One more year.
That was it. He just had to make it through one more year, and he could be away at college, with other intelligent people. People who respected his opinion, who challenged him, who could participate in interesting conversations with him. And, if he was being really honest with himself, what Edward wanted most was a place where nobody knew his name, or that he was the doctor's kid who always tried too hard. The one who could fail most of his senior classes and still be named valedictorian. It was true; he had done the math over the summer.
His mom, Esme, always told him that he was going to be one of those kids who would just blossom in college. In truth, he had 'blossomed' quite a bit over the summer, gaining three inches and twenty, nicely-distributed pounds. He actually looked like a human being now, not a walking stick. But still, he didn't expect things to be much different this year. He had no intention of making friends with the people who had tormented for the last twelve years.
Today was a big day, though. Today was the last first day of high school he would ever have to go through. All around him people were abuzz with tales of their summer, gossip about who was dating who, and, above all else, people were talking about the Chief's prodigal daughter, Bella Swan, returning to Forks for her senior year of high school. Edward attempted to ignore all of this, and trudged his way through the crowds to his first class. He had read and played video games over the summer, wasn't dating anyone, didn't care if anyone else was dating, and didn't care at all about Chief Swan's daughter. He was positive that she would be just another cog in the machine, someone he would forget as soon as he left, just like everyone else in Forks High's Class of 2006.
First class was AP Calculus. He knew exactly who was going to be in this class. Since junior high, the same seventeen people had been in all the advanced classes that the school offered. Unfortunately, being smart enough to get on the fast-track in junior high did not always translate into having the requisite brain power to be able to keep up in high school. Still, they hadn't kicked any of the seventeen students out yet, so he was sure this year would be no different.
Edward was surprised, then, to see a new face among the more familiar ones. Long brown hair, nose stuck in a book – this must be Bella Swan. She sat at the back, ignoring the rest of the students, face a brilliant red. As an unabashedly stereotypical male, he noted with interest that she was pretty, with a nice body.
Class started before he could examine Bella more. The first few weeks were apparently going to be review. Edward tried not to sigh in disgust; he was so tired of teachers pandering to the lowest common denominator. He smirked at his own math joke.
By the time that AP Biology rolled around, he was tired of the whole day and was actively contemplating dropping out and just taking the GED. He would have, too, if he hadn't worked so hard to be valedictorian. It seemed a waste to just throw it all away. Besides, a GED probably wouldn't look good on college applications.
As she had been in all of his other advanced classes, he wasn't surprised to see Bella Swan sitting at one of the lab tables. He had decided to withhold judgment on her, until he knew a little more about her. He didn't want to be unfair. However, he wasn't that interested in getting to know her and chose to sit at a different table, in the back. By the time class filled up, everyone else was paired up, except for him and Bella.
After taking one look at the classroom, Mr. Banner asked loudly, "Mr. Cullen, please move to Miss Swan's table to be her lab partner."
He begrudgingly took his books and backpack over to Bella's table. She glanced over, face still red, and gave him a shy smile. Edward idly wondered if Bella had some sort of skin problem. Rosacea, maybe? While pondering this, he realized he couldn't remember if he had smiled back. Not wanting to look like a complete idiot if he had already smiled, he decided to simply ignore her. It seemed as good an option as any.
Over the next week, he found he could never get a good read on Bella Swan. She was always reading, usually a classic romance novel. Pride and Prejudice seemed to be her favorite, or possibly just the one she read at school the most. She blushed constantly, ate alone in the cafeteria (with the aforementioned book firmly planted in front of her face), and rarely talked to anyone. Edward felt marginally bad that he was using the new girl as the subject for his psychological observations, but he just couldn't quite figure her out. She was the first new person he had ever had the opportunity to be around for an extended period. Everyone else in his year had been in Forks their entire lives. He knew them. Knew all about them, their entire histories, all their quirks, and what made them tick. It was boring. Bella was new, but Edward didn't want to judge too quickly. Just because she was new, didn't mean she was interesting in any way.
Still, every day in Biology, she smiled at him and said hello. He would return the greeting, and that would be the extent of their conversation. It wasn't until the day of their first lab that he could make his final judgment. It had started out so well, too.
They were supposed to identify the phases of mitosis of onion root tip cells. He graciously allowed Bella to go first, and she quickly identified the first phase. Of course, he felt obligated to check it. It was his grade, too, after all. She seemed slightly annoyed by this, but, when she asked to see the second slide after he had identified it, he realized, to his delight, that she was more than a little competitive. They were the first to finish the lab, by a long shot, and Edward was ready to declare Bella Swan both interesting and intelligent. Perhaps, he would even try to form a friendship with her, at least to make the year go by a little quicker.
But, Mr. Banner came by at just that moment, questioning Edward about whether or not he let Bella do any of the lab. Mr. Banner seemed surprised that she had identified three of the five herself, and he asked if she had done the lab before. She blushed nearly purple, and admitted that, yes, in fact, she had already done the lab in Phoenix.
Edward was down right angry at this. He felt like he'd been duped. What Bella had done was practically cheating. Bella Swan was no different than anyone else at this school. She, at least, had the good grace to look ashamed about her actions. She wouldn't even look at him. As it was, Edward's decision was already made. Good riddance.
As the next few weeks passed, Edward discovered more to confirm his suspicions about Bella. She never read anything besides the classics, meaning her tastes in literature were incredibly shallow. Moreover, every time they got back a quiz in Calculus, she would look disappointed. After the first test, Bella huffed quietly and immediately turned her test sheet over, so Edward couldn't see the final grade. He was sure that it wasn't very good, but he wanted to know if she was failing or not.
In these few weeks, Bella increased their daily conversations to include questions about their shared classes. How'd you do on that test? Those problems were pretty hard. I wonder if they'll expect us to use outside sources on the History project. He suspected she was buttering him up, in order to get his help on various assignments. It wasn't unheard of, a fellow student being extra-nice to Edward in the week before an important exam in order to get his help studying for it.
As the midterm in Calculus was approaching, he noticed Bella was increasingly asking him about the test, mostly how he thought he would do on it and how hard he thought it would be. The test was scheduled for Monday, and on Thursday, Bella asked him if he wanted to come to her house after school on Friday to "study together." Edward, of course, knew better, but, because he was entirely too nice of a guy, he said yes anyway. Bella seemed incredibly happy when he agreed, and thanked him profusely.
After school on Friday, Edward followed Bella to her modest, two-storey home.
"I can only stay a couple of hours. I told my mom I would be home by dinner time."
"That's fine. I just appreciate you agreeing to study with me. It's always good to have someone to run things by before a big test." Bella was smiling happily as she said this, and she showed him into the living room. "We can set up in here. I'm going to go get us something to eat and drink, okay?"
"Fine." Edward was too busy looking through his notebook to pay any real attention to what Bella was saying. He discovered that he had forgotten the sheet of paper that had the review problems written on it at school.
He decided to look in Bella's binder to see if she had written them down. She had, and they were tucked in the front pocket. Just as he pulled the sheet out, red ink caught his eye. Never one to deny his natural curiosity, Edward pulled out the two quizzes and the test. He flipped the first quiz over to the back to see the final grade. It was a 93. He flipped the second one over. It was a 97. He was confused, now. He looked through the test. It was a 95.
And again, Bella had lied about her intelligence. First in biology, and now with Calculus. She had made it seem like she needed his help to study. He couldn't fathom why she would do this, but it didn't matter. He was angry. He hated being lied to, and he hated having his time wasted.
Just then, Bella walked back into the room with a tray of cookies and soda. "I got Fig Newtons. Get it? Because Newton invented calculus. Well, of course, Leibniz invented it at about…"
She stopped short when she saw the angry expression on Edward's face. She glanced down at her tests still in his hands.
"Edward, what's wrong?"
"You lied. You said you needed my help, but you lied. You've been doing better than I have in Calculus!"
"I didn't…" But, Edward cut her off before she could make any excuses. He didn't want to hear it.
"Save it, Bella." He threw the tests down onto the table, gathered his own things, and walked out, leaving a stunned Bella standing in the living room, still holding the tray of cookies.
As Edward drove home, he took a moment to try to examine why he was angry and found to his embarrassment that he didn't actually know and, frankly, didn't have a very good reason. Bella had never really lied to him. He had made assumptions, based on what he thought were his excellent observations, but these assumptions had proven false. The situation hadn't been helped by the discovery that Bella was actually doing better in the class than he was. He had all the symptoms of a bruised ego.
Esme was in the living room when he came home, and she was obviously surprised to see him home so early.
"I thought you were studying with Bella Swan."
He was extremely embarrassed and more than a little ashamed of how he acted. The last thing he wanted to do was tell his mother what had really happened.
"Well, it turns out that she didn't need my help after all, so we just canceled it."
Something in his posture or his expression must have tipped her off, because she didn't look like she believed that for a second.
"So, Bella realized, in between when she asked you yesterday if you wanted to study to just now, that she didn't need your help studying. Is that right?" She was shrewd, and Edward had never been able to lie to her. It was a bad combination.
Edward very audibly gulped. He didn't know what to say, so he just blurted out the whole story. In excruciating detail.
"…so now she probably hates me. And I've never been nice to her, so I don't even understand why she would invite me over in the first place." He realized, even as he was doing it, that he was trying to deflect some of the blame for this situation back onto Bella, but he knew it was hopeless. He was the jerk here. He knew it, Bella knew it, and now his mom knew it. He waited nervously for Esme's ruling on the matter.
"I can't say I'm particularly proud of how you acted today, or even how you seem to have been acting this whole year. I know you've had it hard in high school, and even before. But, Edward, that doesn't give you the right to judge other people so harshly without knowing them first."
"I know. I'm sorry," Edward mumbled, pathetically.
"It's not me who you need to apologize to. You know, I met Bella a couple weeks ago at the grocery store. Apparently, if she wants to eat at home, she has to do the shopping. The Chief works so many hours, and she's usually all alone at night. I think she's incredibly lonely in Forks." Esme gave him meaningful look as she said this, and he couldn't help but feel even worse.
"Yes. She doesn't have very many friends, does she?" Edward shook his head. As far as he knew, she didn't have any friends. He didn't really either, and never really put it together that she might not be as content with her friendless situation as he was with his. "I asked her about you. She said she thought you very nice. Helpful in biology. She blushed like crazy when she talked about you."
"Really?" This time, the one-word question came out more hopeful than forlorn. Was his mom trying to tell him that Bella liked him? As in, wanted to date him? He remembered his first observations of Bella. It hadn't escaped him then, and it certainly hadn't over the last couple of months, that she was very attractive. Of course, he had ruined any chance he would have had with her with his stunning display of vileness in her living room.
"I can't be sure, to be honest, if she liked you as more than a friend. But, I do think she invited you over to try to be your friend, to get to know you a little better, outside of school." Esme's use of past tense when speaking of Bella's feelings did not escape Edward.
"I should apologize, huh?" Esme just looked at him like he was an idiot, which, admittedly, he was in this situation. "Right. I'll apologize."
With that, he went up to his room. He had no idea how he could even begin to make it up to Bella for how he acted. He had the added problem of knowing that she might have liked him as more than a friend before all of this happened. He studied for the test, but couldn't concentrate on it. By Sunday night, he hadn't come up with any way to apologize to Bella, but he had decided that he could have really liked Bella, too, and that they probably would have made a good match. That didn't matter, though. He knew that ship had sailed, and he was determined to apologize to Bella in a way that would ensure that she knew he really meant it.
The only problem was, he had no clue about what to actually do. He turned to the only tried and true method for when someone didn't know the answer to a problem: the internet. He wracked his brain, trying to remember everything he had ever observed about Bella. The only concrete thing he could think of was her love of Pride and Prejudice, so he searched for gift ideas for Pride and Prejudice lovers. The search produced a lot of kind of weird stuff, that he didn't think Bella would like. It wasn't until the twentieth page of results that he found the perfect thing. He looked to see how quickly he could get it shipped to Forks, and saw that it wouldn't be there until at least Wednesday. He decided he would hold off on his apology until he could offer her his gift at the same time. He figured that would make the greatest impact.
On Monday, Edward observed Bella again. He realized, a tad uncomfortably, that after his initial observation period, and even after he had deemed her unworthy of his time, he had still observed her regularly. Edward wasn't sure what this meant, but he was more worried by what he saw now then with trying to figure out his own behavior.
Frankly, Bella looked bad. Her hair was up and messy, she was wearing an oversized sweater and baggy jeans, and she had bags under her eyes. He hoped that she wasn't upset about their argument on Friday, but unless something else had happened between then and now, he knew it was probably his fault. This was confirmed in Biology, when, instead of giving him her normal warm smile and friendly hello, she sat down quietly and didn't look at him once through the whole class. He would have given anything for her to just look at him.
Tuesday was much the same, and he was starting to have a permanent ache in his stomach, thinking about the pain he seemed to have caused her. This was compounded by the fact that he missed talking to her in class. Knowing what he knew now, he could see that Bella had been making an extra effort to talk to him, even through her natural shyness. If only he had seen it sooner, this whole fiasco would have never happened, and they could have been happy together. That made the ache even more acute.
On Wednesday, the calculus teacher handed back their tests. He had made an 89. It was the only B on a test he could ever remember making. He looked at Bella, hoping to see what she had made, but she had already put her test away. There was no look on her face, just blankness. He missed her smile.
Esme sent him a text during third period, letting him know his gift had arrived at the house. He begged – begged – her to drop it off at school during lunch. She agreed, and when she was handing the package over in the parking lot, she stopped him before he could turn away.
"Edward? Don't screw this up again. It'll be your only shot at this." He hadn't even told her it was for Bella, but, somehow, she knew. He also knew that she was absolutely right, and he hoped more than anything that he wouldn't screw this up. He decided, then, that he was going to go for broke. If Bella accepted his apology, he was asking her on a date, for that very night. Not asking would haunt him for the rest of his life.
He debated what to do with the gift. He was tempted to just take it with him to biology, but he wouldn't be able to properly apologize in the few minutes before class. He decided to take it by her house after school, so he went to his car to put it away until then. On a whim, as he was passing her truck, he tried the door. It was unlocked. He quickly tore the box open, and placed her gift on the seat, right in front of the steering wheel.
He practically bounced to biology, but was brought up short by Bella's forlorn expression. Still, he couldn't help but imagine the look on her face when she saw the gift in her truck. He was sure that she would be happy with it, and he almost couldn't wait the two and a half hours until he could see her smile again.
After school, Edward rushed to the parking lot and watched as Bella slowly made her way to her truck. She pulled the door open, and just as she was about to toss her bag in, she stopped in her tracks. She slowly put her bag onto the passenger seat and picked up the new book. He noted, however, that, instead of looking happy, she just looked confused. It was disappointing, but he sensed an opening. He casually wandered over to her and stood right behind her. She was now reading the back cover, and apparently didn't notice him.
"You look confused." He couldn't help but smile at the startled squeak that escaped her.
"Well, I am confused. Do you know what this is?" Her expression was guarded, but not completely cold.
"It looks like a book. Called Lost in Austen, if I'm reading correctly."
Now, she looked annoyed. "I can see that on my own. I know you've doubted my intelligence in the past, but, I assure you, I can read." He knew he deserved that, and probably much worse. He didn't let it faze him, though.
"It's a create-your-own-adventure book based on Pride and Prejudice. Obviously, the goal would be to marry Mr. Darcy and go to live at Pemberley, but you have to be careful. You might end up poor and with Mr. Wickham. I'm sure you would get to marry Mr. Darcy every time though, since you seem to like the book so much."
She looked a little stunned, but mostly suspicious. "How do you know so much about this book?"
"Well, I did buy it."
"For me?" Was that a hint of hopefulness Edward heard in her voice?
"Of course. It's my way of saying I'm sorry. And I am, Bella. I am very sorry about how I acted on Friday. It was incredibly rude of me. I was arrogant and spiteful. There's no excuse for my behavior, and I hope, one day, that I'll be able to earn your forgiveness. I would, also, very much like to be your friend." Edward looked at her hopefully. He wanted to be more than her friend, but he would start with that.
Bella was thoughtful for a moment, but then grinned at him slyly. "Well, if Elizabeth can forgive Mr. Darcy for initially misjudging her, I suppose I could find it in my heart to forgive you, too."
Edward had to laugh. It felt so good to be forgiven by Bella. He decided to lay all of his cards on the table. "Bella, I was wondering, if you would want to go on a date with me? Tonight."
Her eyes got really wide and she quickly looked down. Her blush was the only indication that she was considering saying yes. The anticipation was killing Edward slowly.
After what seemed like an eternity, Bella gave him a shy and slightly embarrassed look. "Um…would you mind if I went home first and changed?" She plucked self-consciously at the oversized sweater that had become her uniform since Monday.
That was it? That was all that she was worried about?
"Of course, you can! How about I pick you up at six?"
"Sure, that sounds great."
He knew he should've turned to leave, but he just stood there, smiling stupidly at her. The situation was made slightly better by the fact that she was wearing the same expression on her face.
They finally broke eye contact, and he walked slowly to his car. He felt like he was floating and he couldn't stop smiling. He found that he didn't really want to, either.
He drove home quickly. He realized he should probably shower and change, too. As he was rushing up the steps, Esme stopped him.
"How'd it go?"
"It went great. We're going on a date. Tonight. I gotta go clean up and change, though. I'll talk to you later, okay?" He had been yelling as he ran up the stairs, and he looked down over the landing before he went into the bathroom. He didn't want to be too rude to his mother. She was looking up at him, just shaking her head, but smiling a little, too.
"Don't forget to be gentleman, alright?" With a nod, he went to shower. By the time 5:30 came around, he was completely unable to sit still. He decided to leave then, even though he knew it would make him entirely too early to pick Bella up.
As he pulled into Bella's driveway, she came bounding down the steps towards his car. He realized, happily, that she must have been watching the driveway, just as eager to see him again as he was to see her. She was wearing a soft-looking blue sweater and dressy looking jeans. He had to scramble to get around to the door to open it for her, and he complimented her appearance as she sat down. Predictably, she blushed prettily.
On the drive to Port Angeles, and all through dinner, there was never a moment of awkward silence. Edward found that they could talk about anything and everything. From speculation about Harry Potter to debate about current politics, no subject was left uncovered. He found that their interests were similar enough to make conversation, but that their opinions on much of those interests differed enough to keep the conversation interesting. Again, Edward kicked himself for not realizing that she liked him sooner.
On the drive back, though, conversation seemed to peter out. The silence wasn't awkward, really. It was more charged. The date had gone well, and, from everything he knew about dating, this should most likely lead to a kiss at the end of the night. The only problem was that he had never kissed a girl before. Of all the things he had ever done in his life, academically or otherwise, he had never wanted to succeed at something this badly. As he pulled onto her street, he had a brief moment of panic, when he realized that this might not be Bella's first kiss, at all. She could have kissed loads of guys and she would expect him to be good at it. He pushed that panic down, though. Bella didn't seem like the kind of girl to go around kissing a bunch of boys. She was much too shy. There, that made him feel slightly better.
He pulled into her driveway, and turned off the car. Even if he couldn't work up the nerve to kiss her, he would still walk Bella to the door. It was just the right thing to do. He came around to open her door, but found her already halfway out of the car. He took her hand in his to help her the rest of the way, and was encouraged when she didn't make a move to let go after he closed the door. He decided he would just go for it, consequences be damned.
He looked over at her, to see if he could read her expression. She was looking at him, though, and when they made eye contact, they both laughed softly, which helped to break up the tension a little. She led him onto the porch, and just as he was about to lean forward, the most random of questions popped into his head, and it tumbled from his mouth before he could stop it.
"So, what'd you get on that Calculus test?" Here he was, about to kiss the prettiest girl in Forks after the best first date ever, and he was asking her about school. He was such an idiot.
Bella looked surprised, but answered quickly. "93. I'm not that happy with it, but I had other things on my mind."
Edward smiled, at this. "I made an 89." She looked shocked. "I, too, had other things on my mind. So, it seems that you are smarter than me, after all."
Bella tensed, and gave him a slightly nervous look. "And, you don't like girls who are smarter than you?"
"No, actually. Just the opposite. I find that I like girls who are smarter than me very much."
With that, Edward leaned down and captured Bella's top lip between his own. She didn't move, at first, and he was afraid that he had done something wrong. But, then, she sighed and melted into his arms, kissing him back. It was the greatest feeling he had ever known, having a beautiful girl in his arms, with all her curves pressed against him, feeling her lips move with his own. He felt her tongue slip out of her mouth and tentatively touch his own. No, that was the greatest sensation in the world. He pushed himself fully into her, grabbing at the soft fabric of her sweater and her hair, unable to control the moan in the back of his throat as his tongue moved with hers.
A voice in the back of his head told him he was becoming a little too desperate for a first kiss, and he eased his grip on her and gave her a few chaste pecks before pulling away completely. He was proud to note that she looked slightly dazed. She reached back up to him, and kissed him again, hard this time, but with no tongue. It was exciting, having her take control, and he was glad when she was the one to back away this time. She pulled her keys out of her purse and opened the door.
"Good night, Edward. Thank you, for tonight. I had a really great time."
"Yeah…um…good night." He knew he sounded like an idiot. "Bye." He quickly walked away, before he could really put his foot in his mouth.
It looked like this last year wasn't going to be so bad after all.