I'd like to start off by saying thank you to Athey from allowing me the honor of continuing this story. Chapter 1 is her original start. A very special thank you to Stratan for his wonderful beta skills and all of his help with this story.
I pulled into the Forks High student parking lot and turned off the ignition of the car. My siblings all exited the car with minimal fuss. It was a day just like any other.
It was two weeks into the second semester of our second year in Forks. We'd been here long enough that we were no longer the center of attention, and could go about our daily routine of 'playing human' without too much notice or interruption.
Of course we still stuck out among the student population, but at least we were no longer the primary focus of the town gossip. In fact, today that title had shifted to another individual entirely. Today there was a new student.
I could hear the thoughts of the children around us, all abuzz with the news.
I thought it was rather awkward that a student would be starting today. First of all, it was a Tuesday. Who starts a new school on a Tuesday? If she'd just come two weeks earlier, she could have begun at the start of the semester, and I would imagine that would be much less of a hassle.
But I shrugged it off. It really wasn't my concern.
We kept to ourselves, and honestly, with good reason.
My family was made up of seven individuals. Seven vampires to be more specific. Not that anyone knew that. Our cover story was that our 'parents', Esme and Carlisle Cullen, adopted us. My sister Alice, brother Emmett, and myself, are supposed to be adopted children of Carlisle, while Jasper and Rosalie are supposedly twins who were Esme's niece and nephew. The story was that their parents died in a car wreck when they were each 8, leaving them to the custody of their Aunt.
Physical appearance-wise, Esme is the eldest. She was 26 years old when she was changed. Carlisle was actually only 23, but the two of them still manage to be rather convincing in their attempts to play older. Personality and confidence can go a long way.
Alice and I look the youngest, and as such, always start out at the lowest grade available in the local high school, whenever we put on one of these shows in an attempt to blend in. This being our second year in Forks left Alice and I playing the roles of juniors in high school.
That meant that Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper were seniors, and as such, very excited to have less than one semester left before escaping the doldrums of the public school system.
After this, they could each 'take a year off' before college, and be free to do whatever they saw fit to do for a while.
It was a trade off. Enduring a couple years of school, in order to stay in a place longer and garner less attention. And after high school, we could do college, which I tended to enjoy a lot more.
Our life style was ridiculously unconventional, as far as vampires were concerned, but it served us well, and despite the drawbacks, I would have it no other way. It was certainly better then the alternatives.
We didn't let what we were define who we were. It was something that we had all learned from Carlisle. He was the eldest. He was born in the 1640's, making him over 360 years old. He was also the sire of every one of us except for Alice and Jasper, who had joined our family of their own desire, around 55 years ago.
The only times in Carlisle's long life that human blood has touched his lips, was when he was saving those of us he has turned. He never fed from humans, despite being left alone with no one to guide him or teach him, after he was changed.
His own compassion and integrity had kept him from succumbing to his new powerful instincts and he'd controlled his thirst entirely of his own personal strength and will power.
I admired him beyond words for that.
I was proud in the knowledge that I too had yet to ever taste human blood, but doubted greatly that I would be able to say that today, had he not been there to guide me through my early years.
There had been a brief time during my early years as a vampire, where I had considered giving into my darker instincts and feeding on our 'natural prey', but through the strength of his conviction, I had finally come to the conclusion that it simply wasn't worth it. It wasn't my place, even with the best of intentions...
You see, I can hear the thoughts of others. I've been able to do so since the first moment I awoke to this new form of life. I had thought for a brief time that perhaps I could use my gift to find the dregs of society. The human hunters who killed and raped. The ones who didn't get caught, but deserved to be punished. But who was I to dish out that punishment?
It was an internal struggle that I battled with for several years, but in the end, I held fast. I remained true to my adoptive father's ideals, and I'm glad that I can look back now, and say that.
Rosalie, like myself, has managed to live her entire vampire existence without ever tasting human blood. Her mate and husband, Emmett, had a few accidents in the early years when he was simply too strong for any of us to successfully restrain during his weaker moments, but has successfully controlled himself for more than 60 years.
Jasper is the second eldest of our group. He was born in 1861, and was sired by a vampire named Maria, who kept him around for his strong ability to control the emotions of those around him. Maria created armies of newborn vampires and fought in wars against other vampire factions.
Jasper's early life was one surrounded in violence and death, and has left him scarred, both physically and mentally.
I cannot even imagine the mental anguish that had to have been involved for him during those times.
Surrounded by so much death, and being bombarded by the emotions of those around you. The fear and terror of the human victims came into him as if the emotions were his own, and yet he fed off of them because he was simply unaware of any alternative. Most of our kind doesn't even realize that there is an option beside human blood. The concept never even crosses their minds.
Living in that world for so long, Jasper simply had no idea that alternative lifestyles were available, but he had eventually grown to know that the life he was leading was not the life he wanted for himself.
Alice found him in the 1950's, and two years later, they found us.
Given his history, Jasper has the hardest time with our diet.
We feed off of animals, which is sufficient to sustain us and keep us healthy and strong. It is, apparently, not even remotely comparable to human blood, as far as flavor and satisfaction is concerned. It's another reason I'm grateful that I managed to maintain control of myself in my earlier years. I can only imagine how much more difficult this lifestyle would be had I experienced the alternative for so long, as Jasper did.
But even aside from that, his empathic abilities put him at an even greater disadvantage. He absorbs the emotions of everyone around him, so he not only has to deal with his own thirst, but the thirst from the rest of us as well.
Because of this, Jasper truly suffers the most out of any of us, from our time spent in public school, surrounded by human children and temptation.
Jasper was suffering a lot today. He hadn't hunted in nearly 3 weeks, and he had clearly hit his limit.
I knew there was no way he could make it to the weekend. It was only Tuesday and it was already this bad... I'd suggested he take the day off from school – call in sick – and go hunting, but he'd refused, hoping to push himself farther. Trying to increase his resistance.
I sighed heavily as I watched my siblings leave my car and silently make their way through the still mostly empty parking lot towards the school. Alice was focusing all of her mental powers on her husband's immediate future. Her gift to see future events unfold before they actually happened is useful at times, but has a serious limitation behind it. Alice's visions could only go so far as decisions that were already made.
Sure, right now Jasper's mind was set on not attacking anyone, but exposure to a particular scent, or being squeezed into an especially uncomfortable situation could easily lead to a split-second decision to attack someone, and in any such situation, Alice's vision would most likely not come in time for us to stop it.
As such, we were all slightly on edge, and too pre-occupied with concern for our brother to pay much of any attention to whatever current events might be consuming the minds of the adolescent children that surrounded us.
As I watched my siblings walk off, each hand-in hand with their respective mates, I allowed my mind to wander. I have always been the odd man out in my family. I was the first that Carlisle changed, but it was the two of us for only a few short years before he found Esme.
Their love was apparent from the start, even though they were both afraid and hesitant to admit it. Honestly, they'd fallen in love when they'd first met a decade earlier when Carlisle treated her broken leg when she was only 16 years old.
They were probably meant for each other from the start. They were soul mates, I had no doubt.
Rosalie had a terrible start and was quite literally broken for several years thanks to the terrible way in which she had nearly died. Her fiancé had, along with his drunken friends, beaten and raped her, and then left her in the street to die. After that beginning, it's hard to imagine how Rosalie could ever find it in herself to love a man again.
But she did.
She found Emmett in the clutches of death, in the form of a giant grizzly bear. Despite him looking more like food, covered in his own blood and badly broken, she still knew in that moment that she wanted him. That he was meant for her.
Their immediate bond was so strong that she was able to carry him for over a hundred miles back to Carlisle. The truly astonishing thing about this is that Rosalie had been a vampire for less than two years at that point. Two years and she'd had the strength, presence of mind, and control to carry a bloody human for a hundred miles. It was awe-inspiring.
Alice awoke to this life with no memories of her human existence, and no sire to guide her or explain what she had become. Her power for precognition was the only thing that saved her from the life of a feral nomadic vampire. Instead she was presented with her first vision: the moment when she would find Jasper, still some decades down the road. She then had a second vision, which was of the two of them finding us.
She knew from that first moment that she was meant to be with Jasper, and they hadn't even met yet.
He says that he knew from the very first moment he saw her enter the diner that she was meant for him as well.
So my entire vampire existence, I've only really been exposed to perfectly mated couples. I've been told by family friends and nomads alike, that it's given me unrealistically high expectations for relationships in my own life. They claimed that the chance of finding your perfect mate is slim, and can take centuries. My stubbornness has resulted in my refusal to settle for anything less, but honestly, why would I settle? Carlisle was alone for 280 years before he and Esme finally came together and admitted their love. Jasper was alone for 90 years before he found Alice.
I had come to the conclusion years ago that however long it would take to finally find the one person, who I would somehow know was for me, it would be worth the wait.
At the beginning of each school day was a 15 minute homeroom class where the daily announcements were given out and initial attendance was taken. We were early to school, but I had nothing better to do, so I simply made my way to my homeroom to sit and try to relax.
I sat down in my chair silently and leaned back, closing my eyes and let out a large breath of air, and as much tension as I could manage, with it.
I had 4th period with Jasper and decided not to let myself be overly concerned with him until then. If something went wrong before then, I would be in no position to help anyway. I had to just trust in him, and hope for the best.
He was strong willed, but not reckless. He cared too much for his wife and our family to do something like this if he didn't honestly believe he could pull it off.
I let my mind drift through the din of thoughts that was growing the closer it go to the start of classes. It was 8:00, and more and more of the students were arriving. Homeroom began at 8:15am, and it wouldn't be long before other students would begin making their way into the room to join me.
The thoughts that flitted, mostly unwelcome, through my mind varied a bit, but not much. Lots of them had songs stuck in their heads, which was always annoying. Lots were thinking about assignments that were due today.
It was still early in the week, so few thoughts were centered on weekend activities. Mondays were usually the days occupied with thoughts of weekend conquests, and by Tuesday, those reports had primarily died down.
But a large portions of today's thoughts were flying around the arrival of the new student.
I filtered through them, aimlessly collecting details. It was a girl. The daughter of the local chief of police, Charlie Swan. I knew him, vaguely. Carlisle said he was a good man, and he apparently respected my father quite a lot, so I respected him in return.
I hadn't been aware that Chief Swan had a child. I knew he was single, but apparently he was divorced.
More thoughts filtered through. The new girl's name was Isabella, and she was moving here from Arizona.
It was amazing how much information these children had managed to collect, considering the girl wasn't even here yet. There really was no denying the power of small-town gossip.
Several students' thoughts registered a loud roaring engine, from the student parking lot and I got the mental image from them of a large, rusty, antique Chevy truck pulling in and parking. This was an unfamiliar vehicle, and several of them wondered if it was the new girl.
Ah... yes. It's her.
I saw her image from many different perspectives as the eyes of numerous students were trained on her as she made her way towards the main office.
She seemed pretty enough. She ducked her head constantly and avoided eye contact with the many on-lookers. She probably disliked the attention.
I sifted through the thoughts to see if I could pinpoint hers, out of aimless curiosity, but wasn't having any luck. There were simply too many voices and I still had no idea what hers would sound like, which made it more difficult to identify.
I strayed through the student population's thoughts for a few minutes longer while the room around me slowly began filling with the other students.
I sighed and took in a deep breath, stretching in my seat, when I was suddenly bombarded with the most heavenly scent I had ever encountered in my century on this planet. I froze, shocked by the intensity of it. It was amazing. Floral and sweet. Delectable in a way I've never experienced.
Sure, some humans smelled better than others; smelled like they would probably taste better... but this was different. This was amazing.
My head shot up and my eyes flew open as they searched the room in hopes of discovering the origin of the glorious bouquet.
My eyes widened and I halted in my search as my eyes fell upon the face of Isabella Swan, standing to the rear of the room near the door, fidgeting nervously and looking around the room, probably searching for the teacher, who was still absent, and unwilling to sit down when she still did not know which, if any, of the seats were free.
My breath caught for a second at the sight of her. She was beautiful. The images I'd picked from the brains of the student body did not do her justice at all. I quickly recovered and took in another deep breath, relishing in the sublime aroma. It was unquestionably coming from her. Definitely no denying that.
Her deep mahogany hair had the most astounding red highlights. It was long and had a gentle wave to it. Her skin was incredibly pale; nearly as pale as my own, and her deep umber eyes were a profound abyss.
Usually, when I encountered brown eyes on humans, they appeared flat and empty, but that was the furthest thing from the truth with her. Her deep doe orbs were drawing me in with ridiculous strength.
I was taken aback suddenly by my own thoughts. Never before had I been so overwhelmed by someone I knew nothing about, especially a human.
For that matter, I'd never felt so physically attracted to someone. Never. I felt a draw to her, something akin to a powerful magnet. I was drawn to her and I wanted nothing more than to go speak with her. To touch her beautiful hair. Caress her soft blushing cheek.
She sighed heavily and leaned back against the wall, throwing her head gently against the hard flat surface behind her and closed her eyes.
Wait a minute...
I realized suddenly that I couldn't hear a single thought coming from her. I focused on her slight form and tried to concentrate.
This realization was quite shocking. Never once in my 87 years as a vampire had I encountered a mind I couldn't read.
Surely she was thinking of something. It was extremely rare to come across a mind that could actually be silent for any period of time. People always had something or other going on up there. But her mind? Silence.
And she looked rather uncomfortable and distressed. There was no doubt that she had to be thinking something. I just couldn't hear it.
She huffed a frustrated sigh and pushed herself back up from the wall to a standing position. She shook her head and ran her fingers through her hair and I was bombarded with another wave of her heavenly aroma.
I felt my eyes slide up towards the back of my head and my body relaxed, melting me into my chair. It was such an intense reaction. I just wanted to wrap myself in that warm flowery scent and pretend I could sleep.
I opened my eyes again and looked at her standing there. She seemed so uncomfortable. So miserable. All alone and unsure what to do in this new foreign place.
I suddenly realized that there was only 8 minutes left until class would officially begin, and I was reminded that I wanted nothing more in that moment than to go over and talk to her.
I stood from my seat and walked down the aisle towards her. Her head rose slightly and her eyes caught sight of me. They widened and a blank look of surprise graced her lovely features as she watched me move in her direction. I think she assumed I was simply heading towards the door, because the moment it became clear to her that I was, in fact, heading to her, a look of almost pure panic appeared in her eyes.
I almost hesitated. I didn't want to frighten her. That was the natural reaction to us. The humans didn't consciously know what we were, but their latent instincts still told them we weren't normal. That we were dangerous.
The absolute last thing that I wanted was for this beautiful young girl to fear me. I smiled as warmly as I could manage and walked over beside her, leaning my shoulder against the wall there, and resting my hands inside my pants pockets.
"Hi." I said in as soft, smooth, and non-threatening voice as I could manage.
Her mouth hung open slightly as shock danced across her eyes.
"Uhh... H-hi." She finally managed to stammer out.
Her heart was racing a mile a minute and I could see a light flush slowly creeping over her cheeks.
I grinned. "I'm Edward Cullen. You must be Isabella Swan."
"Uh... Bella." She corrected after a brief pause where her heart seemed to skip a beat.
"Bella? Italian for beautiful. Very fitting. Sei multa bella."
"Huh?" She spluttered, her face flushing a deeper red and her heart rate picking up even further. The flush brought her blood closer to the surface of her skin, and it intensified the aroma filling the air around her. It was beyond wonderful and I wondered in that moment why it was affecting me in such a strange manor. The burn was slightly intensified, but it was still easily manageable. Instead, the scent was actually pleasant in a way I couldn't put to words.
"You siete la donna che più bella ho visto mai" I purred into her ear as I leaned in closer.
She stared at me, completely befuddled and her jaw dropped wide. "Wow..." She said breathlessly after a moment. "Was that Italian?"
I nodded. "Mmhmm."
"You speak Italian?"
"A little." I said, grinning. In all honestly, I spoke it fluently, in addition to a fairly large number of other languages. Eighty seven years of sleepless nights, and a dozen times through various universities had provided me a lot of opportunities to learn.
"What'd you say?"
"The first one, sei multa bella, means 'You are very beautiful'." I said, leaning in even closer and taking in a deep breath of her scent. It was intoxicating. I just wanted to bury my face in her hair...
"Oh..." She squeaked and I couldn't help but chuckle. "And the other one?"
"You siete la donna che più bella ho visto mai. It means, 'You are my air. You are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.'"
She stared at me, wide-eyed and dumbfounded for a moment before pulling herself together. "So, you memorize that from some romantic Italian phrasebook or something?" She responded, clearly attempting to be wry, but her voice came out weak and even cracked at one point. I grinned.
"No. It just happened to be the first thing that came to mind when I looked in your eyes." I replied honestly.
I waited a moment for her to respond, but quickly became aware that she'd stopped breathing. I let out a weak chuckle before leaning in slightly more. "Breathe Bella." I whispered before pulling back to a more reasonable distance.
"So how are you liking Forks?" I asked.
"It's um... looking up?" She said, clearing her throat and apparently trying to pull herself back together.
"You moved here from Arizona?" I asked, both trying to prod for additional information, and just searching for any reason to keep her talking to me, and keep me this close to her warm radiating body heat and exquisite fragrance.
"Yeah... how'd you know that?"
"Never underestimate the power of small town gossip." I sighed, giving her a sympathetic look and shrugging my shoulders.
She rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. "I guess I've been quite the topic of talk?" She asked cringing.
"Afraid so, but don't let it get to you. I doubt they'll be talking about you nearly as long as they were talking about my family and me."
"So you're new here too?" She asked, her face lighting up slightly.
"Relatively. We moved here a year and a half ago. Honestly, they still talk about us from time to time." I laughed, shaking my head lightly.
"Still?" She asked, grimacing. Probably fearing still being the center of attention by the time she reached her high school graduation.
"Well, like I said, I doubt they'll focus on you nearly as long. My family just naturally garners excessive attention. "
"So... Arizona. Forks has got to be quite a change of pace." I said, trying to pull her back onto herself. I wanted to know more about her and didn't have much time left before the teacher would show up.
"Yeah... definitely a change..."
Such short, vague answers. I let out a light exasperated breath and chuckled at how difficult she was making this.
"So, where in Arizona?"
"Phoenix. I've lived there with my mom for about 8 years."
"So why did you move in with your father?"
She sighed heavily and fidgeted lightly, chewing on her bottom lip. It was quite a sight and I wasn't even sure why. Somehow, seeing her gnawing on her lower lip like that sent wonderful, unfamiliar shocks down my spine.
She hesitated, but our eyes met, mine probably pleading with her to share. "Well, a couple years ago my mom met this guy named Phil. He's young – probably too young for her really, but he makes her so happy. Last summer they married, but Phil's job takes him all over the place – you know, he has to travel a lot... Well, my mom stayed with me in Phoenix since I was still in school." she fidgeted nervously, playing with her hands and keeping her eyes focused on them while she spoke.
"She was just so unhappy." she continued, "she tried to hide it, but it was obvious. It's their honeymoon years, you know? They're supposed to be together. So..." She sighed heavily before continuing. "So, I decided to exile myself to Forks and spend some quality time with Charlie." She shrugged, looking at the floor.
I was actually speechless for a moment, taking in the newfound knowledge. "That's... incredible. That's an amazingly selfless thing of you to do. But it sounds like you came here, fully expecting to suffer through your time here. It doesn't seem very fair for you be miserable."
She shrugged, still not willing to meet my eyes. "I'm fine with it. It's okay. Besides, hasn't anyone ever told you life isn't fair?" She finished, finally making eye contact.
"Yes... I suppose I have heard that a few times before." I said softly, waiting a moment. "Well, I have to say, I'm glad you came here."
Her eyes widened and her lips parted again, but she seemed lost for a response.
"So I guess if I ever get the chance, I'll have to thank this Phil for making your mother so happy. Otherwise I would likely have never gotten this opportunity to meet you."
At that moment the first bell range and the students around us all settled into their seats. I glanced around for a moment before turning back to face her.
"Bella, I was wondering if you'd be interested in sitting with me during the lunch period?"
"Sitting with you?" She repeated in a breathy whisper.
I grinned, "Yes, Bella. Will you sit with me today at lunch? I'd love to have the opportunity to speak with you more."
I chuckled again. I really was clearly overwhelming her, but at least she hadn't shied away yet.
"Great." I said, as I turned back towards the rest of the classroom and made my way to my seat.
The teacher walked in at that point and made his way to his desk. It took Bella a full 30 seconds to come out of her dazed state enough to realize he was there and finally make her way over to him. He directed her to an empty desk a few rows behind me and as she made her way past me, bringing her lovely scent with her. Our eyes met and she blushed furiously when I smiled at her, compounding the scent even further.
I was definitely enjoying her blush.
I watched her through the minds of our fellow students through the rest of the morning. She was the center of attention, wherever she went, and she clearly hated it.
She corrected every person who called her Isabella, and blushed the first few times it happened. I only hoped that the correction was reminding her of our encounter at the beginning of the day, and I smiled to myself at the memory. She had to suffer through two different teachers insisting she stand up before the class and introduce herself, which she clearly despised.
The boys of the school were falling over themselves for opportunities to speak with her, and there were several occasions where I had to catch myself from growling loud enough to garner the attention of my classmates, after overhearing particularly vulgar thoughts from several of the boys in her classes.
The instinctive response actually surprised me the first time it happened, and I sat there in class silently pondering the emotions flowing through me for several minutes before I became aware of my own emotional state enough to realize that I was slightly jealous, but mostly, feeling excessively possessive and protective. It was like some animalistic part of me wanted to lay claim to her and fight off any other unworthy suitors. Once I'd become aware of the nature of my feelings, I nearly laughed at myself.
Her third period class was Trig, and it was during that class that she met Jessica Stanley. Jessica was what one would call a "popular student" at Forks High. She was even a cheerleader. The only feature that broke the stereotype mold was the fact that she was a brunette instead of a blond. Not that most 'blond jokes' wouldn't still easily apply to her.
From what I gathered of her thoughts, she was more interested in garnering extra attention via Bella's presence, than she was interested in actually getting to know Bella. I found her attitude to be extremely irritating. I'd always acknowledged that Jessica was a rather 'fake' individual, but never before had her two-faced nature affected anyone that I actually gave a crap about.
Bella and Jessica chatted a bit at the beginning of their Trig class since the open seat Bella was assigned to was directly beside Jessica's. Their class shifted to a 'work period' with twenty minutes left of class, and Jessica took advantage of that time to start grilling Bella on an interesting rumor that Jessica had apparently heard in her last class.
"So I heard that Edward Cullen was talking to you in your homeroom class. Is that true!?" Jessica gushed in a shocked scandalous tone.
"Huh?" Bella looked up at her, confused and shocked by Jessica's tone.
"Edward Cullen!" Jessica reiterated. "A friend of mine is in your homeroom and she said that before class started he got up out of his chair and went over and talked to you. Is that for real!?"
"Oh! Um... yes. Why do you ask?"
"Because he never talks to anyone outside his family. Ever. I mean, he's like, the most sought after guy in school, and he totally shuns everyone. What did he say!?"
I saw Bella's blush through Jessica's eyes and had to work hard to hold in a chuckle.
"Um... not much. He asked me my name, and asked me about Arizona... Just sort of friendly conversation, I guess." She mumbled out the words, not making eye contact with Jessica as she said them.
"Wow... that's still crazy. I mean, he seriously never ever talks to anyone. It's just so out-of-character for him to go out of his way to talk to someone. He didn't say anything else?"
Bella looked shocked and uncomfortable. She paused for a moment, and I suspected she was debating whether or not she was actually willing to share any more details with Jessica. "Well, he asked me to eat lunch with him." She finally mumbled out.
Jessica's thoughts rang with disbelief, shock, and envy.
"He was probably just trying to be nice." Bella added quickly, responding to Jessica's stunned expression. "You know... being nice to the strange, awkward new girl..."
"Edward Cullen does not go out of his way to be nice to people." Jessica huffed out.
I wasn't sure if I should be offended or not. Admittedly I hadn't exactly put up much effort to be nice to her. Her thoughts were borderline offensive, and her fantasies had bombarded me relentlessly for months before I finally came out and bluntly squashed her unrequited affections, just hoping to finally shut her up.
"Is he mean to people?" Bella asked, her eyes filled with concern, and I had the sudden urge to pop Jessica's head like a pimple.
Jessica sighed and made a face. "Well, I guess he doesn't go out of his way to be mean. But he certainly doesn't make any effort to be nice either. Mostly he just acts like the rest of the universe is beneath him and unworthy of his affections."
Bella made a face, eying Jessica with a suspicious, knowing look, and I could only hope that Bella would see through the girl's bitterness at my less then gentlemanly rejection of her.
"But anyway," Jessica continued, "are you seriously considering eating lunch with him? Did he say if you'd be eating with his family, or just him?"
"Um... well, he invited me. He was really nice to me about it; I don't see any reason not to join him – for today, at least." Bella responded, hesitantly. "I don't know if it's just him or his family too. He didn't say anything about it. Why?"
"Well... all the Cullen's are freaks, honestly. But I just can't imagine how weird it would be to sit at a lunch table with all of them."
"Why do you call them freaks?" Bella asked, her face contorted with disapproval. She didn't seem to like that my family and I were being spoken so poorly of. It gave me at least a small bit of relief.
"They just... are. I mean, they don't socialize with anyone outside of their family, and the weirdest thing is that they're paired off. Other then Edward, the others are all, like, dating. Dating their siblings! It's freaky!"
"Yeah, I mean, they're all adopted, so I guess, technically, they aren't actually related or anything, but it's still beyond weird. He's got two sisters, and two brothers. Alice and Jasper – dating. And Rosalie and Emmett – again, dating. It's bizarre. It's like Dr. Cullen is some freaky adoptive parent slash matchmaker."
"So they're adopted?"
"Well... I guess maybe it is kind of weird, but if they're not related, there isn't anything really wrong with it."
Jessica rolled her eyes and shrugged noncommittally. "Sure, whatever. They're still freaks."
This portion of their conversation did get me thinking though... I hadn't yet planned ahead far enough to think about whether or not I wanted to spend lunch with just Bella, or if I would invite her to join my family's table.
I doubted the others would appreciate me bringing a human to the table, without some prior warning. Also, with Jasper being in the state he was, I didn't think it was necessarily a good idea to have her sitting so close to him anyway.
Lunch would be the hardest time for him, since we'd be in the large cafeteria, filled with students – more students than he had to deal with in the usual 20-30 student classrooms – and he'd also be sitting at a table surrounded by 4 other vampires, sharing the pressure of our combined thirsts.
Alone, definitely. I'd find a table where Bella and I could sit alone. I could always introduce her to the rest of the family another time.
The moment that I'd entered forth period, my mind still away from me as I watched Bella making her way to her next class, Jasper immediately sensed that there was something off with me.
The teacher called the class to order quickly, and Jasper didn't get an opportunity to question me aloud till much later, but he spent the first twenty minutes questioning me, and pondering my mood, mentally.
After a half hour of silent pondering and unanswered questions, he finally said to me mentally, 'Whatever this is that's going on with you, Edward... thanks. It's a lot easier to handle my thirst when the people around me are happy, and you feel practically blissful.'
I eyed him for a second, grinning, but remaining silent, letting my mind wander back to Bella.
Lunch couldn't come quickly enough. I sat down at an empty table on the far side of the cafeteria and waited, earning curious and confused stares from all of my siblings except Alice, who was literally bouncing up and down in her seat, squealing quietly.
The others quietly asked her what was going on with me and she only shushed them, telling them that she wanted to watch the show and not to interrupt her until it was over. I laughed.
I felt the excited anticipation run through me when I saw Bella walk through the door with Jessica Stanley. Jessica looked over at my family's table and pointed out to Bella that I wasn't there, and made a mental note that Bella was lucky that I apparently wasn't expecting her to sit with all of them.
She reminded her that Bella was more than welcome to sit with her and her friends, but Bella politely declined and let her eyes hesitantly search the cafeteria for me.
Finally our eyes met and I saw that lovely blush color her cheeks again and I grinned even wider. She smiled sheepishly before nodding at me and making her way towards the lunch line to acquire some food.
I wanted to offer the prop food on the tray in front of me, but didn't have the opportunity and wasn't sure how I'd explain it at this point, anyway.
Jessica Stanley grabbed her food quickly before making her way over to her normal lunch table to gush and gossip about how the new girl had been invited to eat lunch with me. She was excited about the attention and reactions she could get at this bit of news, and was especially thrilled that she had a fairly good view of the table I was sitting at.
I rolled my eyes, but committed myself to not caring about what she did or said. She really didn't matter.
Bella finished her journey through the line and made her way to the table I was sitting at, her blush growing with each step.
Her scent reached me before she did, and I felt my muscles relax, and my whole body calm and ease with it... well, okay, not my whole body. One particular part was doing anything but calming or relaxing.
The response surprised me and I quickly adjusted my pants and shifted in my seat as subtly as I could manage before she got too close to notice.
She reached the table and hesitated, eying the numerous empty seats. I pulled out the one beside me, motioning for her to sit there, in hopes that she'd opt for it, rather than sitting across from me. I wanted her close.
She blushed and set her tray down beside mine and sat down.
"Hi." She said, quietly, looking up at me through her thick eyelashes.
I beamed down at her, smiling widely and responded. "Hi." I chuckled as she blushed and looked down at her tray. She had a slice of cheese pizza, an apple, and a bottle of lemonade. "How's your first day going, so far?" I asked after a brief silence.
"It's okay." She mumbled.
"Better than I'd expected it to be.
I grinned. "Well, I'm glad to hear that.
She smiled sheepishly at me and ran her fingers through her hair a few quick times before tucking it behind her ear.
The action stirred up her scent and it enveloped me entirely. I instinctively took in a deep breath of it, filling my lungs and closing my eyes at the wonderful feeling it left me. As I slowly exhaled a small involuntary groan escaped my lips before I even realized what had happened.
I caught myself and opened my eyes to see her staring at me with wide, confused eyes.
I grinned shyly and chuckled. "Sorry... you just smell really good."
She blinked at me, dumbfounded for a second. "Um... thank you? I don't think anyone has ever complimented me on my smell before."
"That's truly a shame. You have the most heavenly scent I've ever come across. If I'm being totally honest, it's actually the first thing I noticed about you."
"How's that?" She cocked an eyebrow confused and suspicious.
"I have a... very sensitive sense of smell. I caught your scent when you first entered homeroom this morning. It's very floral. Freesia and lilacs as a base... and I'm guessing you use a strawberry scented wash of some sort. Shampoo perhaps?"
Her wide eyes grew even bigger and her jaw dropped slightly. "Wow... you really do have a sensitive nose."
I chuckled and shrugged. "Yes, well, after I caught your scent in the room I turned around in my seat, searching for the source – that's when I first saw you. I was shocked..."
"I thought that the smell was already the loveliest thing I'd ever encountered... then I saw your face and realized I was wrong."
She flushed ten shades of red in a split second and I shot her a crooked grin and chuckled lightly at the reaction. The flush brought out her scent, even stronger again and I inhaled another lung full, feeling myself melt into my chair in bliss, closing my eyes involuntarily.
"Mmm... your scent gets even stronger when you blush like that."
"My smell changes when I blush?" She blinked and eyed me like I was mad.
I laughed loudly and nodded my head. Her bewildered expression shifted into a smile in response to my laugh, but she still looked a bit confused and disbelieving. I knew I was saying too much, but I couldn't help it.
I wanted to be completely honest with this girl. It was a completely foreign urge for me. I was never honest with people. It was just a part of my life. How I had to live, in order to be among humans. But with her? With her, I had the strongest desire to be as honest as possible. I decided in that moment to take a risk.
Just as I made the decision, a vision flashed before Alice's eyes. I caught a few glimpses of it, but not the whole thing. I shifted my eyes to meet with hers across the room and after a moment she smiled and nodded at me. Go for it. I think it's a good idea. The others will be mad at first, but it'll work out.
I smiled back at her in silent thanks and returned my focused to Bella.
"Bella," I began, my voice taking on a hushed serious that it hadn't had moments earlier, catching her attention right away. "Can I be honest with you? I mean... really honest? I hate lying to people... it's the primary reason why I... well, why I never talk to anyone. But I want to talk to you. I want to know you, and I want for you to know me... the real me."
She stared at me in silence for a second before nodding. "Of course. But what do you mean? Why wou–"
"Bella," I cut her off quietly, "I... I have a few rather significant secrets. I want to tell you... at least one of them. The moment I saw you this morning, I felt this connection with you that I've never felt with anyone before. It's so strong and it's wonderful, but it's also frightening. I want to get to know the real you. In order to better understand these feelings that are filling me. And I want to spend time with you, but in order to do that; honestly, I need to tell you at least one thing about me, first. Can you keep a secret? Will you promise to hear me out and listen for at least a little while before you dismiss me as insane?"
"Wow... Um, Of course. And I won't tell anyone, I promise." She said, her voice soft and comforting.
"It's going to sound crazy, but I swear it's true."
She nodded for me to go on.
"I... I hear people's thoughts. I'm telepathic. I hear and see their thoughts; see the imagined images in their heads; their memories if they're thinking of them at a time when I'm listening... I can even see people's dreams when they're asleep."
Her eyebrows slowly raised on her forehead as her eyes grew large.
"You're serious?" She cocked an eyebrow, looking at me like she was starting to wonder if there was a punch line.
"Yes... but the amazing thing is that... I can't hear you."
"Yes, Bella. I've been able to do this for as long as I can clearly remember. I've always had the thoughts of everyone around me, crammed into my head. It's a constant din of noise and I can't shut it off. It's always there. I've never encountered anyone whose thoughts weren't constantly intruding into my mind, until you.
"When I focus on you, I get total silence. It's like hitting a wall. It's... honestly, it's an incredible relief. Not knowing ahead of time what you're going to say. Not having to hear any internal monologue you might have going on. Not hearing whatever song might be stuck in your head. You're thoughts are your own, and I don't have to worry about accidentally responding to something you're thinking, instead of something that you actually said.
"You see... that's the biggest reason I don't talk to people. I'm always having to catch myself. Always afraid I'll accidentally reply to a person's thoughts instead of spoken words. Plus, half the time, I spend an extra few minutes just listening to their thoughts ramble on, and realize that I've haven't spoken a word to them and they're waiting for a response... then I have to try and figure out what the last thing they actually said was... it gets confusing and frustrating, and I just sort of gave up ages ago. It's been simpler to just shut myself off from everyone else, than to deal with it, or risk exposing myself."
I paused to let her take it in. Her face was a mask of shock, and it looked like she was taking a moment to process before she replied. "You're really serious, aren't you?"
I nodded and grinned weakly.
"So... is that why, you wanted to eat lunch with me? Wanted to talk with me? Because you can't hear my thoughts?"
"No... that was just a bonus." I grinned at her. "Like I said before – the first thing I noticed was how lovely you smelled. Then I saw you and thought you were absolutely beautiful. I felt the desire to go speak with you before I even realized I wasn't picking up any of your thoughts."
"You think I'm beautiful?" She responded in a flat, disbelieving tone.
I looked at her with complete confusion. "Yes. Because you are. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever set my eyes on..." My hand trailed up slightly, the urge to caress her cheek pulling it towards her face. She pulled back, her eyes suspicious and her brows pulled together.
"Okay – what's the punch line? What is this? You make some bet with a friend that you could get the new girl to believe your crazy sci-fi story, or that you could seduce me or something? Or did you lose a bet already, and I'm the punishment?"
I gawked at her, bewildered by her response and sudden change in attitude.
"No... not at all. Bella... I..." I took in a deep breath, trying to center myself. "I honestly meant every word of what I said. I really do think you're beautiful. Beyond beautiful. Absolutely delightful. Attractive, appealing, alluring, radiant." My voice grew quieter and I looked at my hands, as I folded them on the table before me, "I... I feel this force, pulling me towards you, and I just want to know you. I want you to know me... I wish you could see how I see you. If you truly don't think yourself beautiful, you clearly don't see yourself the way I see you."
"I was being honest about all of it... There is no joke. This isn't a bet or a prank. I was just hoping that I could... that I could be honest with you. That I might have found someone that I could... I don't know. Never mind. It's alright." I ended weakly.
I ran my hand through my hair roughly, feeling awkward.
She looked at me, her large brown doe eyes sad. "I'm sorry." She whispered after a moment. "I just can't really imagine someone who is as beautiful as you are... honestly thinking something like that of plain ol' me. I mean... you're the super-model material, not me."
My eyes went back to hers and I shook my head, smiling. "You really don't see yourself. You know, it's not just me. Half the male population of the school finds you attractive. They've been thinking it all day."
"You're serious?" She eyed me, disbelieving again.
I chucked and nodded. "Yes, I'm serious. Honestly, it got me really worked up a few times. A couple of them have particularly vulgar imaginations, and I found their ungentlemanly thoughts rather infuriating."
I chuckled, "Believe me, you don't want me to elaborate on that. Just be grateful that you're not a mind reader."
"You must get stuff like that about you too, though, right?"
I let out an exaggerated groan and smirked at her. "You have no idea. It gets to be so horribly exasperating. Especially the really dedicated and... imaginative ones. I have to admit that I've been less then kind in my rejections of a few of the girls in this school. I felt bad about it, but when I let them down nicely, their mental fantasies never stop..." I paused and gave her a sheepish smile, "Bella... I have a confession to make."
"Yes... I sort of spied on you during a few of your earlier classes."
"Spied on me?" She looked confused.
"Yes... For example, I listened in on the conversion you had with Jessica Stanley. Rather, I listened to her thoughts, during the conversation, and watched your reactions through her eyes."
"You can do that? Even not being in the room?"
"My range can go as far as three miles if it's someone I know closely. Basically I can hear my family members as far out as 3 miles. Most people I max out at one and a half to two miles. So I hear the din and thoughts of everyone within a two mile radius, at all times."
"Holy crow! That would be maddening! How can you sort through it all?"
"It took me years of practice. It's still overwhelming a lot of the time..."
"So you were listening in on Jess?" She cocked an eyebrow, a little suspicious again.
I grinned weakly and shrugged. "Yes... I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have, but I was curious if you were still considering joining me for lunch. And when Jessica Stanley asked you specifically about me, I... well, I was curious as to what you might have to say."
"I just wanted to let you know that Jessica is one of those individuals that I... let down a little harshly."
"Ah... I suspected it might be something like that."
"Yes... she was extremely persistent. And her fantasies were..." I heaved a heavy sigh and ran my hand through my hair again.
"That bad?" Bella laughed.
I chuckled and nodded my head enthusiastically.
"Yes. Bad. Jessica has... experience. Not a lot mind you, but she's had enough experience to have a vivid imagination on sexual matters. The fantasies of virgins are often more inaccurate or down-right impossible, but at least they're fuzzy and vague enough that they aren't hard to ignore. Virgin males that have watched a lot of porn... that's another story entirely. They're just unrealistic and usually involve a lot of loud moaning..." I shuddered.
"Oh my god... so do people really think about sex as often as all the statistics claim?"
"More often. At least, in high school they are. This place is downright torturous for me sometimes. It definitely doesn't help that half the student body finds me attractive. Honestly, there are days I envy the geeks with their bad acne and greasy hair. At least then I wouldn't be constantly bombarded with other people's mental images of myself performing various sexual acts to them." I cringed.
"Ew... that'd be..."
"Really awkward and disgusting?" I offered.
"Yeah... at the very least."
"The very least." I laughed loudly.
She was quiet for a moment and I could tell from her eyes that she was mulling over everything I'd said to her, in her head.
I let my mind wander for a moment and snickered at what I heard. Bella eyed me curious, silently asking what I was laughing at now.
I shook my head, grinning. "Several of the students around us are wondering what's wrong with me. Several of them are debating on whether or not I'm on something." I paused, listening some more, and started chuckling again. "Even my family is wondering if I've lost my mind."
She looked at me confused, raising her eyebrow.
"I... I don't often laugh... or smile, for that matter. Or speak out loud to anyone that isn't either a member of my family or a teacher, asking me a class related question." I smiled sheepishly.
"Oh... so what exactly has caused the change?"
I gave her a crooked grin. "You."
She stared at me, open mouthed for a second, blushing.
"So Bella," I began again, "I've told you one of my biggest secrets... will you tell me a little about yourself?"
"I can't imagine what you'd want to know... I've got nothing that compares to mind-reading."
I chuckled. "I'm not expecting anything crazy. I just want to know you better. I really love the idea that anything you tell me is of your own will. Normally I can just pick these things out of people's minds, but with you, I can't do that. Any information on you has to be given voluntarily. It's like you're giving me a gift." I smiled at her and she blushed. "I was really very grateful for what you shared with me this morning about your mother and step-father. Perhaps I could just ask some questions?"
She shrugged. "Sure, that works."
"Okay," I grinned widely. "What's your favorite color?"
She was laughing loudly, hiding her face behind her hands. "I felt so bad for those fish... "
"I can't believe your mother didn't realize that you knew they were dying." I chuckled.
"Every time the fish died, she'd go out to the store and buy another one to replace it, hoping I wouldn't notice it was a different fish. Once she didn't even get the same species of fish. She got a guppy instead of a goldfish and expected me to not notice." She giggled in response to my laughter and smiled. "I mean, I was only six, but I wasn't stupid. I eventually put my foot down and told her to stop replacing the fish. It was clear that our house was cursed or something. No fish could survive more than a week. We doomed fish."
I laughed loudly before squishing it into a chuckle. I looked around the cafeteria and the smile fell from my face. I heaved a heavy sigh.
"What's up?" She asked, catching my sudden shift in mood.
"Lunch is over. Class starts in less than five minutes. I have to give you up soon."
"Oh... well, we can eat together again tomorrow... and we've got homeroom." She smiled sheepishly and I grinned back, glad she really wanted to keep visiting with me.
"What's your next class? I can walk you." I said standing up and stacking our tray contents together before stacking the trays and picking them up.
"Oh um..." she paused and fished into her bag for her schedule. "Um, it's... Biology 2."
I paused, my eyes alight suddenly. "With Mr. Banner?"
"Um... Yes. Why?"
I smiled widely and laughed suddenly. "You'll be my lab partner!"
"I've also got Bio2 next, and I'm the only one in the class without a lab partner." I chuckled.
"Oh... Oh! So we've got the same class next?"
"Yes, and the seat beside me, is the only one open."
I smirked and offered her my free hand, supporting our combined trays in the other. "Shall we?"
She smiled and nodded, taking my hand to stand up.
The temperature of her hand felt nearly molten to my icy skin, but the heat was wonderful. We both gasped at the contact and she stared at our joined hands for a moment before shaking her head and standing to her feet.
"I'm sorry my hands are so cold." I apologized, still smiling softly at her.
"It's fine... kind of surprising at first, but the coolness is nice..." She said, her voice trailing to a whisper towards the end. I smiled. "Are they always this cold?"
She didn't push any further, and I was grateful. I wasn't sure if I could make it out of this conversation without lying or giving away details I wasn't yet ready to give away.
I dumped our trays and discarded them before leading her outside towards the science building where our Biology class was held.