Hi there. I am not new to the fan fiction world, but I am new to this particular world of it. This is my first Twilight story, and I want to thank my wonderful beta, americnxidiot, whose help on this story has been absolutely invaluable! This story may seem to start off slow, but I promise it picks up, so please bear with me! Thanks so much!

**8/28/09: This is a revised version of the original chapter. I will be continuing to post revised, polished copies of each chapter as I have them ready. :)

Twilight character names belong to Stephanie Meyer. All characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to the respective author. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without express written authorization.

Chapter 1: Friday Night Rituals

Bella POV

Another Friday night, and once again Alice was dragging me out to meet up with the guys again. In truth, I knew exactly what was going on in that pixie brain of hers. Both she and Jasper, with no small amount of encouragement from Emmett, had been trying to set me up with Edward for months. It didn't matter how many times we tried to make it clear to them that we are just friends. Besides, Edward did not date. He was more of a "love 'em and leave 'em" kind of guy; took care of the itch and ditched the scratcher. That would only make for an awkward situation between us. I was not about to risk losing my best friend for a quick roll in the sack, and definitely not the way I planned to lose my virginity.

Did I find Edward attractive? I might have been his best friend, but hell, I was still a member of the female populace. However, he didn't look at me that way, and I could understand why. I certainly was not the most attractive girl in Forks. I was at the receiving end of a few smiles and flirtatious gestures from guys like Mike Newton and Tyler Crowley, but that was about the extent of it. Moreover, as if that wasn't enough, there was my police chief father's strict 'no dating until you're sixteen' ordinance. September really could not come fast enough.

Nevertheless, none of it made the slightest bit of difference to Alice. She insisted that Edward and I were destined to be together and we should just wake up and smell the proverbial coffee. The only reasons I still agreed to the ridiculous Friday night rituals was because one, there was a chance it would eventually help Alice realize that he and I were much better suited as friends. Two, it got my father off my back about staying in the house too much. And three, it gave me time with Edward outside of school.

Between you, me and the fly on the wall, I was head over heels in love with my best friend. Though I would be damned before I would admit that to anyone; especially Alice, who I knew would use it as incentive to try even harder. But I could remember the day I met Edward Cullen like it was yesterday. Every detail, every sight, every smell…

It was seven months before. I had just moved to Forks, WA, with my dad, Charlie, who had decided the crime rate of Phoenix had just gotten too high for him and he was offered the post of police chief up here in the disgustingly boring town. To say I was unhappy would be an understatement. I was a city girl to the core and I loved Phoenix. I missed my friends, my house and, of course, not only was I starting in a new school in a new town – I was starting high school as a freshman, in a new school in a new town. Then there was the added bonus of it being such a small town, where everyone knew everybody else and the family trees probably didn't fork much. Honestly, with a population of just over 3,000, how much variety could there really be? So, I would feel like even more of an outsider. Perfect.

I had gotten up early that morning, after a nearly sleepless night. I'd heard my dad leave for work around four and knew I had a few hours to kill. So I took my time showering and getting dressed in my simple jeans and a t-shirt ensemble, and making myself an extravagant breakfast of Froot Loops and OJ and working on my latest sketch as I ate.

I groaned as soon as I stepped out the front door to walk to my bus stop. Cold and drizzle; the two things I hated most, and all at once, I was even more homesick. Standing at the bus stop under the silent stares of the locals did not help to ease my anxiety and the rumbling of the school bus making its way down the road sounded like harps of heaven to me. I could retreat to the back of the large vehicle and hide behind my sketchbook. However, the feeling of relief was short-lived as I stepped inside, only to find even more stares. I ducked my head slightly as I made my way down the aisle, where luckily, the seat in the very back was empty and I slid in.

I settled into my drawing, distracting myself from the murmurs and giggles surrounding me. Sure, I knew I was plain and ordinary, and being the daughter of a police officer never exactly ranked high on the popularity scale, but I could never accustom myself to the constant scrutiny.

I had become so engrossed in my drawing that startled slightly by the slight shift of weight on the seat beside me. I glanced over to find a petite girl staring down at my drawing. Her appearance struck me as odd; not at all what I had expected from such a small town. Even with her pixie-like haircut, she was undeniably striking and feminine. I had never thought it was possible for anyone to make my 5'4" frame look gigantic, but this girl was lucky if she broke 5'.

"Wow, how do you do that?" Her voice broke me out of my analysis and I could feel the blush coming over my cheeks. Fortunately, her attention was on my drawing and she had not seemed to notice my close observation of her.

"Do what?" I replied, realizing that I hadn't responded when she looked up at me.

She had a kind smile and an extremely friendly disposition, apparently unafraid to walk up to a complete stranger and uncaring to the stares surrounding me. She met my gaze and giggled softly, pointing to my sketchbook. "This. I mean, even on a bouncing bus, the details are still amazing. Who is it?"

My eyes lowered to the paper and were met with a familiar, yet still so distant face—one that was a constant in my artwork but also still tugged at my heart. I glanced back up to the girl's waiting face and I shrugged slightly. "It's my mother," I answered and then my eyes fell back to the paper. I did not discuss my mother with anyone, even Charlie. One thing that I had learned from my father was the less you said, the less you thought; a technique that had benefited me immensely.

"She's pretty," she answered with another charming smile and then held out her hand. "I'm Alice, by the way. Alice Brandon. And you're Isabella Swan, right? The new police chief's daughter?"

Well, if there was ever any question as to my identity before, there certainly wasn't any longer. Even more eyes turned to face me and I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, but shook her hand politely. "Just Bella, actually," I corrected her with a slight shake of my head. I hated my given name. It made me sound like I belonged inside some Disney movie, a princess waiting for her prince; and I was far from that. "It's nice to meet you."

Alice laughed softly, a light sound that seemed to suit her dainty appearance, as she shifted more in the seat to face me. "Believe me, I know the feeling. My parents cursed me as well. 'Mary Alice'? Who names their children after nuns anyway?"

I could not refrain from chuckling faintly in amusement. Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious, even to someone as morose as I was. She was the kind of person you couldn't help but like instantly, and if you tried, you would fail miserably. Fortunately, she wasn't the quiet type either, which suited me fine. I was able to get in about three words through the entire bus ride to school.

Once we arrived however, Alice insisted on introducing me to her friends, even though I really had not intended to make myself so known. But she assured me it was a small group of people and that they would just 'love me'.

To be perfectly clear, there was nothing about that day that would have given me any indication that there was anything different or extraordinary about it. No funny feelings, planets out of alignment or anything ridiculous like that. Just an ordinary day of a high school freshman. But as we walked toward the park behind to the school, I was somehow able to ignore the excited squeal of the girl beside me as he came into my view. His bronze hair gave off a slight glow from the morning sun that had actually broken through the clouds and rain for a moment, his head turning toward us and exhaling a drag from a cigarette as we approached. Just then, something happened to me that had never happened before.

My breath hitched in my throat and my heart started racing at the sight of a guy.

He waited a moment for me to say something, but when all I seemed to be able to manage was continuing to stare at him, his brow knitted together. "Do I have something on my face?" he asked sarcastically, and then began to chuckle when I looked away in embarrassment.

Alice rolled her eyes from her perch around her boyfriend, Jasper's, waist. She was so tiny; it was probably no effort at all for him to hold her there with her legs wrapped around him. "Edward, you must excuse my friend here. Seems the cat has a good hold on that tongue of hers," she said with a giggle as I decided that ignoring her, or at least trying to, was my best option. "This is Bella Swan, by the way."

Edward chuckled softly as his eyes returned to me, giving me a brief perusal. I was still speechless as I looked over at him again. He was good-looking; I would give him that. He appeared to be about 6' tall, slender, but well built. Long legs that seemed to go on for days and the most gorgeous pair of green eyes I had ever seen. Of course, not that I'd spent a whole lot of time 'checking out boys'. I was every father's dream—straight A student, more content to stay home in my room with a good book or my sketchpad than to go out partying and getting into trouble with my friends. Whatever friends I actually managed to acquire, that is. I was painfully shy for the most part and never particularly made an effort to be social. Or to chase after boys as most of my classmates seemed to be obsessed over. Even if my father did not have his strict ordinance about dating, I was never especially interested.

After a moment of extended silence, Alice smirked, watching the two of us gaze at each other and turning to look at Jasper, who appeared to find this amusing as well. "Seems the cat's got his tongue as well," she said in a chortling tone, leaning in to kiss his neck as a group of girls walked by, glaring at her in jealousy. According to Alice, he and his best friend, Edward, were the bad boy juniors that every female member of the student body desired.

Edward never took his eyes off me, but a crooked smile tugged at his lips as he licked them. "Nah, I think it's still right over there on that tongue," he replied teasingly, pointing to my mouth with a laugh.

Unable to resist the urge to stick my tongue out at him both defiantly and symbolically, I narrowed my eyes at him and then turned quickly to storm away from the laughing faction. I was hardly ever so bold but I also had my moments of temper, and I never appreciated being humiliated.

I heard Edward's laughter behind me and it only served to fuel my anger as I continued to walk away, refusing to give him the satisfaction of acknowledging him.

"Wow, she's a little firecracker, isn't she?" he commented briefly to the other two before he jogged up behind me. I heard his footsteps, and as my luck would have it, my tendency for clumsiness at the most inopportune moments decided to rear its ugly head just then. My foot hit a patch of slick mud and I landed flat on my ass. Classic, Bella, I mentally grumbled as I shook my head with a huff and started to push myself off the ground. When I felt a hand on my elbow, I slowly turned my head to find the source, only meet those green eyes again. For the second time, I was rendering me speechless until his voice broke me out of that reverie.

"Hey, are you all right?" he asked in a sincere tone with that soft velvet voice of his, sending me into yet another reverie. How could a voice that beautiful belong to a man? My silence seemed to inspire the soft chuckle that escaped his smooth lips and my gaze reverted to a glare. "Listen, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. May I start again?" he asked but received no answer. I simply folded my arms over my chest and continued staring at him. What had gotten into me? I swore Charlie must have sprinkled something in the OJ that morning to drag me out of my glum mood. "Hi, I'm Edward Cullen."

My eyes shot down to his extended hand and then looked back up at him without returning the gesture.

"So I've heard," I snapped back angrily, pulling my arms around me tighter. The sun had disappeared behind the clouds again, taking with it its warmth and it was once again cold and raw. "And if you think I'm just going to stand around here to be the butt of some hot shot junior's jokes, you are sadly mistaken. I have better and far more interesting things to do with my day. Such as go to class. So now, if you will excuse me, I need to leave. You reek."


"Ow! Alice, that's still attached, you know!" I exclaimed, feeling a sharp pain shoot along my scalp as she twisted my hair. Sometimes I swore I was more of a fashion doll for her than anything else. She always had some new exciting look that she wanted to try with my hair and a new top she had designed that she just had to try out on me. That particular night, it was a dark blue, v-cut midriff top that showed far too much skin for my liking. My low-riders only seemed to increase the effect, which was probably her intention.

"Oh stop complaining and hold still!" Alice scolded me with narrowed eyes and then returned to her meticulous endeavor with my hair. After what seemed like an eternity, she stepped back to examine her handiwork, and I heard her giggle excitedly. "All right, you officially look smoking hot! Now let's get out of here, the guys are probably wondering what the heck is taking us so long."

I sighed and reluctantly stood up, examining myself briefly in the mirror above my dresser. I had to admit, Alice worked wonders, even with someone as plain as I was, but I still didn't see the point in getting all dolled up for a simple night at the movies with friends. Grabbing my purse, I followed her down to her newly acquired, bright yellow Porsche — as if she needed something so extravagant to draw attention to herself.

Edward POV

I glanced at my watch one more time and sighed. This is one good reason to never date, I mused. There had to be an unwritten rule somewhere that women are required to be at least ten minutes late for everything, and the movie was starting in about fifteen. I knew why Jasper and Alice insisted on dragging me out every Friday. It wasn't exactly as if they had ever been inconspicuous about their intentions.

I adored Bella to the depths of my being and she was my best friend. We knew each other inside and out, and I could talk to her about anything. Well, almost anything. If there were one girl I could picture myself being in an actual relationship with, it would be her. She was so perfect in so many ways, even with her flaws. My parents and brother loved her as if she was part of the family, but she deserved so much better than me. She seemed so rooted here in Forks with her father, Alice and my own family. Our plans for the future did not exactly mesh.

It wasn't as if it would be difficult at all for her to attract someone decent; someone good for her. Once Chief Swan actually allowed her to grow up some and be a teenager, and of course, Bella herself began taking notice of the plethora of guys around her who really wanted her. The boy's locker room for gym was not the most comfortable place to be in the day she started at Forks High, and the fact that I had been one of the few people to have had the pleasure of talking to her had only made it worse. 'What is she like?'… 'Did you get her number?'… 'Another notch in your bedpost, Cullen?' The effect that last comment had on me should have been a clear indication that Bella was no ordinary girl. Mr. Schmidt had to pry my fists from Newton's shirt after I pinned him against the lockers. Normally, I would have just laughed it off or completely agreed; but she was different and I knew that from almost the first moment I laid eyes on her.


Yet another day in this purgatory, I thought to myself as I sat in my car in the school parking lot. Only two more years of this crap.

The summer had flown by too fast, as it too often did and once again, we were back. My brother, Emmett, had already bounded out of the car to go flirt with the group of stuck-up, anorexic cheerleaders. Jasper and I got out and headed to the park before school to have a smoke and meet up with his new flavor of the week, Alice. Actually, I couldn't really say that, since he rarely actually dated someone, and she wasn't exactly 'new' anymore. They had been dating for the entire summer by then and it didn't appear to be fizzling out anytime soon. More power to him; I couldn't handle it.

It wasn't that I didn't like Alice. She was just a little high strung for my tastes–whatever my tastes actually were. I was truly beginning to believe that I didn't have a particular taste, since none of the female population there actually appealed to me. Especially that Stanley girl; she grated on my damn nerves. Her pathetic attempts at being seductive and her high-pitched 'Hi Edward' weren't the only grounds for my lack of appetite at lunch, but it was high up on the list. From the moment my father was transferred to Washington from Alaska three years before, I had been counting down the days until graduation. The only people I could stand to be around outside my family were Jasper, and for the moment, Alice. Everyone else there annoyed me with their simple, small town mentality and complete lack of intelligence.

I looked up from taking a drag of my Marlboro as I heard that familiar, Notebook worthy 'squee!', and that was the first time I saw her. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds for a moment and I swore that I was staring at an angel. She was without a doubt one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my life, with the sun showing the red highlights in her chestnut hair that held a delicate scent of coconut when she flicked it over her shoulder. She was petite; I guessed that she only stood about 5'4". As she came closer, those deep chocolate eyes of hers never left mine, and the depth of them took me aback, as if I could gaze right into her soul.

I heard Alice introduce her as Bella Swan. Figures, I chuckled to myself. This stunning creature would be a police officer's daughter. Literal jailbait; probably armed with pepper spray and her father's Louisville Slugger leaning meticulously beside the front door, right beside the shotgun. Yet, I still couldn't take my eyes off her.

I waited for her to say something, anything. Just to hear if her voice was as magnificent as the rest of her. I supposed I also wanted to discover if she was going to be any different from the rest of the bumbling idiots at that school, who seemed to think that a pretty face and a nice rack were the only things that a guy paid attention to. She never said a word, though. Great, so you are another one of those, I thought as she continued to stare at me, and in classic fashion, I decided to hide my discomfort from the all-too-frequent scenario behind cockiness.

Then—dumbass male that I was, even after obviously embarrassing her– I made the mistake teasing her. Perhaps I was peculiar, but I considered her reaction intriguing and adorable, rather than childish. Did she really just… stick her tongue out at me?

"Wow, she's a little firecracker isn't she?" I joked to Jasper and Alice but never took my eyes off her retreating form. I definitely wanted to know the girl better. I jogged to catch up to her but didn't quite make it before I witnessed her slipping and falling right on that cute little ass. And I'd admit, that was exactly where my eyes had been right before she fell.

But that didn't mean that my parents hadn't raised me to be a gentleman and I made my way to her as quickly as I could without risking my own fall, gently taking her elbow to steady her. She looked up at me when I asked her if she was all right, and once again, I got lost in those beautiful brown eyes, a chuckle escaping me at the extended silence between us as I helped her off the ground. I tried to apologize and introduce myself but her expression changed again, and she folded her arms over her chest defiantly.

I swore, if it was possible to fall in love on the spot, I would have done it right there.

She did not shrink away or become intimidated or giggly in my presence. Instead, she became sassy and actually told me I stunk! I followed her eyes to the cigarette I still had between my fingers and laughed, but when I looked back up, I found that she was walking away from me again. I decided at that moment that I needed to know this girl better. She was fascinating. I tossed my cigarette down to the ground and stomped it out with my foot; maybe I would even consider quitting.

I caught up to her again and met her gait so I could talk to her as we walked toward the school. "So you just moved here, right? Are you a junior, too?"

"You're quick, aren't you?" Her sass came back into play and I couldn't help but chuckle in amusement, but then her jaw tightened slightly and she seemed very uncomfortable.

"No, I'm a freshman," she replied abruptly in a softer voice and then continued to walk without so much as a sideways glance in my direction.

I found myself staring at her incredulously. "How old are you?" I asked, unable to mask the astonishment in my voice. I never would have imagined someone so young and so new to the high school environment to have so much self-confidence and spunk.

She did not disappoint me, sighing heavily with an irritated groan and still refusing to look at me. "Young enough to be too young for you, old enough to know that I'm not interested in anything you have to offer. What, am I applying for a job?" she growled between her teeth, finally looking over to me.

I held up his hands in surrender, but I could not erase the smile from my face.

"Hold the fire!" I chuckled and then let my hands fall as we both came to a stop. "Bella, is it? I only asked because you just don't strike me as one of the typical freshmen around here."

"Well, forgive me if I don't bite my lip and swoon because I have been fortunate enough to be graced with your attention," Bella retorted sarcastically with a narrowed gaze at me, followed by an eye roll. She continued to glare at me for a moment and then sighed, looking away. "I'm fifteen."

I was astounded; she did not appear fifteen at all. Even though her heavy coat disguised her figure slightly, her features seemed far more mature than her young age. Yet, her physical appearance was not the first aspect that struck me. Her eyes held a wisdom beyond her years and she spoke with more gumption and confidence than I had ever seen in even adult women. She was not afraid to speak her mind and had a sarcastic wit that truly amused me.

"Well, whatever secret ingredient they have in the water down there in Phoenix could seriously help the girls up here." I watched her eyes begin to narrow at me again and I shook my head. Smooth move, Cullen. "All right, that came out completely wrong. I didn't mean looks wise… I mean… not that there's anything wrong with your looks. I… shit…"

I found myself wondering what the hell was wrong with me? I never became tongue-tied over a girl and certainly never succeeded so thoroughly with inserting my foot into my mouth before. I pinched the bridge of my nose, trying to collect myself before I managed to get thigh high. When I looked back at her, I was surprised to see not only was she was still standing there but also had the hint of a smirk on her face, sending me reeling with the innocent way she bit her lip to keep from laughing.

"Maybe we really should start again," she said suddenly with yet another adorable gesture of wrinkling her nose as she spoke. This girl was going to be the death of me. "Hi, I'm Bella Swan."

I smiled at her extended hand and then touched it with my own and we both laughed as a static shock zapped between us as we touched. I met her eyes again with a genuine smile and shook her hand. "It's very nice to meet you, Bella Swan. I'm Edward Cullen."


A small hand waving in front of me pulled me from my memories and I turned my head to the source and smiled.

"Earth to Edward, come back to us," Bella chuckled, leaning in to wrap her arms around my waist. As I hugged her back, I noticed that Alice, Emmett and his new girlfriend, Rosalie had joined us as well. I honestly never could understand my brother's taste in the phony, peroxide blonde pinup girls—to each their own.

We finally walked into the theater, while Emmett stayed out to spoil his runway queen with anything her heart desired from the concession stand. My brother may have acted like the big tough jock at school but when it came to his girlfriends, he had a heart of gold and placed each of them on pedestals, treating them like princesses. Very much like our father—a military man to his soul, having been in the Army since right after graduation, but there wasn't a woman in the world more loved and appreciated than my mother.

We were in the theater for less than five minutes when Alice announced that she wanted some popcorn for the movie, insisting that Jasper come with her. Bella stood to go with them but they assured her they would grab her something and told us to save the seats. She shrugged her shoulders casually and leaned her head against my arm. As the trailers began to roll, Alice and Jasper still hadn't returned and Emmett and Rosalie never made an appearance at all. Bella began stealing glances over to the door and when the movie actually began, I heard her chuckle and she leaned over to my ear. "I think it's safe to say we've been set up."

I glanced to the two empty seats on her left, as well as the two on my right, and I shook my head. "They are never going to give up, are they?" I said as calmly as possible, making a mental note to strangle the three culprits at the earliest convenience.

Bella was silent for a moment and when I looked over at her, she was staring directly at me, those beautiful doe eyes lightly illuminated by the screen. "Well, there is one way to get them to lay off," she said softly, still holding my gaze. I felt her hand slide through the crook of my arm until it rested in my palm. Our fingers laced together until I enveloped her tiny hand in mine. "We could give this date thing a try and when it doesn't work out, we can tell them to leave us alone. And we can go back to life as usual."

I tried to keep the hurt expression from my face with the words 'when it doesn't work out', and it helped knowing that it was true. We were far better off as friends, exactly the way we always were, and I wasn't going to risk losing her. She was as necessary in my life as air and water; I could and would not live without her. I smiled at her and nodded in agreement with her plan, and with the hushing noises from the people behind us, turned back to the movie.