Chapter 1: Jasper's Girl

Summary: Outtakes & missing moments from I Run to You. If you use a map, that's cheating. The road we traveled to get where we needed to be was never paved with gold. But it was those bumps and the occasional detour along the way that led us down the right path.

x.x.x

Okay, so I swear I haven't given up on Run. I'm working through a fabulous bit of chapter 21 writers block, but I promise it's coming.

So, this is the first in a series of outtakes I have planned for ya'll. There will be some laughs, some angst, and perhaps even some eventual lemons. This first outtake is Bella POV, it just worked better this way. But there are new and exciting POVs ahead (*cough*Emmett*cough*Jasper*cough*)

A massive thanks to Kristina for getting this back to me superhumanly fast and a thank you to you guys as well, for being patient and taking the time to read my work.


Bella.

Maybe it would be more inspiring to say that the first time I laid eyes on Edward Cullen, I knew my life would never be the same. I could say that when our eyes met, the stars aligned, my breath caught in my throat, my hands were sweaty, and my heart started pounding out of control. I could say that I looked into those green, green eyes and just knew he was the one I would love for the rest of my life. I could say that I knew I would love him in a way I'd never experienced before, that I knew I would always love him even after I lost him, and that I knew he would change my life forever. But that would all be a lie, because that's not how it happens. Love stories, generally, are highly romanticized loads of crap.

The only person I knew whose love story resembles a living and breathing fairy tale was my old neighbor in Jacksonville, Mrs. Greene. She enjoyed sharing her account of her first love with me every time I came over to fire up her old, rusted lawnmower and push the vibrating, rattling decrepit machine over the few yards of dry grass she called her lawn at my mother's insistence. After I was done with my exhausting work of running the lawnmower back and forth across her front yard, she'd call me inside and over stale biscuits and weak, room temperature Orange Pekoe tea, she'd talk about her late husband. She married the man of her dreams, Peter Greene, and shortly after impregnating her with their first child he went away to fight in the Second World War. But after hardly a year of serving overseas, he was announced MIA and presumed dead. Until, of course, sometime after the war had ended, he showed up on the doorstep of their home, scarred and battle-weary but very much alive. But even then, I have a hard time believing they truly lived their happily ever after. He'd arrived home to a toddler who'd never laid eyes on his father and a wife who was struggling to let go of her presumed dead husband.

Of course, I'd never express my doubts to Mrs. Greene. I'd simply nod, avoiding the far-away look she got on her face whenever she spoke of her husband, and rolled crumbs of my biscuit between my thumb and index finger until the crumbs were obliterated into a miniature mountain on the antique lace tablecloth.

I was fifteen. I wanted to believe in fairytales. I wanted to believe that one day a tall, dark, handsome stranger would sweep me off my feet and we'd live out one of the greatest love stories known to man.

I knew about love. My mother loved her husband Phil. I loved Jasper, even though I didn't want to marry him.

And Jasper loved his father, even when he was beaten almost to death by his own Louisville Slugger and left bleeding on the beige carpet of his living room floor. Jasper loved his father, even when his father left him to die.

So, to say I had a hard time understanding love was an understatement. How do you love someone that hurts you? How do you hurt someone that loves you? To me, true love was a fairytale in itself, saved for the beautiful blonde leading actress in those cheesy romance movies or the magic of Disney cartoons. I never really bought into that whole "can't eat, can't sleep, reach for the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of love" that Kirstie Alley was trying to sell in that freaky twin movie.

But everything in my life changed the summer I was fifteen. It was the early evening, and one of the first days of summer. All day, birds had been chirping from the branches of the old sycamore trees in our backyard as I helped my mother tend to the flowerbeds. I hadn't heard from Jasper all day, I had assumed he was out with Maria, and when he didn't show up for dinner, I tried not to worry. I told my mom that he'd called earlier and cancelled, even though he hadn't. Because my mom would worry too, even if it were for reasons she didn't understand.

After dinner, I began calling him every half hour to no avail. I tried to convince myself there was nothing to worry about. I tried so hard not to worry. I imagined he was somewhere safe, somewhere with Maria, at the movies or out for dinner or even down at the beach watching the sun set. But all I could really do was wonder what he'd done this time for piss his father off, and hoped that if he'd been locked in his room again for the night that his mother would at least give him some food and water this time.

Then, around ten p.m. my phone rang with a call from a number I didn't recognize. It was Jasper's mom. And she said the words I'd been expecting to hear for years.

"Bella, Jasper's in the hospital," she told me, and I could hear her tears through the phone. "He – he had an accident. And he needs you now."

I raced around the house, dragging Renee and Phil from their bed in a frenzy. The last thing Mrs. Whitlock said to me was, "Please, Bella, tell him I love him."

I rode in the backseat of Phil's sedan while he sped to Jacksonville Memorial with Renee in the passenger seat. And the only emotion I could feel was anger towards Janice Whitlock the entire drive to the hospital. I hated her because she was a coward, and I hated her because she let this happen to her son, because she stayed with a man who resented his family. After that phone call, nobody ever heard from or saw Janice Whitlock again. I don't know if she left in fear of her husband, or if she truly thought she'd witnessed her only son's death, or if she couldn't stay and live with the guilt. The guilt of knowing she could have stopped it. She could have saved him. Either way, she left, and we never saw her again. And I couldn't help but feel that she'd done us all a favor.

That summer, I learnt a thing or two about guilt. Because Jasper's mom wasn't the only other person who know what went on under the roof of the Whitlock house. Jasper had a best friend he had confided in, a best friend he had trusted, a best friend that was too scared and naive to save him.

Every day I wonder how much differently our lives would have been had I had the guts to say something. If I had shared my burden with my parents or a counselor or just… anybody.

And I wondered how much differently my life would have been had Jasper's father succeeded in killing his son.

But Jasper promised me that it didn't matter; the what if's. He would survive, and his father would be locked away for a long time. We would all be safe. He promised me we'd have our happily-ever-after.

It funny, looking back on it, thinking that you get your fairy tale ending at the age of fifteen. But my life had hardly started. And I was nowhere near my happy ending.

When Jasper was released from the hospital ten days later, he rode in the back of Phil's car, straight to my house where the rest of his things from his parent's house were already awaiting him. It's a strange feeling, when the changes around you are too big to even wrap your head around. Changes so big that you can't imagine the axis your life was on realigning itself, and you know your life will never be the same again.

Jasper was going to be living with Phil, Renee and I. My best friend and I would live down the hall from one another. Maybe I would have been more excited had I not seen Jasper lying in that hospital bed; strong, seventeen-year-old Jasper, his face purple and swollen beyond recognition, his eyes bloodshot and in more pain than I'd ever be able to fathom. Maybe I would have been more excited if I hadn't known that the pain he was feeling from his injuries was nothing compared to the pain he was feeling inside. And maybe I would have been more excited had he not told me, through cracked, swollen lips, that he never even tried to fight back.

And as the doctor listed off Jasper's extensive injuries to Renee and Phil, I closed my eyes and tried to hold back the tears. And all I could see was Jasper's strong, resilient face staring down his father, staring him dead in the eye as the very baseball bat which had won Sandalwood High the district championship swung at his body, gripped in the hands of a man he worshipped. All I could see was Jasper refusing to give in. Refusing to counter the violence that was so easily directed at him.

The day that Jasper came home from the hospital, he never spoke a word. Not to me, not to anybody. He walked straight upstairs to his new bedroom and locked the door behind him. He didn't come down for supper that night.

But Jasper healed faster than anyone could have expected, both physically and mentally. It wasn't long before he was helping out around the house like he'd lived there his entire life, and as soon as he was able, he went out and got a job. He had just graduated, but he never spoke of college or moving out and getting his own place. I liked to think it was because, for the first time in his life, he was a part of a family. And despite the hell and the pain and the loss, he was happy.

x.x.x

"Bells!"

"Jazz!" I called back, popping around the passenger door and mimicking his tone with a grin. He jumped slightly and rolled his eyes at me.

"Christ, Bells. I'm getting old you know. You're gonna give me a fucking heart attack."

I stuck my tongue out, gently setting my guitar case in the bed of the truck and waving a distracted goodbye to my mom as I hopped in the passenger seat. "Screw that, old balls. I'm the one that's gonna end up with hearing damage from you yelling at me all the time."

"Only because you refuse to be on time for anything."

"Bella, you take care of that guitar!" my mom called from the front porch and I waved her off.

"I got it, Mom!" I slammed the door closed and the truck rocked from side to side.

I turned to Jasper. "Daaaarlin'," I drawled as I buckled up my seatbelt, mocking his barely-there Texan twang, "The beach ain't going nowhere. Besides, I'm a teenage girl, and I've got teenaged girly things to do."

Jasper snorted in laughter, making a big show of rolling his eyes at me. "Oh, like get your hair all prettied up and doing your makeup?" he gestured to the hastily tied knot of hair at the top of my head.

"You're such an ass." I scrunched up my face, releasing my hair from the elastic and shaking my head, long hair flying everywhere. "Guys love that natural, just rolled outta bed look."

"Says all your boyfriends."

"Ouch." I mock-stabbed a knife in my chest, looking over at him with my best puppy-dog eyes. "You cut me deep, Whitlock. Maybe I'd have more boyfriends if my best friend wasn't such a psycho."

"Uh-huh." Jasper put the truck in drive and lit a cigarette. I narrowed my eyes and made a harrumphing noise at him as he tossed the lighter up on the dash. He glanced at me, his eyes widening in exasperation and he leaned forward, rolling his window down all the way.

"I cannot believe you're smoking in my truck."

He rolled to a halt at the stop sign at the end of our block even though there was never anybody around, and shifted into first and he turned left. He ashed out the window, glancing at me sideways. "I don't think you can call this truck yours when you can't even legally drive it yet," he replied, the cigarette dangling from his lips. "'Sides, the cigarette smoke covers the puke and moth ball smell. There's a reason the guy at the shop was practically begging you to take this heap of rust off his hands."

"It does not smell like puke and moth balls in here."

"Bells…"

"Yeah, well I think you like this pukey moth-ball-reeking heap of rust," I observed with a satisfied smile.

He grimaced, grunting as he tugged the ashtray out from under the dash. "Like is a strong word, Bells."

"Yeah, well it runs. And it's got wheels. And I think you like it."

He glanced over at me, a slight twinkle in his eye. "Maybe I'm just trying to make you jealous?"

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, because you have a truck that you can't even drive for two more months. That must be so hard."

I reached over and slugged him on the shoulder. "I'll be sixteen before you know it, and you'll be begging me for rides."

"Not if I have to pay for gas. It'll probably take us a full tank of gas just to get to Atlantic Beach."

I made a face. "It will not."

He just looked at me, a satisfied smirk on his lips. If he wasn't in just a fragile state, I could have leaned over and strangled the guy. But I knew that nothing made Jasper happier than getting under my skin.

Spending the day at the beach had been my idea. Two days earlier, Jasper had finally broken up with Maria. Even though we didn't discuss it out loud, we all saw it coming. She wanted to move in together and she wanted him to go to school so he could get a good job so he could support her. She never went down to the shop down the road from the high school to visit him on his lunches. She thought mechanics were scum, and I'm pretty sure her father bought her a new car almost every year just so she'd never have to visit one. Maria hated the way Jasper smelled of grease and oil and how his fingernails were always black and dirty. She refused to kiss him or touch him when he had grease smudges on his cheeks. I mean, we all saw it coming. We all knew Jasper could never really be with a girl like that.

And although he didn't seem all that torn up about it, I figured a day of relaxing and playing in the sun couldn't hurt. So far, the summer had been full of drama and angst and everybody tiptoeing around on eggshells, and it felt like finally things between Jasper and I were getting back to normal; back to the way they were before his "accident." The summer was already half over, and all I wanted to do was spend the remaining few weeks enjoying the freedom with my best friend. I'd be starting my junior year in September, and truthfully, I was beginning to feel anxious, knowing that I'd be walking through the blue double-doors of Sandalwood High for the first time without Jasper at my side. It felt like we'd come full circle, back to when I had been in middle school and Jasper went off to high school without me. It was almost scary how much everything had changed, how back then my biggest fear was the cheerleaders that asked my best friend out on dates.

The drive to the beach went by quickly. We rode with the windows down and an old Zeppelin tape jammed in the cassette player. I drummed my fingertips on the faded vinyl of the armrest on the door, glancing at Jasper as he slowed the truck and pulled into the packed parking lot. He winced slightly as he eased the truck between two faded yellow lines and pulled the gearshift into park. I let myself watch him for just a moment as he struggled with the finicky door handle until the driver's door finally opened with a loud groan, and he slipped out from under the steering wheel, landing on the pavement with a slight bounce.

His broken ribs were still healing; the fourteen stitches on his forehead, just behind his hairline had finally been removed last week. The swelling had gone down in his face, his skin only slightly discolored around his right eye, a fading green-yellow bruise. He was going to be fine, aside from the aching in his broken collarbone as the broken bones healed and frequent headaches from the concussion.

Jasper would have even been able to leave the hospital sooner than his ten-day stay, had the doctors not been so concerned about internal bleeding. Every morning the nurses came in and opened his blinds before they checked to see if the bleeding had gotten worse overnight. And every single morning when they opened those blinds, they continued to tell him the same thing, over and over again.

He was lucky.

He told me that every morning he laughed about that. How could someone in his position be considered lucky? His father was going to jail, his mother left him, and he was in an intangible amount of pain. He cried; he tried not to, I knew he tried not to, but sometimes he cried when he knew no one was around but me. But he stopped the same day I leaned down and whispered in his ear, "Jasper, now you're free."

And the same day he stopped crying was also the same day that my parents went to child services and arranged for Jasper to live with us. It was the day that Jasper gained a new mother, a new father, and a new sister. He was getting a second chance, with a new family, and a new life.

"Bella. You coming?"

Jasper leaned against the front of the truck, his arms folded over his chest. He was watching me with a look of amusement on his face as I sat there lost in my thoughts. I shook myself, hopping from the passenger seat and recovering my guitar from the box of the truck.

"Always so impatient," I said, nudging him as I passed.

"Always so slow," he replied as he began following me.

We wandered together down the boardwalk, just Jasper, the Hummingbird, and I. It was late afternoon, families and children were packing up their things and beginning to make their way home after a long day of surf, sun, and sand. Teenagers our age were milling around in groups, girls shrieking at the boys who splashed them with salty ocean water, all in competition with each other – who could get the girls to scream the loudest. Which girl could out screech the rest. Some people we recognized, some we didn't. I greeted a few classmates, awkward teenagers who didn't even feel comfortable in their own skin, all trying to impress one another. I sent a small wave in the direction of Demetri James, a boy who'd been in my Math and Spanish classes last semester as he threw a football with another guy I didn't recognize, being sure to flex his muscles with every throw and catch. I choked back a laugh and glanced sideways at Jasper, and I wondered if it weren't for my best friend, would I be down there, in the skimpiest bikini my allowance could buy, showing off my new-found boobs, exercising my vocal cords with the other girls? But more importantly, should I be down there with the other girls, displaying my new curves and giggling as the boys made fools of themselves? Come September, those girls would be walking through the doors of Sandalwood High with a boy on their arm. And me? I'd have no one.

"I learnt a new song," I told Jasper as we walked.

"Not more Savage Garden," he groaned.

"No," I giggled, "No more Savage Garden. You'll see. You'll like this one, I swear."

He grinned at me, not replying as he lifted his Zippo to the end of his cigarette and inhaled deeply. For the rest of the short walk, we were quiet. Jasper's head was held high with a confidence I would never understand, his sunglasses hiding his eyes, a cigarette on his lips as we dodged people walking in the opposite direction. We followed the boardwalk to the pier, and no words were exchanged as we walked together to the end, the sound of our flip-flops slapping the ground tapping out a steady, comfortable rhythm between the two of us.

I set the guitar case down beside me and lowered myself to the edge, bare feet dangling off the end as I leaned between the bottom and middle rungs of the railing enclosing the pier and looked down at the ocean below me. Jasper stood beside me, leaning against the top railing and smoking his cigarette.

After a few minutes, he spoke.

"Well, let's hear it."

"Huh?"

"The song you swear isn't Savage Garden."

I laughed, swinging my feet around and sitting so I was leaned up against the railing, my back to the ocean. I pulled my guitar from its case and set it gingerly on my lap, strumming it gently at first, bending down to hear the music better, checking that it was in tune. And I knew Jasper was listening even though he was still looking out at the ocean as I began playing Mad Season's River of Deceit. I tried not to pay attention to the people milling about farther down the pier, and when I finished I only looked up to see Jasper grinning down at me.

"Bella, that was awesome."

I grinned shyly. "Yeah?"

"Yeah! How you can cover Staley better than I can, I'll never know. Be careful though, puberty might rob you of that voice."

"Jazz, I'm practically sixteen. Maybe you should have been worrying about that like five years ago."

"Five years ago? Really?" He blinked at me. "Wow, someone was an early bloomer."

"Shut up," I growled, nudging him with my shoulder and laughing. It was then that I looked up and realized that there were people drifting closer, listening to us. Listening to me. Hearing me sing.

"Hey, uh, maybe we should go somewhere else," I mumbled quietly, blushing as I looked down at my guitar.

In my peripheral, I could see Jasper's head pop up at he scanned the pier. "Why?" he asked loudly, oblivious to my plea for discretion.

"Because I don't sing in front of people," I replied, speaking to my fret board.

"You sing in front of me."

"You're only person. Not people."

"What about Renee? And Phil?"

"Family's different."

"You're different."

"What does that even mean?" I asked, struggling against the smile playing at the corners of my lips.

"I don't know," Jasper chuckled. "But… just play one more song. Please. For me?"

I let out a growl of frustration. Of course, I'd already given in. "What song? Oh – wait, let me guess." I looked over at him, "Would it be a Rise Against song, by any chance?" He just grinned, which meant that I was right. He'd been on a major Rise Against kick lately, but hey, it was better than the Weezer phase he went through last fall.

"Swing?"

"Yep."

"All right." I snatched his sunglasses off his face, putting them on my own, the closest things I could find to creating a veil between the people on the pier and myself. I drew in a deep breath and began to play Swing Life Away. And… it wasn't so bad. Actually, once I lost myself in the music, I forgot that people were even there at all. And as soon as I wrapped up Swing Life Away I began playing Layla, another one of Jasper's favorites, and I finally glanced up to see him grinning down at me, and I beamed back at him before turning my attention to the music.

And it was in that moment that I first felt him there. Something changed in the air around me, and I felt a strange energy on my skin. It reminded me of that sensation you get when you hear a new song for the first time – when you feel the music in the air and try and absorb it with every pore, because you know nothing will ever compare to the first time you hear the song. Until you hear it again, and it sends the same shivers through your body. That's when you know you'll be able to listen to that song every day for the rest of your life and you know you'll always feel this way. And that's the way I felt, suddenly, and I couldn't explain why.

I mean, I never even saw him. But I knew he was there and then, suddenly, he was gone. And just like that the air around me tasted bland and the music just didn't sound the same.

Jasper and I sat at the end of that pier until the sun was beginning to dip down below the horizon. I couldn't tell you how many people came and went as I played, or even if anybody was actually listening at all. But I felt accomplished, and Jasper had a wide smile on his face when he picked up my guitar case threw his arm over my shoulders, leading me silently back down the pier.

The beach had that calm, orange glow when we began the walk back to the truck. The crowds had basically diminished, the teenagers that were there when we arrived had moved on. And I walked beside Jasper, and for once, my head was held almost as high as his.

That was the day that I realized the easiest way to make my best friend happy. And I was happy, knowing that I would sing the rest of my life away if it would keep a smile on Jasper's face.

I wasn't really paying attention to the few people on the beach enjoying the sliver of daylight left. I didn't notice the two teenagers left on the empty beach, laughing and shouting as they played a game of catch. I didn't even hear them shouting in alarm in my direction. So I didn't see the football coming at me until it smacked into the side of my head with a dizzying thunk. My vision went black and I stumbled back into Jasper's arms, the earth tilting on its axis before me. I could hear Jasper shouting something, but my head wouldn't make sense of his words.

"-is she okay-"

"-maybe because you hit her in the head with a fucking football!"

"-was an accident-"

"-sorry-"

"-oh, you'll be sorry-"

"Hey!" I finally gasped, shaking my head to try and clear the ringing in my ears. When that only made the spinning worse, I sucked in a deep breath and squeezed my eyes shut even tighter. "You guys – cut it out."

"Bells, are you okay?" It was Jasper at my side. I could feel his hand on my arm, rubbing up and down. Slowly I opened my eyes, the light around me blinding, the ringing noise still in the back of my head. Somehow, I'd ended up on the ground, my head cradled in my hands between my knees.

I mustered up a weak, "I'm fine," and then, "Owww..."

I heard an unfamiliar chuckle from beside me, and I turned my head slightly to see someone else kneeling in the sand on the other side of me. Jasper hissed something under his breath, and the laughter immediately stopped.

"Are you laughing at me?" I groaned, unable to see the humor in the situation.

"No, no," The stranger's voice assured me, and then he began to apologize. "Look, I'm so sorry. I really didn't see you there, and I tried to warn you, it was headed straight for you. I'm so, so sorry. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine," I said, getting a better look at the person next to me. He looked about high school age, and was still shirtless, despite the setting sun. He had the strangest color of hair, almost glowing copper in the orange light, and concerned green eyes were scrutinizing my every move. For a moment, I just kind of blinked stupidly at the guy kneeled beside me. I took in his bronze hair and smooth chest and concerned green, green eyes. And he just kind of stared back at me, looking like he was worried I was concussed after all. Hell, maybe I was.

"Hey," he said suddenly, when my eyes met his, "You're the girl from the pier."

"Buddy, I think you should be a little more concerned by her health than where you recognize her from."

"She said she was fine," the boy snapped at Jasper. "Or do you want to do a quick physical, make sure everything's in working order?"

"Oh, I can assure you, my vagina is doing more than fine at this point." The words slipped from my mouth before I could stop them, and Jasper made a kind of choking noise from beside me, and I felt my own jaw drop open in horror. I froze, the throbbing in my skull suddenly felt like a minor paper cut compared to my utter mortification.

Who knew that a football to the head damages the filter between your brain and your mouth? My mouth opened and closed, opened and closed, as I tried to mentally backpedal, as I tried to think of something to say to make this all go away.

If it hadn't been for Jasper's reaction, and my sluggish processing skills, maybe I would have been smart enough to play the entire comment off. I could have turned to Jasper, winked cheesily, or perhaps even nudged him with my shoulder, something, anything to imply that the comment had been directed toward him and not the boy with the green eyes. But instead, I sat there, frozen in humiliation, and for a moment I felt like I was watching my own demise through somebody else's eyes.

And then, boy with the strange hair and green eyes just stared at me for a moment before he burst out laughing, doubled over in the sand, his face in his hands.

"Please tell me you just said that out loud," he gasped.

Finally, I was able to speak in a hurried whisper. "OhmygodI'msosorry."

"No—" he choked, still laughing into his fists. "No, fuck. That has to be the most… awesome thing anyone has said to me since I got here."

"No…" I said, burying my face back in my hands, willing it all to just disappear. I hoped I was still out cold from the blow to the head and was just imagining this horror show. "I think… I think a football to the head damages the filter between your brain and your mouth," I said, vocalizing my earlier thoughts and pretty much proving my point.

Somehow, this only made him laugh harder.

And then I began to wonder what universe this dude was from.

"Dude! How did you manage to miss that? Is everything okay over – Bella? Jasper? Whoa, you okay?" I looked over my shoulder to see Demetri approaching us, his hand shielding his eyes from the glare of the low sun.

"Dem? What the hell?" I groaned, beginning to brush the sand off my shorts and trying to ignore the howling laughter still coming from beside me.

"Sorry, Bella. I swear I didn't see you guys there. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," I muttered, "Jesus, did you throw that?"

"Yeah, look-"

"So is this is how you pick up chicks these days?"

Demetri laughed. "Still haven't lost that beautiful sense of humor, I see. Yeah, Bella, and now you give Edward your number."

So the stranger had a name. I turned to the guy still kneeling in the sand beside me. He was still chuckling, those green eyes trained on me. "Next time you want someone's number, try not to knock them out first," I advised.

Edward grinned. "Maybe I didn't want your number. Maybe I just wanted to drag you back to my hut and have my way with you."

"Wow, a man after my own heart." I rolled my eyes.

"Bella, come on, let's get you home." It seemed that Jasper had found his voice again, and was gently tugging on my arm, trying to urge me in the opposite direction from this deranged lunatic sitting in the sand.

I got to my feet, swaying slightly as my head took a moment to adjust to the movements. Jasper wrapped his hand firmly around my arm, and picked up my guitar case in the other.

"We'll see you in a couple weeks, Bella," Demetri called after me, "Maybe we'll have Spanish together again. I can help you cheat some more."

"Screw off," I yelled over my shoulder, but I was laughing, and the throbbing in my head was suddenly less noticeable.

"Bye, Bella!" A second voice called. "We should really do this again sometime."

I stopped in my tracks, turning around and staring at him. "Who are you?" I asked watching as he ran a hand through his messy hair, his mouth lifted in a half-smirk as he watched me.

"Since you won't give me your number, I guess you're just going to have to wait and see, won't you?"

I laughed. "Whatever." I looped my arm through Jasper's and we began strolling back towards the truck. I cast one last look over my shoulder at that strange, beautiful boy and had to wonder if I'd ever see him again.

x.x.x

I really didn't think I'd see Football Boy again. But to be honest, I spent a lot of time over those last few weeks of summer thinking about him. At one point, I contemplated excuses for dropping by Dem's house, just at the off chance that he might be there. I had no idea who the guy was – I didn't recognize him from around school, so my best guess was that he was a relative of Dem's, visiting for the summer. And with each day that passed, I felt like my window of opportunity to ever see him again was narrowing. Until, eventually, we were in the backyard, barbequing for Labor Day, and I realized I'd missed my chance. Summer was coming to a close, and I was sure he'd be gone. And I still didn't understand why I was so disappointed.

But the next day, as I walked towards the high school to start my first official day as a junior, I tried to keep my spirits high. I was tired of thinking about the guy from the beach and wondering who he was and where he was from. I'd never put that much thought into a guy before, ever. And I was tired of questioning just why in the hell I cared so much. I was ready to move on. I'd spent the last few weeks dreaming of a boy I'd never see again, but now it was time to pull my head out of the clouds and join the real world once again. So you can imagine my surprise when I sat down in first period biology and pulled out my brand new notebook and none other than Football Boy himself plopped himself down beside me.

I blinked at him, trying to mask my surprise, and trying to covertly pinch my leg to be sure I wasn't dreaming. Because it wouldn't be the first time I saw those emerald eyes behind my closed eyes.

I watched him drop his heavy textbook on the desk and turn to me, his arm held out. "I think you owe me one."

"Huh?"

He smiled, his eyes crinkling around the edges. "You know, even the playing field. Go ahead, punch me."

I gaped at him as I realized what he was getting at. "I'm not going to punch you."

"Why not?" he asked, shrugging nonchalantly.

I gently pushed his arm away. "Because… I think it would only count if you were completely unsuspecting and I tried to knock you the eff out."

He raised his eyebrows, grinning as he leaned down and pulled a notebook and a pen from his bag on the floor. "To be fair, it wasn't on purpose."

"We were the only two people on that beach – that's a pretty big coincidence."

"Yeah, well I didn't throw it. I was just trying to catch it."

I raised an eyebrow. "You're not on the football team, are you?'

"With a catch like mine?" he grabbed his chest in mock flattery. "No, of course not." He looked over at me, his lips lifted into a mischievous grin.

I shook my head and watched him for a moment as he flipped to a clean page in his notebook and pulled the cap off his pen. I let myself admire his profile, trailing down his square jaw, his straight nose, resting on his pouty bottom lip he had jutted out ever so slightly as his pen scratched away at the paper. My hazy memory of him a few weeks ago simply hadn't done him justice. The guy was just kind of… beautiful.

"What are you doing?" I asked, knowing I was being nosy but not caring.

He looked over at me and shrugged.

I sighed. Ooookay then.

Facing the front of the room, I began fidgeting with the coil of my own notebook on the desk in front of me. My hands shook and I took a deep breath and tried to convince myself to play it cool. I mean, so the guy I hadn't been able to get out of my head for the past two weeks was suddenly sitting no more than a foot from me. So what? If I moved my arm ever so slightly, we'd probably bump elbows. Big deal. I'd made an ass of myself in front of him and now couldn't get him out of my mind. That kind of stuff happens all the time.

He let out a long breath, interrupting my internal rambling. I ran my fingers up and down the coil of my notebook as I waited to see if he would speak.

"So…" he said, his voice hesitant, "what's the deal with that dude you were at the beach with?"

My hand halted his movements and I looked over at him, surprised. "What do you mean?"

"Well… Dem said you guys weren't dating, but-"

I cut him off, laughing. "Me and Jasper? Yeah, we're totally in love." I rolled my eyes, picking up my pen and tapping it lightly on the cover of my notebook. I tried not to think about the fact that he cared enough about the relationship between Jasper and I to even ask. And I tried not to wonder why he cared so much, anyway.

"So are you new here or something?" I asked, watching as more classmates filed through the door, the room buzzing as old friends greeted each other after a long summer apart. I could see people glancing over at Edward, but nobody came over to talk to him, which made me believe that either he was very good at blending in or he was new. And Edward just didn't seem like the kind of guy who could just blend in.

"Yeah," he answered absently. "Is it that obvious?"

"No. Well…" I laughed. "Kind of."

He nodded, then looked over at me, suddenly serious. "You're not, like, terrible at biology, are you? I kind of need to get good marks in this class, and if you're just gonna be bringing me down…" his voice trailed off and it took me a second to recognize the teasing in his tone.

"You need to get good marks in bio? What, do you want to grow up to be a doctor or something?"

"Maybe, yeah."

His serious tone made me regret my sarcasm. And I watched him for a second, and I realized that the more time I spent talking to Edward, the less I knew about him. And the more I wanted to.

"Well, I'm never going to be a doctor. But if I fail this class – I'm blaming you, you know. I think that football might have caused some serious damage."

He snorted in laughter, dropping his pen and ripping a page from his notebook. "Don't worry, I won't let you fail. I'll tutor you every night if I have to."

"Interesting…" I said, pretending to ponder it. "But I think if you really want to make it up to me, you'll do my homework. For a month."

"Hah! Yeah right. I offered you revenge, and you turned me down."

"Well, it just wasn't my type of redemption. Homework for a month, and we're even," I bit my lip, raising my eyebrows innocently.

Edward rolled his eyes. "How about a week?"

"One week and you let me copy your notes after class. I think my hand is still a little sore from when I fell, too…" I let my voice trail off, rolling my wrist and fake wincing to exemplify my point.

Edward leaned back in his chair, laughing quietly. "You're really going to milk this for all you can, aren't you?"

"You hit me in the head with a football!"

He glanced down, laughing to himself before looking back up, his intense green eyes meeting mine. He smirked at me, his eyebrows raised, "Fine. One week, and you get to copy my notes. But you let me take you out, first."

I couldn't help the gleeful grin that spread across my face even if I tried. "How do I know you won't just club me and drag me back to your hut?"

Edward tilted his head toward me, his mouth lifting in a half smile. His eyes met mine, and I watched him, my heart pounding against my ribs and creating an entirely new world of sensations.

"I guess you'll just have to trust me," he said softly, his hand sliding a folded up piece of paper along the desks until it was sitting right in front of me. He turned his attention to the front as Mr. Banner walked in the room and called the class to order. With a pounding heart, I glanced at Edward, who was suddenly a little too fascinated by the taking of attendance. I slowly unfolded the paper, and stared at it for a moment, not blinking.

Bella,

"Let's make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane."

P.S. I played varsity. And I never miss.

I leaned back in my chair, staring at Edward's elegant cursive. Half of me wanted to laugh, and half of me wanted to cry. Because he'd understood the music and he'd heard my song. And that feeling I'd felt for the brief moment while I'd been singing at the pier suddenly made sense, because it was happening all over again right now. Ever since he'd sat down beside me, ever since I'd met him on the beach. And I knew that this was the song I'd be able to play on repeat and never tire of it.

And for the first time ever, I began to hope that Mrs. Greene's fairy tale romance really had been like she'd told me, because even though I didn't want to admit it, I was beginning to hope for a little magic of my own.

I glanced at Edward from the corner of my eye to find him watching me, his eyes hopeful and unsure. When I smiled he smiled and it took too long for either of us to look away, and that's the moment when I knew that nothing would ever be the same.

x.x.x


Thanks for reading, guys! Hope everybody is having a fabulous summer. That lyric in the note is from Eric Clapton's Layla just so I don't send anyone on a mad Googling spree :)

Oh, and before anyone hunts me down for this - he didn't mean to hit her in the head. He just wanted to get her attention. And we all know how Bella is such a "danger magnet".

If anyone has any ideas or requests for outtakes, send 'em my way! You just never know what could happen :)