*Entry in The Canon Tour: Twilight Round*
Summary– When Bella discovers Edward is a vampire, she is not accepting or intrigued as much as she is afraid and repulsed. Will she let him be her hero on the streets of Port Angeles? Or will she finally run screaming? A lesson in fear and consequences.
Disclaimer– The first paragraph is a direct quote from Twilight. The rest is an homage to the original material. All rights belong to Stephenie Meyer.
No copyright infringement is intended.
Thank you to Solareclipses for moderating The Canon Tour. To see the winners & read the rest of the entries, please visit the contest profile! :-)
ww w . fanfiction u/3041014/ thecanontour
If Edward was a vampire—I could hardly make myself think the word—then what should I do? Involving someone else was definitely out. I couldn't even believe myself; anyone I told would have me committed.
Anyone other than Jacob Black, at least, or maybe his father. But then I would have betrayed Jacob's confidence after I'd sworn to take this to the grave.
And that was the crux of the situation right there... would I take it to the grave?
If it was all true, then why had Edward tried to warn me away from him? Was he playing some kind of game? Was it the thrill of the chase he enjoyed? Or was there a modicum of truth to the myth I'd stumbled upon online? Were there good vampires out there?
Or was it something else? Some other unfathomable reason for him to have behaved the way he has since we met.
Another of the legends I'd read earlier this morning ran through my head. I could hardly think of it, but had to consider the possibility.
Could it all be some kind of elaborate seduction? Could it be more than just my blood he was after? Surely, if I were to believe anything, I had to believe there was a reason Edward Cullen had paid so much attention to me — boring, plain-as-a-Forks'-day, Bella Swan.
A bird cawed loudly in the distance, startling me. My heart began pounding loudly in my chest, effectively putting an end to my self-deprecation and reminding me why I came out here. Alone... in the forest.
I couldn't deny it. I was afraid. Mortal fear coursed through me, along with a frightening number of what ifs. It was making me dizzy and a little sick to my stomach. I had to make a decision. I had to decide what I was going to do.
I thought again through the options.
One, I could pretend like nothing was different. I could play dumb and change nothing at all; see what happens. The problem with that choice was that I wasn't a very convincing liar. Edward would know something was up the next time he saw me.
My second choice was to flee. I could, potentially, run home to Mommy. It was impractical, but it was an option. Except that, when push comes to shove, I could never leave Charlie like that. How would I explain it without making it sound as though I'm leaving him for the same reasons my mother had? No, that one was out.
So, then, the third option – tell Edward I came to my senses. I would explain that I'd decided he was right; we shouldn't be friends. I would ignore him to the best of my ability, cancel any plans I'd made with him, and never speak to him again. It was the most logical of the three. It made the most sense.
So why did it feel like a vice was squeezing my insides?
My teeth worried my bottom lip to the point I could taste blood. I shuddered.
Oh, the irony...
And I knew then that I had my answer. The revulsion of tasting my own blood made the decision for me. I could hide neither my fear, nor my revulsion. I would have to stay away from him.
The rest of the weekend passed quickly. Set in my decision, I went about my life as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
It wasn't as easy to live with my choice as I might have liked, however. I failed to finish my Macbeth essay because my mind constantly wandered back to how I would act around Edward when I saw him at school again. At dinner, I failed to hide my preoccupation from Charlie because I couldn't stop worrying about what would happen to him if something bad happened to me. When it was time for bed, even loud music couldn't lull me to sleep this time. I had to resort to dosing myself with unnecessary cough syrup sometime after midnight.
When Monday morning arrived, the only redeeming thing about it was the sun shining brightly outside. It was the ultimate counterpoint to my less than enthusiastic return to Forks High.
I had no idea what I was going to say to Edward during Biology. Worse than that, I worried he might be waiting for me at lunch again. Would he expect me to sit with him? Could I use that to my advantage? Surely it would be safe to have an honest conversation in the middle of a crowded cafeteria.
It took me all morning to psych myself up for the big talk I knew was coming. I had everything all planned out in my head when I stepped into the lunch room and realized...
He wasn't here. The Cullens weren't at school today.
A wave of relief washed over me, followed by a good dose of disappointment. It confused me, but I chalked it up to the desire to get this over with. I needed to give Edward notice that I was no longer able to go with him to Seattle this weekend. I wasn't looking forward to it, but it had to be done. Didn't it?
Doubt pricking my consciousness, I spent the majority of lunch and Biology telling myself over and over that I'd made the right decision. It was rare for me to second guess myself like this and I didn't like it one bit.
Ironically, an errant ray of sunshine crossed the lab table. It didn't take long for my brain to supply that— if my theory held any water —Edward probably couldn't go out in the sun, though that must have been limited to direct sunlight. Of course, the fact that he came out in the daytime at all only served to dismiss the vampire theory and I started doubting the fairness of my decision to stay away from him. Sure, he wasn't... human, but I certainly didn't think he was evil.
Near the end of class, my brain grew exhausted from running in circles again. I laid my head down and stared at his side of our shared table. I couldn't help but wonder where he was; what he was doing. I thought about how he often seemed to know what people around him were thinking.
Had he known it the moment I started looking into vampires? Was he somewhere laughing at me so much that he couldn't even face me? Or was he hiding? Or worse?
The idea made me shiver and I sat up. Opening my notebook, I started doodling, occasionally glancing out the window as if I'd find the answers I needed there in the forest. When class was over I looked down and recognized I'd been sketching out a single pair of eyes.
The Cullens were a no-show on Tuesday as well, though I couldn't say I was surprised. It was sunny again, not a cloud in the sky. And like yesterday, I found I was unable to enjoy it the way I should have. The continued absences troubled me. Perhaps my theory that Edward had known I was looking into him had some truth to it? Perhaps the Cullens had left town altogether.
Not so suddenly, the vice-like feeling in my chest came back. Slowly, as the day wore on, I found I couldn't breathe. Fortunately at lunch, just when it became most suffocating, Jessica stabbed me in the ribs with her elbow and forced my body to inhale reflexively.
"Are you even listening to me, Bella?"
I shook my head and rubbed my side. "Sorry... what? I was trying to remember if I did an assignment or not."
She gasped happily. "Does that mean you're coming with us?"
She rolled her eyes. "To Port Angeles, silly! You should totally come. We could use your advice."
I smiled, grateful for the invitation and thinking it could be a good distraction. "Maybe."
Angela spoke up, albeit softly. "I'd really like your opinion. If you don't have anything else to do after school."
"I'll think about it. I would have to go home and ask Charlie, but..."
"Please... Please, please, please..." Jessica begged.
I laughed and pushed her shoulder to get her to stop. "Okay, fine. If Charlie's cool with it, I'll go."
Angela smiled and Jessica let out a delighted squeal before yammering on about all the stops we had to make tonight. Glancing back at the empty table where the Cullens formerly sat, I tried to put all thoughts of vampires and Edward Cullen behind me... at least for the rest of the day.
It had been such a long time since I'd spent any free time around girls my own age that — once Charlie had cleared it — I found myself invigorated by the idea of a girls' night out.
It was easy enough to forget all my troubles on the ride to Port Angeles, and easier still once we arrived in the picturesque town by the bay. While I tried to figure out what sort of dresses they were looking for, Jessica and Angela became more interested in my background. They were disbelieving that I'd never been to a dance yet myself, and I was unable to hold off their many questions about my life in Phoenix while we perused the racks of the one large department store in town.
"So you've never been on a date?" Jessica bellowed. "Ever?"
"But... why not?"
"Um," I paused, feeling uncomfortable. "Nobody ever asked me."
Jessica looked doubtful. "People ask you out here... and you say no."
I shrugged, almost missing Angela's quiet amendment. "Except for Tyler."
I spun to face her. "What does that mean?"
Angela's face was confused. "Well, aren't you going to prom with him?"
"What! Who told you that?"
Jessica sauntered up behind Angela with narrowed eyes. "Tyler told everyone he's taking you to prom."
I gaped; it was a good impression of a fish to be sure.
"I told you it wasn't true," Angela murmured.
Still shocked, Jessica pulled me along, moving us to another row of racks where the dresses were longer and fancier.
"Just so you know..." Jessica said conspiratorially. "That's the reason Lauren has it out for you."
"But he's only doing this because he feels guilty about the accident!" I exploded.
Angela attempted to be supportive. "Maybe if you just explain it to her, she'll leave you alone."
I crossed my arms over my chest. "Maybe... or maybe I'll just run Tyler over with my truck and call it even. Then he can go to prom with Lauren and we'll all be happy."
The girls snickered and moved me along with them, down the racks where they graciously turned the conversation back to the dance at hand and their own dates. I fumed silently while they made their selections and tried on the few dresses they'd liked.
Angela was done first and sat with me while Jessica modeled her top two choices. Providing feedback helped stem my temper and calm me, but all too soon the decision was made and we were checking out. I was back to feeling annoyed with Tyler again and, of course, thoughts of the accident he caused brought Edward back to the forefront of my conscious mind as well.
I wasn't very good company when Jessica and Angela wanted to take a stroll along the boardwalk after we'd dropped their purchases off in Jessica's car. Fortunately, not too far into our walk, we passed a book store and I was able to beg off, convincing Angela and Jessica to go on without me. They agreed, albeit hesitantly, and left me so I could browse in peace after we planned to meet for dinner together at a restaurant a few blocks away.
Not long into my visit to the book shop I realized I was in the wrong place. Every title on the shelves was geared toward tourists. Local guides, photographic almanacs of plants and wildlife, even locally inspired cookbooks, made up the bulk of their stock. There was a decent enough section on Washington history, as well as Native American culture, but little in the way of fiction or literature, and most of their choices in that department were mass market romances –the kind Renee liked to read.
The shopkeeper was nice, even when she noticed my disinterest in the titles on the shelf. She was friendly enough to inform me where the few other book stores in town were, one of them supposedly just a short walk away.
"It used to be a little new-agey, but I know they just changed owners recently. You could check it out." She shrugged and handed me a sheet of paper with a few directions on it.
I thanked her and left the store, debating briefly whether or not I should just meet up early with Angela and Jessica. In the end, my sour mood made me choose the more solitary route and I turned away from the waterfront and walked at a brisk pace in the direction I'd been told.
It was only when the tourist district was behind me that I noticed how dark it was getting. The sun hadn't quite set, but in the shadows of the taller buildings of this more industrial side of Port Angeles, it seemed later than it had only moments ago. I found the street I was looking for easily enough, but no book store. The few store fronts here were all closed up for the night anyway.
Cursing small-town U.S.A., I turned around and went back to the main road I'd come down. I looked at my list of addresses and decided to walk a few blocks and see if any of the streets listed were nearby before giving up and going back to the restaurant.
It took less than two blocks to figure out that I made a terrible mistake.
There were four of them.
They weren't much older than me, but they were obviously intoxicated, and obviously looking to have their fun at my expense.
Somehow I had managed to corner myself in an alleyway surrounded on three sides by rickety old warehouses. There was a small pathway between two buildings on one side, the route taken by two of the men when they'd herded me here.
Their taunting laughter barely registered against the sound of blood rushing through my ears, but I was ready to change that. It was flight or fight time, and since fleeing was no longer an option — I'd never make it around the two bigger ones and down the narrow walkway without tripping— I was ready to scream and use every ounce of self-defense I could remember. I wasn't going to go down easily.
Of course, they weren't going to make it easy for me to get away either and made that abundantly clear when they advanced on me. I ground out a surprisingly strong, "Don't touch me," when the leader grabbed my arm and pulled me against his body. His breath reeked of stale alcohol and beans. My stomach turned as I stepped back in preparation to knee him in the groin.
Tires squealed nearby, distracting me and causing the man to turn his vile breath from me. I used the moment to break his hold on my arm and push him away just as a car came flying up the alleyway. My attacker threw himself out of its path while I dove in the opposite direction. I thought to turn and run just as the car skidded to a halt, the passenger's door wide open in front of me.
"Get in!" a furious, but familiar voice roared.
I stumbled back a step. Away from the car. Away from my attackers.
One kind of fear vanished immediately. Another kind bloomed.
"Bella! Get in!" The car moved back with me as I retreated another step.
I hesitated, glancing between the men on the street—now standing shoulder to shoulder, looking ominous as ever—and the one in the car. Before I could make a decision, the driver's side door flew open.
"For the love of... Bella, please get in the car!"
I stared at him a moment, nodding dumbly and then watching as two of the men stumbled back in reaction to Edward's sudden appearance. He'd moved much faster than any ordinary human being. The other two men looked him up and down a moment. The leader, in his drunken state, seemed unaware of the danger he was in.
"Well, well, well... Who's this, pretty girl? This your pretty boyfriend?"
An inhuman growl sounded and the man stepped back. So did I, but this time it was into the passenger's seat of the car.
Both relief and anxiety flooded me as I closed the door securely behind me. I was safe, but completely unprepared to face Edward. He was immediately next to me, his own door closing with a slam. Before I even had time to exhale, we were moving, speeding backwards away from my would-be attackers. The car spun around and then we were racing through the streets of Port Angeles.
"Put your seatbelt on," he ordered.
I did as he asked, but only because he was speeding through the small town like a maniac. I just managed to engage the restraint when we took a sharp turn and then sped forward again. My heart pounded wildly as I watched the vague outline of buildings flying by until they were no more. The darkness both inside and outside the car grew oppressive.
Too nervous to look at him now that we were alone, I waited for my breathing to slow and asked the first thing that came to mind.
"Where are you taking me?" My voice sounded rough, as though I hadn't used it in a long time.
"Away." His voice a snarl.
I looked up at him reflexively. The rage in his features was plain to see and my heart leapt in dread.
"Away where?" I asked, barely whispering.
The way he said the words caused my skin to break out into goose flesh. Before I had time to ask him anything else, he spoke again.
"Bella?" he asked. His voice was still rough, angry.
"Are you all right?" Impossibly, he looked angrier now.
"No," I croaked, the truth of my words causing my voice to shake noticeably.
His teeth ground together. "They touched you." It wasn't a question. It also wasn't the reason I was tremulous.
"They didn't hurt me."
Edward looked at me sharply.
"They didn't hurt you? Are you...? Do you have any idea what they would have done to you if...if..." His breathing was ragged. His eyes flashed with a fierceness that left me shaking. "Bella, you cannot imagine the vile, disgusting, malevolent things they were–"
His words cut off abruptly and the car came to a sudden halt far off the side of the road. Clenching his eyes closed, he lowered his head to his hands and pulled his hair, hard.
"Distract me, please," he commanded.
"What?" I said, near tears.
"Talk about something mundane until I calm down."
My lips trembled and my eyes pooled with the evidence of my fear. I had no idea what to say and in my terror, my brain was refusing to cooperate with me.
I shook my head, as if to reorder my thoughts. It helped some.
"I... I... I'm going to run over Tyler Crowley with my truck tomorrow." The words were a rush.
When he didn't respond I chanced a glance at him. The line of his mouth was hard and his eyes remained tightly shut, his hands buried in his hair. I couldn't fathom what was happening, where he'd come from, or what he was thinking.
"Why?" he asked eventually.
I inhaled deeply, calming myself. "Uh, well, he's... he's telling everyone that he's taking me to prom because he thinks that's a good way to make amends for nearly killing me in January. You know, when he almost... well, you were there." I rolled my eyes at my own idiocy. "Anyway, he's obviously insane, so I figure if I threaten his life, too, then we'll be even and he can leave me alone."
Edward's lips quirked ever so slightly, but he didn't move otherwise.
"Keep going. Talk about something else."
"Um... well, my mom is threatening my dad with a visit if he doesn't start paying for high-speed internet next month. I feel bad because it's my fault. I tried to use the dial-internet connection as an excuse for not emailing her more often, even though that had nothing to do with it."
"Why haven't you been emailing her?" His voice sounded better, more himself. He took a breath and released his hair, though his eyes remained closed.
"I, um, I've been pre-occupied lately and I didn't want to talk about it. Not to mention I had a busy weekend."
I winced, remembering how I spent Saturday in La Push. Would he recall that? Would he ask?
He didn't. The car remained silent except for the sound of my breathing and the rain falling lightly outside. Eventually, Edward opened his eyes and turned his head, regarding me with a much more calm expression.
"Are you better?" I whispered.
He sighed and sat up, leaning his head back against the seat. He stared at the ceiling, no sign of any emotion on his face. It was completely blank and very unnerving.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella. What happened, what nearly happened, it pushed me to my limits tonight. I keep telling myself it wouldn't help anyone to go back to town and hunt down those..." His voice fell away and he looked out his window, away from me. "I should remove body parts for what they would have done to you."
My heart lurched. "Please don't."
The sound of my quiet whisper seemed to echo in the small car and Edward turned his head to me, his expression confused and curious.
"Please don't hurt anyone," I reiterated. "It… it's not..." I shook my head. "You just can't... you shouldn't."
Tears pricked my eyes as Edward's gaze hardened, burning through me. "How can you possibly show them a grain of compassion after–"
His voice cut off sharply, his mouth frozen in place, slightly parted. He blinked and then searched my face for a long moment. My galloping heart raced harder.
My palms grew moist even as I noted his eyes were lighter than before. The ebony was gone, slowly returning to the golden color I often found hypnotic. After a long moment they stared back at me full of concern and what looked like surrender.
"You've finally heeded my warnings, haven't you? You've seen me for what I am."
I was stunned. How did he know?
"You're afraid of me. Not those men... but me. I can see it now."
I shook my head and he smiled weakly, bitterly, as he swallowed down the anger that had sparked at the mention of my attackers.
"It's okay, Bella, I don't blame you. Though, I'd like to know what changed."
I frowned, my voice a whisper. "I... I don't know."
The bitter smile returned. "Yes, you do. Tell me."
A single tear fell down my cheek.
"Tell me," he urged.
"I know you're not... human."
His reply took some time. "And what makes you say that?"
"You... you're impossibly fast," I whispered. "...and unbelievably strong. You're eyes change colors, especially when you're upset." I paused, picking at my cuticles. "You always seem to know what people are thinking, and... I've never once seen you eat or drink anything. You don't come out in the sunlight, and just now, tonight... you growled at those men."
"You heard that?"
I nodded, my heart pounding as I awaited his reply.
"You are much more observant than I realized."
We sat in silence a while.
"Tell me this, Isabella. Please? What finally drove fear into your heart, where my warnings to you could not?"
I took a measured breath. "I think... it's because I figured out what you are."
"And do you have a name for what I am? If I am not human?"
Edward waited, his hands tight around the steering wheel, though otherwise the picture of calm.
"I... I found a few names, actually."
"Well, um, undead... blood-drinker..." My voice fell to a whisper, "Vampire."
A crack resounded through the car and while I could not bring myself to look at his face, I saw his knuckles straining where they still held the steering wheel. When he spoke again, I found his unnaturally calm tone disturbing.
"And you believe this? You believe that's what I am."
"I don't know."
"But you know enough to make you afraid." He was quiet a long moment. "May I ask you one more question?"
I nodded my assent.
"How is it you came to this conclusion? What convinced you?"
The carefulness of his voice set off a warning bell inside my head. Would there be consequences if I revealed how one of the Quileute boys had told me their legends? Somehow I mustered a courageous reply; a diversion if I were being honest.
"Does it matter?"
He chuckled lowly. "I think it does."
I met his gaze hesitantly. "It doesn't have to. Just tell me I'm wrong."
He smiled sadly, resigned. "You're wrong."
He shook his head, the grief on his too perfect face confusing.
"And you were right. It doesn't matter. You're afraid of me now. As you should be."
"What does that mean?" I asked, nervous butterflies flitting in my stomach.
"It means... I'll take you home and we can forget we ever had this conversation. It will be as if I never existed."
I gasped. "No!"
My response surprised both of us. He stared at me doubtfully before responding.
"It's the best thing for you. Surely you can see that now. Surely you don't wish to live this way? In fear."
I turned my face from him. "No, of I don't want to live in fear... but it's not necessarily you that I'm afraid of."
He waited for me to continue.
"It's the unknown that makes it scary. If only you'd explain it to me." My eyes were pleading. His were resigned.
"I'm not going to give you the ammunition to ignore your instincts. You should run from me, Bella. Run as far as you can and never look back."
"I can't do that."
"Then I'll do it for you. It's the only way. The right way."
A desperate feeling sprouted in my gut. "Says who? Do you think I'll just be able to forget? That I'll never think about you again? Or wonder where you are?"
"You'll forget in time."
"No. I won't."
"You're human, you will move on..."
His words stung. It was worse than the suffocating feeling I'd felt before, and it made me instantly rebellious.
"No!" I shouted. "You don't move on from something like this! You don't forget someone who's done the things you've done, who's made you feel the things I've felt! Yes, I'm scared. Yes, I have serious concerns, but I..." I shook my head, a lightning bolt of realization hitting me hard and fast. "I'm more afraid of never seeing you again than of dying."
Edward's face, which had been the picture of shock, was now clearly pained. His golden eyes were wild and as terrified as my own before he turned his face from me.
"Don't say that. Never say that!"
His voice was so sad, and yet so angry, that the tears finally overwhelmed me and streaked silently down my face.
"Why?" I whispered.
He shook his head. "Bella... Don't you see? I'm dangerous. You must grasp that. I'm more dangerous to you than you can possibly imagine. And this... whatever this is, cannot end well. It's wrong and... unnatural. I don't want to hear that you feel that way about me."
That, more than anything, cut through me like a knife. He didn't want me.
I blinked and my tears suddenly annoyed me. I sniffled and wiped them away furiously.
"Are you crying?" Edward asked, his voice appalled.
I kept my face from him. "No."
He sighed and reached out with his hand. I felt a brush against the hair hiding my face before I saw his arm drop beside him. "I'm sorry..." he whispered.
I didn't speak to him again. He didn't want me. End of story.
Ignoring his apology, I looked up and out through the windshield. The darkness enveloped me.
"I should get you back," he said at some point. "Angela and Jessica will be worried."
I nodded in agreement and then stopped short wondering how he'd known that Angela and Jessica were waiting for me. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. It was just the sort of thing I'd normally call him on, but when I opened my mouth to form the question this time, it died in my throat. I had no more energy for another go round tonight.
To be honest, I didn't think I could take anymore hurtful truths – not without shattering into a million tiny pieces.
The days that followed that dark night were nightmarish. Sleep evaded me no matter what I tried. But then, so did Edward.
He wasn't in school the next day, or the day after that. His siblings returned, but he remained absent. Rumors circled. About me. About him. Us. I made it as clear as possible that there was no us— I couldn't even think about an us—but that didn't stop Jessica Stanley from telling the entire school that Edward and I been discovered together in Port Angeles.
If they only knew what a disaster it had been...
The gossip spread despite the fact that the story was nowhere near as interesting as it was being made out to be, and both days I had to answer questions about the whereabouts of a boy I would probably never see again. The sick feeling that accompanied that thought followed me wherever I went. It made it impossible to eat — especially at lunch.
They were there, of course, their inhuman beauty and ocher eyes identical to Edward's. They never looked at me, never met my gaze when I glanced their way. Yet, I could feel them watching me. Almost as if they were waiting for something. Did they know I knew? Had Edward told them?
It was the first time I'd bothered to be concerned about the presence of the other Cullens. Even in my initial panic after hearing Jacob's legends, I'd only ever wondered what it had to do with Edward, and if it was true, what Edward wanted with me. It wasn't until now, until he was no longer present, that I felt any kind of unease around them. Of course, I hadn't known what they were before. And now that I did, I felt exposed being here without Edward. Exposed and somehow, unprotected.
It left me wondering what I'd ever been afraid of, wondering if I hadn't been afraid to begin with, would things have turned out differently?
I had lots of time to ponder that thought in biology. Mr. Banner showed an educational film in lieu of actually teaching both Wednesday and Thursday. Sitting in the darkness, alone at our table, I found myself wavering between wishing for a second chance to talk to him and despairing that it wouldn't matter anyway.
He didn't want me.
To add insult to injury, Mr. Banner stopped me on my way out of biology on Thursday to ask if I would be speaking to Edward before the next the class. It seemed that even the faculty was aware of the rumors and I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes at how easily he assumed the stories were true. Instead, I answered his question with a simple no.
Mr. Banner looked at me doubtfully. "Well, if that changes, will you let him know we have a quiz on the film we watched? He can study for it using the exploration questions at the end of chapter sixteen."
"Oh. I, um..."
"And Miss Swan?"
"If he's not planning on gracing us with his presence the rest of the week, it would behoove you to give him a copy of the study guide for Monday's lab. Otherwise he'll slow you down considerably."
My cheeks burned as he handed me the aforementioned study guide. I took it robotically, doubting there was any need for it. Of course, once it was in my possession, I couldn't help but think of ways I might get it to him, use it as an excuse to see him again. I was a glutton for punishment.
Gym was a blur. Class was over long before I was able to put the study guide or Edward Cullen out of my mind. I dressed slowly afterwards, staring at the folded sheet of 8½ by 11 inch paper peeking out of my backpack. I should have been mortified Banner would assume I was in the position to perform this task. I should have been angry, but instead I found myself imagining the possibility of using Banner's assumption to my advantage.
Sadly, I couldn't come up with a single viable idea. Even if I was brazen enough to do so, I didn't have the Cullens' phone number to call, nor did I know where their house was to stop by. I could probably ask Charlie for the information, but I would have to explain the reason why.
If I didn't care at all about seeing Edward again, I could just send the sheet home with one of his siblings. That would involve approaching them, however, and they were usually one of the first ones out of the parking lot as soon as the bell rang. With as much time as I'd wasted in the locker-room, I seriously doubted whether or not they would still be around.
I put my shoes on and laced them back up, reminding myself it was pointless anyway. He didn't want me.
The rain was falling softly when I left the building to go home for the day. I made it not two steps, pulling my hood up over my head as I went, when the doors of building three swung open and out walked Alice Cullen. When her eyes met mine momentarily I felt my stomach flip flop and I tripped over my own feet. When I caught my balance and glanced up again, she had stopped walking and was looking through her bag for something.
Spontaneity had never been my strong suit, but in that moment, I just went with it. Picking up my pace, I closed the distance between Alice and me, reaching around to unzip my own bag.
"Excuse me... um, Alice?" I called after her.
She pulled a cell phone out of her bag and then turned around, her eyes shining gleefully. "Hi, Bella."
I stopped short, taken aback by both her friendliness and familiarity. "Um, hi."
She smiled and adjusted her bag over her shoulder. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
I nodded and took a deep breath, ignoring how nervous I was, and how oddly comforting I found her presence.
"Yeah, um, Mr. Banner gave me a study guide to give to, um... Edward." I felt strange saying his name to her. "I don't know why he gave it to me. I guess maybe because we're lab partners?"
She nodded enthusiastically. "That makes sense. Did you need me to pass it along to my brother?"
"If you don't mind. I don't want him to get in trouble." I blushed, frowning as the ridiculousness of my statement hit me. Like any of the Cullens ever got in trouble.
Alice smiled. "That's so sweet. I'll be sure he gets the message."
I nodded, smiling weakly back at her. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. It was really good talking with you."
"Uhh... you too," I said softly.
"I gotta go. I'll see you tomorrow." She looked undeniably ecstatic before turning to leave.
I blinked and watched her go, throwing caution to the wind and calling after her again.
I jogged forward a step, closing the distance between us a little. She turned around, her expression more wary, but curious.
I took a deep breath. "Is he...? Is he all right? Edward, I mean. Will he be back soon? To school?"
I groaned internally. I was an idiot. Alice would know just how pathetic I was now.
Her compassionate expression, however, belayed my thoughts.
"I wish I could say. Things are still a little up in the air." She seemed to stare off passed my shoulder for a moment before looking back at me. "Why do you ask?"
My face turned bright red. I hoped that wasn't a problem for her, all that blood rushing to my cheeks. My pulse was thudding loudly too.
"Well, um, I've been... worried."
My face flamed hotter.
"Yeah, um... see the thing is, I don't know if he told you, but he sort of helped me out of a sticky situation the other night and I think I was a bit... ungrateful. I didn't thank him properly, in fact, I actually freaked out a little bit, and he didn't deserve that. No matter what he says."
Alice nodded, her expression sympathetic.
"So, yeah... I'd like a chance to apologize, but well... he hasn't been here. And I know it's completely vain of me to think his absence the last couple days has anything to do with me, but–"
"Actually, Isabella... his absence has everything to do with you."
I froze in place, the harsh, steely voice unfamiliar to me. Looking from Alice to the beautiful figure not more than four feet away, I shuddered. Rosalie Hale towered above both of us.
I hadn't even heard her approach.
"Rose, be kind," Alice warned.
"Kind? Kind!?" Rosalie fumed at Alice before turning her icy glare back on me. "Kind would be going back wherever you came from and leaving my brother the hell alone."
"No! She needs to know." Her fierce eyes turned upon me. "You are the reason Edward's not here. You're the reason our family is in shambles!"
"Rosalie, that's enough!" Suddenly Alice had moved between us. "Leave her alone or there will be consequences."
They glared at each other while I chewed nervously on my lip and clung to the strap of my backpack like it could somehow protect me. The tense standoff ended with one last hiss from Rosalie.
"I'll leave her alone just as soon as you do."
She turned and stormed off, her gait still graceful and her hair flying regally behind her. When Alice turned back to me with apologetic eyes and a whisper soft apology, I was shaking slightly and biting my lip to keep from hyperventilating.
"I'm so sorry about that, Bella. There's no excuse for her," Alice sighed.
I nodded dumbly.
"Don't worry," she comforted. "Everything will work out." She lowered her voice even more and leaned towards me. "It's becoming much clearer now."
My brow wrinkled in confusion and consternation as Alice walked away. I stood frozen to the spot until she and the rest of the Cullens were long gone. Fortunately, most of the student body was gone as well.
By the time I got to my truck, I was holding my breath, fearful that they would come out in sobs. My hands shook as I tried to get the key in the ignition and I dropped them twice before I forced myself to close my eyes and count to fifty in my head. By some miracle I was able to pull myself together long enough to drive home, but only just.
As soon as I saw that Charlie was still at work and the street was otherwise abandoned, all bets were off. A deep, body wracking sob escaped me the moment I cut the engine. Rosalie's harsh words tore at me, allowing everything I'd been holding in all week to break loose. Fear, confusion, self-doubt, regret, disappointment, guilt and self-flagellation crashed over me as the waves crash against the shore. My tears, in turn, took their cue from the rain drops that fell heavily against the windshield. Now that the storm had broken inside me, it was relentless.
I cried for the sun that never shone. I cried for the mother I'd left behind. I cried for the father I'd only just begun to know. I cried for loss of my innocence. I cried for a world no longer void of monsters and magic and impossibility. I cried for Edward. For all the things I said to him born out of fear, and for all the things he'd said in return.
If only I hadn't been afraid.
I screamed and jumped in my seat, twisting oddly and hitting my knee on the steering wheel in the process. My heart thumped wildly against my chest as I blinked through the rain-slicked window.
"Edward?" My voice was rough, breathless.
He put his hands up in surrender. "It's me. Don't be frightened. I'm not here to hurt you, I just..." He lowered his hands. "I came to apologize."
I blinked and wiped the tears out of my eyes with my hands.
"What for?" I sniffled.
"For everything. For my sister." He stepped closer and even through the rain and the glass I could see the angry scowl beneath his wet hair. "Rosalie had no right to speak to you the way she did."
"How did you hear about that?" I asked weakly.
"I was nearby. In the woods outside. I thought it was best that way."
"I thought you left town or something," I exclaimed, holding one hand over my still pounding heart. He stepped right up to the glass.
"I was going to. I couldn't get that far."
Of course, he couldn't leave his family. Despite not being human, they were obviously close.
"I'm sorry. I never meant to cause any problems for you and your family."
Though it was difficult to see through the rapidly fogging window, his face grew horrified.
"You haven't caused any of our problems! Rosalie was wrong. You've done nothing wrong, Bella. None of this is your fault." His muffled voice was pained. "It's mine alone. I'm so very sorry. For everything. For my sister's behavior and for my own."
I didn't quite wait for him to finish his apology before attempting to wrench open the door. It swung slowly until Edward guessed my intent and helped. I wasn't quite ready for the sudden ease of the movement, and nearly toppled out of the truck.
"Easy," he replied, reaching out to stop me from falling like he was prone to do.
His hands found purchase around my waist and mine instinctively grabbed for his biceps. I gasped at the sudden jolt that ran through me and nearly toppled over again when he let go of me like I'd electrocuted him.
Fortunately I hadn't, and before I could fall, I was back in his capable grasp once more. Not that he looked pleased about that.
"Agh! I can't do anything right," he growled.
I blushed, my hands still holding his arms. "No, it's my fault. I'm sorry. I'm such a klutz."
He shook his head and gazed off into the distance as we stood in the pouring rain, still holding onto each other. I watched his face carefully, surprised by the level of relief I felt looking upon his chiseled features. Despite his troubled expression, I could barely remember why I'd been so upset.
His eyes eventually met mine and he sighed. "Are you all right?"
I sniffled again before answering, my nose still stuffy from before. "I'm fine."
I smiled weakly to assure him.
He removed one hand from my waist and ran his cold thumb over the apple of my cheek.
"You weren't fine. You were weeping."
My face grew warm in embarrassment. "I'm not now."
His brow wrinkled together. "Why is that?"
I smiled shyly. "I guess... because you're here."
His eyes widened. "I don't understand."
I shrugged. "That's okay. I'm just glad that..." My voice faltered and I looked away as the words that had been echoing in my head for two days returned.
He doesn't want you.
He groaned. "It's unbearable when you do that."
My shoes were suddenly fascinating. "I'm sorry," I whispered.
His chilled fingers found my face again, lifting my chin until I met his eyes.
"Don't apologize. I didn't mean it like that. I just want to know what you're thinking." He paused and then sighed. "I'm not used to being unable to tell."
He shook his head. "No, I'm usually able to tell quite clearly what people are thinking."
I smiled halfway. "I had noticed that."
"I'm not surprised." He chuckled softly.
"But not me?" I pushed.
"No. I can't hear a thing that's going on inside that beautiful head of yours."
My cheeks flushed. "That's probably a good thing."
His head tilted to the side, his eyes searching mine while the rain continued to beat down. "I don't know... it might have saved us some trouble."
"How so?" I asked, ignoring the chill setting in.
He glanced away. "I heard you talking to Alice."
I blushed deeply. "Oh."
"Have you really been worried about me?"
I nodded slowly.
Another blush. "I thought... I was worried you were trying to avoid me. I didn't want you to have to do that."
He smiled sadly. "I didn't want school to be uncomfortable for you."
I nodded. "I thought it might be because of all that stuff I said the other night."
He looked down. "Well, there is that, but no... I just didn't want you to have to be afraid when you went to school."
"I wasn't, I'm not. Not for the reasons you're thinking."
I shook my head. "You don't want to hear the answer."
"Yes, I do."
"No. You don't." I closed my eyes. "You told me you don't."
He was quiet a moment, perhaps trying to unravel my cryptic remark. It didn't take him long.
I shivered at the tenderness in his voice. He stepped closer and my body shook again. I heard a low groan and then his hands were gone from my waist.
"We should get you inside and dried off before you catch your death."
I was taken aback when he offered his hand.
"It will be cold," he said sounding shy. "Always cold..."
I took it without hesitation. "I don't mind the cold so much anymore."
He seemed to watch in wonder as our fingers wove together. I couldn't tell who moved first to initiate the action, but my breath hitched at the sensation.
"Do you feel it, too?" he whispered, still staring.
I nodded, and then shivered. He chuckled and tugged gently on our joined hands.
"Let's get you inside."
Before I could quite process what was happening, what had changed between us, we were standing on Charlie's small porch. Edward reached behind me and produced the key to front door, handing it to me.
"How did you–?"
He shrugged. "I saw you use it when I dropped you off after school last week."
I shivered again, though I wasn't sure if it was from the cold. He pulled his hand from mine anyway. A small protest escaped my lips before I could stop it. He smiled.
"You need to go inside and get warm. You'll catch cold."
"That's an old wives' tale."
His grin turned impish. "Just the same, let's not tempt fate."
I laughed quietly and then looked up at him, my eyes full of a thousand questions for him.
"Stay?" I asked nervously.
He shook his head. "Not now."
My stomach dipped in disappointment.
"May I call you this evening?" he asked unexpectedly.
My heart soared.
His smile was blinding.
Mine was probably blue, but just as pleased. Then I shook again from cold and we both laughed.
"Go get warm, Isabella."
I liked the sound of my formal name on his lips and agreed immediately.
"Are you sure you won't come in?" I asked once I was standing just inside the threshold.
"No, thank you. Your father might find it curious I had no mode of transportation with me."
I looked up and down the street, only then realizing his car wasn't here.
"In the rain?"
"I do it all the time. I'll show you sometime."
His eyes glimmered. "I promise."
"And you'll be back tonight?"
I smiled. "Good."
We stared at one another a long time before he tucked a damp strand of hair behind my ear and stepped back.
"Until this evening, Bella."
I nodded, my heart quickening with anticipation instead of fear or anxiety for once.
"Until then," I whispered.
He dipped his chin and walked backwards down the porch steps, refusing to take his eyes from mine.
I waved and began to close the door when suddenly he called out.
"You should probably warn Charlie that I'm coming over."
My mouth fell open. "Ch- Charlie?"
"He will be home, won't he?"
I nodded, dumbly and he laughed.
"I promise to be on my best behavior."
I made a choking sound and then he was laughing harder, turning towards the woods behind our house with a wink.
"See you later, Bella."
As I closed the door and looked around my father's small house, I was overcome by fear once again — a very different, very new kind of fear.
A/N: So, I meant this to turn out a bit darker, but... I just couldn't do it! I'm a sap, what can I say? Also, I was pretty interested in re-writing the meeting between Charlie & Edward, so a second chapter has been added. Enjoy!