Special thanks to Emergency Beta Service on Twitter: Sleepyvalentina and Akila. Thank you for using your fresh eyes and giving me Wayne's World inspirations.
"Bella, he was just calling you a girl," Alice repeats for the third time.
Now I ask, if a guy checks you out, shouldn't he have the decency not to label you short or tall? Or fat or thin? If you label me, you negate me.
"But he said, 'Shorty'. I was sitting down, I mean, could he even really tell?"
Alice smacks her binder against her forehead. We're rehashing our recent Intermediate Art encounters with Tyler Crowley. He manages to say "'Sup?" to us most days, but when he pairs that with the height reference... I'm getting a little fed up with him.
"Just forget it, Bells. Today we're gonna watch the soccer game, listen to good music and there's nothing you can say to take me away from my happy place."
She's right, of course. Today started out cold and cloudy, but sunshine developed toward the end of 5th period class. It's a great day for scoping out soccer hotties like Tyler Crowley. Alice will be too busy looking out for Jasper, though.
It's a funny thing, but earlier today, Jasper goes looking for me at Alice's locker. When he finds us, he pulls out my new mixed tape and hands it to Alice. She reaches for it, even though he's still holding on. He's speaking so low, I can't hear.
"Ahem. Thank you for the tape. I'm sure it's cool." I yank the cassette from the two of them.
Jasper looks a bit flustered. "Yeah, um...let me know if y'all like it? I got more at home."
"Like, totally," Alice mumurs. Eyeroll please!
After he leaves, I bitch her out for lapsing into Valley Girl Talk. So uncool.
In my head, I think Jasper's tape is "like, totally cool" too. I've been carrying a Walkman with fresh batteries in my backpack all week since he promised to make one. But since Alice was there when he agreed to make the tape, I hold off on listening to it until lunchtime. - Even if it kills me!
"Black Flag, GWAR, Napalm Death, Dead Kennedys, Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsey?" I say to no one in particular. Edward and I finished our Bio class work ahead of everyone else again today. I'm fidgeting with the mixed tape again, Alice and I only listened to Side A before the lunch bell rang.
"What else is on it?" My partner plucks the case from my hands and scans the play list. His eyes light on something with amusement.
"What's so funny? Gimme that back!" I snatch it away from Edward, possessively.
"Nothing...it's just a strange combination of some really hardcore stuff and...Riot Grrrl."
"Riot Grrrl?" The word sounds strange, tripping from my tongue.
"Yeah, milit- er, female empowerment. Maybe you'll like it?" Boy knows he's walking on eggshells. His cheeks are crimson.
I'm all for girl power and feminism. Just last year, I found Mom's college books down in the basement. I thumbed through Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and Erica Jong's Fear of Flying. Women should be taken as seriously as men at school, in the workplace and at home. I don't work yet, but when I do...
"...not that there's anything wrong with that!" Edward spews verbal diarrhea.
Ex-squeeze me? Tyler already thinks I'm short, now my lab partner thinks I'm gay! I feel like I'm wearing a nametag that says, "Hello, my name is George Costanza." I suppress the urge to whack Edward with my lab notebook, and defend myself with dignity.
"I like boys."
"You like boys," he repeats slowly. It's hard to tell, on account of his glasses, but his eyes seem a little glazed over.
"Schwing!" someone calls over my shoulder: Newton.
"If you're finished with your work, you should be quietly studying for tomorrow's test," Mr. Banner barks at the class.
Stuffing the cassette into my backpack, I look over at Edward. He's hunched over his notebook, busily writing something indiscernible. His long fingers make deft pencil strokes. He has nice hands with clean fingernails. Nicer than Tyler's, which are kinda grubby.
I whisper, "Soccer field after school?"
His eyes shoot up from the page and he nods quickly.
Good, I want to kick ass on this test tomorrow.
"¿Clase, cómo se dicen, 'I study' ?" Sra. Gonzalez asks our Spanish II class.
Jacob Black, who's spent most of the period with his head on his desk, sits up long enough to emit a gigantic burp. Our teacher spins abruptly and narrows her eyes at him.
"¿Jacobo, cómo se dice, 'boring'?"
"Uhhh, burrito?" Jacob snickers and fistbumps Seth.
Sra. Gonzales huffs then concedes, "Sí, correcto."
I look down at my Swatch: three more minutes of this torture before the school day ends. By the time Sra. Gonzalez passes out the homework worksheet, the final bell rings and I'm out the door in ten seconds flat. Alice is already standing by my locker waiting. This is her new routine, since discovering my locker neighbor Jasper.
"Tape," Alice demands, reaching out her palm.
I fling my backpack to the ground and root through the zippered compartment, pulling out the cassette and Walkman. She takes it greedily and kisses the case.
"Al, you can just keep it."
"Bella, I'll give it right back after I'm done," she says with mock exasperation.
It doesn't occur to Alice that I might actually be giving up the mixed tape; it's just occurred to me that I don't actually like any of the music either. There's a lot of screaming and most of the lyrics are really angry-sounding.
"No, I mean it. It's not really my taste...but if you like it, take this sister, may it serve you well."
"Wow, thanks Home Girl."
Jasper hasn't passed through the North locker hall, so we probably missed him. Athletes usually get to leave their last class early on game days. Alice and I scramble toward the soccer field and bleachers. We're not the first ones to arrive.
Jessica Stanley and Lauren perch on Edward's left and right sides, respectively. Both girls have practically swung their legs into Edward's lap. His discomfort is evident as he scooches backward into a higher seat.
"Hey Swan, why didn't you tell us about the Bio study group?" Jessica calls down.
Lauren fusses with her pegged jeans. Shading her eyes, she squints at us, focusing on Alice.
"That freak isn't in Bio. Why's she here?"
Alice juts her hip and puts on her fiercest, "back-off biotch!" expression.
Edward speaks up, "Maybe I should go?"
"Hold on Edward," I say and turning to Alice, "have fun without me."
Alice looks surprised but says nothing, neither do the skank crew. Edward and I walk away from the bleachers and stare straight ahead until we clear a corner. I take a chance to peek at his expression and he's looking at me with curiosity.
"You walked away from them, and your friend just now."
I can tell that he's trying to say something, but he isn't spitting it out. Maybe he really is shy?
"You left them to study with me...," his voice breaks off and he looks down at his shoes.
We continue into the gym and take the stairs up to the top of the empty wooden bleachers. From this vantage, we can see the girls' volleyball team take their places on the floor. At the top, no one will bother us or even hear us. I fling my backpack off and plop down, gesturing for Edward to follow suit next to me.
"They weren't going to leave, you know? I didn't ask Jess and Lauren to study because those two are dumber than a box of hair. I asked you because you're smart and organized."
Edward chortles and takes off his glasses. Besides the small indentations on the sides of his nose, he has pretty decent facial symmetry. I could almost say that he's good-looking, in a tame sort of way. He could be a back-to-school campaign model if he had a haircut.
"All right, let's review Bio notes. I'll ask you to define some of the words and the processes, then you can quiz me on the second half." Edward takes out his notebook and text.
I'm stiff from sitting on gym bleachers for two hours, so I lean back for a good stretch. I'm caught up in a yawn with my arms raised above my head when I notice Edward staring at my shirt. The hem of my baby tee has risen, exposing my belly button. I tug it back down and his attention returns to my face.
"Well, I think I'm gonna ace this test, thanks to you Edward."
"Yeah, I think you're tight...right, right! Er, you'll nail it," he stutters.
I smile and wave goodbye before leaving to find Alice. Outside it's chilly and the sunny day has already gone gray. Back at the soccer field, the boys' team collects their gear, crowding around the coach. I spot Alice in the bottom row bleachers, near the Gatorade coolers.
"Are you ready to go?" I ask.
"I can't hear you. Wait," she says too loudly, touching her earphones. Now she's lip-syncing something like, "ham on the bone."
Oh yes, she's still listening to The Mixed Tape. I had my fill of Jasper's newest tape after listening to "Anarchy for Sale" and "Suck My Left One". Seriously, I thought he had better music taste than this.
Alice hits the stop button and looks at me expectantly.
I repeat my original question, only to be interrupted by Mr. Cool Tunes himself.
"Hey," Jasper drawls.
"Hey," Alice calls, voice dripping with honey,"this tape is phat."
Ew, she's rolling her tongue against her cheek and licking her lips! She's a shameless music whore. Of course, Jasper's eyes get cartoon-big and he drops down to sit next to her. That's my cue to leave.
"I'm off...like a prom dress," I call over my shoulder.
She doesn't hear me. She's too busy hustling Mr. Cool Tunes to realize that he'll gladly make her a new mixed tape every day of the week - for the rest of the year. Sadly, my opinion of Jasper's good taste in music took a nosedive today. Come to think of it, he's not that cute anyway.
"Whaz up, Shorty?"
Someone is jogging up to me. I can smell the manly sweat emanating from his body. My heart races.
Ohmygodohmygodohmygod! If I turn around now, my face will be as red as a tomato. If I don't, he'll think I'm dissing him.
"Hi, Ty. What's up?" Hello, Tomato Girl.
"You come to see me play?"
"I'm just... leaving. Bye," I squeak. Being around cute guys makes me tongue-tied.
"You come to my next game, Shorty, and wear my jersey."
He tosses his soccer shirt to me, and I manage to grab it mid-flight. He gives me this chin nod that means either "hello," or in this case, "goodbye." My mouth is hanging open like a fish, but no words escape as I watch him rejoin his team.
I hold up the jersey and can tell that it's the same one he wore today. It reeks, but hopefully laundry detergent will freshen it. Lucky number seven. I don't know why he picked me, but I'm ready to do a happy dance. Could it be my new Wonderbra? "Hello boys, this is Bella Swan and my super bra doing a great service to the soccer jerseys of the Pacific Northwest."
This must be a sign: I'm going to rock that Bio test tomorrow, and I'm gonna rock this soccer shirt at the next home game.
Notes: In Spanish, "Estoy aburrido," (sounds like burrito) means "I'm bored."
Riot Grrrl was a feminist punk rock movement that made a lot of noise in the 1990's. I used to collect Riot Grrrl zines back in the day.
It's been a long time, hasn't it? I posted the last chapter almost a year ago. I revisited this story a few weeks ago, and to my surprise, I had most of this chapter already written 11 months ago! I must have run out of writer's juice at the time. In other news, my other story, This Woman's Work also has another chapter in the works. I have a lot more written actually, but my organization stinks. I'm trying a new program, Scrivener. It's fantastic! It allows me to jump into any part of the story and write. It keeps track of my outline for me, so there's hope for overwhelmed writers like myself. When the chapter is ready, you'll be the first to know. In the meantime, I'll keep writing Mixed Tape as long as it's still fun.