Big day, big surprise
You're out with those bastards
I'm sure that I saw you smile.
So I came to stay
With a tarred and a feathered respected and rearranged.
Summer of 88, Velveteen
I wandered idly down the Wal-Greens aisles with my mini shopping cart, figuring I might as well pick up some more hygiene products while I was here and thinking of it. I remembered as a child loving the small carts, feeling as though they were made specifically for my size. Alice was down the beauty aisle, picking up facial, manicure, and pedicure materials.
I picked up two different brands of shampoo, debating between my normal brand and another one I'd been contemplating.
"Well hey stranger," a voice suddenly said from my right, and I jerked my head up to find a grinning Mike Newton walking towards me.
"Oh, hey Mike," I said, going back to product selection.
"How's the math homework coming?" he smirked. I had texted him during sixth period that I wouldn't be coming after school, as Alice and I had already made the plans to go back to my house. I knew he had been a little put out by it, but nice all the same.
I groaned. "I have not started on it."
"Well you understood the lesson in class, right?" he asked, brow furrowed. He crossed his arms and leaned on the end of my cart.
I sniffed the new brand and contemplated for a moment, before holding it out to Mike. Bemused, he smelled it too.
"Surprisingly, yes," I answered. "At least, I think I did. I guess we'll see tomorrow by my number of correct answers." I held out my normal shampoo for him to smell. "Which one did you like more?"
"Um...the second one?"
I sighed in resignation. "Yeah, me too." I threw my tried and true shampoo and conditioner into my cart, making Mike sit up.
I started down to the snack aisle and Mike fell into step next to me.
"So how are you doing?" he asked. He asked me this almost every day now.
"I'm fine Mike," I sighed.
He chuckled a little nervously. "Sorry, I'm getting on your nerves now, aren't I?"
My voice was softer when I replied, "No, it's fine. It's not your fault anyway."
I threw some Flamin' Hot Cheetos into the cart and turned to look at my drink choices.
"So I've been wondering this...if you - " Mike broke off when Alice suddenly rounded the corner.
"There you are!" she shouted, throwing her hands up. "I need to put a bell on you girl."
"The store is so not that big," I countered, rolling my eyes. "It's not like you've had to search that hard."
I turned back to Mike. "What were you saying?"
"Just, that uh - " He glanced shrewdly at Alice, clearly not wanting to say whatever he was going to say in front of her. "Tyler and I decided that we're going to the movie on Saturday at the 8:20 showing, so we're probably going to car pool down there around seven. Sound good?"
"Sounds great," Alice said, her smile a little hard as she clapped her hands. "We'll definitely be there." She grabbed hold of my cart and started dragging it and, effectively me, to the check-out counter.
"Bye Mike," I said, turning to wave. "See you tomorrow."
"Gonna bail out on me again?" he asked, only half-smiling.
I shrugged, feeling bad. "Probably not."
"What are you talking about?" I asked defensively, keeping my eyes on the road as I drove us back to my house.
"Mike is your new best friend? When that goober is so into you? Well, he'd like to be," she muttered.
"Alice!" I cried at her crude euphemism. "He's just my friend. Am I not allowed to have friends? He's been really nice to me and has been helping me get my grade up in math. I don't see the issue."
Alice gave me a look like she couldn't believe how stupid I was. "Whatever Bella," she said sardonically. "Just you wait."
"Neither you nor Edward like him," I said, sort of laughing. "I've never understood it."
"Because Michael Newton is just...bothersome."
"I think he's nice. Normal. Drama-free."
"You mean boring."
"Fine!" I exploded. "Well then I guess I like boring things."
Alice snickered, shaking her head to look out the window. "No you don't, Bella."
The next day was decidedly different in the routine that I had set up. Now that I was friends with Alice again, or acknowledging it, I couldn't keep avoiding the rest of my friends either. So I actually had to go to lunch.
When Alice and I sat down, Rosalie and Emmett weren't there yet. But everyone else was.
Angela and Eric stopped mid-conversation when I sat down in my old seat. Right next to Edward. If he was surprised, he didn't show it, but Eric looked stupefied while Angela was just smiling approvingly. Jasper nodded, his attention on Alice.
"Hi guys," I said nervously.
"Hey," Eric said brightly, recovering.
"Welcome back," Edward muttered next to me. I glanced over and he was just staring, eyes dark. I noticed there were still circles under his eyes. He looked like he was noticing mine too.
I just nodded, not knowing what to say this close to him, and Angela started up her conversation with Eric and Jasper again.
Rosalie and Emmett finally joined the table, but stopped short when they saw me.
"Well. Well. Well," Emmett grinned, throwing himself into his chair across from me. "If it isn't Little Miss Vanishing Act."
"Hi," I said, laughing a little bit.
Rosalie didn't say anything, just raised her eyebrow disapprovingly at me. We had never gotten along well, and I think my choices had earned her definitive disdain this time, for some reason. Like it was any of her damn business. Oh well, I had only hung out with her for Emmett anyway so the loss was not so great.
Everyone fell into their normal conversation, but I had never been a big talker anyway, so my silence was not so unusual. Neither was Edward's. But I knew we could both feel the electricity between our bodies, sitting only inches apart. It was worse than in class. We both glanced at each other periodically. When our eyes met, Edward refused to be the first to look away. My hand twitched to reach out and hold his hand, or lean into his side, as I was used to, but I refrained.
Eventually, I broke our tense silence.
"So, um, Mike finally got the plan together for the movies this weekend," I said. "You asked me to let you know..."
Edward's mouth lifted just slightly at the corner. "Yes, I remember. So when is the movie?"
"He said it's at 8:20 at the Port Angeles theater," I started, and realized that I was gaining the interest of the entire table. "But we're car-pooling there around seven," I said to everyone.
"Oh, that could be fun," Angela smiled. "What movie?"
I gave the table all the details I knew and they started dividing their own car pool sections. Alice, Jasper, and Edward were riding together, obviously, and since Alice wanted me with her I got divvied up into their group, to my elation and chagrin. The other two couples were riding together as well.
"And who else is going?" Emmett asked.
"Mike, Tyler, and I think Jessica and Lauren."
"Ugh," Edward groaned at the last two, and I surprised enough at his break in silence that I giggled in agreement.
"I mean," I said hastily at Edward's raised eyebrow, "Jessica is fine on her own but with Lauren - "
"I know," he interrupted. "You've told me before."
I stared. "Why are you going?" I asked him bluntly. "You don't even like the actors that are going to be in this."
He tensed defensively. "I'm going with my friends - "
"You asked to go before anyone else agreed to," I pointed out.
"You agreed to go," he said flatly, leaning closer and I glanced at his mouth without meaning to. "And you're my...friend, aren't you?"
There was a lot of holes going on in his story, like the fact that he hadn't agreed to be my friend at that point, but I was too distracted by his smell and the way he was staring at me to think clearly enough to point them out.
"I guess," I agreed reluctantly, and the bell was merciful enough to ring at that moment. I still had class with him next, but at least we wouldn't have to talk.
I quickly gathered my things and got up to leave. Edward was quick behind me. "You guess?" he asked, leaning down as he walked next to me. His arm reached out to open the cafeteria door, letting me go through first.
"Thanks," I muttered, "And I'm sorry. I am."
"Then why did you say 'guess'?" he hounded as we walked together.
"Why do you have to over-analyze everything?" I said, laughing with slight frustration as his hand brushed mine and I couldn't hold it.
"Because you don't ever tell me what's really going on in your head," he said, a little frustrated as well.
"Yes I do," I sighed.
"You edit," he accused. "You always have, and lately, you edit a lot. So you're going to have to forgive me if I feel the need to pry more."
"I don't have to forgive anything," I muttered petulantly.
Edward swung himself into my path, effectively forcing me to stumble to a halt into his chest. I took a step back, dazed, as his hand on my waist steadied me.
"Neither do I," Edward said, eyes blazing as he looked down at me. "But I would, if you just told me the truth."
Whatever we were talking about before, we weren't talking about anymore. Taking a deep breath, I said nothing as I walked around him and through the classroom door. I heard him growl quietly behind me before the door closed and it was another minute before he followed.
After school, I let Mike know about the growing members in his outing.
"Okay," he said, struggling not to sound put-out. "So I'll be picking you up at around 6:45 that way I can swing by Tyler's too - "
"Wait," I interrupted before he could get too far, "I'm already riding with Alice."
"Oh," he said, not hiding his disappointment this time. "I see."
I felt a little bad. "I mean, she asked me first and she's my best friend - " I didn't even know why I was defending this to him. But it was nice being able to hang out with someone relatively new and distant from my current situation.
"It's fine, I get it," Mike said, and started showing me what I had done wrong in my last problem.
Around six on Saturday, I poked my head in the living room where Charlie was watching some sports game.
"I'm going out in a little bit. And I'll probably spend the night at Alice's," I said.
"Where are you going?" Charlie asked, clearly surprised enough to turn his attention away from the TV to look at me.
"To the movies."
"With who?" he asked incredulously.
"With friends, Dad, I do have some," I snapped. I guess I shouldn't have felt so offended by his tone; I had been a recluse for the past couple weeks. But I couldn't help it.
He put his hands up. "Well, jeez, didn't mean to offend," he muttered gruffly.
"Sorry," I said softly. I cleared my throat. "And Alice asked me to spend the night, so I'll be back tomorrow."
"Okay," he said, turning back to the TV. "Remember to call, let me know you're still alive occasionally."
"Yeah yeah," I murmured, then ran back upstairs to finish getting ready. I put my hair into a high bun and pulled on some jeans and my black v-neck shirt. Then I froze, remembering this was the shirt I wore my last night with Edward. I hurriedly tore it off and pulled on a blue one instead.
Around seven there was a knock on my door and I opened it to see Jasper, to my surprise. Behind him I could see Edward's car running. Edward's eyes were on me but he was clearly listening to Alice talking to him.
"Alice sent me to come fetch you," Jasper said, putting his arm out gentlemanly, and I couldn't help but to smile as I placed my hand lightly on it.
"Bye Dad!" I called, and took the responding grunt to be a heartfelt good-bye as I locked the door behind me.
"What are they talking about?" I muttered to Jasper as we neared the car. He opened the backseat door for me, and I saw Edward scowling as I climbed in. Alice fell silent.
"Something we're not allowed to hear I guess," Jasper responded, smiling in agreement to my eye roll.
It is all at once astonishing and amusing to me that everyone is so down on Bella without ever seeming to see the parallels between what she's doing and what Edward did in New Moon. Everyone keeps saying that she's taking Edward's choice in the matter away, but that's exactly what Edward did too. And yes, one could argue that his reasons were better, but at the base root of it all, both decisions were made out of personal insecurity and a lack of faith in the other person. The situations are different but the core thought processes are identical. Honestly, I love Edward to death, but he deserves a little taste of his own medicine.
- The Romanticidal Edwardian