Geekward Shuffle Challenge

Pen Name: KristenLynn

Link to FFnet Profile: www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/u/2013360/KristenLynn

Song Title: 'Low Rider' by War

Story Title: Take A Little Trip

Rating: M

Disclaimer: As always,Stephenie owns them. I'm just trying to make their situation a little more realistic…

Summary: O/S for Geekward Shuffle Challenge. When Bella's grades tumble due to her social life, geeky Edward is assigned as her tutor. Can Bella overlook her preconceived notions about social status, or will their differences be too wide to overcome? AU/AH,OOC.

A/N: OK… I wanted to try something a little different here, something a little more realistic. I hope that I captured the simultaneous simplicity yet complexity of the teenaged psyche. For a general idea of Edward's physical appearance in this story, think Robert Pattinson in "The Bad Mother's Handbook"…

*This is an entry for a contest!! If you like it, please go and vote for me! Voting starts Jan 2. Here's the contest info page: www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/u/2142840/Geekward_Shuffle_Challenge (Go to the C2 to find all entries.)

2/6/10 edit: A discussion thread has been started for Take a Little Trip in the Twilighted Forum. Feel free to stop by with any questions, comments, suggestions... I'm in the AU-human section...

http://www(dot)twilighted(dot)net/forum/viewtopic(dot)php?f=44&t=8488

Thanks to my betas: Jessica0306, laraisawkward, and Nowforruin


* * * * * Take A Little Trip * * * * *


~ October ~

"Miss Swan?"

Mr. Varner's voice interrupted my conversation with Jessica and Lauren. I turned, raising my eyebrows haughtily in question. He looked apprehensive about talking to me, as he should have. No one—not even teachers—fucked with Bella Swan. I was a force to be reckoned with, and everybody fucking knew it. I was the shit—head cheerleader, leader of the proverbial pack. I was the most popular girl in school, not to mention the biggest bitch. Everybody deferred to me. Everybody worshipped me. And I fucking loved that shit.

"Can I talk to you for a moment?" he asked anxiously.

I had a good idea what was coming next; failing the last two trig quizzes did not bode well for me. But I could not be bothered with mundane tasks, like fucking high school math, when life-altering events such as Homecoming were hovering on the horizon. I was the chair of the Homecoming decoration committee, and we had our work cut out for us if we wanted to turn the high school gym into something special.

Jess and Lauren rolled their eyes at me and giggled on their way out the door, continuing the conversation without me. I watched longingly as they passed out of my sight. I did not want to be left out of that particular conversation. Hell…I was in charge of that shit.

"What?" I snapped at the quivering excuse for a math teacher. My eyes narrowed and my foot tapped in annoyance.

"Miss Swan? You know why I want to talk to you, don't you?"

Of course I did. I rolled my eyes at his rhetorical fucking question and continued tapping my foot.

"Your grades haven't improved in the past few weeks. You've failed the last two quizzes, and your homework has been, well… incomplete, at best. I have no choice now but to inform your parents..."

Fuck. I didn't want to involve my parents, but at least they would likely only verbally admonish me; they didn't really give a shit what I did. I frowned and sent Mr. Varner my usually-effective evil eye, but nodded my head stiffly in understanding.

I figured that the conversation was over, so I turned to leave. I was sorely mistaken.

"Miss Swan?" Mr. Varner called me to attention again.

I turned back with an aggravated sigh and another eye-roll. "What?"

"I've asked one of my advanced students to tutor you until your grades improve," he admitted sheepishly.

My jaw dropped in shocked surprise, then snapped shut angrily. My eyes narrowed as I silently fumed.

"Who?" I demanded furiously.

"Edward Cullen," he squeaked out.

I didn't recognize the name. "Who the hell is Edward Cullen?"

"Edward is a new student this year. You haven't met him yet?"

"If I had met him, would I fucking ask who he was?"

Mr. Varner's eyes pinched at my use of profanity, but he didn't say a word about it. No one ever did. I did mention that no one fucked with Bella Swan, right?

When it appeared that Mr. Varner was not going to add anything else to this pointless fucking conversation, I turned to exit the classroom. Once again, I was mistaken.

"Miss Swan…"

His hesitant voice was really starting to grate on my fucking nerves. I paused, took a deep breath, and squeezed my eyes shut before turning back around.

"Yes?" I asked harshly.

"You'll need this," he replied.

I opened my eyes to see him holding out a slip of paper. That piece of paper was vibrating wildly; his hand was shaking. I smirked. Yeah… Bella Swan was a fucking bad-ass.

"What the fuck is that?" I asked in my iciest tone.

His eyes pinched once more at my persistent use of profanity, but again he said nothing. Instead, he answered, "It's Edward's phone number. He's expecting your call." He took a deep breath and added in a rush, "I expect you to arrange your first meeting later this week. Your grades need to turn around quickly if you expect to pass my class."

My jaw dropped again. I snatched the offending slip of paper from his trembling fingers and stormed out of the classroom before he could drop any more fucking bombshells on me.

I found it impossible to focus in my remaining classes. For the first time in weeks, it wasn't because I was worrying about Homecoming. No, I was pissed at Mr. Varner for throwing this fucking monkey-wrench into my day. I was actually concerned about academics right now, as well as what my parents would say to me when I got home. I groaned at that thought.

Jess and Lauren noticed my distraction at lunch. I was studying all of the students in the cafeteria that I didn't know by name. There were quite a few; I didn't bother with making the acquaintance of anyone who wouldn't increase my social standing. I was intently studying two unfamiliar faces at a table across the room—both wore glasses, but one was tall and lanky while the other was short and squat—and I was trying to decide which of those two losers might possibly be Edward Cullen when I heard Jessica snicker at me.

"Why are you staring at the nerds like that, Bella? See something you like?" She snorted.

I tore my eyes away from the table of geeks to nail Jessica with an icy look. She immediately stopped laughing.

"Just kidding," she quickly retreated. I continued to stare scathingly at her.

Lauren attempted to break the tension by asking, "So, Bella, what did Mr. Varner want earlier?"

"It seems as if my fucking grades are no longer satisfactory. Mr. Varner has assigned me a tutor…" I let the sentence trail off. But then I asked, "Do either of you know Edward Cullen?"

Lauren snickered. "I haven't met him, but Bella, you know his younger sister."

I looked at her questioningly.

"Does the name Alice Cullen ring a bell?" she asked.

It didn't. I continued to look at her questioningly.

Lauren rolled her eyes at me. "You know, Alice…" She emphasized the name. "The chunky little sophomore who tried out for the J.V. squad? Twice. The one who tried so fucking hard?" She snickered again.

Oh, yes. Alice Cullen was a bundle of energy who desperately wanted to be a cheerleader. Too bad she was packing close to one hundred and fifty pounds on her sub-five-foot frame… The memory of Alice caused me to settle on the short and squat nerd at the table across the room as my likely tutor.

Somehow, I managed to make it through the rest of the day. The two hours spent in cheerleading practice helped take my mind off my troubles for a while, as did the meeting with the Homecoming decorating committee; we were discussing last minute details and would start actually decorating tomorrow afternoon.

By the time I got home, I had completely forgotten about my meeting with Mr. Varner. I was quickly reminded when I walked in the door of our house to find my father sitting in his favorite recliner with his arms crossed. The TV was turned off, which was a bad sign. My mother was nowhere to be found, not that that was anything new.

Caught off guard, I snapped, "Yes?"

"Bella, Mr. Varner called today to inform us of your poor performance in math class."

I knew this, so I just stared at him.

"What are you planning to do to fix this?" he asked.

"I've been assigned a tutor," I stated simply.

Charlie just nodded his head, then turned away from me and reached for the TV remote. When he turned the unit on, I deduced the conversation was over.

Following my discussion with my father, I wandered upstairs to my bedroom suite. Needing to relax, I padded into my luxurious bathroom and drew a bath. As water filled the marble tub, I looked around my room in appreciation. I had it really fucking good. We lived in the nicest house in town, and I possessed every conceivable luxury available. All thanks to Renee and her stupid fucking romance novels. Who knew that that shit would make so much money? Not that I read any of her stuff; I was scared that she used events from real life in her smutty little books, and I had no desire to learn the intimate fucking details of my parent's sex life.

I sighed as I sank into the bubble-filled tub. But my relief was short-lived as thoughts of the day ate away at me. I sighed again a few minutes later and pulled myself from the warm water. I studied my naked form in the mirror as I toweled off and smiled at my nearly flawless reflection: long, lean limbs; pert breasts with dusky, perfectly-placed nipples; attractive facial features; and gloriously long, mahogany hair. My eyes pinched when they encountered the small scar on my abdomen from my appendectomy. That physical blemish reminded me that I was not perfect. I turned away from the damning mirror and stomped into my room to retrieve the piece of paper that was yet another reflection of my fucking non-perfection.

After dialing the digits, I tapped my foot impatiently while the phone rang.

"Hello?"

The voice was not what I expected. It was richly melodic, low-pitched and velvet-smooth; it washed over me like the water from my recent bath—a warm, relaxing caress that touched every inch of me. Chill bumps arose on my naked, and still-damp, skin. I was rendered momentarily speechless by the sensuality that exuded from that voice.

Holy shit. Nerds shouldn't sound that… sexy… should they?

"Hello?" the voice asked again, this time impatiently.

"Um…yeah… Is this Edward Cullen?" I finally managed to stammer.

"Yes," he answered in a now-amused tone.

I was still speechless. After a moment of silence, I heard a small chuckle.

"Since I don't recognize this number, and I don't give mine out to very many people, I'm assuming that this is the illustrious Isabella Swan?"

The way my name rolled off his tongue caused me to shiver, and my nipples hardened to match the goose bumps that covered the rest of my body. No one ever called me Isabella—I insisted on Bella—but for some reason, I liked the way he said my given name.

"Um… Yes…"

He chuckled again at my hesitant answer. This time, the sound spurred me into angry action. I wrapped my towel tightly around my torso and sat down at my desk. When I spoke again, my voice was all business.

"So, Edward, Mr. Varner wants you to work with me on math."

"Yes. That is my understanding," the silky-smooth voice drawled.

The condescension underlying his words was evident, and I fumed silently. Before I was even aware of it, I was defending myself to this fucking nobody.

"Just so you know, I am not some dumb cheerleader who can't do math. Well, I am a cheerleader, but I'm not fucking stupid. I've just been… distracted… lately."

He had the nerve to chuckle again. "That's good to know, Isabella. I'm sure that we'll be able to get your studies straightened away quickly, then."

"The sooner the better," I stated vehemently. The sooner we started, the sooner we'd be finished. I wanted to be finished with this as soon as fucking possible.

We talked for a few minutes, hashing out a schedule for my tutoring sessions. Between my cheerleading and his band practices, afternoons were out. I wasn't comfortable having him come to my house, so we agreed to meet at school in the mornings. Our first session would be tomorrow.

Arriving early the following morning, I parked my silver Volvo C70 convertible—a sixteenth birthday present from my parents—and waited for Edward Cullen. A car said a lot about the person who drove it. I drove the nicest car at school, as was fitting for my social standing and my family's financial status. I was quite curious about what kind of car Edward drove.

Five minutes later, I knew. He drove a classic cliché: a dark blue, late-80's model Camaro, complete with tinted windows and fucking T-tops. I snorted in derision. His radio was blaring. Again, it was fitting: a late-80's tune that I recognized, but whose name I couldn't remember. The driver's side door opened and Edward unfolded himself from the car. Luckily, he was not the short, squat nerd from lunch yesterday; rather he was the tall and lanky guy from the same table. Today, he wore an ill-fitting button down shirt, which was tucked into tight jeans that were a bit too short. Loafers, without socks, rounded out his outfit. I cringed at the awfulness of it. His unruly mop of overly-long auburn hair fell into his eyes, but at least it partially hid his hideous black-rimmed glasses.

In spite of his awkward appearance, I was unable to deny the grace with which he carried himself. He sauntered across the lot to my car and bent down to peer in the window at me. I frowned at him, then sighed in resignation and opened my door. Better to get this shit done as quickly as possible. We walked into the school in silence.

Surprisingly, the next hour passed quickly. Despite his condescending tone on the phone, Edward was incredibly patient when it came to explaining math. He was in no way patronizing, even when I became completely preoccupied with the way his long, tapered, and incredibly sensual fingers—where the hell did that thought come from—twisted around his pencil.

"Isabella? Distracted again?"

His smirk was tempered by his gentle tone when he spoke to regain my attention. My eyes snapped to his, and I couldn't prevent the incriminating blush that tinged my cheeks in response to his voice speaking my name. I shook my head and we got back to work.

All in all, it was a highly successful hour. I think I learned more in those few minutes with Edward on that Wednesday morning than I had in the entire semester thus far with Mr. Varner.

* * * * *

Friday evening found me cheering at the Homecoming football game.

Midway through the third quarter, the band played a familiar tune—the one that had been blaring from Edward's car stereo on Wednesday morning. The name of the song finally popped into my head: "Low Rider" by War. A smile touched my lips. Yes, that song was completely fitting, especially considering Edward's low-slung vehicle. And at that exact moment, in a move that complemented my thoughts, Edward stood to play the trumpet solo in the song. I was entranced by the way his fingers moved confidently across his instrument. So much so, I missed my cue for the next cheer. Jess and Lauren snickered. I forcefully returned my attention to the task at hand.

Later that night, Jessica called me on my slip. Of course, she had to pull that shit while we were seated at the dance with Mike, Tyler, and Eric. Mike had his arm around my shoulder and was nuzzling my neck when Jess slyly asked her question.

"So, Bella… What was up with you tonight? You seemed more interested in watching the band than the game. I can't believe you missed that cheer."

I cringed in response to her question, and Mike stiffened immediately.

"What the fuck, Bella? You were watching the fucking band instead of your incredibly talented boyfriend?" The sad thing was that he was deadly serious about the 'incredibly talented' part.

"Thanks, Jess," I hissed in her direction. Then I turned to Mike and kissed him on the cheek. "Don't worry, baby. I saw each of your four touchdown passes and your touchdown run. You were fucking awesome tonight. I bet the scouts were really impressed with your performance."

All anyone had to do to distract Mike these days was mention the fucking college football scouts. He was completely focused on getting a football scholarship so that he could get the hell out of Forks next year. My detailed recollection of Mike's accomplishments during the game spurred a heated discussion of football in general and Forks High School football in specific. More accurately, the possibility of the team making it to the state championship next month.

I quickly forgot about the fucking band and Edward Cullen.

~ December ~

Time had flown by. Before I was ready for it, the holidays were right around the corner and I was finishing my final assignments of the semester and cramming for finals. I still studied with Edward twice a week; following that first session, we had settled on a schedule of Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Due to Edward's teaching skills, I had caught up in my math class within a matter of weeks. In fact, since he had started tutoring me, my grades had greatly improved in all of my classes. I had always been a reasonable student, but for the past six weeks, I had been riding a low "A" average. Mr. Varner seemed incredibly fucking pleased with my turn-around in trigonometry—I had aced each and every one of his tests and quizzes since I started studying with Edward.

Surprisingly, over time, I found myself enjoying the time Edward and I spent together rather than looking at it as a forced sentence. And though I suspected that I didn't really need Edward's help anymore, I was reluctant to alter our arrangement. For some reason, I felt dependent upon him. I also enjoyed the fact that my teachers now seemed to respect me for my brains instead of just my hard-nosed, bad-ass attitude. Edward never mentioned anything about how our sessions had changed, but even he had to realize that they had somehow morphed into a study partnership; I quizzed him as often as he quizzed me now.

It was Thursday morning, the last week before finals started. Edward and I were reviewing each other's final English assignments: Shakespearean sonnets written in iambic pentameter. I was frowning at Edward's poem; it just didn't feel right, and there was an issue with one of the lines—it was missing a beat. I looked up to find him staring at me with a questioning frown.

"What?" I asked defensively.

"Did you write this?" he asked, a strange tone to his voice.

"Of course," I snapped. Then my voice became concerned. "Why? Is it bad?"

I reached out to take my paper from Edward's hand, but he pulled it back before I could grab it. Placing it on the table, he ran his hand across the page in a reverent manner.

"No, Isabella," he said in a quiet voice. "It's not bad at all. In fact, this is one of the most intense pieces of poetry I have read. Your descriptions are visceral, gripping…" His voice trailed off, and his hand brushed the page again, almost as if he was caressing my words.

Although I would never admit it, I fucking loved English class, particularly classic literature. I was a closet Austen and Bronte fan. But I especially loved Shakespeare, the tormented characters that he created and the pictures that he painted with his highly descriptive words. I had taken this assignment quite seriously, wanting to capture the true essence of the Shakespearean sonnet. I had written about unrequited love. Not that I really knew what that felt like, but I had closed my eyes and imagined. I had a vivid fucking imagination.

Even though I appreciated Edward's praise, surprisingly, I was not comfortable with it. So I deferred the attention by raising my questions about his poem. As soon as I mentioned my concerns, he snatched the paper out of my hand and re-read his own work. He plunged a hand into his messy hair and furrowed his brow as he worked his way through the troubled section. Eventually he huffed in frustration and dropped the paper onto the table next to mine. He raised his eyes to me with a pained expression.

"How can I fix it?"

I had the strange feeling that Edward had never asked for help from anyone before. That it was me that he turned to for help made me smile.

~ February ~

More time had passed, and our morning study routine was now something upon which Edward and I both seemed to rely. Which was why, on that particular Thursday morning, I was pacing nervously in my bedroom. We had been out of school all week after a blizzard had dumped two feet of snow the previous weekend, cutting electricity and blocking every major roadway. Life in Forks had been put on hold.

I usually loved the snow and relished missed school days. But for some reason, absence from school at this particular juncture made me feel really fucking unsettled. I had talked to Jess, Lauren, and Mike every day on the phone, but I still felt as if something was missing. When I had awoken at five o'clock that morning, it finally dawned on me what that something was: my morning session with Edward. I frowned as the realization sank in. When had Edward become that fucking important to me? When had he surpassed my friends and my boyfriend to become the one person to whom I needed to talk?

Despite the fact that we didn't acknowledge one another outside of our study sessions, we had become increasingly personal in our topics of conversation over the past few months. Everything had changed the day that he had asked me for help with his sonnet. It had taken me about three seconds to suggest the changes that improved his poem, and he had been surprised, then impressed, by my corrections. The next week, he had thanked me for my help, and then asked about my plans for the holidays. That first personal conversation had opened the floodgates for both of us.

I hadn't realized how much I didn't tell my friends until I started talking to Edward. In a weird way, it was easier to talk to him about difficult topics, maybe because we were not really friends. I bitched about my superficial friends and about how I wanted more out of life than anyone expected of me; college—most likely a degree in English literature—maybe even grad school. In turn, he talked about how difficult the move to Forks had been for him, how his younger sister drove him nuts, and how he, too, felt that he lacked depth in his personal friendships.

Just last week, I had complained about Mike and how he cared more about football than me. That had spurred an interesting, yet disquieting, conversation.

"Why are you with him, then?" Edward asked, a confused look on his face.

"Everyone expects us to be together." I shrugged. "You know, the cheerleader and the captain of the football team…" My voice trailed off. It wasn't really an answer, but it was the only one I had. I didn't really know why I was with Mike.

He frowned. "That's not a good reason, Isabella."

He still insisted upon using my given name, and I still liked the way it sounded when it rolled off his tongue.

"I know," I stated with another small shrug. "But it's the only reason I've got right now."

None of my other friends had asked that particular question during the two years that Mike and I had been dating. Yet, somehow in less than five minutes, Edward managed to get to the heart of the matter. It made me quite uncomfortable. So I turned the question around on him.

"What about you? Any girlfriends?"

This time he just shrugged at me. "Nah."

I frowned. "Why not?" I was genuinely curious. He really was a nice guy.

An odd expression was on his face. "Look at me, Isabella."

I was looking, and I didn't know what he meant. I continued to stare into his eyes, which I noticed—for the first time—were the most startling shade of green. I frowned when I realized the beauty that his horrendous glasses were hiding. Involuntarily, I reached out to remove them. His hand fluttered to mine and defensively retrieved the glasses. He looked flustered as he shoved them back onto his nose.

"Have you ever considered wearing contacts?" I blurted out.

"No. Why?" he asked warily.

"Your eyes… they're quite striking. I don't think I've ever seen any so green before," I mused, more to myself than to him. But his cheeks flushed nonetheless. His eyes really were beautiful. Too bad he hid them behind those awful glasses.

Edward looked away from me and in a somewhat bitter voice, stated, "What you see is what you get, Bella."

I didn't like the way my shortened moniker sounded coming from him. I immediately corrected him.

"Isabella."

"What?" he asked, confused.

I looked down and quietly admitted, "I like it when you call me Isabella."

I heard the smile in his voice when he corrected himself. "Isabella…"

I closed my eyes and sighed at the feeling of contentment that I derived from the now-familiar sound of my name delivered in his melodic, velvet voice.

"Much better." But then I opened my eyes to look questioningly at him. "You never answered my initial question."

His smile faded. "Look at me, Isabella," he commanded once again.

This time, I took a mental step back and really studied his appearance. I was startled to realize that in the past four months, I had somehow learned to overlook the ill-fitting clothes and out-of-date styles. Yes, they really were atrocious, but the heart of the young man sitting in front of me had overwhelmed those negative attributes in my mind for so long that I had forgotten about them. I frowned. It was what was inside that mattered, right?

But his next comment snapped me back to reality.

"This is what I am. I won't change that for anyone. I need to be accepted for me." He looked accusingly at me and asked in an angry voice, "Could you accept someone as your boyfriend who looked like this?" His hand moved to encompass his outward appearance.

I cringed at the thought. I didn't mean to, and I thought that I had covered it quickly enough, but his small, sad smile told me that he registered that shit. I was disappointed. Disappointed in myself. Disappointed that I was as superficial as the friends about whom I complained.

"That's what I thought," he stated in quietly accepting voice.

We hadn't spoken since.

Now I was pacing, desperately needing to reconnect with the friend that I hadn't even realized I missed. I halted on my next pass across my room when I glanced at my desk and saw a square of paper peeking out from under a stack of books. I reached tentatively for that small scrap and felt my heart begin to race when I registered that it was the note from Mr. Varner. Edward's cell phone number.

I looked to the clock on my nightstand. It was six-thirty. On any other Thursday morning, Edward and I would have been studying for thirty minutes by now. Taking a chance that he would be up, I grabbed my phone and quickly dialed the number before I could change my mind. I felt my anxiety disappear when he answered the phone on the second ring, almost as if he was expecting my call.

"Good morning, Isabella."

It was the same greeting that he used every morning when we studied together, part of our early morning routine. I sighed in contentment.

~ March ~

The first week in March brought the final basketball game of the season. I was cheering, and when Edward stood to play the trumpet solo in what I now referred to as 'his' song, I couldn't help but watch him. Even though it was just the pep band playing a recognizable tune, I was still impressed with his musical acuity; he somehow turned a cheesy band solo into something special. Once again, I missed a cheer, causing my friends to laugh at me. I hated that shit.

And again, Jessica didn't let my slip slide. She pounced after the game.

"So, Bella… Still stuck on Edward Cullen, huh?" she asked slyly.

"What?" I asked. Then I registered the look on her face. "NO!"

Lauren chimed in. "Oh c'mon, Bella. You missed a cheer. Again. The only time you've ever missed a cheer was the last time that Edward played his stupid little solo. You sure you don't have something else going on with him besides studying?"

This line of questioning made me uncomfortable. Maybe because in my heart, I knew that more than just studying was going on during our early morning sessions. I wasn't cheating on Mike, but the time I spent with Edward was more important to me than I wanted to admit. For some reason it bothered me that my friends might pick up on that.

So, I vehemently denied her accusation.

"Hell, no!"

Mike looked at me with a speculative frown. As his eyes flickered to the hallway behind me, his frown morphed into an evil smirk. He reached out to trace my cheek with a finger while speaking loudly.

"Yeah, baby. Should I be worried about all the time you spend with that geek in the mornings? You're not paying him in trade, are you? Not that I'm concerned, really. I mean, what does he have that I don't?" His hand gestured to encompass his physique.

Appalled and insulted by Mike's suggestion, I denied the question for the third time. "Jesus, Mike! What the fuck are you guys going on about? Edward is my tutor. That's all. Why the hell would I have any interest in someone like him?"

Mike's satisfied snicker haunted me just like the crowing rooster must have haunted Peter in the recollection of Christ's last night in the Bible. As soon as that sadistic sound grated across my skin, I knew that I had fucked up. Badly. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end, and when I slowly turned around, I was unsurprised to find Edward standing in the hall behind me. The look on his face assured me that he had heard what I just said.

Once again I was disappointed; disappointed in myself for falling into the trap that my so-called friends had set for me. In the process, I had hurt the one person who had never disappointed me.

* * * * *

The following Tuesday morning, I slunk remorsefully into our deserted classroom. I was quite relieved to find Edward sitting stiffly in his usual chair. But relief changed to chagrin when he stiffened even further as I took my usual spot on his right. He did not greet me.

"I'm sorry," I said sadly.

He just nodded, and we got to work. But he didn't relax, and the atmosphere between us was stilted in a way that it had never been before. After a few minutes, I heard him sigh. When I looked up, he was studying me intently.

"Why do you let him treat you like that?" he asked quietly.

I knew what he was asking, and my back straightened defensively. I had wondered the same thing frequently over the past few days. I had come to the realization that in the past few months I had softened somehow. I had forgotten that no one fucked with Isabella Swan. Mike's offensive insinuations on Friday night had been more than just a slap to the face. They had been an insult to my entire character. Not to mention Edward's character.

When I finally answered, my words were harsh, determined. "I don't. Not anymore."

He looked confused.

"I broke up with Mike over the weekend," I clarified.

Understanding washed across his face, and his stance relaxed slightly. We didn't discuss it any further.

Slowly over time, we reestablished our tenuous friendship. But it was never quite the same as before, and I always knew it.

~ April ~

I had never dreaded spring break the way I did this year. After I broke up with Mike, Jess and Lauren began avoiding me, claiming that I was crazy. I had been uninvited from our long-planned spring break trip to Los Angeles to visit Lauren's cousin. They had left on Saturday morning without me.

It was the middle of the week, and I was home with nothing to do. Charlie was at work, and Renee was at the library 'researching' her next novel. I was once again pacing my bedroom, full of nervous energy. Just like the last time, my eyes fell on the scrap of paper that remained on my desk. I snatched it up and stared at the digits penned there. But this time, I didn't place a call. Instead, I performed a white pages search.

The Cullens' address popped up on my screen a few seconds later. I was surprised that they lived in our neighborhood—the way that Edward dressed, I hadn't figured his family to be very well-off. I was also relieved; it made my idea much easier to implement. I quickly donned a pair of jeans and an over-sized, zip-up hoodie. I threw my hair into a messy ponytail, and before I could consider my actions, I darted out of our house and through the neighbor's yard.

I emerged one street over and began walking towards the Cullens' house. It was a large, two-story contemporary structure four doors down on the left. I approached the house uncertainly, realizing that I had no idea what to say. Or if anyone was even home. Edward's family wasn't traveling over spring break, but I hadn't asked what his plans were. As I stood…conflicted…on the front porch, I heard piano music playing inside the house. I smiled and reached out to knock.

The door opened a moment later, the music amplified in the open foyer. I was briefly lost in the beauty of the music and didn't register the small woman who was standing there, looking at me curiously.

"Can I help you?" she finally asked.

The question snapped me back to reality. I wondered if Edward's mother would even know who I was. Since I had not told my parents any specifics, I assumed that he would behave the same.

"Um… Hi…Yeah…"

This wasn't going well. I groaned, then took a deep breath and started over.

"I'm Isabella Swan." I used my given name, just like Edward did. When that didn't seem to spark any recognition, I continued, "Edward has been tutoring me…"

Realization dawned in her eyes, and she nodded in welcome. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Isabella. Come in, honey. Edward is practicing right now, but I'm sure he won't mind…" Her voice trailed off as she gestured across the foyer at a closed door.

Though I crossed the foyer quickly, I was hesitant to enter. However, the draw to see him was too powerful. After taking a deep breath, I silently pushed the door open and stepped into the room. I remained in the doorway, not wanting to disturb Edward. The music was hauntingly beautiful, and he transitioned seamlessly from one piece to another. Some I recognized, others I didn't. I have no idea how long I stood there in awe, but eventually the music faded.

Without turning, he addressed me. "Hello, Isabella."

I found it strangely reassuring that Edward was as aware of me as I was of him.

"Hi," I responded quietly.

Without turning, he patted the bench, inviting me to sit next to him. I crossed the room slowly and lowered myself to the seat. He once again began coaxing music from the instrument. I was entranced by the way his elegant fingers danced across the ivory keys. Sitting next to Edward, swaying slightly with his body, and listening to his beautiful music was one of the most sensual experiences of my life. When he finally stopped again, I turned to him.

"I don't recognize that last piece you were playing."

I might have been mistaken, but it appeared as if his cheeks flushed slightly. He ducked his head and admitted, "It's just something I'm working on for my composition class."

"Oh," I replied. "Well, it's beautiful. What is it?"

This time I did not mistake the flush that colored his cheeks. I assumed it was in response to my praise.

"I guess it's a lullaby, of sorts…"

Edward played the piece again, this time changing it slightly. I just stared at his hands, imagining what it would feel like to have them touching me so reverently. My breath caught at the thought, and the air suddenly felt thick. As if sensing my mood, Edward changed the tempo of the music, and what had previously been sweetly up-beat morphed into something sensual. Without conscious thought, my hand reached out to brush against his. They crashed to the keys in a cacophony of startled sound.

"Isabella…" His voice was rough, full with desire.

I looked back up to find him staring intently at me. Sitting this close, I could see each fleck of color in his emerald irises. My tongue darted out to run across my lower lip. His eyes followed that small motion and I saw their color begin to darken, turning dark jade. He lifted one of his hands to brush a finger across my lower lip. My breath caught again.

"I'm going to kiss you now…" His statement was questioning; he was giving me the opportunity to stop him. But I couldn't. And even if I could, I didn't want to. I nodded and reached up to remove his glasses. This time, he didn't try to stop me.

Suddenly, our mouths were crushed together. I didn't know who made the first move. All I knew was that his lips were pressed firmly against mine and his hand was in my hair, holding my head steady. I dropped his glasses on the piano and lifted my own hands to funnel through his hair. It was soft and silky, and it slid through my fingers easily, which surprised me considering that it always looked like a total mess. I opened my mouth and tentatively touched my tongue to his bottom lip. He groaned and plunged his tongue into my mouth. I moaned in response.

Somehow, while we were kissing, Edward twisted me around so that I was straddling his lap. The new position allowed deeper tongue penetration and better alignment of our bodies. I shifted my hips in an attempt to get closer and gasped when the evidence of his arousal pressed hotly against the juncture of my thighs. I sucked his tongue deeper into my mouth and tilted my hips into his again, searching for the friction that my body so desperately desired. His guttural groan spurred me on, and I found myself grinding roughly against him, tugging on his hair, and kissing him like there was no tomorrow.

In mere seconds, my body was on fire, the tell-tale tingles building low in my abdomen. I was panting raggedly. I had never reached the point of release this quickly before, especially not with all my clothes still on.

"Edwaaard…" I drew his name out in a strained voice. "I think… Ungh… Yes… I'm gonna—"

He cut me off. "Look at me, Isabella."

My eyes snapped open and my lower body throbbed when he spoke my name. As soon as our eyes met, my body shattered in an explosion of sensation. I gripped his hair tightly as I pressed my hips into his. A strangled curse escaped my lips before I could contain it.

"Oh, God… Fuck!"

He grunted in response, and his hands tightened on my hips. Several thrusting motions and one more guttural groan later, he tensed against me.

We continued to stare at each other as our bodies came down. After a few moments, I released his hair from my death-grip, and he shifted my hips off his lap and back to the piano bench. He retrieved his glasses and replaced them on his nose. I didn't really know what to say, so I sat silently. Eventually, he broke the silence.

"Well… That was interesting."

The absurdity of the statement in the face of what had just occurred caused me to laugh. He joined in, and suddenly everything was okay again. We sat for a few minutes and then I stood, stretching lightly. He stood as well, a small grimace ghosting across his lips. I chuckled, and his lips twitched into a reluctant smile in response.

"I'll walk you out," he stated.

At the front door I turned to him. "See you on Tuesday?"

His eyes twinkled. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."

I was half-way down the driveway when Edward's voice halted me one final time.

"Isabella?"

I turned to look at him with a questioning quirk of my eyebrows.

"I practice every afternoon between three and five o'clock. Feel free to come anytime you like."

He smiled wickedly and winked at me. My cheeks flushed brightly before I could turn away. His laughter chased me all the way home.

~ July ~

I had been living in a cocoon for the past three months, spending as much time as possible with Edward, messing around with him at every opportunity. Secretly, of course—I couldn't have any of my friends discover our… relationship… if that is what it could be called. But his hands were magical, and I couldn't resist the way they played my body like a well-loved instrument. I was flirting with danger, straddling two completely separate worlds, and I knew it was only a matter of time before something happened to burst my proverbial bubble.

Catastrophe struck on July 14th.

I was at the movies with Jessica when we ran into Alice. I had been spending an increasing amount of time at their house, and it was only natural that she would make reference to that fact. Unfortunately, she happened to mention that shit in front of Jessica, and I had to cut her off harshly. Immediately, I wanted to apologize, but I couldn't with Jess standing there, watching me like a hawk. So I coldly left Alice standing in the lobby with tear-filled eyes.

When my phone rang later that night, I was surprised—and pleased—to see Edward's number. In all of our time together, he had never once called me. But my pleasure was short-lived when his angry voice called me out.

"What the hell, Bella? Why did you do that to Alice? You know she idolizes you. Or she used to…" His voice trailed off, and I was stunned into silence. Edward had never talked to me like this before.

"I'm sorry, Edward," I apologized. "She just caught me off guard today, and I wasn't ready to deal with this in front of Jessica."

"I'm beginning to think that you'll never be ready to deal with this." He sighed. "I've been patient. I haven't pushed you at all because I know this is hard for you. But that is no excuse for how you humiliated Alice today. She deserves better than that."

He paused, and then quietly added, "And so do I."

I whimpered at his words, because I knew he was right. I wasn't being fair to him. I was getting everything that I wanted from our time together, but I had no clue what he wanted from me. My silence said more than any words ever could.

After another sigh, Edward's quietly resolute voice stated, "I don't think we should spend any more time together until you figure out what you want."

I managed to squeak out an affirmative sound.

"Goodbye, Isabella," Edward whispered.

The phone went dead.

~ August ~

The first day of senior year found me waiting in the parking lot at six o'clock. It was Tuesday, and I hoped that Edward would remember our arrangement from the previous year. I had spent the last month considering all of my options. I had quickly come to the conclusion that I missed Edward and cared more about him than any other person in my life. But it had taken quite a bit longer for me to decide that I could overlook what anyone else thought about it. I could have called him and told him what I was thinking at any time, but I needed to come to that decision on my own, without his influence.

Today, I was finally ready.

I was disappointed when he did not arrive early, but I spent the next hour planning what I would say when I finally saw him again. I smiled when "Low Rider" came on the radio. I felt as if it was a sign. Especially since Edward's low-riding car had just pulled into the parking lot.

I turned off my car, grabbed my bag, and began walking in his direction, whistling the upbeat tune. My heart jumped in my chest when he unfolded himself from his car. He had cut his hair since I had seen him last; it was now only slightly mussed, and it looked really nice. His clothes were the same as always, but I ignored that and instead focused on his smiling face.

I hadn't been paying attention to anything other than his physical appearance as I crossed the lot, so I was startled to realize that he had walked to the passenger side and opened the door. My feet halted, and everything moved in slow-motion as he reached down to help someone from the car. My heart stopped when a mildly-attractive brunette got out and kissed him on the cheek. They clasped hands and turned to head into the school.

When I entered my first period English class, I was immediately confronted with Edward Cullen. I paused by his desk on my way across the room.

"Hey," I greeted him.

He looked warily at me, but returned my greeting nonetheless. "Hey."

"So… You and Angela, huh?" I couldn't help but ask.

He looked away. "You saw that?"

"Yeah…"

An awkward silence fell, and I felt compelled to say something.

"She's a lucky girl."

Edward turned back to me, a strange intensity in his eyes. "No, Bella. I'm the lucky one. She chose me."

In that moment, I knew that whatever we had was truly over. It wasn't just the finality in his tone, but his non-use of my given name that informed me irrevocably of my loss. I nodded my head and continued on to my own seat.

The rest of the day was an exercise in fucking torture. Edward was in each of my classes. Angela was in half of them as well, and my bitterness grew as I watched their loving exchanges. When I had finally decided to screw social conventions, it was too late. What hurt most was the knowledge that it was my own fucking fault. If only I had been braver… But I hadn't.

I stormed into the gym at the end of the day, where I took out all of my fucking frustrations on the unsuspecting underclassmen that were trying out for the squad. Jess and Lauren looked shocked at first, but by the end of the afternoon they were once again treating me like we had never been on the outs. I was finally acting normal again.

My temporary little trip to fucking fantasy land was most definitely over.

Isabella was gone.

Bella the Bitch was back.


A/N: I know, I know… This is not the HEA that I'm sure everyone expected from me, especially since I love HEA's. But I really wanted to do something more realistic this time, b/c, let's be honest, life doesn't always have a HEA. There's always a lesson to be learned, and sometimes it does hurt. Besides, how often does the geek get the popular girl? Social conventions really do prevent it--HS kids are just too cruel to see past all that shit; in that reality, appearance is everything.

Just so you know, I have had the unfortunate privilege to experience of both of these aspects in my own personal life: I have been the beauty being chased by the geek who was really nice (I just couldn't get past the exterior) AND the unpopular girl who wanted someone that was out of my reach and was rejected because of my social status (or lack thereof). Both situations really sucked and hurt like hell, so I'm hoping that all of you will understand that reality isn't always pretty.

That's life. And sometimes life sucks.

Reminder: If you like this, please go vote for me after Jan 2! www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/u/2142840/Geekward_Shuffle_Challenge