Chapter 2 – Clash


"What?" I growled and spun around to face Edward. He stared at me, his eyes shooting daggers through me.

"I can see where you've been. Don't try to ignore me. What are you thinking, Emmett? She's human. You can't be friends with humans."

Edward's eyes held truth, yet something in them betrayed him. I searched for the truth, staring at him until his eyes fell away. He knew I was suspicious of him. He could hear it in my thoughts. When he looked up again, his eyes were darker than they had been moments before; still golden, but there was a darkness to them that couldn't be defined. He drug a hand through his hair, barely bothering the style he had set for himself.

"Her blood…" he whispered. "It calls to me. She's in my bio class. Sits at the same damn table as me. I can't…"

He trailed off and I watched him, sympathy filling me. Bella's blood was tempting; I'd be the first to admit it. The night Jasper and I had first caught wind of her, it was so enticing, I could only follow my instincts and find the source of the mouth-watering temptation. And I'd found her, that's for damn sure.

"…Stay away." I finished for him. He nodded and took a deep, unnecessary breath. "It's even worse because I can't hear her thoughts. She's so… Peaceful. And intriguing." He frowned and then his expression cleared. "You can't be friends with a human, Emmett. You know how dangerous it is. I can't even go back to school now. She's not safe around me; can you honestly say she is safe around you?"

I searched my mind and knew Edward was following my thoughts. Bella was tempting, there was no denying it. Still, if I continued visiting her just after feeding…

"And Rosalie?" Edward asked, making me groan. Rosalie still didn't know I'd gone to visit Bella. She didn't approve of my interest in befriending Bella, and that was putting it lightly.

"She may not be one of us, Edward, but she could use a friend who isn't preying on her in hopes of using her to boost their popularity. She'd be safe with me. I haven't been getting close enough to put her in danger, really."

Edward glared at me, raising an eyebrow.

"Could you smell her?" I nodded and he clicked his tongue like he'd just knocked over my queen and was about to take my king. "Then you've been getting close enough."

I growled under my breath, pushing past him on my way to my room.

"Look," I said, spinning around. "Maybe it's me, alright. Maybe I need a friend. You guys are great and all, but maybe I want a friend who is just friends with me because she wants to be; not because she has to be."

I paused, seeing confusion on his face.

"You live here out of loyalty to Carlisle and wanting to fit in with a coven that retains even a trace of its humanity. Alice and Jasper want the peace and home life. Rosalie just wants acceptance and while she loves me, she's not satisfied with her life. It shows sometimes. I just want someone I can be friends with for the hell of it; not out of obligation."

I followed Edward's gaze and turned, finding Rosalie standing at the top of the stairs. Her eyes were dark, filled with anger, and she had her hands on her hips: a sure sign of danger.

"I'm not satisfied? Really, Emmett? I haven't been the one talking about traveling and meeting new vampires, expanding our circle of friends. I haven't been the one who disappears after sex to play video games with strangers so I can pretend to be someone I'm not. What do you tell them your name is, Emmett? Christopher? Jax? Tadd? I know you like to play different roles…"

She trailed off, her eyes burning into mine.

"You have friends," I replied. "You go off and visit Tanya and the girls, staying for weeks at a time. You have a life outside of me and this coven. I don't. Maybe I just want to feel like a normal teenager for once."

"You're not a normal teenager!" Her voice came out in a cross between a scream and a hiss. "And I'm not running off to be friends with humans. Or with guys!"

I lowered my head, knowing what she said was at least partially true. But damn, all I wanted was to be friends with the girl. It was completely innocent.

When I looked up, Rosalie was staring at me and some of the anger had gone from her face.

"Why, Emmett?"

I shrugged.


"I don't know, Rose. I just… I just want a friend. She's new here and doesn't have any preconceived notions about us. She's not running around with her friends calling us freaks and shit. She's nice. I don't know. I just…"

Rosalie frowned, her left eye twitching slightly. Her thought process had kicked off and I was a bit worried about where it would take her.

"I don't want her around me. I don't want her around the house. I don't want you bringing her anywhere near the rest of us. If you want to be friends with the thing, fine, but that's it. You say hi, you chit-chat, you visit, whatever. If I see, even once, that being around her is beginning to wear on you, or us… That'll be it."

Somewhere deep inside me, I found a few reasons to take offense. I didn't like the thought of getting permission from Rosalie. In fact, I hadn't asked in the first place. Still, I bit my tongue warring with myself. I could make a bigger mess than I already had, or I could accept that friendship with Bella would be possible with limits. Maybe limits were for the best anyway.

"Fine." I said and moved past her, heading up the stairs.

"You think that wise?" I heard Edward ask as I closed the bedroom door. Silence followed and I understood that Rosalie was telling Edward something by thinking to him. Something she didn't want me to hear.

A short time later, I slipped out the door and into the forest.


I didn't see Edward in class the next day. Or the one after that. He was never in the cafeteria either. Emmett seemed distant during the day, only nodding and smiling from his table, never actually talking to me. But he showed up at night; even during last night's rain, he showed up anyway. I spotted him sitting on the garden bench sometime after Charlie had gone to bed. I'd joined him, though he moved after a few minutes and ended up leaning against a tree again.

I frequently found myself studying him while he talked. And he talked a lot. He told a lot of jokes, bragged about himself a lot, told me very little about his actual life, but seemed to enjoy me just listening to him. And I did enjoy listening to him. Something about his voice reverberated inside me. I wanted to hear him talk and often asked him to tell me a story about Forks or himself just to get him to keep talking.

Of course, he was interested in me, as well. I told him about my mom's death, our move, Charlie's new job as Chief of Police, but avoided his questions about my sleep patterns and the bags under my eyes. Sleep still eluded me; only coming when my body just shut down. And then the dreams came.

We talked for at least an hour each night. Sometimes we'd stay out long after I'd begun to shiver and although Emmett always mentioned I should go inside, he never pushed it too far; as though he wasn't entirely serious about me going in. Talking to him came easy and I laughed more with him than I did at any other time. It was just… simple and easy. I wasn't sure why he only talked to me in the middle of the night and why he seemed to be keeping his distance, but I wasn't complaining.

I'd come to find out that the Cullen family, while mysterious and intriguing, were black listed at Forks High. Everyone thought they were weird and couldn't understand their relationships, all but throwing out the word incest. I didn't like it. I'd started to defend Emmett once, saying that growing up an orphan must be hard, especially when the people around him seem to judge him before getting to know him.

I might as well have told them I had a third nipple on the back of my knee. They all looked at me like I was losing my mind; how could I defend them? Jessica thought they were beautiful, of course, but seemed hell bent on convincing me of their flaws. I had gotten used to shrugging her off and avoiding the topic.

Despite it all, the reason I didn't mind Emmett ignoring me during the day was the way his girlfriend looked at me. Rosalie looked at me like I was dirt. No, worse than dirt. Dirt doesn't offend most people the way I had clearly offended her. I understood she probably didn't like me talking to her boyfriend, but we were just talking. Honestly, if truth be told, I was more attracted to Edward than Emmett. Emmett, as gorgeous as he was, god-like even, just didn't draw me in the way Edward had. Though, when I tried to figure out why I liked Edward so much, I couldn't pinpoint it. The guy had barely looked at me, not spoken a single word to me, acted as though I would light him on fire if he got to close, and hadn't been back at school since. Hot, right? Stupid girl hormones.

I rose from my desk, breaking out of my thoughts, and moved to the window. As predicted, Emmett sat on the bench, his arms perched on the back of the seat. I smiled, glad to see him, and grabbed my jacket.

Emmett grinned and stood up when I reached him, causing me to frown.

"Why don't you ever sit beside me? You're large and very broad, but I think we both fit."

He laughed, a deep chuckle that reached his eyes and then nodded, sitting beside me on the bench. We sat in silence for a few minutes, the cold air wrapping around both of us, though Emmett didn't appear bothered by it. I sighed and glanced up at the house.

"This is stupid. Why do we sit out here every night? It's freezing, I'm a desert dweller, and I've got a perfectly good house right there."

Emmett's body tensed as he glanced toward the house.

"Your dad's in there," he said as though it had slipped my mind.

"Uh, so? It's not like I'm asking you up to my room to make out." Even as I said the words, I felt my cheeks heat up from embarrassment. Emmett laughed, a loud booming laugh, and shook his head.

"Well, obviously. But you don't think it's weird? Us hanging out in there while he's asleep?"

I shrugged and stood up.

"He sleeps like a log now. I think we're safe." I reached for his hand and he stared at it, as though scared I might hurt him. "Emmett?" I asked, feeling a lot like I had the day I sat beside Edward in biology class.

"I tell you what," he said, taking his eyes from my hand. "Why don't you go grab a shower and get ready for bed. That way when you're done, we can just chat until you fall asleep and then I'll let myself out. I'll run home and check in, then come back."

He stood up, not waiting for my answer, and moved toward the trees.

"I'll be back in a half an hour."

He grinned and disappeared into the trees.


I waited until Bella went inside and then checked my watch, deciding a half an hour was more than enough time to do a little hunting before heading back to visit with Bella. Going home was actually out of the question. Most evenings after returning from visiting Bella, I was greeted by Edward reading my thoughts and lecturing me, Rosalie throwing me dirty looks, Alice avoiding everyone, and Jasper following her example. Only Carlisle and Esme seemed to have enough faith and understanding in me to accept what I was doing; though I could see Carlisle's reservations in the beginning.

My hunt was quick and easy. I'd already fed, but deciding that I would be in a house with two humans, and especially in close quarters with Bella, I decided feeding again couldn't hurt. I took extra care to keep from getting blood on me, just as I had been the last couple of nights. I couldn't imagine what kind of reaction I'd get from Bella if I showed up covered in blood.

By the time I stepped out of the woods, Bella was already at her window, running a towel through her hair. She spotted me and smiled before pointing to the backdoor. I met her there a few moments later and she let me in.

"Charlie's out. I checked. And now I know why he's been sleeping so hard: he's finally taking the sleeping pills we were prescribed. I saw them on his nightstand."

"We?" I asked, my eyes lingering on the dark purple bags under her eyes.

"Mhm," she replied. "I don't take mine."

I nodded, not wanting to point out the obviousness of that statement and followed her through the house to her room. The house, while too small for my taste (I frequently had to turn sideways to navigate hallways and turns), was cozy. Artwork hung here and there on the walls; mostly abstract paintings and photography. I noticed there were no family pictures and no mementos from Bella's past life, but didn't want to mention it.

The living room, the biggest room in the house, held a couch and a recliner, both facing a modest sized TV. In the far corner, away from the TV and somewhat isolated, an easel stood in front of the window. The canvas was blank with the exception of a single black line cutting across the middle.

Charlie's snores grew louder as we walked past his door and I understood why Bella wasn't concerned about his thoughts on my being in the house. The dude was out cold.

Bella led me into her bedroom and pushed the door closed behind me. She pulled her lip into her mouth, chewing on it gently as she looked around the room and then at me.

"Chateau Bella," she said awkwardly and resumed drying her hair.

The room, while small and cramped, was warm. Her bed looked unused with books, sketchpads, Cds, and clothes were strewn across it. Her desk stood beside the window, allowing her to see the sky from her seat or stand and look down to see the trees. Dark blue curtains framed the window, pulled back haphazardly and tied off with a piece of string.

"You never close your curtains?" I asked, pointing to the window. Bella shrugged, shook her head and turned away.

In the corner opposite her bed sat a large rocking chair. The back of the chair had been carved and etched into a forest scene, trees lined up beside one another with an opening right in the middle. Above the trees, the moon hung in the night sky, stars littering the backdrop.

"Cool chair," I remarked, glancing back at her.

She smiled and dropped the towel into a basket in her closet.

"It was my mom's." She said simply.

I nodded and finished surveying the room before turning to face her. She stared at me, biting her lip and rocking on her heels slowly.

"Um, can I get you something? Like, a coke or something? We probably have food too."

I waved my hand and shook my head, sitting down on an empty edge of the bed.

"No, I'm cool. Thanks, though."

She smiled and sat down in the chair, pulling her legs up under her body. With a couple clicks of her mouse, quiet music filled the room and she sat back, folding her arms over her chest.

"Tell me a story, Emmett," she said, turning toward me.

"What kind of story, Bella?"

She shrugged. "Anything. Something about you; about your life. I don't know much about you really."

There's a reason for that, I thought with a sigh.

"When were you adopted?" She asked, throwing me a bone.

"Awhile back." I answered, vaguely. "Carlisle and Esme can't have kids, but Esme's very maternal. She had kids before and they died. I think she felt incomplete without a houseful of kids bugging her."

I felt a smile tug at my lips and let it spread into a grin.

"She's great. They both are. Carlisle so loyal. He's just devoted, ya know? The kind of devotion that doesn't come natural to most people. He'd rather suffer through every pain in the world than see anyone around him suffer. I think that goes most for Esme. I've never actually seen him deny her anything. My brothers and I give him hell for it sometimes, but he doesn't seem to care. We do it anyway though. That's just how we are; we bond over giving each other hell. But, I think that's how brothers are supposed to be."

I paused, allowing myself to remember my human family. My older brothers picked on me relentlessly. Days at the railroad passed in a blur of mockery, play fighting, pranks, and laughter.

"My brothers, my real brothers, they kind of instilled that in me. If you're not teasing each other, you're not doing your job. People can be too serious and sometimes you just have to remind them that life is better than all the bullshit going on in it. You just have to wait it out. Laughter helps and I think people forget that. I know Edward does. Jasper is so in love with Alice that she's all he can see. But Edward- that guy feels so alone and lost that he smiles as often as I lose my fights. Even today, I tried getting him to help me pull a prank on Jasper, but he just waved me off…"

Bella leaned forward a little, pulling her legs out from under her body.

"I thought… I thought maybe Edward had left town or something. I haven't seen him around lately."

My eyes met Bella's and I saw something in them. Hope, maybe? I frowned, shaking my head. If only she knew how much danger that hope put her in. Edward called Bella his singer. If that was true… Well, I'd met two of my own singers and neither of them lived to sing another day. Their blood called to me, singing a sweet lullaby that I couldn't ignore.

"He's been sick." I said firmly and Bella sat back.

After a few moments she looked up at me with a smile.

"Tell me more about your real family."

We talked for hours. Eventually Bella got up and cleared the bed off, lying down while I moved to the desk chair. Bella seemed to have a gift for keeping the topic of conversation on me. The few times I had managed to get it back to her, her answers were vague and short. After awhile, I got the feeling she just wanted to hear me talk and wasn't interested in doing the talking. I humored her, telling her more about my human family, but being careful to avoid details.

After a time, Bella's eyes began to droop, though it seemed like she was fighting it. Sometime after 3am, she fell asleep. I allowed myself to sit for a few more minutes before programming my cell number into her phone, leaving it open so she'd see it when she woke up. I let myself out of the house, pleased to hear Charlie's snores still coming from his room.


I woke up with a start, the image of my own bloody eyes staring up at me still burned into my brain. I collapsed back on the bed, whimpering with aggravation, before realizing something wasn't quite right. I sat up and glanced around the room.

"Emmett?" I whispered as I reached for my bedside lamp, remembering he had been with me when I fell asleep. Soft light filled the room and Emmett was nowhere to be seen. I frowned and laid back, kicking the heavy down comforter off me. A thin layer of sweat covered my body and I reached for my phone, wondering just how long I had been asleep.

When I picked it up, I found that my contact list was open to Emmett's name and number, accompanied by a truly ridiculous photo of him throwing gang signs. I smiled, laughing despite the heaviness I felt in my heart. I took note of the time, nearly five in the morning, and closed my phone.

As I lay there, willing myself to stay awake, I thought over Emmett's stories and the way he talked so affectionately about his family. There were moments when true sadness filled his eyes, but other moments where his laughter and love shined bright. I smiled, thinking of it. I found Emmett to be a relaxing presence. Easy to talk to and funny, it made me wish I could spend more time around him. Even as I thought it, picturing Forks High in my head, Edward invaded my thoughts.

The brief looks I did get at his eyes perplexed me. When I first saw him, they looked golden, almost identical to Emmett's eyes. The next moment, they were nearly black and he avoided my gaze, not allowing me to take a closer look. The clean angle of his jaw line, the choppy cut of his hair, the pale pink tint of his lips… I rolled over with a groan. I'd never been struck by a guy like this before; especially not after seeing him only once. You'd think I would take the hint and accept that him ignoring me and disappearing meant he wasn't interested. After all, I'd always been told that if a guy wanted to be around you, he'd make it happen. But still, something inside me wanted to see him again.

I got up a short time later, deciding I'd make Charlie breakfast and send him off to work properly. Mom used to make him breakfast, pack a lunch, and wave to him from the door until he pulled out of the drive. Sometimes I wondered how difficult it was for him to pull out of the driveway without seeing her at the door. She'd always left for work before I had to leave the house, so I didn't have that memory, but there were other things…

I shook off the thought and went about my shower and morning chores. It was nearly 6:30 when Charlie finally got up. He wandered into the kitchen and sat down at the table, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He always seemed really out of it in the mornings and I blamed the sleeping pills for it.

"Coffee," I said, setting a mug down in front of him. He nodded his appreciation and stifled a yawn as he picked up the mug.

"What are you making over there?" He glanced toward the stove and I turned, poking the omelet in process with my spatula.

"Thought I'd make you breakfast. I woke up early. Turkey Sausage Omelet with cheese. I know you'd prefer bacon, but since I'm the cook, I'd rather not contribute to your clogged arteries." I smiled and turned back to the stove. Charlie laughed quietly and I could picture him shaking his head.

"Just like your mom, Bella. I swear, sometimes I half expect you two to tie me to a chair and force tofu and sprouts down me."

His laughter died out a few seconds later and while I had gotten used to him talking about mom in the present tense, a deep ache filled my chest.

Charlie finished the rest of his coffee in silence and I refilled it after placing his omelet in front of him. He smiled gratefully, though there was still a hint of sadness there, and dug in. I watched for a few seconds and then checked my watch.

"I'm gonna finish getting ready for school. Jessica is picking me up today."

Charlie nodded and I left the kitchen, leaving him to his thoughts. A little over half an hour later, he said goodbye and I heard his police cruiser pull out of the driveway. Jessica showed up soon after, her voice carrying from the car to my window as she called up to me.

"Good morning, Bella!"

I winced, deciding I missed the deep, calming tone of Emmett's voice, and grabbed my backpack.

Jessica and I pulled into the school parking lot a short time later and I pulled my hood up over my head in preparation.

"Why do you do that?" Jessica asked. "I mean, you're so pretty. Just leave it down."

I chuckled nervously and shook my head, pulling my backpack into my lap.

"Well, the snow, for starters. And I just… I feel better with it on."

Jessica rolled her eyes, muttered "whatever" and got out of the car. When I reached the front of the car, she laced her arm through mine, and I realized all was forgiven. She chattered incessantly as we moved away from the car, toward the school.

Suddenly, the sound of tires squealing filled the air around me. My heart clenched instantly and the air in my lungs rushed out. I was vaguely aware of Jessica pulling me by the arm, but my feet no longer worked and my eyes no longer saw. The sound of metal crunching and glass shattering made my blood run cold. Just as I felt my knees buckle and the world spin away from me, hard, strong arms caught my body and darkness enveloped me.


"Have you lost your mind?" Rosalie hissed, staring between Edward and I. Edward refused to answer, staring at Bella instead. I glanced at her and saw that she was still unconscious. The nurse buzzed around her, muttering about the town ambulances being too far away from the only high school in the area. I looked back at Rosalie and shrugged, eliciting a growl from her.

"Look," I said, keeping my voice low enough that only the three of us could hear it. "It's not like we did anything. And I didn't move THAT fast. I just… Moved kinda fast."

"A blur, Emmett! That's all you were!" She looked behind me at the nurse and then scoffed, placing her hands on her hips.

"You moved fast enough, you idiot. You're damn lucky everyone was distracted by the wreck. And you!" she said, turning her attention on Edward.

"Not now, Rosalie." Edward said, his voice worn and tight.

"Oh no, I think now is a great time to talk about you. What happened to not coming back to the school, huh? You called her your singer, said you'd inevitably end up killing her, and then after you and Emmett chat it up last night, you just roll into the school like everything is fine and dandy. And then, when this idiot runs to her to keep her from hitting her fragile little head, you're right there with him. Do you have any idea how much attention you've drawn to us?"

Edward nodded, his eyes growing wide with exasperation and annoyance.

"Uh, yeah! I do actually. I can hear them, remember? Everyone is focusing on what Emmett and I would see in her and why we'd run to her rather than checking out the accident. And those who don't really care what we see in her are too busy fawning all over Tyler that they're not even paying attention to us. No one picked up on our speed or anything else."

"Yet." Rosalie hissed. "Just wait until they start piecing it together. And what about her? Emmett touched her. No gloves. And what if she saw his speed? What if she knows? Then what?"

"Enough." Carlisle said, appearing behind us. "What's done is done. We move forward and do damage control if need be. Emmett seems to have befriended the girl; he can take point in dealing with her, should she remember anything."

Rosalie stomped her feet quietly, not so much out of anger, but probably from the need to express her hostile energy. Carlisle placed his hand on my shoulder, gave a gentle squeeze and then narrowed his eyes at Edward.

"You shouldn't be here," he said quietly.

Edward shook his head and moved, sitting down in a chair across the room from Bella. Carlisle stared at him for a second and then moved away, going to Bella's bed. Rosalie sighed and turned to leave, but stopped when I didn't follow her. She stared at me, her eyes growing more and more insistent the longer I stood there. I shrugged and she scoffed, giving me a long hard look before she turned and marched off.

"I'll pay for that later," I muttered and sat down beside Edward. He nodded, but didn't speak.

"So," I said. "Just because you saw the hope in her eyes when you invaded my thoughts last night? That's the whole reason you came back and then…?"

Edward squeezed his eyes shut and ran a hand over them, rubbing roughly.

"I don't know what I'm thinking. Her blood calls to me, but something else about her also calls to me. I know better than to chance it; to test myself this way. But I can't stay away any longer."

"Yeah," I said. "It doesn't help that you invade my thoughts each night to learn about her. You're only making it worse for yourself. She doesn't call to me the way she does to you and I've learned to control myself much better, but she still makes my throat burn after awhile."

Edward and I sat in silence while Carlisle checked over Bella and Tyler. I got up to talk with Carlisle, sad to see how pale and lifeless Bella looked. Something about it hurt my spirit.

"Her mom died in a car accident, Carlisle. She was there when it happened and I think she still has nightmares about it. I bet the sounds of the accident triggered something. Jessica says she just stopped walking and then went down, and that's pretty much what Edward and I saw."

Carlisle nodded and gave me a pat on the shoulder before moving on to check out Tyler. A bandage around his hand and over his forehead told me he suffered minor injuries, nothing too worrying. I stood beside Bella's bed, still holding her backpack from earlier. Just as I was about to turn and go back to my seat, Bella's eyes fluttered and opened. A small groan escaped her lips and she moved a hand to her stomach.

"Bella?" I asked and her eyes met mine.

"Em," she whispered, assigning me the nickname. "What happ-" She stopped, her words cutting off abruptly. A shadow crossed over her face and she shook her head slowly. "Oh," she whispered and closed her eyes. "God, how embarrassing."

I laughed despite her misery and smiled down at her, brushing a stray curl from her face, careful not to touch her skin.

"Don't worry, Bella. People are talking way more about Tyler losing control of his mom's van than about you passing out for no apparent reason." I grinned and she groaned, sitting up slowly. As she sat up, her eyes fell on Edward and a blush instantly invaded her cheeks.

"Edward," she said, surprise and trepidation in her voice.

Edward stood and came to the side of the bed next to me and smiled (well, it was really more of a grimace).

"Hello, Bella. How are you feeling?"

Bella shrugged, confusion written across her face.

"Um, fine I guess. Why are you here? I mean, you've been gone for days; why are you suddenly at my bedside on the most embarrassing day of my life in Forks?"

Edward opened his mouth to answer, but Carlisle appeared then, cutting off the conversation. Bella gasped when she saw him, her eyes widening as she looked between Edward, Carlisle, and myself.

"Good morning, Bella. I'm Dr. Carlisle Cullen." Realization dawned across Bella's face and her features relaxed a bit. "I hear you've had a rough morning. Mind if I check you over?"

Bella shook her head and shot me a pained look, seemingly asking for help. I shrugged and she laid her head back on the pillow.

"Any blurriness, head pain, or problems speaking?" Carlisle pulled a small flashlight from his pocket and waved it in front of Bella's eyes a few times, tracking her pupils.

"No, nothing like that. My stomach is a little uneasy, but I didn't eat this morning and when everything happened…"

Carlisle smiled knowingly and put his flashlight away.

"You look fine to me, Bella. I've called an ambulance to take Tyler to the hospital for a few tests, but given that you didn't actually hit the ground-" Carlisle glanced at me before continuing. "-I think you're just fine. I can write you a doctor's note if you'd like to take the rest of the day to recover a bit though."

Bella looked to me and then back at Carlisle.

"Um, I don't really… I don't want to call my dad to pick me up. He'll just freak out. And I don't have another way to get home, so I guess I'll stay."

"I'll take her. I have a free period coming up anyway." I said, before thinking about it. Carlisle gave me a long, thoughtful look and then smiled down at Bella. "Very well. I'll write you a note."

Bella smiled appreciatively and then settled back again.

"Thanks, Em." Her eyes moved from me to Edward and blood filled her cheeks again. Edward took a cautious step back, picking up his backpack from the floor to make it look like he had a reason to move away.

"Glad you're doing well, Bella." He smiled, a more natural looking smile this time, and turned, leaving the room.

Bella looked up at me and laughed a short, choppy laugh.

"Your brother's kind of weird. I don't really know what to make of him."

I laughed, louder than I intended, and then hushed myself.

"You know, kid, I have a feeling that might go both ways."


Emmett drove me home in his jeep, which seemed to be built for playing in the mud. It suited Emmett and made me smile to see it. He asked me if I was okay a few times, probably because I hadn't said more than three words since we left the school. My mind seemed to be working in over drive and I wanted so desperately to draw and get some of it out onto paper. I kept hearing the screech of the tires in my head, which kept taking me back to my mom's accident, and I remembered Emmett's arms wrapping around me just as I was about to hit the ground. That part made me smile and I felt a little more secure. I hadn't even seen him yet this morning and then he was there, catching me when I needed caught. And then, of course, there was Edward. He looked so concerned when I saw him in the nurse's office. His eyes held mine and there seemed to be something in them that he wouldn't quite let to the surface. As confused as I was about him just showing up out of the blue like that, I couldn't deny that it made me feel good.

"What are you thinking?" Emmett asked, bringing me out of my thoughts. "You're blushing and biting your lip. What's going on in your head?"

I turned in my seat, facing him a little better.

"What's up with Edward? Like, what's his story?"

Emmett stared out the window at the road and then shrugged before turning to look at me.

"He's kind of complicated. Good guy, though. One of the best. Definitely better than me."

I snorted and groaned, embarrassed by my own stupid reactions. Emmett chuckled and shook his head before moving his hand to the heater, directing the aim of the blower onto me instead of him.

"I don't know about that." I said quietly. "You seem like a pretty good guy. Edward wouldn't even speak to me the day I sat next to him in biology. It was like I had offended him somehow and I don't know how I could have. But then he shows up today…"

I frowned, biting my lip as I struggled through my thoughts. Emmett remained silent the rest of the way home and dropped me off with a smile. He waited until I was in the house and then I heard his jeep pull out of the driveway, leaving me in my very empty, very quiet house.

Suddenly, I found myself wishing I were anywhere but here. Like a light clearing the fog out of my brain, a thought hit me…

I'd explore the forest.

A/N: Thanks for all the kind reviews. I'm trying to wait until I get a decent amount of feedback to post each new chapter so I know what you guys think so far. I like for my stories to be a bit different from the loads of other Bella/Emmett stories and hope I'm creating something I can be proud of in that regard. Please review... Reviews keep me writing out of sheer curiosity. Cheers. ALL.