I picked at the food on my tray nervously. I was still a little bit in shock about what had happened the day before.
Rose had come skipping into the room still wearing her Halloween get up. Alice was sprawled on the couch with her arm over her eyes and I was doing my best to not make too much noise while I puttered on my computer.
"Wakey, wakey!" Rose cooed smacking Alice's leg on the way past. "You have got to see this." She scooted onto my office chair with me so we were both hanging half on half off. Alice was glaring in her direction, but Rose didn't seem to notice. She typed happily on my keyboard, pulling Emmett's Facebook page up. Alice was standing behind the chair in a second when she heard the video clip start.
I winced for Edward. I mean its one thing to do something embarrassing when you were drunk, but its another to have it broadcast worldwide on the Internet. I thanked whatever God had kept my own previous bad behavior under wraps.
"Oh he soooo likes you," sang Alice. I shook my head.
"Don't be silly Alice. He was drunk and referring to me as a barnyard animal." That was all, right?
"No Bella, she's right. He's got it bad. I don't know that I have ever seen a drunk show quite like this one. And a lamb doesn't really count as a barnyard animal…they're cute," Rose added. I paused. He had called me pretty…and relatively early in the night, too. No, it was too much to hope.
"Whatever, I don't…I don't know," was all I could manage to stutter.
"I think you need to take the bull by the horns," said Rose. "Or the lion by the tail in this case." She snickered, and I rolled my eyes. "Just ask him out."
"What?!" shrieked Alice. "That isn't romantic at all! He'll ask her himself…eventually."
"Right," Rose drawled, raising a skeptical eyebrow at Alice. "Listen Bella, if you're looking for a date before winter break, just ask him. Emmett may have mentioned that Edward was interested, so really this isn't even a risk." Rose looked at me pointedly while Alice pouted. I started getting warm.
"I'll think about it," I hedged.
"Fine," Rose shrugged. Alice sighed and returned to her spot on the couch, leaving me to obsess over Rose's words. Had Edward really said something to Emmett, or was Rose just trying to convince me to do something she knew I normally wouldn't have the balls to do?
When Edward showed up at my door later that day stammering about the night before, I wasn't even sure what happened. I just blurted out an invitation. And then he had this surprised/horrified look on his face. And I couldn't believe that I had actually asked him, and that he was going to say no! Then out of nowhere he had agreed and had mercifully taken charge. I hadn't actually had a plan when I asked him if he wanted to go out. I didn't even realize what I was doing at the time. Still, here I sat, waiting for him to show up for our normal, routine lunch and tell me the details of our definitely not routine date!
"Hi Bella." I looked up and locked eyes with Edward. His hair was tousled, as usual. I wondered if this date went well if I would get a chance to run my hands through it, I had been dying to do that. It wasn't the only thing I was dying to get my hands on. I smiled at myself. When had I become such a perv?
"What?" he asked. Not sharing that.
"Nothing," I mumbled as he sat down. He cocked an eyebrow at me, but thankfully didn't push it. We exchanged random pleasantries about our days. I noticed I was awkwardly avoiding eye contact. The longer the small talk went on the more nervous I got. Finally Edward cleared his throat.
"I was wondering…if you would like…if I could take you out Friday night?" he looked up at me hopefully. "If you don't already have plans," he added.
"No, no plans," I said in a rushed breath. I paused, blushing. "I mean, Friday night would be great." He gave me a crooked grin. It seemed my response was enough to win back any of his slipping confidence.
"Great! There is this classic movie theater not far away I was thinking we could go to. It's just down the block from a really good ice cream place. I'll be at your room around seven," he said smiling. I smiled back automatically.
"That sounds perfect," I replied. Movie and ice cream I could do. I was worried about having to eat a full meal in front of Edward. I mean cafeteria lunches were one thing. But in a quiet restaurant with the pressure of a first date there was no way I wouldn't end up with half a plate of something on my lap.
"Come on, Bella, we're going to be late!" shrieked Alice from three feet in front of me. That was exactly my plan. This was the art class I had been dreading since the semester started. In fact when I read it on the syllabus I almost dropped the class. Alice wouldn't hear of it of course. It was nude model day.
The details we had been given were sketchy at best. All I really knew was some naked person was going to be hanging out in front of class for two hours and I was expected to draw them. It wasn't a large class so the best I could hope for was the back row, which was really only the second row. Maybe if I got a spot in a corner I could at least avoid any possible eye contact with said naked person. Maybe if we dawdled there would only be 'bad' seats left. So I had taken my time getting ready that morning and dragged my feet all the way to class. Alice, on the other hand, was really excited about class.
"I wonder what kind of model it will be," she said clapping her hands together. "I mean old, young, skinny, not so skinny. The human body offers so many different details to draw. This is going to be so great." She turned to me. "Do you think it will be a man or a woman?"
I froze. It had never even occurred to me it might be a man. I don't know why. In the old paintings wasn't it always woman sprawled on chaise lounges? I had been horrified at the idea of a strange naked lady standing in front of me, but the idea of some random naked dude sent me to new levels of hysteria.
I stood in the hall and my eyes went out of focus for a second. I couldn't do this. What if it was a man? I'm pretty sure I didn't want my first full view of a man to be with a group of 35 budding art students, and what if he was some out of shape old guy? That sort of thing was bound to scar a girl. I always thought I would be buried under covers in a very dark room the first time I was with a naked man… you know, kind of let myself work my way up to it. Okay, maybe not the picture of hotness, but I expected I would be naked too, and that would require the dark room and blankets.
"I'm not feeling well. I don't think I can make it to class," I said spinning around. Alice caught my arm.
"You have to go to class, otherwise you'll get an incomplete! You can be sick after class." She pulled my arm roughly. For being so small she was a power house. I stumbled forward. We were almost at the door now, and I felt the sense of impending doom grow deep in my stomach. She was right; we were three quarters of the way through the semester and I really couldn't afford to lose this class now. It was too late. I would hide in the corner and pray for a female model. We made it through the door and I started angling for the corner. Miracle of miracles, there was still a spot open there.
"Oh thank goodness! I was sure all the good spots would be taken!" Alice exclaimed. She was still holding onto my arm tightly and promptly directed us in the opposite direction I had in mind. I turned my head slightly, feeling another surge of panic. I relaxed a little when I saw the model and teacher weren't in the room yet, but tensed immediately when I saw the two easels Alice was headed toward. They were front and center. She swung me onto one of the stools and happily started setting up her materials.
The class was full of its regular murmurs while I set up my drawing pad and pulled out my charcoal pencils and other equipment. I had adopted a kind of rough sketching style in an attempt to compensate for my complete lack of skill. Our teacher was almost unbelievably buying it as my "style," so that would spare me some of the detailing for this project. I heard the door swing shut behind and the room got quiet. I took a deep breath and snuck a look from underneath my lashes as the instructor made his way to the front of the room.
"Eyes up front," called the professor. "I would like to introduce our model for the day. This is Jacob," he said pointing to the large man standing next to him. Holy shit…There was a low whistle from behind us followed by a chorus of giggles.
"Settle down, now. Let's make our guest feel comfortable," the professor scolded. Our guest certainly looked comfortable enough, though I can't imagine how. He flashed a huge smile in the direction of the whistle. His skin was a deep russet color and his dark black hair was spiked and disorderly on top of his head. He had to be eight feet tall, which was going to seriously impair my ability to hide behind my easel. He was wearing a tiny little robe knotted around his waist. Though it covered his upper half, it left him exposed from near his mid-thigh down. I suppose it's not like we aren't going to see everything anyway. His exposed legs were chiseled. I swear his thigh was as big around as my waist. Really? Where did they find this guy?
The chairs were set up in a circle and by some stroke of luck the professor turned the model so his back was to us. Alice started grumbling until we were informed that this was only for the first hour, he would turn around for our second sketch during the second hour. Maybe I could get sick during break….
The teacher got Jacob positioned and I scrunched behind my easel. If everyone stayed where they were I could only see him to about his waist line…this could work. He casually tossed of the tiny robe and handed it to the professor. I suddenly realized I was holding my breath. I exhaled and peeked around my easel. Not so bad. From this angle I just saw his back… his very well defined, muscled back.
Alice started busily sketching and I picked up my charcoal pencil. Thirty minutes later I was pleasantly surprised: I had a decent likeness to the top half of the model. Alice was right. When I focused on the details and muscle lines this wasn't so bad. I took a quick peek around. My drawing was the only one that ended at the waist. I was going to have to finish this. I peeked around my pad of paper. I was more than a little grateful that he wasn't facing us; I felt a little dirty checking out his butt. But hey, it was all in the name of art, right?
His lower half matched his top half, well muscled. What exercise did you have to do to get your ass to look like that? I went back to my easels and swept in a quick line, good enough. I put my concentration back into when I was safely back just above his knee. By the end of the first hour I had relaxed a little and was even a little pleased with my drawing.
After a quick break we settled back into our seats. If I scrunched back into my original spot I was back in the safety zone, the only problem now was the naked man was looking in my direction. I was probably being paranoid, but I was sure he had been looking directly at me when he took his tiny robe back off. If I played this just right maybe I wouldn't really see anything.
"You know Jacob, I think if you move a little to your right the light is better," called the professor. NO! He shifted slightly before moving back into his stance. The move had put him directly in between Alice and my easel. There was nothing blocking my full view of his front half. I concentrated on keeping my eyes on the paper in front of me. If I stuck to my original plan I would be okay. Just keep my eyes up.
It started out okay. I got his arms, minus the hands that dangled just a little too low, shoulders and chest sketched out. I suppose I could have spent more time on his face, but it seemed like he was looking at me every time I glanced up. Then my treacherous eyes did something very much against my permission. They flitted down past the invisible boundary line I had drawn in my mind.
I was trying not to ogle the strong v that his muscles formed on his lower abs. And I glanced down. Just for a second. Then my eyes ran all the way back up, he was definitely looking at me. And I had definitely just gotten caught looking. We locked eyes for a second and he winked at me. Oh my God. I swung my head back to my paper and promptly turned bright red. I was imagining it, no I wasn't.
I spent the rest of the class with my eyes firmly planted on the paper in front of me. I didn't care my drawing probably wasn't a good likeness; I wasn't going to get a stellar grade on the assignment anyway. I had basically scribbled in the important part…keeping details vague. I mean I had barely gotten a look and I wasn't going to look again. I don't know what Angela had been yammering about: it was certainly not the most sculptural element of this man's body. To be honest it was a little strange…
Finally, my never ending class came to an end and Jacob slipped back into his tiny robe. Alice was chatting away but I wasn't really paying attention as I jammed my things back into my bag.
"It's a little out of proportion, don't you think?" came a deep voice from directly behind me. I spun around. Jacob was assessing my picture of him still standing on the easel. I could have died right there.
"I wasn't really…I mean…not really looking…" I stuttered. He grinned at me. I'm sure it was physically impossible for me to get any redder.
"I just meant that my arms are a little long," he smirked. "You're pretty when you blush." I stared blankly at him. I heard my drawing pad being snapped shut.
"She has a boyfriend!" Alice huffed. Jacob's face fell a little. I stood up to follow Alice out.
"Nice to meet you," I said quietly over my shoulder as we left. I don't know why I said it, but it seemed rude not to say something.
Alice spun toward me as we walked down the hall.
"What are you crazy!? You can't hit on the nude model. You finally got a date with Edward. What would he say?" she spat.
"I wasn't hitting on the model! I was minding my own business. And we aren't telling anyone about this, ever, so we won't have to worry what Edward will say," I replied. I was so glad the whole ordeal was over; I just wanted to forget it and move on with my life.
"Then again, Edward
didn't have the guts to just ask you out and Jacob did,
she mused, completely ignoring me. "I mean maybe he should hear about this. He should know he's lucky you're still on the market! You can't just wait around forever…you're in demand! He should know how lucky he is," she was speaking more to herself than me, but I didn't like where her mind seemed to be going.
"Alice, don't you dare say anything!" I begged.
"Uh huh," she said vaguely, waving a hand in my direction. She still had a suspicious gleam in her eyes. "You have to trust me, Bella. I know how boys think. This is gonna be good." She laughed quietly and clapped her hands before leading me back to the dorms. I sighed, but I let it go. If there was one thing I had learned from living with Alice, it was that there was no talking to her when she decided she was right.
Later that night I was sitting next to Rose and across from Alice in the cafeteria. The dinner options had been rather lacking. I poked a fry with one of my chicken nuggets. I swear I could almost hear my heart slowing. Alice was pushing her fork around a plate full of rice pilaf. She sighed.
"If I ever see rice pilaf again it will be too soon," she said.
"I don't know what you girls are complaining about. Didn't you see the pizza?" Emmett asked. We all looked up to see the guys settling into seats around us. Jasper and Emmett on either side of Alice and Edward slid next to me. My heart stuttered a little. Seeing Edward unexpectedly always made my day… not that it was hard to make my day on Tuesdays. It wasn't exactly my favorite day of the week. He grinned at me and I returned the smile.
"How was your day?" he asked.
"It was fine. Yours?" I answered. It was fine, I guess. If you averaged in the last really great two minutes.
"Fine! We had a way more exciting day than that, didn't we, Bella?" Alice asked from across the table. I swung my head in her direction. She wouldn't. She winked at me. She would. I was sending my best death glares across the table, but it didn't seem to slow her at all.
"We had a really great art class!" She exclaimed.
"Oh yeah," Edward interjected. I could hear the question in his tone. I didn't turn to look at him, because I knew what was coming.
"It was fine, nothing real exciting," I said in my best bored tone, never breaking eye contact with Alice.
"We had a nude model in art today. It was really a great exercise." She smiled sweetly, like the traitor she was. "Don't you think Bella?" I stiffened in my seat. I knew where this was going. I wasn't sure how to derail it. It would look strange if I just stood up and left, and it probably wouldn't have stopped her.
"Hmmmm," I was stalling.
"So you got to spend two hours staring at a naked lady? Was she hot?" asked Emmett.
"Actually it was this really ripped young guy. Made for great sketches," said Alice.
"So you spent hours staring at some muscle-bound naked guy?" Jasper glared across the table.
"Don't worry, it was like anything else in art. You know, like sketching a vase. It's like how you always want to stop and look at buildings. Check out rooflines and windows and what not," she smiled.
"I'm not worried about a vase trying to put the moves on you," grumbled Jasper.
"It wasn't like that," she insisted. "Besides he really only had eyes for Bella." she said. I felt Edward tense beside me. This is what I had been waiting for. When Jasper had gotten all protective I almost thought I was in the clear. I was still staring at my plate. I heard Emmett chuckle.
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," I growled.
"I'm talking about how he asked you out," she answered simply. I heard Edward cough while he choked on something. I was bright red by this point.
"He didn't ask me out, he introduced himself. Entirely different." I didn't try to disguise the harsh edge in my voice.
"Hmmm, well he was clearly going to ask you out," she said.
"Alright, Bella! Scoring a model," laughed Emmett. I turned my glare in his direction. I didn't want to sit here while this spiraled out of my hands. I had had quite enough embarrassment for one day.
"I really doubt that. Anyway I have a ton of work to do tonight. I'll see you guys around," I said. I stood up abruptly, purposefully avoiding eye contact with anyone. I just wanted the day to be over. Then I could forget about random naked men being paraded in front of me. If I knew then what the rest of my week was going to be like, I would have locked my door and hid from the world until the weekend.
Wednesday morning passed with little fanfare. All my classes were going smoothly. I hadn't seen Heidi in math class since that fateful frat party. I thought that was a little odd, but whatever. I had been nervous that Edward would bring up the art class debacle during lunch. He didn't, though, and we had chatted causally just like we normally did.
I had relaxed by early afternoon and was walking across campus to the library. It was cool but the sky was clear, and it looked like we would be spared rain today. I took a deep breath and inhaled the fall air. It was so pretty out that I took a minute to sit on a bench and watch people pass me by. I wasn't in a particular hurry. The library could wait a couple minutes.
There was a commotion a short distance down from me, and I angled my neck to try to see what was going on. Students were dispersing quickly in both directions, making an effort to clear the sidewalk. A second later I saw the reason why. Running down the middle of the sidewalk was a lanky guy wearing a football helmet with a large number one painted on his bare chest. He was waving at the crowds as he passed. Other than the helmet he was wearing a tall pair of knee high socks and tennis shoes. That was it. I pulled back as far as I could get on the bench, as it was too late to move without risking collision. In hindsight I should have closed my eyes too. I didn't really have time to think things through.
The streaker ran directly past the bench I was sitting on while I stared straight ahead. Again, not my best plan. From my position I at just the right height to get a full view of him in all his running glory. Okay, seriously? I do not understand the draw! I mean I suppose my boobs don't look their best unsupported in a full-on sprint, but still. Gross. I shivered a little. You know, I didn't need to go to the library. Running naked man had been headed that way. I was going to go back to my room, and maybe try to rinse out my brain with bleach or something. I was starting to get a little agitated. I really thought there was going to be something great about a naked man. And so far I had been intimidated, weirded out, and frankly a little grossed out. None of these emotions were anything close to turned on. Maybe I was broken. Too many years of being socially stunted? Was it possible I was a lesbian? Or maybe just asexual?
I collided with Rose outside of my door when I got back to the dorm.
"You look like you got run over, what's up with you?" she asked.
"Rose, what would possess a man to run naked down a sidewalk wearing a football helmet?" I asked in response. It took a minute for her to stop laughing. I didn't see the humor in this. Maybe this was one of those things that was only funny when you didn't witness it firsthand... or maybe this brings us back to the broken thing.
"Oh that's fantastic! You saw a streaker?" she giggled. I just glared in response. No, it was official. This definitely was not funny.
"Lighten up, Bells! Maybe it was a frat stunt or something. See anything good?" She wiggled her eyebrows at me. She was spending too much time with Emmett.
"No, nothing I want to see again," I said. That was honest, maybe too honest. "I don't get it. I completely and utterly fail to see the attraction. I'm starting to think maybe I will always prefer men with their pants on." I frowned at her. She smiled at me.
"Bella trust me, when it's the right guy you'll do anything to get his pants off. Speaking of…do you know where Edward is taking you?" she asked. I smiled and pushed open my door. At least there was minimal risk of running into a naked man on my all girls floor of the dorm.
Thursday night I was riding up the elevator with Rose and Emmett. Alice and Jasper were out somewhere together and Edward was buried in a library with a study group. He could certainly cut loose, but Edward took his grades seriously. I had been hesitant to be the third wheel, but Rose had insisted. We spent the night in a coffee house. I had never really acquired a taste for coffee so Rose had ordered me something with a 25 letter name and assured me there was way more sugar, milk and assorted other flavors than coffee in it. I was currently riding on a hell of a sugar high.
The night had actually been really fun, even though Emmett had been filled in with the details of my Wednesday afternoon. He spent half the night making jabs about my ability to will men to take their clothes off. He thought it might be a special gift. It was innocent enough so I let it go for the most part, Rose smacked him when he said anything that tip toed over the line.
It was a little past eleven when we got to our rooms.
"Big night tomorrow, eh?" asked Emmett while Rose pushed open her door. There was a slight squeak from the other side. Emmett and I looked around the door curiously. Jessica was in the middle of the room in a t-shirt and panties. Emmett swung quickly back. I'm guessing Rose wouldn't be happy if he was caught looking.
"Sorry Jess. We'll be right back," said Rose.
"Yeah, umm, I wasn't expecting you so soon," she stammered. Rose shut the door and shrugged. I wasn't sure what the big deal was, we had all seen each other in our underwear at this point. Maybe it was Emmett.
"I'm going to the bathroom," I announced.
"Wait," Rose instructed Emmett. He gave her a salute and leaned against the wall as we walked toward the girl's bathroom. It was one of the only downfalls of having gender separated dorms, it was an elevator ride to a bathroom for the opposite sex. I pushed through the door of the bathroom and swung into the room with Rose behind me. I cornered the sinks at the worst possible moment.
"You've got to be kidding me," I groaned. Rose started snickering loudly behind my shoulder.
Standing in the middle of the bathroom was the man we had all come to know as half-naked Mike. Unfortunately he was much more than half naked. He was wearing a fuzzy pink terry cloth robe that I recognized as Jessica's. Unfortunately he had been in the middle of readjusting it just as we turned the corner and Rose and I had both gotten a full frontal flash.
He stumbled slightly to the side while he hurriedly knotted the pink robe together. It fit snuggly across him but thankfully closed, the sleeves stopped just above the wrist. I stood there with my mouth hanging open. I seriously have the worst luck ever. He looked up at me and clearly misread my expression.
"Did you like the view?" He smiled. I crinkled my eyebrows together. "If you're interested, all this," he gestured at his lower half, "could be yours." He was hitting on me while wearing a pink robe. This guy's confidence knew no bounds. Rose stepped around me.
"She's not interested. I don't know by what miracle you got my roommate interested in your pencil dick, but for her sake she's not going to know about this little run in. Now scurry back and collect your things. I don't want you in my room when we get back there." She scowled at him. He glowered back but slowly started circling around us to the door.
"And make plans to take her out… to dinner. Just so she's clear you weren't just using her," she said. He looked confused for a second.
"Who?" he asked clearly dumbfounded, though in fairness he was obviously a little drunk. Rose sighed loudly.
"Jessica. You remember Jessica. You're wearing her robe," she gestured at his outfit.
"Yeah, yeah right," he muttered.
"And don't even think about cancelling!" she shouted at him as the door swung closed. She turned and looked at me.
"Well, on the bright side Bella… if that is representative of what you've seen so far, Edward stands and excellent chance of impressing you!" She started giggling. I joined in. I couldn't help it, the week had been so ridiculous. My naked man count had tripled in as many days. And although it had been more than a little mortifying maybe she was right, maybe this would be good prep. I looked up at Rose and suddenly stopped giggling.
"Rose it's a first date, you don't think he's expecting…" I could feel my face turning red. "I don't really know how. I..I..." She pulled her arm around me.
"Don't worry Bella I'll give you some tips." She grinned devilishly.