I heard his thoughts before I could see him. They were frantic, as usual, but there was that rare disappointment interweaved in his frenzied mind. Normally I didn't give Eric Yorkie the time of day, but my name was in the forefront of his mind. I took extra time at my locker, trying to delay speaking with him until I knew the issue that seemed to concern me.
…Mr. Banner just gave him those extra points because he was helping the new girl. Seriously, do some guys have to have everything? It isn't enough that Edward Cullen gets the girl that everybody's crushing on? No- he has to be valedictorian, too.
Ah. That was the issue. Of course, I had realized that I would be valedictorian. My only competition was Rosalie and Jasper, but Jasper always intentionally failed the last test of the year in an attempt to avoid the spotlight. Rosalie… She had never strived to fulfill the role in the first place. I slammed my locker door, frustrated with the inevitable encounter. These trivial human predicaments angered me to no end, as if I needed this now. Bella was probably waiting at the Volvo, being persuaded by Alice. It had been like that ever since Alice had that dreaded vision. I couldn't leave her alone with Bella without having to rush back and pull Bella away. After all, didn't my irritating sister realize how complex a position I was in? I couldn't change Bella now. Not after everything that she has to live for.
"Hey, man," Eric called, holding out his fist. I nodded shortly, ignoring his juvenile fist pound. I watched from my peripheral vision as he fell into step beside me, letting his arm drop pitifully to his side.
"How are you?" I asked politely, gritting my teeth. Eric shrugged, running his hand through his oily hair.
"Been better," he admitted, though his thoughts told me that he had never been worse. Jackass. Thinks he's better than the rest of us. "I heard about the- I heard you were valedictorian. That's great, man." Maybe he'll die before graduation. Damn it, Eric, you gotta stop thinking so cruelly. They'd never appoint you diplomat if they knew half the things that went through your head.
"Really?" I replied, though I knew, of course. "I didn't realize." Eric opened his mouth to say something, but the tendons in my arms warned him silently against it.
Being sarcastic, eh? When I make my salutatorian speech, everybody will realize how much of a jerk you are. "Yeah, so where are you going?" Beat Yale, dumbass. There were several possible ways that I could answer this question, but every one of them would be a lie. I could say that Bella and I were going to Dartmouth in the fall, but God knows that's a long shot. I could say that I was going to the University of Alaska Northeast, but Bella has her eyes set in another direction. Everything that I did revolved around her, and that was the way that it was going to be.
"I haven't responded to any of my acceptance letters yet," I muttered. There was only one acceptance letter at the house, in all honesty, and I had no intention of replying to it. I could almost feel the astonishment emanating off of Eric. Poor kid; he had applied early decision to Yale.
"You're kidding!" he blurted out, so loudly that Angela Weber jumped and spun around. I cast her a quick smile; her thoughts were refreshing. Oh, poor Edward. He's being condemned to one of Eric's monologues. I'll go help him out.
I would have to thank Angela later. She was walking over, juggling an immense pile of books in her hands.
"Hey guys," she said, smiling her innocent smile. "Edward, Bella's waiting for you." For show only, I glanced at my watch. It was so easy to like Angela.
"Thanks, Angela," I muttered, feigning regret as I backed away from Eric. His face was distraught, as if the world was caving in. For him, being awarded the title of salutatorian was probably the equivalent of imminent death.
"Have a nice weekend!" Angela called, waving. I spun around on my heels, jogging out of the building at a slightly-faster-than-human pace. Bella was waiting at the car, but she had only just arrived there. Jasper and Alice were on the other side of the parking lot, joking around with Emmett as Rosalie watched from her BMW. I nodded shortly at them, keeping my eyes on Bella.
"Congratulations, Mr. Valedictorian," she teased, pulling me in by the collar. I kissed her quickly, unwilling to lose my self-control in such a public place. It was not the thirst that was tempting me; it was the passion.
"I don't know if I'm accepting it," I admitted, entwining my fingers into Bella's. I shrugged in response to her grimace.
"You deserve it, Edward," Bella pointed out, though I disagreed.
"I deserved it when I got it the first time that I graduated high school," I corrected her. "Now is different. These people-" I gestured around towards the summer-hungry teenagers in the parking lot. "-only get things like this once." Bella did not have a legitimate argument for this, so she merely smiled and leaned against the hood of the car.
"This graduation is different," she reminded me. "We're graduating together." Together. That little word had never meant so much.
This thought comforted me, but it did not inspire me to take the position of number one in the class. Bella sensed my discomfort as the students in the lot ogled; they had just heard of my "achievement".
"Come on," she whispered, claiming my full attention. "Let's head home. You'll think about it tonight." I shook my head, opening the passenger door for Bella. She blushed at this old-fashioned act, yet she slid in nonetheless.
I barely watched the road as I drove home. I wasn't thinking of Eric. I wasn't thinking of valedictorians. I was thinking of the way the life flies by so fast for some people, and how high school is only the beginning. If only they knew what it was like for me. If only they knew that high school wasn't only the beginning. It was the beginning, the middle and the end. The end that never came.