I stifled a groan and rubbed my face wearily as an exasperated sigh escaped me. What, I wondered, had I done to deserve this? What could I have possibly done that was so horrible, so wicked, so terrible, that as punishment I currently had all eight of the Cullen children sitting in my office, waiting for their parents to arrive and deal with them?
The Cullen children had been sent to my office, their parents called, and I was dreading this, dreading the meeting with parents we had never seen, never met. Dreaded discussing not only the things the children had done today to be sent here, but also the other odd things that needed mentioned. Like Rosalie's attitude, or Emmett's grades. Or the amount of school they tended to miss. Or the fact that the parents had never seemed even slightly involved or interested in how their children were doing in school.
I looked over at where they all sat in a row, on the bench outside the principal's office, my office, against the wall across from the door. It was like looking at some sort of television show, with stars who seemed perfect on the outside, but in reality hid some deep, dark secret from the world.
To the far right, first to be dealt with when the elusive parents arrived, was Edward Cullen. He sat staring out the window, watching for his parents, I guessed, a slight smirk on his face, although he still had that worried, tense aura about him that students tended to have when sitting in the seat he was currently in.
His arm was around Bella Swan, who was both his age and in his year. She too was nervous, worried, but kept shooting glances at one of the others further down the line. She was a good student, quiet, never any trouble, and kept to herself. Most of the Cullen children kept to themselves.
On her other side was Jacob Black, tall and dark. One of the two out of the bunch who didn't seem deathly pale or completely exhausted. He was probably the most normal out of the group, once you got over his size. Your average high school student, getting into trouble now and then, but nothing serious, and nothing that wasn't in good fun or good spirits.
Paler than Jacob, yet darker than the others, Reneesme Cullen sat to his left, nose buried in one of her textbooks. She was less outgoing than Jacob, though more so than the rest of her siblings. She seemed to enjoy reading, and learning. She seemed to be one of those kids that actually liked school.
Beside her was Rosalie Hale, one of the twins. She was arrogant, haughty, and had an attitude that had put most of the staff off of her from day one. She was unfriendly and unkind to those who crossed her path, often with hateful words even for her siblings. She sat brooding, clearly resenting her current situation.
Emmett Cullen, on the other hand, didn't seem to mind, but then again, he didn't seem to mind much of anything. He was probably not the brightest out of the bunch, and in fact his grades were barely acceptable. He seemed to have a real problem with schoolwork, getting it done or, when he did complete it, getting it right. He was barely passing, and, in fact, very close to failing. He sat beside Rosalie, staring idly into space, a twinkle in his eye.
Next to him was the smallest of the Cullens, Alice. She was quiet, unless with her siblings, when she became immensely talkative. She was friendly, and did well in her classes, but there was something about her that just seemed off, and it worried me. On occasion she had been caught in class, eyes unfocused, unseeing, her mind completely elsewhere. It had not happened often, but it had frightened both of the teachers involved considerably. Her attention was focused on the last of the gang, her hands holding one of his as she murmured softly.
Jasper Hale, the other twin, was quiet, intense, and withdrawn. He did his work, but rarely spoke, and often seemed troubled or distressed by something. He sat now with his head leaning against the wall, his eyes closed, his jaw clenched. He held a book tightly in his other hand.
Edward shifted ever so slightly, and suddenly the parents were here. Carlisle Cullen entered first, the doctor who spent a large portion of his time at work, and so had never actually made it to the school before for anything. The doctor who let his children skip school whenever they pleased. He didn't seem particularly concerned to see all eight of his adopted children parked outside of the principal's office, either.
His wife followed close behind, her expression annoyed, as she and her husband approached me. They were both very young, and I doubted they were actually responsible enough to handle eight children, even if they were rich, and wondered what had made the Cullens adopt them all.
He spoke softly, calmly, as if he were merely here to make a social call. "Good morning." He greeted me cordially. "You must be Mr. Richards." He was dressed for work, and I wondered if he had been on his way out the door when I called. "I'm Carlisle Cullen, and this, of course, would be Esme, my wife." She moved closer to him as he introduced her, and his arm slipped around her waist.
I nodded. "Doctor Cullen." I replied formally. "I spoke with your wife over the phone. I imagine you know why I asked you here?"
"I understand it has something to do with my children's behavior." He admitted, still as pleasantly as if we were sitting around drinking coffee. I cleared my throat. "Yes, well, we seem to be having some problems with them today, problems that need to be addressed."
Cullen nodded easily. "Of course." He said.
We stepped into my office, and I called for Edward to join us. Bella followed him in, and the two of them stood before the three of us, she nervous, he unconcerned, as Cullen completely ignored me to speak directly to his son.
"What happened, Edward?" He asked.
Edward shrugged. "Mrs. Acres caught Bella and me passing notes." He said easily. "Since he made it very clear at the beginning of the semester that it was not allowed, and since there has been a large increase in note passing lately, he decided to make an example of us."
Cullen didn't seem fazed. "I do expect you to abide by the rules your teachers have set forth, Edward." He said easily. "I don't want to hear you've been caught breaking the rules again.
Been caught. The words echoed in my mind. Cullen didn't care if his children broke the rules, as long as they didn't get caught. Great. But then, I don't know why I was expecting him to actually worry about his children.
Edward frowned slightly as he nodded. "Yes, sir."
"I expect you to apologize." Cullen added, much to my surprise.
Edward nodded again. "Of course." Bella quickly nodded as well.
"Yes, Carlisle." She said softly.
They were out the door before I could say another word, and the only choice I had was to call in Jacob Black.
He rolled his eyes as he came in. "Dr. Fang." He greeted Cullen brightly.
"Jacob." He replied, apparently used to the irreverent and rather odd greeting.
"I know, I know." He said quickly, before any of us could speak again. "But here's what happened. So I was sitting in class, minding my own business, when these two guys were sitting behind me, and they were talking, and I happened to overhear." Cullen was waiting patiently, as if he were unaware of Jacob's stalling techniques. "And they were talking about Nessie. You know, like boys do." As if he weren't a mere boy himself. "And I didn't think any of it was appropriate. So I turned around, and-" He broke off, looking towards Mrs. Cullen, "hey, I didn't hit them or anything. I just knocked their table over. Sent their stuff everywhere. Made this loud noise that about made everyone jump out of their seats." He shot a defiant look at Cullen. "They didn't need to be talking that way."
Cullen didn't look too upset. "Violence isn't the answer, Jacob."
"Sometimes it is." Jacob replied. "And besides, that wasn't actually violence. It was a warning, to prevent violence." Because next time it happens, there will be violence. The thought was left unspoken, but was plainly understood.
"They're teenagers, Jacob." Carlisle reminded him mildly. "You know what teenagers are like."
For a minute I thought he looked embarrassed, but his expression cleared. "So what, you want me to apologize for disrupting class, promise not to get into any fights at school, that kind of thing?" He asked. "Consider it done. Can I go now?"
He was out the door in a flash, and my head was starting to spin as Reneesme swiftly took his place. I was also starting to get irritated with Cullen's method of 'dealing' with his children, and the fact that his wife seemed content to let him continue in this way.
She closed the book carefully. Then she smiled brightly. "I'm not in trouble Gr- Carlisle. I just asked to go the bathroom and wanted to make sure everything was okay." She turned to look at me. "May I go back to class now?"
Feeling rather confused, as if I were missing something, I nodded, and she slipped out the door. Rosalie and Emmett came in next, Rosalie still in a temper.
This was going to be fun.
Rosalie glared at Cullen. "This is stupid." She complained. "Nothing happened."
Emmett grinned at Cullen mischievously. "The teacher said we needed to let our overactive hormones calm down. So she sent us to here together." He snorted.
Cullen sighed so softly I almost didn't catch it. "I believe we've already talked about this before."
"We aren't related." Rosalie snapped. "Nobody cares if Johnson and that girl hang off each other. Just because-"
Cullen interrupted her, much to my surprise, though it was with the air of one carefully choosing his next step. "School isn't the time or the place for it." He said gently.
She shrugged. "Fine." She turned to glare at Emmett. "He started it."
"Sorry." Said Emmett, not sorry at all. "Sometimes I have trouble controlling all those overactive teenage hormones, Carlisle. You know how it is."
I was absolutely appalled at how things were going so far, and at how easily Cullen seemed to take these things in stride. He didn't seem the least bit concerned with the behavior of those two. I wondered what sort of things went on at home, but then, he probably wasn't home much either. He struck me as the typed of person who spent most of his time at work. It made me feel sorry for his wife.
She hadn't spoken a word during all this time, but had merely stood beside him, watching. I wondered how much say she had in the raising of these children, if there were any raising going on at all. It was entirely possible that the Cullen gang merely did as they pleased when at home.
Alice danced in next, looking, unlike the rest of her siblings, properly ashamed of herself. She slumped her shoulders and hung her head. "I'm sorry, Carlisle." She said quickly. "I shouldn't have said it, she didn't deserve it. It wasn't nice, or appropriate, and completely unacceptable. I'll apologize as soon as possible, and it will never, ever happen again." She said quickly. Then she hung her head even lower, if that were possible, as she confessed her crime. "I called Mrs. Matthews a-"
The words that next came out of Alice Cullen's mouth were enough to make Cullen and his wife's eyes widen and their mouths drop open, never mind the shock I was experiencing. I was appalled, and amazed, and well, surprised to think she even knew such words.
"Where did you learn that?" Mrs. Cullen demanded, speaking for the first time. "Did you hear that from Emmett?" She asked.
"Esme." Cullen said quietly, as Alice shook her head.
"No, Carlisle." His wife insisted grimly. "I want to know where she heard such filth. I wasn't aware some of those words existed."
Alice sighed. "I am sorry." She said. "And it doesn't really matter-"
"It does matter." Esme insisted. "Does Jasper know you know such language?"
Alice looked extremely embarrassed, and I had the strangest feeling I had been forgotten for the moment. Under Mrs. Cullen's angry gaze, she finally broke. "Jasper was the one I heard it from." She whispered miserably.
Both parents stared at her for a moment. "I'm sorry. You can ground me from shopping; make me wear old rags for a month. I deserve it." She ducked out, leaving them standing there, staring after her.
When Jasper Hale did not immediately make an appearance, I stepped out into the hall to call him in. He and Alice stood facing each other, Alice on tiptoe, her arms wrapped around him, whispering into his ear. The two seemed oblivious to all else.
She kissed him lightly on the cheek and sat down on the bench. I cleared my throat. "Get to class, Miss Cullen." I told her.
She looked up at me with wide eyes. "Would it be alright if I waited until Jasper was done?" She asked. "I wanted to talk Carlisle something."
Jasper darted into the office as she spoke, and so I nodded quickly, not eager to be left out of another discussion, and followed him.
He actually made use of the chair sitting before my desk, eyes on Mr. and Mrs. Cullen until they too sat down. I sat down as well, on the other side of the desk. This was the way things were supposed to be done.
Mrs. Cullen broke the silence. "First things first, young man." She said firmly. "Alice said she learned those awful words from you. Where did you ever hear such language?"
He sighed, but looked more angry than ashamed. "It slipped out. Once, in a very tense situation. It was a long time ago" He admitted. "I don't usually hold with making use of such filth." He paused, shooting a glance at me. "Maria used to talk like that when people made her angry." He shrugged. "I hardly expected Alice would make use of it, especially not in a school."
I cleared my throat. This was all well and good, but it wasn't the point. We were supposed to be dealing with Jasper's behavior now, not Alice's.
Doctor Cullen nearly sighed. I'm sure of it. "Jasper?" He asked.
Jasper shrugged. "I refused to work on the given assignment. We're reading a book in literature class, and I haven't done anything since he assigned it. It's just, today we were supposed to take turns reading some of it aloud, and I refused to participate. So he said I could stay and do my work or go to the office. I didn't wanna be there anyway." Maybe it was my imagination, but there seemed to be some sort of accent on his words, as if he were drawing them out.
Doctor Cullen seemed puzzled. "I assume there is a reason behind this decision?" He asked.
Jasper shrugged, and tossed the book he had been holding. Doctor Cullen caught it neatly, and examined it. "Kiss of Darkness." He read the title, then flipped it over to read the back. "Vampires?" He asked with a small frown as he read. Jasper nodded. "You've read Dracula, Interview with a Vampire…" He trailed off. "What makes this one different?"
"The first page." Jasper replied shortly. Doctor Cullen opened the book and began reading.
"I watched in silence, both horrified and fascinated, as the scene before me unfolded." Jasper went tense, his jaw clenched, his eyes closed, as he sank back into his chair. Doctor Cullen continued reading. "The man, tall and pale, had drawn the woman closer and closer to him, luring her in with promises of romance, of love, of pleasure. He had spoken softly, sweetly, and she had ignored those instincts that should have warned her to keep away, that he was anything but safe. She stood mere inches away from him now. He leaned forward, closing the gap, to kiss her tenderly upon the lips, his kisses trailing along her jaw and down her throat, until at last, as I had known he would, he bit.
"He drank greedily, drawing from her the blood, warm and sweet-" Doctor Cullen broke off, looking completely horrified. He blinked, and swallowed rapidly, then cleared his throat. "Forgive me. I can see why you would be averse to reading it." His voice sounded slightly strained. "I don't expect you to." He turned to me. "I don't want him reading this. Or any of them, should it come up." He told me matter-of-factly.
I was a bit surprised by some of the content myself, but after all, this was a senior class, and while the lit teacher did have a tendency to introduce some interesting literature, he always had a reason behind his choices, and usually had parents sign off their approval of the year's reading list with the beginning of the school year.
I opened my mouth to tell him this, but stopped as I realized I was again being ignored. "Why didn't you say anything?" Doctor Cullen was asking Jasper, who merely looked at the floor, his body tense. The Doctor sighed, then turned to me. Perhaps I had not been forgotten after all. "I don't want him reading this." He repeated.
I sighed. Doctor Cullen was starting to annoy me. "Every other student in his class is reading it, and no one else has a problem with it. He can read it too."
"I would hardly consider this appropriate material for children-" I cut him off.
"They are seniors." I snapped. "They are hardly children any more. They are preparing to go out into the real world, and they have to learn to deal with things. Your son is no exception. He can read the book like everyone else." I was tired of letting Doctor Cullen and his wife push me around. It wouldn't kill Jasper to read the book.
Cullen's eyes flashed, and for less than a second I was afraid. Very afraid. Visions of him leaping across the desk to rip my throat out with his bare hands played briefly through my mind. Then it was as if it had never happened, except that Cullen's easy manner had been replaced, he sat tense, and determined, leaning forward in his seat. Jasper leaned forward to lightly touch his father's arm.
"I have already said he will not be reading it." Cullen said, his voice low and even. "Nor will any of my other children. If there is a problem with that, I will pull all eight of my children out today and home school them myself." His golden eyes held mine. "Your call."
He was serious. Dead serious. He wasn't joking, and he wasn't bluffing. I had no idea what the big deal was, but I wasn't willing to have the Cullens pulled out of the school over it. I sighed.
"I will talk to the literature teacher," I said at last, "and we will see if we can work something out for him to read instead." Cullen relaxed, and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief. He was his, well, normal easygoing self again, if the man could be considered normal.
"Very well, then." He said, as if nothing weird had ever happened between the two of us. "That would be satisfactory." He stood, as did his wife, and Jasper as well. "Would it be alright if we took Jasper home?" He asked politely. "He seems a bit shaken up over this."
Jasper swallowed, but otherwise did not respond. Why not? "Certainly." I said. That would be one less to worry about for the rest of the day.
"Thank you." Cullen nodded briskly. "Sorry for all the trouble. I expect the children will be on their best behavior from here out."
"I hope so." I said earnestly. I really did.
"Good day to you." He said, excusing himself, and his wife, and his son. Alice met them in the hall with Jasper's school things; I wondered how she had known he would be leaving. Their eyes met, hers and his, and lingered for several seconds, then she was skipping off to class, and he was leaving with their parents.
I shook my head as they left. I had wondered why the children had seemed so odd. Now I knew.
I hoped fervently that I would never be faced with such a situation again.
Disclaimer: Say it with me, 'Twilight does not belong to me.' Now you know, and I know, and you know that I know, and I know that you know, and they know that we know, and we know that they know...