FFA chapter 15, Lessons

BPOV

He stands silently in front of me. The wind ruffles his soft hair, and I'm reminded of just how chilly it's gotten. Instinctively, I shiver and rub my arms. He takes off his jacket and moves to drape it over my shoulders like he did earlier; only this time, I shake my head.

"You're freezing."

"I'll live. What are you doing, Edward?"

"You're cold. I was offering you a way to keep warm."

"I meant, what are you doing on this boat?"

"It's late. You didn't think I would let you go back alone, did you?"

I have no response, because he's never been anything other than mannerly.

"You don't have to babysit me. I'll be fine." I walk away and peer over the rail as the ferry prepares to set sail. The bell sounds and it pulls away from the dock. I glance over my shoulder and watch him approach; he comes to stand quietly next to me.

"You know, I thought about you every day when I believed you were gone. I have no idea why you affect me so strongly."

I turn to look at him, and he's looking out over the water.

"What you read earlier…in my journal...it's how I deal with my feelings. I wrote that trying to deal with what I believed to be the reality of never seeing you again."

"Does it help…I mean to write down your feelings? Does it make you feel better?"

He shrugs.

"All I know is that I found myself doing it every day, and it just made me think of you more. When I saw you at the party, I can't explain the feelings I had, knowing you that were alive. So many emotions rushed over me at once, and all I could think about was being with you."

"Was this before or after you hooked up with Emily?" My voice is so quiet, that it's barely audible.

He smiles wryly and shakes his head. "Do you really think that I'm that shallow; to have sex with a random girl at a party and then sit here and tell you that you've been on my mind since the first day I met you?"

Hearing him articulate it does suddenly make it sound ridiculous.

"Take this jacket and no arguments." He wraps it around me firmly and pulls me close. "That thing you found in my pocket was her way of stating her intention and extending an invitation to me. I was on my way to get rid of it when I saw you. After that, the only thing I could think of was you."

I feel silly and slightly embarrassed for reacting this way. Edward's not my boyfriend, and I have no grounds to question him about who he chooses to associate with, but I can't deny that I'm jealous.

"I feel so stupid." I lean my forehead against his chest, hiding from his stare.

"You are pretty ridiculous."

My head snaps up, and I scowl at his amused expression. "I beg your pardon?"

"You're pretty…." He leans down and pecks my lips, "and ridiculous."

The look in his heavy-lidded eyes disarms me, and his kiss melts me from within. I feel powerless to do anything but stay in his arms and stare at him.

"Have you ever been sailing? He nods in the direction of a couple of yachts; their crews braving the cold at this time of night.

"When I was a kid, my dad had a friend who took us out a couple of times."

He releases me and leads me to the front of the ferry so we can have a better view.

"I'm sorry to hear about what happened to him." His voice is sad and compassionate as he lowers his eyes.

"Yeah, me too, but I meant my other dad, my real dad, biological."

"Oh." He's surprised, and I can tell that he wants to ask more, but he doesn't pry, so I decide to fill him in willingly.

"Phil was my adoptive father. My parents died in a car crash when I was six."

His expression is full of sorrow, but he doesn't speak, he just strokes my hair and caresses my face, comforting me, allowing me to continue.

"He was my parents' best friend, they had made him promise to take care of me."

"And then you lost him too." His voice is a near whisper, and I nod. A lump has formed in my throat, and tears are prickling the corners of my eyes. It's the first time I can recall getting this emotional in front of someone when speaking about the loss of my parents and Phil. I don't want to fall apart in front of him, so I simply turn my back and gaze out across the water, my tears involuntarily spilling over.

He comes to stand behind me quietly and brushes the loose strands of hair blowing in the wind away from my face. His body lightly touches mine as he moves closer, and surprisingly, I'm not uncomfortable. He doesn't make me want to run away. He wraps his arms around me gently and kisses the back of my head. I remain in his protective and comforting arms as the ferry makes it way across the water.

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The bell rings, alerting us that we are ready to debark at Edmonds. We haven't spoken since my revelation, and I worry if things have gotten too heavy for a first date.

Passengers prepare to leave the ferry as we stand immobilized, looking at each other. How to say goodbye?

"Last call!"

We turn at the bark of the announcer and look at each other. I break the silence.

"Thank you for today. I really enjoyed being with you, even though I ruined everything."

"You didn't." His voice is deep as he looks at me seriously.

"I should be going."

"Will you call me…you know, video chat?" He's asks hurriedly.

"Okay."

"Tonight?"

"Yes." I smile at him faintly and move to the exit line. Just as I'm about to step off the vessel, I see Rose and Alice waiting. I turn back to him; his hands are shoved deep into his jeans pockets, the breeze ruffles his hair and shirt as it swirls around his lonely figure.

I feel anxiety like I've never felt before. My heart races, and my chest heaves. I don't want to leave him.

"Come again soon. Watch your step, young lady." The greeter goes through his routine cheerfully.

I turn back for one last look at Edward. He gives me a tentative wave and smiles that amazing smile, and it triggers something in me.

"Could you just give me one second? I forgot something." I aim my rushed request in the general direction of the attendant and don't wait for him to respond.

"What are you doing?" he laughs when I reach him.

"I needed to return your jacket." It's a partial truth.

"It's cold. You keep it. I have others."

"But it's freezing, and you have a while before you make it back."

"I'll manage. Is that the only reason you've come back?"

I bite my lip and fidget with the jacket zipper for a moment, and then I reach up and pull his face to mine.

"I want to see you again." I whisper against his lips.

"Just name the time and place," he whispers back and returns my kiss. I reluctantly pull away.

"I'll wait up for you to call me. Bye." I rush off the ferry not looking back, knowing that if I do, I'd never be able leave him.

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I'm practically silent on the ride home, and Rose and Alice don't question me much. All they've asked since I greeted them, is if I had a good time. They're a little too tight- lipped for my liking, especially Alice. I decide not to press the issue right now. All I can think about anyway, is Edward.

Rose briefs me on what to tell Liz in case she has questions about our outing. It takes a moment for me to get the story straight, and when I do, I head up to my room. I turn on my laptop and wait for Edward's call.

I kick off my chucks and curl up on the bed, still wearing his jacket; the collar pulled up to my nose as I deeply inhale his fresh scent. His smell is a mixture of his natural scent and fabris softener, the combination is heady, I can't get enough of it. I smile, thinking about his gorgeous features; his perfect nose and striking, yet soft eyes. His lips are everything I could ever imagine a guy's lips could be, soft and so tender when he kisses me. I feel myself beginning to drift.

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I don't know how long I've been asleep when I hear my laptop chime. I rub my eyes and look up to see that it's him on video call. I hop out of bed and quickly check my appearance, before I accept his call. His image appears, and he's shirtless, dressed in just basketball shorts as he dries his hair with a towel.

My mouth gapes slightly, and I feel my cheeks flame.

Oh my God!

"Hey." He stops his vigorous hair drying.

"Hi." I try not to let him notice me ogling his magnificent physique. I don't think I've fooled him. "Um, I see you made it home safely."

"Yes, I did. I got in about two hours ago." He sits down on his bed and smirks at me.

"What are you smirking at?"

"You…were you asleep? I've been calling you for over an hour."

"Oh, yeah, I guess?"

"I figured. I had a shower and thought I'd try you again. I'm glad you answered."

I smile and absentmindedly wrap myself warmly.

"It looks good on you."

"What?" I'm momentarily confused, and then I realize and feel a little embarrassed.

"My jacket, you look good wearing it."

"Yeah, I may never give it back." I chuckle lightly.

"Oh, well, in that case, I think things need to be made official." He raises his thick brows somewhat arrogantly as he slides back and leans against the headboard with folded arms.

"Really, and what might that be?" I copy his position.

"That's an official letterman jacket, and I'm officially the quarterback."

I roll my eyes, knowing where he's going with this.

"What does all that mean?"

"It means, that if I'm not getting my jacket back, and you're going to be wearing it, people are going to talk."

"And what would they say?"

"They'll probably think that you're my girlfriend."

"And that bothers you?"

"No, it doesn't. In fact, if you're happy to be wearing it, then I think we should make it official, don't you think?"

"Are you asking, Edward?" I can't help but smile at our banter, but internally I'm a nervous wreck.

Is he really asking me this?

"What if I was? What would you say, Bella?"

I'm quiet, briefly contemplating what I would say. How would this work if I say yes? It would be the hardest thing for us to date with Liz's rules and living so far apart.

"I'm waiting." He says and runs a hand through his mussed, wet hair.

"Ask me again after our second date." I'm satisfied with my evasion of that trap.

"I'm going to hold you to that; the date and the answer to the question."

"It's late. I have to go." I smile at him.

"Call me tomorrow?"

"Yes. Goodnight, Edward."

"Goodnight, Bella."

I wait for him to sign out first.

I remove his jacket and fold it neatly and place it on the end of my bed, and then I take a shower and turn in for the night. For the first time in a long while, my dreams are about something other than the night my parents died.

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The next morning, I'm up early without anyone knocking at my door to wake me.

I dress and prance downstairs and into the kitchen for breakfast. There's no one else around, except for the cook who is clearing the counter and loading dishes into the dishwasher. I assume that everyone must have other matters to tend to on a Saturday morning,

She turns to greet me with a smile.

"Good morning, Miss Bella. Is there anything special I can make you for breakfast?"

I slide into one of the stools at the island and think for a brief moment.

"Is Elizabeth here?"

"Madame Elizabeth was here earlier, but left to run a few errands."

"Good. Would it be too much trouble for you to make bacon and eggs?" I ask slyly, and she fixes me with a warning look before smiling broadly.

"How would you like your eggs, Mademoiselle?" She chuckles and begins retrieving items from the fridge and cabinets.

"Scrambled is fine." She nods and begins cracking and whipping the eggs with precision. "Charlotte….is that your name?"

"Oui."

"Thank you."

She nods and smiles. This it the most we've communicated, aside from the occasional smile and general politeness she's shown me.

I remember seeing her the first night I arrived. I recall thinking that 'she's so pretty,' with her fiery colored red hair tucked neatly into a bun, never a strand out of place. I imagine that it's long, almost to her waist. She's petite and looks to be in her mid-thirties. Her skin tone and bone structure looks exotic, and her French accent makes her seem all the more so.

"Is everyone already gone for the day?"

"Not everyone. Good morning," Jasper greets as he grabs a carton of orange juice from the refrigerator.

"Good morning, Monsieur Jasper, breakfast?"

"What are you having?" He addresses me as he sits a glass on the island.

"Bacon and eggs." I say confidently.

"I'll have what she's having, Charlotte." He winks at her, and she returns his gesture with a grin.

"Oui, Monsieur."

He pulls up a stool and sits next to me. "Bacon and eggs, huh?"

"Yes, and if you snitch to anyone, I'll kick your ass with the new boxing moves I've learned."

"Oh, I'd like to see that." He throws his head back and guffaws.

I can't help but giggle at his arrogance. "You are such an ass."

"Yeah, so I've been told." His laughter subsides. "So, what's on your schedule today?"

"Nothing. Why do you ask?"

"I just figured with it being the weekend, that you might need me to take you someplace since you don't have a car…."His voice trails off, and he shrugs as he drains the remains of the carton after filling my glass.

"I don't have anything planned."

"Okay, well, let me know."

Charlotte announces that breakfast is ready and it smells scrumptious. She places two plates filled with food in front of us, and we dig in without delay.

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I'm completely stuffed. I offer to assist Charlotte with the dishes, but she politely shoos me away.

I know I must be bored to volunteer to do dishes. It's the weekend, and I have absolutely nothing to do. Rose and Alice aren't around. I assume they're getting something plucked and waxed at Irina's salon. There's no sign of Jasper, so I decide to return to my room to listen to some music and email Edward.

I open my laptop and select a playlist. Music fills the room, and I nod in time to the beat. As I start a message to Edward, I notice that I have one waiting from him.

'Good morning. I hope you slept well. I didn't sleep a wink, thinking about you all night. I wish I could see you today, but I don't want to seem pushy, although I am eager for that second date . Anyway, I'm getting ready to head to practice, and I just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking about you. I'll talk with you once I'm back.'

I sigh happily and type out a short message, telling him to have a good practice, and that I'll be waiting for his call.

As I sign off, a folded piece of paper with my name on it catches my eye. It's from Liz.

"Good morning Bella. It's the weekend, and I thought you'd like to sleep in, so I didn't bother to wake you. Have Charlotte make you something for breakfast; something nutritious. I'll pick you up promptly at three for your next lesson with Rowena."

I crumple the note and fling it across the desk.

"Great….more goddamned tea pouring and proper speech."

"I take it you're not too fond of etiquette lessons?"

"What tipped you off?" My voice oozes sarcasm as I turn to see him standing in the doorway.

"I distinctly recall Rosalie grumbling those exact words when she started lessons, Alice too."

"The lessons suck and they're pointless. Who in the hell am I going to serve tea to, anyway?"

"I have no clue." He laughs and shakes his head. "Were the boxing lessons that bad too?"

"Those I enjoyed. They were actually kind of fun, even though you didn't teach me how to kick."

"Change into something more comfortable and meet me in the garage in ten minutes."

I stare blankly at him, until I realize what he means. "Yeah…are you for real?"

"You want to learn, right?" He raises his brows questioningly, before he turns to leave.

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About an hour later, he's taught me how to roundhouse kick without breaking my neck. I'm actually surprised that I learned so fast.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"What is it?"

Now that the words are out of my mouth, I'm hesitant, but I really want to know; and he's the only male other than Edward that I know right now, and I can't ask Edward this question.

"Do you think that a girl is a slut if she has sex on the first date?"

He freezes, and for the first time, he looks shocked and completely stumped. It's rather hilarious.

"Wh...what?"

"What about French kissing?"

"Whoa, wait….what exactly are you asking me?"

"It's just a question. Forget it." I become frustrated and a bit embarrassed and begin stripping off my boxing gloves. I get a cold drink from his fridge, and I hear him let out a loud sigh.

"Most guys…the majority, want sex whenever they can get it. Personally, if a woman is willing and enjoys it, I don't think that having sex on a first date makes her a slut. As far as kissing goes, well a lot can be said for a kiss."

"Like what?" I'm curious, and I walk over to him.

"I just feel kissing is more sensual than sex. Anyone can fit two body parts together and gyrate. Kissing is like art. If done the right way, it defines how a person feels."

I stare at him while he explains, and my mind drifts back to the way Edward kissed me. Jasper's right. When Edward kisses me, I feel it in every part of my body.

"How do you know if you're doing it properly?" My voice is so low I can barely hear myself. He studies me briefly and then smirks.

"I guess that's up to the guy to let you know that, now isn't it? Now, come here. I think I need to teach you how to protect yourself just in case. Hold up your palm and bend your fingers. If you follow through with the heel of your hand, you can break a guy's nose."

"Really?"

"If you follow through with just the right amount of force, you can crush his nose through his brain, or sever his spine at the back of his neck."

"Oh my God, I don't want to kill anyone!"

"Well, you're the one talking about sex on the first date. If a guy attempts to force you, and trust me, there will come a time, then you need to be prepared. Now hit me." He stands in front of me and braces himself.

"I'm not going to hit you. You just said that I could basically kill you."

"Trust me. I'm not worried, now do it."

I roll my eyes and thrust the heel of my hand into his face, just missing him.

"Christ, you're pitiful. Lean in closer and thrust harder."

I follow his instruction and repeat the move, this time, connecting with his face. "Oh, God! I'm sorry….did I hurt you?"

"Hardly." He scoffs. "But it was good. Keep practicing on the bag." He instructs as he goes to answer his cellphone.

"I hit the bag. I hear him faintly speaking to someone from across the room.

"Ow!" A sharp pain shoots up into my wrist as I land an awkward punch.

"Here, let me see." He examines my wrist. "You'll be fine. You just tweaked it. That was Liz. She wants me to drive you to your lesson."

"That's great. Let's ditch and go and get some really good takeout."

"I don't think so. Besides, Liz would be expecting a report from Rowena. There's no way around it, but we can still do takeout afterwards."

"Deal." I swing at the bag once more, before heading back to the house to shower.

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Jasper drives off with a reminder that he will be picking me up in two hours. I'm not sure what he'll be doing to amuse himself in that time. We get along quite well now, but he's still tight-lipped about most things.

The housekeeper, who introduces herself as Mrs. Bevan, greets me at the door and asks me to follow her to the 'studio'. She tells me that Rowena would be joining me 'momentarily'. It seems that everyone who surrounds Rowena and Elizabeth is expected to speak 'properly'. Poor woman, I feel a burst of empathy for her, but then she doesn't seem to be unhappy at all, perhaps I'm the only one who doesn't want to change.

We enter a room, which is not very large, but it somehow reflects a sense of space. She shows me to a comfortable sitting area to one side of the door. I take a seat on a sofa and immediately note the vase of beautiful, fresh flowers centered on the coffee table. I'm beginning to understand that an abundance of fresh flowers are a décor signature of Rowena's. A small, silver tray with a crystal decanter with two glasses and white napkins stand to the side.

At the far end of the room, a small, round dining table and two chairs have been pleasantly arranged. The table holds yet another vase of flowers and the back wall showcases black and white photographs of some iconic women; Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy and Coco Chanel, are ones I recognize.

I contemplate going to have a closer look, but Rowena enters. "Hello, Bella. It's lovely to see you again. We've only been allocated two hours, and as there is a lot to cover, I'd like to get right into it, if that's fine with you?"

She smiles warmly and gives me a light peck on the cheek. Strangely, I don't feel as awkward about it as I would have thought.

"That's fine with me, Rowena. It's nice to see you too," I answer politely. My response is genuine. I hate these lessons, but I quite like Rowena.

"Good. Today, I would like us to concentrate on deportment. Many people are intimidated by the word, but all it means, Bella, is a person's behavior and manner.

So, really nothing to be alarmed about." I don't say anything, I decide to adopt a wait and see attitude.

"As I came in, I noticed you looking at the photographs on the wall. Those women all have one thing in common, the presence that they exuded because of their poise and grace. To be poised one must have good speech and manners. One must also have good grooming, portray a sense of style and self-confidence, and of course, have good posture. And that's where we're going to start today; posture. Do you have any questions, Bella?"

"Um… not really, I just don't see how I can learn to be like Audrey Hepburn, although I really admire her, I think she's great but I don't really want to be like her."

"And we don't want you to be like her, Bella, we want you to be the best you can be. We aim for you to gain a sense of personal poise and to be comfortable with yourself in all company. But to develop your own poise, you need to understand the basics."

"Umm, okay." I don't really believe any of this, but what else can I say? I have to be here. It's a bit like gym classes, I really hate it, but I have to do it.

"Okay, Bella, let's move over to the mirrored area. You need to watch and see yourself move."

She leads the way to an area toward the front of the room, which I hadn't noticed until now. Two adjoining walls are mirrored from skirting to picture rail height. It's disconcerting seeing myself from every angle, and I suddenly feel very nervous.

Oh, God, is she expecting me to dance? This is going to be really bad!

"Good posture starts with how you stand and walk. Stand in front of the mirror, please, Bella." I self-consciously stand, trying to avoid looking into my own eyes. Rowena stands just behind and to the right of me, watching me carefully in the mirror.

"Look at yourself, Bella. See how your shoulders are slightly slouched forward, and how stiffly you're holding your neck? The small of your back is curved which makes your tummy stick out slightly. Now, I want you to hold your head upright and straight, without holding your neck so rigidly. I know you're feeling uncomfortable. But that's what this is all about, making you confident when you're in unfamiliar situations. If you can master good posture in such situations, you it will be at ease anywhere."

I do as she asks, and although it feels strange, it's not uncomfortable. "Now hold your shoulders back, Bella. See how just these small changes have already made a noticeable difference in the image you project. Your eyes still look worried, and you're not too happy, " our eyes meet in the mirror, and she smiles reassuringly, "but your body exudes a level of confidence it didn't just a moment ago. No, Bella, keep your shoulders back. You know, there is a posture harness you could wear when you're at home or school. It can really help to have this come naturally."

My mouth drops, and my eyes widen. I turn my head to give her a look of disbelief. "I'm not pushing at this stage, Bella, I'm just mentioning it. Now, eyes back to the mirror and do what you just did before. Good. Now, suck in your tummy a bit, keep it relaxed but hold it in. Good, see how good you look now. Make eye contact, Bella, keep your eyes up. Don't ever forget that you are a beautiful young woman; face the world with pride, but humility. "

Good, Bella, good, you're holding your posture really well," she says after she's had me practice over and over. It's not easy to hold your head up, keep your neck relaxed, shoulders back and tummy sucked in all at once. I feel like a scarecrow trying to keep my stuffing in.

"Now, I know it's not easy to stand properly for long periods of time, so here are just a few changes that will make a big difference. Move one foot slightly in front of the other; toes out. She demonstrates and asks me to follow. She crouches low, and moves my feet into position. "This is like third position in ballet, " she says as she maneuvers my feet. She stands and taps me gently in the stomach as a reminder to keep it tucked in. "Shoulders up, head back. Think of a wire attached to the top of your head and holding you up. We practice a good standing posture for about twenty minutes, and finally she's ready to move on.

"Now, let's see you walk. Stand over there and walk toward the mirror. She moves to stand with her back to the mirror. "Now walk to me, Bella."

"No, Bella. You've ignored half of what you just learned. Keep your tummy in and your shoulders back!" She raises her voice a bit, but she doesn't lose patience. "I know it's hard. And only practice will make it second nature. Don't get anxious. Let's go over a few basics." She puts her hand gently in the small of my back and moves me back to the starting position, facing the mirror again. Now, watch me." And she walks back and turns to face me. "Start off with your weight on your back foot. The correct way to place your weight is heel, instep then toe." She shows me in slow motion what she means, repeating, "heel, instep, toe." Rowena moves back to her starting position, and walks toward me, repeating what we'd just been doing as she performs the actions. "As your foot moves forward, gently brush the toe against the heel of the other in passing so that you know your legs are aligned. Judge the length of your stride to walk gracefully. Do not rush, walk at a moderate pace. Your hips should accompany the movement, not follow your tummy or your head. See, what I mean, your hips should move with your legs, not with your tummy or your head. See?"

She slows down the movement even more to show me. She looks so comfortable and graceful in her movements; smooth, not jerky and awkward the way I feel. I don't think I'll ever be able to do this. It's so frustrating, and I'm yet to see why it is necessary. It's a waste of time. I'm never going to need this stuff. I have no idea what Liz is thinking!

"I know this al seems senseless to you, but the actions will become second nature if you embrace it and practice, and you will enjoy being graceful and confident, Bella, believe me." She reassures once more, almost as if she's read my mind.

"Arms should be at the sides of your body. And move naturally." She stops when she reaches me, smiling encouragingly. "Okay, Bella, try it again. You know, the old practice of walking in a straight line with a book balanced on your head really does work, you may want to practice when you're alone." She raises both brows slightly.

"I don't think so." I smile wryly.

I practice walking for what seems like forever. We take a ten-minute break, and then she tells me that we only have another forty minutes of my time left.

Eventually, and just when I'm about ready to either throw a tantrum like a five-year old or simply walk off, she speaks the words I've been dying to hear about an hour and a half ago. "That's it for today, Bella. Great work. Please practice at home, have the other girls help you. They've been through this before. We'll concentrate on sitting and how to get in and out of a car next time. I'll see you out."

Not soon enough for me. I still don't understand the point of any of this, unless Liz is grooming me to be some sort of Stepford wife. I wonder how long it took the other girls for the lessons to show in their appearance. They're all more elegant than I could ever hope to be, it just seems natural to them in everything they do.

I politely thank Rowena for her time as she sees me out. I note her happy smile, and I'm glad that she's pleased, even though I can't say the same for myself. If my polite pretense makes her report to Liz sound positive, then all the better.

Jasper is sitting in the car waiting, he watches me carefully. He must either sense my sour mood, or my expression tells it all. He holds up a white paper bag and Styrofoam container.

I hope that's a chocolate shake.

I smile at him and head toward the car.

"As I promised, chili cheeseburgers, fries, and a chocolate shake." He hands the bag over to me, and I greedily inhale the delicious aroma.

"Do me a favor and get in the front seat. I'm done with chauffeuring you for the day."

I roll my eyes. This is the first time I've ridden in the front with him.

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We stop off at a rest stop at the side of the road. We eat, for the most part, in silence. I'm surprised when he initiates conversation.

"How did it go?"

I simply shrug and stuff a fry into my mouth.

"That bad, huh?"

"I'm never going to be what they expect me to be. Etiquette lessons? For what? What does it matter? I'm never going to be as graceful as Alice, or as beautiful as Rose, and don't get me started on the rest of the girls. I mean look at me! They're sophisticated and sexy, everything that a guy would want."

"So, this goes back to the guy thing again?"

"It's not that…it's just…I don't know why she's doing all of these things to change me. I'm not pretty enough, statuesque enough. I have less than acceptable manners and even more unacceptable speech and posture. I mean, why even waste time with me at all?"

"Look, I can't give you specifics..."

"You mean you won't." I cut him off abruptly.

"I can't." He repeats sternly then lowers his head and takes a deep breath. "All I can say is that they weren't at all like you when they came to live with Liz."

"Well, that helps." I say sarcastically and wrap the remains of my burger and fries, suddenly losing my appetite.

"They were a lot worse off than you. It took a while for them to open up after the things they went through. There was a lot of acting out and running away from all of them, before they learned to trust anyone. I witnessed this with Alice, Rose and Leah first hand. "

"What made them change?"

"I don't know. I guess they realized that what Liz was offering was much better than what they came from."

God, I can only imagine what happened with the rest of them. I want to ask, but I know it would be wrong, and he probably wouldn't tell me. He lowers his head; he's clearly frustrated by something. He slowly lets out a sigh and turns back to me. "Are you about ready?" He gestures to my partially eaten food.

"Yeah."

He starts the car and waits for me to me to buckle my seatbelt. I grab my shake and quietly sip on it.

"Don't expect too much of that. Once your regular weight monitoring starts, Liz will be aware of every calorie intake." He smirks, and I huff in frustration.

"I should eat a ton of bad, greasy food, then I'll look hideous. That should make her happy."

"That's pretty much impossible." He shakes his head as he pulls off onto the road. "You're beautiful."

I look at him in astonishment, but keep silent. I can't help the smile that creeps across my face.

He thinks I'm beautiful?

.

.

.

We arrive back home an hour later. Rose and Alice's cars are parked out front. Jasper walks behind me as we enter, and I'm shocked to see everyone but Liz in the living room..

They're all basically lounging around, curled up on the sofas.

"Hey." Jasper greets everyone.

"Hey, Jasper." They reply in unison.

I mentally make a note to tease him later about his lack of proper etiquette. That should be fun. He begins a conversation with Emmett who comes in from the kitchen with a bottle of water.

I'm a little surprised to see Tanya and Victoria here. Normally, they'd be out doing other things. Both appear to be studying. They look up briefly to wave to me and go back to reading.

"Bella." Alice motions for me to come join her, Rose and Leah. I notice that they're engaged in some sort of card game.

"How were the lessons?"

"Don't ask."

They all laugh.

"It took Leah months and Rose even longer, to embrace lessons." Alice giggles.

"Rowena is a bitch."

"Now, now, Rosalie, that's not proper etiquette, dear." Alice imitates Rowena's voice, and they all burst into laughter, including Victoria and Tanya.

"Tummy in…"

"And shoulders back…"

They add their rendition of Rowena.

"Oh God, and let's not forget 'poise and posture, move with grace and elegance'. Rose stands and emulates a walking lesson, and has everyone giggling uncontrollably. Emmett whistles wolfishly from across the room as Jasper claps.

"Thank you, darling," she drawls and finishes with a curtsy, the rest of us applaud.

"Who's up for a game of black jack?" Leah asks.

"Not me. I have studying to do." Tanya replies in a bored tone.

"Why don't you make it a bit more interesting?" Jasper says from across the room.

"What did you have in mind?"

"Two truths and a lie." He smirks and nudges Emmett.

Everyone turns to look at him, and he suddenly has Tanya and Victoria's attention too.

"Now that I'm up for." Victoria closes her textbook and leaves the room briefly, returning with a large glass bowl.

"What's this?" I whisper to Rose and Alice.

"We all have to write down two truths and a lie on a piece of paper, fold it, and place it in the bowl. Each person will take a turn, randomly choosing a slip of paper and read it out loud. We then have to guess which statement is the lie, and the person who wrote it. It's pretty intense and fun." Alice explains.

I watch as the others gather around in a circle, and my mouth instantly goes dry. I'm nervous. I've never played or heard of this game before, but something tells me that it's going to be very informative.