Hey there, campers. Welcome to Osa Bella. This work is a response to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, which she created and owns. Meaning, I don't own any of it. Oh, how I wish I did. But I don't. The world and all its characters are her intellectual property.
The Wrong Foot
I was running, as usual without looking, because I was almost not late, and I thought it would be nice to not be late on the first day of school. It would probably be the only day that term I'd be on time, if I could move fast enough. But as I reached for the car door handle I was assaulted by a powerful, hot stench coming from the ground, or rather, coming from an enormous pile of shit. I had just stomped my new green wedge right into its creamy center.
"That must be one hell of a big dog," I thought, running back to the house to change shoes. There was no way I was going to be on time now. I was never on time. For anything.
I should have gotten up earlier. I swallowed some of the coffee from my travel mug. Too weak as usual, because I suck at making coffee, but there was no one there to make it for me anymore and hadn't been for five years. I was already thinking what a bad idea it had been to let happy hour last until one in the morning, even if it had been the last night of summer break.
In the school parking lot I darted my way through groups of kids, some animated, some withdrawn, wandering into the building. There was no sun, but there is almost never sun in Forks, a fact I'd learned to live with since moving there four years before.
Forks High School was nothing like the sprawling suburban high I'd come from in New Jersey, but I liked that about it. I knew all the kids and their parents by first name, ran into them often in town. While sometimes it felt claustrophobic, something about being called out to at the post office and drug store by locals blunted the edge of my loneliness. On most days it was a comfort, but I never admitted this. I guarded my cynicism closely, a souvenir from Jersey I wouldn't relinquish any time soon, along with my unnatural attachment to the word 'fuck.'
I rushed through the crowded halls to the office.
"Welcome back, Miss Swan!" My favorite senior, Mike Newton called across the hall where he stood against a row of lockers chatting up his girlfriend, Jessica Stanley. I waved at them as I rushed to the main office to check in. Other assorted calls of "Hey Miss Swan!" greeted me and I waved in their general direction, unable to contain the smile on my face. It was nice to be around kids again.
I was known among the staff at Forks High as the teen whisperer. I was the school psychologist, but I was no great therapist, and in fact I had been written up no less than seven or maybe thirteen times since working there. That was for being inappropriate, saying the wrong thing, saying too much, or just pissing off the wrong parent with my directness. But there was one thing I did better than anyone else there: kids talked to me. Drug involved kids, mathletes, prom queens, no matter how sullen, brooding, flippant, jaded or dejected, they would all talk to me. I imagine it was because I'd never forgotten how much it sucks to be their age. Sort of a curse, really, but it came in handy on the job.
I walked into the office to see Mrs. Cope, the head school secretary, shaking her head at me. Nothing unusual there. "You're late, Miss Swan," she said.
"Well good morning to you too, Doreen," I said.
"Miss Swan, I need you in my office," Principal Colter called from the door of his office, the one in the corner with all the windows that you get when after fourteen years as a math teacher and four as Vice Principal you finally get to run the place. He was an old friend of my father's, which was the reason I got, and probably still had, the job of school counselor at Forks High.
"Sorry Red," I said, stepping inside. There was no point in making excuses. He knew me well enough by now.
"Listen, we have some new students starting today I want you to meet. Really strange situation." He sat down behind the big wooden desk and handed me a file. "The Cullens are a new family in district. Moved down from Alaska over the summer. Carlisle Cullen is the father and he's the new director of the Emergency Room at Forks General. He and his wife have five kids, but they're all adopted out of foster care."
"A couple of philanthropists," I said. "Or are they creepy—like the psychos who hoard cats?"
"It's definitely unusual," he said. "You'll see when you meet the kids."
"So they're not going to blend real well, you're saying."
"Blend? Bella, these kids will fit in here like Lamborghinis on a used car lot."
"I'll call them down first period."
"No need. They're waiting in the conference room."
I grabbed my coffee and crossed the hall but I hesitated, strangely anxious. I peered in the conference room window for just a second before opening the door. There sat the Cullens, five of them, anyway, but all of them strangely beautiful and eerie, like ghosts in broad daylight.
Three boys and two girls sat perfectly still and quiet around the conference table with serene smiles save one, who sat slightly off from the other four, looking tragically bored. He was definitely my type of kid. The one I knew I would eventually reach, no matter how gruesome his tale. His kind always broke for me.
They looked like models, not teenagers, though they certainly looked young. No pimples. No bad hair. No awkward fitting jeans on the girls or excessive hair gel on the guys. Red was right. They were like Lamborghinis on a lot full of used Toyotas, Subarus, and Fords.
"Hi, I'm Miss Swan, the school counselor," I said, taking a seat. The four more subdued Cullens told me their names were Alice, Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper. The emo one looked up and quietly said, "Edward."
"Hi, Edward." I nodded, trying to break through the icy chill his voice cast on the room.
"Nice to meet all of you." I tried to sound welcoming. "I just wanted to introduce myself in case there's anything you need as you're getting used to this place. I know coming to a new school can be difficult."
Alice smiled at me, but then a weird expression flashed across her face, like she'd just remembered something urgent. Then the same thing happened to Edward, and he turned to Alice as though he might start an argument, but he just shook his head at her. She rolled her eyes as Edward turned to look at me again, like he was sizing me up. I felt myself go hot with embarrassment, though I could not begin to untangle the threads of silent communication that were happening in the room. I felt compelled to acknowledge it in some way, to ask if everything was all right, but instead I said nothing as his disturbed stare held me. I surveyed the other Cullens, who exchanged amused looks as I floundered for what else, exactly, I wanted to say to them.
"So… " I began, but then Edward stood up abruptly, his chair scraping against the floor.
"Excuse me," he said. "I'm not feeling well today." He glared at Alice, who shook her head dismissively.
"Do you need to see the nurse?" I asked.
"I just need to get to class." He walked to the door and accidentally brushed my arm as he squeezed between my chair and the wall in that too small room.
"Excuse me," I said and pulled my chair in, feeling a strange head rush just as our bodies met in that awkward way. I kept my expression blank as he left.
"I'll go check on him," Emmett said to Alice.
"He's fine, Emmett," she said, and then to me, "Really. He's just nervous. First day jitters kind of thing."
"I'll go make sure," Emmett said and left.
"I can see you all look out for each other," I said. Rosalie gave me a clear "no shit," look, and then shoved her chair back and let out a bored sigh.
"My office is right down the hall here," I said. "Door's always open."
I was wary of the Cullens after that, but Red pestered me to keep an eye on them so I tried from a distance. At the end of the week I asked Edward's biology teacher, Derek Banner, how he appeared during class.
"Cullen kid? He seems ok," Derek said. "Quiet. "
"He hasn't seemed upset to you?"
"He does sit alone. He's the only kid without a lab partner this term. None of the other kids seem willing to go near him."
"Interesting," I gave my patented answer. Though I did find it quite interesting. Kids can be counted on to sniff out abnormal like a k-9 can find weed at a Phish concert. They just know weird when they see it. So I knew something about Edward was off for Forks High, but other than exceedingly good looking and rich, I didn't know what.
"Yeah, kids," Derek said with a dismissive shrug. "Did you see the staff assignments for the senior hike?"
"No." I'd forgotten all about the new "student bonding" program we were implementing for the seniors.
"You and I have L-P together. Should be a decent group." He was clearly enthusiastic.
"Yeah, stop by my classroom later and we'll talk gear."
Derek was a recently single guy about seven years older than me, and he wasn't a bad looking guy. He was bald, but kept his head shaved hardcore style and he worked out so he had a great body. Not terribly tall, but taller than me. We had always been friendly and that was all, though sometimes I'd wonder about him in that 'I'll bet he's not too bad in bed' kind of way. Probably a generous type with lots of mediocre foreplay and embarrassing pet names. I bet he even brought you tea when it's over. Derek had been named teacher of the year four times, but then there wasn't a lot of competition at Forks High. There are nice things about small ponds, I suppose.
Back in my office, I looked out the window as fifth period gym walked out onto the soccer field, Coach Clapp bellowing directions behind them. Some of the jock boys dribbled soccer balls around the perimeter while the girls lagged behind, clearly enjoying the parade of nimble young male bodies. Then suddenly the girls towards the back of the pack stopped to watch as two other girls came catapulting across the field.
Alice and Rosalie Cullen. It had to be, because as far as I knew we had no returning Olympic gymnasts this year.
I opened my window and heard Alice and Rosalie laughing as they tumbled effortlessly across the expanse of the soccer field. Their movement was unreal, like pixies flitting over a field of wildflowers. Coach Clapp stood staring, whistle dropped from his parted lips. The other kids watched them, confused as they frantically grouped themselves like a pack of frightened deer, hovering at the sideline.
Alice turned several cartwheels and then launched easily into three back flips. Rosalie answered her with a running flip, landing effortlessly on her feet. She dusted her hands off on her shorts and hollered at the class, "What? You've never seen a cartwheel before?"
Then she ran up to one of the guys and stole a soccer ball from him. The boy stood and stared at her, slack jawed as she gracefully whisked past him. Alice ran across the field—god damn they were fast—and caught Rosalie, stealing the soccer ball from her. The scene suddenly turned normal again as the rest of the class broke free from its stunned transfixion and began to dribble soccer balls tentatively around the field. Coach Clapp resumed shouting his directives, almost like it had never happened.
I wanted a closer look and apparently I was not the only one. As I walked out of the building, I noticed all the young faces at classroom windows. Emmett and Edward were staring from a window in Senora Carmen's class, in some animated exchange, though I could not tell if they were laughing or arguing.
Coach Clapp lined the kids up for a series of shots on goal. None of the kids would go anywhere near the Cullen girls, who had volunteered to goalie. Alice noticed me and waved. I waved tentatively back to her.
"What the hell was that?" Red hissed at me, stalking onto the soccer field.
"I guess they're athletic," I said. "And clearly, they like attention."
"Perfect," he was annoyed. "Bella, these kids make me nervous."
"Come on, Red. Don't jump to conclusions." My advice was empty.
Red walked over to where Clapp stood, arms crossed, surveying his students as they kicked soccer balls at Alice and Rosalie, who easily blocked every shot. It was like the rest of us were in slow motion.
A high pitched scream broke from a group of three girls hanging out in the corner of the field. They ran over to Coach Clapp and he blew his whistle in three short blasts and then waved the kids in, like a lifeguard on a closing beach. The other kids, seeing whatever it was that scared the girls, broke into a run. Some were laughing, and some were clearly afraid.
"Inside, now!" Clapp yelled.
Red shouted, "Everybody walk. Remain calm!" Most of the girls were scampering towards the building anyway, with the exception of Jessica Stanley, who was acting very cool and sauntering back to the building with some of the guys laughing whatever it was off. But Rosalie and Alice walked towards the woods.
"You two girls!" Clapp called to them. "Get your butts over here now!"
Then I saw it, coming to the edge of the treeline. A black bear, about the size of a large man, maybe the size I'd imagine a nice burly lumberjack to be. I found this strangely delightful. I'd never seen a bear that close before outside of a zoo. I walked over to Clapp to get a better look.
Rosalie looked back in our direction, annoyed, but she didn't move. Then she said something to Alice and took a lunging step towards the bear. She made a face that I couldn't quite see, but it almost looked as though she was baring her teeth. Alice laughed and tugged playfully at Rosalie's arm, pulling her in the direction of the building.
The bear turned and took off into the woods.
In the parking lot after school I saw the Cullens arguing. Rosalie was laughing, Alice was biting her lower lip—was it to keep from smiling? The boy Cullens were bickering in low voices, Edward shaking his head angrily, Jasper throwing his hands up in the air. Emmet put his arm around Rosalie protectively as she gave Edward a sneer.
I felt like a voyeur as I sat in the front seat of my car and stared, hoping no one would notice me gawking behind the windshield.
Edward shook his head, as though he'd had enough of whatever conversation they were having. He opened the car door, but just as he was getting in he looked in my direction and our eyes met for a moment, one staggering moment that felt painfully long and devoid of common decency. I crossed my arms in front of my chest and tightened my jaw defensively as his eyes held mine in place. And though I knew it would have been better to casually smile or wave or simply look away, I found I could not. Instead I held his eyes with my own, thinking perhaps I'd find something there that would answer the question that hung between us. Who the hell did this kid think he was, staring at me like that?
Then he let it go and got in the car. I felt strangely triumphant I had not been the first to look away.