AN: I am so sorry this took this long. I think I have finally balanced out my writing schedule so I hope to be update more often. I don't quit my stories. I don't own the Twilight saga.
Old Quil cleared his throat and began to read.
CHAPTER 2: Open Book
The next day was better… and worse.
It was better because it wasn't raining yet, though the clouds were dense and opaque. It was easier because I knew what to expect of my day. Mike came to sit by me in English, and walked me to my next class, with Chess Club Eric glaring at him all the while; that was nattering. People didn't look at me quite as much as they had yesterday.
I sat with a big group at lunch that included Mike, Eric, Jessica, and several other people whose names and faces I now remembered. I began to feel like I was treading water, instead of drowning in it.
It was worse because I was tired; I still couldn't sleep with the wind echoing around the house.
Charlie had a worried look across his face on whether it would be best for his daughter to move to Forks if it was affecting her sleeping patterns this much.
"You don't need to worry Charlie it takes on average of three days for human beings to acclimatize to a new environment," Carlisle comforted.
It was worse because Mr. Varner called on me in Trig when my hand wasn't raised and I had the wrong answer.
"He does that to everyone," Edward supplied.
It was miserable because I had to play volleyball, and the one time I didn't cringe out of the way of the ball, I hit my teammate in the head with it.
And it was worse because Edward Cullen wasn't in school at all.
Edward smirked, but then his face changed into a dark foreboding look.
"Edward there is no need to worry; she could simply be a curious human or at worse she could be infatuated with you like Jessica Stanley has been for the last two years," Carlisle thought with an internal chuckle.
Edward relaxed a little at his father's comforting thoughts, but grimaced at the Jessica jibe.
Meanwhile the Elders were becoming increasingly worried about Bella's growing obsession with the bronze-haired vampire.
All morning I was dreading lunch, fearing his bizarre glares. Part of me wanted to confront him and demand to know what his problem was.
While I was lying sleepless in my bed, I even imagined what I would say. But I knew myself too well to think I would really have the guts to do it. I made the Cowardly Lion look like the terminator.
Charlie couldn't hold back a chuckle at the imagery that his daughter had created.
But when I walked into the cafeteria with Jessica — trying to keep my eyes from sweeping the place for him, and failing entirely — I saw that his four siblings of sorts were sitting together at the same table, and he was not with them.
Carlisle exhaled roughly; he hated it when his children left; not only because he missed them and their family didn't feel whole, but also because of the effect it had on his wife.
"Where are you?" Charlie asked truly curious.
"Most likely visiting some of our cousins up in Alaska; trying to clear my head," Edward answered honestly.
"And you're alright with your kid skipping school?" Charlie asked Carlisle knowing that he would never let Bella do that.
"Edward's almost an adult and he typically is ahead in his classes he won't miss much," Carlisle answered with an automatic human response not wanting to give too much away before it was necessary.
Mike intercepted us and steered us to his table. Jessica seemed elated by the attention, and her friends quickly joined us. But as I tried to listen to their easy chatter, I was terribly uncomfortable, waiting nervously for the moment he would arrive. I hoped that he would simply ignore me when he came, and prove my suspicions false.
He didn't come, and as time passed I grew more and more tense.
I walked to Biology with more confidence when, by the end of lunch, he still hadn't showed. Mike, who was taking on the qualities of a golden retriever,
Edward snickered at the analogy knowing that it would be accurate.
Charlie and Carlisle just shook their heads at the teenager. While the Elders looked shocked at how immature the century old vampire could be.
walked faithfully by my side to class. I held my breath at the door, but Edward Cullen wasn't there, either. I exhaled and went to my seat. Mike followed, talking about an upcoming trip to the beach.
He lingered by my desk till the bell rang. Then he smiled at me wistfully and went to sit by a girl with braces and a bad perm.
Charlie and Billy shared a look that clearly showed that they were remembering they're years in high school when bad perms were a dime a dozen and braces came with external head gear, but that was the 8os for you.
It looked like I was going to have to do something about Mike, and it wouldn't be easy. In a town like this, where everyone lived on top of everyone else, diplomacy was essential. I had never been enormously tactful; I had no practice dealing with overly-friendly boys.
At this Charlie let out a sigh of relief which was ruined when Billy piped in, "Good luck keeping it that way."
"Oh I'm not worried. Being the chief of police has its perks," Charlie answered with complete seriousness that made Carlisle crack a smile.
I was relieved that I had the desk to myself, that Edward was absent. I told myself that repeatedly. But I couldn't get rid of the nagging suspicion that I was the reason he wasn't there. It was ridiculous, and egotistical, to think that I could affect anyone that strongly. It was impossible. And yet I couldn't stop worrying that it was true.
When the school day was finally done, and the blush was fading out of my cheeks from the volleyball incident, I changed quickly back into my jeans and navy blue sweater. I hurried from the girls' locker room, pleased to find that I had successfully evaded my retriever friend for the moment.
"Please Dad," Edward whined.
"No," Carlisle answered quickly knowing what his son was thinking.
"What does he want?" Charlie asked curiously.
"He and his brothers want to buy a golden retriever and name it after Mike," Carlisle answered with an eye roll. "But his sister is allergic to dogs." Carlisle added the last part as a reminder to Edward that the poor animal would die of a heart attack within three hours.
I walked swiftly out to the parking lot. It was crowded now with fleeing students. I got in my truck and dug through my bag to make sure I had what I needed.
Last night I'd discovered that Charlie couldn't cook much besides fried eggs and bacon.
Charlie was now flushed from sternum to forehead.
So I requested that I be assigned kitchen detail for the duration of my stay. He was willing enough to hand over the keys to the banquet hall. I also found out that he had no food in the house. So I had my shopping list and the cash from the jar in the cupboard labeled FOOD MONEY, and I was on my way to the Thriftway.
I gunned my deafening engine to life, ignoring the heads that turned in my direction, and backed carefully into a place in the line of cars that were waiting to exit the parking lot. As I waited, trying to pretend that the earsplitting rumble was coming from someone else's car, I saw the two Cullens and the Hale twins getting into their car. It was the shiny new Volvo. Of course. I hadn't noticed their clothes before
— I'd been too mesmerized by their faces. Now that I looked, it was obvious that they were all dressed exceptionally well; simply, but in clothes that subtly hinted at designer origins.
With their remarkable good looks, the style with which they carried themselves, they could have worn dishrags and pulled it off.
Both Carlisle and Edward went into full-on belly laughs due to picturing Alice's reaction to them wearing dish rags; it took a full five minutes for them to stop and another two minutes to explain to the other what had set them off.
It seemed excessive for them to have both looks and money. But as far as I could tell, life worked that way most of the time. It didn't look as if it bought them any acceptance here.
No, I didn't fully believe that. The isolation must be their desire; I couldn't imagine any door that wouldn't be opened by that degree of beauty.
Edward was surprised at how much understanding that Bella had gleaned from such a short period of time.
They looked at my noisy truck as I passed them, just like everyone else.
I kept my eyes straight forward and was relieved when I finally was free of the school grounds.
The Thriftway was not far from the school, just a few streets south, off the highway. It was nice to be inside the supermarket; it felt normal. I did the shopping at home, and I fell into the pattern of the familiar task gladly. The store was big enough inside that I couldn't hear the tapping of the rain on the roof to remind me where I was.
Charlie frowned at the sign that his daughter wasn't happy living with him.
"Don't worry Charlie she'll get use to it eventually," Billy encouraged, "You just have to let the place grow on her for a while."
This seemed to brighten Charlie's mood.
When I got home, I unloaded all the groceries, stuffing them in wherever I could find an open space. I hoped Charlie wouldn't mind. I wrapped potatoes in foil and stuck them in the oven to bake, covered a steak in marinade and balanced it on top of a carton of eggs in the fridge.
A couple of stomachs growled at the mention of food.
"Hold on for a minute guys I'm going to order a pizza," Charlie commented.
A few minutes later he returned and they continued with the reading.
When I was finished with that, I took my book bag upstairs. Before starting my homework, I changed into a pair of dry sweats, pulled my damp hair up into a pony-tail, and checked my e-mail for the first time. I had three messages.
"Bella," my mom wrote…
Write me as soon as you get in. Tell me how your flight was. Is it raining? I miss you already. I'm almost finished packing for Florida, but I can't find my pink blouse. Do you know where I put it? Phil says hi. Mom.
I sighed and went to the next. It was sent eight hours after the first.
"Bella," she wrote…
Why haven't you e-mailed me yet? What are you waiting for? Mom.
The last was from this morning.
If I haven't heard from you by 5:30 p.m. today I'm calling Charlie.
Charlie shook his head. "Typical Renee" he muttered under his breath.
I checked the clock. I still had an hour, but my mom was well known for jumping the gun.
Calm down. I'm writing right now. Don't do anything rash.
I sent that, and began again.
Everything is great. Of course it's raining. I was waiting for something to write about.
School isn't bad, just a little repetitive.
I met some nice kids who sit by me at lunch.
Your blouse is at the dry cleaners - you were supposed to pick it up Friday. Charlie bought me a truck, can you believe it? I love it. It's old, but really sturdy, which is good, you know, for me.
Edward crinkled his eyebrows while realizing where Bella mysterious maturity came from…she was the adult when she was with her mother.
I miss you, too. I'll write again soon, but I'm not going to check my e-mail every five minutes. Relax, breathe. I love you.
I had decided to read Wuthering Heights — the novel we were currently studying in English — yet again for the fun of it,
Carlisle gave a soft smile, "It is nice to hear that someone is still reading the classics without being forced to."
"Yeah, Bella's always been like that," Charlie responded, "When she was little she had Renee or I read her stories like The Three Musketeers or Black Beauty."
and that's what I was doing when Charlie came home. I'd lost track of the time, and I hurried downstairs to take the potatoes out and put the steak in to broil.
"Look Charlie, you're going to eat food that doesn't come from a takeout box, a diner, or fried eggs," Billy teased. Charlie just blushed and shoved Billy's shoulder.
"Bella?" my father called out when he heard me on the stairs.
Who else? I thought to myself.
"Sarcasm, if children didn't think or speak it at least once a day the world would end," Quil Sr. comment making everyone, with the exception of Carlisle and Edward, realize how much older Quil Sr. really was than them.
"Hey, Dad, welcome home."
"Thanks." He hung up his gun belt and stepped out of his boots as I bustled about the kitchen. As far as I was aware, he'd never shot the gun on the job. But he kept it ready. When I came here as a child, he would always remove the bullets as soon as he walked in the door. I guess he considered me old enough now not to shoot myself by accident, and not depressed enough to shoot myself on purpose.
"It's just basic gun safety," Charlie commented.
"What's for dinner?" he asked warily. My mother was an imaginative cook, and her experiments weren't always edible. I was surprised, and sad, that he seemed to remember that far back.
"Steak and potatoes," I answered, and he looked relieved.
He seemed to feel awkward standing in the kitchen doing nothing; he lumbered into the living room to watch TV while I worked. We were both more comfortable that way. I made a salad while the steaks cooked, and set the table. I called him in when dinner was ready, and he sniffed appreciatively as he walked into the room.
"Smells good, Bell."
We ate in silence for a few minutes. It wasn't uncomfortable. Neither of us was bothered by the quiet. In some ways, we were well suited for living together.
"So, how did you like school? Have you made any friends?" he asked as he was taking seconds.
"Well, I have a few classes with a girl named Jessica. I sit with her friends at lunch. And there's this boy, Mike, who's very friendly. Everybody seems pretty nice." With one outstanding exception.
Edward frowned and pulled his eyebrows down at the side comment.
Edward, your actions with Bella were quite impressive considering she's your singer.
This didn't seem to improve Edward's self imagine.
"That must be Mike Newton. Nice kid — nice family. His dad owns the sporting goods store just outside of town. He makes a good living off all the backpackers who come through here."
"Do you know the Cullen family?" I asked hesitantly.
"Dr. Cullen's family? Sure. Dr. Cullen's a great man."
"They… the kids… are a little different. They don't seem to fit in very well at school."
Charlie surprised me by looking angry.
"People in this town," he muttered. "Dr. Cullen is a brilliant surgeon who could probably work in any hospital in the world, make ten times the salary he gets here," he continued, getting louder. "We're lucky to have him — lucky that his wife wanted to live in a small town. He's an asset to the community, and all of those kids are well behaved and polite. I had my doubts, when they first moved in, with all those adopted teenagers. I thought we might have some problems with them. But they're all very mature — I haven't had one speck of trouble from any of them. That's more than I can say for the children of some folks who have lived in this town for generations. And they stick together the way a family should — camping trips every other weekend… Just because they're newcomers, people have to talk."
Everyone was staring at Charlie in shock. Meanwhile Charlie was executing the trademark Swan blush.
"Thank you Charlie," Carlisle and Edward said in unison. All Charlie did was nod.
It was the longest speech I'd ever heard Charlie make. He must feel strongly about whatever people were saying.
I backpedaled. "They seemed nice enough to me. I just noticed they kept to themselves. They're all very attractive," I added, trying to be more complimentary.
"You should see the doctor," Charlie said, laughing. "It's a good thing he's happily married. A lot of the nurses at the hospital have a hard time concentrating on their work with him around."
Edward got a huge smirk on his face.
"Don't even think about it," Carlisle ordered.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Edward stated in an innocent voice.
"She already knows about them so there is no reason to tell your mother. You know it just upsets her," Carlisle responded.
"True. Fine, I won't say anything to Emmett, because anything he says would upset Esme," Edward answered.
Meanwhile the Elders were getting more evidence that the vampires weren't exactly what they thought.
We lapsed back into silence as we finished eating. He cleared the table while I started on the dishes. He went back to the TV, and after I finished washing the dishes by hand — no dishwasher
Everyone rolled their eyes, but then again the last time any of them had done the dishes was years ago.
— I went upstairs unwillingly to work on my math homework. I could feel a tradition in the making.
"It's more of a routine than a tradition," Harry commented under his breath; the misuse of words being a personal pet peeve of his.
That night it was finally quiet. I fell asleep quickly, exhausted.
The rest of the week was uneventful. I got used to the routine of my classes. By Friday I was able to recognize, if not name, almost all the students at school. In Gym, the kids on my team learned not to pass me the ball and to step quickly in front of me if the other team tried to take advantage of my weakness.
Billy gave Charlie a teasing smirk that made him go beet red from the top of his barely balding head down into his shirt.
I happily stayed out of their way. Edward Cullen didn't come back to school.
Carlisle look worried that the last statement knowing how much it upset his wife when one of their children was away.
"I am most likely in Denali trying to figure out what is occurring, and what I should do to prevent a disaster from happening," Edward said quiet enough that the humans in the room shouldn't have been able to hear what they were discussing, but they received a weird look from Charlie who couldn't hear word for word what they were saying, but heard enough that he knew something was off.
Every day, I watched anxiously until the rest of the Cullens entered the cafeteria without him. Then I could relax and join in the lunchtime conversation. Mostly it centered around a trip to the La Push Ocean Park in two weeks that Mike was putting together. I was invited, and I had agreed to go, more out of politeness than desire.
Beaches should be hot and dry.
By Friday I was perfectly comfortable entering my Biology class, no longer worried that Edward would be there.
"Great now he's going to show up," Billy said in an ominous tone.
For all I knew, he had dropped out of school. I tried not to think about him, but I couldn't totally suppress the worry that I was responsible for his continued absence, ridiculous as it seemed.
My first weekend in Forks passed without incident. Charlie, unused to spending time in the usually empty house, worked most of the weekend. I cleaned the house, got ahead on my homework, and wrote my mom more bogusly cheerful e-mail. I did drive to the library Saturday,
but it was so poorly stocked that I didn't bother to get a card; I would have to make a date to visit Olympia or Seattle soon and find a good bookstore.
I wondered idly what kind of gas mileage the truck got… and shuddered at the thought.
"I don't suggest that trip," Billy warned, "Even though Jake did a great job on re-building the old girl; she's not exactly economically friendly or long-distance stable for that matter."
The rain stayed soft over the weekend, quiet, so I was able to sleep well.
People greeted me in the parking lot Monday morning. I didn't know all their names, but I waved back and smiled at everyone. It was colder this morning, but happily not raining. In English, Mike took his accustomed seat by my side. We had a pop quiz on Wuthering Heights. It was straightforward, very easy.
All in all, I was feeling a lot more comfortable than I had thought I would feel by this point. More comfortable than I had ever expected to feel here.
"Human beings are highly adaptable creatures," Carlisle commented, "I would have been more surprised if she had been unable to change at all. A recent experiment by George Straton had a group of test subjects wear glasses that turned their vision upside down, but what was remarkable was that their brains adapted and by the end of the third day their vision had righted itself."
"Carlisle that was done in 1896," Edward corrected.
When we walked out of class, the air was full of swirling bits of white. I could hear people shouting excitedly to each other. The wind bit at my cheeks, my nose.
"Wow," Mike said. "It's snowing."
I looked at the little cotton fluffs that were building up along the sidewalk and swirling erratically past my face.
"Ew." Snow. There went my good day.
He looked surprised. "Don't you like snow?"
"No. That means it's too cold for rain." Obviously. "Besides, I thought it was supposed to come down in flakes — you know, each one unique and all that.
"It does under a microscope," Edward muttered to himself.
These just look like the ends of Q-tips."
"Haven't you ever seen snow fall before?" he asked incredulously.
"Sure I have." I paused. "On TV."
Mike laughed. And then a big, squishy ball of dripping snow smacked into the back of his head. We both turned to see where it came from. I had my suspicions about Eric, who was walking away, his back toward us — in the wrong direction for his next class.
"That kid has no clue. Doesn't he know the basic rules when it comes to nailing your friends with snow," Billy commented.
"Oh and what would those rules be?" Charlie asked sarcastically.
"Rule number one: When in a crowd, blend. Rule number two: distract your enemy," Billy said with a smirk remembering all of the times he had caught Charlie right in the face with a snowball using those rules.
Mike apparently had the same notion. He bent over and began scraping together a pile of the white mush.
"I'll see you at lunch, okay?" I kept walking as I spoke. "Once people start throwing wet stuff, I go inside."
He just nodded, his eyes on Eric's retreating figure.
Throughout the morning, everyone chattered excitedly about the snow; apparently it was the first snowfall of the new year. I kept my mouth shut. Sure, it was drier than rain — until it melted in your socks.
I walked alertly to the cafeteria with Jessica after Spanish. Mush balls were flying everywhere. I kept a binder in my hands, ready to use it as a shield if necessary.
Jessica thought I was hilarious, but something in my expression kept her from lobbing a snowball at me herself.
"I know that look. She gets it from Renee; whenever I was about to do something that Renee wouldn't have found funny. That look would stop flood waters from rising," Charlie reminisced with a shiver.
Mike caught up to us as we walked in the doors, laughing, with ice melting the spikes in his hair. He and Jessica were talking animatedly about the snow fight as we got in line to buy food. I glanced toward that table in the corner out of habit. And then I froze where I stood. There were five people at the table.
Jessica pulled on my arm.
"Hello? Bella? What do you want?"
I looked down; my ears were hot. I had no reason to feel self-conscious, I reminded myself. I hadn't done anything wrong.
"What's with Bella?" Mike asked Jessica.
"Hasn't this kid heard that it is rude to talk about someone like they aren't there?" questioned Old Quil.
"Mike is not very well-versed on manners," Edward answered.
"Nothing," I answered. "I'll just get a soda today." I caught up to the end of the line.
"Aren't you hungry?" Jessica asked.
"Actually, I feel a little sick," I said, my eyes still on the floor.
Edward frowned at the thought that his presence made her sick, but at the same time he didn't know why he cared.
I waited for them to get their food, and then followed them to a table, my eyes on my feet.
I sipped my soda slowly, my stomach churning. Twice Mike asked, with unnecessary concern, how I was feeling.
I told him it was nothing, but I was wondering if I should play it up and escape to the nurse's office for the next hour.
Ridiculous. I shouldn't have to run away.
I decided to permit myself one glance at the Cullen family's table. If he was glaring at me, I would skip Biology, like the coward I was.
I kept my head down and glanced up under my lashes. None of them were looking this way. I lifted my head a little.
They were laughing. Edward, Jasper, and Emmett all had their hair entirely saturated with melting snow. Alice and Rosalie were leaning away as Emmett shook his dripping hair toward them. They were enjoying the snowy day, just like everyone else — only they looked more like a scene from a movie than the rest of us.
"Alice," Carlisle and Edward said in unison while rolling their eyes.
But, aside from the laughter and playfulness, there was something different, and I couldn't quite pinpoint what that difference was. I examined Edward the most carefully. His skin was less pale, I decided — flushed from the snow fight maybe — the circles under his eyes much less noticeable.
Both the Cullens and the Elders were shocked by how much Bella could notice across a crowded cafeteria. Meanwhile Charlie was trying to figure out what all of it meant.
But there was something more. I pondered, staring, trying to isolate the change.
"Bella, what are you staring at?" Jessica intruded, her eyes following my stare. At that precise moment, his eyes flashed over to meet mine.
Carlisle chuckled remembering Edward's early years as a vampire and how it was difficult for him to not react to people's thoughts and to wait for them to actually voice their questions.
I dropped my head, letting my hair fall to conceal my face. I was sure, though, in the instant our eyes met, that he didn't look harsh or unfriendly as he had the last time I'd seen him. He looked merely curious again, unsatisfied in some way.
"Edward Cullen is staring at you," Jessica giggled in my ear.
"He doesn't look angry, does he?" I couldn't help asking.
"No," she said, sounding confused by my question. "Should he be?"
"I don't think he likes me," I confided. I still felt queasy. I put my head down on my arm.
"The Cullens don't like anybody…well, they don't notice anybody enough to like them. But he's still staring at you."
"Stop looking at him," I hissed.
She snickered, but she looked away. I raised my head enough to make sure that she did, contemplating violence if she resisted.
Charlie had a full-on belly laugh at this sentence. He was laughing so deeply it was making everyone wonder if there was a story behind it. When he finally stopped he noticed all of the questioning glances he was getting.
"Let's just say that Bella is rarely violent, but when you really piss her off, nothing and I mean nothing is going to save you. Lucky she hardly ever gets that mad," Charlie finished with a smile.
Mike interrupted us then — he was planning an epic battle of the blizzard in the parking lot after school and wanted us to join. Jessica agreed enthusiastically. The way she looked at Mike left little doubt that she would be up for anything he suggested.
"They deserve each other," Edward muttered.
I kept silent. I would have to hide in the gym until the parking lot cleared. For the rest of the lunch hour I very carefully kept my eyes at my own table. I decided to honor the bargain I'd made with myself. Since he didn't look angry, I would go to Biology. My stomach did frightened little flips at the thought of sitting next to him again.
I didn't really want to walk to class with Mike as usual — he seemed to be a popular target for the snowball snipers — but when we went to the door, everyone besides me groaned in unison.
It was raining, washing all traces of the snow away in clear, icy ribbons down the side of the walkway. I pulled my hood up, secretly pleased. I would be free to go straight home after Gym.
"She could have just gone anyway… the worst that could happen was that she would get nailed with a snowball," Harry Clearwater stated.
Mike kept up a string of complaints on the way to building four.
Once inside the classroom, I saw with relief that my table was still empty. Mr. Banner was walking around the room, distributing one microscope and box of slides to each table. Class didn't start for a few minutes, and the room buzzed with conversation. I kept my eyes away from the door, doodling idly on the cover of my notebook. I heard very clearly when the chair next to me moved …
"Trying not to scare her?" Carlisle thought.
"Most likely," Edward mumbled at a decibel that should have been beyond human's hear range, but he got some weird looks from Charlie.
… but my eyes stayed carefully focused on the pattern I was drawing.
"Hello," said a quiet, musical voice.
I looked up, stunned that he was speaking to me. He was sitting as far away from me as the desk allowed, but his chair was angled toward me. His hair was dripping wet, disheveled — even so, he looked like he'd just finished shooting a commercial for hair gel. His dazzling face was friendly, open, a slight smile on his flawless lips.
Charlie's face was slowly turning pink; he did not want to hear about his daughter's attraction to boys.
But his eyes were careful.
"My name is Edward Cullen," he continued. "I didn't have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan."
Once again Carlisle was chuckling to himself. Not being able to read Bella's mind was taking Edward back to square one…he was talking with knowledge from what others thought not with what others said.
My mind was spinning with confusion. Had I made up the whole thing? He was perfectly polite now. I had to speak; he was waiting. But I couldn't think of anything conventional to say.
"H-how do you know my name?" I stammered.
He laughed a soft, enchanting laugh.
"Oh, I think everyone knows your name. The whole town's been waiting for you to arrive."
I grimaced. I knew it was something like that.
"No," I persisted stupidly. "I meant, why did you call me Bella?"
He seemed confused. "Do you prefer Isabella?"
"No, I like Bella," I said. "But I think Charlie — I mean my dad — must call me Isabella behind my back — that's what everyone here seems to know me as," I tried to explain, feeling like an utter moron.
"Oh." He let it drop. I looked away awkwardly.
"You couldn't figure out an excuse, could you," Carlisle asked at a low decibel.
"Most likely I'm not accustomed to coming up with an excuse. I usually just read the excuse that the person has already come up with for themselves," Edward responded.
Thankfully, Mr. Banner started class at that moment. I tried to concentrate as he explained the lab we would be doing today. The slides in the box were out of order. Working as lab partners, we had to separate the slides of onion root tip cells into the phases of mitosis they represented and label them accordingly. We weren't supposed to use our books. In twenty minutes, he would be coming around to see who had it right. "Get started," he commanded.
"Ladies first, partner?" Edward asked. I looked up to see him smiling a crooked smile so beautiful that I could only stare at him like an idiot.
Now Edward and Charlie were looking a little embarrassed; the only difference was that Charlie went pink.
"Or I could start, if you wish." The smile faded; he was obviously wondering if I was mentally competent.
"No," I said, flushing. "I'll go ahead."
I was showing off, just a little. I'd already done this lab, and I knew what I was looking for. It should be easy.
I snapped the first slide into place under the microscope and adjusted it quickly to the 40X objective. I studied the slide briefly.
My assessment was confident. "Prophase."
"Do you mind if I look?" he asked as I began to remove the slide."
His hand caught mine, to stop me, as he asked. His fingers were ice-cold, like he'd been holding them in a snowdrift before class.
But that wasn't why I jerked my hand away so quickly. When he touched me, it stung my hand as if an electric current had passed through us.
Edward looked at Carlisle with his eyebrows crinkled up obviously asking what the hell had just happened; unfortunately the only response he received was a shrug.
"I'm sorry," he muttered, pulling his hand back immediately.
However, he continued to reach for the microscope. I watched him, still staggered, as he examined the slide for an even shorter time than I had.
"Prophase," he agreed, writing it neatly in the first space on our worksheet. He swiftly switched out the first slide for the second, and then glanced at it cursorily.
"Anaphase," he murmured, writing it down as he spoke.
I kept my voice indifferent. "May I?"
This time Carlisle chuckled out loud drawing the attention of the Elders and Charlie.
"What's so funny?" Charlie finally asked.
"Edward doesn't get questioned on topics or actions very often; it's refreshing. I can just picture what's going through his mind," Carlisle responded.
He smirked and pushed the microscope to me.
I looked through the eyepiece eagerly, only to be disappointed. Dang it, he was right.
"Slide three?" I held out my hand without looking at him.
He handed it to me; it seemed like he was being careful not to touch my skin again.
I took the most fleeting look I could manage.
"Interphase." I passed him the microscope before he could ask for it. He took a swift peek, and then wrote it down. I would have written it while he looked, but his clear, elegant script intimidated me.
I didn't want to spoil the page with my clumsy scrawl.
Old Quil and the Cullen's all shook their heads…penmanship had gone severely downhill since any of them first learned to write.*
We were finished before anyone else was close. I could see Mike and his partner comparing two slides again and again, and another group had their book open under the table.
Which left me with nothing to do but try to not look at him… unsuccessfully.
I glanced up, and he was staring at me, that same inexplicable look of frustration in his eyes. Suddenly I identified that subtle difference in his face.
"Did you get contacts?" I blurted out unthinkingly.
Carlisle and Edwards eyebrows shot up at the question. Rarely did humans find the courage to look them in the eyes; their instincts simply didn't allow it.
He seemed puzzled by my unexpected question. "No."
"Oh," I mumbled. "I thought there was something different about your eyes."
He shrugged, and looked away.
In fact, I was sure there was something different. I vividly remembered the flat black color of his eyes the last time he'd glared at me — the color was striking against the background of his pale skin and his auburn hair. Today, his eyes were a completely different color: a strange ocher, darker than butterscotch, but with the same golden tone. I didn't understand how that could be, unless he was lying for some reason about the contacts. Or maybe Forks was making me crazy in the literal sense of the word. I looked down. His hands were clenched into hard fists again.
Mr. Banner came to our table then, to see why we weren't working. He looked over our shoulders to glance at the completed lab, and then stared more intently to check the answers.
"So, Edward, didn't you think Isabella should get a chance with the microscope?" Mr. Banner asked.
"Hey," Charlie exclaimed his daughter had always gotten an A in science.
"Bella," Edward corrected automatically. "Actually, she identified three of the five."
Mr. Banner looked at me now; his expression was skeptical.
"Have you done this lab before?" he asked.
I smiled sheepishly. "Not with onion root."
Mr. Banner nodded. "Were you in an advanced placement program in Phoenix ?"
"Well," he said after a moment, "I guess it's good you two are lab partners." He mumbled something else as he walked away. After he left, I began doodling on my notebook again.
Edward chuckled, "He doesn't like our family."
"Why?" Harry asked with honest curiosity.
"We're smarter than him," Edward answered simply.
"It's too bad about the snow, isn't it?" Edward asked.
"Are you really talking about the weather?" Billy asked. It was just so clichéd.
"It's something we have in common," Edward muttered he didn't have experience trying to hold a genuine conversation with humans; that is without being able to pick their minds for clues.
I had the feeling that he was forcing himself to make small talk with me. Paranoia swept over me again. It was like he had heard my conversation with Jessica at lunch and was trying to prove me wrong. "Not really," I answered honestly, instead of pretending to be normal like everyone else.
I was still trying to dislodge the stupid feeling of suspicion, and I couldn't concentrate.
"You don't like the cold." It wasn't a question.
"Or the wet."
"Forks must be a difficult place for you to live," he mused.
"You have no idea," I muttered darkly.
He looked fascinated by what I said, …
"Well I can't hear her thoughts how else am I suppose to figure her out?" Edward mused to himself.
… for some reason I couldn't imagine. His face was such a distraction that I tried not to look at it any more than courtesy absolutely demanded.
"Why did you come here, then?"
No one had asked me that — not straight out like he did, demanding.
"I think I can keep up," he pressed.
I paused for a long moment, and then made the mistake of meeting his gaze. His dark gold eyes confused me, and I answered without thinking.
"My mother got remarried," I said.
"That doesn't sound so complex," he disagreed, but he was suddenly sympathetic.
"When did that happen?"
"Last September." My voice sounded sad, even to me.
"And you don't like him," Edward surmised, his tone still kind.
"No, Phil is fine. Too young, maybe, but nice enough."
"Why didn't you stay with them?"
I couldn't fathom his interest, …
By this point everyone bar Carlisle was looking at Edward oddly wondering the same thing.
"Her actions contradict what I have learned to expect from teenagers in her situation," Edward answered stiffly; he found it bordering on ridiculous that they expected him to explain his future self's actions it wasn't as if he had lived through them yet.
…but he continued to stare at me with penetrating eyes, as if my dull life's story was somehow vitally important.
"Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living." I half-smiled.
"Have I heard of him?" he asked, smiling in response.
"Probably not. He doesn't play well. Strictly minor league. He moves around a lot."
"And your mother sent you here so that she could travel with him." He said it as an assumption again, not a question.
"Hey kid, you ever hear the expression that when you assume all you are doing is making an ass out of you and me?" Harry asked with a teasing smile.
"Maybe once or twice," Edward teased back.
My chin raised a fraction. "No, she did not send me here. I sent myself."
His eyebrows knit together. "I don't understand," he admitted, and he seemed unnecessarily frustrated by that fact.
I sighed. Why was I explaining this to him?
"Because whether you want to admit it or not you need to talk to someone about it," Charlie muttered while wishing that his daughter was comfortable enough to discuss her life with him more than a "Yeah dad, school was fine" or "Just stressing about an exam is all".
He continued to stare at me with obvious curiosity.
"She stayed with me at first, but she missed him. It made her unhappy… so I decided it was time to spend some quality time with Charlie." My voice was glum by the time I finished.
"But now you're unhappy," he pointed out.
"And?" I challenged.
"That doesn't seem fair." He shrugged, but his eyes were still intense.
I laughed without humor. "Hasn't anyone ever told you? Life isn't fair."
"I believe I have heard that somewhere before," he agreed dryly.
"So that's all," I insisted, wondering why he was still staring at me that way.
His gaze became appraising. "You put on a good show," he said slowly. "But I'd be willing to bet that you're suffering more than you let anyone see."
I grimaced at him, resisting the impulse to stick out my tongue like a five-year-old, and looked away.
Chuckling was heard throughout the room.
"Am I wrong?"
I tried to ignore him.
"I didn't think so," he murmured smugly.
"Why does it matter to you?" I asked, irritated. I kept my eyes away, watching the teacher make his rounds.
"That's a very good question," he muttered, so quietly that I wondered if he was talking to himself.
"She has good hearing," Edward muttered to Carlisle at a decibel that humans shouldn't have been able to hear at, but Charlie looked over at him obviously hearing what he said. "From her father apparently," he finished at an even lower decibel.
However, after a few seconds of silence, I decided that was the only answer I was going to get.
I sighed, scowling at the blackboard.
"Am I annoying you?" he asked. He sounded amused.
Carlisle chuckled as Edward's inner teenager began to show.
I glanced at him without thinking… and told the truth again." Not exactly. I'm more annoyed at myself. My face is so easy to read — my mother always calls me her open book." I frowned.
"On the contrary, I find you very difficult to read." Despite everything that I'd said and he'd guessed, he sounded like he meant it.
"You're being very open with her," Carlisle commented, "You're usually closed off to anyone outside the family."
"You must be a good reader then," I replied.
He smiled widely, flashing a set of perfect, ultra white teeth.
Mr. Banner called the class to order then, and I turned with relief to listen. I was in disbelief that I'd just explained my dreary life to this bizarre, beautiful boy who may or may not despise me.
He'd seemed engrossed in our conversation, but now I could see, from the corner of my eye, that he was leaning away from me again, his hands gripping the edge of the table with unmistakable tension.
Poor Charlie still in the dark was wondering why he was the only one who found this odd.
I tried to appear attentive as Mr. Banner illustrated, with transparencies on the overhead projector, what I had seen without difficulty through the microscope. But my thoughts were unmanageable.
When the bell finally rang, Edward rushed as swiftly and as gracefully from the room as he had last Monday.
"You need to slow down Edward, or she is going to catch on faster than she already is," Carlisle cautioned telepathically.
Edward merely rolled his eyes as if to say "I know that now".
And, like last Monday, I stared after him in amazement.
Mike skipped quickly to my side and picked up my books for me. I imagined him with a wagging tail.
"That was awful," he groaned. "They all looked exactly the same. You're lucky you had Cullen for a partner."
"Why is everyone assuming my daughter cannot do her science labs on her own?" Charlie asked in an indignant tone.
"Man relax, they most likely don't know her yet and are going based on themselves," Billy said trying to reassure his friend that no one thought his daughter was a dunce.
"I didn't have any trouble with it," I said, stung by his assumption. I regretted the snub instantly. "I've done the lab before, though," I added before he could get his feelings hurt.
"She's being too nice," Charlie grumbled under his breath still not appreciating the slight against his daughter's intelligence.
"Cullen seemed friendly enough today," he commented as we shrugged into our raincoats. He didn't seem pleased about it.
Cue another eye-roll from Edward.
I tried to sound indifferent. "I wonder what was with him last Monday."
I couldn't concentrate on Mike's chatter as we walked to Gym, and P.E. didn't do much to hold my attention, either. Mike was on my team today. He chivalrously covered my position as well as his own, so my woolgathering was only interrupted when it was my turn to serve; my team ducked warily out of the way every time I was up.
The rain was just a mist as I walked to the parking lot, but I was happier when I was in the dry cab. I got the heater running, for once not caring about the mind-numbing roar of the engine. I unzipped my jacket, put the hood down, and fluffed my damp hair out so the heater could dry it on the way home.
I looked around me to make sure it was clear. That's when I noticed the still, white figure. Edward Cullen was leaning against the front door of the Volvo, three cars down from me, and staring intently in my direction. I swiftly looked away and threw the truck into reverse, almost hitting a rusty Toyota Corolla in my haste. Lucky for the Toyota, I stomped on the brake in time. It was just the sort of car that my truck would make scrap metal of. I took a deep breath, still looking out the other side of my car, and cautiously pulled out again, with greater success. I stared straight ahead as I passed the Volvo, but from a peripheral peek, I would swear I saw him laughing.
Carlisle raised an eyebrow at his son; this was significantly more attention than he would usually give any human let alone one that incensed him so much.
Once again the chapter ended in silence; the only sign that the chapter had ended was Old Quil passing the book to Billy.
AN: * I am currently going to school to be a teacher and I feel that the value of penmanship has seriously gone downhill. No I don't think everyone should write in calligraphy or even cursive all the time, but people could at least attempt to make their printing legible. Okay I'm done ranting.