Alice Brandon, Jasper and Rosalie Hale, Emmett McCarty and Edward Masen. These were the people which made up the clique at school – the one everyone gossiped about and longed to join, to no avail. They were all so good looking that it was hard to believe, and their grades were amazing too. I had always been curious about the inclusion of Edward in this group, for he seemed to be the odd one out in more ways than one, being the only single one in the group – and he barely ever seemed to contribute to their conversation. Though for all I knew he could be a totally different person outside…anyhow, Jasper was rather quiet too, but I knew for one how enthusiastically he could debate whenever the topic of civil wars came up during History. There were countless rumours about Edward, for apparently as far as everyone knew, he had never had a girlfriend in Forks High School. I had heard all sorts of wild speculation about him, from whispers that he was gay to that he had an arranged marriage. But my curiousity about him only extended thus far – I wondered, but didn't make any attempt to get close to him to find out more. First, I figured that it was his business, and he had to be tired of the vast number of people who had already done so, and besides, though we were partners in Biology, I certainly couldn't go as far as to say that we were friends. The minimal speech he made to me was usually only during lab work, and he never showed any interest towards making more interaction and deepening our relationship into more than platonic acquaintances. As long as he didn't treat me badly, I was fine with that.
It all changed on a seemingly random day in September though, when I collided with him rather forcefully as I turned the corner. He was immensely apologetic, helping to gather my fallen books and stationery while admitting sheepishly that he had been lost in thought. His offer to take me out for a coffee as a form of apology for my worn pencilcase, which had finally been through one too many ordeals and split at its seams left me astonished for a moment. In addition, he also quoted that he wanted a chance to get to know me better, mumbling about how he knew he probably hadn't been the friendliest guy. I accepted, naturally, eager to see if we could get along well. And we did. We were proper friends from that day onwards, though I didn't sit with him during break. And even though I tried not to, I even started developing a romantic interest in him. Who would fault me for that? Not only was he handsome, he was a gentleman and talented. I had been pestering him to play the piano for me ever since he admitted he could, and when he finally caved, his humility at my enthusiastic applause was something rarely found in guys. Not to mention his sense of humour and genuine interest in my life history. I knew I shouldn't, for the likelihood of him returning my feelings was practically nil, but it wasn't as if I could just get rid of them at will.
I comforted myself with the fact that he didn't seem to notice anything though, and Angela also assured me that I wasn't obvious about it. Gossip was rife, of course, but even if I certainly wasn't happy about it, I ignored them as well as I could, brushing it off as an unfortunate side effect. The people who cared already knew the truth, what others said wasn't important, even if it was irritating. I knew he felt guilty over it, but I tried my best to reassure him that it didn't matter. However, it apparently did to him. Abruptly, he started ignoring me and though I tried at first, I wasn't quite as bold as to continue trying to get the attention of someone who obviously didn't want mine. I told myself to stop acting like a desperate fool and just get back to life the way it had been before everything between us had happened, but it wasn't quite as easy as that. His silent presence during Biology seemed to mock me, taunting me cruelly with the knowledge of how different it had once been, even though I tried my best to appear unaffected by it.
I started to wonder what had been on his mind in the first place, to suddenly decide to be friends with me in the middle of the school year for no apparent reason. How had I been so blinded to not bother to ask him such a crucial question? It was ridiculous how quickly I had fallen under his spell. Had it all just been a game to him? A test of his charms on a plain, quiet girl to see how well they worked? But despite all my resentful thoughts, a great deal of those were just provoked by the hurt I'd felt over his actions, for his behaviour had appeared to be perfectly sincere, though I probably wouldn't be the best judge of that. I was truly grateful for Angela, who was quietly supportive and lent a listening ear whenever I needed one. She tried her best to make sure I didn't spend too much time cooped up at home brooding too, persuading me to accompany her out to shop. This was one of those times. As I was browsing random records while waiting for Angela to finish paying for her purchases, I heard his voice. I couldn't resist listening in – he sounded so tired, and I still cared about him.
"Fuck off, Em."
Jasper's Southern drawl was more pronounced than it was in school. "Edward, listen. We all know you've liked Bella for ages, so why didn't you ask her out properly? What you did is only making the both of you unhappy."
"She seems fine to me. And she hated being the center of attention. You know as well as I do that she'd never get that with me. Every action we made would be analysed by the entire school population. She's better off without me. Besides, I doubt I have a chance. I saw her with this guy the other day, he had his arm around her and they both looked really happy. They're probably together, and I have no intention of-"
"Dude, did you even think to ask her about it? Sometimes you-"
I looked up just in time to see Angela heading towards me and quickly hurried off before she could shout my name and alert the guys to my presence. I needed time to absorb what I had just overheard. My mind was reeling with the unexpected revelations. Hell, Edward liked me? I had no idea what I was going to say, but one thing was certain – we needed to talk.
Ever since the first time I set eyes on Bella Swan, it was just like something inside me just clicked. I was never one to believe in love at first sight, being a big fan of logic. So I remained in denial of that fact for quite a while, till the time that had elapsed got me to grudgingly concede that even if it wasn't love, there was certainly something there. It might have been highly irrational, but no one else managed to evoke the depth of feeling that she did. Even as I chided myself about how I didn't properly know her, I knew there was something there that was more than a simple interest one generally took in girls at an age like this. And I knew I wouldn't rest till I had at least attempted to see where this could go.
"Come on Eddie, just talk to her and ask her out. It's not such a hard thing to do. And what are the chances she'll reject such a hot guy like you? Tell you what, if you do it then I won't bother you about this for...a week."
I hesitated before bargaining, "Two weeks."
The ethical wrongness of it bothered me – what would Bella think if she found out the primary motivation for my actions was a bet? But it wasn't really that, I knew. It was just Emmett's way of pushing me to finally get up my courage and stop 'moping'…his words, not mine. I may have been a coward, but he couldn't say much on the matter either, since in his case Rosalie had been the one to approach him. He didn't know how nerve wracking it was. Distracted in my musings over when and how I was going to ask Bella and where I should take her to, the girl in question rammed straight into my chest. After helping her retrieve her scattered possessions, I then attempted to suggest in a tone as casual as I could manage that we go out to get coffee, and tried not to appear as anxious over her response as I felt.
I brought her to a nearby café which I knew the girls liked to go to, and she adorably told me to order whatever I wanted for her, since she was pretty much fine with anything. I proceeded to get her one of my favourites, a caramel macchiato with whipped cream, and we made lively conversation, her light giggle warming my heart. I chuckled when I noticed where part of her drink had ended up, restraining myself from reaching over to wipe it off and instead pointing it out quietly to her, though with barely concealed amusement. She nevertheless seemed to notice it, and reacted in a less than mature manner – by sticking her tongue out at me as she carefully swiped at her face with a napkin. I privately rejoiced at our easy camaraderie, even as I simultaneously tried to pretend that the insistent voice repeating that this couldn't last was non-existent. As our friendship continued to flourish, I was almost able to convince myself that the voice had been wrong. My nagging doubts hadn't disappeared, but were repressed instead, at least temporarily, by her clearly sincere assurances. I had learnt that a career that Bella was definitely not suited for was acting – she was a truly terrible liar.
Meanwhile, I enjoyed my attempt to teach her some basic piano scales and was also delighted when I managed to convince her to sing along to some songs that I played, mostly those well-known ones with catchy tunes. The pleasure of hearing her lovely voice was definitely worth the effort I had made to search up and learn them, for my normal practice only consisted of classical melodies. For her part, she took me to her favourite diner, which was located in such a secluded area in Port Angeles that I probably wouldn't have found it by myself, not really being one for exploring the town. I generally stuck to the popular hangouts, since none of the clique ever suggested otherwise. I had been apprehensive about trying the Mexican fare the tiny restaurant offered, but surprised myself by enjoying the exotic food.
That was all up till the day I decided to hit the mall after tuition and caught sight of her with this dark skinned guy with dreadlocks. They looked really cosy together, and my blood ran cold at the idea that I had never had a chance. How foolish I had been, never having bothered to ask her the crucial question of whether she was already taken. I had simply assumed that she wasn't, given that I never saw her with any guy in school. In addition, most girls I knew were given to gushing about their beaus if they had one. But then again, I should have known better – when had she ever been like any other girl I knew? Though I had another excuse, as flimsy as it was – I had been afraid that if I asked, she would have clued in to my obvious interest in her, and I had no intention of letting that happen until I felt that I had managed to lower the likelihood of rejection as much as I could. But with that incident also surfaced my already plentiful doubts which I had barely managed to push down, and after painfully considering the matter, I decided to cut off all ties with her. They did say a clean break was best, after all.
And even though I figured it would probably hurt at first, her pain was sure to be less than mine, and I believed eventually she'd be able to see that what I did was for the best. So I did it, trying as much as I could to forget the image of how her face fell when I had walked past her. It felt ingrained into my mind's eye, somehow. I had been blatantly ignoring her wide smile and wave, and now I ploughed on determinedly through my despair, telling myself to ignore how miserable she looked whenever I caught sight of her around school. She was usually flanked by Angela, who constantly shot me dirty looks, but I was secretly thankful that Bella still had someone to accompany her.
Finally, my friends saw fit to confront me about my actions as we were lounging in the mall. I was short with Emmett – I would probably feel guilty later, but I was in no mood to handle his typical teasing. Jasper's words though, got to me more, like they always did, being reasonable even as I could hear the exasperation behind them. I knew that both guys were simply driven by concern and meant well, even if their choice of location certainly left much to be desired.
"Just go and talk to her again properly. We're all sick of you moping around, and it's obvious she isn't doing much better, no matter what you claim. Quit your stubborn self-sacrificing act for once, alright?" Jasper's lectures only ceased when I reluctantly promised I would attempt to start communication between Bella and me again. Not that it was needed though, in the end – she came to find me first. I got yelled at, which I suppose was fair play. At least her way of trying to knock some sense into me wasn't a repeat of my behaviour…honestly, I don't think I could have stood that for much longer. I would have probably given in and broken the silence between us eventually, even without any outside interference. Near the end of her tirade, her words sounded like she might have prepared them beforehand.
"I need time to think over whether I want to continue this friendship with you. Your behaviour was truly unacceptable, and I don't know if I want to continue taking the risk that something like this will happen again. You have no right to make decisions like that on my behalf." My heart sunk, but I nodded silently in acquiescence, even as shivers ran down my spine at the thought. I would do anything she wanted me to. I owed her that much, after what I had put her through. Her response was certainly…unexpected, to say the least. She threw herself towards me, and I resisted the urge to fend off what would likely be an attack from her. Instead, she wrapped her arms tightly around me and started sobbing as she pounded her fists against me.
I gently ran my fingers through her hair, not quite sure what to do – I hadn't exactly had much experience with crying girls. Her punches were weak and ineffective, which I was secretly glad for – it would certainly make for an awkward explanation otherwise, if any of my parents were to catch me with bruises on my back. Finally, her words managed to return to some semblance of coherence, even if they were still punctuated by occasional hiccups and watery sniffs.
"Oh, Edward. You were supposed to fight against what I said. For us. I like you, too. I overheard you all at the record store. And no, I don't have a boyfriend, that was Jake, for god's sake. Jacob Black. He's my childhood friend, and I've known him practically since I was in diapers." Her cheeks tinted red in that familiar blush, and I froze, my thoughts sent racing wildly by her words. As always, it was her who again managed to give them pause.
"Come on, just kiss me already. You can do that over-thinking shit later." I wasn't about to argue with such an offer, and I gladly began tracing her lips with my tongue reverently, pleased to see her flushed appearance when I finally backed away. Though I supposed I looked much the same, that wasn't important. What was was the fact that she was finally mine, something that I had believed to be impossible for a time.