"Check and check."
Alice did a little dance of excitement. "I love shopping for school supplies!" she trilled. Then she grabbed the handlebars of the shopping cart and pushed ahead down the aisle.
Edward rolled his eyes, but followed his sister with the air of an indulgent father, allowing his child to run free at the amusement park. Moments later, said child popped up out of nowhere with a package of patterned post-its in hand.
"Hey, do you think Bella would like these?"
He examined the flowery design and laughed. "I think you should stick to the normal ones."
Alice made a face, but grabbed the standard yellow post-its and tossed them into the cart. "Speaking of Bella, where is she? Why didn't she come with?"
Edward shrugged. "You know how much she hates shopping."
"Yeah, but this is for school supplies. I didn't think she'd be as opposed to this."
He shrugged again, trying not to let Alice see his unease. Truthfully, he was a little confused as to why Bella wasn't with them either, but he didn't push the matter because he was trying to be considerate and give her some space.
"She's not sick or anything, is she?" Alice asked.
Edward shrugged. "She didn't say."
His sister rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on, Edward. Do you really think she would have told you if she was? This is Bella we're talking about."
He ignored her.
But the thought continued to niggle at him the rest of the day. What if she didn't come because she really was sick? What if she was bed-ridden and couldn't move? Edward felt a sudden helplessness at the thought of his best friend too weak to take care of herself. And she wasn't exactly the best when it came to resting, either. She could make it worse if she didn't nurse herself properly.
He shook his head to himself. He was jumping to conclusions. Just because she hadn't gone school supplies shopping with them didn't necessarily mean anything. She could just be tired and want to sleep in, especially since she came back from the party pretty late the other night. It was her last day to take advantage of sleeping in anyway.
Still, he couldn't completely shake the feeling that Bella wasn't feeling very well. So he came to the eventual conclusion that he had to go and check up on her—just to make sure she was all right, of course.
After he and Alice had completed their school supply shopping mission, Edward dropped Alice off at the mansion and drove off to Bella's house. It was still only one o'clock in the afternoon, so Chief Swan was at the station where he worked, not at home. When Edward pulled in to the road right in front of Bella's house, he retrieved the key from under the eaves and let himself into the house.
"Bella?" he called as he entered. He took a step forward and almost jumped when he heard a loud crunching sound. Looking down, he saw that he had stepped on a broken bottle.
"Edward?" a voice called from upstairs. "Is that you?"
He rolled his eyes. "No, it's Santa Claus. Who else would it be?" But before he ran up the stairs to Bella's room, he pulled the dustpan from the laundry room and swept up the broken glass fragments. After he had disposed of them, he swiftly ascended the staircase and made a beeline for Bella's room.
When he entered the threshold of her bedroom, he noticed that she was still in her pajamas and tucked underneath her covers with a worn paperback in her lap. He frowned at the sight.
"You're still in bed?" He walked closer and sat at the edge of her bed to feel forehead. "Are you sick?"
"Nah," Bella said nonchalantly. "I just fell down the stairs last night and I'm a little sore."
Edward didn't trust her tone. It was too unconcerned. "What did you hit when you fell?"
"My stomach and my hip. Don't worry, Edward. It's no big deal."
"If it's no big deal then how come you can't move?" Her small winces whenever she shifted her torso hadn't escaped his attention. It was definitely hurting her more than she let on.
She grimaced. "I can so move."
He raised his eyebrows. "Prove it."
"Prove it. Prove that you can move."
Bella paused to glare at him. Then, with deliberate caution, she pulled herself out of the bed and stood up. When she was completely upright, she smirked at him. "See? I can move."
"Good," he said approvingly. "Now walk."
She sighed. Then, very slowly, she took a tiny step forward. Edward might have let her get away with her lie if the grimace on her face hadn't betrayed the pain she was in.
"Lay down," he said firmly. "Have you eaten anything yet?"
"Yeah," she hissed in pain as she slowly lowered herself down onto the bed. "I had a few Saltines earlier, but that was it."
It was Edward's turn to glare. "Bella, you should know better than that."
She simply stuck her tongue out at him in response. He ignored her and left her room in search of something more satisfying than crackers. After a preliminary search of the kitchen, he uncovered nothing but a few bottles of Bud Light and a half-empty bottle of vodka in the refrigerator.
"There is absolutely no food in this house," Edward declared loudly as he walked back to the hallway.
"Why do you think all I had today were Saltines?" she shouted back.
He grabbed his sweater off the peg on the wall. "I'm going out to the Thriftway to get you something to eat. I'll be back in an hour."
"I'll be here," came her dry response.
When Bella heard the slam of the front door, she sighed in relief and slowly got out of her bed. She limped to her mirror and slowly lifted her t-shirt to examine the damage.
Her father's punch left an angry purple bruise on her pale skin and the coffee table had certainly done its damage as well. Both wounds made it difficult to breathe properly.
She sighed again and pushed her t-shirt back down. She really should have treaded more carefully last night. Charlie had never been able to handle hard alcohol very well and he was prone to violent fits when he had anything stronger than beer. Luckily for her, it never happened very often. In fact, this was the first time he had ever physically struck her.
True to his word, Edward came back an hour later with armfuls of grocery bags. She watched from her spot on the couch as he kicked open the door and transferred them from his car to her kitchen.
"What are you doing on the couch?" he demanded when he saw her. "You shouldn't be moving."
"I had to," she complained. "I was getting so sick of my bed. Besides, it's not going to get any better if I don't move around is it? I have to stretch. Tomorrow's my first day of senior year. I can't skip it, so I might as well start getting used to the pain."
He rolled his eyes as he strode into the kitchen with the last of the groceries. "I thought you weren't looking forward to our first day of senior year."
"I'm not, but it's going to be painful enough without a colossal bruise on my stomach."
Edward popped his head out of the kitchen and frowned. "There's a bruise on your stomach?"
"Yeah, why do you think I can hardly move?"
He emerged from the kitchen entirely and walked toward the couch. "Let me see," he requested gently, his eyebrows still furrowed in concern.
Reluctantly, Bella pulled the edges of her shirt up.
In any other circumstance, Edward would have been both sharply embarrassed and thrilled to be viewing Bella's bare stomach. But as it was, there was a huge purple bruise marring the beauty of her pale, silky smooth skin so his excitement was ruined by his horror. "Geez, Bells, how hard did you fall?" He reached forward and gingerly touched the skin.
Bella gasped, but not from pain. She gasped in surprise; the way his cold fingertips felt against the tender bruise felt almost like an electric shock.
"Sorry," Edward said quickly before withdrawing his hand. Blood rushed to his face and he abruptly stood from his place beside her on the couch.
"It's okay," Bella assured him as she pushed her shirt back down. "Your hand was cold, that's all."
He didn't answer as he strode back into the kitchen.
"You didn't spend too much, did you?" Bella demanded from the other room.
"Don't worry, I used your food money," Edward lied. Of course he did no such thing, but it was better to have her believe so lest she start a pointless argument. He went back into the living room with the magazine he bought for her, hoping to distract her from the line of conversation.
"Here. I got this for you."
She accepted the issue of Seventeen with raised eyebrows. "Seriously?"
Edward grinned mischievously. "I thought you might want to know if you're a summer or a winter."
"If I did, I would have asked your sister." But she opened the magazine and began reading in spite of herself.
When he saw that she was immersed in the trivial concerns of other girls her age, he started putting away the groceries he bought. When he was finished, the place looked like an actual kitchen.
Now what to make? he asked himself. Truthfully, he wasn't as good a cook as Bella was (very few people were), but that didn't mean he was completely helpless in a kitchen…right?
Finally, he settled on the simplest of comfort foods: grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.
"What's taking so long?" Bella called from the living room.
"Keep your pants on," Edward shouted back. The sandwiches were already finished (crust-less, the way Bella liked them). He was just waiting for the microwave to finish heating the soup. When it was done, he carefully removed the container and poured the steaming liquid into a bowl. Then he put it all on a tray and carried it out to the invalid sitting on the couch.
"So what's the consensus?" he asked.
"Winter, apparently," she said as she set the magazine aside. "For some reason, people think I'm pale."
She examined the food before her then gave an approving nod. "Not a bad spread, Cullen."
"Why thank you, Swan."
When she was finished eating, she set the tray aside and picked the magazine back up. "Okay, it's your turn."
He frowned. "My turn to what?"
"To take a quiz." She flipped through the pages, looking for an appropriate one. Then she stopped in the very center of the magazine. The top said in big, white letters: What do you think of your friends?
"But I don't want to," Edward protested.
"Aw, come on," she said with a laugh. "Don't you want to know how your mind really works?"
"I already know, thanks."
"Too bad," she said as she stuck her tongue out at him and began. "'Of all the people you know, who reminds you most of the color yellow?'"
"What the hell kind of question is that?"
"The kind middle-aged women in stagnant journalistic careers get paid eight dollars an hour to write. Answer it."
Edward rolled his eyes. "Fine. Carlisle, I guess."
Bella made a mark of the answer and continued. "'The color orange?'"
"'The color red?'"
"Rosalie." That was a no-brainer, considering it was her favorite color.
"'The color white?'"
Edward watched his best friend sitting on the couch across from him and admired the paleness of her creamy complexion. "You."
Bella looked up from the magazine to glare at him. "Is that supposed to be a crack about my skin color?"
"Now what would make you think that?" he smirked.
Bella stuck her tongue out at him briefly before continuing. "'The color green?'"
"Who reminds me the most of chocolate?" Bella nodded and Edward scratched his head. "I don't know. Alice."
"Esme." It was her favorite fragrance, in addition to her favorite flavor. She trailed the scent of vanilla wherever she went.
"'A saltine cracker?'"
Edward snorted. "Mike. He's as bland as a saltine cracker."
Bella shook her head, but smiled as she made note of the answer. "And finally, 'a meat snack?'"
"Emmett," he answered without hesitation. No explanation was needed.
When she was finished writing down the last answer, she scanned the results page. "Okay. 'You truly love Rosalie.'"
"'You consider Angela your true friend.'"
"'You know that Carlisle is always thinking of you.'"
He rolled his eyes. "He's my father. That goes without saying."
Bella smiled wryly. She knew too well that just because a man happened to be a father didn't necessarily mean that he was always thinking of his children. But she continued with the results. "'You'll remember Ben for the rest of your life.'"
"Ben certainly is memorable."
"'You secretly think that Alice is creative, charming, and a bit too dramatic at times.'"
Edward snorted. "I don't secretly think that. I openly think that."
She laughed before continuing. "'You secretly think that Esme is colorful, impulsive and a total risk taker.'"
"Yeah, that's crap. I don't think that at all."
Bella nodded her agreement. "'You secretly think that Emmett is loyal and trustworthy to you. And that he changes lovers faster than he changes underwear.'"
"The first part is true, but I hope the second part isn't, otherwise Rosalie is going to be pissed."
"'You secretly think that Mike is shy and non-confrontational. And that Mike has a hidden Internet romance.'"
Edward burst out laughing. "I don't know about non-confrontational, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Internet romance thing were true in a couple of years."
Bella joined in his laughter. The thought was an intriguing one, something that was very likely to happen.
When their chuckles finally subsided, she read out the last result. "And finally, 'you secretly think that Bella is your soul mate.'"
She started laughing again, but this time she was the only one. "If by 'soul mate' they mean 'best friend' then sure," she said between giggles. "Geez, the crap some people come up with."
But Edward could only bring himself to smile weakly. "Ha, yeah. Ridiculous."
Little did Bella know how well they had nailed the last answer. Edward didn't know how he felt about being so predictable to a teenage girl's magazine. Maybe there was more truth in this crap than he thought.