A/N:

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns the plot and characters of Twilight, not to mention all the money it makes. I make nothing but fanfiction.

Chapter 1 – First Sight

I gripped the steering wheel of my Volvo too hard and heard my knuckles crack, but just barely. I was grinding my teeth so loud that even my stereo, blaring Incubus, couldn't drown out the rage. What the hell was that girl's problem? I'd met a few bitches in my time, but this, this was above and beyond anything I'd experienced. Such senseless, meaningless hatred. Such annoying self-righteous attitude. Such gorgeous big brown eyes.

Why oh why did people let her get away with it? Sure, she was pretty, and yeah she was smart. In fact, she was probably hands down the smartest kid at that school. And the prettiest. But was it really about any of her redeeming qualities? Was any bully ever about their redeeming qualities?

I swerved around a grandma in a Buick and ignored her shrieking and honking. My vision tunneled, and I saw red everywhere. Red like her blood would look, smeared across the road, after I ran her over repeatedly. Like she deserved. Oh would that I could... I turned up the music but I could still hear my teeth grinding, my knuckles popping, my blood raging.

Of three things I was absolutely certain.

One: She was out of her fucking mind. She was psychotic, unbalanced and completely deranged. In fact, I was almost certain she was a danger to herself and others.

Two: She had it in for me, for whatever reason. From the moment she'd laid eyes on me, a part of her moved against me, and she was out to make my life a living hell.

And three: I hated Bella Swan.

***

Earlier…

***

I gripped the steering wheel of my Volvo and breathed deeply. Slowing my breathing down should not have been this hard. I was no child. I was on the cusp of adulthood, and here I was, hiding in my car, nervous on the first day of school. My first day at a new school. My first day at Forks High. What a fucking joke of a school it was.

My old school in Chicago had been large, sprawling across the grounds in a series of connected buildings, each one a proud pillar of inviting education. This looked like a clump of outhouses hastily done up in boring brick. Through the light drizzle, which hadn't let up since Carlisle and I had arrived three days earlier, I could barely make out the sign for the outhouse that housed the administration. My car, inconspicuous in Chicago, stood out here among the rusty old minivans and older-model mom-cars. One car, a particularly pathetic-looking rusty old Chevy truck, looked like a grandmother car. At least.

Although mostly decrepit, there were a few cars that would have turned heads even in Chicago. A shiny red BMW convertible parked next to an equally shiny red sports jeep. Down the other end of the lot, a mouthwatering Cadillac. Among them, maybe my car wouldn't stand out too much.

I took another deep breath and shook my head. Starting a new school was no big deal. So what if I'd never moved before? No biggie. No one was going to bite me or anything. Nodding to myself, I picked up my keys and stepped out into the drizzle, flipping the hood of my sweater up over my head. Wonderful. Having to always keep your hood up would do awesome things to my hair. Just wonderful.

I walked as fast as I could to the administration outhouse, determined not to jog even though I felt the stares and anticipated the whispers. I didn't hear them. Yet. I was sure I'd hear those soon enough. In a town this small, I was certain a new kid was big news. I'd be the main attraction. I'd be the center of unwanted attention.

Wonderful. Truly.

When I stepped into the building, I was hit with a wave of stifling heat. An unnatural redhead mom-type sat behind a desk dressed in a completely inappropriate sleeveless dress that showed way too much old-lady cleavage. Sure, she needed to turn the heat up to be comfortable in that. I gritted my teeth as I stepped to the desk and cleared my throat.

I didn't even get a word out.

"Edward Cullen, right?" she smiled at me, and there was lipstick on her teeth. I nodded and told myself not to stare. I told myself not to laugh. "We've been expecting you. Welcome to Forks!" She picked up a sheet of paper and placed it in front of me, leaning forward and showing me even more of her cleavage. Seriously. Wrong. "I'm Mrs. Cope. If you need anything, please stop by anytime and ask. Anything at all." Ugh. Double intendre. Nasty. "Here's your schedule, your locker combination, and here's a map of the school. You think you'll get around okay?" I nodded again. She smiled, and I hesitantly smiled back. I felt violated. "Your locker is marked on the map, you should have no trouble finding it. Here's your slips. Be sure to get them signed by all your teachers and bring them back by the end of the day. I'll be here waiting."

"Thanks," I muttered, immediately turning around to leave with my stack of papers. She was leaning forward again, and really, I had seen more than enough. As I stepped through the door back outside, I thought I heard her giggle. GIGGLE. Jesus.

Out in the damp I stared at the map she'd given me. Did she seriously draw a heart to mark my locker? Really? I shook my head. Crazy small town horny moms. You hear about them, but you never expect it to be so bad. Memorizing the locations of my first three classes, I stuffed everything into my bag and trudged to Spanish. With my luck, this Mrs. Goff would be just as horny as Cope. With my luck, she'd give me special after school assignments. With my luck, I'd become a victim of statutory rape within the week. Just watch.

Once I got inside the right building – another outhouse – I pushed back the hood of my sweater and tried to shake my hair back to life. Without a mirror, I had no idea what the damage was like, and finding a bathroom to fix my hair sounded pink even in my head. I took a deep breath and hoped for the best. Hopefully the whispering was new-kid syndrome, not a reflection on the state of my hair. I walked down the hall and pretended not to hear it, tried to melt into the rest of the student body, but it was proving impossible when I was almost a head taller than most of the guys around here. Was the stunted growth a syndrome or some serious retardation in this town? Was something wrong with the water in Forks? Where was Erin Brockovich when you needed her?

I double checked the room number outside the class before entering and quickly stepped up to the teacher's desk and cleared my throat. She looked up from her novel – Danielle Steele – and smiled at me. "Edward Cullen?"

"Yes. I've been asked to have these signed by all my teachers." I presented my slip, and she took it without taking her eyes off my face.

"My pleasure." She scribbled her name on the bottom of the slip and handed it back, still smiling. "Please take that seat over there by Lauren. She's the blonde one in the red blouse." I nodded and smiled politely before turning around to find the desk she'd indicated.

Luckily, it was near the back. The girl sitting at the desk next to it, blonde Lauren in the red blouse, turned to eye me with open curiosity, and the girl she had been leaning across the aisle to chatter with had stopped to do the same. When did staring stop being rude? I slid into my seat and tried not to sigh as she continued to stare unblinkingly at me. She whispered to the girl and they giggled behind their hands before she finally leaned towards me, flipping her waist-length hair. When I didn't look up and meet her eyes, she surprised me by reaching out and touching my shoulder.

I turned to face her, shocked. Did the concept of personal space mean anything to this girl?

"You're Edward, right?" She left her hand on my shoulder, and I stifled a snarl. "I'm Lauren. This is Jessica," she gestured to the giggling girl next to her. "If you need anything, let us know, yeah?"

I nodded at her. "Sure. Yeah."

As the teacher finally called the class to attention, Lauren took her hand away and started furiously exchanging notes with Jessica. I had the inexplicable urge to dust off my shoulder where she'd touched me, but that would have been inexcusably rude. Maybe these small town hicks were uncivilized, but I sure as hell wasn't going to start grunting and scratching my crotch just yet.

The class went on forever, luckily with no introduction of me at all. The Spanish they were learning was so basic, I'd learned most of it back in middle school. I allowed myself the liberty of not paying any attention to the conjugation of irregular verbs. Already, I knew this was going to be a long day.

***

After Spanish, Lauren and Jessica offered to walk me to my next class. I accepted, only because I still wasn't ready to grunt and scratch my crotch. They chattered at me excitedly, offering up bits of gossip and the "cool hangouts," all the way until I was outside my history class. Finally, they left me alone, and I again went through the routine of getting my slip signed and finding a seat. Again, the material was elementary, and again I let my mind wander. I was terribly bored. So bored, I wanted to sleep in the worst way.

History went into English, where we read the excitingly underexposed tale of Romeo and Juliet, and English was followed by gym. Wonderful. Fucking wonderful.

I'd been something of an athlete back in Chicago, but the state of the gym was so pathetic, I knew immediately I wouldn't be trying out for any teams here. Everyone around me seemed short and scrawny, except for a shaggy blond guy with dazed eyes who was about my height, and a mammoth of some sort standing next to him. They were whispering loudly, occasionally guffawing as the class started picking up tennis rackets and pairing into teams. The bear-man next to the blond guy was swinging his racket like a baseball bat, and his entire body seemed to quiver with every swing. He was big. Forget it, he was fucking huge.

The coach was walking around the gym, pairing people into teams of doubles, until he got to where the bear-man was standing. "Whitlock, McCarty, square off against Cheney and…" he paused, looking around for a candidate for Cheney's partner. Cheney, an extremely short non-athletic type, looked like he was about to wet himself.

"New kid!" the coach growled, and I winced. Was that really necessary? Like I didn't already have every pair of eyes glued on me. "Come over here and pair up with Cheney." At this, the large bear-man grinned cockily, waggling his eyebrows at me. I sighed with as much patience as I could muster and picked up my racket reluctantly.

"No need to pout, pretty boy," he bellowed across the court at me. Again, I winced. "I promise not to hit you in the face… well, not too hard anyway." He laughed then, twirling his racket and shaking his head at his own joke.

"Go easy on the new kid, Em," the shaggy blond drawled at him, his eyes still looking pretty dazed. Was he fucking stoned? No way. The bear-man grinned at him, then turned back to face me. My eyes lingered on the blond. I noticed up close what I'd failed to see from across the gym. His left arm was covered in scars, and a fair bit of his face and neck as well on that side. It made him look menacing, even with the unfocused blue eyes.

"Go on, princess. Do your worst." Well, bear-man wasn't subtle, that was for sure.

I ground my teeth, shaking my head a little. Cheney whimpered next to me, and I gave him a withering look. My ears were ringing, a sure sign I was starting to get angry. There was no sense in letting myself get worked up because of the childish taunts of the missing link in the chain of evolution. Bear-man wanted me to do my worst? Well, he asked for it.

Tossing the ball lightly, I put on a worried face, frowning a little as I took an imperfect stance. He grinned wider. Taking a deep breath, I tossed the ball, reached back…

My serve was impeccable. I wasn't sure what I enjoyed most. The satisfying thwack of the ball against my racket, the brief look of shock on bear-man's face as he realized what was coming his way, or the roar of pain and the crunch of bone when it connected with his face. Maybe it was the pleasing shade of red dribbling down his nose as he blinked at the ceiling with clouded eyes. Yeah. Probably that was the best part.

For a moment, no one moved. Shocked faces stared in awe at the mighty troll on his back, and several threw their hands over their mouths, as though to stifle laughter. The coach blew his whistle, belatedly realizing what had happened, and jogged over to the fallen bear-man. "McCarty! How many fingers am I holding up?"

But bear-man wasn't looking at his fingers. He sat up shakily, his eyes focusing – with difficulty – on my face. Cheney whimpered again. McCarty's mouth and chin were covered in blood, and he suddenly looked extremely dangerous. The bulk of his arms, the breadth of his shoulders, the veins popping out on the sides of his neck. Uh-oh.

But then the bear-man shocked me and the coach – and apparently the rest of the losers in the class – and threw his head back to roar with laughter. There was a distinct nasal quality to it, and I figured his nose was probably broken. It should have been hurting like hell, but he didn't seem to notice until he started coughing violently and spat blood by his feet. He grinned at me then, his teeth stained red, looking more menacing than ever and said the least expected thing to me.

"I like you, kid! That was a good shot!"

I blinked at him once. I blinked at him twice. His grin was unchanged but his shoulders were shaking again with silent laughter. I shook my head and smiled. I couldn't help myself.

***

"No one usually plays against Emmet," the blond, Jasper, was saying to me later. It was lunch, and we were sitting in the cafeteria waiting for "the girls," Jasper had said. Across from me, the bear-man wolfed down his meal as though the cafeteria had served him heaven on a platter. "He plays rougher than most, and none of them have much of a sense of humor about it." He smiled lazily at me, and I wondered if he always looked so sleepy. The droopy eyelids combined with the slow Southern drawl felt like a caricature. "Emmet likes humor."

As though on cue, Emmet reached over and smacked Jasper on the back, causing him to nearly slide off his chair and into the table. "Damn right, I like humor. People that take themselves too seriously are boring as fuck."

I raised an eyebrow at his colorful language, but nodded my agreement. "You have a point, I guess."

He snorted and winced, touching his nose lightly. "Of course I have a point. You have humor, don't you, Ed? I mean, no one without humor would ever whack me in the face. And on their first fucking day in a new fucking school. I mean seriously, it's either humor or a death wish." He laughed again, grimacing at the pain and laughing at it at the same time. He was definitely fucking something up in there.

"Ah, and here come the girls now," Jasper said suddenly, leaning back in his chair and waving to someone over my head. Curious, I turned around, and that was the first time I saw her.

She was wearing a ratty blue sweater over faded cut-off jeans, her feet jammed unceremoniously into battered looking sneakers, and apparently no socks. Her hair was a billowy wavy brown mess, and she was so pale I was certain I'd see her internal organs if I held her up to the sun. Nothing about her was anything like the girls back in Chicago. She looked ordinary, absolutely and utterly ordinary, especially next to the exceptionally cute girl she was walking with. But as she came closer to the table, her chin held up, her hips hypnotic in the kinetics of her strut, I had to swallow. Confidence, certainty, and a strange sense of power emanated from her very skin, spilling out of her pores and filling the space around her with a heady sense of inferiority. She was listening with a small smile to the cute girl that was chattering by her side, her eyes not really focused on her face at all. It was almost as though she was imagining she were somewhere else.

My body reacted to her instantly, to be quite honest. She was gorgeous, and she was strong. I could tell straight away that this was a girl who got what she wanted and didn't take 'no' for an answer. I could tell straight away she was different. Lauren had been almost brazen in her confidence this morning, but the confidence that radiated out of this girl was on a completely different level. It was confidence born of true strength, not false vanity. It was genuine. I wanted her.

Then she got to the table, and she saw me. She opened her mouth, and the first words I ever heard her say were, "What the fuck happened to your nose, Em?"

For a moment, I was confused. My nose? Wait, she wasn't talking to me. Emmet leaned back in his chair, offering her a goofy grin though she was still looking at me. "Cullen here smashed it in during gym, using nothing but a tennis ball and a surprisingly good arm."

She raised her perfectly arched eyebrows, finally looking away from me to offer a bored half-smile to Emmet. "Quite the compliment coming from you." She slid into a chair just as the small girl she had been talking to plopped herself in Jasper's lap.

"I'm Alice," she sang at me, really and truly SANG at me. "I totally forgot the new kid was coming in today, or I totally would've thrown you a proper greeting. So you're Edward Cullen at last! The school's been going on and on about you for the past few days, I thought I was gonna puke if I had to hear all about you for another day before I got to actually see you! Don't think I'm a stalker or anything like that, though, I just get so curious about things, and people here get so fixated on their gossip. I mean, wow, once a topic becomes interesting to them, it's like that thing with the horse and the bit in its mouth. I never got that really, but it's exactly like that with these people. I'm sure within the week you'll know all about it anyway, so there's no point in me telling you now I guess," and on and on.

She didn't even seem to pause for breath. I was stunned speechless by the sheer capacity of her lungs as she continued in the same vein until Jasper finally silenced her with a quiet but teasing, "Babe, breathe."

And then she actually did. She took in huge gulps of air and smiled gratefully at Jasper.

"Edward, this is my girlfriend, Alice. Alice, Edward." I nodded and smiled weakly at the little girl, who waved enthusiastically at me while concentrating on her breathing. So simple. Why couldn't he have done that sooner? "That's Bella over there with the 'tude." She smiled half-heartedly, but it tugged at something in my chest. Bella. The name suited her somehow, more than a name like 'Lauren' or 'Jessica' would have. "There's Rosalie, too. She's Emmet's girl, but she always runs late for lunch because she does the student council meetings right after her class."

I tore my eyes away from Bella's face to nod at Jasper, and was just about to open my mouth when Alice seemed to decide she had breathed enough for now.

"So Edward, is it true that you moved here from Chicago? And is your dad really a doctor? I heard they were making him the head of the entire hospital here at Forks. Mr. Banner said he'd be the youngest head the hospital's ever had, too. I bet he's really smart. You know how some people are like so smart without even trying that they like become chess champions and stuff by the time they're like ten years old? I think it's tough being that smart, and people might make you go to college when you're supposed to be in junior high, so you're the youngest kid in college and you don't make any friends because they all resent you so much. I think if Jasper and I ever had really smart kids, we'd leave them be," and on and on and on. I snuck a glance at Bella, but she was having a quiet conversation with Emmet. His brow was furrowed and his eyes became very small. He looked like he was thinking, and it looked like it was taking every last bit of his energy.

"What the fuck?!" The shriek stunned the cafeteria – including, miraculously, Alice – into momentary silence, and I turned to see that the source of the ungodly sound was a surreal blonde vision in designer heels and a skirt too short to actually hide anything. She was staring open-mouthed at Emmet, who gulped loudly.

"Baby, it's not as bad as it looks. I promise, the nurse said it'll heal completely, and there won't be any scarring!"

The blonde hurtled herself across the cafeteria as fast as her ridiculously high heels could take her and Emmet got up to catch her as she threw herself into his arms, kissing his face and murmuring, "My poor baby!"

The idea of bear-man as a baby was painfully hilarious, and I was formulating a witty remark to that effect when suddenly, Bella spoke again. "Edgar here smashed Emmet's face in with a tennis ball."

The blonde stopped kissing Emmet's face to turn and glare at me, but I had no eyes for her. My eyes were on Bella's face, as she again presented me with a bored smile. Her eyes, however, were glittering with rage. Fury. She was angry with me. I could see it in the twitching of her right eyelid, and the way her hand, casually resting on the tabletop, was clenched so tight the veins were sticking out over her knuckles.

The bell rang like some sort of saving grace, and I turned back to the blonde to see her face – had I really called her a vision? – ugly with her anger. I realized by the expectant silence that she had spoken to me, but I couldn't have figured out what she'd said if my life depended on it. The way she was looking at me, I wondered if maybe it did.

"Rosie, baby, chill. The kid's cool. Come on, let me walk you to class." Emmet shot me an apologetic smile as he led the blonde away by the hand, and Jasper sighed in exasperation.

"What the fuck, Bella? You know how Rosalie gets when it comes to Emmet. You could've found a better way to tell her about it."

Bella, still seated, shrugged and rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Jazz. Since when was it my job to babysit newbie here?" She smiled at me again, and I began to develop an intense dislike for the expression. "Besides, I'm sure Edgar wasn't afraid ofRosalie." She rolled her eyes again as though at a ridiculous thought, then got up and swaggered out of the cafeteria. The way Rosalie had looked, maybe it wasn't so ridiculous.

"She's not usually like that," Alice sang at me. "She's really usually way cool. She's probably just PMSing or something. You know I heard it was a myth that women get bitchier because of hormones when they PMS, but it's like they trick themselves into being bitches as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, and that it's just a cultural-"

"Let's get to class, Al," Jasper interrupted, and she immediately stopped talking to smile and nod eagerly at him. The girl needed a horse-tranquilizer. And Jasper needed a fucking medal. Or a lobotomy of some sort.

When I walked into biology, I cringed as I realized the class had already started. The teacher nodded at me. "Edward Cullen?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why don't you have a seat and I'll sign your form after class?"

I nodded, grateful that my rock star status as the new kid was letting me get away with it this time. I ducked my head and made my way towards the back, taking the only empty seat in the class next to – you've GOT to be fucking kidding me.

Bella sat at the table that apparently she had previously enjoyed alone, and she glared at me as I approached. I gulped. She looked like she was considering seriously hurting me. And not in the fun way.

She turned around to look outside the window, and again, her hand resting on the table was clenched into a fist. I slid into my seat – fucking great, this is where I was sitting for the rest of the year it would seem like – and pushed her books over to her side of the table since clearly she wasn't going to go out of her way to make me feel welcome.

"Mr. Cullen, I understand you may be a little lost since we're well into the semester, but you'll have to find the time to catch up. We're working on labs next class, and you and Miss Swan will have to team up as lab partners. I'm sure she'll be willing to answer any questions you have beyond that." With a satisfied nod, he turned to the rest of the class and began his lecture. Next to me, Bella had stiffened at the mention of being my lab partner. She turned to glare at me in a way that told me in no uncertain terms how unwelcome I was to ask her any questions. I frowned at her and her cheeks turned red. Was she blushing? She whipped her head around and stared out the window, ignoring me completely, and I felt like she'd reached out and slapped me instead.

The lesson droned on, and when I turned my attention briefly to it, I realized it was all stuff I'd studied before. Classes at Forks High weren't exactly the most challenging aspect of the move. But the townsfolk were ridiculous. So far I'd met the horny molester lady in the office, bear-man in gym, the energizer-bunny that was Alice, and the cherry on the sundae of fucked up, Bella Swan. Who was fucking hot. And who seemed to hate me. For no reason.

I stole a glance at her and saw her still tense. She flipped her hair so that it covered her profile and hid her from my view. She was hiding from me? She wasn't even breathing! That couldn't be healthy. I thought back to our brief exchanges in the cafeteria. Could they even be called exchanges? We'd barely spoken to one another. Who could ever manage to have a conversation with Alice there? Did the girl have a fucking off switch and where the fuck was it?

I pushed the thought of her away and tried to focus again. Nothing I had said to her – I hadn't said anything to her at all – could have possibly offended her. Nothing. I knew I didn't smell bad. Edward Cullen has never smelled bad a day in his life. I ran my fingers through my hair, frustrated with this girl who was making me question my every little action. What was her problem anyway? I was unused to this kind of reaction in a girl I hadn't rejected.

The bell rang after an eternity, and she was out of her seat so fast I had to blink away the after image. Without looking at me once, she grabbed her books and stomped out of the class, her arrogant swagger completely gone. I shook my head. Totally crazy.

"My heart goes out to you." I looked up to see the girl from this morning, Lauren, smiling at me with an exaggerated expression of sympathy on her face. She was turned around in her seat. I hadn't even realized she'd been sitting in front of me the entire class.

"Why?" I asked, wary.

She jerked her head at the door and swung her bag over her shoulder. "You got stuck with Psycho Bella for a lab partner. There's just no way that can be pleasant."

I raised my eyebrows, but suddenly I was hungry for information about this girl. The way Lauren was eyeing my chest, I knew she wasn't just being friendly, but I also knew that maybe this once, I could use it to my advantage. "Psycho Bella? Is that her nickname around here?"

Lauren shrugged and walked beside me as we headed slowly out the door. "Sort of. She's kind of wild. I mean, in middle school she was totally normal. Maybe a little quiet and serious, but otherwise okay, you know? But then in like sophomore year she totally flipped out. We were just sitting around having lunch and she exploded, started throwing shit everywhere and yelling at Jasper. You know Jasper, the blond guy with the shaggy hair?" I nodded. "Well they were inseparable, so it was kinda freaky to see her go off on him like that. When he went out to his car after school that day she was beating the shit out of it with a baseball bat. Totally psycho." She shuddered delicately and I felt my eyes go wide. Psycho indeed. "Ever since she's been doing that kind of shit all the time. If anyone pisses her off, she goes after them. This one girl called her a bitch to her face, and the next day there was a dead cat in her locker. No joke."

"Telling tales, Mallory?"

Lauren's face turned ashen so fast, I worried for her health. She turned to look over her shoulder at the one who'd spoken the words and struck fear so easily into Lauren's frail little heart. "Not at all, Bella. Why would you think that?"

Bella's face contorted into a vicious grin, terrifying and menacing and evil in the basest sense of the word. "I'll see you later." And she turned and walked away. Lauren looked like she was about to wet herself, or give herself an aneurysm, or do both and be done with it.

She shook her head after a few moments and gave me a shaky laugh. "Well, there you have it. So what class do you have next?"

The act that she was perfectly fine and completely unaffected by Bella Swan's brief display of covert hostility was pathetic to use the kindest of terms. I tried to smile reassuringly at Lauren. Courage! "Calculus. Perfect way to end the day, don't you think?"

She nodded, seemingly distracted, and started walking away, offering a brief wave over her shoulder as her eyes scanned the hallways nervously.

I raised my eyebrows at this. It seemed like bad high school drama to me, the gossip and the apparent dislike the girls had for one another clearly linked somehow. But even if it wasn't true, Lauren's story said a little something about what kind of person this Psycho Bella really was. Mean. Cruel. Maybe even a little dangerous? She certainly looked that way when she'd grinned like that. It wasn't until I walked into my next and last class and saw the teacher that I realized I hadn't gotten my slip signed for biology. Fuck it, I'd go back at the end of the school day.

Calculus went by in a blur, and I spent it twirling my pen and thinking over this new information I'd gathered on Bella Swan. That the girl was unbalanced seemed obvious enough, even without Lauren's 90210 input. The question then was just how unbalanced was she really? Because smashing up cars and sticking dead cats in lockers – not to mention where she got the dead cat, or if she had killed it herself even – was beyond unbalanced. It was terrifying. I remembered the power and confidence of her stride in the cafeteria and thought that maybe when it came to this girl, the idea wasn't so far-fetched. The thought made me shudder.

Clearly, she hated me. For whatever reason. Was I next? Would I find a dead house pet in my locker? Would I go out to the parking lot and find my beloved Volvo a ruined mess? The idea made my gut clench, and I tapped my foot impatiently until the end of class.

Finally. I shot out of my seat and shifted my weight impatiently from one foot to the other as the teacher signed my slip. I would run to the biology lab later, but I had to check on my car first.

Ignoring the strange looks, I ran out of the building and around the field to the parking lot, and breathed a sigh of relief as I saw my Volvo was as pristine as it had been when I'd gotten here this morning. Feeling silly, I shook my head and jogged back to the building where I had biology.

In the face of my undamaged car, I started to feel more than just silly. I felt ridiculous. Sure, the girl seemed to have an attitude problem, but aside from the gossip of one teenage girl she'd shown no sign that she was at all 'psycho'. My imagination had run away with me, and probably the jitters of the first day at school had gotten my mind running in funny circles. She probably didn't even hate me at all. That tension may have been anything, and it was very likely magnified to unrealistic proportions in my mind because of how nervous she made me. Not because she was scary, but because she was attractive, and I was always nervous around girls I was attracted to. My palms got sweaty, and I got very quiet. Probably she had thought I was weird and nothing else.

I was feeling much more relaxed by this logical rationalization by the time I got to the class, but as soon as I looked into the room I didn't want to go in there anymore.

She was standing with her back turned to me, so she didn't see me. In a sweet pleading voice I hadn't heard her use before, she was arguing with the teacher, who also didn't notice my presence there. "I just think that I work better alone, I've always worked better alone. You know I'm at a much more advanced level than most of my peers, and having to sit next to someone that isn't as familiar with the material as I am might hold me back. Doesn't that seem a little unreasonable, Mr. Banner?"

But the teacher was shaking his head and sighing tiredly. "I know you're ahead of your classmates, Bella, and I wish there was something I could do, but there aren't any other seats left, and now that we have an even number of students again, you and Mr. Cullen will just have to make the best of it and work together."

She was trying to get out of working with me. Seriously, what was her deal? It couldn't be about me, she didn't know me at all. Feeling angry and annoyed with her, I cleared my throat loudly. Immediately, her shoulders stiffened, and she turned around to glare at me. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Banner," she growled, no longer pleading or sweet, as she brushed past me and left the class.

"Your slip, Mr. Cullen?" I nodded at the teacher, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the place where she'd just disappeared down the hall. The girl was psycho. Forget about it. As I dropped my books off at my locker I thought of a slew of things I wanted to say to her, choice words about her apparent rudeness and bad manners.

But when I got to the parking lot after I dropped all my slips at the office, the only cars left were my Volvo and the big red truck.

She must have already gone home.