"Your assignment for the weekend is to plan out a model of how you would use recycling to benefit the earth," Mr. Banner said matter-of-factly. "You have to present it to the class on Wednesday. I'll give you Monday and Tuesday to complete it in class if you need to. Otherwise you can do the project on your own time over the weekend. No exceptions," he finished.
Several hands shot into the air and he smiled, "Let me guess: can you do the project with a partner?"
Every last one of the hands slowly lowered. "I'm thinking… probably not," he faked a grimace.
A loud and resounding grumble of protest made it's way throughout the classroom and he made a face at us. "Alright, alright," he held out his hands. "Because this is the recycling wrap up project… I'll let you work with a partner." The class erupted with happy sighs and a few loud cheers, drowning out his follow up statement of "But just one partner!"
"Alright, settle down, settle down," he held out his hands again as if he was calming the red seas themselves instead of a group of rowdy teenagers. "I'll even make one more allowance. You don't have to work with your regular biology partner."
Several grunts of approval and a few hushed whispers floated through the room, displaying my fellow students' overall appreciation of Mr. Banner's allowances. I, however, did not share their excitement. If we were allowed to pair with people outside of our assigned lab partners… it would definitely raise suspicion if Edward and I worked as a pair anyway.
Tanya turned in her seat and faced Edward with a bawdy smile. She pointed at him and then at herself and mouthed the word 'Partners'.
I glanced at Edward out of the corner of my eye. His brow furrowed and he scrunched up his face to display his disinterest. He shook his head and looked down at his notebook, ignoring her then.
Tanya's face fell and her hand shot up into the air.
"Yes?" Mr. Banner called on her.
"Can we partner with people from other classes."
"Are you asking, Ms. Edington, if you may partner with James from my second hour class?"
You had to hand it to Mr. Banner. He was very up on the latest school gossip.
She didn't respond.
He hesitated, staring at her for several moments before sighing, "I suppose you can partner with students from other classes, but, if you chose to do that, you must give your presentation alone as I can not pull them out of their regularly scheduled classes for that. And you'll have to use out-of-class time to finish the project for the same reason."
She nodded once and then looked down at her notebook, anger still covering her face like an ugly mask.
I jumped a little as Edward nonchalantly tapped me on my wrist. I looked down as he slid a piece of notebook paper toward me. I unfolded and quickly read it.
At exactly 2:35, ask for a pass and go to the bathroom.
I frowned and sent him a confused glance before taking out my pencil to respond. I hadn't even touched it to the paper yet when the bell rang signaling the end of class. He got up and piled his books and folder into his arms before heading for the door. Still confused, I followed suit. I had no idea why he was scheduling me a bathroom trip, but I trusted him.
I smiled to myself as the thought echoed in my head.
I trusted him.
I wasn't sure when that had happened, really. I was a very untrusting type of person. One year ago if someone had told me that the one person I would trust fully in my entire high school career would be Edward Cullen, I might have laughed in their face. But it happened. I trusted him.
I could guess that it happened sometime within the last week. Exactly seven days prior had been the first time I had really, really kissed Edward. Not just a wimpy peck type of kiss… but full on kiss. My first actual kiss.
If someone had told me that Edward Cullen would be my first real kiss, let alone my first real boyfriend, I would have instructed them to get their head checked. The idea that was once unfathomable was now my everyday reality.
We had followed that kiss up with several more in the following week. I had realized something the first night that I had … well… made-out with him as I lay awake being too excited to sleep. The reason that the thought of making out with someone had always scared me was not so much that I was afraid I would be bad at it. It turned out I wasn't really bad at it at all. What had sent up that subconscious red flag was the significance of such actions. For some reason I had it in my mind that making out would only lead to having sex, and that was something I was certainly not yet ready for. In the past week however, I had realized that Edward was different. Not once did he ever try to do something that I wasn't ready for. Hell, he usually asked before he even kissed me! Never did he try to cop a feel or push things past the point of just kissing. He was a perfect gentleman. Had I known that perfect gentlemen existed, there's a chance that I would not have been such a social recluse in all of my school years prior.
We had just gotten started on our assignment in my 6th hour class when the clock finally hit 2:35. I got sudden butterflies in my stomach as I pushed myself out of my seat and headed to the front of the class. I rationalized with myself that I was being absurd. I had asked for a bathroom pass hundreds of times in my life, why was I so nervous about this one? I knew it was because I had no faith in my acting capabilities. No matter how hard I tried, my true intentions were always scribbled all over my face in very florescent colors. People could always tell when I was lying.
"Yes, Ms. Swan?" Mrs. Balmer asked without looking up.
"I, uh…can I please have a pass to use the restroom?" I asked quickly.
"Mmmhm," she nodded, still not looking up.
"Thanks," I whispered, quickly, grabbing the little key on a ribbon off of the hook on the wall beside her desk and heading quickly for the door.
In our school, bathroom passes were a number of different objects. Mr. Banner always had us use this spray painted, fake, golden onion. In Gym class, it was a flag from tag football. Mrs. Balmer was a very… pink type of teacher. Her room was always neat and smelled like roses and her favorite color was pink. If you handed any assignment in on paper that was pink or scented, she would give you automatic extra credit. So her bathroom pass was a pink, fake key (that strongly resembled a child's toy) on an ornate pink ribbon. Most people put it around their neck, but I refused to have something that looked that prissy around my neck. I held it in my hand.
The point of a hall pass was, I guess, to show that you had permission to be in the hallway. At one point I suppose there had been some kind of a hall monitor to make sure students weren't in the hall between classes, but those were long since gone. Probably eliminated in some staff cut to save money. This school was infamous for being really cheap. For some reason, though, the hall passes never went away.
I stepped into the hallway and quietly closed the door behind me. I started in the direction of the girl's bathroom, still lost in thoughts of Edward's lips and body and face, forgetting to even consider the real reason behind this impromptu bathroom trip. As it was Friday, that meant that there was only one more class left before I got to leave and go to Edwards house and spend the evening burying my face in his and kissing him.
I neared the corner to go into the girls bathroom and was about to turn toward it when suddenly, I was kissing him. I didn't know exactly how it had happened. One moment I was walking toward the little alcove where the bathrooms were located, and the next I had been jerked sideways into the little hidden area where the drinking fountains were. I had almost fallen over from the shock of it, but two strong hands had gripped my upper arms and steadied me, all without drawing any of his attention away from my lips. It didn't take me long to figure out that this had been Edward's plan all along. I reached forward until the tips of my fingers found his beige sweater. I clutched at it and pulled him closer to me as his hands ran down the length of my arms and sought purchase along my waist line. I was suddenly very aware that I was kissing him in the middle of school. In school. Fear gripped at my heart for a moment, but melted away quickly as he deepened the kiss. It felt almost exhilarating to be defying the rules like this. In this little tucked away nook, no one could have seen us unless they were standing directly across from it in the hallway. But that could have happened. At any moment someone could have walked past and witnessed Edward Cullen and Bella Swan in a lip lock. Had it been a teacher, I probably would have been in a great deal of trouble. Both of us would have been. Detention at the least… maybe even a multiple day suspension at worst. The idea of that alone should have been enough to make me stop, but I didn't find that near as terrifying as the thought of a student finding us. It would be all over the school in ten minutes, tops. However, despite both of those risks, I didn't care. Nothing else mattered at that moment than his lips moving in completely synchronized motions against mine.
I let out a long exhale of breath as he pulled away from me, his eyes bright with the same emotions I was feeling. Exhilaration, rebelliousness, want.
"I've been wanting to do that all day," he breathed.
"I would not be opposed to doing that all day," I replied.
He smiled at me and kissed my forehead once before peeking out into the hallway and making sure the coast was clear. "See you after school?"
I nodded and grinned back at him. He was about to leave when I grabbed his shirt and pulled him back for one last fleeting kiss to last me for the next hour.
He headed back toward class, throwing an unreadable glance over his shoulder as he went. I thought he had winked at me, but I couldn't be sure. I decided to quickly go to the bathroom anyhow. Not so much because I had to go, but because I needed to collect myself. I'm sure Mrs. Balmer would have noticed if I came back into the room looking flushed and breathless. I stared into the mirror for several seconds, willing myself to stop smiling so hard. No one should look this elated after visiting the bathroom. It wasn't normal.
I brushed my hair out of my face and took several deep breaths, staring back at my reflection. I barely recognized the girl in the mirror anymore. I was… happy. I was happy all the time. I smiled more than I ever had before. I sang in the shower now and I danced to the music I listened to when I was alone in my room. I was a different Bella… but I was still the same. I still didn't understand what he saw in my plain and unimpressive features. Granted, I didn't exactly care what he saw. He obviously saw something, and regardless what that something was… I was happy with it.
I took one last deep breath and headed back to class.
"So, did you hear?" Alice asked conversationally as we sat in the living room watching the end credits of the Gilmore Girls episode.
"Hear what?" Edward asked.
"Tanya's having another I'm-the-richest-and-most-popular-girl-in-Forks-bow-down-and-worship-me party this weekend," she said without much enthusiasm.
"Oh," he said, mirroring her interest.
"She invited me and told me to tell you to come, too," she continued, inspecting her fingernails.
Edward laughed out loud and Alice smiled as if she had anticipated that response.
"Did you tell her to shove it?"
"No, I told her I would mention it and if you agreed we would address our RSVP's to the stick up her ass."
"Ten points to Alice," Edward grinned, leaning forward and extending his hand which she slapped happily.
"She was a little pissed," Alice fake winced, "So I'm pretty sure we won't be getting invites to anymore parties…" she made a face.
"Bummer," Edward snapped his fingers and swung his arm in front of his body in a sarcastic gesture.
"Am I the only one that's sad about this?" Jasper piped up.
Everyone turned to look at him.
"She always had really good booze there," he said jokingly, holding his hands up.
Edward and Alice rolled their eyes, I laughed.
"At least she thinks I'm funny," he gestured toward me with a wag of his head as he folded his arms in front of his chest in a pretend pout.
"Okay, I've got bad news," Esme announced, walking into the room with her arms up in a 'don't-shoot-the-messenger' stance.
"Dad has to work a double shift tonight, so we're going to save the fajita night for another day. You know I can't make his favorite meal without him."
"Awe, man," Alice said sarcastically.
"So tonight…" Esme grimaced, "is pizza night."
We were all silent as we stared at her until Jasper finally broke in.
"And that's bad news?"
Esme winked and continued. "Who's ordering?"
"Me!" both Edward and Alice shouted at the same time.
"No, you got to order last time! I hate bacon on my pizza!" Alice argued.
"Mushrooms are worse than bacon!" Edward argued.
"No, they're-""I have an idea!" Esme cut in loudly. "How about we let Bella decide."
They all turned to look at me.
"Whoa, don't put this responsibility on me. I'm not picky. I'll eat anything but anchovies."
The room was silent for another second or two before Alice and Edward both erupted and jumped right back into their argument.
"You always get to order, Alice. You never remember to ask for half-"
"I do so! It's my turn to order!"
"Not if I get there first," Edward challenged.
They sat glaring at each other for several seconds more before they both moved at once, pushing and shoving each other as they dashed for the kitchen and, I assumed, the telephone. Jasper, Esme and I remained in the living room listening to the scuffles and shouts of protest in the other room.
"Don't break anything!" Esme called out. "Or anyone…" she finished as she took a seat next to me.
"Ow, that's not fair - you cheat!" Alice cried.
"Hey! You're just too slow, OW!" Edward voice echoed from the kitchen.
"Not the hair!"
"Gimme the damn phone! I'll hang you on the coat rack again"
"Don't you dare!"
The three of us listened for a while and began laughing hysterically. I really did enjoy Alice and Edward's brother-sister dynamic. They made for really good entertainment sometimes. Even if they were arguing about something as silly as pizza toppings.
"He hasn't been this much fun in a while," Esme sighed.
"I've noticed that, too," Jasper nodded.
"What?" I frowned.
"They used to fight and argue like this all the time," Esme waved her hand in the direction of the kitchen. "For a long time now Edward has been just giving in to her. It's not nearly as fun," she smiled.
"And Alice gets a bit hard to handle when she's used to constantly getting her way," Jasper added.
"Oh," I said uncertainly, looking down at my hands.
"It's because of you," Esme said suddenly.
"I doubt that," I shook my head.
"You wouldn't believe the differences, Bella," she smiled.
I didn't say anything.
"He jokes around with us. He cracks jokes. He smiles all the damn time," she chuckled. "Excuse my language," she added, putting her hand over her mouth deprecatingly. "When he plays the piano, it's not sad music anymore. It's beautiful music. The kind that he used to play years ago when he was younger."
"I'm sure that doesn't have anything to do with-"
"She's right," Jasper piped up. "I've been his best friend for years. I was his best friend before I started dating Alice. He used to be so happy… and I used to think it was my fault that he wasn't anymore. It seemed like right after Alice and I started dating he got really… weird. But now all of the sudden he's back to the old Edward. It's because of you."
"You've helped him so much," Esme agreed, smirking a little as Alice screeched "Pepperoni!" from the kitchen. "It's funny because… I didn't even realize that he was different until you… I mean, how do I explain this.. It's like we didn't even know he was broken until you fixed him. It was such a slow and gradual change. But as soon as you came along, it was like, BAM! There's old Edward. You helped him find himself again."
I was going to reply. I don't know what I was going to say, but I felt like I had to say something. Esme looked to be nearly in tears at this point. Before I could say anything, Alice and Edward returned. Alice sat down on the couch and folded her arms, jutting out her bottom lip in an exaggerated pout.
Edward sat down on the other side of me and rolled his eyes. "Oh please, I put mushrooms on half of it."
"You didn't order ranch dressing with the breadsticks," she argued.
"We've got ranch dressing in the refrigerator!" he groaned.
"Not the same," she said petulantly.
Esme rolled her eyes and stood up. "How long 'til it gets here?" she asked.
"Oh, I didn't get delivery. I figured Bella and I could go pick it up. Is that okay?" I thought he was asking Esme for her approval, but I realized after a moment that everyone was staring at me. "Oh, I… yeah, that's fine."
Edward and I listened to music the whole way to the pizza place, both lost in our own thoughts. Edward went in to get the pizza without me as Eric Yorkie's father owned the place and Eric often worked there. He was in charge of the school paper and "Edward Cullen and Bella Swan picking up pizza together" was not one of the things we wanted to see on the front page.
Edward didn't turn the music back on when we started back to his house, though it took him a while to start up any conversation.
"You think we should get started on that project tonight?" he asked.
"Um," I said hesitantly, glancing at him.
"Um what?" he frowned.
"I thought that.." I trailed off. "We're allowed to have other people as our partners for that.."
"Right…" his frown deepened.
"Well… I thought you would want to..,"
"Partner with someone else?"
I started frowning then, "Yeah, maybe.."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"Well I just thought… never mind."
"Bella, please tell me what you're thinking," he requested softly.
I shook my head and continued. "If we're partners even when we don't have to be, isn't that going to kind of… make people suspicious?"
"Oh," he scratched his head. "I guess I never thought of that.."
"I mean… I don't mind. I would like to be your partner… but,"
"But you don't want the attention," he finished for me.
"No, that's not… I don't even care about that anymore, really. It was a stupid idea."
He fell silent for several minutes then, not speaking again until we were almost back to his house.
"It wasn't a stupid idea if it made you feel more comfortable, Bella," he argued. "If you weren't comfortable with people staring, it wasn't a bad idea."
"It's such a pain in the ass to hide it though," I grumbled. "Maybe we should just get it over with. Quick like a bandaid."
He fell silent again, but something in his silence suggested that he may have been hurt by my statement.
"No, I didn't mean get it over with in that way… I just mean…well, sooner or later someone is going to find out. And then we'll be the talk of the school for… well who knows how long. Waiting is just making it worse.."
He still didn't speak.
"So I guess what I'm trying to say is yes, we should probably start the project tonight."
He chuckled once and gave me a furtive glance as he pulled the car into his driveway.
"Maybe doing the project together will be a subtle hint that we're still… together." I searched for the right words. "Maybe it'll make it less of a surprise when we are public."
"We don't have to be public until you want to be. You make that call," he promised.
"Okay," I nodded in agreement.
"Until then we'll just have to keep making out by the drinking fountains between classes," he winked.
"That was genius by the way."
"I have my moments," he grinned. "Was it just me or did the fact that we could have been caught at any moment make it that much better?"
"I totally agree," I nodded as he turned off the car and reached into the backseat for the pizza box.
I got out of the car and started to head for the house but he caught me with one hand and swung back around to face him, kissing me softly as he wound his fingers into mine.
As we walked into the house, I knew for sure that I no longer wanted to keep our relationship a secret. Every time I walked into a room holding his hand, I felt so complete. As long as he was by my side I could take whatever criticism my classmates could throw at me.
And I knew damn well that I would have to endure a lot of criticism.
The weekend passed by far too quickly. Bella was spending most of her free time when she wasn't scheduled to work over at my house. I wasn't certain, but it seemed like she was getting much more time off than before and a part of me suspected that she had cut down her availability in order to spend more time with me. The moral part of me felt bad about that, but the selfish part of me was very happy with it.
We both dragged out the recycling project for much longer than we needed to. If we had sat down and focused on it, we probably could have finished it in a few hours. But it gave us additional reason to spend time together. Not like we needed an excuse to be with each other, but it seemed like Chief Swan was getting more and more agitated with the amount of time Bella was spending with me. He never told her that she couldn't, of course, but he seemed agitated and grumpy whenever she did. Because of this, our project ended up being about 10 times more elaborate than we had initially planned. The plan alone was almost a piece of art by the time we were finished with it on Sunday night. Normally I wouldn't have wanted that elaborate of a project to do, but I knew that we would never be able to finish that in class, so it would just give more reason for me to spend time with her without agitating her father further.
Monday and Tuesday we spent the entire class period working on our project and only managed to get about three quarters of the way finished with it. I'm sure it would have taken much longer if we weren't in a school environment. When we were making the outline over the weekend it had taken four times the amount of time it should have because we kept getting distracted by each other. We would fly off on random tangents and start talking about spontaneous topics and then eventually end up making out for long periods of time. It was amazing that we hadn't yet run out of things to talk about… or lost interest in kissing one another.
I noticed as I had said goodbye to her on Tuesday that her anxiety seemed to be growing and growing. I asked her about it and she denied my observations. It still seemed to me that she was nervous about something.
Wednesday morning as I passed her in the hallway, doing my best not to look like I was watching her, I noticed again that she looked pale and it suddenly clicked. Of course Bella would be nervous. We had to give a presentation in front of class today… with all those people staring at her.
Throughout the rest of the day I tried to come up with ways that I could make her feel better and less scared about the presentation. During lunch, I watched her sitting alone, looking mortified and staring at her untouched grilled cheese like it would come at her with a knife at any second. Without a second thought, I pulled out my cell phone and constructed a roughly worded text message.
Don't worry about the presentation. I'll be right there with you. You'll be fine, Bella. I'll make sure of it.
I closed my phone after it had sent and watched her out of the corner of my eye like I always did. She jumped a little as the phone buzzed in her pocket. She glanced around the cafeteria, making sure there were no administrators nearby to catch her with her phone out before she opened it and read it. I saw a small smile creep over her face and quickly looked away. That was all I needed to see. Several seconds later my own phone buzzed and I opened it to read this single word: thanks.
I jumped, quickly stuffing my phone into my pocket fearing that the voice was that of someone who shouldn't have caught me with my phone out.
Regrettably it was the voice of something much worse.
"What?" I asked impatiently.
"You left something at my house Friday night." I winced a little as she said it. It seemed almost as if she was shouting.
"I wasn't at your house on Friday night," I replied, trying very hard to make my voice match the resentment I felt inside.
"Oh, whatever," she rolled her eyes as if she didn't believe me. "Well then, you forgot these at my house Friday night when you weren't there." Tanya winked very exaggeratedly and produced a pair of blue and green striped boxers from her purse, dangling them from her pointer finger and holding them up so that the entire cafeteria could get a good look at them.
I realized then why she was being so loud.
I heard Alice take in a sharp breath on my left. I smiled and shook my head. "I wear briefs," I said indifferently.
"He wasn't at your house on Friday night," Alice said.
"How would you know?" Tanya snapped at her. "I'm sure you were far too busy being a slut to notice where your brother was."
Jasper stood up from the table quickly and I placed my hand out, warning him not to do anything stupid. Alice was seething with anger and the entire cafeteria was now completely silent, watching intently.
"You're going to call my sister a slut when you're trying to give me another man's underwear?" I frowned. "I'm one of the very few people in this school that you haven't slept with, which would explain why you don't know what kind of underwear I wear. Next time you try to fling around false accusations, you should probably do a little bit of research. And don't you dare call my sister a slut when your legs are open more than a twenty-four hour 7-11."
"Fuck you!" she snarled. "And take your damn underwear." She dropped them in my lap and turned to walk away.
"I wouldn't fuck you if you were the last woman on this earth," I said quietly enough so that only her and a few surrounding ears overheard.
She stopped in her tracks and turned around slowly.
"It's a little too late for that now, isn't it?"
"I wasn't at your house on Friday night," I shook my head.
"Then where were you?"
"At my own house."
"I just told-" Alice interjected.
"You don't count. You're probably just lying to cover up for him." Tanya snarled. "Edward, you can't expect people to believe that you sat at home by yourself on a Friday night. I don't understand why it's such a big deal that we were together. It was a beautiful thing. You said so yourself," she shrugged.
Anger boiled up from within me and I slammed my hand against the table, causing her to jump in shock. I stood up and opened my mouth, ready to defend myself further even though it seemed like I was fighting a losing battle. The entire school bowed at Tanya's feet… mainly because she was very capable of making bad things happen to people who got on her bad side, which I had already experienced first hand… as had Bella.
"He wasn't alone."
Several choice words that included various farm animals and profanities fell unspoken from my mouth as the voice echoed around the noiseless cafeteria. Tanya frowned and looked around, searching for the voice that had dared take my side in this argument.
All heads turned in a slow and even motion until they were staring at the one table in the cafeteria that had only one person seated at it. Bella was staring down at the table, a look of fixed determination covering her face. Slowly she raised her eyes to meet Tanya's. She stood up and walked slowly toward my table, not even blinking.
"Pardon me?" Tanya said, a smirk covering her malicious features.
"I said," Bella started, taking another step toward Tanya until she was only a foot away from her. "he wasn't alone. He was with me."
"And why the fuck would he spend his Friday night with you when he didn't have to?"
"We were doing our Biology project," Bella said, narrowing her eyes.
"And why the fuck would he do his Biology project with you when he didn't have to?" Tanya sneered, leaning closer to Bella's face.
"For the same reason he didn't do his project with you when you practically begged him in class." I had never seen Bella so confident and so…pissed off before. Her hands were placed on her hips and she held a very strong stance that suggested she was not intending on backing down. I felt my jaw fall as I watched the two of them standing that close to each other. I half expected a cat fight to break out at any second.
"And what reason is that?" Tanya challenged.
"Because he is my boyfriend."
A gasp rippled throughout the cafeteria in a nearly comical way. Whispers rose and fell like waves on an ocean as Bella and Tanya stood in the center.
Tanya's face contorted. She looked like she was about ready to slap Bella and I was fully prepared to jump between the two of them if I had to. Instead, however, Tanya regained composure and let out one short, hateful laugh.
"And how on earth am I expected to believe that crock of bull?" Tanya spat, spite glistening in her eyes like embers. "Why would anyone waste their time on you?"
That was the final straw for me.
"A month and a half," I said, trying my hardest to keep myself calm for Bella's sake.
Both girls turned to look at me.
"We've been dating for a month and a half."
I had never seen anyone look as angry as Tanya did right then.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" she shouted.
"First of all, I strongly suggest that you watch your tone," I started, taking a step toward her. "Second, Bella is two hundred times more worth my time than you ever were. I'm just sorry it took me so long to realize it."
"Well you two certainly don't seem to care very much about each other. You don't even sit with her at lunch," Tanya laughed spitefully.
I smiled at her and waited until she finished laughing to continue. "I brought her to a party at your house for our second date and you tried to sabotage us. You snuck into the bathroom while I was trying to take a piss and tried to take off my clothes. By not showing outward signs of affection, I saved her from your jealousy and whatever other ploys you could come up with to hurt her. But obviously she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, so to hell with you." I held out my arm and Bella fell into my side like a puzzle piece. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and pivoted toward the doors.
"And," I stopped, turning to face her one last time. "don't you ever call my sister a slut again, or I will post a list of every boy," I hesitated, raising an eyebrow at her. "and teacher you've ever slept with on every locker in this school. Including the door to the principal's office. Seeing as this is recycling week, I don't think it would be very fitting to waste several miles of rainforest just to prove how big of a slut you are." I turned back around and pressed my lips to the side of Bella's head before starting back toward the doors.
We had almost made it out when I noticed James standing among the group of students near the door, open mouthed and in awe just like the rest of them. I had planned to make a show of shoving the boxers into the trash can as we exited, but this seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up.
"Here," I said, shoving the boxers into his hands. "I believe these belong to you. You should have let her borrow a different pair of underwear. I recognize these from the party when you tried to force yourself into my girlfriend's pants."
His face fell and he looked nearly as angry as Tanya, but after the initial anger, he looked more embarrassed than anything. I turned around to give Tanya one more glance as well and found that she was looking surprisingly embarrassed as well.
I suddenly felt very accomplished and extremely proud of Bella. Of my Bella.
The silence was louder than anything I could have imagined as we exited the cafeteria. Alice and Jasper were right behind us, closely followed by Rose and Emmett. I checked my watch and found that there was only one more minute before the bell rang, so we just stood outside the doors listening to the noise slowly pick back up within the cafeteria.
"Can I just say… Bella, you're a friggen bad ass!" Emmett raised his eyebrows approvingly. "That was hot!"
Everyone in the group slowly turned their heads toward Emmett and Rose, knowing full well the amount of jealousy Rosalie was capable of hosting.
"I agree," Rose nodded simply, not missing a beat.
We were all silent for several seconds before we all burst out laughing.
"But seriously, that was the most epic thing…you're my hero right now," Alice nodded.
"Edward did more than me," Bella said quietly.
"Yeah but no one expected him to just sit there and take it. I'm pretty sure, and no offense Ed, I'm pretty sure she would have verbally kicked your ass there if Bella hadn't stepped in," Jasper added. "Or… I'm pretty sure I would have literally kicked her ass for what she said about Alice."
I didn't say anything. I was barely even listening to them anymore. I was just staring at Bella. I was still astonished and …baffled.
She seemed to feel my stare and turned to return my gaze. I smiled at her and squeezed her shoulder with my arm. She smiled back just as the bell rang.
"Still nervous about that presentation?" I whispered in her ear.
"Nope," she whispered back. We headed for our lockers, hand in hand, for the first time inside the walls of that school. Students poured out of the cafeteria and just as we had suspected, stares and whispers were present wherever we went. But I was surprised. Instead of being surveyed with looks of contemplation and confusion, people were winking and patting us on the backs. People were smiling at us. People were smiling at Bella.
"This is weird," she raised an eyebrow as she met me back at my locker after retrieving her own books. "People are being nice to me."
I laughed and put my arm around her again as I slammed my locker.
"That's weird too," she wrinkled her nose. "That we can… do this. In school." She raised her shoulder and dropped it once, gesturing to my arm.
"I like it," I smiled.
"Me too," she nodded.
It was no surprise to me that in the 10 minutes since it had happened, the entire school seemed to know. Even the teachers. Mr. Banner seemed completely unsurprised as we walked into class like that. He looked up and gave us a knowing smile before going back to shuffling papers on his desk.
Tanya came in to class seconds before the bell rang and wouldn't even make eye contact with anyone in the room as she headed straight for her seat. She still looked extremely angry, which was to be expected.
We watched several people give their presentations and take their seats, grateful that no one seemed to have the same idea as we had. The whole time Bella and I had our hands fearlessly linked beneath the table. I rubbed comforting circles onto the back of her hand with the pad of my thumb until it came time for our presentation. Bella went to get the model as I organized my cue cards. We had decided that I would do the first part of the presentation where I explained the model and our ideas behind it and Bella would recite the essay portion of the presentation wherein she would explain the benefits of recycling and our standpoint on it. I kept telling her that it would be a piece of cake. All she had to do was read it off of the cue card and that was it.
I gave my part of the presentation quickly after the students awed over our complex model and then turned to Bella for her portion of the presentation. She did perfectly. She recited every word without a problem, and she didn't seem at all nervous.
"In conclusion," she said, putting the cue cards away and deviating from the script, "I think if people became more aware of what was going on around them instead of being wrapped up in their own little world of perfection and petty superficialities they might be able to appreciate what they have instead of taking everything for granted and throwing it away so carelessly. After it's gone, they'll realize the opportunities they missed out on and pretend that it doesn't matter just to save face. People like that don't deserve to have nice things."
She was staring directly at Tanya as she said it and every word came out thick with double meaning. A double meaning that every student in the room, and maybe even the teacher, caught.
Tanya glowered at her with hatred emanating from her every pore as Bella smiled and finished the presentation with a shrug of her shoulders, leading me back to our seats.
For the second time in one day, I was baffled.
It was in that moment that I believe I fell in love with Isabella Swan.
I don't know why that chapter was so ridiculously fun to write... no, wait.. that's a lie. It's kind of obvious why that chapter was so fun to write.
If y'all have stuck with this story so far, you're amazing. I know there has been some unwanted breaks between updates, and for that I apologize. I've been searching for a new puppy to add to the family and making plans for a trip to Florida to see Wicked and putting a lot of time into doing my best at the new job etc. etc. etc.
Hopefully I'll get a regular schedule soon that involves more frequent updates.
Shoutouts. My loverly betas Kaitlyn and Stephanie. TASHA, because I love her. Ali, too. I love me some Ali. Trendaholic on LJ because I just responded to a review and it's fresh in my mind. Empire Clover, whose having a rough day today. Bexi, Jennlynnfs, Hammondgirl, because they're all fabulous authors of their own stories who still find time to read mine. I'm probably missing people.. but whatever. I appreciate the hell out of all of you. THIS IS SOME LEGIT LOVE RIGHT HERE, OKAY?
Nothing is better than opening up an inbox of reviews, so click that button! :)