A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all of its characters.
Being alone could break you, or it could make you better. It could make you feel like hiding or it could make you feel more than capable. It could make you feel minutely small, or it could make you feel stronger, like Atlas holding the heavens on his shoulders. Yeah, strong like Atlas, more than capable, better. That was me in my aloneness. I won't call it loneliness because that implies I was missing something. That simply wasn't the case. I was content to live in between the lines I'd drawn for myself. Who gives a fuck if other people didn't like the lines? They were my tidy, black, ruler-straight lines. They kept the demons out. They kept the walls high. They kept me strong and centred and free. Yes, lines kept me free in some weird fucked up way, and I was perfectly ok with that.
There had to be lines in boring old Forks with all its fucking clouds and rain and foggy misty shit. I didn't even mind the rain that much, although I suppose the constant dreariness suited my mood so at least I was one with the universe in some small unimportant way. One less thing to struggle against, a tiny struggle as struggles go. The lines made Forks more bearable, or alternatively, kept me from going insane. I hated fucking small towns with their noses up in everybody else's business where they didn't belong, the inane chitchat that fronted the inevitable gossiping and backstabbing, the same boring crap day after day. Nothing ever changed in little shit hole towns and Forks was no exception.
I was the exception or rather me moving here was the exception, the small change in the place that never changed. I could see the looks on their faces and hear their veiled questions and their snickering. I'm sure they all knew more about me than I would have ever shared on my own, and it was all they'd get. I didn't plan to stick around this god-forsaken excuse of a place to live for long. I would be off to college in a couple of years. I mentally checked off another day in my head, one less day to drag my ass around this joke of a town, one day closer to being the me I wanted to be, free from responsibilities and people who tied me down to places I didn't want to be or go, an adult who was free to make my own decisions.
I didn't plan to make any lasting friendships during my overcast incarceration, just get in, do my time and get the fuck out. These small town weirdos just couldn't help themselves. I can't count the number of people that took a run at me, boys who wanted to get into my pants and girls who tried to befriend me while hating me for the attention I was getting and teachers that were annoyed that I'd already studied their puny curriculum in Phoenix. The teachers could fuck themselves. So could the boys for that matter. And the girls were welcome to the attention. I didn't want any of it. One would think that enough cold shoulders and icy glares would keep people away but there were a handful of individuals who kept coming back for more. It was like watching Pavlov's dog. I was the bell that made them salivate. Hadn't these freaks heard of aversion therapy?
There was only one group of people who appeared the tiniest bit interesting to me, the Cullen family. The group of five outsiders kept to themselves and I felt a kinship with them, some sort of worldly understanding for not giving a fuck who I was. I wasn't even a blip on their radar, as it should be. They all went way beyond what I was willing to do to keep people away with their ghostly pale skin and chic, polished appearances and controlled masks on their faces. So unattainable and above the rest of us mere average people. It seemed like way too much effort to me; indifference was so much easier.
There was no need for me to even waste a thought on the beautiful blonde girl or the dark, curly haired man-boy. They were seniors and I'm sure that meant I was even less than what I considered myself in their eyes just by being a junior. Utterly insignificant. That I could handle. The dude, Emmett I think his name was, was huge in a scary 'stay out of my face or I'll kick your ass' sort of way. His girlfriend, the one they called Rosalie, was disgustingly perfect looking and entirely wrapped up in herself. Not the sort of girl a plain looking person like me wanted to talk to just so I could be reminded on a regular basis exactly how substandard I really was.
If I was being honest the whole lot of them were absurdly beautiful. They must have had some gene pool! Perfect looks, perfect grades, envy-inducing cars purchased by overflowing bank accounts. Was there anything that wasn't perfect for them? Local gossip had them as a set of twins and two brothers and a sister, all brought together by the charitable hands of an uncle/father who took pity on them and adopted them. I had heard he was as good looking as the children although I'd never seen him myself. Apparently when the average fairy sneezed her so-so snot on me her brother the flawless fairy over sprinkled his magical omnibus fairy dust on this family providing them with unerring ubiquitous perfection at every turn. I grumbled under my breath. Karma was as big a bitch as I was.
As far as I could tell the blonde boy called Jasper was in love with the dark haired pixie-like Alice and she was just as crazy about him. Or simply crazy. I hadn't fully decided which observation was correct, or if they both were. All I knew was I had trouble not staring at them, having to check my jealousy often, which I wasn't used to doing. I turned my attention to the last boy, the one who was alone, the best looking of the three boys in my opinion. He really was too pretty to be a man. You'd swear he just walked off the set of a Calvin Klein commercial with his chiselled cheekbones and angled jaw and messy on purpose yet perfectly coiffed bronze hair. The flawless fairy had certainly given this boy more than the average amount of fairy dust when it came to looks. I wondered if it bothered him to be the only one not coupled up. Probably not I mused. After all, he had the undivided attention of the greater female population in the cafeteria. Yep, being Edward Cullen surely had its rewards.
I hadn't exactly made a good impression on him the day we'd met. I guess he was pissed at me for being forced into working together in biology. Fuck if I knew? He glared at me with such disdain from the moment I walked into the room that I expended a great deal of energy just ignoring him. I'd already been warned about what would come down on me if I was suspended again so I had no choice but to hold my tongue. I'd rather shoot bleach into my eyeballs with a syringe than give him the satisfaction of knowing he'd made me feel inferior. I would not give a piece of myself away and certainly not to a prick like Edward Cullen. By the end of class I could feel his hatred for me rolling off of him in waves. I saw his contorted face reflected in the chrome tap of our lab table and snickered. I stopped short of actually looking for the pole up his ass. What the fuck was his problem? I was all about keeping to myself and had done a superb job of it during the hour so his intense hatred seemed grossly misplaced. It was well within his prerogative to hate me and really, rock the fuck on man, but I'd be a liar if I said I understood where it came from. When he sprang rudely from his chair and rushed out of the classroom a few moments before class ended I was glad to be rid of him. I didn't want or need his shit.
When he didn't return to class the next day I was relieved to have the table to myself. He was gone for the rest of the week and I was more than happy in his absence. I imagined all sorts of satisfying scenarios to explain his disappearance, hit by a bus, jumped off a bridge, death by castration. That last one had me smiling for two days. Today he decided to grace us with his presence. "Lucky fucking us," I muttered under my breath.
"What was that Bella?" Mike asked.
Ding, ding, ding. I pondered what breed he would be. Edward Cullen, that asshole would be a Rottweiler, majestic and proud but a total motherfucker if you crossed him. Not Mike. He was more like a Jack Russell terrier, hyper and clueless and chasing his own idiotic tail. "Nothing Mike," I replied curtly, biting my lip to keep from smiling as I imagined a spiked leather dog collar around his neck.
"You ready for class?"
"As ready as I'll ever be." I picked up my books and headed out. I didn't need to turn around to know Mike was following me, nor did I care to. Eventually my plentiful reminders to be left alone would get through his thickheaded brain and he'd catch on that I had less interest in him than in a pile of dog shit. Until that day I felt free to be exactly who I was with him and he'd have to deal with the fall out. I wasn't going to spare his feelings in even the slightest of ways. He'd only take it as encouragement.
"You walk fast for a girl," Mike noted casually.
Poor ignorant Mike. "I'm just trying to get away from you," I explained with a grimace. He took it as a joke and laughed heartily. Little did he know I meant exactly what I'd said.
"Are you in a rush to get to class or something? I figured with Cullen back you'd cut class today. I don't know how you sit beside that freak. He was such a dick to you the other day."
I guess Mike wasn't as ignorant as I originally thought. "I'm a big girl Mike. I can take care of myself," I assured him sarcastically.
"Good luck then," he smiled confidently. Totally fucking clueless. There really was no getting through to him. His brain must be his happy place, blocking out all the negativity and cruelty of the world. Go Mike, be in your happy place and leave me the fuck alone.
I plunked down on my stool and dug my textbook out, flipping to the page number written on the board and scanning it to prepare for the lesson. I ignored the scraping of the stool next to me as Cullen took his seat. I ignored the soft thud as he dropped his books on the table. I ignored him when he looked at me curiously. Ok not exactly ignored him but I didn't acknowledge him which was way more friggen important in my eyes.
"Hi. I'm Edward Cullen. You're Bella, right?"
So he was talking to me now? Well fuck him. I wasn't talking to him. I listened to the teacher explain the lab and started with the microscope and slides that had been supplied. I worked quickly, blowing through the scanning lens and low power objective with ease. I'd show Edward Cullen just how little I cared if he talked to me. The cells on the slide came into focus quickly under the 40x objective. The micro focus adjustment needed only a tweak and the slide was perfectly focused. Take that motherfucker!
"I didn't mean to be rude last week. I had…" he hesitated, choosing his words carefully, "a bad day."
I didn't answer him. I didn't look at him. I just slid the microscope towards him and wrote my answer on the form. He watched me, much to my annoyance, before he quickly glanced into the eyepiece and came to the same conclusion I had.
"So tell me about yourself Bella. How are you liking Forks?"
My ignoring wasn't having any effect on him. Figures. This guy must have an ego the size of Manhattan. I grabbed the microscope and pulled it towards me. I yanked the slide from the stage carelessly and shoved in the next slide. A small adjustment in focus and I had my answer to question two. Again I pushed the microscope at him wordlessly.
"I'm guessing that means you don't like it here," he snickered confidently.
Well fuck if I didn't hate people making assumptions about me. I was going to have to talk to him. "Don't make assumptions about me. You don't know a thing about me," I warned in a low, careful voice.
He glanced in the eyepiece and smiled, agreeing with my answer once again. My anger seemed to amuse him. I idly wondered what my foot in his ass would make him feel.
"Well do you?" he mused. "Like it here I mean?"
"Whatever," I hissed. What the fuck did he care whether I liked it here or not?
"Like I said, you don't," he laughed. What an ass!
"What's to like?" I asked defensively with an angry glare. "This town is a bunch of assumption making freaks who hate on you for no apparent reason." His eyebrows furrowed and I smiled reflexively. I'd gotten through.
"Yes, well…" he stammered. "We all have our bad days." His expression smoothed over and he turned his gaze back on me. "And today seems like one of yours." It wasn't a question, more of a statement but it got him what he wanted, my response.
"Oh shut the fuck up. Don't put your shit on me Cullen. You stay on your side of the lab table and I'll stay on my side. We'll both ignore the other and we'll get through this class just fine."
"Testy," he smirked.
Why did he have to look so friggen handsome when he smiled? Bastard!
He switched the slide and refocused the microscope effortlessly. He looked into the eyepiece for the briefest of moments. "So is it true that there was some sort of custody switch that brought you to town?" he inquired casually, like my situation was common knowledge. Shit it probably was but that didn't mean I wanted to talk about it.
His fingers momentarily distracted me. "Something like that," I mumbled, noting they had to be nearly six inches long as I watched them push the scope at me.
"Something like what?"
What was it with this guy? Why was I letting him distract me and why was he so fucking curious about my situation. Last week I was gum on his shoe and this week I was the latest electronic gadget that he couldn't get enough of. "Why do you care?" I groaned. I just wanted him to shut the fuck up and leave me alone. Why couldn't he get that?
"Just trying to get to know you 'partner.'"
"We can be partners without being friends," I suggested with a growl. My patience was thin on a good day and at this point I was ready to pop him one in the teeth to get him to leave me alone.
"Well what would be the fun in that?" he questioned sarcastically. He was enjoying annoying me far too much.
"Is this so you can take it back to all your creepy friends that you got the goods on that Bella Swan chick?" I charged. It had to be something like that.
"I don't have any friends." He said it so proudly I was taken aback.
"That makes two of us," I muttered under my breath.
"I'm just curious really," he added. "What would make a sane seventeen year old pick up and move from the glorious heat and sun of the metropolis of Phoenix to the cloud covered back water town of Forks Washington? A lesser girl would have just stayed put."
His confidence was unnerving. He knew far more about me than anyone should or deserved to know. He was well informed, but not entirely informed. "Your mistake is in assuming there was a choice."
"No choice?" he scoffed. "There's always a choice."
"In the perfect world of a Cullen there is, but for the rest of us mere mortals there isn't." His face twisted up strangely at my words and I inwardly gloated and continued. "Not everyone has a Daddy with more money than God or the world laid out at their feet." I rolled my eyes in disgust.
"Touché," he smirked, "but now I'm not the only one who's making assumptions."
"Let's both stop making assumptions, shall we?" I suggested with a sarcastic smile. Perhaps I'd finally exhausted his sick curiosity?
"You're very hard to read Bella."
That would be a no. "Why are you trying to read me at all?"
"You're…interesting to me. That's all. Nothing more, nothing less."
I wanted to smack his fucking smug face so badly that my hand twitched. "If I tell you what you want to hear will you leave me alone?" A girl could hope.
"My mother died. I wasn't allowed to stay in Phoenix. So here I am in this shit hole town to stay until I turn eighteen and finish high school. That's it," I insisted. "You have all the dirt there is on Bella Swan. Go and spread it around and leave me alone, k?" I straightened in my seat and focused my eyes on the blackboard behind the teacher's desk. I couldn't stand to look into his eyes any longer. They held some power over me that made me uncomfortable.
"I'm sorry," he murmured sincerely. "I know what it's like to lose a parent."
"Well we're not all lucky enough to be adopted by Dr. Money Bags like you. In contrast to what you might think most of us don't have sports cars and trust funds. You don't know shit."
"Perhaps," he offered quietly.
He said nothing more to me for the rest of class. I could feel his eyes on me occasionally, which I worked very hard at ignoring. It was easier than it had been before, now that I'd filled my thoughts with all the morose memories of losing my mother. Her death was my final push into aloneness. When she died I didn't just lose my mother, I lost my best friend and the only other person on the planet who had an inkling about who I was. Like I said, being alone can make you a lot of things, and I chose strong, capable and better. That had to better than broken and small and hidden didn't it? What did Edward fucking Cullen know about any shit like that?
I raised my hand. "May I be excused? I'm not feeling well." The teacher nodded. I gathered my books clumsily and headed for the door without looking back. I could still feel his eyes on me as I walked out the door. It was creepy and uncomfortable…and I liked it.