Chapter 24 – Superheroes and Siamese Twins
"So, I was thinking we could take Steve to school tomorrow." I attempt to sound casual, but it's hard to be all this-is-a-totally-normal-conversation when I'm actually trying to trap my reluctant but cute boyfriend into letting me drive him to school. I've got to lock this deal down, before he finds some way to weasel out of it or distracts me until I forget.
Edward doesn't say anything.
"And Thursday. Tuesdays and Thursdays can be Steve's days."
"Uh ... well ... no, I can't ... tomorrow doesn't work for me."
"Because I need my car. I have to take my car to the shop after school, so I need to bring it to school," he says.
"So you can't drop me off after school?"
"No, I can. I just have to go from your house to the shop."
"Well I was thinking on Steve's days you could drive to my house and then we could take Steve to school, since my house is between your house and the school."
I must admit I'm taking a certain amount of perverse pleasure out of watching Edward squirm.
"I don't ... I think I'm supposed to drive it as much as I can before I take it in, so ..."
"This is worse than your I-punched-Mike-because-he-put-an-invisible-dent-in-my-car lie. I won't have you punch Steve in the face ... metaphorically speaking."
"Are you accusing me of metaphorically punching your truck in the face? What does that even mean?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's not a metaphor. Maybe it's a simile."
"I don't think it's anything. It doesn't make sense."
"My point is, you already agreed and you can't just make things up to get out of it. Do you really want to go back on your word?"
"I feel like I was coerced by marshmallows," Edward says.
"Don't blame the marshmallows."
"They manipulated me with their wordy marshmallow-ness."
"Are you seriously trying to renege on our deal?"
"I'm just not really sure it counts."
"You said it."
"But I didn't really mean it."
"Are you saying that your words are worthless?"
There's a long pause during which Edward looks like he's trying to do calculus in his head. I have him cornered or maybe caught, like in a lasso, but a lasso of words. I'm like Wonder Woman. I even have some deflection abilities.
I am Word Woman.
"No?" he finally says.
"So you stand by what you said?"
His fingers flex on the steering wheel.
"Are you embarrassed by Steve? You don't want to be seen with him?" I ask.
"I just like to drive."
"Well so do I. Maybe we should just drive separately."
"I didn't say that," Edward replies quickly.
"No, I said that. You said that marshmallowstrickedyou."
He sighs, his head thumping back against the headrest.
"Fine. On Tuesdays you can drive us to school."
"And on Thursdays."
"Yes, Thursdays too."
Word Woman is all powerful, and possibly a little power drunk.
By the time we get to school I've come to the conclusion that Word Woman is possibly not as awesome sounding as I first thought. Further consideration is required. I definitely need a superhero name though.
"What do you think of Word Woman?" I ask as Edward comes around the car towards me.
"I have no context."
"You don't need context."
"I think I do. I find understanding something is usually helpful when developing opinions," Edward says, lightly tugging on the strap of the cursed tote bag.
"You don't need to know. You'll think I'm being silly."
"Because you generally act so dignified." I smack him on the arm.
"What do you think when you hear WordWoman?"
"Wonder Woman has a geeky sister."
"Well, that's no good."
"It might be good. Does she wear the same uniform as Wonder Woman? Because if she wears the same uniform, I'm in favour of it ... her ... this strange thing we're talking about. What exactly are we talking about?"
"Do you think I could pull off a bustier?"
Edward sighs, clearly giving up his silly attempt to bring sanity into the conversation.
"I don't know what that is," he says.
"It's the thing Wonder Woman wears, the top bit." I may have imitated the neckline of it by making canopies over my boobs with my hands. Now Edward's staring at my boobs.
"Oh. Well, I would be willing to help you experiment with ... that thing we're talking about. You may need to try the entire outfit to make sure."
"I'm not dressing up like Wonder Woman, Edward."
"Fine, but when you move to Sweden to become a nun I want a picture of you in the outfit."
"Switzerland. I want to go to Switzerland."
"And you know jerking off to a picture of a nun is probably a sure-fire way to end up in hell." I just said jerkingoff out loud. I can't believe I just said jerkingoff out loud. Unable to look at him directly, I attempt to side-eye him. He's totally laughing at me.
"Oh, what do you know? You've never even read the bible."
"I'll get to it," I reply defensively. "I know the gist."
Edward rolls his eyes at me. I poke him in the stomach.
"Jerk," I mutter.
Over his shoulder I see Jess making her way towards the school.
"There's Jess. I'll see you later?"
"Sure," he says, leaning forward to kiss me briefly.
As I walk past him I'm seized by the sudden urge for vengeance, and I smack Edward Cullen's ass. Then I flee, as much as I can flee in an icy parking lot.
"I feel objectified!" he calls after me. I giggle like a maniac, partly because I think it was funny and partly because IjustsmackedEdwards'sass. Oh my God.
Jess is inside the school by the time I catch up to her. Grabbing onto her arm, I huff out a hello.
"Were you running? Should you be running? That doesn't seem like a good thing for you to do."
"I can run," I reply defensively.
"I'm in gym with you, Bella. I've seen what happens when you run."
"Well, I managed just fine today."
"Good for you," she replies with a smirk.
"You should be nice to me. I've brought treats."
"What kind of treats?"
"The marshmallow kind," I say, pulling a package out of the tote.
"Ooh, thank you. Do you think rice krispy squares are bad for you? I know they're not good for you, but do you think they're really bad? I mean there's rice in there too, right?"
"If you're eating rice krispy squares for their nutritional value I think you're missing the point."
"Well, that's comforting. There's a dance coming up, you know. I like marshmallows, but I don't want to look like one."
"You don't look like a marshmallow."
"I appreciate that, but you're not exactly my target audience," Jess says.
"Which is what? People who don't like marshmallows?"
Jess gives me a blank look before saying, "Boys, Bella. Boys are my target."
"Yeah, those. I need a date, and I want a good one."
"A good what?" Angie asks as she comes up beside us.
"Jess is targeting boys," I say. She frowns at me.
"She's targeting them?"
"For the dance. I'm trying to be a bit more conscious of the way others perceive me, and my target audience is boys."
"She doesn't want to be a marshmallow."
"Like a metaphorical marshmallow?" she asks.
"What's metaphorical about marshmallows?" Jess asks.
"Well, I assume you're not opposed to literally becoming a marshmallow. People are not marshmallows."
"I know people aren't marshmallows, Angela," she snaps.
"I think we all need to stop saying marshmallow," I say.
"I don't want to be fluffy or squishy or anything marshmallow-like for the dance."
"We really need to stop saying that word," I reiterate.
"There are only three weeks to the dance, and I need someone to ask me, like, yesterday. Actually someone did ask me yesterday, but that was Eric," Jess says.
"Eric asked you? What did you say?" Angie asks.
"I said no, or more specifically I said you'refuckingkiddingme,right?" Jess turns to me, placing her hand on my arm and says, "No offense, but I will not accept your rejects. If I'm going to go to a dance with a guy I want to be the first one he asked. At the very least I want to be able to believe I'm the first, which is impossible after the asses they publically made of themselves. I don't think that's unreasonable."
"Well, now he's been rejected twice. That's got to be hard. I hope you were nice about it at least."
"Yeah, you'refuckingkiddingme sounds really understanding," I say.
"Maybe I was a bit harsh, but he's a guy. He'll be fine, and he was totally default-asking me. Besides, Bella brought goodies. I'm sure that'll make him feel better."
"What did you bring?"
"Rice krispy squares. Hence the marshmallow conversation."
"Oh, I love those. They always remind me of kindergarten."
"Funny you should say that. They're double marshmallow, and I've been told it's like eating glue, but in a good way."
"I don't think I ever ate glue," Angie says.
"I definitely did."
"I used to put glitter on my food. I guess I thought they were like sprinkles... but shiny," Jess says. "I once sneezed glitter. I was so convinced I'd turned into a fairy."
"I remember that. You made me call you Buttercup for a week."
"Princess Buttercup, thank you very much. I tried to talk to birds. I almost got attacked by sparrows or something."
"You really thought you were a fairy?" I ask.
"It was kindergarten; anything was possible. I even had a boyfriend," Jess says with a wistful sigh. Angie rolls her eyes.
"You've had boyfriends, boyfriends that weren't seven, and I'm sure there will be more," Angie says as we stop in front of Jess's locker.
"That's all well and good, but I need one now."
"It's only a dance, Jess." Maybe I'm missing the point, since I pretty much just ignored all the dances at my old school, but it's only a few hours of one night. Do you really need a boyfriend so you have someone to hang out with for one night?
"Oh, what do you know? You've already got a date."
"What?" I ask, but Jess continues talking.
"Maybe I should just decide who I want to take me and then force them to or something."
"Force them?" Angie repeats.
"I mean, like, trick them. Obviously I'm not going to threaten them or anything."
"Wait, what?" I ask again.
"Spiderman can climb buildings; he can swing through the city on web strings that shoot from his hands-"
"Actually, it comes from his wrists and-"
"Shut up, Eric. He can trap his enemies in spiderwebs, and he has preternaturalsenses. Batman doesn't even have abilities; he's just a dude with a utility belt and a pimped-out car," Tyler rants, with his voice full of scorn and his finger manically jabbing towards Mike. Without a doubt the most surprising thing about this escalating debate is that Tyler just used the word preternatural, and he used it correctly. He once told me he thought thespians were lesbian actors.
"Yeah, he got bitten by a spider that's super badass. My mom gets bitten by spiders all the time, you know why? Because she gardens. Batman is a billionaire. He is a filthy rich badass, with a man servant and an underground lair. Peter Parker lives with his grandmother."
"It's his aunt, and he was a teenager at the time," Eric mutters, mostly to himself. Angie sympathetically pats him on the arm.
"Batman lives with a teenage boy, and they wear spandex together; read between the lines."
"Batman dates supermodels and Kim Basinger, who was super hot in the eighties. Besides they don't wear spandex. It's some sort of moulded hard stuff that's probably got Kevlar in it. Spiderman's the one with the clingy getup that he sewed himself. I bet he makes a mean bundt cake too."
Tyler makes an inarticulate noise of rage and bangs his hand down on the table.
"You ... Batman isn't even a superhero. He doesn't even have powers. He's just a dude that hangs out with a teenage boy and an old man. How can you even think he's better Spiderman? That's just ... it's fucking ridiculous," Tyler sputters vehemently.
"I hate my life," Jess mumbles beside me.
I'm contemplating screaming in frustration or maybe punching Tyler and/or Mike in the face when I look up to find Edward staring at me from across the cafeteria. I should've sat with Edward. Edward is always the right decision. But no, I was all IseeEdwardeverydaybeforeandafterschool;Ishouldatleastspendlunchwithmyfriends.Plus Rosalie scares me.
Logically it felt like the right decision, but logic and I so rarely see eye to eye. I hate logic. Logic is a bitch.
Clearly I like Edward too much to have any patience for non-Edward people. He's ruined me for people. He's so cute. How can anybody be so cute?
"That's so gross," Jess says, bringing me back to reality.
"You, being all moony and weird. It's totally gross. I'm sickeningly jealous. I can't even get a fucking date."
"You've given up on your plan already? It's been less than a day."
"No, operation you'lltakemebecauseIsayyouwill is still in full swing. I'm narrowing down the candidates at the moment. I just wish I didn't have to work so hard. It takes all the fun out of it, except the dress shopping. Nothing can ruin that."
"That's something to look forward to. Besides, I'm sure whoever you manipulate or coerce into taking you will ultimately be glad you did," I say.
"I think Stockholm syndrome is really going to work in your favour."
"If this spork wasn't plastic I'd stab you with it," Jess says, waving the utensil in front of me.
I try really hard not to laugh.
"I'm not..." I start.
"Ironman is just as bad as Batman!" Tyler's enraged shout breaks through our conversation, drawing the entire table's attention back to them. "They're just guys with gadgets. Anyone could be them."
"The Hulk is a giant frog on steroids!" Mike responds.
"Idiots," Jess says, before turning back to me. "But I guess I can forgive you. I've decided you've done me a favour. The news that you were dating Edward certainly wasn't the best thing I've ever heard, but sometimes the harsh truth can be good for you. Clearly he wasn't blind, gay, or secretly pining away for me; he just wasn't interested in me, which I can live with ... I guess. So now I can focus on finding someone who is interested, or at least someone easier to influence."
"So what you're saying is, the fate of whoever you pick is on me."
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. It's all your fault. You've unleashed me onto the world."
"You're welcome?" I answer uncertainly.
"Bruce Banner does not have shrunken testicles!" Tyler shouts at a volume level that should never be used for the word testicles.
"He hulks out and all his clothes rip off, but thecrotchofhispantsisperfectlyfine. Why? Because his junk is shrunk."
"His crotch isn't affected, because if they showed his junk they would have to put an NC-17 rating on it. If the Hulk was a porn they'd never be able to find a male lead, because his junk would be a physical impossibility. That's how hung he is."
"Okay!" Angie says, her voice tinged with panic. "Well ... okay. Let's ... hey, Bella don't you have something to give people ... rightnow?"
"I brought rice krispy squares," I say, pulling the bag up from the floor.
"Really? Sweet," Mike says.
"I don't like rice krispy squares," Eric says.
"Who doesn't like rice krispy squares?" Tyler asks incredulously.
"I use to have nightmares about Snap, Crackle, and Pop, because it was like I was eating them. My mother hasn't brought rice krispys into the house since."
"The cereal doesn't even look like them," Mike says.
"They're named after the sounds the cereal makes. They are the cereal."
"You are so weird."
"I was a kid," Eric says defensively.
"You were scared of Barney and cereal. That's weird, even for a kid."
"My parents read me fairytales, okay. Not the Disney ones, the real ones. That shit is messed up. I've never seen the end of Cinderella because I was convinced someone's foot was going to get cut off and I'd start to freak out halfway through. Don't even get me started on Snow White."
"You guys really need to stop talking. You're all idiots," Jess says.
"You're an idiot," Tyler replies.
"Seriously, if I have to hear you guys bitch at each other for another second I will take you all out." Jess plants her hands on the table and glares. I'm a little intimidated, and she's not even looking at me.
"We're just having a conversation; don't get your panties in a bunch," Mike says.
"You're not justhavingaconversation. You're having a stupid argument nobody else wants to hear. And don't even pretend you know shit about women's underwear."
Lunch table conversation pretty much went downhill from there.
"I'm thinking about asking Eric to the dance," Angie says as we walk down the hall towards class.
"He's having a bad time. I mean, he's been rejected twice in less than a week and the guys tend to be kind of dismissive of him. I know he's a bit weird, but he's a sensitive guy."
"Hence the fear of cereal."
"Bella," she sighs using something of a chiding mom tone. "I just think it might make him feel better."
"Are you sure the answer to rejection is a pity date?"
"It's not pity. It's sympathy."
I give her a look.
"Okay, there's a little pity, but he doesn't need to know that, and it's mostly sympathy."
"Shouldn't you maybe go with someone you actually want to go with, though?"
"Well it's not like I don't want to go with him, and there isn't anyone I specifically want to go with. Besides, I don't really think dances are that important, well, prom, but this is nothing next to prom. Bottom line is I'm not averse to going with Eric - he can be very sweet, and I think it would be nice."
"If that's what you want to do," I reply with a shrug.
"Have you and Edward discussed whether you're going to come with us or with his family? We usually go out for dinner and hang out after the party."
"Edward and I?"
"His siblings always go to the dances. He might want to go with them and he might not want to go with us. It would be nice if you guys could hang out with us for a while though. Maybe you could alternate or something."
"Why does everybody assume we're going to the dance together?"
"Well, you are together."
"We've been on one date and all of a sudden everyone is assuming we're going to be together in February. How is that not weird?"
"You think everything's weird."
On my way from my locker to the parking lot Alice somehow tracks me down and gloms onto my arm.
"Did you really get him to agree to come to school in that pile of yours? You're magic." The wonder in her voice might be funny if I wasn't so insulted on Steve's behalf.
"My truck is not a pile," I reply indignantly.
"I've seen cars in junkyards in better condition than your truck."
"We may not be able to be friends." I'm actually kind of serious, but she just gives me this indulgent look and ignores me.
"I can't even get him in my car unless he drives, which completely defeats the point. How'd you do it?"
"I threatened to make him ride alone every day."
"Is that a euphemism for something? Because I don't want to know about your sex stuff."
"We don't have sex stuff," I say, feeling heat spread up my face.
"No sex stuff? Not even mild gropage?"
"I thought you didn't want to know."
"I changed my mind. Tell me everything. Well not everything, because ew. No details, but general everything."
"I'm not sure this is a conversation I want to have at school."
"I thought there wasn't anything to say," Alice says with a sly look.
"How about we talk about it when I come over for dinner?"
"When are you coming over?"
"I don't know. We haven't made any plans yet."
"You should come over on Wednesday. Esme is cooking, so it'll definitely be edible."
"Wednesday should be fine."
"Great! Maybe she'll make something for dessert. Meeting Edward's new girlfriend must be a special occasion, right?"
"You've all already met me. I slept at your house."
"You should sleep over after dinner."
"There's no way my dad is going to let me sleep over now that I'm dating Edward," I say with a laugh.
"Not as long as Edward's in the house."
"But what about the dance?"
"What about it?" I ask.
"I was thinking we could all go to the dance together, like a big group date, and then you could sleep over and we could hang out the next day."
"Why do you just assume we're going to the dance?"
"Of course you are. So, do you think your dad would let you stay over if we made it clear you were staying with me?"
"There's no way my dad would be okay with that."
"Damn it. Edward ruins everything."
Edward is waiting by his car as we cross the parking lot.
As soon as Alice sees him she scowls and yells, "You ruin everything!" before turning and storming away.
"Nice to see you too, Alice!" he yells back, pulling me towards him.
"How exactly did I manage to piss her off when I wasn't around?"
"I told her I wouldn't be able to sleep over because my dad doesn't want me in the house with you overnight."
"Is it weird that I take that as a compliment?" he asks.
"How is that a compliment?"
"He clearly thinks I'm going to get laid the first chance I get. How is that not a compliment?"
"You're an idiot," I scowl, hitting him on the arm and walking away to the other side of the car. "That's gross."
"It just is. That's my dad. And you wish it was that easy."
"Well, I can't argue with that," he says as he gets in the car.
We're out of the rush of afterschool traffic in the parking lot by the time I work up the nerve to ask about the dance.
"Do you want to go to this Valentine's dance?"
"Are you asking me?" He gives me a side look, before returning his attention to the road.
"I'm not asking you if you want to go with me; I'm asking if you're interested in going." My face is already getting hot. I should have just left this alone.
"With someone else?"
"Why would I want you to go with someone else?"
"Because apparently you're not going with me."
Stare at him, trying to think of a way to salvage this conversation. Best to reboot.
"How do you feel about school dances?" I ask.
"Apathetic. Is that the wrong answer? I'll go if you want to go."
"I'm not really into school dances. I hate doing things in front of people, especially dancing. I only do it when I'm alone. I dance like an idiot."
"I would like to see that," he says.
"Never going to happen."
"I bet it will."
"It's my life goal now. I will see Bella Swan dance, even if it kills me."
"I will kill you," I reply vehemently.
"Your father will be so proud."
I hit him on the arm.
"He's the chief of police. He doesn't endorse murder in others."
"I think he's fine with that."
There's a pause.
"You were totally assuming we'll still be together in three weeks," Edward says all smug and presumptuous.
"I was not," I answer defensively.
"You definitely were."
"I was merely trying to determine your stance on school dances."
"Because you assumed we'll still be dating and will therefore have to figure out if we're going or not."
"Maybe I'm planning to breakup with you and go with someone else, and I wanted to know if you were going to be there making things all awkward."
"Or maybe you were planning to go with Mike and you wanted to know if I'd be there to drive you home after he leaves you in the parking lot in the middle of the night."
"Shut up. Everybody just assumes we're going to the dance together. Don't you think that's weird?"
"You're sort of freaking out," he says.
"I am not!"
"Are you really having some sort of commitment issue over a high school dance?" Edward asks incredulously.
"If anything, I'm having an identity crisis. It's like we're a thing now, a unit. We're two-for-one. Either one of us is free or we've both been devalued by half. Just think about that, Edward. You're like half a person now. We're some kind of mutated single entity."
"I'm not sure your two-for-one metaphor can be extended that far. We still have our own value, whatever the fuck that means. We are physically still two people, a fact I feel I shouldn't have to remind you of."
"Don't fool yourself, Edward. We're like Siamese twins now ... without the creepy."
"And the flesh to flesh connection," he mutters.
There's another pause before Edward asks, "Do you think we'll still be together on Valentine's Day?"
It's sort of hard to switch from my usual crazy panic to a serious conversation, but once I do it's actually pretty simple. I'm certainly not going to break up with him.
"You better buy me chocolates."
"I can do that."