"Have a good day at school," my dad said with an oblivious smile. I grinned half-heartedly back at him and opened the door to brave the gushing torrents of rain, slammed the car door and ran for the building, my head down and my hood up.
It always rained in Forks, sure, but the storm became especially unforgiving early this morning and hadn't let up. My dad was willing enough to give me a ride, so I couldn't complain too much and the storm matched the unease I felt in my belly.
Once inside the building I slid my hood back from my eyes and they immediately locked on Edward as though they were magnets and he was the North pole. Once having spotted him, though, it was at least easier to avoid him. I concentrated on looking everywhere but in his direction as I zoomed toward my locker.
"Hey Bella," Ben came up beside me. He looked sort of nervous in that way he does. I still couldn't believe that someone would be nervous to talk to me. Maybe he was nervous that I would start crying again. Maybe he wanted to end things but felt guilty since I was clearly so pathetic.
"Hey Ben," I smiled back. He stopped with me at my locker and fidgeted with his books some. He gave me a sheepish smile. It suddenly struck me just how handsome he really was. It was actually kind of an easy thing to miss, the way he carried himself, how shy he sometimes was. Having known him for so long, I kind of hadn't realized just how much he had grown up. Once he went to college, found his confidence. . . with how sweet and smart he was, he would have girls falling over him. The thought made me happy for some reason.
"So, uh, how was the rest of your weekend?" he asked.
I had laid around in bed feeling guilty watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls and stupid lifetime network, eating my feelings and pulling my hair out, distressing over how to respond to the one text I got, from Ben: hey, how are you?
And that anxiety was nothing compared to when my heart suddenly skipped a beat and out of absolutely nowhere the thought popped into my head: Did he wear a condom?
Did he?! Did he!?
"Um, good" I told Ben, gathering up my books and shutting my locker.
"So I'm not sure if I told you but I had a really good time at the dance and I'm really glad you came."
"Thanks. Me too," I tried my best to force a casual smile.
The bell rang, thank God, and I had an excuse to hurry off to class.
The rest of the day went as well as it probably could have. I sat with Ben, Kim and Jared like usual. Angela stopped and chatted with me for a second in the hall, which was pleasant, and I avoided Edward like the plague, which really wasn't that hard since our schedules didn't really overlap.
I did see him for a second before lunch in the hallway. He was walking a bit of a distance in front of me, alone, and it would have been so easy to run up to him. I could ask him if he had used a condom. Maybe he would think I was weird for not knowing, but it all happened so fast and I had a right to know.
My heart was beating so fast, but in the end I chickened out and went the opposite direction. It was kind of ridiculous. I'd had sex with the guy half a dozen times, but was too scared to talk to him.
Ben asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with him that weekend.
"Ben, listen, I think you're really great and I like you a lot, but I really like your friendship and I think that we should be friends," was my answer.
Ben furrowed his eyebrows and just looked so sad and confused that I blabbered on, "It's just that I'm not sure I'm ready for any sort of relationship right now. And I really like you, I do, and I know it's going to sound cliche to say 'it's not you it's me' but that is kind of how it is, and I would never want you to think I don't appreciate you being a friend to me, but I would understand if now you didn't want to be friends . . . and you don't-"
"Bella!" Ben said, holding up his hands to ward of my speech. I couldn't read the expression on his face, there was a little twist to his mouth but he didn't look upset, "It's cool, we can be friends."
I smiled, relieved.
"How about I see you at lunch on Monday?" he asked, and I nodded happily.
So instead of going to the movies with and incredibly great, attractive guy, I stayed in my room and read books and watched TV.
So if Edward hadn't used a condom, there were two possibilities. I could have an STD, since I never asked him anything about being tested, and I knew he wasn't a virgin, or I could be pregnant.
But those were big fat ifs. Edward probably used a condom and I hadn't noticed since I was too focused on other things, like my orgasm and perhaps getting caught and guilt about the fact that my actual date was waiting for me.
I thought about texting him, but I didn't have his number. I went on facebook and scrolled through his page. He hadn't posted that many pictures. There were a few of him with his parents. There were some with and his friend Jasper, he was smiling genuinely and I liked those, I didn't so much like the ones where he was with other girls, gorgeous girls with immaculate curls and skimpy clothes. I shut off the computer.
Well, I got my period on Tuesday so that ruled out the possibility of accidental pregnancy. I didn't think Edward had an STD, really, so I kind of felt better about the whole situation, but Edward still ignored me even though I had stopped trying to avoid him.
Ben was becoming a really good friend. He was so easy to talk to, just about fun things, stupid things. I hadn't had a friend like that for a long time.
Saturday my parents wanted to drive up to the modern art museum in Seattle and listen to some artist talk about his exhibit and eat hors d'oeuvres and drink wine and mingle or something. Well, mostly my mom wanted to go and my dad was willing to be dragged along. I of course, was guilted into going as well.
"Come on Bella," my mom chided, "It will be fun. And it will give you a chance to get out of the house and experience culture."
"It sounds boring" wasn't good enough of an argument to fend of the guilt trip, though. Which is how I found myself eating cheese and crackers, walking around the museum, pretending to be interested in some paint spilled on a canvas.
"Fancy meeting you here."
My heart was not prepared to see Edward at that moment, while I was standing awkwardly stuffing cheese in my mouth.
"What are you doing here?" I demanded rather aggressively.
"Well, Bella, I've been following you," he said with such casualness it took my brain a while to figure out he was joking.
"You've been following me?" I had asked wide-eyed, totally believing him, thinking about what I've been doing in the last couple of days. . . since the dance. Then I felt like an idiot when I saw him grinning at me. I could feel my cheeks heating up.
"Bella," my parents had wonderful timing and showed up right at that moment. I now had the increased embarrassment of being seen hanging out with my parents on a Saturday night. I struggled not to groan and hide my face.
"Who's your friend?" my mom asked.
"Edward Cullen," I told her and I saw the recognition flash across her face. To say Edward Cullen had a bit of a reputation in our small town was an understatement.
"Oh, were you here to see the lecture Edward?" she asked, not being able to hide the surprise from her voice. And it was surprising. What was Edward doing here? He never seemed interested in art.
"Charlie, Renee" I heard Dr. Cullen say as he walked up, his wife beside him. They were both looking elegant, as usual. I of course had seen them around and I knew they were casual friends with my parents. Charlie knew most people in town, being chief of police.
"And Bella, good to see you," he greeted me.
"Hi Dr. Cullen." I knew him relatively well, seeing as he patched me up multiple times over the years. Mom and Esme were exchanging greeting and pleasantries.
"What did you think of the lecture, Bella?" Esme asked me.
"Umm, it was okay, I guess," I answered shyly.
"Code for boring," Edward interpreted for me.
"Oh stop," Esme shushed him. "It took forever to convince Edward to come to the lecture with us tonight. But it was interesting wasn't it?" she asked him. Esme had one of those social type personalities, always loud and excitable, chatting and carrying conversation.
"Interesting is another code for boring," Edward answered easily and Esme rolled her eyes. It was interesting (not code for boring) to see Edward interacting like this with his aunt and uncle, like they got along. Did they get along? I guess I didn't really know that much about his home life.
"Well, cheese and crackers are nice but we were just talking about going and getting a real bite to eat. Would you care to join us?" Esme, the social, asked.
The only thing I could thing was: awkward! I really didn't want to sit through a dinner with Edward and his parents and my parents. I knew I should have stayed home and heated up a lean cuisine. The thought of being snuggly in my bed right now, out of this situation sounded really good. Please make up an excuse why we can't I pleaded with my mom in my head.
"That sounds good. Are you hungry, Bella?" my mom asked and I felt suddenly the pressure of the situation.
I looked at my dad who looked a little hesitant but didn't say anything. "A little I guess," I mumbled, not really knowing what to say.
Esme took that as affirmation. "Well, there is that Mediterranean place that just opened up, what was the name of it? Carlisle, what was the name of that new Mediterranean place?"
I noticed that Edward was trying to catch my eye. I met his glance and he quickly turned to our parents and said, "What if me and Bella got some pizza at the place across the street and you guys picked us up afterwards?"
"Oh," Esme sounded disappointed, "Don't you want to eat with us?"
"The kids don't want to eat with their parents." Carlisle cut in good-natured, "Sure, why not. We'll give you a call when we're ready to come get you."
"Is that okay with you, Bells?" My dad asked, putting his hand on my shoulder. I could tell he was kind of worried about leaving me alone with Edward Cullen, but didn't really know how to stop it, especially not with Dr. and Mrs. Cullen standing there all smiley-like.
"Yeah, that works," I shrugged like it was no big deal that I was about to spend the next hour eating pizza with Edward while our parents shared a dinner together. Or that Edward had orchestrated our alone time, our very date-like alone time.