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I was not looking forward to my senior year.
"I don't want to go to this school, Dad!" I whined over the phone as I attempted to pay attention to the rainy road that I was slowly driving on.
"I know, Kid, but that's where your mother and Phil want you to go. It'll help for college or something." He murmured, repeating the load of shit that my mother and her husband had fed him. They promised that me attending the private school in Port Angeles would benefit my education much more drastically than Forks Public High School. Charlie, my dad, and I were both completely aware of the fact that Renee, my mother, just wanted to keep me out of Forks and away from him.
"You and I both know that's a load of bullshit," I said out loud and I heard Charlie suppress a chuckle.
"Watch your mouth." He corrected me and I rolled my eyes. He repeatedly told me that swearing wasn't lady-like. I hated to hurt his feelings, but he was the one who taught me the words that I tended to spit out when pushed too far. "You'll do fine. You're a smart kid."
"It's not really my grades that have me worried, Ch-Dad." I corrected myself quickly. Charlie didn't like it when I referred to him by his first name. Renee raised me calling her 'Renee' and calling him 'Charlie', so it was hard for me to make the adjustment when we moved back to Washington. I thought of the bratty kids that I was going to be going to school with. "It's the twerps that I'll have to go to school with."
"My middle-aged seventeen-year-old." Charlie sighed and I pursed my lips, felling my nerves tighten in my stomach. I was getting closer to the school. "You never know, Bells. You could make a friend or two."
"This is my senior year. These other snot-faces have been attending this school since kindergarten. The thought was nice anyway." I explained and he sighed dejectedly. Even he knew that I was dead meat, not that he was going to admit to it. I didn't need him to admit to anything. I knew my father – we were too much alike. "Thanks for trying to help. I'm about to pull in, so I should hang up before one of the recourse officers pull me over."
"Don't make me bail you out of jail." Charlie laughed on the other end and I smiled. I wished so badly that I could move in with him, instead of Renee and Phil. He was so laid back and so much more understanding. I didn't have to say a word when it came to my dad. Neither of us had ever been verbose, but we had a connection. He didn't need to hover the way that Renee had. "Love you."
"I love you, Dad. I'll call you later." I hanged up and tossed my phone into the passenger seat of my truck. It probably wasn't the best thing that I could have done with the iPhone that Phil bought me, considering my seats weren't the softest in the world, but I figured that the designer car and designer phone could work it out on their own.
I had never felt very comfortable in the sleek, red Volvo that Phil insisted I drive. I wanted to drive the faded red, practically rusted orange, truck that waited for me in Charlie's driveway. It may not have been the most cooperative vehicle, but it was mine and it wasn't flashy. Plus, that thing would make it through the biggest car pileup on the highway – I was safe while driving it. It was my tank and it was nothing like the pathetic lady-bug that I was being forced to drive.
The only thing about the Volvo that I liked was that it blended in with the rest of the cars at Port Angeles Prep.
I pulled in beside another Volvo. This one looked a bit newer, bigger, and silver. I admired it as I collected my things and got ready to enter the building.
One would expect the school to be less modern, but it wasn't. Half of it was made of glass and built in abstract structures. That put my mind a bit at ease because it wouldn't be some old school full of elderly teachers and students who had family attending it for generations. Everyone at the school was technically fairly new. The other schools I had gone to, during the many different moves I had been on, weren't quite so modern and taught everything by textbook.
The change of scenery was welcome in my life.
I climbed out of the car and straightened my uniform out. Another thing that I couldn't help but appreciate was the casualness of the school's uniform policy. The main requirements for the female population was that we wore navy skirts and a white blouse. What accessories we added, like ties and blazers, headband, bows, stockings, and shoes, were almost completely up to us. They had smaller rules, like skirt length, shirt cut, and overall classiness of your look, but those were some small sacrifices in comparison.
I actually kind of liked the uniform that I had chosen to wear for my first day. I had donned a navy blue pencil skirt and a white, short sleeved blouse. The blouse had navy blue pinstripes and was very feminine, but not too girlie. I wore thick, white, accented tights and navy blue flats. I knew that, unlike most of my classmates, I wouldn't survive a day in designer heels. Instead, I met middle ground and wore designer flats. They weren't as comfortable as I wished, but they were better than my other options. I topped the look off with a red headband, holding my long, dark curls back, and matching red lipstick. I had never been a fashionista, but that was a pro to wearing uniforms. It minimized my need to put together an outfit.
I was pleased as I scanned the parking lot and noticed that my uniform wasn't that different from anyone else's. The rest of the girls were dressed accordingly, only most of them took the skirt to an even shorter level. The guys at the school wore navy pants, white button-down shirts, Doc Martins, and dark-colored ties. The ties were supposed to be their creative outlet with the uniform. The look was very sleek and it matched the females nicely. I shook my head, scolding myself for being so fashionably aware. I had no place to judge others' appearances.
"Oh, look, it's Bella Swan!" Jessica Stanley, one of the, both, wealthier and skankier girls of the school shouted and my eyes shot to her. She was playing with the ends of her thick, curly brown hair and had her usual snarky look on her face. I thought, in that moment, that she resembled a vulture. She was hungry and going after the weakest prey that she could find. She shouted again. "Or should I call you Ugly Duckling? I'd say you're weird and ugly enough."
Of course I was the weak prey. I felt my ears grow hot as I rushed past her, into the school. I had zero intention of hanging around and hearing what else she wanted to say about me. Her stories were never true but her rumors always lasted. It was best for me to not know which ones she personally started.
I walked into the school and began walking down the wide, main corridor. I had retrieved my schedule and student information at enrollment, the month before. I made sure to memorize everything ahead of time. I didn't feel like getting lost on my first day, not on top of everything else.
It didn't take me very long to find my locker. I dumped anything I didn't need in there and then tossed my backpack back onto my shoulder. It, of course, was a designer bag and made of black leather. Renee thought it was the most adorable thing and just had to buy it for me. It was one of the more impersonal gifts that she had given me but I wasn't going to argue anymore. I just took what she and Phil gave me, and moved on. I was done at my locker and decided to just go off to my first class.
My first class of the day was Advanced Placement English with Mr. Mason. I had always been a lover of literature and reading was something that I excelled in. I knew, as the teacher handed me my reading list, that even the hardest class the school offered was going to be a bit too easy for me. We were going to spend the first semester on my favorite book, Wuthering Heights. Then the second semester on Romeo and Juliet. I didn't mention to the teacher that I studied Shakespeare during my freshman year and that I re-read Wuthering Heights many times in my free time. I decided that I could use English as a study-hall for myself instead.
I didn't know anyone else in the class, making me aware of the fact that it really was going to be my quiet time.
After English, I continued on to Government with Mr. Jefferson and then Trigonometry with Mr. Varner. Neither of the two classes were my best subjects. They were actually two of my worst, aside from P.E. I was never a history buff and I was far from interested in the government. I wasn't quite old enough to vote and the next election was four years from where I was. I had never, ever been good in math and I still hadn't quite caught on. It didn't help that the teachers were complete jerks and made the class even more miserable than it had to be. I was counting the seconds until I was free to go to Spanish.
Spanish wasn't a favorite either, but it was easy for me. I wasn't sure what it was about languages, but I just understood them. The Spanish teacher, Mrs. Goff, was a crazy, small woman who bounced off the walls. She introduced a student teacher, Mrs. Salvador, who was the opposite of her. Mrs. Salvador was taller, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and very calm with the class. I liked her peaceful teaching style over Mrs. Goff's. That was a class that I could always count on to go by quickly.
After Spanish was Music and lunch. I had always enjoyed playing the piano, even if I had learned during my lessons that I wasn't the most talented, and I knew that the music class would simply be another easy A. I had first lunch, but I had to arrive as the music classroom for roll-call first. I took my time crossing the building, to that class. I knew that I could expect to see the faces of many kids who I didn't like in that room. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it because of that.
I pulled the heavy door open and walked into the music classroom quickly. Everyone had already arrived and taken their seats on the riser-like steps that took up half of the room. I walked over to the end furthest from the crowd and departed my stuff. It looked like everyone else had already taken attendance and were waiting by the door, for the lunch bell to ring. I took my time finding my things. The bell rang while I was still getting my lunch money from my purse.
"I'm assuming you're Isabella Swan?" A male voice from across the room made me jump. I turned around to see an older man watching me closely. He wasn't that much older, only a few years, but enough for me to notice. His rich, green eyes were curious as they looked at me.
"Bella, actually." I corrected him softly and he nodded, checking something off on his computer.
"Well, the other girls, Jane, Lauren, Heidi, and Jessica are all seated over here…you know, if you didn't notice when you walked in." He gestured to the pile of purses and backpacks that had built up beside his desk. I almost laughed. He was attractive but those girls seriously had no morals. Going after a teacher because of his looks? I was shaking my head already. The man looked confused and I felt my face grow suddenly hot.
"I mean, I definitely noticed." I blurted out and he raised his eyebrows. I noticed the cute lines that formed on his forehead when he did that. His hair line raised a bit, making his shiny, red-brown hair reflect in the light. He really was very attractive. He had the red-carpet, square-cut jawline and slight stubble speckled over it. He was tall and lean and dressed in the very classy staff uniform. A navy suit and nice-button down white shirt underneath. He really looked as though he belonged on the red-carpet. I sighed. "Sorry…that was rude. What I mean is…they're not my friends."
"Sorry for making the assumption." He nodded curtly, clearing his throat. I nodded quickly, inching towards the door. I wondered whether or not he would disappear if I looked away.
"Don't worry about it." I reassured him smoothly, pushing the door open. "I'll see you after lunch."
He nodded as I turned and walked out of the room. I thought over the millions of things I could have said instead as I made my way through the lunch line. The school was serving spaghetti and meatballs and I dreaded the possible mess that I could make of it. Once I had my tray, which included the spaghetti, a breadstick, and a salad, and lemonade, I turned sharply to find a table.
Only I didn't see the human obstacle between myself and the rest of the cafeteria. I slammed right into Jane Volturi. She had Jessica and Heidi on her tail, as usual, and was laughing wildly as it all happened. I hadn't just ran into her, because she used her hands to shove my own tray into my chest, effectively covering my white shirt in the chunky spaghetti sauce. I let out a cry as she and her friends laughed like hyenas. I had no idea what I was going to do.
"Whoops! Better watch where you're going next time, Ugly Duckling!" Jessica added and I felt my eyes sting with angry tears. Jane was the principal's daughter and I knew that she'd never get in trouble for the way that she was treating me. She had been sabotaging my school career ever since I moved to Washington during my junior year. Instead of standing there and taking in anymore of the laughter, I turned on my heel and ran from the cafeteria.
Years of cross country really helped with the run. My shoes did not.
I got back to the music classroom and hoped to find some wipes in my purse. I was in the middle of a strange combination of bawling, hissing, and swearing as I stumbled back into the classroom and ran to my things. I was so busy in my haste that I didn't notice Mr. Cullen still seated at his desk, watching me with shocked eyes. He stood and rushed over to me.
"Oh my God! Are you okay?" He gasped, gripping my shoulder and turning me to look at me. He probably thought I had been stabbed or something, because upon realizing that it was just food, he completely relaxed. His eyes drifted back up to mine, where I was probably all swollen and blotchy from crying, and he immediately tensed up again. "Are you okay?"
"Do I look fucking okay?" I shot back, knocking his hand off of my shoulder. Once the words slipped out, I felt bad again. "I'm sorry! I shouldn't have said that! I just…I…I'm so sorry."
"What happened to you? Bella, is it?" He asked me again, ignoring my foul language and rude behavior.
"Nothing out of the ordinary. Don't worry about it." I turned back to my purse, praying that a hole would open up beneath me and suck me into the Earth.
"Did you fall?"
"Not really." I swiped at my eyes, feeling defeated as I got to the bottom of my bag. My body went limp as I realized that I was just going to have to spend the rest of the day covered in the lunch that I didn't get to eat.
"What happened then?"
"Someone dumped my tray on me – it doesn't matter though, okay? Just forget it." I waived him off and his green eyes narrowed. They reminded me of an angry sea then, and I couldn't help but feel swept away in their waves.
"Who? Give me a name. It won't happen again." He promised but I knew that his words were nothing. He'd lose his teaching license before he got Jane Volturi in trouble.
"It doesn't even matter." I whispered. "Really. Just forget it."
"It does matter, especially if it's upsetting you this much." He whispered, visibly softening before me. I sniffled and shook my head, my eyes finally locking with his.
"You're being so nice, really, but don't worry about me. I can handle myself…I just wish I had brought some spare clothes today." I shrugged and he nodded knowingly, eyeing the mess that was splattered all over the front of me. "You wouldn't happen to have any wipes, would you?"
"It's the least I can do." He stood, smiling gently. I watched as he went back to his desk. I stood and followed him. He pulled an entire package of baby-wipes out of his drawer and handed them to me. He watched me, awkwardly, as I began wiping at the massive stain. "It looks like you got more on you than you did in you."
"I hadn't eaten yet – I was just walking out of the kitchen when they 'ran into me'." I explained and his eyes widened.
"Here! I have lots of granola bars and juice packets." He pulled some Chewy granola bars and a Capri-Sun out from under his desk. I glanced down and saw the cooler full of them. My own eyebrows shot up. He just laughed, pushing the food towards me. "I'm the cross country coach here and I like to keep snacks for my runners. Just in case."
"Thanks…and I'm actually on the cross country team." I spoke slowly, trying to figure out why he wasn't the coach the year before.
"I'm new this year." He answered my unspoken question and I nodded, closing the wipes and pulling the granola bar into my hands. I opened the wrapper and began picking it apart, eating it in small bites. I was still on the fritz from my incident at lunch and the crying afterward.
"Would it be rude of me to ask you where you're from?" I asked him, cocking my head to the side. "I've moved around quite a bit. I moved here from Jacksonville last year. I was in Phoenix before that, Chicago before that, Denali, Aspen, Galveston…" I trailed off, deciding not to name every city I'd lived in. "I've moved around a lot."
"I see." He laughed. "Well, I was born and raised in Forks…Forks Elementary, Middle, and High school." I felt my eyes widen as I realized that I had just missed him during my time in Forks. "Sorry, you've probably never heard of it, City Girl."
"No!" I laughed and shook my head. "My dad lives in Forks…I had to spend some of my summers there before my mother took full custody. Charlie Swan."
"You're the chief's daughter?" He gasped and I nodded, my face burning with a fresh blush. I hadn't expected him to act so surprised. He sounded as though he'd met me before and was surprised to see what I had grown into. Like that long lost aunt or something. I nodded my head and he laughed. "Charlie's always bragging about you at work. His genius daughter going to prestigious schools all around the country."
"You're joking." I muttered dryly and Mr. Cullen shook his head.
"No, it's very endearing. He loves you. He misses you a lot too…" He tossed in that last bit and his voice trailed off. I nodded mutely. I missed him too.
"I miss him too." I breathed out loud. "The court decided that Renee and her husband, Phil, make up better parents than the small town police chief living on his own."
"It's a shame really – Forks was a great place to grow up. You gain character in Forks that you just can't make up anywhere else." He grinned. His smile faltered as he looked at me. "It appears that you gain other characteristics by not being in Forks though, too."
"I may not always get to be in Forks, but I'm from Forks and that's where my heart is. As soon as I turn eighteen, that's where I'm going." I spoke sternly and he smiled. "I may not live with my dad at that point, but Forks is where I want to be."
"Good for you." He sighed after speaking. "I still can't believe you're Charlie's girl. He talks about you like you're still thirteen. Actually, you and I met once. When you were probably nine or ten."
"What?" I frowned, trying to remember meeting someone as sweet, charming, and stunning as he in Forks. He would have stood out – I should have remembered. "Surely I would remember you. Forks is so small and the last year that I visited stands out the most. I was nine."
"You fell out of Charlie's boat and hit your head." He smirked and I felt my jaw drop. I always tended to forget about that incident. Not only was it embarrassing, but it had given me such a severe concussion that I didn't remember that night anyway. That would explain the lack of recollection of Mr. Cullen. "I was assisting my father at the hospital, Carlisle Cullen…I needed volunteer hours and he said I could help with the minor traumas. Your father carried you in and you were so confused and bleeding everywhere. My dad took over, being a friend of your dad's, and let me help keep you calm."
"I wish I had remembered. We could have been friends." I murmured and he nodded.
"That was eight years ago. I was fourteen at the time. I thought you were nothing more than a cute kid at the time." He shrugged and I agreed quietly. He probably still considered me a child compared to him.
"It's still an interesting coincidence." I shrugged and he nodded, a lopsided smile forming on his lips.
"It is." He smiled and stood up. "I can't wait to tell Charlie that I ran into you."
"Not if I tell him first." I smirked and he laughed.
"Good luck with that."
"So…what are we doing in class today?" I asked as I tossed my trash and then brought the juice's straw to my lips. "Anything fun?"
"You each are going to be put on the spot and you're going to have to perform a song that describes you in front of the class. A break-the-ice game." He shrugged and I felt my jaw drop. I had no idea what I was supposed to sing. I felt stumped as I watched Edward open the piano and begin playing scales. "If you think of something, you can go first. After me, anyway." He told me with his back still to me. "It's scary at first, but I know you can do it."
"I just…I don't know what to sing." I stuttered and he stopped playing. I watched in silence as he stood and walked over to me.
"Close your eyes." He commanded softly. My eyes quickly fluttered closed. "Now, I want you to think of a song. Think of that song that you heard and just reminds you of yourself. That song, the one that gets every word right and couldn't have described you better if it was written for you."
I did as I was told and the results were instantaneous. I felt a grin form on my lips as my mind contemplated the choice I was making. I knew exactly what I was going to sing.
"See. You got this." He patted my hands, which were awkwardly folded in front of me, before turning and going back to his warm-ups.
"What are you going to sing?" I asked him and he just snickered.
"No way am I going to tell you. You'll know when you hear it, okay?" I nodded as he explained. It only seemed fair.
"Okay." I squeaked as the door opened and some students trickled in. The first thing they did was glance at me, begin whispering, and then peel out into laughter. I flushed, glanced nervously at Edward, and then rushed to my seat. It was so easy when it had been just me and him, but when the mean kids walked in, everything changed.
I sat down and prepared for class to start.
"During the next hour and half, each of you will perform a song that describes you. You want it to be as fitting as possible. I will go first, giving the rest of you time to think, but then I'll begin choosing students to come up at random. Nobody is safe. Be prepared to perform." Mr. Cullen announced as everyone quieted. I relaxed, knowing that I was going after him, and waited for him to begin his own song. I was curious.
I recognized the beginning, sweet notes of the song that Mr. Cullen chose immediately. I wondered what part of Edward's life has made him feel the need to sing Mad World, the Adam Lambert cover, to describe himself. It fit my life, but I wasn't sure what part of his it worked with. He seemed so bright and happy during lunch.
"And I find it kind of funny. I find it kind of sad. The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had. I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take, when people run in circles it's a very, very... mad world...mad world...mad world…" He finished the song on a perfect note and I had to begin breathing properly in order to be ready to go next.
"That was a creepy song." Jane remarked and Mr. Cullen's eyes shot to her, his brow burrowing together. I rolled my eyes at her pure stupidity.
"Well, Bella Swan can go next."
"Ha! Good luck, Duck." Jessica laughed at me and I just ignored her, walking over to the piano bench.
"You don't have to play, you can just sing." Mr. Cullen explained and I shook my head.
"I want to." I breathed, placing my hands on the correct keys.
"Whenever I dress cool my parents put up a fight…and if I'm hot shot, Mom'll cut my hair at night. And in the morning, I'm short of my identity. I scream, 'Mom and Dad, why can't I be who I wanna' be? To be? I just wanna' be myself and I want you to love me for who I am…I just wanna' be myself and I want you to know…I am my hair." I began a ballad version of Lady Gaga's 'Hair'.
"I've had enough. This is my prayer. I'll die living just as free as my hair. I've had enough, I'm not a freak, and I'll just keep play to stay cool as the street. I've had enough, enough, enough. This is my prayer, I swear. I'm as free as my hair."
The song took a very long time, but when I was done, I felt as though I had just read my diary to everyone. I wringed my hands impatiently, waiting for a reaction from someone. Anyone. I just wanted the spotlight off of me.
"That was beautiful, Miss Swan." Mr. Cullen breathed and I had to fight the overbearing smile that tried to take over. I shot him a sheepish half-grin and thanked him quietly.
I sat down and spent the rest of class watching my classmates sing their songs. I noticed a high amount of songs about being attractive, getting money, girls, and overall bragging about themselves. The majority of them didn't play an instrument and they didn't use songs more than a year or two old. I wondered for a moment, whether I had chosen the wrong kind of song, but when I looked up and caught Mr. Cullen staring at me, I doubted it. After all, he had chosen a song very similar to mine. Either that, or he was staring at the major spaghetti stain on my torso.
Class finally finished and I took my time getting up and packing my things away. I didn't want to try and get into the hallway at the same time as Jane and her little clan. I figured I'd just save myself the embarrassment while I could. When the classroom was silent, empty, I stood and took a deep breath.
"I hope the rest of your day goes better than this morning." Mr. Cullen appeared beside me, surprising me. I gasped, turning to face him. I was already blushing.
"Thanks…I doubt it…but thanks."
I walked out of the room and made my way down to the science hall. I felt as though someone was behind me the entire time. As I turned the corner, I glanced over my shoulder and frowned when I saw that Mr. Cullen was still quietly walking behind me. I slowed my pace and he did as well, confusing me further.
"Are you following me?" I asked him, half joking.
"No!" He laughed, stepping quickly to keep pace with me. "I teach Biology in Mr. Banner's old room next."
"Oh! I have that next." I exclaimed and he laughed again.
"It probably did look like I was following you, huh?" He asked as I turned into the classroom. I flipped on the lights and he walked to the desk at the front of the room.
"So, music and Advanced Placement Biology? What degree did that take?"
"I majored in biology and minored in music." He stated simply. "So you're a musician and good at Bio? Planning to follow in my footsteps?"
"Actually, I'm in all of the AP courses here." I shrugged. "I would love to become a Chef, but of course PAP doesn't offer anything for the culinary arts."
"Jeez, a cook too? I think I just met somebody's dream girl." He laughed and I burned red hot. I doubted that I was anybody's dream girl, especially not his, but the thought was nice. He turned around and began writing out the day's lesson plan on the white board. I noticed that we were only doing ice-breaking games.
"Do you just like to get to know people, or what?" I asked him and he shook his head.
"Please, you and I both know that the majority of high schoolers look forward to these days because this is all we do. I like to set their expectations up to a year of nothing only to watch their hopes and dreams get crushed when they realize that I probably have some of the highest expectations for you guys in this entire school." He smirked at me and I laughed out loud. I couldn't help but appreciate his brute honesty.
"That's truly the nicest thing I've heard all day." I smiled and he just nodded.
"It's the least I can do."
"Can I ask why you have such high expectations?" I let my curiosity get the best of me and asked him. He nodded, walking around to perch himself on the edge of his desk, across from me.
"I don't know if you realize this, but you guys attend a very, very great school. Even if it doesn't offer cooking classes." He smirked teasingly. I would have been offended, but I could see in his eyes that he was only using that as an example. I nodded at him. "Many of these kids haven't worked a day in their life, and yet they're going to one of the most prestigious high schools in the tri-state area. Mom and dad send the school money, rich kids come home with expensive, but nice report cards. Many of them don't even deserve the grades their getting. But the teachers do work hard and they are handing out a very nice diploma. Forks High didn't offer AP, college, or any other more difficult courses. The school only had two science teachers – not eight. So…these kids need to realize what they're facing after high school. What they're setting themselves up for by having this school written at the top of their transcript."
"So, you're saying that people outside of school will expect more because we went here?" I asked and he nodded.
"Exactly. And if people don't start treating them accordingly, most of the students here won't make it through their second year of college. Or work. Or anything." He looked almost smug. Only he was missing one bit of information.
"That is, until Mommy and Daddy pay the school off, giving them another degree. And then they turn eighteen and begin paying everyone off themselves. And then they'll just take over whatever company it is that has all of this money stocked up for them." I gestured widely, as if it were the most obvious thing ever. "And it'll be an endless cycle of mindless rich kids."
"It'll bite them in the ass someday. I promise. It'll all catch up. Karma." He laughed softly and I shrugged back. I sure hoped it would.
"Mr. Cullen! Two classes in a row!" Jane appeared in the doorway, leaning against it. I pictured her leaning up against a pole, in the future. There was lots of glitter and less clothing in this image.
"Hello, Miss Volturi. Have a seat wherever you like. I'll be assigning seats over the weekend." Edward instructed. I tossed my bag over my shoulder and turned to walk to the back of the room. Jane had sneakily dumped her bag into the seat that I was at, near Mr. Cullen's desk.
"Oh, how organized." She praised him and I rolled my eyes.
"I'll take that as my cue to go." I muttered, pulling a new spiral out and organizing my things for class.
The rest of our class showed up a few minutes later and quickly took their seats. It was the same group of kids who were in all of the other AP classes. I had taken Biology twice since my sophomore year and found all of the material to be repetitive and boring. I didn't even have to show up to pass. I did anyway, because Mr. Cullen was taking participation grades and he was actually a fairly interesting person.
It was different to have such an interesting and interested teacher. He really cared about us and educating us. It wasn't just teaching us the cell's life-cycle with him, but rather preparing us for our life after we graduated. We weren't just doing homework – we were practicing. Mr. Cullen wasn't totally detached from the subject either. He seemed to be a sincere fan of Biology, and music too. When he spoke to us, it was coming straight from his heart, not a textbook. I knew that I would look forward to his classes every day.
When the bell rang, it practically woke me up. I had been lost in the doodles that were effectively covering the cover of my spiral for class. I stared for a moment, appreciating my work, before beginning to get my things together.
"Why'd you sit so far back?" Mr. Cullen asked once everyone was gone. I flushed and looked down, keeping my eyes on what I was doing.
"Just…I…" I looked up for a moment, glancing at where he was pushing chairs in around the room. "I don't really fit in with the front-row students, even if I like to sit up there. They'd never…allow it."
"You're right, I forgot that Jane Volturi was teaching my class." He stated dryly, making me blush harder. I didn't like sounding so insignificant and powerless – but it was the truth. Jane ran the place and I would only bring myself trouble by forcing myself into her life. It was better to hide in the back and keep to myself.
"You wouldn't understand." I zipped up my bag, keeping my words short, and then rushed out of the room. I almost ran into a chair on my way out, but somehow avoided it and rushed out the door. He may have understood a lot, like what we would live up to be and what we would face post-graduation, but he would never understand just what exactly it was like to be me.
I had the dreaded gym class next. Our school required us to attend all four years of gym. I couldn't make up for the years that I had missed the year before, but I had to take the last year of it. I was not looking forward to it, either. I may have been a good distance runner, but I didn't have the coordination for much else. Swinging my arms and using my feet at the same time was just a bit too much for my brain to handle. The school didn't take any pity on me, or the money my mother offered, and stuck me in the class anyway.
The class went quickly, thankfully. We mostly went over procedure and the syllabus. I was relieved by the fact that we weren't dressing out, either. I hated gym and I hated changing into different clothes for it. I knew that I would have to get over it anyway, because Cross Country practice began immediately after school and that required me to be changed out anyway. I was actually saving myself work and locker-room time by taking P.E. during my last block.
I went back to the locker room and changed into my navy-blue shorts and white t-shirt. We didn't have team shirts or anything yet, so I figured it was safe to wear something simple. When other girls began trailing in, I had pulled my hair up and into a messy bun already. My water bottle was full and I was glad to already be ready to run. It seemed as though the rest of the team was already a tight-knit group of friends. The last thing I need was to have to change out and get ready with them.
I locked up my things and then walked out, finding Mr. Cullen waiting out there in navy-blue basketball shorts and a white shirt. We actually matched.
"We're twins!" He smirked and I rolled my eyes.
"Ready to run, Bella? We'll probably start out slow. Nobody has to run together, so don't feel overwhelmed if I get ahead, or any of the girls do. Go at your own pace or you'll only end up hurting yourself in the end." He told me and I nodded knowingly. I didn't fill him in on the fact that I hadn't stopped running when the last season ended. If anything, I had continued practicing and improving.
"Mr. Cullen! What do you coach?" Heidi, Jane's main follower, appeared. She wasn't dressed out, thankfully, and appeared to be creeping on him. She often looked a bit too much like she belonged on a street corner. You could see the outline of her ass below her skirt and she unbuttoned one more button than everyone else. She was willing to do anything to get the grade, even if that included coloring her hair and taking off her clothes. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. Mr. Cullen's eyes flickered to me, and then back to her.
I noticed that kept his disapproving eyes on hers, not once looking at her half-naked body.
"Cross Country, Miss Jameson." He told her. I noticed then that I was the only person who he called by their first name all day. Miss Stanley, Miss Mallory, Miss Jameson, Miss Volturi…and Bella. I smiled a bit at the thought.
"How cunning!" She placed a hand over her chest, probably hoping to deter his attention. She had no luck as he shrugged and turned back to me, leaving her to awkwardly slither away.
"She really does love attention, huh?" He asked and I nodded, chuckling.
"I'm certain that it's how she gets by."
"I guess if it's working for her so far…" He shrugged his shoulders again and then looked towards the doors. A bunch of girls came running out, some of them already stretching and some of them still prepping their hair.
"Hi!" A girl who I had never seen before in my life appeared beside me. I looked around, assuming that she was talking to somebody else at first. When I realized that she wasn't, I quietly said 'hello' back. She pushed her glasses back up on her nose and tightened her dark ponytail. She had black hair and nearly black eyes, olive-toned skin, and was very tall and thin. She was definitely a runner. She stuck her hand out. "I'm Angela Weber…I just transferred here."
"Bella Swan." I timidly shook her hand. "I was new last year, so I understand how you feel. I'm sure the girls will see you and pick you up soon enough."
"I doubt they're going to go for the athletic scholarship, but thanks anyway." She laughed sarcastically and I felt my eyebrows raise.
"I'm from Forks, where are you from?" I asked her suddenly and she grinned.
"Seattle. I've always wanted to go to this school – I don't even care about not making friends while I'm here. I just need to get into Dartmouth." She explained and I smiled widely.
"That's a first." I told her and she nodded. "The girls here aren't really here for anything but their parent's titles. Don't take what they say to heart – they'll repeat their actions if you do."
"Oh, they haven't been mean to me. They just haven't really cared." She shrugged.
"I wish it were that easy." I sighed.
Mr. Cullen called everyone to attention then, and Angela walked up to the group. She really wasn't about making any friends. Not even the girl who knew she wasn't going to make friends was going to be my friend. I shook my head, walking to the other side of the group, farthest away from Mr. Cullen.
We all walked out as a group and began running. I let my feet take over and just drifted for a while, warming up. It didn't take long for me to realize that I was more than fifty feet ahead of the group, ahead of the athletic scholarship. Mr. Cullen was only a few feet ahead of me and it didn't take long for me to end up right beside him. He didn't notice at first, but when he did, his eyes bugged out of his head.
"Seriously, Swan, don't push yourself too hard." He spoke, his breath slightly shaky.
"Please." I scoffed, still not quite so shaken and tired. "This is a nice pace for me."
"Holy shit." He huffed and I couldn't help but laugh a little.
What started out as a pace-setting run, turned into a race very quickly. Mr. Cullen and I made it around the course and back to the school long before the other girls. We were more than a football field away from them before we knew it. When we finally got to our destination, we both sat down on a wall behind the building, where we had started, and cooled down with our waters. The only sound being made was the squeezing of water bottles and our rough huffing and puffing.
"You, my friend, have quite a set of legs." He laughed and I rolled my eyes.
"I could say the same to you, old man."
"I'm not kidding. I can't wait to see you compete." He smiled, his goofy crooked grin showing.
"Thanks." I sighed, feeling more comfortable once my breathing slowed. "You're not half bad either, old man."
"Old man!" He laughed. "Please, I'm only twenty-two."
"I know." I sighed. "I was just messing with you."
"You weren't kidding when you said that you would keep up." He commented and I shrugged nonchalantly.
"I don't mess around." I shrugged. "It gets very lonely at my house – Phil and Renee are literally always on the road for his work. They're only home during the school's baseball season, when Phil coaches, and even then they aren't really home. It gets lonely, so I go for runs."
"I see." He spoke softly and I didn't say anything else. I didn't know what else I was supposed to tell him.
"Jeez, Bella!" Angela appeared around the corner, completely winded and sheathed in sweat. I stood to offer her help but she shook her head, her red face excited. "I've never seen anyone so fast but paced. That was ridiculous."
"Thanks…" I swiped at my forehead and she nodded.
"I'm gonna' have to try harder if I want to feel like I earned this scholarship." She added and I shrugged.
"You're obviously doing pretty great, since you're so far ahead." I reassured her and she just shrugged, sitting down a few bricks away from me.
"I'm gonna' go change out. See you later." She stood suddenly and ran back into the building.
"That girl…she's very…driven." Mr. Cullen spoke slowly and I nodded in agreement.
"I couldn't have worded it better."
When the other girls arrived, Mr. Cullen announced that he was going to go change. I went with him, and parted ways when we got to the separate locker rooms and then ended up walking back out at the same time. I didn't change out, figuring that my blouse from earlier was probably dirtier than my running clothes. Mr. Cullen was wearing his running clothes as well, but had a gym bag tossed over his shoulder.
I walked with him, in what was mostly silence, out the side doors and towards the parking lot. I laughed out loud when we found out that we had parked right next to each other, and that we both drove Volvos.
"Have a good night, Bella." He sighed and I couldn't help but genuinely smile at him.
"Thanks…you too, Mr. Cullen. I'll see you tomorrow."
The drive home was peaceful and quiet. I nearly hit the brakes when my phone, which was still lying in the passenger seat, began ringing. I picked it up and answered, relaxing into my seat when I heard Charlie's gruff voice over the other end of the line.
"How was your day?" He asked me and I thought about it for a moment.
"It was…okay." I decided that a middle ground was acceptable. There were horrible parts to my day and then better ones.
"Okay is better than awful." He commented, probably thinking back to the many phone calls that I had made, completely in tears and done with the school I was attending.
"You know…it really is." I agreed before proceeding to give him a play by play of the day I had.
Only some part of me, I wasn't sure what it was, decided to keep Mr. Cullen a secret. There was nothing about him that I needed to keep a secret, but there was something about the connection that I had made with him that made me decide to keep our acquaintance to myself. Whether or not it meant anything to him, it caused me to look forward to the next day and the rest of the week.
I was looking forward to the rest of my senior year.
I know, I know, I know I know IknowIknowIknowIknow…another Teacherward and Bella story. I can't help it. It's been done before and it's being done again. Maybe you'll like this one enough to review? I'm open to pointers and ideas. This chapter is a bit of an introduction, they'll be running into each other some more in the future, I promise.
And, of course, running together.
*Reviews are better than a two-hour run with Mr. Cullen.