Bella hefted the backpack higher on her shoulder, trying to crush the nerves she was feeling as she walked towards the entrance of the school. She had did well on her placement test that it had been decided that she could start classes with her fellow age mates with tutoring three times a week after school to help catch her all the way up. Bella had to thank all the libraries that she had holed up in on cold days when she was homeless. As long as you were quiet and didn't look dirty, she could spend the whole day in a warm library during the winter and just read. Reading had passed the day rather quickly, and she had read everything she could get her hands on.
She was well aware of the stares that everyone was giving her as she walked through the halls. Both Charlie and Jacob had warned her that she would start the local gossip mill. After spending so many years trying to stay hidden from attention it was unnerving to be at the center of it all.
Looking at the map that she had been given of the school, she successful found her way to her first class, English. A woman that looked to be in her 40's sat behind the desk in the front of the classroom. She smiled as Bella entered the room.
"Hello there, I'm Mrs. Wheeler are you Isabella Swan."
Bella managed to keep the wince down, the only person to call her Isabella had been Renee. "Bella" she blurted out.
Mrs. Wheeler seemed to ignore her as she pointed to a seat in the front row. "There is an open seat right there Isabella that you can have."
Bella hated sitting in front, leaving her back unprotected. Bella didn't know which would have been the lesser evil, arriving late and have everyone stare at her, or arriving early like did and see all the stares and curious looks that were casted her way as more students entered the room. Bella hated it, students made some attempt at lowering their voices as they speculated who she was, but most did not.
She was thankful for a moment when the bell rang and the class quieted down when Mrs. Wheeler stood up. But that was soon gone when Mrs. Wheeler opened her mouth.
"Class we have a new student joining us, Isabella. Why don't you stand up and introduce yourself" smiled Ms. Wheeler.
Bella sank lower in her seat. It was bad enough that her seat was in the front of the class, and she could the feel eyes just staring at her, now the teacher wanted her to stand up and face all the same eyes. Mrs. Wheeler just smiled wider, and motioned again for her to get out of her seat. "Don't be shy."
Bella resisted the urge to tell the woman where to shove it, but the woman wouldn't back down. She kept on smiling and motioning. Reluctantly she stood up; "I'm Bella Swan" she said swiftly and sat back down.
Mrs. Wheeler seemed to expect Bella to say something else, because she kept looking at her. But Bella refused to meet her eyes and instead focus on the paper in front of her. Finally after what seemed to be an entirety Mrs. Wheeler decided to move on and she launched into the topic of discussion.
The same pattern happened in the next three classes, where Bella was forced to stand in front of the class and introduce herself. She hated it, but at least it was lunch time.
Edward Cullen sighed, another boring day at school, expect that there was an undercurrent of curiosity. The rumor mills were in over drive. The student body of Folks High was abuzz with gossip. But Edward had trying to finish his sixth hour homework that he had been unable to really focus on what was being said. But by the time lunch rolled around Edward had finished the last few problems and he was able to join his regular group at lunch.
"What's going on?" he finally asked Eric as he sat between him and Angela. "I've heard there is a new student in our class, but I've never seen the school in such a tizzy."
Eric chuckled "That's because this is the biggest news this year, probably the whole decade. Chief's Swan's daughter is back in town and she's here in school."
Edward frowned, "Chief Swan has a daughter?" He had met the Chief of Police of Forks a few times, and he seemed a nice enough guy. But he never heard him mention a daughter or any family in fact.
"Ah, you don't know the story seeing as you're still fairly new here. It was the biggest scandal in Folks. You see Swan married this flighty woman, almost everyone told him that it was a mistake but he didn't listen to them. Anyway short story she got pregnant, she flirted with a younger man, she ran off with the kid with this younger man. In fact there she is now" said Eric looking over Edward's shoulder.
Edward turned in his seat to see a young girl entering the cafeteria, her head was raised high though and she looked neither right nor left but kept her gaze straight. She made no attempt to talk to anyone; she just got her food and went to an empty table
"Just look at her over there, does she think she's so much better than us that she can't even sit next to anyone" said Jessica . Edward wanted to roll his eyes at Jessica as his sister Alice came to sit at the table.
"Maybe's she's just shy" said Angela, standing up for the girl.
Jessica shot her a look, "Angela you used to be shy, Eric was shy. That girl over there is not shy, trust me. There is just something wrong with her. She's an Ice Queen."
Edward and the rest of the table winced at how loud Jessica said; almost half of the lunch room had turned to look at her. Edward looked back over at Bella; she appeared to be ignoring everything around her. But he swore he saw a glimmer of tears in her eyes as she stood up to dump her empty tray into the trash. Edward wanted to stand up and go apologize to the girl, but she was already out of the cafeteria.
Bella retreated to the nearest girl's bathroom she didn't understand why she suddenly felt the burning itch that usually warned Bella that she was close to tears. Bella had survived worst things, had heard worst things from her Renee. But she didn't understand how these spoiled girls words could cut where Renee could. Bella took a few deeps breaths; she would not give the girl the satisfaction of crying over her words. She refused to.
The sound of the first bell warned Bella that she was going to be late for Biology if she dallied in the bathroom any longer. She was lucky in the fact that the Biology classroom was near the girl's bathroom so that she was able to arrive seconds before the second bell rang.
"Ah hello you must be the new student" said the teacher as he approached her.
"Bella" she blurted out, before he could tell call her Isabella. The teacher smiled.
"I am Mr. Briggs, now I think that everyone has already heard who you are so why don't you take the empty seat next to Edward Cullen" said Mr. Briggs pointing Bella towards the middle of the classroom where a boy sat. He had dark hair and pale skin with brilliant green eyes that were staring at her.
Bella was immediately put on edge; she wanted nothing to do with this pretty boy who wore designer cloths if she was not mistaken. Bella had seen his type while on the street. How they were the most frequent customers of drug dealers, and the most likely to mess with vulnerable young girls all to rebel against their parents. Plus he had been sitting next to the girl in the cafeteria that practically screamed that there was something wrong with her.
Not caring what he thought, she pulled her chair as far as she could away from him and hunched her shoulders broadcasting as wordlessly as she could that she did not want to enter a conversation with him. Though this did not seem to discourage the boy, "Hello" he said softly.
Bella gave him a small nod in return and busied herself in opening her book and notebook.
"I'm Edward Cullen" introduced the boy. He waited for Bella to answer but she seemed fine to ignore him.
Any other attempt at starting conversation was put on hold as Mr. Briggs called the class to order.
"Alright class, today we will be starting our unit in cells. What are cells you might ask? Well cells are the tiny structures that make up every single part of your body. There are billions covering your skin…" Mr. Briggs began, writing a few key points on the board. Edward carefully wrote these notes, but otherwise focused on the girl beside him.
She was entirely focused on the lecture and writing down everything that Mr. Briggs was saying. Edward frowned a little inside. Some of the information that Mr. Briggs was saying was remedial, taught in grade school science. But it seemed to Edward that all this information was quite new to the girl. He couldn't help but wonder if the girl had been homeschooled. Perhaps her Mother hadn't believed in science and that was why she was acting as if all of this was new. Edward once again glanced at her notes and was surprised to see many of the words were misspelled. Though misspelled words were a given for any person, there seemed to be more than normal and the writing itself was very bad. Shaky as if she was unused to writing at all.
Suddenly the notebook was shuffled out of sight and he looked up, not expecting the glare that Bella was giving him. Edward tried to give her an apologetic smile, but the sight of the smile made her glare narrow. Bella reached out and grabbed the stack of science books that had been left out and pulled them so that they created a small wall between them.
Bella returned to taking notes, totally ignoring the boy beside her. Glad that her hair hide her burning neck. She knew that she had a few problems with writing. There had been no need to really write while on the street, or memorize how some words were spelled. Bella could read, and her tests shown that she was on the same level as the rest of her peers. But living on the street had hurt her language arts skills. And this Edward Cullen had to nerve to smirk at her, to basically laugh in her face because of this set back. Putting the books between them had efficiently made sure that he wouldn't be seeing her notes anytime soon.
The rest of the class was enjoyable. Though she hadn't really read many science books during her days of staying warm in libraries. She found that she could follow along manageably and learn new things. Mr. Briggs was a good teacher, he seemed to enjoy what he did and it showed as he taught the class. Though as Bella's eyes flickered around the room, it would appear that the students didn't feel the same way. There were some taking notes, others were messing with their phones, and it appeared more than one where trying to sleep. It made Bella feel slightly angry that these kids were just taking school for granted, just suffering through it. Though Bella could do without the kids and some of the teachers, she liked learning. And this was the first time in a long time that she was able to do that.
The bell rang too soon and Bella was up and packing up still ignoring the boy beside her.
"Hey can you wait a moment," Edward said, trying to get Bella's attention. But she ignored him and went outside the door. Edward threw his things into his book bag and tried to catch up. He wanted to apologize for having offended her by looking at her notes. He came to the conclusion during the rest of the class that she might be dyslexic and embarrassed about the fact.
Edward reached out and laid his hand on her elbow trying to get her to stop. He was expecting the reaction he received. He barely dodged the punch that she aimed at his face. "Don't touch me again" she hissed with her eyes narrowed.
Edward raised his hands and backed away. "Alright I'm sorry I won't touch you again. I just wanted to know if I had offended you or something. If I did I am sorry."
Bella sneered at him. "Is this the part where I throw myself at you and tell you that of course you didn't do something wrong. Of course the rich little boy you are can't do something wrong, I mean don't your parents have enough money to have bought you manners?"
Edward flushed; students around them had slowed down to witness the interaction. "Now hang on."
"No, I will not hang on. I'm going to be late for my next class. Besides its okay there is something wrong with me or haven't you heard."
Spinning on her heal, Bella hiked her backpack higher on her shoulder and walked away from Edward and the throng of students that had gathered. The next period was supposed to be a study period but for Bella it meant heading towards the teacher's lounge where her tutor was waiting. It had been arranged that a fellow student would be in the most helpful in getting Bella up to speed. Bella could only hope that it wasn't any of the kids that she knew.
There was only one person in the lounge when she entered. A boy that didn't look too much older than her, with dirty blonde hair and blue eyes. He had a kind looking face, though his eyes seemed older than the rest of him. He stood up when she entered.
"Hello I'm Jasper Hale, are you Bella Swan?" Bella noticed that his voice had a slight southern accent to it.
Bella nodded. Jasper smiled, "Good, as you know I will be tutoring you every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until the teachers are satisfied that you caught up to the level that should be."
Bella nodded again. Jasper continued, "Also I wanted to ensure to you that everything that happens here will be private. I know that a lot of kids are embarrassed of receiving tutoring, so unless you tell anyone, no one will know."
A part of Bella loosened. She just hoped that he was telling the truth. The student body already looked down at her, she didn't want to know what would happen if they found out about this. "Okay."
Jasper smiled at her again, "Okay. Now what subjects do you need the most help with."
For the next hour the two worked in comfortable companionship, which slightly freaked out Bella. It was one thing with Jacob. He was younger and had an air of innocence around him. This Jasper was different; she could tell his family had money also. The watch he wore alone could have feed her for a month. But maybe it was the way he wore them. Like he earned the right to wear them, instead of being born to it. It was a puzzle that made no since even in her own mind.
Gradually it got warm in the teacher's lounge and Jasper rolled up his sleeves and Bella suddenly knew why she felt so comfortable around Jasper. He was a kindred spirit according to the scars that that ran up and down his forearm. Some matching her own
Glad that the mystery was solved, Bella focused entirely on the lesson. It was close to when the bell was set to ring that Jasper realized that he unconsciously rolled up his sleeves to counter the heat in the lounge. He automatically moved to roll them down so that Bella wouldn't see, but causing the exact opposite effect than what he wanted as Bella looked to see what he was doing. As Jasper rolled down his sleeves he counted down in his head. It usually took people less than ten seconds to ask how he got his scars. Fifteen if they were real patient and wanted to appear like they weren't nosey.
But he was surprised when he counted to twenty and there were still no questions. Glancing up, he expected to see Bella looking at him. But he was surprised to see Bella not even discreetly looking at him. Instead she was calmly and steadily working on an Algebra problem.
Bella stood up as the bell rang and turned to Jasper, looking serious. "That not telling anyone what happens in here works both ways. Just wanted to tell you that see you Wednesday Jasper."
With that Bella was gone, leaving a puzzled Jasper in her wake.
As she left the teacher's lounge, Bella felt her stomach start to tie into a knot. Bella had been dreading her last period since she had received her schedule that morning, P.E. It might have been okay if she had been allowed to bring some of the cloths Charlie had graciously bought her, like the sweat pants. But apparently every girl and guy was forced to wear the same shirt and pants so that no inappropriate amount of skin was showing.
Bella looked at the clothes the coach had given her, shorts and a t-shirt. Around her girls were changing into identical outfits. No one appeared bothered at the fact that they were showing so much skin. Bella was slightly jealous; these girls didn't have to worry about numerous scars and trying to hide them. Bella sat the cloths on the bench. She frowned at the half-naked girls around and pulled her jacket closer to her frame, she wasn't going to wear that outfit. She wasn't going to bare her scars to a bunch of over privileged girls, and to be looked down upon as a freak. She had heard the whispering all that day about how cold, how standoffish she was, how something was wrong with her. Even now girls were looking at her and talking behind their hands but looked quickly away when she looked at them. Including the girl from lunch who didn't know how to speak quietly.
"Is there a problem Swan?" asked Coach Steward as she came out to find all the girls except for Bella changed.
"I'm not putting those on" Bella said motioning towards the pile of cloths that Steward had given her.
Coach Steward frowned, "You have to change out to participate in class."
"Guess then I'm not participating then" shot back Bella.
By now all the girls in the locker room were openly staring and paying rapt attention to the conversation.
"Either you change out Ms. Swan, or you can go to the principal's office" warned Coach Steward.
Bella turned and grabbed her backpack and slung it over her shoulder. She didn't look back as she walked out the door. But she did not go to the principle off like she had been reported to, instead she escaped into the library. Libraries had been the only place where Bella had felt comfortable when she lived on the streets.
It was simple to sneak past the small old woman at the front desk and to duck into an aisle of books. Towards the back of the library, Bella found a corner with enough dust to confirm that no one went back to it. Bella slid to the floor and propped her backpack beside her, reaching out she grabbed one of the dusty books and opened the front page and began to read. She soon became engrossed in the really old copy of the Lord of the Rings that she almost didn't hear the bell ring. Knowing that Jacob was going to be waiting outside had Bella carefully shoving the book into her bag and heading out the door. Not bothering to even check it out. It was obvious that the library wasn't going to miss it by the thick coating of dust that clung to her fingers. So she might as well take it.
The majority of students had already exited the building so no one paid much attention to her as she stepped out to the parking lot, eyes scanning for Jacob's familiar truck.
Edward sat patiently in his Volvo waiting for his siblings to make an appearance. As he scanned the sidewalks his eyes caught on the figure of Bella Swan. She stood on the side of sidewalk, eyes scanning the parking lot every few minutes. For the past two periods Edward had been mentally preparing a speech for the next time he saw her that explained why exactly he wasn't a spoiled rich boy. He was about to exit the car and go talk to her when she suddenly darted into the street and into a waiting truck.
Bella sighed in relief as she finally spotted Jacob. She practically ran to the truck leaving Forks High School and its petty students behind her. The interior was warm, taking away the slight chill of Forks away. The truck also smelled slightly like tobacco, and Bella found comfort in.
"Soo, how was your day?" asked Jacob as soon as Bella closed the door, and he eased into the student traffic.
Bella huffed and thumped her head on the back of the seat.
"That good huh" joked Jacob trying to lighten the mood.
Bella snorted, "Yup, I've always heard that high schoolers were a bunch of stupid, ignorant, petty kids but I thought that was just something that was on T.V."
Jacob side-eyed her, "Did something happen Bells?"
Bella eyes began to prickle and she realized that she was about to cry, again. She rubbed at her eyes trying to stem the desire to cry. "Nothing, nothing happened."
But her voice didn't sound so convincing as it broke slightly. Jacob hesitated not sure if he should touch her, but as he watched her shoulders shake Jacob decided to chance it. Pulling the truck to the side of the road, he reached over and pulled her into a hug. Bella jumped from the contact, but she surprised even herself when she just pulled Jacob closer to her, crying on his shoulder.
Jacob held her as she cried, not asking any questions. He sensed that Bella would only talk if she wanted to. Right now she needed a shoulder to cry on, for someone else to be strong for her. It wasn't long until the tears stopped and Bella was able to regain her composure.
"Thank-you for that" she whispered as Jacob pulled back onto the road.
Jacob was quick to assure her, "You don't have to thank me, that's what family is for. To be there when you need it, no questions asked."
Bella nodded, it would take a while to truly believe that. Her experience with family was tainted by Renee. But she was beginning to think that she could have a real family here in Forks if she allowed it. But a large part of her was warning not to get her hopes up.
Soon Jacob was parked in front of Charlie's house. It seemed that Charlie was already home as his cruiser was parked in the driveway.
"Maybe this weekend you can come out to the Res, I'll show you around."
"I would like that" Bella said. And it was true, the idea was very appealing.
"Good, I'll pick you up tomorrow again?" asked Jacob.
Bella opened her mouth to tell him no thanks but Jacob shook his head cutting her off. "No arguments. Until you get your own car I'm going to be picking you up. Charlie's usually on duty till 5, and I'm not going to let you take the bus" Jacob said firmly. He had seen Bella have one breakdown because of those kids. He wasn't going to allow for them to have more opportunities to harass her on the bus. Jacob knew that his Dad wouldn't mind, in fact he seemed pleased with the idea when Jacob had told him yesterday.
"Alright until I get a vehicle" she agreed, not mentioning the fact she didn't even know how to drive, well not officially. The joy ride that got her caught did not count. Bella wondered if she could bring the subject with Charlie. Or maybe get Jacob to help her.
Knowing she couldn't stay inside the warmth of Jacob's vehicle she said good-bye and stepped out into the slight drizzle that had started. The house was warm as she entered, and smelled delicious. On hearing the sound of the door opening, Charlie stuck his head through the doorframe.
"Dinner will be ready in about two hours Bella" he informed her with a smile.
"Alright" she answered heading upstairs. She took a quick shower to get rid of the chill of the evening rain and went back into her room and tried to complete some of the assignments that she had been given to complete. Bella found that Jasper had written some helpful notes on some of the assignments that made it easier to complete. Bella knew that not everything was correct, but she felt confident that she managed to get at least most of it. She had just began to read where she had left off in the Lord of the Rings when Charlie's voice called out, calling her down to dinner.
If the smells weren't so inviting, Bella might have simply ignored the summons. But the smell of lasagna had her coming down stairs, and towards the dreaded conversation that she knew lay ahead. It seemed Charlie had put a lot of effort into the meal. There was garlic bread and even a salad to eat with the lasagna. Charlie was standing in front of the stove scooping out two pieces of lasagna and Bella slipped into the chair she had begun to claim as her own. "How was your first day?" asked Charlie gently, setting the plate of lasagna in front of her.
Bella just shrugged but didn't say anything, letting Charlie assume what he wanted from the gesture.
"That bad huh, I'm sorry about that. I imagine you heard a lot of things about Renee and Me, when she left it caused quite a scandal. Your sudden reappearance has brought all that talk back. If you feel uncomfortable in school you don't have to go back. We can look into online courses if you choose not to return, or we can take a break and try again at a later date. But it's your choice of what you feel comfortable with."
Bella didn't reply. But in an effort to get away from discussing her first day, Bella asked about his day. It was a stilted conversation. But it lasted through the meal and Bella tried to help clean up, but Charlie shooed her out of the kitchen telling her that he had it. Charlie was beginning to put up the dishes when the phone started to ring. Wiping his hands on a towel he reached out and picked the phone from its cradle.
"Hello Charlie, this is Eric Hendrisk."
"What can I do for you Eric?" asked Charlie, hoping that it wasn't anything serious that would involve him putting back on his uniform and going back out.
"I'm calling about Bella, if you remember that I am the Principle here at the High School It appears Bella had a few mishaps at school today. Has she had a chance to tell you?"
Charlie shifted on his feet. "She said she had a rough day but that's it."
Eric sighed through the phone. "I was hoping that she would have told you her side first. Well Charlie it was reported that Bella took a swing at one of her fellow students. And refused to change out during P.E class. Coach Steward said she was supposed to report to my office but she never arrived."
Charlie resisted the urge to sigh into the phone. "I will talk to her about this and I will probably be by your office to explain some things in the morning."
"Alright Charlie. We here understand that Forks might be an adjustment to where your daughter had been before. But we can't allow this kind of behavior Charlie."
"Alright, good night Charlie" said Eric hanging up the phone. Charlie stood still in the kitchen for a moment before continuing to clean the kitchen. He needed a clear mind before he went to talk to Bella. The kitchen was spotless
Charlie knocked softly on Bella's door before opening it. She was sitting on the bed and she looked ready for bed. "Can I come in Bella?" he asked.
He waited until she nodded before entering Bella's room. The room had changed very little, it still looked like a guest bedroom. Charlie hoped in time that Bella would come to see it as her own and decorate how she wanted. But he wouldn't push the issue when there were other matters to discuss.
He took a seat in the computer chair, Bella having not moved from her spot on the bed.
"Bella I just got a call from the principle about some things that happened in school today."
Bella flinched slightly, this was it. This was where Charlie would yell and try to hit her. This was where she would see his true colors instead of this kind and caring parent figure he projected.
The flinch wasn't missed by Charlie and he knew that he had to handle this carefully. He was profoundly aware if he handled this wrong, most likely he would wake up tomorrow morning and Bella would be gone.
"He said you threw a punch at another student and refused to change out for P.E. and you didn't report to his office."
Bella looked defiantly at Charlie, "I didn't mean to throw the punch but he touched me. I'm not used to people touching me."
Charlie nodded, he had expected for that type of response. Bella had been on the streets for over four years and not everybody on the street had the best of intentions especially for young women. "I'm not mad, just try not to throw anymore punches at school unless someone else starts it or you feel very threatened. But what about the other situation."
"I'm already a freak to those kids. You think any of those bitches would have kept their mouths closed about my scars? Why should I put myself on display for them?!" she demanded. Her voice had risen until she was screaming at Charlie.
Bella immediately realized what she had done and shrunk back into herself looking at her hands. Charlie said nothing and Bella resisted the urge to look at him. There was the sound of Charlie standing up from the computer chair and his muffled footsteps as he walked across the carpet. The bed dipped down beside her slowly, as if Charlie was hesitant to sit beside her.
Charlie knew he was taking a big risk, but his heart was crying out to him to do something. And his heart won out over his brain. Bella didn't react to him sitting beside her, though he could see the tension running through her. Slowly, he raised his hand and gently laid his hand on her shoulder, as if he was handling fine china and the slightest touch would break it.
Bella flinched heavily under it and her eyes flew wide open as she tried to scoot away from him. But Charlie had come this far and he wasn't backing down. He didn't allow Bella to scoot away. Using the hand that was on her shoulder he put slight pressure for her to lean forward. When she was close enough he brought his other arm up and curled it around her back and pulled her to his chest. Bella was stiff as a board in his arms as Charlie cradled her. One arm wrapped around her back, and Charlie used the other hand to softly pet her hair. Her left ear was directly laying against his heart. Charlie began to rock her and prayed that any trust he had built with his daughter hadn't been destroyed by this choice.
Bella didn't know what to do. She could have fought Charlie as he pulled her tight against his chest. Could have screamed and bit and kicked her way out. But a part of her decided to wait and see what he did. She was now cradled so tenderly in her Father's arms and for the first time felt completely safe. Bella could hear the steady thumping on his heart in her ear, sounding so loud. The hand petting her hair felt so soothing. Bella could feel the strength Charlie had in the arm wrapped around her back. But instead of that strength being used against her, it instead used its strength to cradle her and protect her from the world. Jacob's embrace had been a comfort in a moment of emotional weakness.
Charlie's embrace screamed protection and safety. Seemingly of their own accord, Bella's arms came to tuck underneath her and she nuzzled into the warmth offered by Charlie.
Charlie almost sighed in relief when Bella relaxed in his arms and snuggled closer into him. His heart filled with love as he looked down at his daughter. He placed a tender kiss on top of her head as he continued his ministrations.
"No one is going to hurt you anymore my Bella, not while I'm around" whispered Charlie softly. "And if you want I can go to the school tomorrow and withdrawal you. Or I can have a talk with the Principle and we can see what we can do about the P. E. situation. The choice is yours my little Bellfire."
A slight smile crossed Bella's face as she heard the nickname. But it turned to a frown as she thought at what Charlie said. He was offering a choice, letting her decide. He had given her these choices before, but it seemed to mean more now.
Despite the student body, she wanted to learn and she enjoyed the subjects so far. Bella had no doubt that with the help of Jasper that she would get caught up. She could deal with the rumors and talking behind her back. But she couldn't deal with changing out in front of the other girls. "I want to stay in school," she said softly. "But I can't deal with baring my scars Dad."
The title slipped out without warning. It was the first time she had said it to Charlie's presence. Besides a small pause as he stroked her hair, he gave no reaction to her saying it. But as she tilted her head up, she saw a look of profound happiness as he looked down at her.
Charlie bent down and placed another kiss on her upturned forehead. "I will see what I can do Bella. If worst comes to worst, I will see if I can pull a few strings and see if I can get you into the reservation school. I am friends with many of the tribes elders, but I can't promise you anything."
"Okay…Dad" she said deliberately saying it.
"Alright" said Charlie. Neither made any move to pull away and Charlie continued to rock and stroke Bella's hair. Bella felt so warm and safe that her eyes began to droop lower and lower, until she was fast asleep in Charlie's arms.
Charlie didn't want to let go, didn't want this moment to end. He felt like something had changed, that he might have gained a bit of Bella's trust. He wanted to believe that this was a turning point in his relationship with Bella. But he knew that he basically took advantage of Bella's distress, when she was vulnerable. To compensate for her weakness she might grow distant again. So he savored these precious moments until his back informed him he couldn't keep this position but longer.
Slowly and carefully he extracted himself from Bella and tucked her snuggly underneath the comforters. Bella snuggled deeper into the blankets, causing her hair to fall over her face. Charlie reached down and brushed the strands away before pressing one final kiss on her forehead.
"Goodnight my little Bellfire" he whispered. Charlie stood up, ignoring how his back popped and crackled. He turned off the light and shut the door and headed towards his own bed, knowing that morning would be there sooner than he wished.
"Anything exciting happen at school today kids?" asked Esme passing the bowl of salad to Rosalie to her left.
"We got a new student; she's in Edward's class. Apparently she's Chief Swans daughter" said Alice excitedly.
"I didn't know that Charlie had a daughter, did you Esme?" asked Carlisle.
"No I've never heard her mentioned, did you meet her Edward?"
Edward made a scoffing sound. "You could say that. We have Biology together and she sits next to me now."
"I'm guessing something happened, so what baby bro. Did she not fall under your spell of handsomeness. Did she not swoon?" asked Emmett smirking.
Edward's cheeks grew pink as he blushed. "You could say that, she threw a punch at me"
Emmett roared with laughter as Esme demanded that Edward explained. "She caught me looking at her notebook. I think that she's dyslexic or something, her notes were a jumble. Since Mr. Briggs was talking I smiled in apology but I think that made her even more upset. After class I tried to apologize, but as soon as I touched her arm trying to get her to stop she threw a punch and told me not to touch her. I apologized but she wouldn't accept it. Called me a spoiled rich kid and walked away."
Esme looked at Carlisle; they both agreed that they would have to speak to Charlie about his daughter. But this was not said aloud, they knew Edward would object and think that they were treating him like a child.
"I heard that she was like that all day, very standoffish and cool" said Rosalie finally joining the conversation. "But your Biology class was right after lunch wasn't it?"
"You heard it?" asked Edward.
Rosalie gave him an unimpressed looked, "Edward everybody in the cafeteria heard what your friend Jessica said, she isn't exactly quiet."
Alice eyes narrowed, "What did Jessica say now?" she asked.
Edward toyed with his spaghetti. "She might have said that there was obviously something wrong with Bella Swan, and she was an Ice Queen."
"And this Bella heard and probably saw you sitting next to Jessica" sighed Esme. The older woman was thank-full that she wasn't a teenager anymore.
Rosalie flipped her hair over her shoulder. "I don't blame the girl at snapping. I thought the rumors were bad when we moved here. But I couldn't go three feet today without hearing someone talk about the poor girl. Apparently the reason why you never heard about her Mom and Dad is that Chief Swan's wife ran out on him for a younger man and taking Bella with her. This is the first time since that happened that she has come back."
"That is still not an excuse for violence" said Esme. "Violence should be the last resort, not the first."
Those words sealed the discussion on Bella Swan and soon the conversation switched to other topics. When dinner was finished, Jasper slipped quietly into his room, his mind spinning. The girl the rest of his siblings had described was nothing like the girl that he had spent an hour tutoring. Like he had promised, he had not discussed it with anyone not even when he was tempted to weigh in on the family discussion.
All Jasper knew was that Edward was wrong, Bella wasn't dyslexic. Jasper had helped a few people who had dyslexia and he could tell the difference. He was helping Bella catch up in her age level so it could only mean that she had probably not attended school in the past few years.
What was bothering him was the point where Bella had lashed out at Edward touching her. Jasper knew that some people didn't like to be touched, but they often didn't throw punches. It had sounded slightly defensive. That as soon as he touched her arm from what he was assuming was the behind, that she had thrown a punch. Like she assumed that any touch was bad, and the only way to escape was to fight.
Jasper reached down and lightly touched his sleeve where his scars were. His mind drifting to the time when they were put there. When he still lived in Texas and he thought he was all alone in this world. He could still hear the women's voice as they told him that he was perfect, right before attacking him. How he had to fight to get a mouthful of food with all the other foster children in their care. It wasn't until one died that the State investigated. The only connection he had to that part of his life was letters to Peter and Charlotte otherwise he tried not to think of Maria.
His memories were interrupted at the door to his room was opened and Rosalie came in. They were supposed to knock before entering another person's room, but to the siblings the door was always open to each other.
"You were awful quiet at dinner Jase, is everything okay" asked Rosalie coming to it next to her twin. It hadn't escaped the other blonde's notice that Jasper had said nothing when the subject of Bella Swan had come up. Though the minute twitching of his fingers told Rosalie that he wasn't affected by it.
Japer leaned against her with a sigh, trying to banish thoughts of his past. For the first seven years of his life he had known pain and little affection as he bounced from one bad foster home to another. He had not even known he had a twin until Esme had come when he was eight. When he met Rosalie, it was like he had found something he didn't know he was missing. The twins instantly clicked, and they trusted each other with all their secrets. Jasper could remember acting like Edward had described Bella. Not wanting to get close to anyone, holding people at arm's length and striking out when he felt threatened.
It had taken almost a year to put any trust into Esme, and later Carlisle when Esme had married him and his new siblings. Emmett, Edward, and Alice didn't even know his full story. They knew he was abused but that was it, none of the details. And by the time they joined the family Japer had managed to control his instinctive reaction of lashing out when touched.
Jasper knew he might just be projecting his own struggles on Bella and he might be very wrong. But he couldn't help but feel that he was correct. The fact that she had not reacted to his scars and went so far as to tell him that he didn't have to worry about her going around and talking about it proved more evidence to him.
"I think that Bella Swan is like us, she was abused Rose" he whispered.
Rosalie twitched. Though she did not carry as many scars as her twin, the system catching onto her abuse quicker. It didn't mean she wasn't as affected as Jasper was, she just had been better at hiding it.
"Why would you say that?"
Instead of answering right away Jasper sat up and turned to be fully seated on the bed, and crossed his legs in front of him. Rosalie turned to do the same until their knees were touching. Jasper clapped twice on his thighs, then twice in front, and then crossed his wrists so that the final clap was one his hand and one of Rosalie's. A secret handshake that they had developed between them.
It was childish, but it was sacred to the twins. A secret told under the seal of the handshake was never revealed to anyone, never even hinted at.
In a low voice Jasper told Rosalie of his encounter with Bella in tutoring. To Rosalie it sounded a little stretched. But Jasper had always been the more empathic of the two, and able to read other people's emotions easily.
"So what do you want to do about it?" she asked.
Jasper sighed, "There is nothing we can do. I shouldn't even told you about the tutoring. I promised her that everything would stay between us. And since she didn't ask about my scars I can't just ask her if she was abused, because I might be wrong."
Rosalie sighed, "You got yourself all worked up just to point out you can't do anything. Tell you what I think. If you really worried Jase, the one thing you can do for her is to be a friend. Edward's class haven't been the most welcoming and it will be months before the gossip mills die down a little as you know. So just be nice to her when you tutor her. But make sure you slip something about Alice into some of these conversations so you don't send her the wrong signal, and don't mention Edward is your brother. It doesn't seem that she is too fond of him."
Jasper smiled at his sister. "This is why I go to you dear sister, you always know what to do."
"Well I was born with the brains" joked Rosalie.
Jasper gave Rosalie a look of hurt before pouncing on her showing her who was born with the muscle's. The sound of their play fighting had Emmett coming to the aid of Rosalie and Alice on Jasper's side. Edward looked fondly from the doorway watching his siblings wrestle about. Though only Rosalie and Jasper were related by blood. Edward considered them all his brothers and sisters and he was suddenly thankful for being a part of this family. That was until Emmett pulled his feet from out from under him.
In the kitchen Esme and Carlisle could only shake their head in fondness as they continued cleaning the kitchen.