Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephanie Meyer
A/N: A huge thanks to Untamed Loner for giving me the courage to post this.
A super huge thanks to HammerHips who has offered to beta my story.
Bella's truck rumbled into the school parking lot, gaining the sidelong looks and outright stares of her soon to be fellow classmates. She tried to ignore it, but took it all in in a glance. She had never liked attention, and was sure that the day would be pure torture. She could only hope the sparkle of her "newness" would fade soon so that she could escape into the background.
She snorted at the idea of her being "new". While it was true in one sense, in another it was not. Bella knew most of these kids, and they knew her; or thought they knew her. She had spent time in Forks every summer since her parents' divorce, so she had come in contact with everyone in this little town at one time or another, just not for very long. It was more the fact that she would be forced to endure their looks, their questions, the chance to "get to know her" that was more intriguing to them than the idea of actually getting to know her.
She climbed out of her truck, stumbling a bit as her feet hit the ground. Damn weak ankles. Damn nerves. Clutching onto the door, she suppressed the urge to look and see how many had seen her fumble. She took a deep breath, and tried to calm herself. When she felt like her balance had returned she released the door, slammed it closed and walked toward the building that she knew held the office.
Bella smiled as she remembered the meeting that she and Charlie had with the principle last week.
Charlie opened the door to the principal's office and gestured Bella ahead of him. She sent him a small smile that he returned before gruffly clearing his throat and following. The man that sat behind the desk rose as they entered, and extended his hand to Charlie. Bella watched him as he exchanged pleasantries with her father. He looked like he was in his mid-sixties, dark brown hair mingled with the gray that had taken over. His eyebrows were wild bushes below his creased forehead. She could see the wrinkles at his eyes and mouth, making her wonder if it was from laughter or constant frowning. She let her breath out happily as she saw him smiling easily with Charlie. She was going to need this man's help if she was to survive her time here.
Bella stood until the man, Mr. Grebel according to the plaque on his desk, waved them down into the chairs. He glanced back and forth between the two of them, his body tensing slightly as he remembered the reason for this meeting.
He looked to Bella. "Hello Isabella."
She looked over to Charlie making a few quick signs with her hands.
"She prefers Bella." Charlie interpreted, frowning at her perceived rudeness.
Mr. Grebel smiled easily, taking no offense. "Bella then. Well, Bella, I've been informed that you would like to start coming to school here. Is that correct?"
She liked this man already. There weren't many people that chose to continue speaking directly to her once they saw her signing. She smiled brightly at him, encouraged, and nodded her head.
His eyes shone his compassion. "Now Bella, it's not that I don't want you here..." he began and she frowned. This wasn't good. She looked over at Charlie sharply, worried. He awkwardly patted her leg and shifted his head toward Mr. Grebel, silently telling her to give the principal her attention.
Mr. Grebel had trailed off when he saw that Bella was no longer looking at him, but continued once her eyes were upon him once again. "I just don't know that we have the resources to take on a deaf student."
He looked to my father and stated,"Charlie, you must understand my predicament. We are a small town, a small school. We have never had the need, or funds, for any specialized equipment or personnel. And while this circumstance has led us to start applying for grants for this purpose, you know how these things go. There is no way we would be prepared for her next week."
Charlie looked at Bella and she nodded her consent, again. They had went through this argument the night before, debating the pros and cons of bringing this man into their secret. She had held it so long, the thought of letting it go scared her.
Bella's heart pounded and she felt her palms begin to sweat. She rubbed them down her jean-clad legs as she turned her attention to Mr. Grebel, wanting to see his reaction.
Charlie coughed again, unsure of how to proceed. "Mr. Grebel, there is no need for any special arrangements for Bella."
While Charlie paused as he collected his thoughts, Mr. Grebel spoke. "Chief Swan, we don't have an interpreter for Bella. I know that she can read lips, but there will be times that the teacher will not be facing her..."
Charlie started shaking his head, causing Mr. Grebel to trail off once again.
"Bella will not need an interpreter."
Mr. Grebel sighed. "Chief Swan. The teacher will not have the time to go back over the information just for her, and I cannot allow her education to be to spotty just from our lacking."
"Bella is not deaf."
"But..." The man's brow furrowed in confusion. "The signing?"
"Bella is not deaf Mr. Grebel. She's mute."
The man had been shocked, to say the least. After much discussion, it had been decided that she could enroll at Forks High. However, only Mr. Grebel would know that she was not, in fact, deaf. This was what all of Forks believed, and for them to suddenly hear differently would turn the whole town upside down. It was already tilting sideways with her moving in with Charlie; the knowledge that she was mute would be too much for them. It would be too much for her. Life was so much easier when people believed she was deaf.
For some reason people just couldn't seem to grasp that she was physically unable to speak. They thought she was trying to get attention, or rebelling against something. They took their presumptions and acted accordingly, treating her like a petulant child and attempting over and over to get her to speak. But she couldn't. A defect in her vocal cords prevented her from creating any speech at all. It had devastated Renee, who in finding a defect lost the ideal of having the perfect child. Charlie, who was also impacted, had not found it to be too life altering. He was a man of little words himself, and it was he and not Renee who had decided that she would simply learn to sign to communicate with them. She could still express all her hopes and dreams, her wishes, her wants, just with her hands and not her voice.
It was Renee who had decided the world would be given the impression that she was deaf. Either in a flash of insight as to the cruelty she would experience as someone with her special circumstances, or in shame. Perhaps it was a mixture of both. Renee had come to rely so heavily on the story of her deafness she sometimes herself forgot that Bella could hear her speak. Much to both of their regret.
Bella shook my head to dispel these sad thoughts. This was a new start. She needed to try and be positive. New people to watch, discover, figure out. After all, people would soon stop watching her and she would not stop watching them. She loved people watching, and since most people didn't try to communicate with her - and frankly often overlooked her - she was free to watch them. You would be surprised at how much you can discover about a person when they though no one could see them.
Like that girl over there with the curly brown hair.
She was dressed so similarly to the blond next to her, mimicking her stance and flirtatious gestures. But her hand was holding the edge of her skirt, as if she wished she could pull it down a little more, reveal a little less. She was a follower, someone desperate to be something more. Or at least to be perceived as something more. I shook my head sadly as she looked at the boys they were talking with. The first one that had sandy blond hair and boyish looks was smiling at them both. The other, a taller, dark skinned boy had a rakish smile. They both gave the girls a once over as they walked away, eyes lingering on hips and legs, but the blond boy had a dreamy look in his eyes while the darker one had a leer. Clearly the blond had yet to lose the innocence of mind or body.
Bella lost herself in her observations as she walked quickly, yet carefully to the office. She noticed the stares of the students she passed, yet she made sure that no eye contact was made. She really didn't want to have someone come up and try to have a conversation, or even worse have them make eye contact and then rudely turn away. Those hurt; the acknowledgment of seeing her, but then deciding that she is not worth the effort of conversation. While she understood, she could never seem to stop that little kick in the gut that happened when they turned from her.
Bella entered the office and smiled at the red-haired woman behind it. Though she couldn't help the thought that perhaps someone should have told her that the color red she was sporting was not natural, especially for someone her age. She smiled back, "How can I help you dear?"
Bella handed her one of the note cards that she and Charlie had filled out yesterday in preparation for her first day. My name is Isabella Swan. I'm new. I'm here for my schedule.
She read the note and smiled widely, a bit of pity glinted in her eyes. "Welcome to Forks High Isabella. Let me get your schedule for you. Wait just a moment." She spoke louder and much slower than she had before knowing who she was talking to. Bella smiled to herself as she went to pull out the card she was sure she would be using a lot today. I can read your lips. Please speak as you normally would.
The secretary flushed slightly and went to shuffle through some paperwork in front of her. When she spoke again it was in a normal tone. "Okay dear, this first one is your schedule and the second is a map of the school. The last one is for the teachers. Get them to sign next to their name, and then return it to me at the end of the day. Alright?"
Bella smiled warmly at the woman and nodded. Her hand rose to her mouth and then fell to the waiting palm in front of her, signing her thanks. She mouthed the words as well.
"You're welcome dear. If you need anything please let me know. Have a good day. I'll see you at the end of classes."
As she nodded her understanding, Bella turned and walked out the door and headed for her first class.
Bella had taken the chance to acquaint herself with the school's odd layout the previous week after the meeting with the principle. She had never before seen a school separate itself among so many smaller buildings, but at least they were smart enough to have assigned an area of study for each building. The first building housed all the offices and conference areas, as well as the nurses' office. Bella was sure to make note of that particular room, as she was sure she would visit it often. The next few buildings held the academic areas: English and History in the second, Sciences in the third, and Art and Music in the next. The gym was the last building, and Bella was glad that it had been decided that she would not have to go through the torture of gym class. She hoped that the only time that she had to enter that particular building was for assemblies or any sporting events she was forced to go to.
She glanced down at the paper for what felt like the hundredth time, and again confirmed that her first class was History. She walked into the room and went straight to the teacher, not wanting to think about what eyes might be on her. She smiled at the man and passed him the paper to sign as well as a preprinted message introducing herself and her "special needs". It also stated that she could read lips and did not need them to take any special considerations other than the fact that they could not expect her to answer any questions vocally.
The teacher signed the paper and told her that she could take any seat that was open. She nodded, took a deep breath and turned to take in the classroom. As she walked among the desks, she glanced around the room and saw that only a few students were in the room so far. Her eyes passed over them and then immediately returned to the most stunning man she had ever seen in her life. And he was looking back at her.
Her feet stumbled and she stopped, holding onto the desk next to her to regain her balance. But even though she was in no danger of falling, she still felt like she was moving. Her head was spinning as she took him in. He was sitting in a desk in the back of the room. His clothes seemed to show off his trim form, even while seated, and his hands rested relaxed upon the top of the desk, but his fingers twitched slightly as if he wanted to take a hold of something. Her own fingers clenched into fists as she looked at the blond waves of hair falling forward, slightly hiding his eyes. She wanted to push them back, to feel the texture of it against her fingers. She wanted to gaze into his eyes and discover the true color of them.
Her visual exploration of him was cut off with the giggle of the girl next to him. She felt cold all of a sudden, then hot with embarrassment. The girl was a waif. Thin to the extreme, her dark hair bobbed about her as if the idea of lying flat was an inconceivable notion. Bella could see that her eyes were a strange golden color and they sparkled with mirth. Her mouth was turned up in slightly smug smile. Smug? Was she interpreting that smile right? What did this girl have to be smug about? Was she already being set up as the butt of some joke, or the proof within some bet?
She sat down in the desk she was clutching, suddenly unsure of herself. For the first time in a long time she lost herself completely to her thoughts, unaware of anything around her. She jumped when someone tapped her on the shoulder; it was the brown haired girl she had noticed outside of the school.
"Hi. I'm Jessica. Do you need help reading that?" she pointed to the schedule Bella had been blankly staring at.
Bella looked at her, confused. Had she heard her right? Had she actually asked her if she wanted help reading? The girl must have thought she was taking too long to answer, because she tried again. Only this time she spoke slowly, as if talking to an idiot.
"Do you..." she pointed to Bella, "need me" pointed to herself, "to read that for you?" She ended by pointing to the paper again.
Bella stopped herself from snorting, but could not seem to stop herself from talking back to her in the fluid movement of hands. "I'm supposed to be deaf, not blind or dumb."
There was a little giggle from the girl at the back of the room and Bella flushed red. She bit her lip and chastised herself. The girl was just trying to help her, so she shouldn't have been so short. She hoped she hadn't offended her and lost a possible friend. There weren't many people who would approach her knowing her 'special needs'. She looked up at the girl again, and she was watching her expectantly. Clearly, she had not understood the motions or the annoyance on Bella's face. Giving her a small smile Bella shook her head and mouthed the word, "No."
"Oh, okay." the girl responded easily. "Well, I wasn't sure. How was I to know? You were just sitting there staring at it like it was a foreign language. Did you know that?" Bella shrugged, but the girl continued on, as if a response wasn't needed.
"But it's good to know you can read. I mean it sucks that you can't hear me, but if you couldn't read. Wow. That would, like, super suck."
One of Bella's eyebrows rose at the words coming from the girl, Jessica's, mouth. Perhaps she really was an idiot. But a well-intentioned idiot was better than a malicious one. At least she wasn't expecting responses. Maybe she just liked hearing the sound of her own voice? Some people just couldn't stand silence and had to fill it with something, anything. Even stupidity. Jessica seemed to be one of these people.
"Like, how do you even talk to people? Is your life filled with yes and no questions? Cause, I can try and do that, but after a while I'd want to know, I don't know, something more than a yes or no. Cause, like, if I wanted to start dating a boy…" Her eyes flicked across the room at these words, then back before she continued, "…and I wanted to know what you thought of him I'd, like, want to know. Not have to guess with yes or no. And if you started dating someone I'd like to be able to talk to you about it. Like, really talk to you about it." There was a slightly feverish glint her eyes at this, as if she hungered for this kind of knowledge.
Bella was surprised that she felt relief that Jessica's eyes had flicked in a different direction than her man. Wait, had she just thought of the blond man from the back of the room as hers? Why? They hadn't even spoken to each other. Just because she felt incredibly drawn to him did not make him hers. But, oh God, she would love to be able to claim him.
She resisted the urge to look at him again, her shoulders hunched forward slightly, forcing her to remain facing Jessica.
"You do date, don't you?" Bella shrugged in response to this. She could date; if anyone asked. They just didn't ask. Would he ask? She tried to stop that though from moving forward. The last thing she needed, especially on the first day, was a crush. She had had a crush before, only to have her hopes cruelly destroyed. Why would this man, for surely he was no boy, be interested in her? Surely he had a girlfriend already. Maybe that waif of a girl next to him? They would match well. Her dark to his light.
Jessica's voice broke into her thoughts. "Good, 'cause I would want to know everything. Do you have a boyfriend?" At this Jessica actually stopped talking and waited. Obviously this was a question that needed a response.
Again Bella shook her head and mouthed, "No."
Bella's brow furrowed slightly. How could not having a boyfriend be worthy of sucking? But since she had no experience to go on, she really had no idea what it was that she was missing. Ignorance is bliss and all that. Maybe it did suck. But if it did, she was happy not knowing. Life was lonely enough without knowing all that could not be.
"I don't have one either. Well, not yet." Again, her eyes flicked across the room. Bella turned slightly to see who it was that was Jessica was obviously referring to. She smiled to herself when she saw the sandy haired boy from earlier. She turned all of her attention back to Jessica, but she hadn't noticed her observations. She was starting to get a faraway look in her eyes.
"I have someone I'm interested in, and I think that...with the right encouragement...he will ask me out. No. I know he will." Her eyes were bright with determination.
Bella didn't understand why if Jessica liked this boy so much she didn't just ask him out herself? But who was she to say this? She had never asked anyone out either. It's so much easier to say 'just ask' than to actually go and do the asking. Plus there is always the risk of rejection, and who wants to deal with that? So, who could really blame Jessica for wanting this boy to ask her instead. At least you knew the boy's feelings up front. Maybe that was the encouragement she was talking about. The flirting and such. This was a way for her to show him how she felt, to let him know without so many words that she liked him and wanted to go out with him. If he didn't reciprocate, well then, it could all be chalked up to harmless flirting, and no one would be the wiser. Hurt feelings would remain a secret, to be harbored and mourned over later in private, rather than publicly.
The teacher walked to the front of the class and cleared his throat. "Okay, kids. It's that time. Settle down. Let's get ready to start."
Jessica sat in the seat next to Bella and tried unsuccessfully to tug her skirt down a bit more. When this failed she instead placed her hand on her outside leg, hiding some of the skin, in a very practiced move. Bella gave a little smile at her actions and quickly pulled her Notebook computer out of her bag and turned it on. This was her excuse for not needing an interpreter; she couldn't stop to look down while taking notes, so instead she would type them as he spoke. Bella had learned long ago the art of typing and not looking at the screen. It was almost second nature to her now.
Bella ignored Jessica's little gasp of surprise at seeing her Notebook, as well as her little frantic whispers since she was not looking at her. Jessica finally figured out why she wasn't responding and tapped her arm, allowing Bella the excuse to look at her and respond.
"You have a Notebook? That is so cool! What are you going to do with it? Do we get WiFi here?" She looked around as if she would be able to see the invisible waves that allowed internet access.
Bella tilted the screen toward Jessica and typed. 'This is how I take notes. I will read the teacher's lips and type them here.'
Jessica's brow furrowed. "But what about when he turns around, or it writing on the board?"
Bella smiled widely, relieved to finally have gotten a logical question from her. Maybe she wasn't so stupid after all. In response she pulled a digital recorder out of her bag and placed it on her desk. 'I'll record the class, and any time I miss something, I note the time and get someone to tell me what was said later.'
"Wow. You are, like, so prepared. That is so nerdy of you. All I have is some paper and a pencil." She held up a binder filled with paper and a mechanical pencil.
Bella shrugged and ignored the insult. 'Think of this as my paper and pencil. I would gladly use those, but I can't look away from the teacher or I'll miss something.'
"You, like, seriously, have to look at the teacher all the time?" Her eyes were wide with shock. "I couldn't stand to just, like, stare at them. They are soooooo boring. And dress sooo old. Ugh."
Bella couldn't afford to talk more, knowing the teacher was getting ready to start class. She knew it would take more time than she had to get Jessica to understand all the preparation that she had to go through just to try to live a normal life. 'We can talk more after class if you want, but I must watch the teacher now.'
Jessica just nodded, and continued to look at her confused as Bella looked away and cleared her side of the conversation off of the screen.
"As most of you know, I'm Mr. Corburn, and this is your senior History class. If anyone is in the wrong class, now is the time to leave." He paused and looked around, but no one moved. "Alright. Let's start with attendance."
Each student answered to their name being called. Bella had wanted to try to remember which names went with what person, but when the name Jasper Cullen was responded to, she was no longer able to think. His tenor voice washed over her, and her spine straightened with the shock and tingles of awareness that came over her. She began to ache, and could almost feel the distance between their two bodies. She needed to be closer to him. Needed... something. Her hands started to shake and her heart beat loudly in her ears. The world went fuzzy along the edges, and for a moment she was truly deaf.
A/N: Thanks so much for reading! Let me know what you think. I try to respond to all reviews. :)