Well that's surprising...
When I agreed to take this class for continuing education credits, I thought it'd be a breeze. An interest of mine for a long time, Horticulture 100, would help me figure out the mess of my garden, and satisfy some of the requirements I needed to keep my license.
I didn't consider the possibility that Bella would be taking the same class. I didn't consider seeing her at all, in a class or otherwise, so I was quite shocked to see her sitting in the second row as I entered Room 212 for the first time.
My, wife, or rather ex-wife looked very different. She was pale and very, very thin. When we dated and subsequently married, she always had a nice tan—not too light, not too dark. She had radiant skin. Her hair was also different and appeared to be tied back with a bandana. Well that's new...
I also noticed her hair was a different shade of brown entirely. It would take some getting used to, seeing her like this, I had always loved the color of her brown.
Her head was down and she didn't notice my entrance. She appeared to be engrossed in the textbook which was mandatory for the class. I felt like a jerk doing it, but I kept walking past her, pretending I hadn't seen her. She never looked up, never knew I was there. It's just as well, because it's just ... too soon. I'm not ready.
I sat next to a few "kids" and waited for the class to begin. When the teacher arrived, she was whirling about and brandishing papers. I'd estimate she was 20 years older than myself, but her whimsical attitude and voice made me think she had a young soul.
"We're going to be growing a plant this semester. You'll be putting yourselves into groups of at least two, no more than four, and within that group you'll be taking turns caring for your plant. Yes, I'm aware this is all a bit high school—but deal with it. You will be given a seed in which to plant, and most of the supplies will be provided.
The supplies in which you'll have to take care of the plant cost nothing—like water and love." Her voice got even more airy, if possible, when she proclaimed the last need. Half the class snickered, including myself.
"I'll leave you alone for five minutes to organize your groups. If you're unable to find a group by the end of these five minutes I'll take anyone left unable to find a group and place you wherever I see fit. Now go."
I immediately turned to the two guys talking next to me and asked if they'd like to form a group. My hands were sweating. The fact that she was sitting so close, I could see her ... I knew her. But all the changes ... had she changed so very much she's not ready for me yet, or worse ... at all?
"Great. I'm Edward. What's your names?"
Well, that was easy.
My eyes trailed back to Bella. She had turned around fully and was clearly surprised to see me looking at her. She had dark circles under her eyes and I misjudged how very thin she had become. She looked...frail. It was unsettling.
She recovered quickly and offered me a small smile and then mouthed, "Do you want to work together?"
In a completely dick move, and more to buy myself time, I pointed to the two guys next to me and whispered back, "Sorry."
She nodded politely and turned around.
I watched as she kept facing forward and she didn't attempt to move to find another group. She had never been one to keep to herself before and I found myself intrigued and worried that she was being so introverted now. Huh.
Just before our five minutes were up, a man walking in the isle behind Bella tripped and fell. His hand frantically reached out to grab the back of her chair but slipped off when it encountered her hair. I pulled my shoulders up anticipating the pain she would feel, but was horrified to see that her hair came completely off in the man's hand.
She was wearing a wig. Bella was wearing a wig. Even more surprising was the fine wisps of hair, patches of hair that were underneath said wig. I couldn't look away.
The man was very embarrassed and thrust the wig at her. She smiled at him and said something reassuring—I can only imagine. He apologized again as the teacher approached Bella and spoke softly to her. I watched as Bella replied, and quietly collected her things. I noticed she had a backpack that was very lightly packed. I watched as she put the textbook back into her pack, and proceeded to put it securely in place on her back. Her movements were slow and calculated.
At some point the teacher had tried to gain the class's attention, as she was talking, I briefly looked up at her and saw her mouth moving, but the blood was pounding in my ears and all I could hear was my heartbeat.
Thump, thump, thump.
I tried to swallow but my throat felt thick. I couldn't place what I was feeling, but I hated it.
I watched as she reached down to grab a cane and then keeping one leg extended, Bella slowly attempted to rise from her seat. It took several attempts, but finally she manged to upright herself and carefully draped her wig attached to the bandana over her free arm.
I could see the people next to her move to gather their things haphazardly thrown on the ground around their desks in an attempt to clear the isle for her. They gave her looks of sympathy as she thanked them.
I watched with heavy sadness as she limped across the room to the exit.
She didn't look back.