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A/N - You guys don't really like my story.
Chapter Three - Encounter
Having spent the weekend alone, I felt refreshed when Monday rolled around. Another week of school seemed manageable... until I walked into the cafeteria. The last person I wanted to see was sitting in the far corner along with the rest of his gorgeous clan.
"Something wrong?" Lewis asked.
I realized I was standing frozen in the doorway, blocking the kids behind me from entering. I shook my head and bowed my head, heading to the lunch line. I needed to get a grip.
"Pizza today!" Lewis cheered. "That's probably their secret tactic to make us all less rebellious on this god awful day."
"Huh?" I peered at the limp pizza slices on the display.
"You know... Mondays are the worst day of the week," Lewis explained. "So they try to make us happy by giving us pizza."
I made a face. "How could this crap make anyone happy?" I asked doubtfully.
Lewis shrugged. "It's not as bad as the slop they feed us the rest of the week."
"You make a good point," I muttered, but still bypassed the pizza. I didn't feel hungry- I felt anxious.
I sat down next to Lewis at his table with a ginger ale. Maybe it would settle my stomach. "Your fan club is trying to get your attention," Lewis observed.
I impulsively glanced over at Edward's table, but none of them were looking at me. Pretending like I was simply scanning the room, I surveyed the rest of the tables until my eyes landed on Eric, Jessica, and Mike all looking in my direction. When I made eye contact, they began beckoning me over with waves. I sighed and glared at Lewis. "I could have easily ignored them, if you hadn't just made me look," she grumbled.
"It's not polite to keep people waiting," Lewis said, smirking.
"You enjoy torturing me," I accused. He seemed to think it was the most hilarious thing in the world to submit me to their eager chatter. Slowly, I got to my feet and walked over to them.
"Hey Bella!" Jessica cried, grabbing my arm and pulling me into the seat next to her.
"Hi," I greeted.
"You won't believe this but Edward has been staring at you since you came into the cafeteria. Like oh my god, isn't that weird?" she gushed. I resisted the impulse to check to see if she was right.
"I guess," I replied. "So what's up?" All I wanted was to get back to my ginger ale.
"I just had to tell you that!" she declared, as if that were reason enough.
"Well thanks," I mumbled, getting back to my feet. "I'll see you in class, Eric." With that, I made my escape. They probably thought I was a bitch, but did I really care?
I left lunch early so I could get to Biology before anyone else. I couldn't stand the idea of walking up to our table again, with him glaring at me like he did last time. Right before the bell rang, I saw him amble into the room. Immediately, I looked down at my book. I heard him sit down next to me.
"Hey," I heard him say to someone. I opened my book. "Hello? Bella?" Upon hearing Edward say my name, my stomach flipped.
I slowly turned to face him. "Uh… hi?" I replied, almost scared to acknowledge him. This was an odd turn of events.
"I'm Edward," he said, smiling. "Sorry I've left you without a partner for the past week. I fell ill the day you first arrived, hence why I must have come off as being terribly rude. I apologize."
I just stared at him. "Right," I said, not knowing what else to say.
"Did I miss anything vital?" he asked.
I turned back towards the front, uncomfortable with how he was staring at me. "I'm not sure," I answered. "We have a lab today."
"Then I returned just in time," he nearly exclaimed. I found his enthusiasm ridiculous.
Luckily the teacher began speaking, giving us instructions for our onion lab. I didn't bother listening as I had done this lab before in Phoenix. Besides, I was distracted, thinking of Edward's bizarre change in character.
"So what do you think this is?" Edward asked me, peering into the microscope.
I took a turn looking into it after he was done. "Anaphase," I announced.
He nodded and wrote down the answer on our worksheet. Cursive. Seriously? He changed slides then took a glance at it. "Metaphase?"
I checked. "No, prophase," I corrected.
He made a show of being embarrassed. "I suppose I'm not adequately prepared for this lab," he said.
"Oh," I replied, not sure yet what was going on, still attempting to reassess him in my head.
We finished our lab way before anyone else, mostly thanks to me. "So you're new," he stated, eyeing me intently.
"Yep," I responded, ignoring the impulse to roll my eyes.
"Why?" he wondered. "Why did you come here?"
It sounded like an accusation to me. "To live with my dad," I explained briefly.
"But why?" he persisted.
"I…" I wasn't sure what to say yet again. I still couldn't fully rationalize everything that was happening.
"What?" he pressed, leaning towards me, not giving me a chance to formulate a response.
He had such a strange scent. I took a deep breath through my nose to try to figure it out. No luck. "I wanted to spend some time with my dad," I supplied, feeling severely imposed upon. I didn't see how this was any of his business. No one else had asked me this.
"Do you like it here? Have you made friends? Do you miss home?" he drilled.
I bit my lip, trying to find a way to make him leave me alone. In that moment I actually preferred the murderous Edward that didn't speak. "I'm fine, thanks," was all I said.
"You don't like me," he stated as fact.
I hesitated, slightly shocked by his blunt, neurotic assertion. "Uh…" I began. "Why would you think that? I just met you."
"You just seem very withdrawn," he observed. He leaned even closer. "I'd like to know what you're thinking."
I stared into his honey gold eyes. Such an abnormal color, I noted. Weren't his eyes black before? "I'm sorry," I managed to say.
He nodded in sycophantic agreement. It dawned on me that perhaps I was right- maybe he was crazy. Or at least there was nothing about him that made sense. I was an observer. All my life I'd watched people instead of interacting with them. I felt so far removed, like a scientist idly following an experiment. And usually everyone fell into some category of predictability. I had learned how to read people very well, but Edward was presenting a curious case.
He was excruciatingly handsome, but that wasn't what was compelling to me about Edward. I had seen many beautiful people. They were the easiest to predict, I thought. They were always confident, with an air of superiority, even in the most humble of them. They did well socially, if they so chose, because they knew they could have most anyone eating out of the palm of their hands. So that's probably why they usually ended up with other attractive people, people who were not so easily won over by their good looks and they felt more level with. And that's how the vicious cycle of superficiality began. For this reason, I tended to be cautious of beautiful people.
Edward, being the most attractive person I'd ever seen or probably will ever see, was not what I'd expect. He had a definite edge of awkwardness about him. I couldn't say he wasn't confident, but he didn't seem entirely sure of himself either. The way he spoke to me- it was like a self-conscious nerd trying to talk to the prom queen. I didn't understand.
The Edward I met a week ago was more believable to me. The disdain he seemed to have for me then was most likely based on some surface-level judgment. Sure, it was a bit more extreme than anything else I'd experienced, but I figured it was all in the same vein. I had been unsettled by it, but not surprised.
"No, I'm sorry for being intrusive," he countered, still nodding slightly.
I felt so awkward for him that I decided to throw him a line. "It's okay," I said. I guess I needed to give him a second chance. "I don't really have anything interesting on my mind." I cringed inwardly and the vision of me banging my head against a wall flooded my head.
"I doubt that," he replied. I felt strangely relieved, but then I realized I was doing it. I was hoping he approved of me. That meant I was trying to be on his level. I always tried to avoid this and I usually could, by ignoring people's ugliness or attractiveness. But Edward was so overwhelmingly gorgeous that I couldn't help myself.
I felt my face getting hot. I grit my teeth, angry towards myself. Now I wasn't sure how to proceed. My normal plan was to make myself seem as boring and uninteresting as I could, so people would leave me alone. But as I pondered how to respond to Edward, I found myself struggling with saying any of my usual lines. I wasn't sure I wanted him to leave me alone. It was like Jacob all over again, except with Edward I had a choice and was still in control. It was my decision whether I wanted to take the mask off. That made me feel a bit better. "Why are you so interested?" I decided on.
"You're different, Bella," the way he said my name almost made me shiver. His voice was so clear and pleasing. I briefly wondered what it would sound like if he sang. My face stayed red. Our eyes were still locked. I thought about looking elsewhere, but found I was unable. It was strange how he stared, like he was trying to see into me.
"Yeah," I fumbled. "I'm the new kid from Phoenix. I'm aware."
He leaned away from me suddenly and took a deep breath. His behavior was so peculiar. "No, that's not what I mean," he told me. "Yes, you are different for the obvious reasons. You were raised somewhere else after all. But there's something else about you, Bella."
I was thrilled when he said my name again. "Care to let me in on this?" I asked, grinning.
He smiled back, revealing perfect teeth. "I haven't put my finger on it, yet," he increased the intensity of his stare, as if that would also increase the effort of his investigation.
"Well be sure to let me know when you've got me all figured out," I joked, but felt uneasy. Edward intrigued me and I had decided not to shut him out, but the idea of him knowing me so intimately felt more than invasive.
"Well I doubt that would ever happen," he murmured. "Figuring someone out entirely is impossible."
I noticed he was getting less awkward. "I suppose," I agreed. "Because there is never any real way of knowing for sure if you are right. You'd have to be them. Or read their minds, at least."
He surprised me by laughing. "Very true," he agreed, finally breaking eye contact. "And as I'm unable to do that, you'll just have to help me out."
I never thought I'd actually miss small talk. This conversation was getting too weird, not anything like how it was supposed to be the first time you talk to someone. "Right," was my default response.
"So do you like it here?" he repeated his question.
"It's fine," I replied.
"What does that even mean?" he asked.
I started feeling exasperated. Maybe I should switch to boring mode. "I just don't think that's relevant," I answered.
"Your feelings aren't relevant?" he attempted to clarify, looking like he was about to crumble with confusion.
I sighed audibly. I was confused as well. "Not really," I said. "I live here now. It doesn't matter if I like it or not."
"So you don't like it," he stated.
"It's fine," I insisted.
He laughed again. "Getting an answer out of you is like pulling teeth," he said. I shrugged. "Are you always this difficult?"
"That's what my mom says," I offered.
"You seem to have a problem answering with a simple yes or no," he said. "It's like you're trying to avoid giving me anything concrete." Silence. "So have you made any friends?"
"I've only been here a week," I answered.
"So have you made any friends?" he tried again.
I was getting irritated. Why was he so intent on getting answers out of me? "I suppose," I responded grudgingly.
"You sat with Lewis at lunch," he noted.
"Yeah," I replied. "You were staring."
He ignored me. "Is he your friend?"
"He's becoming a friend," I worded my answer carefully.
"You are selective about who you befriend," he said.
"Am I?" I heard my voice rise slightly, strained. I felt like he was boxing me into a corner. He seemed to notice my tension at last and relaxed in his seat, leaning away from me once again.
"Sorry," he apologized.
I had an idea. "You're new," I stated.
He blinked. "Huh?"
"Do you like it here?" I asked.
"I…" he trailed off, his brow furrowing. "Yes, I do."
"Have you made any friends?" I persisted.
"No," he answered.
"Why is that, Edward?" I could hear my patronizing tone.
He studied my face for a second, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth, obviously on to me. "I don't quite…" he seemed to be searching for the right way to put it, "fit in."
"Jessica says you ignore everyone," I retorted.
He didn't look surprised. "I didn't peg you as the gossiping type," he countered.
I wasn't fazed. "And how have you pegged me?" I continued my battle.
He leaned towards me again. "You're unlike anything," he replied quietly. "I can't peg you, but I want to."
I smirked. "You want to peg me?" His eyes widened and he nearly threw himself back away from me, pursing his lips shut. I laughed. "Sorry you walked right into that one." He was seemingly appalled. I felt immediately horrified with myself when I realized I had, for a brief moment, flirted with Edward. Since when did I flirt with anyone? Forks was doing strange things to me.
Desperate to escape, I grabbed our worksheet and took it up to the front of the class to turn it in. A backpack was conveniently placed in the aisle and I, naturally, tripped over it. I was sure I was going to land flat on my face in front of the whole class when someone grabbed my arm and steadied me. I looked down at my feet, mortified. Edward had seen that, no doubt. I didn't dare look over at him to check.
"I think there hasn't been one single day that I haven't seen you trip," my savior said.
I looked up to meet Mike's expectant expression. "Thanks," I mumbled, eyeing my feet once again.
"Looks like Cullen's had a change of heart about you," he blurted.
I didn't look up. "Yeah, I guess," I muttered, continuing on my previous course. I dropped the paper into the turn-in basket.
Mike followed me. "Must be kind of creepy with him staring at you like that constantly," he kept talking. "Especially after the way he treated you last week."
I shrugged, looking towards the back of the classroom. Edward was staring at Mike and I almost flinched. The hateful expression of my first day had resurfaced on his face. He couldn't possibly hear us from that far away, could he?
Mike put his hand on my back. My eyes flickered quickly over to meet his. "Just let me know if he bothers you in any way, okay?" He looked at me earnestly, as if hoping I would need rescuing.
I felt my jaw clench involuntarily. Without responding, I marched back to my seat. I hoped that was a good enough answer. Once I was safely back in my chair, I glanced at Edward sidelong. He was still glaring in Mike's direction then suddenly, sensing my attention, his eyes shifted to look at me. I think I actually shrunk away from him. I bowed my head, letting my hair hide my face.
"Thanks for turning in our paper," he said stiffly, an edge to his tone.
I didn't respond. I heard him mutter something under his breath, then silence.
"Are you upset with me?" he demanded abruptly.
I couldn't believe this was happening. Edward was perhaps the most unpredictable person I had ever met. I gathered up all my courage and straightened in my seat, meeting his gaze. To my surprise, the hate-filled glare had disappeared entirely. His expression was now soft, almost concerned. "Why would I be?" I asked.
"I'm starting to believe you really can't give me a direct answer," he smirked. "You just seem uncomfortable around me."
I angled my body towards him a bit more. "You're…" I struggled with myself. "You're just…" I hesitated, wishing I could just shut up.
"Creepy?" he supplied.
"Did you hear Mike say that?" I stammered.
"No," he replied quickly. "I was just judging, based on your reactions…"
I wasn't sure what to say. Was he seeking approval from me? Was he really that interested in what I thought of him? There was no way for me to tell him, because I hadn't decided for myself yet. I didn't know if I liked Edward. I didn't know if I approved of him. I still hadn't wrapped my head around exactly what was transpiring between us. It was one huge mess in my head. I wanted to go home and think until I had fit everything into a single neat, sensible explanation.
As I faltered, unsure of the right response, the bell rang. Relief! Edward was up and out of the room before I could formulate a goodbye. I guess he wasn't really that interested in my answer after all.
I found myself staring at Alice through most of art class, but my mind was on Edward. My first impression of him was that he was not unlike the usual snobby, good-looking elitists that were a stereotype in every high school. I had thought, at first, that his attitude towards me was no different than what I'd received many times over from others of his "type" throughout my life. But then, after the incident on the side of the road, I was sure there was something more, something homicidal, to Edward's bizarre behavior. Perhaps I had let my imagination stray too far, but I had truly believed, at least for the weekend, that he wanted to kill me.
But what the hell was today about? I wasn't an idiot, but the obvious assumptions that could be made from his behavior seemed impossible. He was acting like… he had a crush on me. It was that, or he was just obscenely interested in me for whatever reason. I guess that wasn't normally anything out of the ordinary. I was the new kid, after all. But Jessica had made it perfectly clear to me that none of the Cullens ever gave anyone more attention than was necessary. Maybe Jessica was exaggerating or perhaps she just really had no idea what she was talking about. And there hadn't been a new kid since the Cullens had come here a few years ago, so maybe Edward was just as interested as everyone else. I supposed that was more likely than him wanting to be my boyfriend. What an idea!
One thing he said kept looping in my brain. "You're different, Bella," he had said. "You're unlike anything." That part was impossible to explain. He had made that assessment of me when all he really knew about me was that I had moved here to spend time with my dad and that I could identify the different phases of mitosis better than he could. And it wasn't possible for him to have learned much more than that from anybody else, because nobody in Forks really knew much about me except for my dad and maybe Jacob. "You're unlike anything." He'd said it like he truly believed it, like it was as blatant as the color of my hair. The most likely conclusion I could come up with was that he had some sort of mental illness. Between the wildly murderous looks and desperation to get to know me, that had to be it.
As I walked towards the parking lot, my eyes on the ground, someone fell in step next to me. They were wearing black moccasin booties. I pretended like I didn't notice.
"Hi Bella!" a sweet, clear voice rang out. Oh no.
I actually stopped walking and looked up to face her. The instant our eyes met, I thought I might cry from intimidation. I felt like a child. I'd never been so close to Alice before. "Bella?" she said again, one of her eyebrows raised.
"Hey," I managed to breath.
"I'm Alice," she announced, giving me a ridiculously bright smile. When I didn't respond immediately, she added, "I'm Edward's sister." Did she think that should mean something to me?
"Yeah," I replied.
"He didn't explain that incident the other day, did he?" she asked, eyes intent.
I just shook my head. Suddenly her eyes became unfocused, but wider, as if realizing something pivotal. Then she sighed and stepped away from me slightly. A second later, Edward was filling the space between us. "Alice," he growled, a warning.
She shrugged, looking resigned. "Talk to you some other time, Bella," she said before huffing off towards the parking lot.
Edward turned his intense eyes on me. I was vaguely aware that my mouth was hanging open. He rolled his eyes, but it was obviously a forced action. I could see how strained he was, barely holding in some volatile emotion. "She's always trying to embarrass me," he mumbled.
I closed my mouth. Did he expect me to believe that? Alice had been attempting to explain to me what exactly I witnessed on Friday, when I had seen them on the side of the road. Maybe this meant he would be embarrassed if the truth was revealed? Was he schizophrenic or something? Did he not want anyone to know? It was starting to make sense!
"Right," I muttered. It would probably be a bad idea to get into it with him, though I was curious.
His eyes darted around nervously. "Sorry," he blurted. Then in a very fluid, quick motion, he turned and followed after Alice.
What the hell?