The Taste of Candy and Strawberries:

This time when our bodies connected I went down, down hard. My body crumpled underneath my legs unnaturally and for a while it was all I could do to simply lie there. The linoleum floor was cool against my back as I stared up at a popcorn ceiling that would most likely test positive for asbestos.

The man-wall I'd walked into leaned over me golden eyes apprehensive, wry, and uncertain mangling his model-like face in cloudiness while blocking my view of the ceiling. When his eyes locked into mine electric currents shock through my veins, like consuming an entire glass of whiskey straight without its customary rocks. I repressed the urge to omit the snarl currently lingering at the base of my throat. It was unnerving, off-kilter-ing, and altogether all sorts of awkward. I couldn't decide whether the volts of electricity were a good or bad thing, torture Jane-style or magnetically stimulating.

So when in doubt – I say – be snarky (or do nothing). "What the heck buddy?" My mind finally caught up with the shock of being impelled onto the floor, elbows slid under the back of my ribs to give me a lift in thrusting myself onto my feet. I regarded him, his handsome old-fashioned face, his golden animal-eater eyes, his lanky build and sharp jawline. Everything was angular, all sharp edges and symmetry – unnatural. Like a Michelangelo carving.

He'd stepped right out of the turn of the 20th century and – ran smack into you. Aro's voice reminded me. I coughed to hide the embarrassment welling inside my chest, I'd been staring at him for a while I'd realized, far too long. The stout lady fluttered in between us looking, like a newly freed butterfly hovering around the edge of its first flower sighting, her in drawn expression telling me she'd very much like to help me while also looking as if she did not want to be any nearer to me than necessary given my sickly appearance.

"You walked into me." His face curled into a pouty smirk.

"God do all you Cullen's say that." I brush off invisible dust particles, flinging my feet into motion. His anxiety was suffocating me, the stout vampire-loving lady's pity was bringing on a headache in a record setting roll of thudding pulses and this office suddenly seemed too hot and far too small to hold three bodies.

"What are you?" His body shifted to block my exit; it was then that I realized he'd been watching me as well. Not watching little malefica, studying. Even thousands of miles away Aro still managed to, like flipping a light switch, revert me into that shy to-be married maiden he'd first encountered.

The animal-eaters contorted face was intent on me, Aro – my subconscious – had been right he was studying me. His seriousness pushed the air from my lungs in short bursts, I did not want him any closer to me than necessary. Yet his face leaned closer critically examining my eyes the way government hired physicians would examine an alien species. This man's golden eyes sought answers from my green iris' as if they held the missing link needed to decode the third partition of the Rosetta stone.

I blinked up at him because he had a good four inches on me – damned my petite frame – and laughed. He could not be serious? I could not be serious. We both were not being serious. Entertaining such ludicrous ideas. "Sure I'm fine, didn't just get hurled onto a hard floor or nothing." This time when he made a move to block me, I sidestepped and brushed by the opposite side of him, twirling around his too large shoulders en pointe.

I rushed, once outside to my second blocking of class breathing erratically, my feet moving too quickly. I reached to door to my honors Chem class, thrust it open and flinted over to the teacher as students filed in. After the paper was signed I took a seat in the middle of the class and slouched, the mist had turned to rain outside, which by the clouding of the windows I had no doubt when soon turn to sleet then freeze into hail. My headache felt like tiny gremlins were marching off to war inside my skull, and when Eric sat next to me my throat flared to life. Wonderful.

I barely made it to lunch and nearly fainted at one point in English when a girl named Jessica leaned in close to me, dropping her whisper-thin name into my ear, her perfume smelled like candy and strawberries, starkly sweet. Combined with her envy, nerves, and giddiness of getting to the new-girl before anyone else the perfume began to make her seem like candy. Eric in our Calculus College-Prep class invited me to sit at his table with his friends and for the life of me I couldn't come up with an excuse not to sit with them. So here I was listening to Jessica tell another girl with glasses about which dresses were and were not in season.

My concentration slid every time one of them mentioned ruffles, the only thing keeping me upright was the constant flare of fire that seemed to be crawling its way up my throat at a glacier pace. More so were my nerves I felt strung-out, shifting between being on-guard and trying to get back on guard, this was made none the more easier when they showed up. Feeling their eyes staring into the back of my head constantly, waiting for a slip up on my part that could give them a reason to launch themselves at me had me feeling like a tweaker, hyped from a cocaine burn-out. The entire experience was nauseating.

"Edward Cullen has been staring at you for the last half-hour." Jessica's jealousy enhanced the smell of her blood making her blood taste like bittersweet chocolate to my starved taste buds.

"Lovely." My right palm raised my chin a half of an inch higher.

"They're all staring her Jess." I really ought to remember her name.

"What do you think they want?"

Nothing good. Their emotions were screaming at my aura, thrumming in my veins, giving me a small sense of whiplash. The Cullen's wanted me gone. "Maybe a date." Jessica looked mortified by the thought of it only when I burst of laughing did her jealousy fizzle like dry soda. "They probably just want to know who the new girl is." I said threw a stifled yawn.

"Well everyone wants to know that." Jessica practically gushed the words out, her pride over having swooped in on me first sweetening the effects her candy-perfume had on her blood.

"Good thing you found me when you did then or I'd probably be enduring alone." I rolled my eyes mentally, repressing the urge to flinch as pangs of her giddiness struck out against me heart as if they wanted to personally send me into cardiac arrest.

"So Bella where are you from?" I glanced at the blond-boy-man, his hair was just a hint lighter than Edward's eyes, and his tan skin too out of place in a place that received a complete total of perhaps fifty sunny days a year.

"Arizona." I made it a point to keep conversations with this puppy-boy-man on the short and sweet side so as to not spark any raised levels of his already rolling lust clouds.

"Cool, cool. Not a fan of the sun I'm guessing." His left hand waved unsubtly in front of my face before flopping onto the table where it stayed directly in the middle approximately three inches away from the hand that was currently swirling a water bottle in a circle motion as if by mimicking the away I handled my whiskey would spontaneously change the water into it.

"I burn, tan, and then re-pale. Totally unfair cycle of my life." The table laughed, I did my best to ignore my inflamed throat. I didn't understand why I was hungry, I'd eaten enough to last a good two weeks this morning, the outer portions of my eyes were still tinged red from the effects, which meant the blood was still in my system. Which left me completely clueless as to why I was as hungry as a newborn.

My whispered name perked up my purposefully dulled senses. "Maybe she's not a vampire anymore." The voice was light and airy, the way a child's is before they reached puberty.

"That's not possible Alice." I recognized Edward's voice from this morning; his once velvet smooth tone had turned sharp against this Alice woman.

"Then how do you explain it Edward." Her tone was mocking.

"Well maybe if your visions weren't off their rocker lately." My head snapped round, I hadn't even noticed. I hadn't even noticed? I glared at the table steadily, eyes sparking in concentration as I called upon their auras – nothing. I saw nothing. I hadn't even realized I was no longer seeing auras. I had always seen them. Always. And now not being able to see them gone felt like someone had chopped off and burned my arm.

The Cullen's stared back at me startled at my blatant study of them. There were two women among the five vampires, one was stunning, the most beautiful thing I've seen in all my years. Blond silk for hair, three shades lighter than her golden-flecked eyes, red full pouty lips glossed to kissable perfect and a slim-curvy body that screamed Victoria secret model like a wailing Banshee. The other was…well a pixie. Short cropped and spiky hair, dancer claves, tiny waist, and all-knowing eyes. I wished I'd taken the time to actually study the files Aro demanded I memorize back in Volterra, I could see the burgundy red manila folder now, lying in the three-story library unopened, untouched, and dusty.

I hated when Aro was right. Seriously, I made it a point to continuously go out of my way to prove him wrong. It was a life-long dedication I was currently failing at.