasco, the school weeks were relatively uneventful, other than several new student teachers attending. None of the three were going to teach biology, so I hadn't paid any attention to them, but occasionally, they would come into the classrooms and observe when they were given free time. I shuddered slightly when one Victoria came to look into my class and lingered during nutrition. Let's just say I wasn't exactly comfortable when she got too close.

But other than that, there wasn't much to note about the week. I had dinner at my parents' house, Emmett came over a couple of times to chill, grading most of the students' work was getting to be more and more horrendous (but I dealt), and Bella came over for lunches each day. This turned out to still be the highlight of my days. Since admitting my adoration, and convincing myself that I wouldn't act on it at all, I just took Bella's direct presence with stride. I would take her for what she is: my student.

I preoccupied myself with these thoughts this class time, glancing up at Bella only every so often. I was trying to limit myself from not staring at her. No matter how beautiful she is, I couldn't exactly explain that to someone who noticed my staring. When the period was over, Bella came up to me, after everyone had left to turn in her test. She had a tendency to do that, even though I knew for a fact that she finished before everyone else. It was the blank stare at her test when she was done, and her small doodles she turned in on accident occasionally that gave her away.

"So how was it?" I asked anxiously.

"Another doozy. I gotta go to class. I'll see you tomorrow, Mr. Cullen!" Bella smiled brightly as she waved off out of my classroom.

My good mood was soured as I felt a chill go over me. It didn't go away when James, one of the student teachers, walked in right after she left; in fact, his arrival made my bad feeling worse. I hadn't ever talked to him, so I wondered why he decided to come over.

"Well ain't that a pretty one," he joked, cracking a mischievous smile. I hated it on instant.

"Hello, you must be James," I said stonily, ignoring his statement. I felt venom run through my veins - similar to the one I felt with Mike Newton and Jacob Black, only worse. Immediately, I felt like I wanted to shield Bella away from this vile man; he was openly admiring her, as if it was not an illegal thing. His appreciationwas much different from what I had, I knew, though I couldn't chastise him for something I was doing on a regular basis. Granted, his ogling was more like a selfish dog rather than the worshiping she deserved.

...Good God, I was no better than this James. Who was I to judge him? That's not true, and you know it. He's treating her as a piece of meat, and you can tell all that just by what he said and how he said it.

He tried to make idle chat, but seeing as how I couldn't stand to be in his presence without feeling like I needed to bash his face in, I made up some excuse and had us leave my room so I could lock up. For some reason, I just knew I didn't want him in my room alone. Forcing a smile, we parted, to which I was glad. The shudder that went down my back certainly showed all my ill will toward him.

The next day I had seen him more than I had seen him the entire three weeks they've been here. Every time I had been out of my room, he seemed to pass me, always leaving a lingering look at me. I knew this because I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand. Maybe he was gay... No, no, I had gay friends, who certainly had crushes on me in the past, and I wasn't freaked out like this. This was more... scared. No, not the right word. Chilling.

I should have known that something was wrong when I went off to the bathroom at the beginning of lunch, before I knew Bella would come to my room from the cafeteria. Walking to and from the restroom, there was no sign of James, and stupid me thought it was the mark of a good day. I was ready to face my daily meeting with my favorite student.

What I came across took me by utter and complete surprise. Bella was standing in front of her desk, where her food sat, but she wasn't alone. James was standing in front of her, leaning to her ear and holding a strand of her hair in his hand. I felt sick at the sight. Immediately I thought Bella wanted this; that she encouraged him. But, I caught sight of the predatory grin on his face and her trembling legs. Her expression was frozen and horrified. I had had enough.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I growled, barging into the room.

James jumped practically a yard away from Bella, who was now looking at me with such relief. I wasn't feeling too happy just yet. That monster was still within sight. He could probably see the murderous fire in my eyes, but that was exactly what I wanted him to see.

"Relax," he cooed with a lazy smile. "You got it completely wrong. Besides... no harm, no foul, right?" He smirked as he stared straight in my eyes. I didn't want to break glare, but I had to glance at Bella, who was still shaking.

"James, if you know what's good for you, you will step away," I snapped through my teeth. "Now."

"Look, I didn't do anyth—" Before he could get another word in, I stomped forward, separating him and Bella. I made sure not to touch him. I didn't want this to get out of hand, and knowing me in this state, it could veryeasily get out of hand.

"Listen, James, I don't know how you think you can get your teacher credentials," I snarled, "But it certainly isn't by hitting on, and touching my best students, capisce?"

He blinked at me, and wisely shut up. I continued, "Good. You fucking come with me as we go straight to the principal."

I made sure to give him a yank by the wrist, but I knew I couldn't leave Bella alone, especially if we had to talk to the head honcho. While my left hand was tightly wound around James, my right gently cupped Bella's shoulder. Shit, she was trembling. In fact, she was trembling so much, it betrayed her blank stare. I could fucking kill him. But that wouldn't do us any good, now would it?

"Bella, I'll need you to come too," I said softly to her. "We have to get your side of the story, and if I saw was true, you should be there, so that this onewouldn't pull anything again..."

A silent nod was all I needed before we found our way heading down the hallway. It was eerily quiet between the three of us, despite the chatter as we passed students in the hallway. Some stopped and stared, others didn't notice. I just wanted to get to Mr. Greene's office as soon as possible. We were there once we crossed the buildings. After that moment, everything was in such a rush. I explained the situation at hand to Harold, and immediately knew he'd favor me. Not only was I one of his favorite students when I attended Forks, but I was proving to be a good asset to the school as faculty... However, James was just a student teacher getting his credentials who had no real say. Once Mr. Greene had me speak, he wanted to speak with James and Bella separately and individually. He wanted Bella first, but she shook her head no. I knew she wasn't ready just yet.

So we waited outside his office, in our separate chairs. It was here she broke. She whispered how he was telling her the things he'd do to her, the things I wouldn't be able to do for her, and if she didn't comply, he'd... She started crying. A wave of anger rushed through me. Anger at the stupid James, anger at the stupidity I had which allowed her to be in this situation. I knew he was following me, I knewhe had it out for her, and yet I left my room alone, knowing she'd be there. In a rush, I kicked my chair across the room.

Her squeal brought me out of my reverie. I glanced sideways at her, trying to reel in myself. In, out. In, out. My breathing exercises helped only a little. "Bella... I cannot forgive myself. You don't understand how livid I am, for that monster in there, and for the monster I am for leaving you."

"No!" She yelled. "It wasn't you, it was never you! It was just... him... You didn't do anything... you saved me."

"But what if I didn't return?" I bit back. "What if I decided to eat lunch somewhere else today? Or stopped by the teacher's lounge? What could he have done to you then?"

Suddenly, the onslaught of tears was so much harder. "Please, Mr. Cullen... Would you... would you really have left our sessions? Left me?"

I felt myself melt. I knelt beside her; I had to touch her now. But I still had to be appropriate. Tentatively, I reached my hand out to let it rest on her back. She let herself cry, and I was finally calm enough to whisper, "God, no. I couldn't leave you. Not like that. You mean too much to me..."

She looked to me through her caked, watery eyes. I found it absurd that she could still look so beautiful with blotchy skin and a runny nose. "You mean that, Mr. Cullen? Are we truly...friends?"

Furrowing my brow, I couldn't understand where she was coming from, but decided to appease her. "Of course we are. Since when were we not? So what if I'm your teacher. You're a heck of a lot more entertaining than these fools. My co-workers, I mean. Students, too."

She giggled then, through her sob. I was glad I could put a smile on her face like this, especially after my frightening outburst. Squeezing her shoulder, I couldn't help myself. I leaned in and breathed her scent. It was silent now; not even her sobs and sniffles were heard, and I think she held her breath. So did I. We were close, but I was keeping myself at bay. This was as much as I could allow myself...

"We're gonna get this fixed," I said determinedly, straight into her eyes. "Know that I'm going to be the one to make sure there is justice with this one. Know that."

Once she nodded, I was appeased. We waited quietly until Bella was ushered in. Throughout the afternoon, we were all being called in, as authorities came by to get final statements, as well as the superintendents to officially kick out James. I was glad, and I wanted to be by Bella's side the entire time of this duration, but she insisted I go just before her father could come to pick her up. I wondered if that had anything to do with it, but since I wasn't needed anymore, I followed her wishes.

If I thought the coming days were going to be a relief, after learning the fate of James, I was wrong. It started the following day, first period. There were hushed whispers going about. I couldn't tell exactly, but I knew the nature of it as soon as I heard Bella's name come up more than a few times. Second period was just the same, which led me to an angry mood. It wasn't my story to tell, however, so I let it slide. It was third period that broke me.

"She was asking for it," I heard them say as I walked by to overlook if they're doing assignments.

I growled, thinking about how Bella cried in front of me, the feel of her trembling back underneath my hand. To the other students, it was just gossip. To me, it was very real, very tangible. And I had to let them know, but I knew Bella would hate that more than anything because of the unwanted attention. But I just couldn't let this go. I guess I couldn't be sly.

"Everyone," I barked. "I'm sure you've all heard some indiscretion that happened on this campus; you guys gossip like a bunch of old grandmothers. And you all have your own assumptions as to what had happened, but you don't know the facts. None of you do, except for me. The people involved are victims, except for one vile man whom all of you should avoid should you ever come across again in your life. I'm not joking. You all make me appalled that you would think such low opinions of a fellow student, a friend of yours." I took a breath. "So just know before you gossip, you get your facts straight."

Not a sound was made, and that remained for the rest of the period. I recalled the few times I blew up in front of the class, but they always came back to talking by the end of the period. Now, I glanced over the guilty faces as each walked out silently when the dismissal bell rang. Good, I was glad I instilled somesensibility into their heads.

By the time Bella came back from her day off dealing with this crap, I wanted to make sure there was as minimal of BS she would have to deal with. At the very least, I could eliminate the problem within my classes. I knew it worked, because not a single utterance was made the rest of the day. When she was back, I was glad the two of us hadn't had any wedge, but neither had she acted as if anything changed, for the better. We were still same old, same old. While that was a blessing almost, because I certainly didn't want her acting weird with me, given the close nature of our situation, it was frustrating that our old routine was, well, routine. It was like we were going along this cycle, and before I knew it, we wouldn't realize where I days went.

I cared for Bella too much. It was killing me, just seeing her. Considering that James almost got to her... This was worse than any petty envious monster I conjured up. No, I was having a jolly good time picturing the murder of that scumbag. Although, I knew that would get me absolutely no where, so I stopped myself. Instead, my thoughts hadn't gone to a better place, and just imagined a different scenario, one where Bella was in even more of a compromising situation. No, no, this wouldn't do.

Between my wanting to jump her bones in class, and my irrational, over-the-top need to protect her from foul men, I was having a difficult time. So I did what I always did when things got emotional: immersed myself in work. With the AP test just around the block, I worked my students over time. Though that meant I saw a bit more of Bella, there wasn't much room for recreational talking. That week was the first time we had actual guests with us during lunch time. Other people meant distance, which meant we hadn't had quality friendtime together since before dealing with James. We both understood. It was just one of those timing things we'd end up circling again to follow our routine.

It hurt to think about; I winced at the thought of imagining doing this torturous cycle any longer. There was just too much emotion in me to handle Bella and the situations we were put in, that I found myself slipping. More often than not, I'd talk to Emmett or my parents, sexually frustrated, and slip up about my student. She was overruling my thoughts. Even throwing myself into my grading and drilling students, she was a distraction to my heart. Looking at her made it swell, thinking of her made my blood pump through my veins, talking with her caused it to skip beats. Constantly, it was a struggle for me to stop myself from reaching out to her and just let go. Molesting her wasn't exactly the best option. Even my hand at night wasn't helping with that anymore.

It only got worse once the AP exam went past. Our conversation was normal ("How'd you think you did on the test?" "I feel confident"), but my mind was heated. No one else would be there to join us during lunch, as had been the case the past week. My AP students had nothing to study for anymore, so I made up some lame excuse by watching movies in class and even gave them free time. Bella couldn't even come up to me and talk during these times because class was when we were in student-teacher mode. I felt lonely in a class full of kids. It was a realization that I needed a change of pace.

As my parents went back to the small island they vacationed on a cruise to a while ago, I felt it was necessary to build a social life once more. I decided to go to Port Angeles for once. I contemplated Volterra, but I decided against it. For some reason, it just hadn't kept up the same appeal it did in the beginning of the school year. Having asked Emmett to join me, and his declining, I decided to step out of my box and just go by myself during the weekend.

It would be good for me, anyway, to escape, and maybe get a book. Who knows? Maybe I'd run into an attractive woman who could possibly have some chemistry with me. But...who was I kidding? I would probably look at the chick and think she couldn't compare to Bella Swan. It was pathetic; was I going to start creating comparisons to a student I had a damn crush on?

Settling on just a day to myself, I wandered the shopping area of Port Angeles, where, speak of the motherfucking devil, stood the one girl I was trying to escape from. Bella.

Though it was a weak attempt on my part, if I had really been trying, this meeting would really mess with my resolve. She stood there in the flesh right in front of the bookstore I had wanted to go into, looking down at her phone, seeming to text someone. Contemplating my next move (should I or shouldn't I approach?), I settled on her noticing me as I went into the shop. Considering I wasn't being particularly sneaky, it didn't come as a surprise when she smiled and greeted me almost immediately. I was taken aback by how lacking she was in the surprised department.

"Hello, Bella, how are you?" I asked jovially. She responded fine, but something in her tone threw me off. I then noticed an important bit at that time.

"Miss Swan, what do you think you're doing alonein a city you hardly know?"

She rolled her eyes at me again. "Excuse me, Dad, I did come here with Jessica and Angela for their prom dress shopping. They needed a third opinion. I've only been separated from them for ten minutes because I wanted to check out the bookstore."

It still bothered me, but I was in no place to say anything. Technically, you do have a place considering the last time you caught her alone, she was being taken advantage of. The thought left a sour taste in my mouth, but somehow, I knew that she wouldn't appreciate it all that much if I brought it up. There was a bit of me jealous of everyone who had the ability to hang out with her without causing alarm, and that included her friends. Friends, who I thought would understand that they shouldn't leave the vulnerable Bella all alone. Glancing at her once more, I found determination and hard-headedness. Then again, maybe they did understand, and she was just being stubborn.

"So, uh, prom," I pathetically opened, trying to change the pace of my mind. "Who did you decide to take with you as a date? Trying to find the perfect dress to knock him off his feet?"

I knew that she would look good in any dress they would put on her. Any fool to not see that deserved his eyes gouged out. That can be arranged, as a mental image of a stupid boy ignoring the princess of the prom crossed my mind. There was no doubt in my mind how stunning she would be...

She rolled her eyes again. "I have no interest in going to prom. Just coming here with Jess and Ange is killing me. I hate to shop, since you know, I'm more of a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl."

While I did know that very well, I wanted to press this surprising news I just heard. "You're not going to senior prom? Isn't that the high school staple event?"

Shrugging she replied, "I honestly don't care about some thing where I'm forced to wear fancy clothes that'll end up getting ruined as I attempt to dance with some date I'm not interested in. I think you should know me well enough to know that."

True enough, I did, and if I were to be honest with myself, I wasn't comfortable with the idea of her being with another guy the whole evening, especially if he were pulling the same stuff I did at my senior prom... There had to be some respectable boy around here worthy of her (yeah right), and as much as it pained me, I think I knew who I had in mind.

"No one asked you?" I pressed. "Wouldn't you have interest in sharing the evening with some...boy? What about going stag with friends, like, um, Jacob? He's good, right?"

Her amused expression, from the raised eyebrows and slight grin, let me know that, yes, that idea what ridiculous. "Mr. C, I definitely got offers, but there was nobody I would have enjoyed going with, anyway. I wouldn't have wanted to go with Jak—"

"Edward! My friend!"

Our conversation was interrupted as I looked over her shoulder to see who just called me.

I tensed up as I found myself looking into the eyes of Aro. He was the owner of Volterra, the head honcho behind the shady deals, and the puppet-master of all those involved with it. He was the one who took me there at first, making it seem like such an honor to be part of the exclusive club. While it was exclusive, and to a certain degree honorific, it wasn't an honorable place in itself. To be a member of Volterra was to be a dishonorable person. And he couldn't take his eyes off of Bella before me.

She curiously turned around to see him, so that she now stood next to me. I inched closer to her, forcing the length of our arms to be barely touching. I didn't even have the chance to revel in the feeling, as I scowled watching Aro look straight at Bella with curious excitement.

"Edward, it's been a while..." he began, finally turning to me. "I've missed you."

I couldn't say that I returned the sentiments. "Yes it has. I've been busy. With work."

"Yes, yes, you work at the high school in Forks, is that right?" His grin was eerie, and it was made even more so after his glance towards Bella once more.

"I do..." I hated to divulge the information.

"This must be a student of yours then?"

At this moment, she stuck out her hand in front, confidently introducing herself. I balked as their hands met when he exchanged the introduction. No one ever touched Aro without succumbing to his whim... He smiled strangely as they shook hands, and he lingered, giving her an odd look. His next words shocked me.

"You're 18, right, dear Bella?"

My cough created a cacophony with her sputtered, "Err, yes, Aro."

It was my time to intervene. I couldn't handle this anymore. Too much was going on in my heart with Bella, and after recent events with James and Jacob a few weeks before that, I needed her out of his way.

"Well, Aro, it's been great to see you again, but my friend and I really must be going on our way," I coolly interrupted.

"Hm... friend, yes, yes. It was a pleasure to meet you, Bella," Aro said, with an excited glint in his eye. I caught it, but I knew that Bella would never have. She didn't know the type of business he was in. He looked from me to her. "I hope to see you in this area very soon."

I suppressed a growl as I watched him go off. He was a different kind of threat from Mike and James, even; he had every intention to corrupt her. I glanced at Bella who was looking at me oddly. Forcibly, I smiled at her, trying to wipe my face clean of any of the raging emotion in me. She was my reason for calm. She was good, and she didn't need me bringing her to creeps and predators like Aro.

"Bella, if you ever see that man again, I want you to walk the other way," I mustered up with as much conviction as I can into that sentence. I didn't want to tell her exactly what he did, especially since I'd have to explain my connection to him, but I had to let her know in some way that he wasn't... good, not good in the least.

I felt better seeing her eyes widen in understanding just before nodding. This was it. Being around her was not good for either of us. I know she considered us friends, and I did too, but our friendship was causing her some potential wrong-doings in her life. James had been my entire fault - if she hadn't even come into my room during lunch time, she would be safely hanging out in the cafeteria if he'd ever approach her. Aro only knew her now because of me, which was certainly causing my stomach to twist and turn. Jacob...was her friend, and while I didn't directly affect her relationship with him, I was probably unconsciously pushing her into something that wouldn't be best for her, such as trying to separate them.

There was no way I would keep in contact with her after she graduated. Not after all this.

My moment's realization left me detached when her friends came by to pick her up, and it left me acting simply...normal all the way to the last week of school. Our conversations were not sentimental. They were as if nothing ever...changed. Our cycle was back on track, it seemed. And while this would have normally bothered me, I took it for what it was. These were my last days with her, probably indefinitely.

She came into lunch late one day; it was torture knowing it was past the ten minute mark of lunch. In her hand was a hard-cover red and white book. Immediately, I knew what it was: the school yearbook. She smiled sadly and softly at me. Just as I was feeling horrible about the school year ending, this was her realization that she'd be leaving our lunch sessions too.

"I haven't looked at it yet," she announced, holding it up casually. "I was hoping you'd look with me..." And so, she pulled up a chair to my table, and set it down in front of her.

Opening to the first page, I was met with a familiar sight: both of us, me half sitting on the desk next to her, overlooking her working. The caption read "Bella Swan, Senior, taking regular tutoring for Mr. Cullen's AP Biology class." This is what it was to the outside world and maybe to Bella too. I glanced at her wide eyes still staring at the picture. It was a reminder of our school year, and a reminder that it was coming to an end in less than a week. With graduation was so close, Bella would be out of my life soon.

And it would be all for the best. At least I'd have this memento once I got my copy.

My heart hurt at the thought.

We looked at each other at that moment. I didn't care if she could finally see how much I truly liked her, how much I truly wanted to bewith her. It pained me to know that we couldn't ever be like that, and I wished, I just wished that our circumstances were different. We'd be in the same class together, perhaps biology like in this life time. Our conversations would be awkward but soon we'd become friends, truly, uninhibited friends where we'd easily share our secrets and hobbies and everything... Eventually, our friendship would turn into something more, because I know from the beginning I'd have a crush on her. Our first date would be sweet, but we'd be a little shy, not knowing how to act on a date, so we'd decide to act just as how we are as friends. But then it'd come time to separate, and we'd kiss. At first it would be delicate, but it'd soon turn into uncontrollable lust. We'd love each other and go to college together, and make love almost every night. We'd fight over silly things, and get frustrated during finals. She'd develop her career and I'd follow her to the ends of the earth. And we'd get...married...have children...and fuck did I want that, badly.

Our eyes were still locked. But at this moment, I realized hers were glassy. Suddenly, she cleared her throat and mumbled something about going to the bathroom. I didn't say anything when she shuffled out of the room. Looking to our picture once more, I knew her going off to Seattle would be all for the best. Just after this thought, the classroom felt terribly empty without her in it. This was...our room. It would feel strange the following year without Bella as my student.

I couldn't handle that thought. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I wouldn't be able to function right as a teacher here next year anyway. My heart plummeted to the pit of my stomach as I wondered about teaching at Forks High next semester. Christ, what a predicament. The end of my first year teaching was at my feet, and I was having second thoughts on this career now? It made me wonder, if I was having trouble now because of Bella, how much more would it be with the next person who'd walk into my teaching career? Impossible, there would only be one Bella. And while that was a valid point, I hated the idea of feeling that risk of wanting to molest a student. That, on top of my more-than-likely-will-happen compulsive need to compare my students to my favorite of the first year...

Teaching was not for me. Not anymore. I knew that now, and I wondered how I would go about with this newfound knowledge. I didn't let Bella know my revelation when she got back into the classroom. In fact, we still were avoiding the subject of our future. It was perfectly fine with me, even through the last day of school, when all she did was nod me goodbye. Nothing else held my interest the rest of the day.

However, I didn't want it to be just that for our last meeting. This led my decision to go to the high school graduation. The fifty-something students graduating that day each let me know how much they'd enjoyed my class. I was truly happy for my students. After all, it wasn't just Bella I talked to. Some let me know they'd keep in touch from their respective colleges; others informed me that they'd be staying in town, so I let them know they could drop by any time. (I felt bad, because I already knew I was leaving my teaching position. It was false hope for them.) Some didn't approach me, just waving goodbye.

I thought my favorite would fall under this category, but I saw her walk up to my position with a small smile. Bella in her graduation outfit made my insides crummy. Breathing exercises. In tow was who I recognized to be the Chief, and another, next to him, was a boy - Native American. Instinctively, I knew this was Jacob. Bella made very quick introductions, and I was right as to whom both were. Jacob whispered something to her, and after her nod, he walked off. I couldn't follow him with my eyes when she continued.

"It was...great being in your class, Mr. Cullen," she said with a smile. Somehow, it didn't seem to reach her eyes.

"Likewise, Miss Swan," I responded as positively as I could muster. I turned to her father. "You raised a good kid there, Chief Swan. She's been my best student and a good friend to me this year."

"Thank you, I appreciate that, sir," he said gruffly. "But I know it's all on her doing. She's really enjoyed your class."

I nodded and returned some polite sentiment. Bella's blush was back as she ushered her father out of the way, muttering a quick farewell to me. I guess this was it. That was it. I frowned a little, thinking of how hasty that last meeting was. Then again, it was for the best. After saying goodbyes and miss yous to a few of my other now-previous students, I made my way back into the parking lot to leave.

There, I saw Jacob Black standing alone. He was looking down on his phone, but there was no sign of Bella or her father nearby. Before I could realize what I was doing, I was walking towards him. My footsteps must have alerted him that someone was close, because he snapped his head up at me. I don't know what my expression looked like, but he certainly had a wary face on. It was unwavering, full of recognition, but cautious. I guess I had to have had some sort of forceful look.

I tried reeling myself in when I called out, "Hello again, Jacob."

He nodded.

"I just - I..." I stammered. My mouth felt dry. "Please take good care of her."

His eyes softened and a face-eating grin - there was no other way to describe it - crossed his face. "Teach, you have no problem on that... I think you'd know how valuable she is. To anyone."

I nodded. He nodded. And I turned on my heel to finally walk away, knowing she was in good hands.

The beginning of my summer was torture, to say the least. Although, oddly enough, I felt good. For the first time in a while, I was starting to get a grasp of myself, of my life. I knew for a fact that I didn't want to continue teaching. The awkward and speedy parting we shared lingered in my head. Leaving the school was best. Not only that, a change of pace would be great. With biology under my belt, I considered my options. It was time to own up to my problem of a career choice now that I didn't have being a teacher to lean on.

My week after graduation was my change of pace. After sharing my turn of heart with Emmett, without divulging my affection for Bella (that would go with me to the grave), he and I considered my options. It was a very different week to say the least, once the seven day mark had gone past after my last look at Bella. And my busy-body lifestyle kept me occupied enough to distract me from the fact that she would be leaving the next day for summer classes at UW of Seattle.

I wouldn't see her again.

Just as I thought this walking down an aisle of the tiny grocery store, I felt myself being pulled to the one girl I was just thinking about. It was surprising how quickly she turned around, as if she instinctively knew I was there as well. It was strange… All we were doing was grinning at each other, staring. My feet pulled me to her so that I was just in front of her.

"Hi," she breathed.

"Hi," I whispered back. "How are you?"

She grinned. "I'm good now. I'm really good. How are you?"

I grinned back. "I'm great. Fantastic. Need help?"

Giving a noncommittal shrug, she was still smiling up at me. I fell into pace with her as she walked down the food aisle with her cart. She was currently stocking up on food for Charlie, and getting ingredients for a big dinner for them and close friends tonight. Her goodbye dinner. While the words saddened me, I was ecstatic that we both could share this moment buying food together. She was jovial and kind and wonderful just as ever. It was so similar to our lunchtime conversations that I couldn't care that it was almost as if we were back into our cycle.

In this moment, she was mine.

The thought jarred me, but I still smiled at it. Mine. I rather liked that. Because, while she was going to go off to the big city soon, I still could consider her mine in this moment. Our conversation: mine. Our closeness: mine. It felt good to let myself go again, talking about the little things we had come across in the past week. While I still hadn't told her of my plans, so I wouldn't upset her, I brought up the little moments with Emmett when we messed around. She laughed, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. That, I knew, wouldn't change, not ever.

There were a lot of things she was buying, so naturally, I had to escort her to her decrepit truck. She hated needing help, but there was just too much for her, I knew. When walking to her car, we were still chuckling and sharing pleasantries, but as soon as all the groceries were unloaded, a different tone filled the air.

We were both quiet, as if we didn't want to break the spell we had fallen into. It was completely different from the quiet I knew around her. This was it now. This was when we'd say good bye for real. Suddenly, without any warning, she launched herself at me, locking arms around my neck. My hands barely grazed her sides as she pressed herself completely against me. I felt every curve of her body, and in that split second, I willed myself not to think about it too much.

She brought me out of my reverie by softly saying, "I'll miss much, Mr. Cullen."

And with that, she had separated from my body.

In the moment I was watching her old truck drive into the distance, I allowed myself to finally think about what had just happened. Other than how fantastic her body felt against me, I wanted it still with me because I loved her. In that instant, I didn't care that I did, or if it was just something I finally admitted to myself, or if her hug was the instigator.

I just knew one thing was for sure... Nobody would ever measure up to Isabella Swan.

Author's Note: Well, wanna hear my excuses? Other than my computer being stolen, and accidentally deleting this chapter, life has been a major setback for writing. I mean, I'm now attending university (classes, parties, the like), and my free time is almost always spent with my boyfriend of two years (since my last update? coincidence? I think not). So you can see how that goes.

I've just been unable to get to this. And can you blame me? This is one damn hearty piece of toast I served ya'll, but don't expect anything much more. I have in my head what's in store for the fifth - and final - chapter, but there is no way of telling when that's ever going to happen. I may dish out a really quick, short bit (yeah right)...but don't count on it. My mind is already on my next project, as I'm currently in the process of outlining and writing out some scenes; hopefully if I plan enough it'll be a lot quicker for me to write out...but I doubt it.

Speaking of planning, I completely disregarded the fact that becoming a teacher (especially an AP one, where you have to be a teacher 3+ years beforehand) takes a lot longer than Edward here, so I hope you can follow the same mentality... Please excuse my inability to think through. On a similar note, I had a bit of an anachronism with iPod talk (keep in mind, this is circa '06). But let's chalk it up to deux ex machina.

There was a lot to take in, I know. Some may be irrelevant details, I know. But the Aro scene was supposed to be a build up for the last chapter, and I just had to include something with James. The other stuff was just in reference to whatever was mentioned previously...

Please, please review! I may not deserve such kindness after my damn hiatus, but please do and I may treat you to something special. ;)

That's me
AKA Pauline