I could feel my dignity being stripped away as I was hauled into that office. I was being quite ridiculous, actually. After all, getting a job wasn't that big of a deal. Edward was going to teach as well, so it's not like I was going to be completely alone. But the thought irked me… Why should I be pretending to be a 25-year-old teacher when the rest of the family was able to stay home and live the perfect life that I had been living for the past decade?
"It's sort of a right-of-passage, love," Edward had explained during the car ride over here. I had rolled my eyes.
"If it was a right-of-passage then it should have happened 10 years ago," I had retorted.
"You think a decade is a long time?" Edward had muttered, raising one eyebrow skeptically. "Wait until you reach a century. Then you can start counting." Ugh.
The women at the front desk looked vaguely familiar, though I could not pin a name to her freckled face. She was certainly a natural redhead, unlike her predecessor, and she had a kind face that reminded me of something…that I couldn't quite name.
"Good morning, Miss Marshall," Edward said, inclining his head politely. I gulped, looking away as I squeezed my eyes shut. What had her name been? Katie Marshall. Damn. This was not a good omen; the first person that I met was somebody from my human life. How many more would there be? Would Angela Weber be the English teacher? Would Mike Newton be the custodial assistant? Why hadn't Edward warned me? And worst of all, why did he think that I was ready to handle this?
"Yes, we've filed away your transcripts, but feel free to talk to Mr. Ateara if you're interested in a photo copy," the Marshall girl was instructing, her voice vibrating with nerves as Edward eyed her down. Though I was currently stressed, a wave of nostalgia overtook me. So much time had passed, and they were all still human. It hadn't occurred to me that Edward still had that affect on people. It had never faded for me, but I had not realized that he could still do that. In fact, I had never noticed anybody's reaction to him since after the wedding. He had always had his eyes on me, and that was enough.
"So you have your room assignments," Katie explained, handing us each a piece of paper. I accepted mine with a shaky hand, paying careful attention to the space between my sheet-white fingers and her freckled ones. "It's so nice to have you both back again. Where did the time go, right?" I joined in laughing, slightly torn inside. It was much too early to be back here… I wasn't strong enough. Of course, my thirst was barely a trivial issue; it was the reality of it all. They were nearing 30 now- all of them. They were approaching the early onset of wrinkles, while I was forever frozen in my 17-year-old form. Did this not arouse any suspicion?
"You look great, of course," Katie pointed out, as she rose from her swivel chair. I froze, my eyes glued to her stomach. Pregnant? Oh, God, I was not ready for this. "And it really is so nice to see you both again. It seems like just yesterday that we were both working at Newton's Sports Outfitters, right?" "Like yesterday," I repeated softly, completely dumbfounded. Katie smiled encouragingly, clearly oblivious to my discomfort.
"Speaking of old times," she began, suddenly remembering something, "I ran into Eric the other day down by The Lodge. He brought up a 10-year Reunion. That'd be fun, right?"
"That would," Edward chimed in, with more collected thoughts than I was capable of in a situation like this. "I hear he took over a large corporation over in Seattle." Katie rolled her eyes, smirking a bit.
"Of course he did," she replied, sighing. "He still visits every weekend though. Typical Eric- taking care of his parents while saving the human race." Edward smiled, causing Katie to blush and glance down at her protruding stomach.
"And how are you?" he inquired, though he clearly already knew. "Do you have children?" Katie laughed, a healthy glow spreading across her face.
"I'm expecting my first this November," she replied, resting her hand on her stomach. "Do you guys remember Austin Marks?" His face immediately appeared in my mind. He was a tall, lanky boy who hung around with Ben Cheney and Connor.
"Th-that's great," I managed to stutter. Katie smiled again, handing us each our own grade book.
"Edward and Bella Cullen," she mused quietly, shaking her head in disbelief. "Back in Forks at last." I returned her grin, waving as Edward headed out into the hallway. Once out of earshot, I grabbed his arm.
"What the hell, Edward?" I hissed, grateful that I couldn't produce tear ducts. Edward furrowed his brow, gently prying my fingers off of his arm.
"Is something wrong?" he inquired. I closed my eyes, gesturing towards the office.
"A warning would have been nice," I pointed out bitterly. Edward shook his head.
"Come on, Bella," he muttered quietly. "You didn't expect to come back here without seeing anybody you knew, did you? In a town this small, you'll be lucky if there's one last name you don't recognize." I frowned, glancing up at the ceiling stubbornly. It had been rather naïve of me to consider this a fresh start. In Forks, there were no fresh starts. "I didn't know this would upset you," Edward murmured solemnly. I scoffed, defeated.
"I should have known better," I replied, shaking my head regretfully. "I would have- have applied fake crow's feet or something. Now I'm going to be known as the girl who got married at 17 and used all your money for plastic surgery and designer clothes." Despite my blatant bitterness, Edward smiled.
"I never pegged you as a drama queen," he teased. When he realized that I wasn't going to relax, he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Jesus, Bella, I'm sorry. Katie wasn't suspicious in the slightest, if that's any condolence. Quite the opposite, actually; she's always admired you. If it's any comfort, nobody that you knew is old enough to have teenage children." I considered this, slightly reassured by the idea.
"I guess you're right," I agreed tentatively. "Is anybody else working here?" Edward grinned, grasping my hand as we began to walk down the empty hallway. Students were gathering outside, already separating into their designated cliques. High school.
"You'll see," Edward teased. I slapped his forearm playfully, knowing that it wouldn't hurt him.
"I really loathe you for making me come here," I retorted, pouting lightheartedly. Edward smirked.
"It's not like I'm making you go to prom again, Bella."