Disclaimer: The Twilight world is the property of Stephenie Meyer. No infringement is intended; I'm just borrowing...
Note: I posted this story some time ago on another site with a slightly different title, so it may seem familiar to some readers. The story is set at the end of Bella's and Edward's senior year.
I had never expected to find myself back in a high school classroom in Forks again. In any other circumstance, the tedium would have been nearly unbearable. But with Bella's hand in mine, each day was a joy.
Alice and I had slipped back into the academic grind fairly easily. Granted, there had been raised eyebrows and curious looks when we'd re-enrolled to complete the final quarter of senior year. However, no one questioned our explanation about Carlisle's and Esme's dissatisfaction with big-city life. My father was welcomed back at the hospital with open arms. The reception Alice and I received was somewhat less cordial, but after a week or so everyone seemed to forget that we had ever been gone.
Perhaps my relationship with Bella helped a bit. We were inseparable at school, of course. But this didn't change Bella's friendship with Angela. She had been a true friend to Bella while I was away, and once again I was struck by the girl's innate kindness and compassion. So I didn't object when Bella wished to sit with Angela and Ben during lunch. Indeed, my inclusion in the general student body seemed to lessen the vague wariness that I had formerly engendered.
Students still perceived me as slightly aloof and occasionally haughty, but I was becoming more accepted. I didn't mind, really; as long as I could spend every possible moment with Bella, I was willing to put up with almost anything.
That said, there were still unspoken limitations to my participation in the school's social milieu. At the end of April, for example, Angela informed Bella and me that the next Friday had been deemed senior ditch day. As was tradition, the entire senior class would skip school to spend the day engaged in more enjoyable pursuits. This unofficial holiday apparently came with no repercussions. It seemed the teachers were glad to have a few free periods, just this once.
Every year a different venue served as the students' destination of choice. This time, a few of the more influential seniors had chosen the inauspiciously-named Funtasia Fun Park in Edmonds. The park promised such activities as miniature golf, laser tag, bumper cars, Go Karts, and bumper boats. With the possible exception of the laser tag, I could think of few things less fun than those puerile pastimes. Laser tag, under the right circumstances, held a certain appeal… but the version Jasper, Emmett, and I had played was definitely not appropriate for humans.
Bella appeared mildly interested in the event; she was only human, after all. However, Alice informed us that Friday would be bright, sunny, and warm all along the Sound.
"We'll do something else," Bella said immediately. "Just the three of us. We can have our own ditch day."
"Oh yes!" Alice chimed. "We could go to Seattle and shop—"
Bella and I both rolled our eyes at her. Alice pouted deeply for a millisecond then brightened.
"Or we could go to Victoria. On Friday there's going to be light rain—nothing heavy, just enough to keep cloud cover overhead the entire day. You've never been there, have you?" she asked Bella. My sister's eyes were sparkling with excitement.
"No," Bella replied, her own expression showing definite interest. "I've always wanted to go."
Grinning mightily, Alice took her hand. "It's very romantic! Edward will take you to high tea at the Empress. And I can hit that little lingerie boutique at the end of Government Street." She winked at Bella. "I know just what I want to get there!"
I shook my head against the images of French silk and hand-made Italian lace. I really didn't want to see my sister wearing that…
"How will we get there?" Bella was asking. "Doesn't the ferry take all morning?"
Alice laughed. "Silly Bella! We'll take the boat, of course!"
"You have a boat?" Bella immediately realized the rhetorical nature of her question. "Of course you do."
"This is going to be so much fun!" Alice sang.
So on Friday morning I picked up Bella and we drove to Port Angeles, where our boat was anchored. I had arranged for it to be prepared for the short journey. The teak was polished, and the steel shone. Bella's eyes widened when she first saw it. I suppose the Itama Seventy-five seemed impressive to one unaccustomed to yachts, but to our family it was just another one of the vehicles.
I piloted the sleek ship while Bella and Alice enjoyed the smooth journey. Naturally I had instructed Alice to be certain Bella remained well away from the side rails; the last thing I wanted was a water rescue before our day had even begun.
Alice kept a close eye on her best friend, and we managed to arrive without incident at the beautiful harbor on Vancouver Island. A pleasant stroll took us to Government Street, where Bella was immediately drawn into a chocolate shop by the rich aromas wafting from its doors. She said she only wanted a small box, but of course I purchased two pounds for her. She only protested a little.
Alice flitted in and out of shops while Bella and I walked hand-in-hand along the pretty streets. Bella loved the European feel of the small city, and I vowed that I would take her back to the Continent—but nowhere near Volterra—at the first opportunity. Perhaps Barcelona or Lucerne could serve as a honeymoon destination… But I was getting ahead of myself ever so slightly with those thoughts.
Bella loved the experience of high tea. The plush, Victorian tea room in the Empress Hotel was indeed rather romantic. Snuggled on a loveseat in a secluded corner, I fed her cucumber sandwiches, scones with lemon curd, and tiny pastries. I think I could have sat there with my arms around her forever. Unfortunately, my sister had other plans.
Alice appeared after an hour or so, her small arms overflowing with shopping bags. She had enjoyed her afternoon nearly as much as we had. It seemed she had bought out nearly the entire cashmere shop, purchasing several sweaters for Jasper and herself, a scarf for Carlisle, and gloves for Esme.
"I got a pair for you, too," she informed Bella. "I suddenly had a feeling that you'd be needing them."
"But it's spring," Bella countered. She was still uncomfortable with Alice's extravagance.
Alice shrugged. "We live in northern Washington. Anything can happen."
Bella accepted her gift somewhat begrudgingly, but I could tell that she was enamored of the soft fabric and warmth of the sable gloves. She tucked them into her pocket with a little murmured, "Thank you."
Alice looped her arm through Bella's. "You're welcome! Now, about that lingerie shop I mentioned…"
Bella blushed beautifully as my sister led her away.
On Monday morning the entire senior class was abuzz about ditch day. It seemed the park had lived up to its name; everyone had fun. As Bella, Alice, and I approached the school, I saw countless images of jostling bumper cars and garish golf courses, and I heard innumerable snippets of remembered conversations and inside jokes.
However, more than one student's thoughts shifted as we entered the building. Initially, the others had wondered where we were, but Bella had informed Angela that we wouldn't be joining the class activity. As soon as the words had left Angela's mouth, nearly every senior had thought about the snobbishness of my family, ultimately unsurprised at our absence:
Probably think they're too good for an amusement park…
What'd they do instead? Fly to Cancun? Naw, that'd mean getting a tan…
Right, no Cullen would deign to spend the day with us ordinary mortals…
That one caught my attention momentarily, but it was just another simple-minded dig. The looks we all received were less than amiable. Alice and I were unperturbed; we were used to the icy, slightly accusatory stares. But Bella was affected. I could see her mood deflating more with each look she received.
Why'd she ever get back together with him? Bastard broke her heart… She was much better off without him. She's too nice for those rich snobs…
Great, now Bella's one of 'em. Guess she won't have time for us common folks anymore. Wonder if she'll still hang out with Angela and Ben. After all, they're not hoi polloi like the Cullens…
I shook my head at the misuse of vocabulary; high school students were maddeningly ignorant. But I couldn't ignore the point they were making. Was Bella's association with my family weakening the connections she'd formed while we were away? While I wasn't pleased with the friendship she'd forged with Jacob, I couldn't begrudge her Angela and Ben. They were sweet people who truly cared about her, and I knew that Angela had been a gentle source of comfort and support during the terrible time I had put my Bella through.
I was still ruminating as we entered calculus. Mr. Varner glanced up at me with a slight scowl.
…didn't join the rest of the class on the trip. Figures. Those Cullen kids…there's something really strange about them. I've seen rich kids, smart kids, kids from big cities…but these ones are different. Distant, remote, seem like they're above it all. And moving around all the time, missing classes repeatedly but still years ahead of the others academically and intellectually—
I rarely paid attention to teachers' thoughts; they held little interest to me. But Mr. Varner's left me vaguely uneasy. Did all of the teachers share his tenuous suspicions?
"Hey!" Alice poked my arm, hard. "Earth to Edward!"
I looked down at her. "Sorry." Then, faster and softer than human ears could process, I added, "His thoughts, Alice. They're a little worrisome."
Worrisome? Does he suspect something about us? Her brow wrinkled minutely in concentration. He may…it's not clear. Two possibilities… Oh, I don't like that one! He and Clapp are looking through all of our old records and planning to call the schools we listed.
"But that's not definite?" I questioned.
She shook her head. No. The other outcome is totally different. He's watching us graduate, looking sort of happy, not suspicious at all. He's telling Ms. Cope how nice it is that we finally seem to fit in.
"Huh. So how do we secure that one?"
We slipped into our seats, Alice still focusing her thoughts inward. I watched her for a few seconds, getting jumbled images, and then I saw her break into a grin. She waggled her fingers at me, indicating that I should turn around and attend to Mr. Varner.
"I see you have all recovered from the flu epidemic," the teacher was saying, offering a tiny wink of acknowledgement. "Of course I will still expect page 326 first thing tomorrow morning, and don't forget the quiz on Wednesday."
Groans resounded throughout the room.
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel," Mr. Varner said. "Your student council has reached a decision about the senior class trip."
A low murmur of excitement began to build.
"Thanks to the junior class's hard work with all those fundraisers," he continued, "you're all going up to the Northern Cascades."
A cacophony of thoughts bombarded me. Everyone seemed excited and elated by this news. Visions of high mountains, snowy slopes, and skiing filled my mind.
"With luck," the teacher finished, "there will even be enough snow remaining to get in some skiing. That is, if you all pass your quiz this Wednesday!"
Mr. Varner took a stack of papers from his desk and began to distribute them. "This has all the information. Those of you who aren't yet eighteen will need your parents to sign the bottom and return it by Thursday at the latest. We also still need parent volunteers…"
As he stepped toward my row, I caught his thought quite clearly: Why even waste the paper on those two?
"Which teachers are going?" Mike Newton asked as Mr. Varner handed him a sheet.
The math instructor smiled. "Coach Clapp and I will be the staff chaperones this year."
The students had mixed thoughts about that bit of information, but no one seemed to object too much. Mr. Varner gave the class a few moments to settle down, then he began the day's lesson.
I had to sit through forty-three minutes of hormone-driven fantasies about sneaking into rooms at night, finding secluded cabins in the woods, and the like. It seemed that no one was thinking much about calculus today.
So vivid were my classmates' daydreams that I had lost track of Alice's mind. However, as soon as class ended, she grabbed my arm excitedly. I watched Bella tuck the information sheet into her binder, undoubtedly to be thrown out later.
"Edward!" Alice peeped excitedly, "I know how to achieve the second outcome!"
"How's that?" I asked.
She reached for Bella's hand, drawing her toward us with a knowing grin. "We're all going on the senior trip!"
To be continued...