AN: Disclaimer: I don't own characters, themes or anything related to what is written here. I've completely re-written this chapter but it's the same idea ;)
"Whenever I hear French spoken as I approve, I find myself quietly falling in love"
-Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton
Chapter One: part one
"Mom I'm leaving; I'll see you soon, don't forget the pizza in the oven," I called as I pushed the front doors' knob in, twisting it left so as to enable the locking device.
"Yeah, yeah," she returned, her arm popping around the corner to wave dismissively. I shook my head infinitesimally at her nonchalance.
I closed the door behind me and quickly checked to make sure that it was indeed locked before walking carefully down the icy path. My mother and I had made a pact to always lock the door behind us regardless if someone was still home; it was a safety measure, though she was too scatterbrained to remember most of the time. Two women living alone needed to take care of themselves, and a locked door made us feel safer.
It was October twenty-fifth and there was already a fine layer of ice coating the streets. The dew had frozen the grass into clumps that caught the diminishing sunlight, sparkling like a beacon and creating patterns in the lawns. It was beautiful and off-putting; like an alien planet.
It was always cold at this time of year; usually there was snow before Hallowe'en in this city*. When I was a child I had cried and begged my mother to let me wear my costume without the bulky winter wear. She'd never listened to me, of course, until the year I turned eight.
That year I had begged her right up to the day of, right up 'till the last moment. I'd dressed as the little mermaid so of course she'd dismissed me. As I sat beside her in the car riding home from school with my tiny plastic bag of candy corn clutched in my greedy fingers and wearing a flannel encased windbreaker over my costume, she'd finally seen my reason or maybe she just couldn't deny me.
It had been two years since Charlie, my father, had moved back to Forks, away from us. I was used to spending my summers with him and so had only been back for a few months. I think my mother worried I'd leave her if she didn't play 'nice parent.' Pairing that along with my childlike innocence, all I'd had to do is look up at her and beg one last time.
And finally she'd relented, "Fine Bella. You do as you like."
I had two houses worth of the perfect costume, that ugly sparkly version Renee had bought at the corner store. It was really a cheap rip-off of Disney but when you're eight you hardly care, or maybe I did care, it's hard to recall things like that. But it was my mother and she didn't have time to sew like other mom's seemed to. Even back then I was used to that.
Two houses; that was all I could handle. I'd been out with my friend Angela and she'd watched me with my left arm holding my mostly exposed midriff in any attempt to hold warmth while she wore a coat and a sweater. She'd looked at me like a parent might, like she already knew what was to come. After that second house she'd taken my shivering hand and pulled me back to the house where my mother was waiting, laughing her knowing laugh. She passed me my parka and a pair of snowboarder gloves and we'd left once again.
As I walked now breathing in the harshly cold air, I remembered that moment as best I could, knowing that it was probably the last stupid, childish thing I ever did. As the next few years passed I'd become the parent in our household.
Even if I'd become the mature, responsible one I still needed help. Everyone does in some things; which was why I was walking to the library on this particular day. The library was close, probably only a fifteen minuet walk even with my slow pace. The wind blew angrily, drying my skin as it pounded against me, chapping my lips.
I pulled my books closer to my chest in a ridiculous attempt to bring myself more warmth, like I had all those years ago in my childhood rebellion. My binder slipped from my hold and I frowned as I bent to retrieve it. 'French' it said in black ink, written in my ugly script. It was standard at my school to learn a second language. I'd put it off, a bad habit I'd certainly picked up from my mother, and so now, in my last year of high school, I had to take French*.
I didn't mind being in a class with the younger students, it didn't bother me in the slightest, what I did mind was being completely lost. Some people get languages easily, me on the other hand was awful at it. I could handle English and that was it. Everything else went through one ear and hid around the central nerve never to be understood.
I hated the fact that now I'd have to sit in my favourite place and try to study through the verbs and nouns; even worse, the pronunciation. It didn't embarrass me that I had to get a tutor, I wasn't one of those people who would be ashamed of the fact that something just didn't make sense; it was that I didn't see a point to it.
I would never go to France; I'd never even go to Quebec. There was little to no chance I'd need to know any other language. But the school system is how it is and I wasn't going to pass without semi figuring out another language. I shook my head with self pity one final time as I pulled open one of the library* doors.
I came in with another gust of the freezing wind and two librarians looked up as I did so. Both were wearing sweaters. I smiled at each in turn, stifling a giggle when I noticed one of the sweaters was elaborately decorated with pumpkins, scary trees, graves and a hauntingly full moon.
As I walked past the front desk and to where the work tables were I pulled off my gloves. I eyed the tables, embarrassed, while I searched for someone who appeared to be waiting for me. There were few people in this section which was common. The wooden cubicles with electrical plug-ins were around the corner, this area was mostly devoted to what I was coming here for, tutoring. As I examined each table and its' occupants, if they held any, a pair of eyes broke from a book they'd been engrossed in.
I had never felt more naked as they raked over me. The boy that sat at the ugly ergonomic white table was beyond good looking, he was exquisite. His face was too perfect, a drawing with extremely precise calculations. My head randomly brought me back to my grade nine art class* and what we had learnt about facial proportions. In spite of myself I judged his eye width in relation to his nose, perfectly in sync. I looked away and down to the other tables before the awful realization hit me; he was the only one sitting all alone. Blushing, knowing I'd probably already made myself seem foolish I walked toward his table avoiding his gaze.
As I approached I felt his eyes trained to me. Fear, strangely, curled around me as I opened my mouth, "You wouldn't happen to be Edward Cullen, would you?" I bit my lip anxiously as I brought my eyes up; avoiding his eyes I focused on the rest of his face.
He grinned and his hand came into my vision as he held it out. I eyed it and shifted my books so I could shake it. "Isabella Swan?" I nodded apprehensively as our hands connected.
"Bella," I interjected startled at how abominable I felt when I touched him. But it felt almost… so right… that I pulled my hand quickly back; knowing I was unworthy, "You can just call me Bella."
His hand slid away and made a show of offering me a seat. I sheepishly glanced right and left before sitting down across from him. I laid my books on my lap before pulling my hat off and thrusting my fingers into the mass of brown hair that fell around my shoulders. It was hopeless, I knew, but I wanted to brush some of it out; look civilized.
If I had anticipated my tutor to be an attractive boy I would have borrowed my mother's car, not braved the cold wind that would ultimately roughen my skin and tangle my hair.
I laid my things on the chair beside me before shrugging out of my coat. He eyed me intently as I went about undressing in front of him. I flushed simply at the thought and moved my books so they were sitting in front of me on the table.
"Bella then, what were you having problems with?"
Right now I was having problems focusing on what I was here for actually, but I couldn't say that. I pulled out the textbook and opened it to a previously bookmarked page. "Mostly everything. Sentence structure, numbers, animals, body parts, simple words," I laughed humourlessly as I tilted my head up to stare at Edward.
He eyed my textbook before jotting down something in his notebook. "Okay, that's something we can defiantly work on. Any specific parts you're confused about; things you'd wish to start on?" When he looked up he finally caught my eyes. They bore into me; a diluted shade of green that captured ones attention without trying. Almost like a forest blended together, condensed; maybe even reptilian* in their colour.
I pulled back upon noticing my inclination; I must have looked ridiculous leaning toward. "I'm wretched at French," I admitted shattering the moment.
One side of his mouth pulled up before he let out a small chuckle, he pulled it back instantly, "Sorry, I'm not laughing at you," he returned and I blushed simply because I hadn't thought about that possibility, "What are your goals," he paused as if re-examining his word choice, "for French?"
I scrunched up my eyes wondering exactly what that meant, "I really just have to pass."
He nodded, "That is certainly something we can achieve."
"I hope so," I whispered.
He caught my words, "We will," he told me assurance heaped upon his words, "Don't let my appearance deceive you; I might not be much older than you but I am excellent with languages. You're not the first I've tutored either and I've never had a student fail."
I smiled carefully, "I'll probably be the exception to your skills."
He ignored my jibe as he reached for my binder, "Can I see what you've worked on so far?" His voice was smooth and persuasive; he could have asked me for my first born and I would've handed it over as easily.
"Hmm," he mumbled as he raked over the imperfect translations that I'd scratched onto the page. I was oddly embarrassed of my messy scrawl as I compared it to the small notes on Edward's own paper. His long index finger followed along as his eyes roamed the page. "You're actually not far off."
I quickly surveyed the paragraph he pointed to. It was one I had worked on for hours. "Are you sure? It's not choppy grammatically?"
"Well," He stressed, "It's choppy but I think you're running into roadblocks with placement. It's hard; I know; when your first language is English." He pointed to the first sentence. "See this," he tapped it again, "this is a standard mistake 'est-il' isn't where it should be." He paused as he rewrote the sentence in the margins. "It should be after 'le personnel' and before 'qualifie,'" His accent was beautiful and romantic even though the broken sentence itself was anything but. "'Are the helpers properly trained.'?" He translated.
"Oh," I managed not sure what else to say.
"On a personal note how are you doing in your class?"
I blanched before I answered, "I'm not sure exactly, somewhere around 40."
"Hmm," he mused.
I bit my bottom lip. "I know it's bad but…" I trailed off. His eyes challenged my own again when he looked up.
"No, it's not bad, we can easily improve." His pupils dilated as the moment pushed itself irresponsibly past its comfortable limit. Coughing, he pulled my textbook back into his hands. I heard him flip the pages before he settled on one, "Let's start here."
For the next hour I amazingly focused, mainly by avoiding his touch, his eyes, everything about him except his words. Even those were distracting, actually, but when you placed them on their own, without the visual to confound me, I pulled through. "Same time next week?" He asked as we both collected our things.
"Yes, I'll be here." I ventured a small look up at him, "Thank-you," I added before passing him the twenty dollars that our meeting had cost me. He took it from my hands, his fingers gently touching my own causing my heart to speed. I pulled my hand back anxious, watching him as he tucked the bill into the book he'd been reading before the lesson. It was a worn out personal copy of 'Alice in Wonderland.'
"Of course, it was a pleasure meeting you Bella," I forced a smile as I watched him walk away, the yellow* covered book held tightly in his fist twined with his spiral notebook. I sighed as I ungracefully trailed behind, having waited enough time that it didn't feel like I was stalking him. Instead of continuing to the doors I made a sharp left toward the classics section figuring I might as well relax into a good book before I headed home.
The carpet was grey with hints of a blue tick throughout. It wasn't soft or plush; instead it felt as if it was simply laid right over concrete. I stretched my arms before I sank down onto it; it was certainly as hard as I'd imagined it'd be. I scanned the titles, grabbed the Jane Austen's from the rows and rested my back on the metal bookshelves. But even Austen couldn't get Edward Cullen out of the forefront of my mind.
And the worst thing, I couldn't help smiling thinking about next week.
* Hallowe'en: It almost always snows on, just before or just after Hallowe'en where I live. I've never been able to trick or treat without a parka, bunnyhug, hat, longjohns and all the other assortments of winter clothing shoved under and over my costume.
* French: Originally I wrote this story with Math tutoring in mind. I had a math tutor in grade twelve, first semester so I thought it'd be easy to relate to. I was going to get the math book I used to learn with and then re-learn it all so I could easily talk about it but unfortunately I couldn't seem to find that volume. No I do not speak French so if I mess up, well so be it. I know enough to read French instructions and the back of cereal boxes; so basically I know nothing. I took it up to grade eight so it's been a long, long while.
* Library: This is a real library that I happen to work at, though I've very slightly tweaked it. Tutoring is a major thing there and it happens at the tables described.
*Grade nine art: I didn't learn proportions in grade nine art class. The teacher thought we were ridiculously stupid and couldn't understand numbers. I did in fact learn human facial proportions in grade eleven. Seriously grade nine art, in my school, was pretty much what I learned in preschool.
*Reptile eyes: One of my old friends said, "Wow your eyes are like reptiles," to me. I thought it was funny and used it. So no I'm not saying he has yellow reptile eyes, I'm saying his eyes are green.
* Yellow 'Alice in Wonderland': to my knowledge this means his edition is the Dover Thrift Edition that was printed in 1993.