AN: I'd like to give all my thanks to two wonderful authors, BookishQua and Perry Maxwell. Not only did they beta this, they have also been amazing friends.

This was an o/s entered in the Totally 80's contest. I hope you enjoy it! I have not decided if I will make it a multi-chapter story yet.

Summary: Edward Cullen is invisible. Until he meets the girl who helps change the way he sees the world.

*Twilight and its characters belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.


Like a Virgin

Tuesday, August 25, 1987

Bang! Bang! Bang!

"Get up, loser!" my brother's voice shouted through the door while he pounded with his fist. I groaned and covered my face with a pillow, my body instinctively cringing at his words. I knew Emmett didn't mean any harm; it was his way of showing brotherly affection. He was oblivious to the torture my life had been for the last sixteen years. While he was Mr. Popularity and captain of the football team, I was Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles: nerd extraordinaire. Emmett got to enjoy another first day of school, another beginning to a year's worth of fawning over him by the female population of Forks High. To me it was the start of another year of purgatory.

It was entirely my parents' fault. Okay, well partly.

It all started when I was a kid. I had been registered for kindergarten at age five. Then my parents thought it was in my best interest to skip fifth grade, considering I could do Emmett's homework faster than he could. Entering middle school practically two years younger than my classmates made me a lamb to the slaughter. Add that to my natural awkwardness, and my adolescence has been a continuous loop of taunts and bullying. I had always been small and scrawny, an easy target when surrounded by those older and larger. My biggest antagonist was Mike Newton, who had it out for me from the first moment I stepped into middle school.

"Come on, Edward. Get up." Emmett's head appeared through the door. I groaned again and threw a pillow at him. He laughed and threw it back, hitting me square in the face.

"Go away," I grumbled. He ignored me and sat down at my desk, playing with my Rubik's cube.

"You know, I don't think this year is going to be so bad," he said. Apparently I was in for a big brother conversation. "I know you're a sixteen-year-old senior, but you've really grown up. You're practically as tall as me, plus you finally have some muscles on your skinny ass." I snorted. I had shot up in the last year, and Emmett's forced workouts over the summer had definitely made our wrestling matches less one-sided.

"I doubt anything will change," I replied. He scoffed.

"Dude, you even have contacts now. You are not the four-eyed little nerd you used to be." He came over to punch my arm and I kicked him away. He laughed and held his hands up.

"Alright, alright. I'm going down for breakfast. You better get your ass in gear before mom comes up and drags you out of bed." I watched him leave and shut the door before throwing my covers back.

His threat worked. I knew mom would be up soon if I didn't get myself going. I thought over Emmett's words as I showered. I may look different, but I still carried all the mental scars. Fortunately, I had only one more year left before I could get away from the hell of Forks High for good.

Only one more year.

I came down for breakfast, eating silently as Emmett blathered on about football practice and his girlfriend. Mom and dad eyed me warily, and I tried to put up a good front for them. I hated them worrying about their embarrassment of a son. I ate my eggs and toast, barely catching my mom's announcement.

"Your father and I will be in Seattle this weekend, celebrating our anniversary," she said. I sighed, seeing the gleam in Emmett's eyes; the party announcements would be printed in no time.

Mom soon noticed the time and shooed us off for school. I had just gotten my driver's license, but Emmett often took control of our shared Volvo. Dad said we would each get a vehicle of our choice, within reason, when we graduated. I ignored Emmett's rambling as we drove, shifting in my seat as we got closer to my personal hell. I paused a moment after he pulled into a spot, readying myself for the onslaught.

I got out of the car and looked down, checking my outfit for the third or fourth time that morning. I was wearing a collared button-down polo shirt and jeans. It was plain, boring, and hopefully would keep me from standing out. I certainly learned my lesson a couple years back when Emmett convinced me to wear a Michael Jackson replica red jacket, complete with one white glove. He thought it would be cool. I was tortured for the entire year. I still occasionally heard barbs referring back to the 'Beat It' jacket. I quickly looked at my reflection in the car window after shutting the door, and ran a hand over my forever unruly hair, trying to keep it neat. It was no use.

"See you later, Edward. I'm going to find Rose," Emmett said with a wave. I watched him jog a few cars down where his girlfriend, Rosalie Hale, was pulling in. I should have been paying better attention to my surroundings, because I felt myself stumble forward when someone rammed into my shoulder from behind.

"Look guys, Virg is here. How was your summer, Eddie?" I didn't even need to turn around to know who was behind me. I would know the voice of that asshole even if I had to pick it out of a line-up of a million people. His latest nickname for me was derived from another cruel prank at the end of junior year. He had been fucking some tramp on the yearbook staff and talked her into changing my self-chosen 'song to describe ourselves' to Like a Virgin. Needless to say, when the yearbooks came out, I could barely show my face.

I straightened myself up and turned around, not allowing them the satisfaction of a glare. I had mastered the art of putting on a mask. Clutching my notebooks and pencils, I walked past Newton, Jacob Black, and Tyler Crowley and made my way inside, trying to ignore their laughter. I reached my assigned locker and finally took a deep breath.

Nothing ever fucking changed.

I wanted to pound the metal of my locker door with my fists. The rage inside me was bubbling up, but I had no outlet. I couldn't go Freddy Krueger on them. I didn't think I could handle prison. It would have been useful to have my own personal Mr. Miyagi though. I reminded myself I only had to survive through one more year and I could get out of this town for good. I placed my things inside the locker, keeping one notebook and pencil with me. Already having my schedule memorized, I walked quickly toward history class, keeping my head down.

As I rounded the corner by the front office, I stumbled from a collision for the second time that morning. Already seeing red from the incident in the parking lot, I practically snarled at the latest instigator.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention," a voice said. But, this wasn't the voice of Newton or any of his "A group" asshole buddies. I stood up straight and turned, finding the face that went with the sweet tones.

Oh, what a face it was!

The first thing I noticed was her big, brown eyes. They actually exuded concern and not ridicule. My focus moved outward, noticing her pale skin, long mahogany hair, and pink lips that were upturning slightly at the ends, giving me a smile. I tried to keep my gaze from traveling down to her perfect chest and long legs. I shifted my weight nervously as I stood there like an idiot, not able to say anything back to her. She was obviously new.

"I didn't hurt you, did I? I can be so clumsy sometimes," she said, moving a little closer. I held my breath, not sure what to do. I knew if I started to say something, it would come out all wrong. I could feel my cheeks getting warm as I debated internally how to proceed. It didn't matter, because we were soon interrupted.

"Bella! Are you all set?" I watched Jacob put his arm around her, pulling her tight to him. I wanted to vomit. I put my mask on tight and turned to leave. Feeling a light touch on my arm, I turned my head to find her hand placed on my sleeve.

"I'm sorry," she repeated. I saw Jacob pull her back close to him and sneer at me.

"Let's go, Bella. Virg will be fine." I noticed her frown as Jacob led her away. "Bye, Eddie," Jacob said, followed by his taunting laughter. I kept my feet moving and my mask in place, getting to my classroom before anybody else and the sanctuary of a private desk in the empty room. I tried not to think about those brown eyes. I didn't know who she was, but it was obvious she was one of them.

I hate my life.

~~~~~~~LaV~~~~~~~

I tossed the tray on the cafeteria table and slumped down in a seat. I was glad I hadn't gotten my hopes up about this day because it had been another typical school experience for me. I was either teased or ignored. I would forever be the virginal nerd.

"What's wrong, Edward?" Alice asked, sitting down across from me. Alice Brandon was one of two people that I counted as friends in my life. We had bonded in sixth grade, both of us victims of constant ridicule, and had been best friends ever since. Our group grew to three when Jasper Whitlock moved to Forks during our freshman year. He was an outsider to the flock, but fit with me and Alice like a glove.

I watched as Alice pushed her glasses back up her nose and tossed her braid over her shoulder. I'm quite sure I'd never seen her hair in any other style except tied back in one long-ass braid down her back.

"Nothing," I mumbled, picking at my sandwich. I looked up momentarily and saw her walking in with the Madonna twins, Jessica Stanley and Lauren Mallory. She didn't look very interested in their chattering. I watched her eyes scan the room, probably looking for a spot next to some asshole. They had obviously already assimilated her into their group. When her gaze moved in my direction, I looked quickly back down at the slop on my tray. I dared another peek, through my lashes, and noticed her still looking in my direction.

Who was she looking at?

Whoever it was, it didn't matter. She was soon pulled by Jessica over to the popular table.

"Have you met Bella?"

I looked up at Alice and found her watching me with a smile.

"Who?" It was best to pretend I didn't know who she was talking about. She rolled her eyes.

"Bella Swan? You know, the girl you were just staring at?"

My muscles tensed in panic. If Alice saw me looking, did anybody else?

"I was not staring at anybody," I said with as much conviction as I could muster. I wished she would just shut up before someone else heard. The last thing I needed was another thing for people to make fun of me.

"Who was he staring at?" Jasper asked, sitting down next to me.

"Nobody," I grumbled angrily, glaring at Alice. She didn't pay any attention to me, of course. Lately, whenever she and Jasper were in the same vicinity, they were in their own little world. I sighed when she started telling Jasper.

"He was watching the new girl, Bella," she said to him. He kicked me under the table.

"You digging on Chief Swan's daughter?"

"No! Fuck, can't I even get a break during lunch? Just leave me alone." Both of their mouths gaped at my outburst. I felt like I was losing my mind. My hands gripped my hair in frustration. I needed to get out of there before I alienated my only two friends. I took a deep breath and forced myself to calm down. "Look, I'm sorry. I will see you guys later." I didn't even look at them before picking up my tray of uneaten food, dumping it in the trash, and rushing out the door. I'm sure my blood pressure was soaring as I felt my cheeks twitch.

I ran into the gym and sat down in the darkness under the bleachers. I didn't understand why I was getting so angry. Hadn't I already resigned myself to this fate? Shouldn't I have learned by now that quiet acceptance is usually the easiest course to surviving this hell? I remembered my dad telling me about learned helplessness studies where dogs were caged in an area and given electric shocks. The dogs learned they couldn't escape the shocks no matter how hard they tried to find an escape route. Eventually, they would lay there lifeless and accepting of the shocks, even if there were open paths to get away from the pain right in front of them. I realized it may be easier to simply accept the abuse, but I had never felt more like fighting back and searching for my own escape route. I was tired of not controlling my own fate.

My thoughts were interrupted when I heard the door open. I kept as quiet as possible, hearing the voices of my arch enemies who were probably coming in from sneaking cigarettes.

"So, do you think your dad's going to ease up on the grounding? Cullen's party on Friday is going to be kickin'," Newton said. Of course, the bane of my existence would be at my house. I wanted to kill Emmett. He had probably invited half the student body already.

"I don't know. He's having a cow about me coming home drunk last weekend. It wouldn't have been so bad, but I was driving. He's best friends with the Chief, so he thinks I'm a delinquent or some shit," Jacob replied. "I'll try to sneak out though, if he's still bitching."

"Dude, you have to go. I'm totally going to take the new bodacious Bella." I hated him with every fiber of my being. How could she want to go out with this asshole?

"Watch it, man. She's cool. We've known each other since we were kids," Jacob said.

"Don't worry, I will treat her right. Her sweet little pussy will be singing my praises once I give her a little of this." Nasty fucker was probably openly fondling himself. The rage I felt earlier didn't even compare to the anger building inside me when I heard him talking about Bella. I had a strange urge to protect her, even if she was one of them.

"Dude, don't grab your dick in front of me. I don't need to see that shit. If you fuck with Bella, the Chief will come after your ass, and I'm saying I don't know you." They both started laughing before walking out the door.

I felt confused as I left the gym and walked out toward my next class. Why did I care if Bella wanted to be another one of Newton's conquests? She was nothing to me, and I was nothing to her. I didn't even know her. I walked into the biology lab, giving Mr. Banner a wave when he greeted me.

"Edward, there is assigned seating. Just look at the copy I have up in the back and find your spot."

I groaned internally. With my luck, I would end up stuck with one of the assholes. Why couldn't I just have a table to myself? I would be willing to do twice the work just to have some peace.

I trudged to the back of the room and scanned the seating arrangement for my name. My breath caught when I saw who my partner was.

Isabella Swan.

My heart started racing, I swear I could actually hear it beating through my chest. I ducked my head and moved quickly to my seat when more students streamed into the room. My stomach twisted nervously and I was glad I didn't eat anything at lunch because it might not have stayed down. I didn't understand why I was so nervous. She was just a girl, and I was well practiced at playing my role of the invisible obligation when it came to being paired with a classmate. She was also one of them. I couldn't forget that.

No matter how much the image of her caring eyes from this morning was burned in my memory.

I kept busy with my head down, doodling in my notebook, while the rest of the students arrived for class. Each second that passed, my body tensed with anxiety. Or, perhaps it was anticipation? It wasn't clear to me exactly what I was feeling; only that it was becoming difficult to breathe. My mind was so engrossed in preparation for Bella's arrival that I didn't even register who else might be seated around us.

"Poor Bella, looks like you have to partner up with Virg," his grating voice boomed out followed by the chuckles from several other students.

"Shut your mouth, Newton," I blurted out before I could stop myself. I was used to Newton taunting me. I had almost gotten the ability to outwardly ignore him down to a science. But, when he said that in front of Bella, I had to clench my fists and remind myself to breathe so I didn't do something to make the situation even worse. I truly didn't care what he thought of me, but I did seem to care what she thought.

Breathe, Edward.

I didn't look anywhere except my notebook, so afraid I might break. Newton was still mouthing off in the background, but I tried to block everything out as much as I could. I knew Bella had taken her seat, I felt her presence near me. When Mr. Banner began rambling about course expectations, I allowed myself to relax just a bit. I knew I would have at least part of the period free from Newton's harassment. I didn't dare look over at Bella. I was sure I would see the same expression I always saw, a mixture of disdain and amusement; disdain because I was seated beside her, amusement because of my discomfort.

I saw her rip a piece of paper from her notebook out of the corner of my eye. I figured she was probably scribbling a note to one of her new asshole friends. Imagine my shock when I saw the paper slowly being slid under my nose. I looked at it like it was a ticking bomb. What did she want from me? Those brown eyes flashed in my mind again, and I blew out a gust of air. Did I dare open it? I wasn't sure how much more I could take.

I steeled my resolve. What's the worst that could happen? She calls you a name or something? I grabbed the note and unfolded it.

Hi. I'm Bella Swan. I apologize for not introducing myself earlier when I ran into you. I hope I didn't do any permanent damage. My clumsiness takes no prisoners.

I read it over twice, three times; noticing it was complete with a smiley face. I didn't understand. By all accounts, it appeared she was being nice and trying to joke around with me. But, it very well could have been a trick. She would pretend to care and then eventually yank my chain, making it worse than it would have been to be treated like shit from the beginning. I learned that lesson the hard way last year with Tanya Denali.

But, Bella was new. What motivation would she have to abuse me at this point? She didn't know enough about me to wage her own vendetta. Was it possible that she was simply being friendly? If so, I should warn her that genuine kindness to me wasn't conducive to her burgeoning popularity at Forks High. My teeth ground as I contemplated her intentions.

I turned my head slightly, and briefly glanced to my right. Her face looked peaceful as her chin rested on her hand. She appeared to be paying attention to Mr. Banner, so I let my gaze linger a little longer. Her long hair was pulled back, held by a headband. I noticed a few small freckles sprinkled over her slightly upturned nose and high cheekbones, on otherwise flawless skin. Her pink lips held a hint of a smile, which made me wonder what she was thinking. I turned back to the note before she caught me looking at her.

How do I respond? Should I introduce myself back?

I glanced at my watch, noting the long length of time I had spent fighting my self-preserving instinct to ignore the note. It was dangerous to voluntarily open myself up for attack, but I felt like I had to take a chance. Maybe there was something different about her. I took a deep breath and began writing.

Hello. I'm Edward Cullen. No permanent damage done. Those corners can be dangerous.

Short and to the point, with a little levity thrown in. I folded the note and quickly slid it across the table to her before I lost my nerve. My stomach twisted again and the adrenaline flowed through me when I saw her open the note. My eyes peeked over and my heart thumped when I saw her smile brighten as she read it. I watched her start writing again and my body hummed in excitement. It was almost like a real conversation. When the note passed over to me again, I wasted no time opening it.

I'm relieved no harm was done. Cullen? Are you related to Emmett? I met him at lunch and he was very nice. I also had fun with his girlfriend, Rosalie. She saved me from Tanya and the Madonna twins.

I couldn't prevent the snort of amusement that emerged as I read the note. I looked up and found Mr. Banner oblivious and the rest of the class ignoring me as they usually did. It pleased me at that point because I was probably smiling like a fool. Bella had used my private nickname to describe Lauren and Jessica. Also, she seemed to think my brother was a chill guy. She did mention Rosalie, so she obviously wasn't crushing on Emmett like most other girls did.

I had often been used in the past as a ploy to get information about and attention from my brother. I was glad she seemed to like Rose more than the "A group" bitches. Rose was mostly cool with me. She wasn't particularly warm, but she never treated me like shit. Mostly, I think she thought of me like a bratty little brother. I twirled my pencil around my fingers, pondering what to write back.

Yes, Emmett is my brother. He's an interesting character. Lauren and Jessica…you call them the Madonna twins, too? We are of similar mind there. Rosalie is definitely a better option than them unless you are seeking to expand your Valley Girl vocabulary.

I sent it back and bit my lip wondering if I had taken too much of a chance by poking fun at some of the most popular kids in school. Bella let out a low chuckle when she read it, and I sighed in relief. This time I eagerly awaited her response, even returning her smile as she passed it back to me.

Since Emmett is your brother, then maybe I will see you at your party on Friday night?

I gulped. In this kind of situation, I would normally hide in my room until all his friends left. Or, maybe go stay at Jasper's. Why would I willingly put myself in the line of fire when I didn't have to be there? I didn't know what to write back to her. Before I could make a decision, the bell rang signaling the end of class. I was relieved and disappointed at the same time. It was the first time I could remember having fun during class, but I didn't have to give her an answer yet. I folded the paper up and placed it in my notebook.

What did I do now? Would she want to speak to me out in the open where others could see? Should I leave quickly like I normally do to avoid my nemeses?

Bella made the decision for me. She held her hand out to me.

"It was nice to meet you, Edward."

I had to reciprocate or it would have been rude. Besides, she had been so nice.

"It was nice to meet you, too."

When our hands clasped to shake, a jolt of electricity traveled up my arm. I knew she felt it also, because we both looked down in shock at our joined hands. I pulled my hand away quickly.

"I'm sorry. Static electricity," I mumbled. It was just my luck that I would do something to ruin the best time I had ever had with someone besides my family or Alice and Jasper. I quickly picked up my things and darted off, leaving before I could do anything else to embarrass myself. I immediately went to my last class of the day and took a seat in the back. Once the teacher started talking, I pulled out our note. I couldn't help the smile on my face as I read it over and over. Even if I had ruined everything, I still had this little piece of paper to keep with me as a reminder of her.

Emmett found me at my locker after the last class, giving me the keys to drive home, saying he would get a ride home from one of the other players after practice. That was just fine by me. I liked driving and it offered me the opportunity to bask more in the thoughts of passing notes with Bella. I put my head down and walked briskly to the car. I got in and searched for a cassette tape other than Emmett's preferred heavy metal. I found my R.E.M. tape and stuck it in. Jasper was really into the underground music scene and had some access to bands that hadn't gotten mainstream attention. When the music started flowing, I put the car in reverse to back out. I noticed Bella as I looked through the rearview mirror.

She was walking next to Jacob, quickly toward some big, rusty red truck. I turned around in my seat to get a better look. She looked upset about something, but Jacob didn't appear to be angry. Her brows were furrowed and her mouth was set in a frown while she was talking to him. I watched as she climbed in and slammed her door shut. I grinned when I saw her hold up her hand as if to stop him from talking, before pulling out of her parking spot and driving away.

I took my time driving home, enjoying the music and the thoughts of Bella. It didn't mean anything that I happened to find myself on her street; everyone knew where the Chief lived. It was sort of a roundabout way of getting home. I saw the red truck sitting in the driveway as I passed by, wondering what she was doing inside. I shook my head as I realized my behavior bordered on stalking.

What was I thinking driving by her house?

I was annoyed with myself as I got closer to my house. I was acting like a lost puppy that had been given attention for the first time, just lapping it up obliviously. It was dangerous for me to keep dwelling on this girl because it could only lead to more heartache.

She is one of them. She is one of them.

I had to remember that, no matter how much it hurt to say, even in my head. I couldn't allow myself to become attached to the small amount of kindness she had bestowed upon me. I still didn't know why she had interacted with me at all. I mulled over her possible intentions again.

Maybe it was pity?

That was probably the answer. She considered me a charity case. Fuck that! I was not going to be anyone's pet project. I angrily slammed the car door, rushed in the front door and flew straight up the stairs to my room. I didn't want to see my mother until I had calmed down. I threw my books on my bed and saw the note fall to the floor. I picked it up, unfolding the page and glaring at the words written. I ripped the note into several pieces, letting them drift down. Instead of making me feel better, it made me sick with grief.

Maybe there was a possibility she had meant it? Maybe she really did want to get to know me?

I looked at the shredded paper on the floor. What have I done? I picked up the pieces quickly and took them over to my desk. I scoured my drawers for scotch tape, not finding any. I would have to ask my mother. I took a couple deep breaths before I heard a light knocking on my bedroom door.

"Edward? Honey, are you alright?" I knew she was anxious about how my first day had gone. Although she wasn't privy to all the details, she knew more than anyone how much hell I endured at school. She had seen me upset too many times for me to hide it all. I cleared my throat before opening the door. She stood there with a worried look on her face.

"I'm fine, Mom," I said as calmly as I could. I watched her eyes scan my face.

"How was school?" she asked.

"It was a normal first day. I don't think I will have any trouble with my classes." I needed to change the subject before she could delve any deeper. I didn't have the energy to evade her questioning for long. "Mom, do you have some scotch tape? I need to fix something." She smiled and nodded her head.

"Sure, Honey. Let me go grab it." I watched her turn around, leaving my door open for her return. I quickly started piecing the torn note back in place. I didn't notice when she had returned, holding out the tape for me.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Nothing. Just something for school. Thanks for the tape, Mom." Luckily she didn't push. She simply nodded and then reached around me for a hug.

"I love you, Edward." I hugged her back.

"I love you too, Mom." She turned to leave, letting me know dinner would be ready at seven. As soon as she shut the door behind her, I was busy taping the note back together. If this was all I was going to have of Bella, then I wanted to preserve it. I taped the pieces together carefully, almost reverently. Once it appeared to be in as good of shape as possible, I read through it again and came to a resolution.

I would give her a chance and see what happened tomorrow.

I knew already I would be hurt if she did as I expected: turned her back, ignored me, used me for something, or joined the teasing bandwagon. But, I was clinging to those few minutes of happiness I experienced and hoping there was a slight chance she might be different.

Wednesday, August 26, 1987

I was a jittery ball of nerves as I rode with Emmett to school the next day. My night was spent tossing and turning, only getting snippets of sleep before I woke from some of the most vivid dreams I had ever had. All of them starring Bella. Even though I'd never been kissed, I wasn't exempt from thoughts of the sexual kind. I was a normal sixteen-year-old male. But, I didn't recall any of my fantasies seeming as real as they did with Bella in them. Having all those images in my head made me even more nervous that I would make a complete fool of myself in front of her.

"What's up with you?" I looked over at Emmett and shrugged.

"Same shit, different day," I said. I really didn't want to confide anything in my brother. Not yet, anyway.

"Is Newton still giving you shit?" I snorted at Emmett's question. He sighed. "Edward, I wish you would stand up for yourself." I didn't respond.

How would he know what I went through daily? Everyone at that school kissed his ass. He had no idea how hard it was for me to even go there every day, let alone try to stand up to everybody.

"Look, all I'm saying is that you aren't that puny little kid anymore. You've grown up, you're smarter than anyone at that school, and you're a good looking guy…I mean you have to be, you are my brother." I knew what he was trying to say, but he just didn't get it. He stayed silent for a minute, realizing I wasn't going to answer him.

"So, the new girl Bella?"

My head whipped around to look at him. He glanced over at me and chuckled.

"What about her?" I asked.

"She was asking Rose about you yesterday."

My heart started racing, just like every other time I thought about Bella. I wonder what she asked Rose? I wanted to blurt out questions, but Emmett would know I liked her if I seemed too curious.

Wait. Did I like her? I knew I wanted to like her, but it was a ridiculous notion to think she could ever like me back. She was way out of my league even for a friend, let alone more than that. I gathered all my strength and tried to act like I really didn't care.

"What did she want to know?"

"She asked who you were. I think the word 'cute' might have popped up."

My stomach did flips, and I turned my head to look out the window so he wouldn't see my shocked expression. Emmett had to be pulling my leg. There was no way she thought I was cute. I tried to put on my mask and glance over at Emmett. He didn't seem to be joking with me.

Was it possible?

No, no, no. Don't even get your hopes up.

I didn't know what to think. Emmett continued talking about football and other things; while I remained quiet, thinking about Bella. When we pulled into a parking spot, I noticed Alice sitting on the curb.

"Hey, Smurfette," Emmett called out in greeting to her. She was constantly teased about her short height, but she knew Emmett didn't mean it maliciously. He just had no filter.

"Good morning, Mumm-Ra," Alice replied back with a smile and Emmett laughed.

"I always love a good Thundercats reference," Emmett joked before waving bye and taking off toward his friends. I grabbed my books and met her at the sidewalk. She was rubbing her shoe in the dirt and looking down.

"Edward, I'm sorry about lunch yesterday. I didn't mean to make you upset," she said quietly. I sighed, putting my arm around her shoulders.

"It wasn't you, Ali. I was already wound up, just tired of the shit. I'm sorry for flying off the handle like that." She smiled up at me and wrapped her arms around my waist in a hug.

"You're my best friend, Edward," she said as we started walking toward the school. She normally talked a mile a minute, but appeared to be hesitating to say something.

"What is it, Ali?"

"I just want to say this one thing, but I don't want you to get mad."

What could she possibly say to make me mad?

"Go ahead, I won't get mad."

"Well, I wanted to say that I met Bella yesterday morning. She's in my English class."

I gave her a slow nod, curious to hear what she thought about Bella.

Was she going to tell me something about her I didn't want to hear?

"She's nice, Edward. She's not like the rest of them."

I stayed silent until we reached our lockers. Alice's words replayed in my head. Bella was nice, but it didn't mean she would remain that way. People had a way of conforming to the group around them.

"Why would that make me mad?" Alice shrugged at my question.

"You seemed tense when I joked about her with you yesterday. But enough of that. I had the weirdest dream last night." I laughed at her ability to change the subject so quickly. I barely listened to her rambling as I scanned the surroundings for any threats. My mind focused back on her words as we neared my classroom. "Yeah, I couldn't even believe it in the dream. I remember thinking that I knew I was dreaming because it was so unreal."

"I'm sorry Ali, what was unreal?" I felt bad for not paying attention.

"You were voted prom king!" she said, with a slap to my arm. I rolled my eyes and chuckled at her grin.

"Yeah, that will happen when pigs fly," I replied, adding a snort. "I'll see you at lunch, Ali." We said our goodbyes and I went to my desk. Prom king? The girl was insane.

My body was on automatic all morning, biding my time until I would see Bella again. Once lunch arrived, I quickly went through the line and sat at our normal table in the corner. I kept my head down, but frequently surveyed the room, watching for her to arrive. My breath caught when I saw her finally walk in with Rosalie. I smiled when I noticed her short, flowery dress matched up with black Doc Marten's. She definitely had her own unique style. Her long legs showed each time the dress swayed and I wondered how soft her skin would feel under my hands.

I cut my staring short when Alice and Jasper joined me. I participated in the small talk as much as I could, somehow being wrangled into hosting a Super Mario Brothers tournament that evening. I knew my mom wouldn't mind. She loved Alice and Jasper. Besides, I was the only one with a Nintendo.

I left lunch a little early, wanting to be the first to sit down in biology. My palms were sweating, and I couldn't stop fidgeting. The cherished note I had placed in my wallet that morning felt like it weighed a hundred pounds.

Would she talk to me today? Maybe she would write another note?

Please don't ignore me.

I kept my hands busy doodling again as the other students entered the room. I sat there rigidly when I heard Newton's voice coming closer. I practically growled when his hand rubbed across the top of my head, messing up my hair.

"What's up, Virg?"

I was close to erupting. I remembered Emmett's words from this morning.

You aren't that puny little kid anymore, E.

"Don't fucking touch me," I snarled, pushing my stool away from the table and turning to glare at him. His eyes widened in surprise at my unexpected response.

"What are you going to do about it?" he said, coming closer to me. I wanted to beat the shit out of him and was close to lunging when Bella appeared.

"Go sit down, Mike." Bella came and stood between the two of us and pushed Mike in the direction of his seat. He sat down, continuing to mutter some nonsense. I ran my hand through my hair, trying to calm down.

"Here, let me fix it," Bella said. I stopped breathing altogether when she moved close enough to stand between my legs, running her hands through my hair. My body tingled from head to foot. I was literally frozen in place, soaking up the feeling of her being so close to me and the way her fingers tenderly touched my scalp and hair.

Breathe, Edward.

I took a deep breath, closing my eyes as the vanilla scent of Bella overwhelmed me. One of her hands slid down to cup my cheek and I leaned into her touch. My eyes opened and met hers, our gazes locking onto one another for a few seconds.

What was she thinking?

Her cheeks tinged with pink before Mr. Banner broke the moment, calling out a greeting. Was she embarrassed that she had touched me? Was I repulsive to her like I was to everyone else? Bella's hands quickly retreated as she moved to sit down in her seat.

"Thanks," I whispered. I was in shock when I turned back toward the lab table.

What was that?

I had never felt anything like it before in my life. My heart was pounding so hard, I was afraid Bella would hear it next to me. I looked down at my notebook, trying to concentrate on anything except for the fact she was sitting so close to me. I wanted to punch myself for leaning into her hand like that.

Could I be any more pathetic? Now she knows I'm as big a loser as everyone says.

I opened my book as Banner lectured. All of a sudden, a folded piece of paper landed in the middle of the page I was pretending to read. I smiled and glanced over at Bella briefly. She was looking forward but I noticed the way she was tapping the end of her pencil against her bottom lip, as if she wanted to draw my attention there.

It wasn't as if it were a difficult task. I think I could have sat there all day and watched her lips, slightly parted and glossy pink. My body flushed with heat as I imagined what they would feel and taste like on my lips. I tore my gaze away, feeling my body betraying me. The last thing I needed in my life was to walk down the hall with a hard-on.

I opened the note, simply glad she wasn't ignoring me after my embarrassing response to her fixing my hair.

You never answered me yesterday. Will I see you at the party Friday night?

I felt like I was going crazy. What was she trying to ask me? Did she simply want to know if I would be at my house? Did she want to see me there? If she did see me, what did that mean? Did she want to talk? I couldn't figure out what she wanted from me. I also didn't particularly want to spend a Friday night around all the assholes after a long week of school. But, I thought I would brave it if I knew she wanted to see me.

I'm not sure if I will be there or not. It's not really my crowd.

I slid the note back to her and watched as she read it. She tipped her head to the side and frowned, sighing heavily. Was she disappointed in my response? What did it mean if she was? I really needed a girl-to-English translator because I had no idea how to act. I tried to pay a bit of attention to the lecture as she wrote out her response. As soon as the paper was in front of me I forgot the lecture immediately.

I hope you are there. Maybe you could give me a tour of your house? Rose says it is beautiful.

She wanted me to give her a tour? Who was I….Gilligan? Although, it would mean spending time together, just the two of us. There were a lot of rooms in my house. I could drag out a tour for hours if I really put my mind to it. My mind wandered for a moment, imagining Bella and I in each of the rooms of my house. When I pictured her in my bedroom, my mouth went dry. I had never had a girl in my room, except for Alice. Nervous didn't begin to describe my feelings, but I wasn't going to allow myself to miss this opportunity.

Alright, I will give you a tour. I will find you.

I didn't mention that I would be spying from the stairs; waiting for her to get there, so I didn't have to mingle with any of the assholes. When she read my words this time, she grinned widely. It was odd how I felt warm inside knowing I had put that grin on her face. I imagined the grin was just as wide on my face when I read her words back to me.

I'm looking forward to it.

When I arrived home that day, after taking the roundabout route again, I was in a much better mood. In fact, I was close to floating as I walked in the door. I threw my books on the coffee table and immediately went to my favorite spot in the house. My fingers danced across the keys before I pulled the bench out and sat down. No matter how bad my days ever were, I always found an escape playing my music.

It was almost foreign to me, sitting there and being so happy even before I played a note. I closed my eyes and saw the most beautiful brown eyes in the world. Before long, nothing existed around me. There was only the image of her eyes and the sounds of the piano.

I wasn't sure how long I kept playing. I was able to lose myself for hours at a time if nobody interrupted me. But, I became aware of another presence in the room and looked over to see my mom sitting on the couch with a cup of tea. Her legs were folded under her and she smiled at me.

"That was beautiful, Edward," she said softly.

"Hey, Mom." I stood up and stretched my back and legs, glancing at my watch and seeing it was already seven.

"Wow, I guess I lost track of time," I mused. She chuckled at me.

"You were definitely in a zone. I've been in and out of here for a couple hours now. You know how much I enjoy hearing you play." I smiled over at her. "Oh, Alice and Jasper are here, down in the basement. I'm making tacos for dinner. You go get them and come to eat first, and then you can play your videogames later."

"Okay."

I went downstairs and saw the two of them huddled together on the couch watching TV. They sure were sitting rather close together considering all the other chairs and couch space that was available.

"Hey guys, come on. Mom made dinner," I said, startling them. The two of them shot up like cannons, immediately separating from each other. I raised my eyebrow when they turned their heads and looked over the back of the couch at me. What were they up to? "Are you coming, or what?"

They both scrambled off the couch and followed me upstairs. Did I catch them making out? I wondered if they had something going on more than friendship and how I would feel about it if they did. I supposed I would feel a little jealousy, just for them both finding someone. That would only be human, right? But, I would be happy for them too. They were my best and only friends.

After dinner, we took turns playing Nintendo. I had watched the two of them closely during dinner, trying to confirm my suspicion. The goo-goo eyes, when they passed the salsa and sour cream kind of gave them away. It was obvious that I had been so wrapped up in my own drama that I hadn't realized what had developed between them. I wondered if I could get them to admit it.

When Jasper lost his last life in level seven, he threw the controller and turned to me.

"So, you want to stay at my place on Friday night?" I almost choked on the coke I was drinking. I didn't know what to tell them about Bella.

"I think I'm going to stay here. Um, I think I'm showing Bella around the house." They both gave me strange looks.

"Showing her around the house? What does that mean?" Alice asked.

Should I tell them everything? If I couldn't confide in them, who could I? Besides, Alice was a girl. Maybe she would have more insight about Bella.

"Okay, let me grab something and I'll be right back," I told them. I ran up the stairs and pulled out my wallet. I grabbed both of the notes and unfolded them. I didn't want Alice and Jasper to think I was a weirdo for keeping them with me. I paced back and forth a couple times before going back downstairs.

"First, I should say that everything I tell you in the next few minutes is strictly between the three of us." They both nodded for me to continue.

I quickly relayed the events of the past two days, including every detail I thought pertinent, which was basically everything. I showed them my letters and waited anxiously for them to finish.

"She likes you," Alice said.

"How do you know?"

"Edward, it's so obvious. She wouldn't make up something as ridiculous as you giving her a tour unless she wanted you to be here and wanted to see you." It was kind of silly when I thought about it.

"Emmett told me that she asked Rose about me." Alice jumped up and squealed before wrapping her arms around me in a hug.

"See, she likes you!" she shouted.

"Quiet down, I don't want my parents coming down here," I said with a chuckle. I was still reeling from Alice's claim. It seemed too good to be true. Alice settled herself back down on the couch, re-reading the notes.

"Edward, why is this one all taped up?" I swallowed a couple times.

"I may have shredded it." She frowned at me. "I wasn't sure…I mean, I'm still not sure…I don't know what all this means. I got mad when I thought maybe Bella was just being nice to me out of pity," I said, sitting down and slumping over.

"E, fuck all those assholes. You're a great guy and Bella would be lucky to have you," Jasper said, finally chiming in. They both knew how much shit I had taken in the past.

I wanted to believe everything they were saying. I really did. It was just going to take me a while to convince myself. What I did know was that it felt good to be able to talk about it.

"Thanks, guys. I appreciate you listening to all this. Do you want to come over on Friday night for this party?" I asked them. They looked at each other and shrugged.

"Sure, we can be your support system. Just in case," Alice said. I wasn't sure what she meant by that but I was grateful they would be here. I decided then I was going to get the truth out of them.

"So, am I going to find you two making out in a dark corner?" I smiled, watching both of their mouths drop open in shock. Neither of them said a word when I started laughing. "Come on. Are you going to tell me what is up, or not?" I stopped my chuckling and sat there silently. I would wait them out forever.

"It kind of just happened, Edward," Alice started. "We were going to tell you, but it's still kind of new, and we didn't want you to think it would change our friendship at all." I nodded. I understood why they wanted to keep it a secret for awhile.

"It's cool, guys. I promise. I'm happy for you." I think they both sighed in relief. I didn't ask them any further details. It was their business, although, I felt better knowing they were a couple.

Maybe one day I would be in a couple, too. Maybe.

Friday, August 28, 1987

Thursday had been a relatively normal day. Newton and Black were on my back constantly, but that wasn't unexpected. I knew Newton would be foaming at the mouth because I reacted to his taunting on Wednesday. Unfortunately, there wasn't any more note passing in biology. Mr. Banner showed a video for the entire period, so I got to sit next to Bella in the dark. I don't recall anything about the show, but I can describe how Bella looked in the dark with only the light from the TV shining in her eyes. While we had started the period with each of us on our own side of the lab table, somehow throughout, we had ended up close together in the middle. I was able to thoroughly enjoy her strawberry-scented hair as our knees touched under the table. My body tingled like it was on fire, and I had a whole new set of images to play with in my dreams that night.

Then, it was Friday. Party day.

Mom had breakfast ready for us when we came downstairs, going over all the rules of the weekend…twice. She was worried about us being at the house all alone; wanting to make sure we had several contact numbers in case anything happened. Then Dad walked us out to our car when we were leaving for school. He wasn't worried about us; he was worried about the house.

"I know how it goes when the parents leave town. All I'm saying is don't let anyone drink and drive, and do not let any harm come to this house. Don't let anyone in my study, in our bedroom, or in my liquor cabinet. If my good scotch is gone when I get home, there will be hell to pay," Dad said, putting a hand on Emmett's shoulder and the other one on mine.

"We won't, Dad," Emmett said. I wanted to say that I had nothing to do with this party in the first place, but I bit my tongue.

"Edward, watch him," Dad said with a grin, pointing at Emmett.

"I will," I said, giving Em a smirk.

Once we reached the school, I went to my locker, grabbing my book for first period. Thoughts of Bella being at my house later were running through my mind.

"Hey." My head jolted to the side at the sound of her voice, running right smack into my locker door.

"Ow!" I yelled. That's going to leave a mark. Luckily it would be covered by my hair.

"Gosh. I'm sorry, Edward. I didn't mean to sneak up on you. Are you alright?" she asked, looking at me worriedly. I gave her a smile and forgot about the bump forming on my head.

"I'm fine." I wondered what she wanted. Why was she at my locker? "So, what's up?" I thought that sounded casual, friendly. I watched her bite her bottom lip and blush. I looked down noticed the sliver of skin showing between her cut-off Van Halen t-shirt and her acid-washed jeans. Not even the intense urge to educate Bella on her musical preferences could extinguish the want to touch her exposed midriff.

"Oh, nothing. I was just walking by on my way to class and saw you. I wanted to tell you good morning." Her eyes looked into mine. I felt the air pulse between us.

I was about to respond to her when someone moved to stand between us. I frowned, looking into the face of Tanya Denali.

"Eddie, how are you?" she asked, sliding a hand up my forearm. I pulled my arm away from her and backed up a step.

"What do you want, Tanya?" I had thought that Tanya had broken my heart the previous school year. But, in comparison to my feelings for Bella already, I realized I never even really liked Tanya all that much. I had been so starved for attention that I must have manufactured feelings. However, I knew that Bella Swan was definitely capable of breaking my heart.

"Why didn't you call me this summer?" Tanya's whiny voice was grating on my nerves. I wanted to get rid of her and talk to Bella again.

"Why would I?" Her hand slid up my arm again, and I noticed Bella focusing on it. I turned toward Bella, trying to ignore Tanya completely.

"I will see you in biology, Edward," Bella said before turning and walking away. I wanted to chase after her, but Tanya gripped my arm to keep me there. I glared down at her hand.

"Get your hand off me. Stay away from me. You are good at that," I spat. She just chuckled and released her hand.

"Eddie, you always have been fun to play with," she said in her syrupy sweet voice. I hated her.

"Fuck you." I normally wouldn't talk to a female that way, but I had had enough. I turned and started walking to my classroom.

"I may let you sometime. You are looking pretty good these days," she called out after me. I ground my teeth, preventing myself from giving her the satisfaction of another retort.

I looked for Bella in the halls between each class, but never saw her. At lunch, I watched the door closely for any sign of her and worried when she never showed up. Did she leave school? Would I not see her in class?

I waited at my desk in biology, looking up every time another student walked in. I sighed in relief when I saw Bella enter. She gave me a small smile as she sat down. I wanted to talk to her; I just didn't know what I wanted to say. Mr. Banner started lecturing before I could come up with any words. I decided to take the reins today by pulling out a piece of paper and starting my own note.

Are you still coming over tonight?

I watched her read it and hesitate. Panic flooded through me. Did she change her mind and not want to hang out with me? What had I done to mess this up? I squirmed in my seat, waiting for her to send the note back. I couldn't open it fast enough when she slid it back over.

Sure, I guess. Will Tanya be there?

I didn't know if Tanya would be there or not, nor did I care. Who cares about Tanya? I thought Bella wanted to be alone with me? I was beginning to think Alice and Jasper were all wrong. She didn't sound like she even wanted to come, let alone see me. My chest tightened, realizing I was just kidding myself about her. I wrote out a response, trying to put on my mask that I had left down in my time with Bella.

I don't know or care about Tanya. If you show up, I guess I might see you there.

I buried my face in my textbook; no longer allowing myself to look over at her, knowing she was out of my reach. When the note came back to me, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to read it anymore. Eventually, curiosity got the better of me. I sighed and opened it.

I want to see you there, Edward. Maybe we could even talk about meeting up more often after school. I could really use some help with Calculus and English.

My blood ran cold. I had finally figured out why she started this all from the beginning. No wonder she was asking about Tanya, she was trying to pull the same stunt. I couldn't help my thoughts from returning to last year.

Tanya had started hanging around me, flirting, calling me, and asking to come over to study. I was so enamored with the fact she was paying attention to me that I didn't realize I was doing all of her schoolwork. My heart ached as I thought about how stupid I had been. I had thought of her as a girlfriend and asked her to the spring dance. I showed up at her door to pick her up, a corsage in my hand and everything. Then, her mother tells me she had just left with Jacob Black for the dance. It had all been a big joke.

Well, I wasn't going to allow Bella to jerk me around like that. I wanted to scream at her for making me believe she was different. I hated myself for allowing my feelings to get so entangled with this girl.

Do your own work, because I won't be doing it for you. Maybe you could ask Newton for help? I'm sure he would be more than willing, but I'm not. Forget you ever met me.

My fingers gripped the pencil so tight it snapped in half. My jaw clenched as I folded the note back up and tossed it over on her side of the table. Luckily, the bell rang. Mike's voice rang out as I gathered my things and left without a glance.

"So, what time should I pick you up for the party tonight, Bella?"

I couldn't stay at that school another minute. I sprinted out to the car, thankful I had taken the keys from Emmett that morning. I got in and drove straight home, not caring that I was skipping last period. I was too angry to be around other people.

I didn't dare go inside the house at that point. I knew I would break things myself, before any party ever started. I went to the garage, where Emmett had set up a makeshift gym. I pounded away on the punching bag until I used every last ounce of energy I had. Finally, I fell to the floor in a heap, exhausted and out of anger. In its place was only sadness.

How could I have been so stupid?

Bella had hurt me so much more than all of the torment from classmates over the years combined. It was hard to breathe thinking about how much I truly liked her and it never being real. I wasn't sure how long I sat there on the floor of the garage, but eventually it got cooler outside, and I realized Emmett would be home soon. His football games didn't start until next week, and I knew he would be coming home from practice to set up for his party. I got myself up to hide in my room for the night. I didn't want to see anybody.

I took off my dirty and sweaty clothes, getting in the shower to try and wash some of the pain away. I felt like I had been run over when I got dressed again and fell onto my bed. I don't know how much time passed as I laid there trying to get Bella out of my head.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

"Edward, get up and get out here," Emmett's voice shouted through the door. I wasn't doing anything of the sort. I glanced over at the door and realized I forgot to lock it. Fuck.

Of course, he came right on in. Not only Emmett, but Rose too. She walked straight over to the bed and slapped me hard on the leg.

"What the hell?" I yelled.

"How could you say those things to Bella?" she screamed.

Huh?

What was she talking about? Then realization dawned.

Oh.

"She was trying to use me just like Tanya. I'm not going to let it happen again," I said. She rolled her eyes.

"You know, for as smart as you are, you have absolutely no common sense." She sat down on the edge of the bed. "Tanya is a heinous slut. You've known that since sixth grade, but you let her worm her way in no matter how much any of us told you what she was doing. That isn't Bella. Bella is a great girl, and she likes you. Has she ever done one thing to hurt you?"

"Bella wanted me to do her work for her," I pointed out, although I was not so sure anymore.

"What exactly did she say to make you come to that conclusion?" I thought back to the note.

"She asked if we could meet more often after school and if I would help her with some classes." Rose huffed and threw her arms up in the air.

"Exactly! Edward, she was trying to come up with ways to be around you more. She doesn't need any help with her classes. She's a straight A student, just like you."

Rose's words started to sink in. I felt like the biggest fool in the world. Then I remembered Newton's words as I left the classroom.

"It doesn't matter anyway, she's with asshole Newton," I said.

"Ugh, gag me! She wouldn't touch Newton with a ten-foot pole," Rose replied.

"She's riding here with him. I heard him talking about it."

"He wishes. Bella was supposed to come over with me. But, she told me she wasn't coming over at all. She was crying and upset until I finally forced her to tell me what had happened," Rose explained.

I had really fucked everything up. But, there was a spark of hope in my heart that Bella actually did like me. I just had to figure out how to fix it.

"I'm an idiot, alright? I admit it. What do I do now?" Rose's face formed a smug smile as she crossed her arms over her chest. I didn't even care that she was acting like the omniscient matchmaker. I needed her help.

"Get up. Write Bella a romantic note apologizing and explaining. I will take it with me and go get your girl. Be downstairs in ten minutes." I looked over at Emmett, who was just shaking his head at me and chuckling.

"Dude, do what she says. I think it will all work out." With that, they both left my room and I jumped up to write Bella a note. I poured my heart out to her, consequences be damned. I had to give it a shot.

Dear Bella,

I am truly sorry for my behavior today. There are some things in my past which tend to make me insecure and distrustful. But, you really have given me no reason to treat you like I did. I have had more fun this week with you than at any other time in my life. Please accept my apology and come over tonight. I want to get to know you better and for you to get to know me. Believe me when I say there is nothing I want to see more than your smiling face.

Yours,
Edward

I hesitated on the signature line. But, I was hers if she would have me, and Rose did say to make it romantic. I took a deep breath and folded it, putting it in an envelope. I ran down the stairs and found them in the kitchen. Rose kissed Emmett's cheek and grabbed the envelope with a smirk.

"I'll be back soon," she said before walking out. Emmett looked at me for a second and shook his head.

"Come on, E. Help me set things up."

I helped him set up the basement, wondering where he got all the alcohol. I decided I didn't even want to know. I hoped he could keep everyone down here and not wandering all over the house. After we were done, I went back up to my room to change. I paced back and forth, hearing the doorbell ring over and over. I looked out my window, not seeing Rose's car yet.

I heard a knock on my door. I walked over to open it, and in walked Jasper and Alice. Alice was carrying a bottle of whiskey. I watched her set a shot glass down on my desk and pour.

"What the hell is that for?" I asked when she held it out to me.

"I am on direct orders from Emmett to make you take at least two shots so….how did he put it….oh, yeah, so you could take that stick out of your ass and have some fun tonight," she said with a smile. Jasper was hiding his laughter behind his hand. I scowled but took the shot. It scorched my throat on the way down and didn't settle well in my empty stomach. Alice poured another one.

"Ugh, I may need to eat something first. That was awful," I said, trying to swallow the taste out of my mouth.

"It's alcohol. It's supposed to taste awful." Alice shoved the next shot in my face and I drank it down. Jasper slapped me on the back.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked. I simply nodded, the alcohol still burning my throat and making my eyes water.

I followed Jasper and Alice downstairs, finding a ton of people on the first floor.

"Damn, Emmett. You were supposed to keep them in the basement," I said to no one in particular.

"He's trying. This is the overflow," Alice said. My mouth gaped. Was all of Forks in my house?

"Have you guys seen Bella or Rose?" I had to shout as we got closer to the noise. They both shook their heads. I didn't want to wade through the assholes, but I needed to find Bella. It was a little difficult to see with the lights turned down low on the first floor, but it was even worse in the basement where Emmett had only the black lights on.

I pushed my way through the crowd dancing to a Bon Jovi song. I saw Rose's blonde hair and got over to her as fast as I could.

"Where's Bella?" I yelled when I got close. Rose turned around and handed me a drink. I frowned at it, already feeling the effects of the shots.

"I don't know. I left her upstairs with Jacob." Ugh, why did Bella have to be friends with that jerk? I nodded to Rose and started back for the stairs.

I saw Emmett coming down as I was going up.

"Hey, keep an eye out up there. I just saw your girl. You better watch Newton; he seems to have his beady eyes locked on her," Emmett said.

"Where did you see her?" I asked.

"She was on the couch in the living room when I just passed by." I nodded and sprinted up the stairs, heading to the living room.

I stopped in the doorway. There she was, sitting there like an angel. My eyes scanned her mini-skirt and red blouse. I may have started drooling a little. I was so busy eyeing Bella that I didn't see Newton sitting right next to her. My jaw clenched when I saw him put his hand on her knee, leaning over her.

Did she like him? Did she want him to touch her?

I got my answer when I saw her hand swipe his away from her as she glared. That was good enough for me. I rushed over and stood in front of her. I watched her eyes meet mine and her lips form a smile. I held out my hand to help her up.

"Bella, may I speak with you a moment?" She nodded and went to grab my hand before Mike grasped her arm to stop the motion.

"Go away, Virg. We're busy," he told me with a glare. I ignored him and looked back at Bella.

"Bella, would you like to come with me?"

"Yes," she said, pushing Mike away from her and taking my hand. Neither of us even looked back, and she continued holding my hand as I led her away. The music changed to a slow song, and Bella tugged on my arm. I stopped moving and turned toward her.

"Dance with me, Edward," she said. I swallowed nervously. I had never danced with a girl in my life. I knew I was probably blushing and silently thanked whoever had turned the lights down.

Bella's hands moved up my chest before locking around my neck. My heart beat rapidly as she moved closer, her gaze still locked with mine. My arms instinctively wrapped around her; I had never felt as right as I did with Bella in my embrace.

"Just sway with the music," she said softly, her face so close to mine. I got lost in the moment. It felt like Bella and I were in our own private bubble and nothing else existed around us. All I could see were her beautiful eyes. We moved together to the music, my entire body tingling from her touch. Her fingers stroked the back of my neck as I watched her eyes roam down to my lips and back up again.

Did she want me to kiss her?

My stomach fluttered, and my heart pounded with desire. Her fingers pressed on my skin as if to move my face closer to hers. I leaned closer, actually feeling her sweet breath on my face. I watched her tongue moisten her lips, and I knew this was the moment. I had to feel her lips on mine. I closed my eyes and tilted my head, leaning in for my first kiss.

Then the room went silent…literally. Bella and I were snapped out of our bubble as we noticed someone had cut the music. I looked over at the stereo system and groaned. I saw Newton put another tape in and turn around toward the crowd.

"I just wanted to thank Eddie for his hospitality tonight. I have brought your own personal tribute. Everyone give it up for Virg!" he yelled out before pressing the button. I cringed when I heard the voice of Madonna singing out about being touched for the very first time.

Normally, this would have been where I left and hid from embarrassment. But, not that night. I don't know whether it was the alcohol flowing through my system, the words of encouragement given to me by my brother, or the strength I gained being next to Bella. It could have been all three. But, I was no longer going to lie down and take it from Mike Newton.

I released my hold on Bella and stalked over to him. The path toward him was cleared like the Red Sea, people jumping to get out of my way. The adrenaline coursed through me, and I did what I had wanted to do for six years.

I punched him as hard as I could.

Gasps sounded around the room as he fell to the floor like he had been hit by a freight train, obviously not anticipating my reaction. I leaned over him and enjoyed seeing him wince as I brought my fist back again.

"Get the fuck out of my house. Now!" I yelled. Someone had cut the music off, and a crowd had gathered around us. A hand gripped my shoulder, and I looked to see it was Emmett. I swore he looked proud.

"You heard him, Newton. Get out. Anybody else that wants to ride Newton's jock anymore can leave with him," Emmett said loud enough for everyone to hear. Nobody moved. Nobody even helped Mike stand up. Newton struggled to his feet with a bruise already forming on his eye and blood coming out of his nose.

"You will always be a loser, Virg. You think you're all tough with big brother backing you up," he jeered as he glared at me. I wanted to laugh. I finally saw him for the pathetic bully that he was. He was the one that liked to gang up on people.

"I think you've embarrassed yourself enough tonight. You might want to leave before you make it any worse," I replied back with a sneer of my own. He looked around and found nobody willing to back him up this time. I wanted to raise my arms in victory, but settled for watching him walk away defeated.

I heard the giggles and chuckles as everyone stared at Mike leaving out the door. It was the first time in my life that the laughter was aimed at him and not me. Emmett slapped my back and put on another tape, pocketing the one made by Mike. I looked around, noticing several smiles and thumbs up in my direction. But, I didn't see the one person I wanted to.

Where did Bella go?

I walked around, looking in every room, being stopped every few feet by another person commending me for punching Mike. Maybe he had more enemies than I thought? I saw Alice grinning at me in the doorway to the kitchen, motioning me over.

"Nice hit, slugger," she joked. I couldn't deny that it felt great, even though I didn't consider myself a violent person.

"Thanks, I guess. Evidently there is a limit to how much I can be pushed," I told her. "Hey, have you seen Bella?" Her grin got even bigger as she nodded.

"Yes, I have. I just gave her some directions," she said.

"Directions for what?" I asked.

"She asked for a quiet room in the house, so I sent her to the third floor." Alice had sent Bella to my room. I smiled at her one last time before I ran for the stairs.

I paused outside my door for a moment. My body felt on high alert from the adrenaline rush of hitting Mike and the almost kiss with Bella. I took a deep breath.

There would be no more almost about it.

I opened the door and saw her standing next to my bed, waiting for me to arrive. I walked in and kicked the door shut with my foot as I strode toward her. There would be no more denying myself the feel of her lips on mine. I pulled her to me, one hand around her waist and the other on the back of her neck. I leaned down and pressed my lips to hers, enjoying the way her mouth opened slightly in surprise.

I swear I heard fireworks exploding in my head. None of my fantasies compared to the feeling of actually kissing Bella. Her hands ran through my hair, and a jolt of desire flowed through me when I heard her moan. The horny sixteen-year-old in me was reveling at causing her to make that sound with my very first kiss.

I wanted more.

Her head tilted to the side and her tongue swept across my bottom lip. I opened my mouth to taste her, all of my senses being taken over by Bella. I moved us forward, coming to a stop at the edge of the bed. I didn't know whether Bella pulled me or I pushed her, but our kisses continued as we rolled together on top of the covers.

We devoured each other until we had to break apart to catch our breath. I leaned over her, panting from my excitement, in awe of how beautiful she was with her bright eyes, flushed cheeks, and swollen lips.

She could have her pick of any guy at school and she chose me.

I didn't understand it quite yet, but I wasn't going to fight it. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world. I knew we had a lot to talk about, but everything felt perfect in that moment. I had faced my demons, and Bella wanted me.

Life couldn't get much better.

"Edward?" I looked at the angel lying beneath me.

"Yes, Bella?"

"I think we are going to change your theme song sooner or later," she said with a giggle. I couldn't hold back a laugh before my lips crushed hers again.

Maybe life could get a little better.