Chapter 1: Tactile Demands
"Who's that?" Jessica asked, leaning over Bella's desk toward the new guy standing at the door of biology.
"I don't know, but it looks like he's taken, so you might as well get over him now," Bella answered, shoving her homework away. Jessica could copy off somebody else. Bella was sick of being used this way.
Jessica moved back to her seat, two rows down, but her eyes remained on that student.
The new guy was standing in the doorway, holding hands with a short, black-haired girl. She was whispering something into his ear with urgency, and he looked furious. His hand tightened on hers as she tried to propel him forward. He stubbornly buckled his legs.
It was kind of fun to watch since she was a tiny dark version of a Keebler Elf, and he was a red-haired version of the Jolly Green Giant. From Bella's vantage point at the top of the row, she could see the petite woman sweating with exertion, but it seemed to be more from mental exhaustion, rather than physical, though that looked rough too. He wasn't a mammoth guy really, just tall, but definitely fit like he was a runner or something.
"No. I can't. I won't," he said.
"You can. I'm going to bring you to your seat," his girlfriend told him.
He shook his head and looked about ready to burst into tears.
Suddenly the students near the middle of the aisle, scooted away from him as he was cajoled into moving up the middle of the row for the stadium seating-type of classroom.
But not Bella. She leaned toward them. "He can sit here," she said without thinking as she perched on her seat from the top level.
Bella pulled out the vacant seat next to her, and the struggling woman pointed to their right. "See? That's your seat right there. I bet you'll be able to see great from that spot since you're on the end of the row."
Bella noticed the way the woman talked to him—not like a girlfriend—but more like an authority figure.
It was really strange.
"I can't do this without you," he protested a little louder.
"You can too. It's only a forty minute class."
"Forty two," he corrected her.
"Okay, forty two. And I'll run right over here as soon as I'm done."
His brows scrunched together and his bottom lip trembled. "But who will hold my hand?"
He kept his eyes on the dark-haired woman as she managed to maneuver him into the seat.
She leaned over, kissed his cheek then patted it with her free hand.
"Hold your own hands." She smiled and it was so tender and filled with affection, Bella felt slightly uncomfortable witnessing it.
"How will I take notes then?" he asked as he wobbled in his chair.
Was he going to grab for her and make a bigger scene?
The woman pulled out her iPhone and set it at the outer corner of the table. "I'll record the lecture for you. Then you can transcribe the notes later."
She slipped her hand out of his, but he snatched it right back again.
"I don't like this classroom. It smells like too many numbers." He shivered.
"That's the point. The numbers like you, and they'll keep you happy." She stepped back and wiggled her hand free again. "I'm going now, but I'll be back soon. See how high you can count while I'm gone."
"It's gonna be really high," he said, and there was a small hint of amusement in his tone.
"I can't wait to hear what it is when I get back."
"Alice?" he called after her.
"I'll miss you." He folded his hands in his lap.
"I'll miss you too," she said then almost ran out the door.
Was she embarrassed?
The teacher finished writing the homework on the board and then the lecture began.
Bella noticed the iPhone wasn't recording, and his hands were shaking as he held them clasped in his lap.
She leaned forward, moved up and out of her seat to set it right for him.
"What are you doing?" the new guy barked.
"I'm pressing record for you so you don't have to let go of your hands," she explained.
He didn't make it easy as she leaned over him. In fact, her right breast brushed up against his arm twice as she maneuvered her body into awkward angles to get around him.
She finally got the iPhone set up and when she sat back down, he was staring straight at her with a blank expression.
Was he angry at her for touching his Alice's stuff?
When she gazed back, the brightest, purest green eyes startled her. They were soft and grateful.
"I like you," he whispered, but it was a loud, scratchy whisper Bella was sure the whole class heard, including the teacher.
"Thank you," she whispered back, much quieter.
"Do you like me?" he asked.
"Uhhh . . . Sure."
She picked up her pencil and began tapping it. Her gaze went to the teacher, but for several minutes she was sure the boy next to her, seated on the right, was still focused entirely on her.
It was hard to take notes and concentrate with him doing that.
"What's your name?" he asked a few moments later; this time in a softer voice.
"Bella. What's yours?" She kept her eyes on the teacher. Not because she was being a dutiful student, though she usually was, but because this guy was gorgeous and totally disarming.
"Edward. Edward Masen, and I like you. You're nice." His folded hands landed with a soft thud on the their table.
"You're nice too, Edward." She cleared her throat, tucked her head down and her hair fell forward.
She was relieved to have something between them. A barrier helped her breathe.
"Ms. Swan, answer please," the teacher said in a gruff tone.
"It's umm . . ." Had he called her name? How did she miss that?
"It's pi, and the remainder is so tiny, it's not worth looking at," Edward answered for her.
"Well done, Mr. Masen," the teacher said with a smile. His eyes twinkled at the the new student.
Bella's eyes flashed over to her table-mate, expecting a grin. Instead, he was staring at her hands, and he looked as if he'd been doing it the entire time while he had answered the teacher's question relating to the lecture.
"You have nice hands," Edward said. This time he was quiet; she barely heard him.
"I do?" Her voice went up half an octave and her brow furrowed.
"I like it when girls have short nails instead of long fake ones. Alice always keeps her nice and short; neat and trim." He studied her hands further. It looked like he was working something out in his head with the way his eyes squinted and narrowed a little. "Can I hold one of them? Would that bother you?" He extended his left hand.
"No, I don't mind, but how will I take notes?" She realized after she blurted this dopey answer, that she did in fact mind. What was he doing asking this of her when he had a girlfriend?
"We can swap seats since I write with my left hand and then you can write with your dominant one." He smiled in such a cheery way, her mind was wiped clean of objections.
"A-a-alright," she stammered.
They quickly swapped, and he moved with a grace and fluidity that seemed odd for somebody as tall as he was. He had to be over six feet by a few inches.
"There. I'm seated. Give me your hand, please," he said.
Her fingers flexed but she kept her hand steady as she extended it under the table toward him.
He took it with almost a greedy attitude; tucking it into his side, under his arm. His bicep clamped down over their conjoined hands and she wondered if she'd ever see that left hand of hers again.
His unusual handholding was not as baffling as when he angled his body away from her like he didn't want to be anywhere near her. And his chair at some point was scooted farther away as well.
Did she smell bad? Did he think she was ugly to look at?
Question after question flooded her brain through the remainder of the class. When the bell rang, he sprung up from his desk and tightened his hold on her hand.
"It's lunch time," he said.
"Not for me. I have lunch fifth period," she said.
"I'll go get that changed for you." He tugged on her hand, she managed to grab her backpack, and then he started leading her down the large steps.
"I can't change my schedule for you; you have a girlfriend," she finally spoke her concern aloud.
He turned abruptly, swinging around in a wild way and faced her with their noses only two inches apart. "You could be my girlfriend."
"I . . . I, um . . ." She had to look away from his piercing green eyes. It was like looking into a mesmerizing, hypnotic emerald that would hold her spellbound.
He marched her out the door and straight to the office.
Edward bypassed the two students waiting in line to talk to the office secretary.
"I need to see my guidance counselor now. It's an emergency," Edward told her.
"Oh my . . . And you are?"
"I'm new here, and my name's Edward Masen. I need to see Mr. Perez right away." Edward tucked Bella's hand that was almost knotted permanently with his, back under his arm again. It was warm there, but they looked like a couple of nutballs.
The secretary did as he asked and Bella's jaw hung open. How did he do that?
Within moments they were in the guidance counselor's office and Bella was barely able to speak a word, let alone take a solid breath. Edward was like a tornado in the middle of the desert—whipping up a cloud of dust so thick nobody could see and she was definitely disoriented.
"I'm sorry, young man, I can't change her lunch. She's locked in based on her electives," the counselor said.
"But we have to have lunch together. See!" Edward pulled her hand out and when their entwined hands were in front of Mr. Perez's face, Edward took a huge breath and Bella swore she could see his ribs almost reaching out for her hand, begging them to return.
"See what?" Mr. Perez stared and blinked—nothing more.
"I have to hold her hand. I feel safe when people I like hold my hand or touch me. I like her. My sister, Alice, she's sick of doing that for me like I'm a baby. I need Bella to give her a break."
Bella's eyes went wide. Sister? And whoa! Who said anything about her giving his sister a break for anything? This almost sounded like a full-time position he was putting her in.
"I'm not—" she began.
Edward tucked her hand back in again. He'd make an excellent mother hen—enfolding his little chicks under his wings. But that was hardly the point . . .
"I need you," Edward said, shutting her up. "Please, Mr. Perez. I've got a note in my file. It should be in the computer. I have a disorder. And this helps me get through the day here without an episode."
Mr. Perez typed in a few things and then was instantly busy reading. Bella seized the opportunity to ask Edward a few questions.
"Alice is your sister; not your girlfriend?"
Edward smiled and nodded like it was about time she caught on, but there something very child-like and sincere about it. His eyes shimmered with adoration, not condescension. He was being patient with her.
When did she become the lost one here? She had been attending this school for three years now. She was a senior, and as such, she knew how things went around here. So how did Edward make her feel lost within a few moments?
"And you guys hold hands to help you out?" she continued.
He nodded once more.
"How does it help you?"
"I get agitated and nervous. Skin-to-skin contact soothes the nervous system, quieting my responses so I feel safe and can concentrate. I tested your hand. It works. It's a nice one. I'd like to hold it more. And lunch time would be good, because I get really jittery in large cafeterias filled with girls staring at me."
Bella shook her head. "I bet they stare. What about guys? It doesn't bother you if they stare?"
"No. They don't like me. They only give me nasty looks if their girlfriend is looking at me. I ignore those ones though." He turned toward Mr. Perez like he was done answering her questions.
Had her time expired?
And what was this disorder? It sounded almost made up.
"Oh, I see. Yeah, um . . . Let me just . . ." Mr. Perez said while typing away. A moment later his eyes rose to meet Edward's. Then he continued on in a more coherent way, "I'm changing your schedule, not hers. You have more flexibility. Of course, it means you'll be in less of your sister's classes but in more of Bella's."
"Show me," Edward said.
Mr. Perez seemed fine with Edward's curt, demanding tone, and printed out the schedule then placed it in Edward's free hand.
Bella could barely make out there were some notes the counselor had added at the bottom of the printed out schedule change for any teacher Edward gave this list to.
"These are a step down intellectual-wise, but it'll be good for me," Edward said, approving. "Thank you. My father might call you with a few words, but I'm sure I can convince him this is for the best. Lunch hour is the most important for me." And a second later, Edward strung her out the door behind him and walked at a pace no mortal teenage girl could match.
She stumbled along behind him until they bumped into a crying Alice.
"Edward! Where were you? I was so worried. I was looking for you everywhere! I was about to call Dad!" Alice pulled him into a tight hug and seemed oblivious to Edward and Bella's conjoined hand up against his side.
It seemed Bella was going to be chained to this boy whether she wanted to or not.
Here's your warning. I let my imigination get away with me on this one, so if you're gonna read this one, you might want to have an open mind... Also, there are no hardcore lemons. This story isn't about that. There are limes, but that's it; hope that doesn't disappoint.
Thank you so much!