The tallest, prettiest girl in the group steps forward with a confident strut and a murderous glare, directing her malice right at me. She is statuesque, with a body anyone—and I do mean anyone—would murder for. Her corn silk mane swirls down her back in soft, thick waves, and shimmers even in the dim lighting of the auditorium. Her skin is pale but, unlike mine, hers intensifies her beauty even more. Her ocean-tinted eyes possess a blazing fury, causing the motto if looks could kill toflash through my mind.
"What do you think you're doing?" she demands, causing me to cower in my seat. At this moment, I wish I had courage—even a small amount. As it is, however, my body is automatically triggered for flight, never even considering the fight option. I make the Cowardly Lion look like the Terminator.
"Um, I'm… sitting?" I manage to squeak out, surprised I didn't scream in terror instead. The resulting glare she gives me is, if possible, even more petrifying than the previous. She bends over, gripping the armrest of my seat and leaning over me. Our faces are mere inches apart, and my fear becomes so escalated that I'm sure I will faint.
"This is our section. Losers like you sit at the front. Got it?" she tells me in a low, quiet voice that is much more frightening than if it were a shriek. Then she releases the armrest, lifts to her standing position, and returns to her entourage. I take this opportunity to dash out of my seat and into the aisle. Of course, dashing is not something my body can successfully accomplish, and I fly forward after tripping over my feet yet again. I proceed to tumble down the stairs, causing the unwanted attention of the entire auditorium and the formation of numerous bruises that I am sure I will receive from this detour.
All of a sudden, my body stops its embarrassing descent. I look up to see what caused my journey to cease and am met with the most beautiful face I have ever encountered. His bronze hair is set in casual disarray, giving the impression that he runs his fingers through it constantly. His perfect facial structure is surely a construction from the angels themselves, for its magnificence is nothing short of heartbreaking. But it is his eyes- those shining emeralds that hold emotions as deep as the ocean itself- that have entranced me.
I break his gaze to turn my attention to the floor, a much safer place for me to look as my apology tumbles from my mouth. My cheeks, infallible in their job of making my life miserable, heat up with a blush that is more intense than I have ever experienced. I glance back up to look at his face and am met with an annoyed look from the Adonis himself.
"Watch where you're going," he sneers, then turns on his heel and gracefully ascends the stairs to the top of the auditorium and sits in a section apart from everyone else. I sit on the ground, shocked, unable to move from my position. I can vaguely hear the laughter emanating from the other students in the auditorium, but my mind does not fully process it; I am still stunned from my encounter with the bronze-haired man.
I see Angela hurrying over, worry in her expression. I ensure her that I am fine, and urge her to return to her seat. I lift myself from the step, turning to the— thankfully—unoccupied seat on my left. I sink into it, my mind reeling from the recent events that have taken place. As I recall the blonde's vicious glare, the embarrassing tumble down the stairs, and the irritated guy who unintentionally saved me, a sinking feeling occurs in the pit of my stomach; something tells me that my experience at Eckhart is going to be more confrontational than I am comfortable with.
Just then, Headmaster Bowman makes his way onto the stage and the students become expectantly silent. He lightly grips the podium and smiles to his audience, readying himself for his start-of-term speech. "Good morning!" he begins, his jovial tone and friendly demeanor meant to excite the students about the new term. "I am so excited to see all of you again. And to the new students, welcome! I am so glad you have joined our community. I would like to keep this short, so I'm going to forgo the boring parts and get to the fun stuff! Now here's the deal…"
His speech is unlike anything I have ever heard from a typical person of authority; it makes me think he wants us to be his friends, rather than his students. I don't like it. I would rather he be cold and distant, authority emanating from his pores. As it is, I will have to deal with his friendliness with the only way I know how: avoidance. I will try as hard as I can to keep away from him, making sure he does not have an opportunity to interact with me. I finish my musings and return to his speech, which is just now finishing up.
"… and I hope we have the opportunity to learn and grow together. Have a nice term!" he finishes, waving to the crowd and sauntering off the stage. The students begin to gather their belongings, and I take my chance to get a head start by rushing up the stairs as quickly as possible while trying to reduce my risk of falling again. Much to my delight, I make it up the steps unscathed and march out into the sunlight—or rather, cloud-diminished sunlight. I move towards the outside wall of the building and wait for Angela, hoping she doesn't have anyone she needs to talk to. As the other students pass, some notice me and start snickering to their friends, trading news anchor-style quips and believing themselves to be stand-up worthy.
Finally, after most of the crowd has dissipated, Angela appears at the door with a russet-skinned boy. His vast height causes me to crane my neck as I look into his face, which is currently displaying a boyish grin. His brown eyes are filled with warmth as he looks down at me, as his shiny black locks lift with the breeze.
"Bella, I would like you to meet Jacob, my best friend; Jacob, this is Bella. She is a new student here, a senior like us." Angela makes the introductions, and Jacob extends his enormous hand towards me. I take it in my smaller, paler hand, giving it a light shake. His grin widens, showing the boyish charm that I am sure emanates from his every movement.
"It is very nice to meet you, Bella. Welcome to Eckhart. How do you like it so far?" he asks, tilting his head to the side like a curious puppy.
"Well, the grass is nice and the auditorium has nice carpeting. Other than the ceiling of the photography room, that's about all I've seen," I say, simultaneously blushing and rolling my eyes.
Jacob lets out a hearty laugh, his head falling back and his body shaking from the intensity of it. "Ang never told me you had a sense of humor, Bella. It's great." He smiles once again, making me wonder if his face is forever frozen in that expression. "Well, I'd better head to Spanish class; I'll catch up with you two later." He grins, waves, and trots towards the language building. Angela turns to me, her expression falling from the happy one it held only moments ago.
"Bella, I want to apologize. In my hurry to get you seated and make sure everything was situated at the front, I completely forgot about Rosalie and her group. I am so sorry you had to experience that because of my slip. Will you forgive me?" she drops her head, her shoulders following suit.
"Angela, there's nothing to forgive, really. It isn't your job to protect me, though I appreciate the effort. That would have you fighting with Mother Nature, if my tumble was any indication of my clumsiness. Don't worry about it. All is well." Her head pulls up, a slight smile gracing her expression. She gestures towards the language building and I nod my head, silently agreeing to head towards class. I am so relieved that I don't have to go through my first class alone; having Angela makes things much more bearable.
As we head towards our Latin class, I remember Angela calling the blonde girl "Rosalie". Curious, I turn to her and ask the question that has been bugging me since our encounter. "Hey, Angela, I was wondering… do you know why Rosalie was so angry? I mean, I understand I was in her seat and all, but is there any specific reason why she was that upset?"
Angela glances at me, a small smile lifting up the corners of her lips. "Actually, there is no reason; that's just how Rosalie is. She's the leader of the popular girls. She's smart, beautiful, involved in everything, has the jock boyfriend, you get where I'm going with this. I guess being mean comes with the territory. It definitely wasn't anything personal." She shrugs her shoulders, indicating that it isn't anything to be worrying about. I release a breath I didn't realize I was holding and look towards the door to our classroom. "Are you ready?" she asks, lifting her eyebrows and looking expectantly at me.
"As ready as I'll ever be. Let's get this over with." I grab the door handle, twist it to the left, and swing the door open to enter. Upon entering the room, I immediately spot two seats on the far left side of the room. I gesture to them, glancing at Angela and silently asking her if the seats are alright with her. She nods and moves towards the desks, sliding into the one closest to the center. Grateful for her consideration, I move to the desk on the outside, the one that will keep me out of sight from the rest of the class.
Mr. Hebert walks in, placing his briefcase on the ground next to the desk and lowering himself into his chair. "Good morning class. I expect you had a pleasant summer, and would like to welcome you to Advanced Latin. If you're not supposed to be in this class, I suggest you leave at this time," he pauses and, noting that no one moves from their seat, proceeds, "Excellent. Now we may begin."
Who on Earth is she? I think to myself, reflecting on the moment I first laid eyes on her- or, more accurately, the moment she slammed into me. I know she must be a new girl, considering Eckhart's small population allows me to know the name and face of every student here. I picture her in my mind, her thick chestnut locks in shambles around her shoulders and her cheeks blooming with the color of rose petals. And her eyes—her deep, chocolate-colored eyes—held many mysteries in their depths. As I looked at her, a melody—one I had never heard before then—drifted through my thoughts. It was the girl, and my mind was composing a song about her. It caused me actual physical pain to snap at her the way I did, seeing the injured look shadow her beautiful face.
I shake my head. Naturally, as is the Eckhart standard, she is probably just another airhead whose main goals are to party hard and marry rich. All those girls care about is painting their nails and talking gossip. The only exception I have found to this standard is my sister, Alice. The only paint she wears on her hands is whatever falls on them as she is creating another masterpiece of hers. Her art is soulful, inspiring, and completely glorious; I have yet to see a student at Eckhart parallel her expertise.
I enter the study room and walk towards the table that Jasper, my best friend and my sister's boyfriend, is currently occupying. He nods to me in acknowledgement, his wavy blonde hair shifting slightly with the movement, and turns back to the sheet music he is currently concentrating on. I glance at it, hearing the notes and melodies as they float off of the page and flow through my head. While Jasper is skilled in acoustic guitar and saxophone, I prefer to spend my time at the piano. Nothing lets me melt away the world like sitting on a piano bench and letting the music pour out of me. It is the only thing that can pull me past the emotions I can't seem to escape from.
Jasper glances up, noticing that my gaze is fixed on the page in front of him. "Hey, Edward, I'm stuck on the bridge; it doesn't sound right. Think you could help me out?" Music is what brought us together, making us brothers in the spiritual sense of the word. Though I have a brother, Emmett, he doesn't understand my need for composing; his ever-joyous disposition and love of sports allows him to avoid the internal conflicts that cause me to turn to music.
I take a better look at the page, trying to find an alternate arrangement that will help make his song express the emotions he wants to convey. As I am mentally listening to the notes, a loud cackle interrupts my thoughts and I turn my head to search for the source of the disturbance. Through the door walks Rosalie—Jasper's sister—and her band of root-bleached followers. Rosalie is the only natural blonde of the group, and the only exception to the blonde stereotype. Though she is difficult to be around, she is not unbearably idiotic like her cohorts.
I huff out a breath of air and turn back to the music, trying to regain my concentration. My concentration is once again broken as I hear the voice of Jessica, the likely source of the cackle, and find it nearly impossible to drown her out. As I throw a withering glance her way, I catch a bit of what she is saying and find myself unwilling to drown her out.
"Oh my goodness, Rosalie, what you did to that girl was epic. Did you see how scared she was of you? How pathetic. And when she fell, I just could not stop laughing! Rosalie, you're so brilliant." She flashes a large smile at Rosalie, awaiting approval of her compliments. I find it pathetic how dependent these girls are on Rosalie's approval, as though they are needy children hoping for their parents to give them a pat on the head for their macaroni necklace.
"She was pretty pathetic. How on earth does one fall on nothing? Was the air in her way?" Rosalie smirks, reveling in the resulting cackles and wheezes from her subjects. "It's so ridiculous; her first day here, and she can't help but try to get attention however she can. I wouldn't be surprised if she fell on purpose."
"Oh Rosalie, you are so right," Lauren responds, nodding her head in self-agreement. "I wonder who she was, anyway. She must be new; I've never seen her before, and I know everyone." Naturally Lauren overlooked the obvious, that it was almost impossible not to know everyone at Eckhart. The girls glance at Rosalie, awaiting her infinite wisdom on all that goes on in the school.
"Her name is Bella Swan," Rosalie responds, never failing to provide the latest gossip that, to her, was essential in obtaining. "She moved here with her dad from Phoenix a couple of days ago. Apparently he's in marketing and the company he works for transferred him up here."
The girls gaze at Rosalie in awe of her gossip omniscience, showering her with praise and compliments. She smirks, obviously loving the attention. Tanya, the only blonde with a strawberry tint to her hair, cocks her head to the side and looks at Rosalie inquisitively. "If she's from Phoenix, why is she so pale? It doesn't make sense." Tanya's eyes widen, and she looks at the girls with revelation on her face, "What if she's one of those computer geeks who never goes out in the sunlight? Maybe that's why she moved here—to be able to go outside without getting burned. It's like she's a vampire or something." The other girls nod, their expressions filled with astonishment at this assumption.
I look away from the group of girls and mull over the information Rosalie has inadvertently given me. So, Bella Swan is the girl's name; it is good to know, though I'm not entirely sure why I want to know. After all, she's just another girl. Of what consequence is her name to me?
As the teacher finishes his lesson for the day, I scan the room and take in the faces of my new fellow students. One in particular catches my eye, a petite girl with short, jet-black hair and designer frames perched on the bridge of her nose. As she shifts her head to the right, I catch glimpses of turquoise patches hidden within her inky tresses. Her petite and angular face immediately reminds me of a pixie and her small hands are smeared with paints of all different colors. She is definitely an artist, and I sense that she is, unlike me, unafraid of showing everyone exactly who she is. Even motionless she is unbelievably graceful, possessing fluidity even in stillness.
Mr. Hebert dismisses the class, and we begin to gather our things together. I look over at Angela and whisper, "Angela, who's that girl? The one with paint on her hands, I mean." Angela doesn't look up, she just continues to place her books into her backpack as she answers, "Oh, that's Alice Cullen; her brother is Edward, the guy you… ran into at assembly. She's a really talented artist, actress, and ballerina. Her boyfriend, Jasper Hale, is Rosalie's brother. If you'd like, I can show you my yearbook from last year and we can go over who everyone is so that you no longer have to feel too new."
I smile at her, nodding in acceptance of her offer. "When would you like to do it?" I ask, wondering when we would have time. As I recall, I have a study hall next, but Angela mentioned her Differential Equations class, so I suppose we will have to arrange some other meeting.
"Why don't you come over to my house after school? We can look through it together and you can go home after." She looks at me expectantly, awaiting my answer. "Well," I begin to say, embarrassment over my predicament causing a blush to rise to my cheeks, "my dad dropped me off today, and I don't have a car."
"Oh, that's fine," she smiles, shrugging her shoulders, "you can ride with me and I'll drop you off afterwards. As long as you're up for it, of course." I smile a little, nodding my head in agreement. "Sounds great," I answer, happy to know that I may have actually made a friend here. And on the first day, too. Charlie will be happy to know that. That thought reminds me that I need to call him to let him know he doesn't need to pick me up after school.
After I place the call to Charlie, murmuring "Uh-huh" and "Me too" at the appropriate moments, I grab my Latin books and shuffle towards the study room to begin the homework assignment. As is unavoidable for a person with my luck, I only manage to move a few feet towards my destination before I slam into a wall. As I glance up at the object I recently became acquainted with, I am surprised to discover that it is not a wall, but it is actually a person- a very tall, muscular person to be exact. His hands are gripping my forearms, preventing me from meeting the floor as well. He cocks his head to the side, his dark curls bouncing slightly with the movement, and produces a grin that is even larger than Jacob's—an impressive accomplishment, considering Jacob's enormous wolf-like smile.
"Hey there! I'm Emmett Cullen and I'm very glad to meet you!" he booms, his voice carrying across the halls. "You must be new, because this school is way too unpopulated for me to not have seen you before. What's your name?"
"Bella," I mumble, a blush creeping up my cheeks at the embarrassment of my situation. "I'm so sorry I ran into you like that, it's a terrible habit of mine."
"No worries, I hardly even felt the impact," he replies, shrugging his shoulders and dropping his hands from my arms. "Wait—you're that girl that nose-dived down the steps this morning, right? That was awesome! Good thing my brother was in your way, or you might've rolled right up the stage and taken out Headmaster Bowman!" He throws his head back and emits a booming laugh that hurts my ears and causes me to cringe.
Just as I am sure that my mortification has reached its limit, I glance over to see Rosalie glaring at me with an intensity that should have charred me to the bone. She walks towards us, fists clenched and teeth bared. Certain that my impending doom has indeed arrived, I cower from her approach and start to tremble uncontrollably. Right before she is able to reach us and deliver the death blow, Emmett approaches her and wraps her in a bear-like hug. "Rosie!" he exclaims, excitement bursting from his every pore. "Honey, how are you? Have you met Bella, the new kid?"
Rosalie smiles at him, her features softening and her hands uncurling. She hugs him back, and the couple shares a brief but passionate kiss. "Hey Teddy Bear," Rosalie coos, rubbing her nose against his. "I believe I have met the new girl." She turns to me, a false smile replacing the genuine one she featured only moments ago. "I see you've met Emmett, my boyfriend." She places a hand on his chest, a silent signal meant to convey only one message: mine.
Thankfully, Jacob arrives to join me for our study hall period. He grins at me, then takes my bag from my shoulder and adds it to his current load. I wave meekly to Rosalie and Emmett, turn towards my destination, and start walking beside Jacob.
"So, how have your last couple of hours been?" he asks, raising his eyebrows and awaiting my response. I shrug, unsure of how to verbalize the events that had recently taken place. He nods, a slight frown pulling at his lips, and continues towards the study room. Once we arrive at the room and take our seats at an unoccupied table, Jacob opens his mouth to speak. I cut him off before he begins, quickly explaining my already-heavy work load and need to complete my assignments before I am assigned more homework from my upcoming classes. Jacob merely nods, opens his Spanish book, and starts working on his homework in silence. I follow suit, feeling guilty about the way I treated Jacob and confused about the way Rosalie keeps treating me.
Who does she think she is, flirting with Emmett like that?
I tap my perfectly manicured nails on the table in front of me, fuming over the way the new girl—Bella, I mentally add with a sneer—seems to be determined to gain attention. Soon, she will learn exactly where her place is in this school: unnoticed and unimportant. I will personally make sure of it.
I look over at my lab partner, Lauren. She is looking back at me, and automatically sits up straighter at the arrival of my gaze. Ugh, not again. When will these girls learn that, no matter what they do, they need a brain to do it? I am so tired of the girls looking to me for approval all of the time, as if my praise is the only thing that matters around here. However, the alternative to their brainless following would leave me without friends, something I refuse to let happen. If a few of their brain cells have to die in the process- each one dying alone, no doubt- then so be it.
The door to the chemistry lab opens and in walks my brother. Beside him is the ever-infuriating Alice, his tiny little girlfriend. Why he stays with her, I will never understand; she's always dressed so sloppily and always has paint-covered hands. She walks around with a holier-than-thou attitude that makes me want to smack the serenity right off of her face. I've told him multiple times that he needs to dump that little snob, but he always ignores my advice and stays with her. He must be getting some if he's willing to put up with her.
Just as they take their places at their designated lab table, the door opens again and in walks Edward Cullen, brother to both Alice and my love, Emmett; not to mention the most sought-after and unattainable guy in school. It's not just girls at our school who want him, either; the entire female population of the county stalks outside the school grounds simply to get a glimpse of Edward—and to throw their pathetic selves at his feet. I even notice Lauren going gaga over him as he saunters to his table and takes his seat next to the little nerd named Angela. I suppose he picked her as his partner because she's the only girl I've ever seen who hasn't fallen for his so-called charm.
Even that little attention-whore Bella threw herself, literally, at his feet to get him to notice her. She probably transferred here just so that she could see him on a daily basis; it wouldn't be the first time that it has happened.
As the study hall period comes to an end, I look over my Latin homework and am satisfied that it has been completed. I look over at Jacob and, seeing that he, too, is packing up, I open my mouth to apologize. "Jacob, I—"
"Don't worry about it," he says, cutting off my apology before I could utter it. "I get it—you had a lot of work to do and didn't need me yammering away while you tried to do it." He gives me a reassuring smile and returns to putting his stuff away.
"Thank you for understanding, but that isn't the whole reason. I figured that, if you kept talking to me, eventually we were going to have to broach the subject of the events of my day so far. To tell you the truth, I can't describe them to you because I can't figure them out myself; all I know is that today is definitely not going the way I had hoped it would." I lower my head, shifting my eyes to my backpack.
Jacob looks at me with a searching gaze and, not being able to get me to return the gaze, shrugs. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," he explains, giving me a small smile as I glance up at him, "but if you're ever ready to talk about it, just know that I'm here to listen." He nods, places his bag's strap on his shoulder, and walks towards the door.
I stare at his retreating figure, too stunned to move; never, in my seventeen—almost eighteen—years of life, have I had someone offer to listen to my problems. I've never gotten close enough to someone for them to offer it, and I was sure it took a lot for someone to do so. Apparently I was wrong, for I've only known Jacob for a few hours and already he has offered his ear.
I grab my bag and exit the study room, heading towards my locker to put my books away before I head to lunch. As I place my Latin books on the top shelf of my locker, Angela sidles next to me and offers a small smile. "How would you like to accompany Jacob and myself for lunch?" she asks, then quickly adds, "That is, unless you've already gotten a better offer."
I smile back at her, grateful for her offer; now I won't have to eat in a bathroom stall to avoid humiliation. "That's the best offer I've gotten so far, so of course I would. Shall we?" I shut my locker door, turn, and start heading towards the door with Angela keeping pace beside me.
We travel across the grounds and enter the doors to the cafeteria, Angela leading me towards the lunch line. "At Eckhart, we have a large variety of foods to choose from in order that the students don't have to suffer through Tuna Surprise." Angela then chuckles, indicating that what she said was a joke. I join in the laughter, and we continue towards the trays and silverware.
We approach the serving area and I notice that, though Angela was being humorous, what she said is absolutely true; dishes from every cuisine style imaginable are in front of me, waiting for me to make my decision. I choose the lasagna with Italian breadsticks and a soda, placing them on my tray, and turn towards the many tables found inside the cafeteria. Angela, after placing the California Roll sushi and Chai tea on her tray, gestures for me to follow her towards an empty table by the left side of the room. We walk to it, place our trays on the table, and take our seats. Not long after, Jacob places his tray—carrying a steak with mashed potatoes and a bottle of water—on my right side and next to me. We all smile at each other and begin to consume our respective lunches.
As I chew a bite of my lasagna, I look around the room at the faces in it—a habit I seem to have picked up this morning. My gaze freezes when I spot a bronze-headed boy, the same one that I slammed into this morning; I try to look away, but find myself unable to. As I stare, unmoving, at his beautifully sculpted face, he looks up and our gazes clash. I look away as fast as I can, which is not nearly fast enough, and resume chewing the food I did not realize I had stopped chewing.
A blush—an unavoidable occurrence in my life—blooms across my cheeks and I look over to see Angela and Jacob giving me expectant looks; they must have asked me a question and are now waiting for my response. "I'm sorry, I missed that; what did you ask me?" I try to hide the dazed look on my face, to no avail, and decide to ignore it as much as I can. A knowing smile forms on Angela's mouth, worrying me further.
"I asked if you were interested in any of the clubs that Eckhart provides for its students," Angela explains, nodding in my direction in silent agreement that she would not comment on my earlier display of insanity. I smile, a relived huff escaping through my lips, and join in the conversation.
"I haven't checked them out yet, but I'm hoping to find one that I like. Do you have any recommendations?" I look to them both, awaiting whatever answer they will give.
"Actually, there's an open house coming up in about a month for the parents to see what their kids are doing in school, for new students to see what they can participate in, and for prospective students to get a feel for what they would be experiencing if they are accepted," Jacob explains.
"You can attend that and, once you get information on all of the clubs Eckhart has to offer, you can choose a club that best fits what you're looking for," Angela adds, happy that I have expressed interest in scholastic activities.
As I open my mouth to reply, I hear a loud cackle that stops my comment in its tracks; in fact, it is so loud that it stops all conversation in the lunchroom.
"Rose, that's hilarious!" says Lauren, chortling at the last comment Rose made.
"It's funny because it's true, of course," Rose replies, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder. "That new girl is such a klutz; I bet she can't even stand up without bowling someone over." Rose looks at the table where Angela, Jacob, and I are sitting and shouts, "You know what I'm talking about, don't you Angela? After all, you and Bella met because she couldn't resist tackling you to the ground."
The cafeteria erupts into laughter, and I feel my cheeks burning more than usual. Much to my horror, tears begin to form in my eyes, and I stand up to make a quick exit. I look at Angela and Jacob and mutter, "Guys, I'll see you later. I need to—to go do something."
They nod their heads in understanding and Angela gives me a sympathetic smile. As I make my way towards the door, I hear, "Better be careful, Bella, I'd hate for someone to have to go to the hospital today!"
I quicken my pace and exit the doors of the cafeteria. Quick breaths escape my mouth as I hurry to the girl's bathroom. I slam open the door, rush to the nearest stall, and barely slide the lock closed before I collapse on the toilet seat lid and burst into tears.