We were the last to sit down at the family table, as usual – I actually took time picking out what I wanted to eat, unlike the rest of the Cullens. Edward carried our combined tray in one hand; the tuna fish salad he'd randomly grabbed from the cafeteria selection smelled truly awful, but I doubted I would have any luck explaining the difference in smell to him or his siblings. His other arm was wrapped around my waist in a way that looked casual, but in truth was supporting a large portion of my weight, as I struggled with the walking cast that seemed to multiply my normal lack of coordination.
Alice and Rosalie were leaning across the table discussing something that seemed vitally important and terribly interesting, but stopped talking as soon as I tumbled into the seat Edward held out for me. The table was uncomfortably quiet for a few moments, and I could feel the blush climbing into my cheeks. Rosalie still didn't like me much, but things weren't usually quite this bad at school, at least not since we'd gotten back from Phoenix.
It occurred to me then that the blush heating my face probably made me smell even more appetizing to them than anything in the lunch line had smelled to me, which only made me blush more. I cleared my throat and tried to think of something to say to break the stillness. I cast my gaze wildly around the table, carefully avoiding everyone else's eyes, coming to rest on Emmett's prop-lunch. I stared at it, trying to make sense out of what appeared to be a plastic bag full of eggs.
"What are you having for lunch there, Emmett?" I blurted out before I'd really thought it through.
"Eggs," Emmett grinned at me, seeming proud of himself. It broke the tension, and I relaxed slightly in my seat. "You want one?" he offered, holding the bag out to me across the table.
"Uh, sure. Thanks," I said. Renée had gone through a phase of eating nothing but hardboiled eggs, on another of her strange diets, and I had actually learned to like the taste of them. I took an egg from the half dozen or so in the bag and turned it over in my hand. The hard white shell reminded me of Edward's skin. "I didn't see these in the lunch line. Did you bring them from home?"
As I spoke, I moved to tap the egg on the edge of the table, so I could start peeling off the shell. In the fraction of a second before I could bring my hand down onto the table, Alice reached over and snatched the egg of my hand. The movement was so fast that I didn't realize what had happened until my empty hand hit the edge of the table and glanced off.
There was a moment of stunned silence during which no one at our table moved. And then Edward started laughing. Just a chuckle at first, but soon he was struggling to keep his laughter from ringing across the entire cafeteria. Alice joined him after half a second, her trilling bell laugh adding the soprano line to Edward's baritone. I looked back and forth between the two of them, perplexed.
"What—?" I started to ask.
"They're raw, Bella," Edward chuckled at me, still obviously trying to rein in his laughter.
"You're supposed to cook them?" Emmett asked, incredulous, his brow furrowing.
I couldn't help it, I started laughing too. In that moment, as though I could read her mind as clearly as Edward, I saw exactly what Alice had seen: an image of me with raw egg in my lap, confused and embarrassed, and maybe a bit angry. The laughter ripped through me and I could feel my eyes begin to tear. On the other side of Alice, Jasper was laughing as well.
"But… they're so much easier to deal with like this!" Emmett protested. As if to demonstrate, he opened the soda can in front of him, and then quickly cracked an egg on its lip and poured the raw innards into the soda with practiced ease. "And it makes a cool sound too!" he continued, cocking his head to the side to listen to the popping noises the soda was making.
Rosalie lost it then too, her shoulders shaking with contained laughter even as she leaned into Emmett and buried her face in his shoulder in an attempt to comfort him.
"Thank you Alice," I said through my laughter, turning towards her.
She shrugged, still giggling. "It wouldn't have been much of a loss for those jeans, but it would have ruined the rest of your day."
I let her swipe at my fashion sense go and relaxed into my chair, still laughing. Beside me, Edward was still chuckling as well, his arm draped across the back of my chair and his entire frame relaxed. I looked around the table at them – at my family – and realized that they were all smiling, all relaxed, all at peace with me and each other. Something clicked inside of me, the last piece of the puzzle falling into place. It felt like home.