Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to SMeyer
A/N: Beta'd by WriteOnTime. I thank her for her patience with this monster of a one-shot and making it the best it could be.
This was written for Valentine's Day earlier this year, so no worries, I'm not cheating on Elemental. This was my Valentine for readers who are interested in my stories and to five other ladies who also wrote under Cupid's Little Ficsters- Ciaobella27, LittleSecret84, Spanglemaker9, The_Glory_Days, and WriteOnTime.
Today was that day.
Not the day, but that day.
You know the one that comes every year, where people get really sappy, buying flowers and candies and dressing in pink or red to go to dances that are decorated with bare-assed, winged babies carrying a deadly weapon?
Yeah, that one.
The week leading up to the day was always mayhem. Every time I turned a corner in the hallways of my high school, there was another added feature of something pink or red and heart-shaped on the walls. Usually, they were filled with reminders to the student population that there was a dance held in honor of that day and they should buy their tickets so they could spend the evening with "someone special".
Personally, I ignored these signs as I didn't give a flying fuck getting all dolled up and making a fool of myself in front of the school. Who cared if I had a "special someone" or not? I wasn't much for PDA to begin with, so why announce to the world my dating status? Or at least, who I was desperate enough to grab at the last minute, to drag to the dance to act like I mattered socially, and be willing to give head to in the backseat of their car as a way of saying 'thank you for being my date', like Lauren Mallory did every year?
It was all showboating, and I left that shit up to the Pops, aka the In-crowd, like Alice Brandon and her Romeo, Jasper Whitlock. This was their kind of thing, as it gave us mere mortals all a reminder of how in love they were and what we could never possibly achieve in our lifetimes.
So, the plan for that day?
My usual: no pink, no red, no flowers, no hearts, no candy, no displays of desperation, zilch, nada, nothing.
Get in, get out, and be grateful if I could avoid all of that lovely-dovey nonsense for the next twenty-four hours.
So I made sure to take extra care to dress appropriately for school. Black cargo pants, black tee, black cardigan and a pair of boots that screamed "don't mess with me or I will end up somewhere in the vicinity of your ass".
Making my way downstairs, I caught Dad just before he left for work.
"Morning, Bells. Happy Val-"
"Don't! You know better!" I stopped him with a raised hand before he could finish that thought.
"Sorry, Bells. I forgot," Dad said sheepishly, before he turned serious. "Just have a good day today and stay out of trouble. I don't want a repeat of last year."
Ah, last year…
That was some of my best work. Apparently, the decorating committee over-spent their budget and had to put up signs that said "Happy V Day" for the occasion. Naturally, I felt that I could help them out, as I was artistic. So, I spent about an hour writing the remaining letters behind the "V" and wished everyone a Happy Venereal Disease Day across the school. Unfortunately, the committee and the principal didn't see it as a nice gesture, even though it proved to be accurate for one of the students later that evening.
I ended up being suspended from the dance and school for two days. Oh dear…
"Bells?" Dad pushed with his warning tone.
"I'll behave, don't worry."
"Thank you," he said, relieved, coming over to kiss me goodbye on the forehead.
"I'll be a little late tonight. Call me if there's a problem," he said, as he walked out the door.
"Bye, Dad," I called after him.
Having to be at school in the next ten minutes, I grabbed my backpack and a cinnamon pop-tart and called out to Mom that I was leaving, before running out the door.
The sound of a honking horn from across the street made me look up to see Alice Brandon pulling out of her boyfriend's parent's driveway. Both she and Jasper wore identical cheery smiles as they waved at me before taking off down the street towards the school.
After all these years, they still did that shit whenever they saw me in the morning…and, after all these years, as soon as the cliques became more pronounced when we hit our early teens, I gave them my standard return greeting. The middle finger.
It was meant as a compliment. Usually I just ignored anyone who spoke to me…or growled at them.
Moving over to my truck, trying to juggle my heavy bag, breakfast and keys, I didn't notice the green envelope and small bouquet of irises stuck in the door handle until I was almost right on top of them. I stopped short, dropping my bag to the ground, and stared in disbelief for a second.
What the Hell?
I glanced around first to see if this was a practical joke, searching for the hidden camera or someone hiding behind one of the trees.
Tentatively, I reached over and opened the light green envelope to reveal a folded piece of paper in the same color. Taking the paper out, I found a bold scroll in black ink across the paper with three words that sent a chill down my spine:
Bella, be mine.
I quickly dropped the paper like it was a poisonous snake, and looked around one last time to see if I was being watched.
Dear God, who would do something this stupid? Didn't I have people trained by this point NOT to do something like this? Didn't they know that I would retaliate in some form if I found out who it did it?
Peeking at my watch, I saw that I had about five minutes to get to school. I couldn't stand around and wait for whoever did it to show up to see my reaction. Opening the door, I threw the flowers and note to the floorboard of the passenger side and got in hurriedly.
Thankfully, my truck started right up without coughing out like it did on most cold mornings. The drive felt as though it took mere seconds, as all I could think about was who was suicidal enough to give me flowers and a note asking for me to be theirs.
Was it the joke- I mean jock- Mike Newton? He had been asking me to every dance since I hit puberty and started to fill out my shirt. Mike was the main contender for pulling something like this. For some reason the words "No, I don't want to go to a dance with you, ever!" had no effect on him whatsoever. He just kept coming back and asking me as soon as the next dance was announced. Except, I didn't think he would know that my favorite flower was the iris or even know how to write as gracefully as the handwriting in the note.
Still, don't write him off just yet. He could have grown a brain cell between the Winter Formal this past Christmas and now.
The parking lot was almost full as I pulled into my usual spot. The majority of my fellow inmates were already inside, as it was close to the first bell. I hastily grabbed my bag, and on second thought, grabbed the note as well. I would see if I could sneak a look at a few students' handwriting during classes, to see if I could find a match.
As I hit the front doors of the school, I noticed a few people stop and point at me. I would get this reaction every so often, but this was different. Some of them started to follow me to my locker, which was giving me the creeps. It's not like I was wearing anything out of the ordinary, they were used to my dressing like I was in mourning on a regular basis.
So why were these people following me? I felt like some kind of Pied Piper.
Just keep your cool, Swan. We can do this.
"Hey Bella!" yelled out the teasing voice of Emmett McCarty, Captain of the Football Team, as I turned the corner into the hallway where my locker was located.
A large crowd of people were standing in the area of my locker, blocking my view of it, but from their reactions, something was happening, and I was certain that I wasn't going to like it.
"Why didn't you say that you had an admirer, Bella?" Emmett continued to tease me, loud enough for everyone in the hall to hear…and maybe the next county over, too.
What? Did the same person who left me the note and flowers on my car do something to my locker?
Looking into the faces of everyone standing nearby, I saw amusement and morbid curiosity. As I moved closer, bodies started parting like the Red Sea had parted for Moses. At last I was able to get a look at what held everyone's attention.
My locker was covered in a lavender colored paper with the words "Bella, be mine" painted in a darker purple. At the bottom, sitting in a vase, was another bouquet of Irises.
"So, Bella," Emmett threw his arm around my shoulder and moved his fist up to his mouth, holding a pretend microphone. "Tell us who your sweetheart is. Enquiring minds want to know," he asked in his best interviewer's voice, pushing his imaginary microphone towards me.
The people around me outright laughed or snickered.
I gave Emmett my best death glare for bringing more attention to the situation. His smile faltered slightly as he noticed that I wasn't even remotely amused. He straightened his position when he saw that I wasn't going to play along and gave me a slight pat on my back.
"I was just joking with you, Bella," he sounded apologetic.
I ignored him and went to work to remove the message from my locker door. As I stuffed it inside, I could hear the snickering and whispering continue behind me. This was embarrassing.
I was so going to hurt the motherfucker who put me in this position of public humiliation.
The first bell sounded, and I could hear the scattering of people around me as they made their way to first period. I was still pushing the offending message into my locker with my fists, unable to look at the faces of those around me.
I looked down and saw that I still had to do something about the vase of flowers. It would serve the fucker right if I just threw these puppies away, but that small voice of resistance inside me stayed my hands from heaving the whole thing into the garbage can standing a few feet away.
They were absolutely beautiful and probably very expensive.
Which is a clue, Swan.
There are a few possibilities of who could afford to do something this extravagant.
Mike Newton, Emmett McCarty, Tyler Crowley…Edward Cullen?
Don't go there.
No, seriously, don't even think about Edward Cullen as a supposed admirer leaving you love notes and flowers. Edward was above us mere mortals in looks, talent and opportunity. Too bad that he was a bit of an ass, otherwise he was perfection in everything he that he did.
…and I wasn't.
I was average in looks, height and my studies. The only thing I really had going for me was my artistic talent. It had enabled me to win a scholarship to an art college in New York in the fall.
The second bell sounded, officially telling me that I was late for my first class. I put the flowers into my locker as well and shut the door. I would decide what to do with them later.
I ran down the nearly empty hallways to my first class, and practically ripped the door off its hinges in my rush to get inside the classroom. I knew that I was already in trouble, but if I tried to get to my seat quickly, I might not have to serve detention.
Thankfully, Mr. Weston was facing the chalkboard writing a few math problems as I entered.
I was trying to quietly make it to my seat, except the snickering started again.
"Miss Swan," Mr. Weston's nasally, condescending voiced boomed from behind me, quieting all noise in the room.
I froze in my tracks, two steps away from my desk.
Fuck a duck.
I pivoted around on my heel to face the front. Mr. Weston had his arms crossed over his chest, looking down the length of his narrow, beak-like nose at me. His little beady eyes twinkled with mirth as he was about to play his favorite game of "torture the student".
"Miss Swan, why are you late?" He asked with a twisted smile to his lips.
I refused to show fear, even though I knew that I needed to do well in this class to pass senior year. I would not go gentle into that good night.
"She has a boyfriend…" someone replied.
The room burst into laughter.
Damn, I was not going to come out of this unscathed.
"Silence!" Mr. Weston yelled, never removing his rodent eyes from my direction.
I stood still, waiting for my punishment.
"Miss Swan, since you seem to enjoy using school time for your personal activities, maybe I'll use your time for school activities. Report to the gym after school for an hour detention," his voice started out sounding civil but then dropped to a low demand with a hint of perverse pleasure, leaving no room for adjustment.
I just nodded my head in acceptance and settled into my seat. Mr. Weston turned back to the board and barked out the order for us to turn to the next chapter in our book and start reading quietly. The room was silent for the next few minutes except for the sound of flipping pages.
Looking over to my right, I saw that Jasper Whitlock was staring me down, trying to get my attention.
I cocked an eyebrow in return, with my game face in place just in case he wanted some info out of me about this secret admirer business.
He threw a note onto my desk, which I quickly grabbed and shoved under my book.
I didn't need another detention on top of the one I already received. Cautiously, I read the note and was a little surprised by the contents.
Your Admirer feels bad about getting you into trouble.
What the hell?
Glancing back up at Jasper, I found that his attention was fixed on Mr. Weston's notes on the board, and he refused to look at me when I tried to get his attention.
I scribbled a few words on the sheet of paper, asking who this admirer is, and threw it back onto Jasper's desk when the teacher had his back to us once again. I watched as Jasper read the note and then stuffed it into his jacket pocket without even a fleeting look my way.
As soon as class ended, I stopped Jasper to ask him in a hushed voice who this person was who was leaving me the notes and flowers.
"Sorry, Bella. I can't tell you that. Just know that he is sincere and really does want you to be his Val-"
I cut him off, before he dared use that terrible word with me.
"Well, why don't we try it this way. You tell this guy to stop this shit now and I'll let him keep his balls," I said, accentuating the last few words with my finger pushing into Jasper's chest.
Jasper looked a little pale and placed his textbook in front of his crotch, nodding his head in agreement.
"Good boy," I told him with a wink and left him to go to my next class.
I came off my high quickly, as the finger pointing, whispers and snickers were back in full force. This time, some of those whispers were loud enough for me to hear.
"Who'd want her? Look at what she's wearing!" This coming from a group of junior girls, wearing tiny skirts and lots of make-up on their faces.
"Ooooh, Bella, be mine," mocked a member of the basketball team with his equally lame friends flanking his sides, cheering him on to get more lewd.
I didn't give any of them my attention as I kept moving down the hallway to my next class. I kept my game face on and let it brush off me. Half of these buffoons would be stuck going to the dance tonight with someone they had to bribe.
Walking into my next class, I saw that the students were crowded around some of the desks in the back corner of the room…where mine was situated.
"Bella!" I saw and heard my good friend, Angela, yell with a waving hand from the center of the crowd.
The mass of bodies parted, and I saw what I was dreading; another bouquet of flowers with a green note card attached.
"Angela, did you see who did this?" I asked her quietly, moving the large bouquet off my desk and setting it on the floor.
"Some freshman dropped them off about a minute ago, saying they were for you."
"Do you know which freshman?" I asked, hoping I could corner the kid and make him talk…with scare tactics if necessary.
"Nah, just some blond kid that looked like he was going to piss himself by just talking to a senior," Angela replied.
"Soo…Bella. Who's this guy?" Angela's voice hinted that she was just as curious as the rest of the school about who the mystery admirer was.
"I have no idea. I'm still waiting for this all to be a joke," I told her honestly.
"That's one pricy joke," she said, nodding her head to the flowers next to me.
"What does the note say?" Angela asked, leaning forward towards me in her chair.
I opened it and saw the same beautiful penmanship from the previous two notes and the same message of asking me to be his.
"Wow, I wish Ben would do something like this for me," Angela gushed.
"I've already received two bouquets of flowers, do you want these?" I asked.
"Really?" Her eyes brightened.
"Sure, take them," I said and pushed the flowers over to her desk. At least Angela was happy about them.
The second bell rang, prompting me to face the front for our lesson to start. Fifty-five minutes and various, somewhat-hushed remarks about my secret admirer later, I was ready to leave school altogether.
Was this going to be an all-day thing?
Angela rubbed my shoulder as we part ways outside the door to go to our next class. I was afraid to walk into my next class, wondering what would be waiting for me there, except I didn't get that far. Right before I turned the corner into the next hallway, I could hear people's voices raised in excitement.
I stopped abruptly as I reached the corner and came close to running the other way. Three large purple banners were attached to the concrete rafters. Each one held one word.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jasper standing with Alice. I furiously walked over to him and demanded to know why these shenanigans were still happening when I asked him to pass along a message to this secret stalker to stop.
Jasper seemed a little fearful of me as he held up his hands in surrender. "I'm sorry! He's determined to do this!"
"Who?" I practically shouted.
I looked over at Alice who gave me a tentative smile. "He put a lot of thought in to trying to get your attention, and he really does want to be with you," she offered.
"Is it going to get worse?" I pressed.
"What do you mean by worse?" Jasper asked.
"Please tell me this is the end of it. This is really annoying me and this person is going to die, painfully, if I see one more thing like this," I said, waving my hand at the banners as I gritted out the last few words.
"Well, uh…" Jasper started, but a beautiful masculine voice called out his and Alice's names from behind me, stopping Jasper from answering my question, not to mention freezing me in place.
"Edward, hey!" Alice said with a smile, looking over my shoulder.
"Hi Bella," I heard softly, directly behind me, but I couldn't bring myself to turn around and face him.
If I did, I would be blinded by all his gloriousness. I was already stunned by the sound of his voice, just to look him in the eye might turn me into stone or something like that.
I turned my head to the side, catching a glimpse of a dark grey coat over a green shirt. As well as a whiff of his cologne.
He smelled so good…
I gave him a nod of my head in acknowledgement, and left the group without another word to enter my next class. I took my seat in the back and prepared myself for the coming class, trying to occupy my hands so I didn't think about Edward Cullen…or the fact that I just made an ass out of myself in front of him.
I could never seem to talk to him ever since we hit our teens and he grew into his Adonis status. It was like I became aware of him in a completely different way. I was freaked out by what I was feeling at first, but it took a conversation with my Mom to realize that I had a crush on Edward.
She thought it was cute since she and Esme Cullen, Edward's mother, were good friends. Edward and I had grown up playing in the same play groups, attended many of the same birthday parties, and the like.
Then our first day of freshman year of high school, Edward stopped being the scrawny, messy-haired kid who I ran around and made mud pies with, and grew into a handsome, strong-jawed young man. I wasn't the only one to notice his transformation. Most of the female population of Forks High School noticed it, too.
I had walked over to meet Edward by his locker the first day, excited to see him after the three-month break. He had been out of town to visit his grandparents in Chicago and to attend baseball camp.
It was hard not being able to talk to him during our break. I spent a lot of my time with Angela, and occasionally with Jasper across the street, but he had mostly been interested in talking about Alice Brandon. It was a series of awkward conversations.
When I finally got to his locker, he was surrounded by a four of the prettiest girls in our class. All of them were openly flirting with him, with coy smiles and delicate touches on his forearms. I could only see the back of Edward's tall frame, but with the slight turn of his head in the direction of one of the girls, his expression showed that he was enjoying the attention.
I stopped a few feet away, feeling strangely angry, sad, and nauseous all at the same time. I didn't like the girls swarming around him like bees to honey, but I was even more upset at how Edward was responding to these girls. They were same ones who wouldn't even give him the time of day last year.
He had closed his locker door and turned to face a blonde to his right. I got a better look at him and saw the change in his appearance. He had lost a lot of the baby fat and had a more chiseled jaw. His hair was slightly tamed with some styling product and he filled out his shirt nicely.
Edward had turned into the most handsome boy I had ever laid eyes on in my life.
I stood there for a few more minutes, unable to speak from the shock of Edward's change and his flirtatious behavior with the girls at his side.
Very pretty girls.
Very pretty girls who are not you.
I turned and made my way to first period, feeling like I got hit by a truck and left as road kill. Why was I feeling this way about Edward? He and I were buddies.
That day was a blur until lunchtime, when I realized that I was going to be expected to eat with Edward in the cafeteria along with our other friends. What would happen at lunch? Would there be dozens of pretty girls surrounding him, and he would just ignore me?
I couldn't hide, could I? Jasper and Angela would notice if I wasn't there. Maybe I could just slip over to the library or one of the girl's bathrooms.
Instead, like the masochist that I am, I went to lunch and had my worst fears confirmed. Edward was sitting at a table with a few of the girls from this morning, plus a couple of the more popular students like Emmett McCarty and Tyler Crowley. Jasper was also sitting with them at the end of the table, talking to Alice Brandon. Both seemed to be in a world of their own.
Angela was waving from one of the tables to the side, sitting with Ben Chaney and Rosalie Hale, who seemed to still need to wear her bifocals and full head-gear for her braces from last year. I joined them and tried to eat my lunch, but I was just feeling too sick, as I took small peeks over at Edward to see him having the time of his life being the center of attention.
I noticed Rosalie looking over at them as well and sighing. Rose had a crush on Emmett, but knew that he didn't see her as anything other than the nerdy girl with braces and glasses.
When lunch ended, I went to my next class and took my usual favorite seat near the far wall with windows. The classroom started to fill. Jasper walked in and sat with Alice near the middle, in the back. He threw me a smile in greeting as Alice gave me a small wave. Both went back to their flirting shortly after, and were oblivious to anything else.
As I turned toward the front of the room again, Edward walked into the room and spotted me. He gave me a big smile, and I swear that I turned into an absolute puddle of mush. He started to walk my way, but another voice called out to get his attention from the other side of the room.
We both looked over in the direction the voice came from, and saw that it was one of the girls from lunch- Victoria, I think. I quickly looked back at Edward to see his smile widen, and it felt like my chest collapsed. He gave me a quick glance and then went to go sit with Victoria.
If I thought that I felt sick before, I felt even more so now. Edward had reached another level of the school hierarchy, and I was still near the bottom. I spend the rest of my day just trying to make it through without giving in to some public crying fit.
As soon as the bell rang, I made it over to bus which took me home, and somehow got off at the right stop. I barely remembered Jasper waving goodbye to me as I crossed the street to enter my house. Mom called out cheerfully to me from the kitchen, asking how I liked my first day of high school.
I wordlessly went up to my room and closed the door. Throwing myself onto my bed, I gave in to my confused emotions and cried. Sometime later, Mom came in to see if I was alright. She wouldn't leave me until I said what was wrong.
Taking a seat on the bed beside me, Mom handed me a couple of tissues to blow my nose and wipe my face. She waited until I settled down, and gently started to ask me questions.
"Did you get into a fight?" she asked.
"No, not really. Edward…" I stopped, not sure how to explain to her that Edward now preferred the more popular people and pretty girls.
"Edward didn't talk to me today. He was hanging with some of the more popular kids and pretty girls. He was having a good time with them," I told her, still sniffling and hiccupping.
"Oh, I see," she said, as she cuddled me to her side.
"You see what?" I asked, not sure what she was talking about.
"You were a little jealous that he was paying attention to the other people. Bella, how do you feel about Edward?" Mom asked me cautiously.
"Edward is my friend." I said.
"I know that, but why was it different today? Why weren't you happy to see him happy?"
"Well, he…um…he looked better. Like, really better," I tried to explain, but it wasn't coming out right. Should I tell her that I thought he looked handsome?
"Really better?" She teased.
"Yeah, really better," I whispered.
"Do you think that maybe you might have a crush on Edward? That maybe you want to think of him as more than a friend?"
I was sure that I was bright red as I could feel my cheeks warming. I didn't want to talk about boys with my Mom. Especially Edward, as I knew that Mom would call Esme to tell her everything that I said.
"I don't know," I told her, trying to avoid telling her that she was right.
We sat in silence for awhile longer, as Mom just held me and rubbed my back. She didn't push me to talk about my feelings further.
Looking back, I think she knew that I was embarrassed to be feeling that way over Edward. I don't know if she ever told Esme or not, as Mrs. Cullen never hinted that she knew that I had a crush on her son when I ran into her. I was grateful that I had one less person to worry about knowing my secret.
After that day, I started to ignore Edward. It was the only way that I could deal with this change between us. Edward tried to get our group of friends together to go out for pizza and a movie night. I begged off, saying that I didn't feel well. I had heard from Angela that our group had expanded to include some of Edward's more popular friends, including girls. I would have been extremely uncomfortable.
The week before Halloween at school, I heard his voice behind me, talking to Emmett about which girls they were taking to the dance next week. Edward had been pretty steady with Victoria, and Emmett was looking to take Lauren. My gut clenched just hearing him say those words.
"Hey, Bella!" my depressive thoughts were broken by Edward's voice as I felt an arm wrap around my shoulder. I took a lungful of his scent and felt my knees go weak. Not only did his looks make me giddy, but now his smell did as well. I was a pathetic mess.
"So, do you think I can borrow your notes from yesterday's class?" he begged sweetly.
I looked up into his face to see him give me an exaggerated pout and puppy dog eyes. I was dazzled, and had to take a minute to remember to breathe. I looked away, pretending to find my crumbling book cover the most fascinating thing ever, as I picked at one of the torn edges.
"Um," was all that I could manage.
"So, can I borrow them?" Edward asked me again, giving me a bit of a one-armed hug.
"Didn't you take notes?" I asked quietly. This was the first real conversation we had had since last June, just before he left for Chicago.
"Well, I was talking with Victoria. She was asking me about what dress she should wear to the dance, and how she wants to see me wearing a matching tie or something for it…" he talked on with a definite smile in his voice. He must have really like Victoria, and it hurt that he still saw me as just a buddy, one that he seemed to think of as someone who would be available to give him things when he needed them.
Was that all I was good for now?
"Um, Edward," I said, but he pleaded with me.
"Come on, Bella. I'll be your best friend. I can run over to the copy machine in the library and give them back to you at lunch, or maybe right before class. I promised Victoria that I would eat with her today to go over a few more things for the dance next week."
That was the turning point in my friendship with Edward. It was the death-knell that announced we would never be the same again, as he had embraced his popularity to the point at which it was clear our friendship now played second fiddle.
I squirmed out from under Edward's arm and faced him, but still couldn't look him in the eye. He would entrap me with his looks and smile and would do everything to get me to give in to him.
"No," I said firmly, looking at the books in his right hand.
"No?" He questioned.
"No," I reiterated, and took a small peek up at his befuddled expression.
"Why not? You wouldn't leave a friend hanging, would you?" he asked, using a different and even more impossibly charming tone of his voice.
Did he think I was going to let him hypnotize me into saying yes? If I keep my eyes adverted, then I might escape it.
"Friends? Are we still that, Edward?" I asked softy.
"What are you talking about, of course we are!" He said, sounding a little frustrated.
"You know that this is the first time we've had a conversation since the beginning of summer?"
"I'm sorry, Bella. I've just been busy. I plan to play sports this year, and things are going pretty well with Victoria."
It was a half-assed apology if I ever heard one, and it was just what I needed to push me into action.
"I don't think we should be friends anymore, if you are that busy. In fact, let's just not talk to each other ever again," I told him.
"Bella, you're being ridiculous," Edward laughed.
Edward laughed at me.
Seeing bright red and feeling the accumulation of all my pent-up hurt, I looked up at him and yelled "Cullen, you're such a self-centered asshole!"
I didn't bother to wait for a reply, I just walked away, and I kept walking away every time he tried to approach me. I was unimpressed that his make-over included a personality transplant. It didn't help that I found him to be really attractive, nor stop me from watching him as he achieved high school fame and glory in sports and academics over the next four years.
As for his dating life, I also kept tabs on that as well. I know- sick.
He had dated Victoria all through freshman year. Over the summer, they broke up as she left him for some juvenile delinquent named James. Edward then moved on to Jessica until Christmas, and then switched to Kate for the rest of the sophomore year. During junior year, he dated a Russian exchange student named Tanya. The beginning of senior year was the first time that I didn't see him with anyone. That didn't mean he was without female attention. His looks became more striking with each passing year and more girls seemed to be willing to do anything to be with him.
I watched all this as I sat at my table with Angela and Rose during lunch, and in the various classes Edward and I had together over the years.
In a few months, I would probably never see him again when I moved to New York for college.
Maybe that's a good thing, Swan.
"Bella!" Angela called to me as I left my last class before lunch. I couldn't tell you what I'd done for the last few hours. Luckily, it was free of notes and flowers or banners hanging from the ceiling.
Angela came running over with her books pressed to her chest and the flowers I gave her during second period under her arm, looking excited.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Did you get anything else from the Secret Admirer?"
"Uh, just some banners hanging from the ceiling, but no more notes or flowers," I reported.
"That's good, right?" She asked, cautiously.
"Yeah, it's good. At least the whispers have died down, too," I said.
We made our way slowly to the cafeteria, continuing with a different vein of conversation. Both of us made fun of how much pink and red were all over the walls, along with posters announcing the dance at seven this evening.
When we entered the cafeteria, the noise level was twice its normal volume. Both of us turned our heads automatically to see what the fuss was about, and I froze in shock, again.
Sitting on top of the table where I ate lunch was another large bouquet of flowers. All irises again, but it was twice the size of the bouquets I had received before. Next to it was a bakery box with a purple ribbon.
"Oh fuckity-fuck," I murmured, scared to go near the table.
"Um, Bella," I heard Angela ask beside me.
"What?" I was still focused on the flowers.
"Um, everyone is watching you," she said nervously, which snapped me out of my trance.
I turned away from the table and saw that everyone in the room was indeed looking at me. Almost everyone was quiet except for a few people, leaning over and whispering to each other; pointing at me and laughing.
This person, or admirer, or stalker, or whatever-the-fuck he was, was seriously pissing me off to no end for dragging this unwanted attention on me.
"Come on, let's just get this over with," I said, pulling Angela with me.
Rose was already at the table with her tray of food, trying to ignore everyone's attention.
"Hi Rose," I said, as I sat down next to her.
She looked up at me with relief. "Hi Bella, it looks like someone really likes you," she respomded with her trademark friendly smile.
"Yeah, it does. Did you happen to see who left these here?" I asked calmly. No need to bite Rose's head off because of this.
"No, they were here when I arrived," she said, but reached out and touched the flowers reverently.
I looked at the bakery box and saw another note at the top. I opened it and found the same words written elegantly across the paper.
Bella, be mine.
I opened up the box with a gold sticker on top announcing that they were from my favorite bakery in Port Angeles. Inside there were three perfect vanilla cupcakes with lavender icing and the words "Be Mine" written on each of them.
I gasped in pleasure, but quickly tried to hide it. They were my favorite cupcakes.
"Ooh! Your favorites!" Angela squealed a little loudly next to me as she peered into the box.
I looked up to see if anyone was watching, and made eye contact with a familiar pair of beautiful forest green eyes, watching me intently. Stunned, I looked back down, nervous that my face gave away too much of what I was feeling.
"Bella, what's wrong? You're bright red," Rose whispered.
"Um, just…um, I…do you want a cupcake?" My voice cracked a little.
"Yes, thank you," Rose replied with a smile.
I gave one cupcake to Rose and the other to Angela. Taking the first bite was pure, sweet-baked heaven.
"Ha! Bella you're moaning," Angela giggled.
"Shut up!" I said with a mouthful of cupcake, but knew that I must have a goofy look on my face.
"So this admirer thing can't be so bad if he sends you your favorite cupcakes," Rose commented.
"Maybe not so bad," I murmured, enjoying my treat.
Maybe I would be merciful and kill the asshat quickly instead of slowing letting him know of my displeasure over a long period of time, like I was planning.
"I think some of the Pops are jealous of all your attention, Bella," Rose said, jerking her head slightly at their table.
Lauren and Jessica were whispering and looking at me. By the expression of their faces, they looked extremely jealous.
Oh well, no goodies for them. It sucks to be an easy skank, doesn't it, girls?
Glancing over at a few of the other people they were sitting with, I noticed that Edward and Emmett were talking very heatedly over something, pointing in my direction, but they both stopped and looked over at me the moment they sensed me watching them.
Emmett gave me a quick glance and then looked over at Rose. His face showed that he was nervous, but about what? I looked to Edward to see what he was thinking, only to find his eyes already on me with a curious expression, like he was waiting for something from me.
I quickly looked away, too embarrassed that I got caught watching him, and turned to Rose, to see her finishing the last of her cupcake.
A light bulb went off in my head. Did Emmett like Rose?
Rose was no longer had to wear the full head-gear, but still had to wear her retainer every day. However, her glasses were still blocking the majority of her face, and she wore big bulky sweatshirts which covered her like a shield. Like me, she had never gone to one of the dances over our years at this school.
In Rose's case, I think people were afraid of her brain and that she was capable and self-sufficient. She was the complete opposite of girls like Jessica and Lauren, who constantly needed to put themselves out there with guys in any way possible. Rose was never anything but herself.
"What are you thinking, Bella?" She asked me softly, watching me in return. I didn't realize that I had been staring at her as I was lost in my thoughts.
"Sorry, Rose." I shook my head and gave her a smile. "I was just thinking."
"Okay, do you want to tell me about it?"
"Emmett was looking at you a moment ago, rather nervously. Did you threaten him?" I asked jokingly.
Rose had the opposite reaction than I expected. She turned the same color as her name as she bowed her head towards the table, trying to hide herself.
"Rose, do you still like Emmett?" I asked quietly.
"That's silly, he's out of my league. Besides, he probably wants me to tutor him again for our math test next week," she said.
"Again? What do you mean again?" I pressed.
This was news.
She looked over at me and shrugged. "It's nothing. I get paid to help him with his math, so he passes. It's his one weak spot, but he's getting better. He's pretty nice when he's away from all those fakes," she said, waving over to the Pops table with a small sneer on her lips.
She still had it bad for Emmett.
"Really? I'm glad he's treating you nicely instead of making fun of you. In fact, I don't think I've seen him make fun of you once this year," I said.
"I told him it hurt my feelings, and he said he was sorry," she said, blushing again.
I looked back over at Emmett and saw that he was talking to someone else, but he was indeed peeking over at Rose. The third time he did it, he noticed that I was looking at him. I raised my eyebrow in question and nodded my head slightly in Rose's direction.
His eyes went wide and his skin almost pure white. He excused himself from his friend, got up from the table and quickly left the cafeteria.
"Ladies, I'll be seeing you later. Rose, I hope you like irises. Those babies are yours," I said, not bothering to see her reaction as I high-tailed it after Emmett.
I had to jog after him, as he was almost down at the other end of the hallway.
"Emmett!" I called after him.
He stopped and turned to face me.
When I caught up with him, I saw that he looked really nervous.
"Sooo…Emmett, want to tell me what's going on with Rose?" I asked, giving him my best menacing look with my arms crossed over my chest.
"Uh, what do you mean?" He said, shoving his hands into his jean pockets.
"Cut the crap, McCarty. Rose said that she was tutoring you in math and that you were a nice guy," I said, still not letting him off the hook. I liked my fish to squirm a little.
"Really? She said I was a nice guy?" He beamed, looking genuinely happy at my comment.
"I take it you think Rose is a nice girl?" I asked, moving closer.
Noticing my tactic, he started to shut down and back away a step, rubbing the back of his head; he was looking at the lockers lining the walls, trying to escape my questioning.
"Or, I could be totally off in that assessment, and you are just using her to get ahead in your studies," I tried again.
"No! Rose is a lady, I would never treat her like one of those other girls. She really has helped me a lot and she treats me like I'm something better than the dumb jock that most people think of me as," he said passionately, bending down at the waist to face me.
I just smiled like the cat that caught the canary.
"Oh," he said, realizing what he'd just done.
I slapped him on the arm. "Take it easy, Emmett. I wanted to see what your intentions were with my friend. I tend to collect body parts of the people who mess with them," I finished, waving my little pinky at him.
"I'd never hurt Rose," he said sincerely.
"Yeah, I can see that you mean it," I replied.
He looked like he wanted to ask me something, but he was back to being nervous again and rubbing the back of his head.
"I think Rose likes you too, Emmett," I said, taking a chance.
His head jerked up again as his face radiated his happiness, looking towards to cafeteria with an expression that could only be called stupid-eyed.
Yup, Emmett McCarty had definitely been shot with one of that little winged bastard's arrows.
"Now, what were you and Edward talking about earlier? It looked like it had to do with Rose," I said, not completely ready to let him lose.
"Well, I was hoping that Rose would go to dance with me," he said.
"You do realize that the dance is tonight, right?" I asked.
"Yes, but I got really nervous that she would say no," he said.
"Okay," I said, turning so that I was standing next to him. I placed my hand on his back and pushed him towards the cafeteria.
"It's very last-minute, and I don't know if she has a dress, but I think if you do it now, she might have time to get one. So I would go in there and man up and ask her to go to the dance with you," I said.
"In front of everyone?" He asked scared, his voice rising to a higher pitch.
"Emmett, if you need to go find your balls, please do so now. Rose would admire you for asking her in public." I said, still pushing him along the way.
"But, what if she says no?" He practically whined.
"Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Now come on, Romeo, and don't fuck it up," I half-threatened, re-entering the cafeteria with Emmett and walking over to the table I shared with Rose and Angela.
The moment Rose noticed who was walking with me, she flushed and looked down at her lap, nervously pushing her glasses up on her nose. We stopped on the other side of the table with our backs to the rest of the room. I may have pushed Emmett's balls to wall, but I wasn't completely heartless. I wanted Rose to have her moment and get the guy she had been mooning over since forever.
When Emmett just stood there mute, I gave him a small pinch on his back.
"Ouch! I mean…Hi, Rose," he said shyly, after screaming like a girl.
"Hi Emmett," Rose said quietly, looking at the table.
"Rose, would you, I mean if you're not doing anything, I know this is last-minute, and maybe I should have done this earlier, but I didn't think you would be into this sort of thing, but I would like it if you would go to the Valentine's Dance with me tonight. I totally understand if you don't want to go since it's so last-minute, Ouch!"
I pinched him again to get him to stop babbling.
I looked over at Rose to see how she was taking Emmett's gibberish invitation. She was now looking up at Emmett with her mouth slightly open in amazement. I waved my hand in front of her face to get her to snap out of it.
She gave me a brief glance, asking me silently if this was real or a joke. I jerked my head towards Emmett, telling her with my eyes that he was completely serious.
Her mouth puckered into a surprised "o".
"Um…" she started, shaking her own head out of a daze and pushing her glasses up again.
"It's okay, I knew it was too late to ask," Emmett looked bashfully down at his hands and tried to pull away.
Rose stood from her chair, "No! I mean, I would love to go to the dance with you," she said.
I looked up at Emmett to see him staring at Rose with a goofy grin on his face, "Really? You'll go with me?"
Oh man, the boy has it bad.
"Yes," Rose nodded shyly.
Oh woman, she does, too!
"Okay you two lovebirds, my work here is done. Why don't you talk details for the remainder of lunch," I said, while silently communicating with Angela that we needed to give them space.
"Sure," Emmett said, moving around the table to sit next to Rose.
Angela grabbed our stuff and moved to another table. We both looked over at Emmett and Rose for a second and then broke into laughter, which we tried to muffle with our hands.
"You know, Bella, one would think that you might be a romantic after all. That was such a nice thing to do," Angela said, after getting control of her giggling.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't get all mushy on me. Rose has had a crush on Emmett for a long time, and I think she deserves to live her 'what if' moment," I said.
"Still, I think it's pretty cool that you did that," she said, nudging me with her shoulder.
Embarrassed, I looked over at Emmett and Rose again, but out of the corner of my eye I saw that I was being watched in return. Edward was looking at me with his crooked smile on his face, and motioned with his head toward the couple sitting intimately at the table I just vacated. He mimed clapping his congratulations at a job well done, and I found myself smiling in return with a mock bow at his praise.
For some odd reason, I couldn't look away, and neither could he. We just continued to stare at each other. Edward made the first move and stood up from his chair in what seemed to be preparation to walk over to my table. Remembering what we were to each other, I stiffened and frantically reached for my bag to make my escape. I couldn't talk to him. Not now.
"Angela, I need to go to the bathroom," I said, shooting up from my seat, keeping one eye on Edward's progress.
He saw my action and tried to walk quickly over to me, but I moved faster and was out the swinging cafeteria doors, running down the hallway to the nearest girl's bathroom to hide.
What the fuck was that? Was he coming over to talk to me?
Swan, get it together. You're acting like a pussy.
Seriously, what would happen if I had to actually talk to him?
Hi again, long time no talk. Uh, did you know that I've been pretty much stalking you since freshman year? Don't believe me? Want to see the scrap book I made devoted to you? How come? Oh no reason, other than you are the most beautiful man that I have ever seen, and I can't stop thinking about you.
Yeah, that'll go down real well, Swan.
I took a few minutes to fix myself and waited for the bell to ring. I walked out of the bathroom and made my way over to class. I didn't have a run-in with Edward along the way, and was feeling pretty good about it until I walked into my science class.
Sitting on my end of the table that I shared with my lab partner was a purple box with a white ribbon around it. Only a two other students had made their way into the room, and they were clearly involved in a conversation with no interest in the box on my desk. So asking them if they saw anything seemed moot.
Just get it over with before more people come in and see the box.
I walked over and placed my books in the center of the table, dropping my bag on the floor. The familiar green note was attached to the box, and I opened it to find the beautiful hand-written script with the same words I had been seeing throughout the day: Bella, be mine. Putting the note to the side, I saw that the box's lid would come off without unwrapping it. Taking the top off, I found another note inside, along with a bag of heart candies with all the sayings. On closer inspection, all of the candy hearts had the same saying "Be Mine".
This must have taken a long time and a lot of boxes of candy…
Opening the letter, I found the same message but with something extra.
Be mine tonight at the Valentine's dance.
A red ticket fell out of the envelope with the typed words "Forks High School Valentine's Day Dance, Admit One".
Truthfully, when I opened this box, I expected more flowers or even cupcakes, but a ticket to the dance did not seem like a possibility.
I must have been standing there staring at the ticket in my hand longer than I thought, as it took the sound of the scraping of the metal chair legs next to me to wake me from my thoughts.
"A ticket to the dance, huh?" Tyler said next to me.
"Yeah, I guess so," I said, leaving it at that.
I moved the box off the table and stuffed the envelope between the pages of my book before taking my seat. More students had filed into the classroom, still giving me the looks and whispering with their friends over my "gifts". Blessedly, Tyler had his head down on his desk, not taking an interest in talking to me or listening to the gossip.
It was a bit of a relief.
The rest of class went smoothly, as we only had to watch a movie. Tyler kept his head down for the majority of the time, and whispers were drowned out by the sleep-inducing voice of the narrator of the film. I tried to keep my mind focused on it and away from wandering to anything admirer-related.
As soon as the film ended, the bell sounded, releasing us from class. I gathered my stuff and threw the box away. I didn't think I could stuff it in my locker in the girl's restroom during gym glass.
The walk to my last class was free of signs or flowers or anything of the like, and students were now turning their conversations to the dance that evening. Which brought me back to the ticket that felt like it was burning a hole in my bag.
Would I be willing to go to the dance to find out who was responsible for sending me all these gifts? Jasper and Alice said that the admirer was serious about me. A part of me still thought that it might be one big joke, since I was so anti that day.
Still, I was curious.
You know the saying, Swan; curiosity killed the cat.
Yeah, but the cat also has nine lives.
I stopped the strange conversation in my head when I entered the girl's changing room. Inside of the typical day of having to listen to bad gossip and who Lauren had been giving favors to, it was filled with excited giggling about the dance and an after-party at Emmett's place, since his parents were gone for the weekend.
I quickly got changed and walked out into the gym to see a few students and teachers hanging decorations for the dance in various areas of the large space. As I expected, it was all in shades of pink and red, with a hint of white. Alice was on the far end, directing a few students where to put balloons and flowers.
Coach Arden had us break up into groups and shoot hoops today instead any real games, in an effort to keep the gym as spotless as possible for later, which was fine with me. I didn't like gym, and could never understand the appeal of playing sports. My hands were for drawing and painting.
When the bell for gym sounded and dismissed everyone for the weekend, the air was filled with the bubbling energy that had been somewhat tame all day, but was now blown wide open and I swear it was filled with those stupid hearts.
Knowing that I couldn't go home yet due to the fabulous detention that I had to serve in a few minutes, I let the other girls race ahead of me into the locker room to get changed. By the time I was finished getting my day clothes on and heading back out to the gym, all of the bleachers had been collapsed against the walls and round tables were starting to be wheeled out onto the edges of the floor.
Mr. Weston was standing, talking to Alice near the gym entrance. I walked over to him, wanting to just get this fucking thing over with.
"Miss Swan, glad to see that you are not tardy to your detention," he started talking, the moment he saw me. "You are to help Miss Brandon here setting up the gym for the next hour. They needed more manual help setting up for this dance. When you are done, please get this sheet signed with the time by Coach Arden over there and hand it in to the office before you leave," he pointed with his boney finger, and then handed me the slip of paper that had to be signed.
When he left, I turned to Alice.
"Sorry you had to be here, but at the same time, I'm glad you are," she said with an apologetic smile.
"Well, we can thank that ass of an admirer for causing this one. As soon as I find out who it is, I'll make sure he regrets that he ever decided to commit this farce," I replied, letting her know that I was annoyed to be here, in the gym, surround by pink and red hearts...and those stupid balloon arches being set up on the street-side doors of the gym.
"It's not a farce! If you come to the dance tonight…" she defended animatedly, before I cut her off and rounded on her with questions.
"Alice, who is he? Why is he really doing this? Does he have a death wish?" I pounced.
She raised her hands and waved them frantically between us, "No, no, nothing like that at all. He really likes you, and he wants you to come to the dance."
I narrowed my eyes at her, trying to see if she was telling the truth or not, giving her one last chance to come clean with me. She didn't even give his name.
"Will you at least think about it?" she asked.
"Let's get this over with, Alice," I said, motioning to the room with my hand and a roll of my eyes.
"Okay, but I still think you should come. You can even come with Jasper and me if you want," she offered, leading me towards a table on the other side of the room that had boxes of decorations ready to be displayed.
I didn't reply to her offer, as I knew that it would be seriously delusional of me to even think of setting foot inside this gym for a dance. Everyone knew that I didn't attend these things. The moment I walked in the door, I would be pointed at and made fun of, and the great reveal from the Pops would be that it was all a joke.
Jasper and Alice knew who this guy was, so it had to be one of the people from their group. Again, that left me with my short list. Emmett was out since he likes Rose, so we were down to Mike Newton, Tyler Crowley… and lastly, there was him.
"Bella, if you could please place the tablecloths on each of the tables with the larger red one on the bottom and this pink one on top. After that, come find me," Alice said with a smile and pushed two boxes towards me.
I gave her a nod and started to get to work. After about ten minutes, I heard someone approach behind me and stop.,
"Bella, I was sent to help you," Edward said uncertainly behind me.
Great. Just fucking great. This is all I need to make this detention so much better.
I stopped what I was doing and turned around, keeping my gaze on his nicely-defined chest that was a about a foot away from me.
"Um, you can take some of the cloths and work on some of the tables over there," I said, pointing to the empty tables on the other side of the room.
"Alice, wanted me to help you to make sure that the cloths are straight; she said that it was really a two-person job," he said.
I looked behind him to see if I could find Alice. She was busy with another group and wasn't paying attention to us. I glanced up at Edward quickly to see his hopeful expression, before looking down at my hands.
You can do this, you don't have to talk or look at him. Just stop dorking out, Swan!
"Um, okay," I said with a shrug, and resumed placing the cloths on the tables.
Edward hurried over to help me straighten the one that I had been working on, and continued to work with my quietly for the next two tables.
"Are you going to the dance tonight?" Edward asked nervously.
After a moment, I shook my head no, keeping my eyes on the job that I was doing.
"Why not?" He continued as we set the top cloth on the table, and a waft of his scent drifted over to me.
My head felt a little cloudy, and I forgot what he asked me. I looked up at him, which was a stupid idea, as his green eyes were watching me for an answer. They were set to dazzle, and made me forget my own name for a moment as I felt his magnetic pull.
"Um, what?" I asked, leaning forward over the table, placing my hands flat on the surface to stabilize myself.
"I asked you why you aren't going to the dance," he replied quietly, mirroring my stance.
"I don't dance," I whispered, our faces moving closer.
"I think you should go. I hear that your admirer wants you to be his date for the dance," he said.
And there was the proverbial bucket of cold water being dumped on me.
Shaking my head, I backed away, noticing how close I was to Edward. "What? What did you say?" I asked, shocked.
Edward righted himself and stepped back. "I said-"
"No, I heard what you said," I said a little louder, stunned to hear Edward talking about the admirer's request for me to join him at the dance.
A part of me was also feeling something else. Like disappointment. I think I had some little spark of hope that the person sending me all those gifts and embarrassing the shit out of me throughout the day was Edward.
Except it wasn't.
"Who is it?" I asked, much quieter this time.
Edward just looked at me for a moment and then looked away, shaking his head.
"So, you won't tell me either? Can you at least answer one question?" I requested.
He glanced back at me, looking unsure of answering my question, but nodded anyway.
"Is this whole thing a joke?"
His whole body started. "No! No joke, this is the most honest thing he's ever done," he said, holding his hands out in front of him, beseechingly.
I stared at him in shock. "What? Never mind, I don't think I want to know," I said, shaking my head at him and picking up another cloth as I headed over to the next table.
"Bella?" Edward asked softly, coming over to help me.
"Let's just get these tables decorated. I don't want to talk about it anymore. It's making my head hurt," I told him firmly, back to looking at anything but him.
"Fine," I heard a bit of anger in his voice.
We continued placing the table cloths for the rest of my hour. I kept my mind on others things, like school work, a sketch I was working on, and when I could go raid the music store in Port Angeles.
Coach Arden came over to tell me that I had finished my detention, and signed my paper. Alice was standing right behind him, waiting to talk with me as soon as he left.
"You guys have been doing a great job! You really make a great team," Alice beamed at me and Edward.
"Uh, thanks Alice," I said, trying to not think about stuffing her mouth with a gag to stop the constant Barbie-like, permanent smile prominently displayed on her face.
"Bye, Bella," Edward said behind me. I turned my head slightly and gave him a nod.
Looking back at Alice, I saw that her face lost some of that mega-watt smile. She looked almost sad.
"I'll see you on Monday," I said, and walked past her to go to the girl's locker room to grab my bag.
"Bella, wait!" she called behind me, as the clackity-clack of her heals came closer.
I didn't stop, but kept walking. She would have to match my pace if she wanted to talk- which she did.
"Did something happen? I thought that you and Edward did a good job together, and aren't you coming to the dance?" She rushed and whined.
"Thank you, Alice. No, I will not be going to the dance," I said firmly, walking faster.
Again, Alice matched my pace. "But, Bella, you have to go!"
I stopped abruptly, just inside the girl's locker room door, away from any prying eyes, and faced her.
"No Alice, I don't. I don't care about a stupid dance. I don't care about this admirer. All it has done has brought me negative attention and a detention. Those were things I didn't need today, and you're shit out of luck. I don't have a dress. So, it looks like I'm just going to have to skip this nonsense," I said, and walked to my locker, taking out my bag and slamming it shut. I was too keyed up with frustration, anger and disappointment.
"Bella Swan, if you keep acting like this and push people away you will have no one in your life!" Alice said angrily behind me.
I spun around and faced her. She was slightly bent forward with her hands in fists at her side.
"Me? Push people away? I didn't start this Alice. I was pushed first. This is called self-preservation. In about five months, I will be moving to New York to start a new life, away from this constant fucked-up popularity contest and all of these fake personas. The people I keep close to me are the honest ones. The rest of you, I tolerate because I have to!" I ranted.
I didn't know if it was relief I felt, to actually say these things.
Alice looked like she was going to cry, but she just raised her head a little and sniffed away the tears.
"Is that what you think of me?" Alice asked quietly. "That I'm fake and a liar? You think all I want is to be popular?"
Guilt washed over me as I saw the pain on Alice's face. I know we were never really friends, but I had assumed that Alice was of the mindset of the group she hung around with at school. In honesty, I truly didn't know anything about her except in passing.
I walked over and put my arms around her in a hug. "I'm sorry Alice. This has not been a good day for me. Too much has been thrown at me at once. I didn't mean to yell at you."
"I'm not shallow, you know. I do have feelings," she sniffled, holding me tight.
"I see that," I said, patting her back, feeling a little awkward with this level of contact.
She pulled back and swiped her eyes with her well-manicured fingers.
"I always thought you were a decent person. Jasper always spoke highly of you, said that you never liked the bullshit. When you helped Rose and Emmett today, you proved what I always thought you to be, someone who really cares for her friends. I don't have a lot of those people in my life; mainly Jasper, Edward and Emmett, but no real girlfriends. Hell, I even look forward to you flipping me off the mornings that I see you. At least you aren't kissing my ass, trying to get something from me," she said, sniffling here and there.
"Alice, did you just curse?" I asked with a straight face.
She burst into laughter.
"Yeah, I guess I did. I'm not perfect," she said with a bit of a smile.
"I'm sorry Alice. I never thought of you that way. I thought you thrived on that shit," I explained.
"Not really, it's just expected of me since my Mom is all about it," she said.
I looked at the clock on the wall above the door. It had been about twenty minutes since my detention ended.
"Alice, I think you need to get back out there and rally your troops. I don't know how much longer you have to decorate the gym, and I need to get home so my Mom doesn't worry," I said.
"Yeah, you're right. Just let me straighten myself first," she said, walking over the mirror by the door.
She gave me a nod and a smile when she was ready. We walked back out into the gym. All eyes were on us, but immediately scrambled to other things when we saw that we were being watched.
"Okay, I guess I am the headliner for today," I said under my breath, but Alice heard me.
"I think people were worried that we were going to kill each other," she said, waving an indifferent hand.
"Okay then, good luck with this, and enjoy the dance," I said, moving towards the doors.
"Bella?" Alice questioned.
I turned and looked at her.
"Thank you," she said.
I nodded and waved goodbye to her, leaving the gym to take my slip to the office. Remembering the crap in my locker, I went to go retrieve it. Mom would like the flowers. Getting to my truck with the vase filled with flowers and my heavy bag, now filled with all my books that I needed for homework, was a bit of an awkward dance in itself.
When I pulled into my driveway, the front door to the house opened before I even stopped the truck. Mom came out onto porch and then walked over to my side of the truck. As soon as she saw the vase of flowers sitting next to me, her eyebrows shot up into her hairline.
She helped me take all the things into the house, and placed the vase on our dining room table. Stepping back, we both admired their beauty for a moment before she turned to me and started the questioning.
"Where have you been, and where did you get these flowers?" she asked.
"It's been a weird and long day," I started, not sure how much I should tell her.
"Do you have an admirer?" she asked.
I shrugged my shoulders, feeling my cheeks flame with my blush. I still couldn't talk to Mom about boys.
"Do you want to tell me about this weird day?" she asked gently, as she moved into the kitchen to make a snack for me. I took a seat in the breakfast nook.
"I found a few notes all over the place, along with some flowers. They got me into trouble, and I had to serve detention after school, helping to set up the gym for tonight's dance."
I gave her the short version, and I didn't want to say anything about being asked to the dance by this mystery person.
Mom took a few more moments to finish putting salsa and chips on a plate before walking over to the table to sit with me.
"Anything else?" she asked, taking one of the chips and dipping it in the salsa.
I shrugged my shoulders again, reaching for a chip and eating it, giving myself a reason to stall.
"You don't have to talk about it. You look like you're ready to pop from holding something in, though," she mentioned casually, eating another salsa-covered chip.
"I'm just tired from trying to figure out who it is and why they want my attention," I said, laying my head on my arm and playing with a chip.
"You're a pretty girl, and smart, and talented. Why wouldn't a boy want to get to know you?"
"You're my Mom. Of course I'm pretty in your eyes," I said.
"Smarty pants," she gave me a smile, and then changed tactics. "So, what did the notes say?"
I picked my head up from the table and stared at the salsa I was moving around with my still-uneaten chip. "Um, it said…um, Bella, be mine," I fumbled.
"That's all? Bella, be mine?" she asked nonchalantly, still eating her chips, like this conversation wasn't a big deal.
"Yeah, I got a bunch of them with flowers, cupcakes and candy," I said.
"This boy sounds serious. Do you know who it is?" she asked.
"No, I would have to go to the dance to find out, and I'm not going," I finished firmly, letting her know that it wasn't up for negotiation.
"You don't have to go, but aren't you curious to find out?" she asked, finishing her last chip and pushing the plate towards me.
"I'm curious, but what if it's a joke? What if I show up and it's one big joke?" I asked a bit passionately.
Mom didn't say anything, but got up and went to the fridge, opening it and taking something out. She walked back to the table with a white bag and a green note attached to it. I sat up in my chair from the slumped position that I had been in and looked at her in confusion.
"This came for you today. Open it," she said.
I reached for the bag and took the note off, placing it to the side to open the bag. Inside was a lovely corsage of a few irises surrounded by leaves and a sprinkle of baby's breath. Reaching over, I opened the note and read:
Bella, be mine.
I look forward to seeing you tonight at the dance.
I looked back up at Mom to see her looking thoughtfully at the gift.
"It's a lovely corsage, and it seems to me that this admirer of yours is serious about you. I think you should take a chance and go meet him," she said, looking up at me.
"I don't have a dress," I whispered, giving her an excuse.
"Go look upstairs," she said, looking at me intently.
I got up stiffly from the table and walked up to my bedroom to find a pretty midnight-blue, strapless dress on my bed.
At least it wasn't pink or red.
Except that wasn't my most compelling thought. I thought about what Alice said earlier; about me pushing people away from me; the look on her face when I yelled at her. Then I thought about the unlikely pair of Rose and Emmett; how their tutoring sessions started them on a path of friendship. They both took a big chance this afternoon, at lunch, making it public. Lastly, there was Edward. I didn't know what to think of him now. He seemed genuinely interested in talking to me today. We hadn't had a conversation in years. Who was he now, underneath the charm and beauty?
Then of course, there was this admirer who Jasper, Alice and Edward said was being sincere in his request for me to be his.
"I looked in the bag earlier and read the note. I went and bought this for you today, thinking you might want to go," Mom said, coming into the room behind me. "I know you hate girly colors, but thought this would suit you."
I picked up the dress and held it to me, crossing over to the mirror to take a look at myself. Mom came up behind me and smiled.
"You'll look beautiful in it," she said, playing with my hair.
Make or break time, Swan.
Do you woman-up and go face this admirer, or do you stay home and hide?
"The dance starts at seven," I whispered.
"That gives us less than three hours to get you ready," Mom replied, giving me a proud hug from behind.
"I'll take a shower first," I decided, placing the dress on the bed and removing my boots and socks.
"Come downstairs to the kitchen when you're finished. I'll do your hair and nails there," she said, leaving the room.
Okay, let's do this thing!
Twenty-five minutes later, I emerged from the steam-clouded bathroom all scrubbed, buffed, and shaved. I decided to go all-out with the perfumed shampoo and body washes that mom gave me for Christmas. If this operation: Seek Out Secret Admirer goes belly up, then at least I would walk in there looking the best that I could in the process.
I met Mom in the kitchen to find that our small kitchen table had been turned into a miniature salon. A large mirror, hair dryer, curling iron, brushes, combs, nail polishes, make-up, and various other instruments of beautification torture covered almost every inch of the pale wooden surface.
Mom pulled out a chair for me and patted the back, indicating that I should sit. She situated herself across from me, and immediately tackled my nails. For the next two hours, Mom gave me a manicure and painted my nails in a clear polish. She blew out my long hair, and curled the ends. She took some of the front and middle pieces and pulled it back, securing it with a clear, rhinestone barrette and a little bit of hair spray. Next up were the eyebrows and make-up. With the amount of time she spent on both areas, I was sure that I was plucked clean and looked like a freak.
When it was over, she let me look in the mirror, and I saw that she hadn't make me look like a member of Barnum and Bailey's Circus, as I feared she might. Instead, I found that she had cleaned up my brows, and my make-up enhanced rather than distracted. I was still me.
"What do you think?" she asked.
I got up and hugged her. "Thank you, Mom."
"You're welcome. I've always wanted to have some girl-time with you. I never thought you would let me get that chance, being so headstrong about what you will and will not wear," she said, hugging me back.
I hugged her for a bit longer, before she told me that I needed to eat first and then put on my dress. She quickly fixed us a sandwich, which I had little appetite for, as the time was approaching for me to leave. Eating what I could, I went upstairs and did my final preparations.
When I pulled on the dress, Mom came back up and helped zip me in, and gave me a pair of low-heeled shoes to wear, along with a small, simple satin purse. I placed my ticket and some cash inside.
I looked in the mirror with some trepidation at the effect of my head-to-toe makeover. I was minutes away from getting into my truck to head back to the gym.
"One more thing," Mom said, coming to stand to my side. She handed me a pair of diamond stud earrings.
"Mom, these are real. What if I lose them? Or I lose one?" I panicked.
"You'll be fine, they'll look beautiful with your dress," she said.
With slightly shaking hands, I put them in and took another look in the mirror. Mom was right; they were the perfect accessory for the outfit.
"It's time. Let's get your corsage, and I want to take a picture of you before you leave. You look so beautiful, and I think your Dad would want to see this," she said, leading me back down the stairs.
She grabbed the corsage and took it out of its container and slipped it on my wrist.
"Perfect," she said, moving to grab her digital camera and motioning for me to stand against the wall in the living room.
She took a few pictures and then looking at her watch, saw that it was time.
Time for me to go and find out who this secret admirer was, who had been adamant about me being his.
Time for me to prove to all those idiots at school that I would be brave enough to meet this challenge head-on and not be scared away from the whispers, snickers and laughter that had been following me around all day.
And, dammit, it was time to let them know, if this whole thing blew up in my face, that I would be kicking ass and taking names…as well as body parts. Especially if it was a guy. Then I would probably have to learn the art of bronzing in order to keep those body parts as part of my collection to warn future assholes who ever felt the urge to try something like this on me.
Taking a deep breath and imagining myself in blue war paint with a spear in my hand, I walked out the door.
"Bye, honey! Call me if there's a problem!" Mom called out behind me.
I waved my hand, but didn't stop. I was on a mission. Getting into my truck, I started the ignition and it came to life without hesitation, as though my truck knew this was no ordinary trip we were about to take. We were one as we chugged back to the school.
Night had fallen, and the skies were clear. Clear enough to see the whole school lit up from a mile back. As I pulled into the parking lot, the majority of it had been filled with cars. A few students and their dates were lingering in the lot, taking a last-minute smoke or a quick swig from a flask that was concealed in a tailored jacket pocket.
All of them paused as they saw my truck park into its usual space.
Turning off the engine, I sat back for a moment, watching the gym doors as people walked inside, dressed in nice suits and dresses in various shades of pinks and reds. The reality of why I was here hit me like a locomotive and the urge to puke was coming on strong.
I rolled down my window and gulped in the fresh, cool air, letting it soothe me as my inner voice took over, commanding me to get my shit together.
Swan, this isn't the time to wuss out, pussy to the wall and all that.
I stumbled out of the truck, not used to wearing dresses, but righted myself and grabbed my purse that carried my ticket. Slamming the door, I saw a few students staring open-mouthed as I approached the sidewalk at the front of my truck. Juniors, I think.
"What?" I growled.
"Na-na-nothing," stuttered the boy who looked as if he used a whole container of gel in his hair.
I walked past them and continued towards the gym doors. As I reached them, another group of students were staring at me in shock, whispering to each other.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's me," I told them, passing their asses as well, and walking into the bright lights of the gym that was filled with students and a few adults, all reasonably sober.
The room looked so different than what I was use to seeing during school hours. Alice and her crew really made the space into an ode to that day. It was filled with streamers and balloons. The tables that I helped cover had white folding chairs encircling each one with lanterns and flowers in the center.
"Ticket, please," came a voice to my immediate right. My English teacher, Mrs. Morton, was sitting at a small table with a cash box and an extra roll of tickets, looking cheerful.
"Bella, I've never seen you at one of these before. You look lovely," she said in happy surprise.
I gave her my ticket and thanked her. I noticed that I had to walk through one of the balloon arches to reach the dance floor and the rest of the party. As soon as I did so, a bright flash went off in front of me, blinding me.
"What the hell?" I yelled.
"Bella! Sorry! I'm suppose to take pictures of all the people. If I had known it was you, I wouldn't have taken one. I'm so, so, sorry. Please don't kill me," said the anxious voice of one of my fellow seniors. Eric, I think was his name. He was one of the newspaper staff.
"It's okay, no problem," I told him, moving away and taking in the room, searching for some sign of this mystery guy.
A good amount of couples were already on the floor, dancing to one of the latest top 40 pop songs from hell. It was a fast number, but it was one of those songs that made me want to pull a Van Gogh to both of my ears.
"Bella?" I heard Angela ask behind me. I spun around and saw her sitting with Ben at one of the tables.
"Hi," I said, and walked over, taking a seat.
Both of them looked at me in wonder. I waved a hand in front of their faces to get them to snap out of their trace.
"Sorry, Bella. Don't take this the wrong way, but what are you doing here?" Angela asked.
"Uh, I'm asking myself that same question. The secret admirer sent me a ticket and asked me to come meet him here," I told her.
"Really?" She looked giddy and a bit starry-eyed. "That's so romantic," she cooed a little.
"Ang, I have to wait and see how romantic this is going to turn out. Try not to get all excited. I'm still trying to find out who this person is and if I will have to hurt him for doing all these whacked stunts," I explained.
"I hope it turns out-" she started, but was cut off by the sound of the one of the most annoying voices I have ever heard.
"Bel-la, Ba-by!" Mike Newton chanted from somewhere to my left.
I looked over and saw his over-excited face, shining with a bright smile.
"Mike," I said flatly, turning my attention back to Angela and Ben, but Mike came over and sat himself down by me, placing a pudgy, sweaty hand around my shoulder.
I swear to whatever god exists that I will not be quiet if he doesn't stop touching me.
I pushed his hand off me, but that didn't stop him from leaning towards me and blowing into my ear.
"Newton, if you don't stop that shit, I will knock your head off," I said, turning my glare towards him.
He just smiled like the dumb-ass that he was and said "Bella, sweets, I knew that you had to give in eventually. A gorgeous guy like me and the beautiful girl of all my favorite dreams were meant to be together."
"Mike, I thought I was the girl of your dreams," Jessica said behind us, with a pout.
I turned to see her pretty face full of anger, with her arms crossed over her chest. I turned back to Mike and gave him my best smile.
"Well, Mike. It seems that your dream girl would like you to return to her. So why don't you run along, and go do something with her. Okay?" I said, waving him away like I would a bothersome fly.
"Mike, let's go, NOW!" Jessica seethed, pulling on the arm closest to her.
Mike let himself be led away, but he gave me a silent request for a dance later. I just shook my head no and continued my conversation with Ben and Angela.
A few minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder and saw Alice and Jasper.
"Mind if we sit with you?" Alice asked me with a smile.
I looked over at Angela and Ben to ask if it was okay. Angela's eyes were wide as she looked at Alice incredulously. I could tell that she was intimidated by her, but I needed to loosen up around them if I was going to try and work on a friendship with Alice.
"Sure," I said with a smile.
Alice sat next to me looking lovely in her satin blush pink dress, which complimented her coloring. We talked companionably for a few minutes before a slow song came on and Jasper led her towards the dance floor. Angela and Ben followed, leaving me to guard the table and watch all the couples on the floor, holding each other close.
Through a break in the swaying bodies, I saw Rose and Emmett looking happy together. Ben and Angela were near the edge of the dance floor, so it was easy to see their position. Further away were Mike and Jessica, looking like they made up, and lastly was Lauren with her recent victim. He was probably some poor guy from the community college in Port Angeles, dragged here with the promise of late-night backseat activities.
A moment later, a junior walked up to the table nervously, handing me a familiar green note.
"Thanks," I said with a smile.
He ran away after handing it to me.
Opening it, I found a brief note asking me to go to the side of the gym, to the picnic tables. I waved to catch Angela's attention & held up the note to her, motioning that I was going outside. She gave me the thumbs-up signal.
I moved back out the gym doors and saw that it was pretty quiet out here in the parking lot. Only a few people were sprinkled around in small groups, chatting, smoking and whatever else. I took a left turn and walked towards the side of the gym to the requested meeting spot. I was feeling a little spooked, as the only light in the area came from the windows near the top of the gym walls. It was just enough to see my way to the cluster of wooden tables I saw in a clearing.
As I moved closer, I noticed that there was no one waiting. All that was present was a single iris on the closest table, without a note. I reached out to pick it up, but a hand shot out of the darkness, grabbing it first from the other side of the table.
I jumped, slapping a hand over my mouth in shock.
"Shh…it's okay, Bella, I shouldn't have done that," Edward's voice said calmingly.
He walked forward a few steps into the dim light, letting me see his location, but his features were mostly in shadow.
"What are you doing here, Edward?" I questioned harshly, partly out of fear, and also because…it was him.
"I sent you a note to meet me here," Edward explained. "I'm glad that you decided to come to the dance. You look beautiful." He finished by taking my hand in his and bringing it to his lips, kissing it gently.
Okay…what the hell was going on here?
"You did this? The flowers, the notes, the cupcakes, and those banners?" I questioned, feeling more than shocked.
"Yes," he said with a smile on his face and in his voice.
"Why?" I was dumbfounded.
He laughed and pulled me closer with the hand that still held mine, wrapping both his arms around my waist. I could do nothing but let myself be guided to him in my surprise at this revelation.
"Didn't you read all the messages I sent you today?" He asked softly, looking down at me.
"You mean the 'be mine' ones?" I asked, stupidly.
"Yes, those," he gave a chuckle as he was lowering his mouth to my ear to whisper, "So, what do you think? Will you be mine, Bella?"
Edward leaned back and watched me intently, waiting for me to reply.
His words and nearness were fogging up my head, rendering me with a limited vocabulary and no brain. I tried several times to give him an answer, but all I could do was gasp like a fish out of water. Was this really happening? After all this time, Edward felt something more for me? Why now?
"Uh, um…Edward," I somehow was able to communicate, placing my hands on his chest to push him away so that I could think.
His smile turned to a frown. "What is it?" He asked, letting me go, but insisting on holding onto one of my hands as I took two steps back.
"I'm really surprised that you went to all this trouble for me. Why now?" I asked, waving my hand idiotically between us.
"Maybe because I missed my friend; someone who told me like it was and was a lot of fun to be with," he said.
Shaking my head in confusion, I said, "Edward, we haven't talked in almost four years. You have no idea who I am. This was one helluva stunt to pull in order to ask me out," I said.
"No, I don't know every single detail about you, but that doesn't mean I don't know anything about you. Even after all this time, you still remain true to who you are, and you don't care about the superficial stuff that most of the people in this school care about. Whenever someone tries to hurt one of your friends, you immediately jump in to help them. You're loyal to them, and comfort them when they need it. You're also very honest, even if it means that it will ostracize you from the crowd. You're not afraid to be who you are, even if takes you across the country to attend college to discover more of yourself. You're one in a million, Bella. How could I not want to be with you?" He finished softly.
In a day full of surprises, this was probably the one that hit me the hardest.
"Please say something, Bella. Will you give me the chance to get to know the details? I would really like to get to know you again."
"For how long?" I asked, remembering his dating history.
"For how long? You tend to date a girl for the school year, and that's it. How long would we have if we dated?" I asked.
"Bella," he evaded uncomfortably.
"Tell me. I leave for New York this summer. I'll be there until Christmas break."
"I dated those other girls for all the wrong reasons. They all left me after they got what they wanted or didn't get what they wanted from me," he confessed.
"What? They left you? Why would they leave you? You're perfect! You're handsome, smart, and great at sports. You've worked hard to win your sports scholarships, in both your studies and with your brawn. What girl wouldn't want to call you theirs?" I argued.
Edward's grin returned as he pulled me close to him and gave me a hug.
"So, you don't know anything about me, heh, Swan?" I could hear his amusement.
"Oh, shit. I was trying to make you feel better. I take it back," I said, automatically laying my head against his chest, contradicting my words.
"Sorry, Bella. You can't take it back." Edward laughed, still holding me to him, swaying us a little.
"Yes, I can. I took it back. That never came out of my mouth," I continued.
He laughed harder, slightly moving away so he could look down at me.
"I won't let you take it back. I liked hearing you defend me. It's one of the few times outside of my home life that I've heard someone stick up for me. See, Bella, I need you to be mine. I need to you remind me that I am capable of doing good things, too," He said, caressing my cheek with his calloused fingers.
"We don't have to date for me to tell you those things. We can just try to be friends again, as long as you don't act like an asshole," I whispered.
He grinned down at me, never stopping the movement of his hand on my face. It felt wonderful.
"I don't think I can do that, Bella," he said.
"Why not?" I asked confused, capturing his hand and stopping it's path along my cheek.
"Because I want you more than just as my friend; I want to be able to hold you," he said squeezing me slightly, leaning his head down to rest his cheek against mine.
"Oh," I stupidly said in return, feeling a dull excitement in my belly and a flutter in my chest.
"…and I want to hold your hand in public, letting everyone know that you are special to me," he said, repositioning the hand that I had captured to clasp mine within his.
"Okay," taking another whiff of his scent, letting the heady aroma invade my senses.
"…and I want to be able to kiss you," he said moving his parted, soft lips across my cheek until they reached my lips. He watched me as he gently brushed them across mine, once, twice, until he tilted his head and put pressure against mine.
I was a goner.
Edward's lips took their time to know mine, learning them and coaxing them to accept his persistent request for me to be his and only his. His kiss was telling me how much I meant to him; that I was beautiful and something to be cherished.
After what might have been hours or mere seconds, we parted to catch our breaths. Edward kept his arms around me as I snuggled into his arms, laying my head on his chest, listening to his heart pound out a crazy rhythm.
"Bella," he gasped, still trying to regain his composure.
"Yes?" I asked dreamily, not wanting to end this lovely little space we created.
"Please…if you say that you will be mine, I promise to give you anything you want," he said, laying his cheek against my head.
"If I say yes, will you stop nagging me?" I asked.
He laughed, "Bella, I never know what you are going to say. You keep me guessing and wanting to be better for you so that you'll look on me with favor," he said, wrapping me tighter in his arms.
My doubt returned, not knowing what my saying yes would mean. How long would we have together to get reacquainted? The physical part didn't seem to be a problem; we were like magnets drawn together, needing to touch.
"What is it? How can I convince you that I am serious about wanting to be with you?" he whispered.
"I'm thinking about how long we would have. I'm leaving this summer," I said, leaning back, looking up at him. "It might take awhile to get to know each other again…" I finished, letting it hang.
"Bella, I was accepted to Columbia and NYU in New York. I haven't decided which school to attend yet, but I'm not going to be far away from you."
"How long have you been planning this?"
"The Valent-" he started, but I stopped him with my fingers to his lips.
"Don't say that word!" I shook my head.
"Okay, I've been planning this for a few weeks," he said, looking down at me.
"A few weeks? So, you just made up your mind that that you needed to be with me a few weeks ago?" I asked.
Oh Edward, I really am going to have to castrate you, aren't I?
"No, that I've known for awhile. I knew that I had to make a big statement to get your attention, using a few of your favorite things, enough so that you would be curious to seek me out and let me declare myself. I wanted you to know that I was serious about being with you," he said, placing a gentle kiss on my nose.
"Well, you got my attention," I said dumbly, feeling stupid that he put so much into this and I basically acted like a complete ass.
"…and," he prompted, looking at me.
"And, what?" I asked.
"Bella, will you be mine?" Edward asked me softly, looking down at me with hope; wanting me to give him the answer that he was seeking.
This is it, Swan. What do you do?
Do you reach for the unknown with Edward, or without him?
Do you think you will regret not trying to find out what it can be like with him in your life again, or is it too late?
"Bella…" Edward asked, now looking worriedly at me.
Looking up at him, I raised my hand and pressed it against his cheek.
"Yes, Edward, I will be yours, if you will be mine."
I may change the ending to this story at some point. I was never happy how it turned out as I thought it deserved another chapter or two to expand on what is in my head for these characters. Maybe when I'm done with Elemental.