Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. The content, ideas and intellectual property of this story and the 'American Vampire Series' in its entirety are owned by Just4ALE.
A/N1: This is the first of four stories in my 'American Vampire Series' and I'm thrilled to say it won TWO Indie TwiFic awards in the Winter 2010 competition! I hope you like it!
Chapter 1: An Odd Encounter
It was yet another cold November day in Chicago. Luckily, between spending my last few years in high school in the Pacific Northwest and then living in New Hampshire and Boston for the last seven years, I was no stranger to cold days. Once upon a time, when I lived with my mom in Phoenix, snow was something I only saw in the movies and on TV and the cold was a nightmare to me. But now, I loved the cold. I had quickly learned that you could always put on more clothes to stay warm (and look like those kids bundled up like snowmen in A Christmas Story). And truthfully, the colder climates were better on my pale skin; I had to sit under the shade whenever I spent any length of time outside or I'd really burn.
I was excited as I approached the building, looking forward to possibly experiencing something different from the standard business school routine. I opened the heavy door to the gothic-looking Ida Noyes Hall and tried to get my bearings once inside. Outside of the pub in the basement, I'd never spent any time in this building before. Where was the room?
Students were milling around. Some stopped in conversation while others headed briskly into their various classrooms. I waited for it to clear out a little so that I could get the lay of the land a little better. After a minute, it started to clear up.
Glancing around, I saw there were empty benches in the alcove to my right. Along that wall there was some frosted glass that looked into a large dance hall-type space. There above the heavy double wooden doors, I saw the sign: Great Hall.
I found a patch of the frosty glass that was worn away and peeked inside. There they were as anticipated: a sea of bodies in white, moving in tandem. Wow.
"Are you going to go in?"
Was that directed at me? I looked to my left and then my right. The hall was fairly empty now. A guy was sitting the bench that had just been empty not 20 seconds before. He was looking down at some papers he appeared to be redlining. Grading them, maybe.
I wasn't sure who had asked the question or whether it was aimed at me. I turned back to peek into the room.
The velvety voice spoke again. "Well, are you?"
I turned my head back to the right and now saw the grading papers man looking at me.
"I'm thinking about it," I said, turning back to the room.
"What's stopping you?" he asked.
"Um, just assessing the situation," I responded quickly. I was fascinated by the activities in the room. Can I do this?
"Are you a student here?" I heard. I looked at him briefly. He was looking down at his papers again.
I once again focused on the room. "Business school," I answered. The students in the room had grabbed pads and were now taking turns kicking.
"Are you a teacher?" I asked back. I had no idea why I even bothered to ask… it just seemed polite, sort of saying 'how are you' back at someone.
"PhD student, but I'm a Teaching Fellow as well."
I continued to watch the activities in the room. Wow, they look good. Did I come to the right session?
"So, what's stopping you?"
Suddenly I realized the voice was closer to me than before. He was standing next to me, peeking in as well. As close as he was to me, I noticed his smell. What kind of cologne or soap did he use? I'd never smelled that before: it was amazing! But I also noticed that he was a little too close as far as I was concerned. Just a touch in the unaware of personal space category. I moved over a little, a step away.
"Um, what do you mean?"
"Well, what are you assessing?"
Jeez, he's nosy. "There aren't many women in that room," I answered back.
"Were you looking for women?" He seemed surprised. I was amused… I realized that he probably thought that my comment hinted at my sexual preference.
"Well, just so that I'd have someone more my size to spar with if they made us do that. I mean, while some of those guys do look pretty small, they're clearly experienced." Why am I bothering to explain myself to this guy?
Suddenly, one of the tall brown belts flexed out a kick that knocked the pad holder back a few feet.
"Holy cow, look at that one! He'd kick me across the room!" I yelped. I took a deep breath, exhaled and then stepped away from the windows to sit down on the bench, away from the man. I stretched my legs out in front of me and stared at my sneakers.
"Well, the ratio of men to women in there is pretty high. Good figures for you, I guess." he commented.
My head snapped up. "What?"
The man shrugged. "I heard the B'school women were all about the ratio. Three men to every one woman. Good odds," he said.
I was annoyed. I may have even scoffed. I turned my head to look away.
"I'm sorry if I offended you," he said. "I thought that most of the women…"
I cut him off. "Well, you don't know me. I'm not like most women."
"I see that."
I looked up at him again. His tone was odd, like he actually did see that. He was looking intently at me. He actually was nice-looking, although unlike anyone I would have ever found attractive before; he had pale skin like mine and reddish-brown hair that looked like he ran his hands through it a lot. Not too many could carry off that mussed-up do. Nice. Suddenly I wanted to touch his hair.
What the hell? Touch his hair? What am I thinking? I looked behind him at the clock on the wall and noticed that it was after 7pm.
"So, have you decided not to go in?" He started to walk over my way. His hands were in his pockets as he slowly glided toward me.
Glided? What an odd way to think of it. But yes, his movement was so graceful that I'd have to say gliding was an accurate way to describe it.
He stopped about three feet away.
"No, just waiting," I said. I got the odd sense that he was almost hoping that I wouldn't go in.
I didn't know this guy, but something felt off. It seemed like he was way too interested in me for someone who just met me. I mean, I knew that the University of Chicago had its share of weird Goth students and that compared to them, I looked normal and somewhat pretty, however there was no way that I should draw this kind of attention in a first encounter. I was used to the blasé way the business school students acted around each other. Maybe he's procrastinating.
"So, when will you decide?" he asked, in that soft velvety voice of his.
This guy must really not want to grade those papers. Suddenly his phone rang.
He held up one finger to me, silently asking me to hold. "Hello, Alice." he said.
I pulled out a magazine from my backpack. I began reading to bide the time.
"Really? What did you see?" He turned away, listening. "Mmm…. Well, that's something to consider."
I could see from my peripheral vision that he was pacing a little before turning back toward me, looking intently at me. "Let's see how it goes. I'm sure you'll be the first to know." He paused, listening again. "Yes, I'll try. Chances are good right now. I'll talk to you later."
He closed the phone and glided back to me.
"Sorry, that was my sister. I must apologize: I've been rude, asking all these questions and not even introducing myself." He smiled. "I'm Edward Cullen."
Wow, NICE smile Edward. Wait. Edward?
"Edward?" I asked.
"Not Ed? You go by Edward?
He was puzzled. "Oh?"
"That's... different. I can't say that I've met too many 'Edwards', I guess." What a stupid statement! Why are you questioning the guy's name?
"And you are?" He inclined his head toward me and started to offer his hand.
Just then the door to the great hall opened. A man in a gi and black belt with red writing on it stepped out. He looked around and noticed me. "Isabella Swan?" he asked.
I stood, putting my magazine away. I looked at Edward and pointed at myself. "Bella," I said looking back at the karate teacher.
"I'm Renshi Clark. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting," he said.
"It's no problem," I responded. I looked at Edward, whose hand was still out for the shaking. I looked at his hand and then shook it quickly. Immediately, I felt a jolt, almost like an electric current when I touched him. His hand was a bit cold. I looked back up into his eyes… were they green? I hadn't noticed before, although not surprising since I typically didn't stare at people's faces. "Well, it was nice meeting you, Edward."
Edward smiled again. "It was a pleasure, Bella. I hope that I run into you again."
I smiled and walked over to Renshi Clark, shaking his outstretched hand. Hmm. No jolt there. Must have been static electricity with Edward. I followed the Sensei into the room.
Exiting the class a half-hour later, I glanced around and saw no sign of my odd new acquaintance. I pushed open the heavy doors and turned left on the sidewalk to walk the eight long blocks back to my home.
Walk defensively, this is Hyde Park after all. As I began to make my way home, I got an odd sense of being followed. Looking around, I saw nothing. My goodness, I could freak myself out with my imagination! Then again, better to be safe than sorry. I picked up the pace, kept my iPod in my bag and my shoulders up. Look confident. Walk with a purpose.
I couldn't wait to learn Karate.
A/N: The story will unfold slowly. Please stay with me. First time writing ANYTHING like this. Please review.
Post A/N: Thanks to the lovely Irritable Grizzzly for her beta work on these and all other chapters.