"And hide the rule book, throw it in the waste
Look strong like you belong, 'cause you do belong
Whether right or wrong you belong" Blue October
2003 Boys and Buckles
I check carefully to make sure my swimsuit is in place when I pop up out of the water. You never know when Jasper is going to show up over at Rosie's. Not that I have a whole lot to keep covered. My boobs are taking their time showing up. That doesn't really bother me, though. Rosie has boobs enough for both of us. And, boy, do they ever get her attention. I don't want that kind of attention. I just want my bathing suit to stay put.
"Whatcha looking at blondie?" I ask my best friend. She's at the fence peeking through the slats.
"New neighbors," she says motioning me over. "There's boys!"
Rosie pretty much went boy crazy when she turned thirteen. It was like... ding... some bell sounded and all the sudden the only thing she could think of was boys boys boys. I'm still pretty sure that the boys at our school were all dropped on their heads as babies. Except Jake and Jasper. They're almost as cool as Rosie. Almost.
I walk up beside her, shoulder to shoulder, head to head so we can both see through the old wooden fence. The smell of her Banana Boat reminds me that I didn't put any on and I'm probably going to burn. Sure enough Rosie's boy radar is right on point. She's the proud owner of two new boy neighbors. One looks older. He's huge, as tall as my dad and built like a wrestler or a football player. And he's super strong, he's got two huge packing boxes in his arms and he's not struggling at all. It's pretty amazing.
The other boy isn't quite as tall and he's skinny. I can tell because he doesn't have a shirt on. Just basketball shorts, sneakers, and a Lakers hat. And he's got shaggy hair flopping around under his hat. Ick.
"Oh my God, he's so freaking hot! Like Vin Diesel hot," Rosie moans next to me. Vin Diesel is Rosie's hottest celebrity. Jasper dragged us to see 2 Fast 2 Furious last week and she pouted the whole time because he wasn't in it. This next door boy is cute but I'm not super impressed or anything. I just shrug and Rosie rolls her eyes at me. "Really, Bella? You have no taste."
Before I can reply we both jump out of our skins when a camera pops up on the other side of the fence and snaps a picture. We both squeal and stumble back. The picture taker is giggling like mad.
"Hi, nosey neighbors," a girl voice says. We scramble back to the fence so we can get a look at her. "I'm Alice."
She's awfully self-assured for a little kid. She teeny tiny and I'm thinking she's maybe a fifth grader. But she doesn't look like any of the little kids around here. She's wearing a T-shirt with a cartoon of a rolled up piece of paper that says "I'm Just a Bill" sitting on a building's steps. She's also got on bright red suspender attached to cutoff shorts. There's about twenty little blue and red bracelets up her wrist and she's barefoot.
"Oh, I'm actually your neighbor," Rosie tells her, making sure Alice knows she's the only one living there. "I'm Rose and this is my best friend Bella. Come see."
She's been introducing herself as Rose to everybody we meet lately. She says Rosie is a baby name. I try to remember to call her Rose instead but I always mess it up. She motions for Alice and I to follow her to the gate so we don't have to talk through the fence.
"So," Rose says after she opens gate and we form a loose semicircle. "How old are your brothers?"
My eyes pop wide because now I know this little kid is going to go running to boys and tell them Rosie was asking about them. Then they're going to come over and it's going to be all giggly flirting and boy craziness when all I want to do is spend the afternoon soaking up the sunshine reading my new Sisterhood book. Surprisingly the kid just laughs.
"Em, that's Emmett, is the oldest. He's fifteen. He's the huge moose. Edward is fourteen. And I'm thirteen by the way," she tells us. Now both of us are looking surprised. There's no way this little pipsqueak is thirteen. She's three or four inches shorter than me and I'm only 5'2. She makes a face when she sees how shocked we are. "My mom says I'll probably still get another growth spurt."
"You're really thirteen?" Rose asks. Alice sighs and nods. "I thought you were like ten or something. I'm thirteen too. Bella's only twelve. What grade are you in next year?"
"Seventh. What about you?" Alice replies.
"Seventh too. What about your brothers?" Rose is really pumping her for info now. I'd be annoyed by now but Alice just rolls her eyes. She's used to it, I guess.
"Edward is going to eighth so he'll be at the junior high with us but Em is going to high school. He's supposed to be getting his license when he turns sixteen. Mom says he'll have to drive us to school." She says with a satisfied smile. "I hate riding the bus."
I wish my dad would let me ride the bus more often. He's the Chief of Police and is determined to embarrass me by driving me around in his cruiser every chance he gets.
"That's awesome." Rose says all breathlessly. Great, now she's in love with the neighbor.
Alice grins at her.
"I can introduce you," she says.
Rosie pretty much freaks out then. Her cheeks turn bright red as she shakes her head no, her hands fly up to her hair knotted on top of her head.
"No – I'm a mess right not!" she protests but Alice ignores her and starts yelling for her brothers to come meet the neighbors.
"What's up Little?" the big one asks as he approaches and drops an arm around his little sister. The skinny one is following behind him.
"This is Rose, she lives here. She's thirteen and in my grade," Alice tells him nodding toward Rosie and her house. "And that's Bella. She's twelve. She doesn't live here and she doesn't talk much. This is Emmett."
It was right then I realized I hadn't said a single word listening to the two chatter boxes.
"Well, you talk so damn much it's hard for anyone else to get a word in," the other boy piped in. He's teasing and grinning slyly. He has the greenest eyes I've ever seen. Like green, green. Grass green. Green M&M green. I've never seen eyes like that before.
"Shut up Edward or I'll tell Mom you're cursing," Alice tells him really snotty. I guess they don't get along that well.
Now everyone is looking at me kind of expectantly. But it doesn't seem mean. Not like when Tanya Denali put me on the spot in the girls locker room last year asking if I'd gotten my period yet. They all just seem curious except for Rosie, she's just giving me that look that says come on, Bella.
"Um, hi," I say with a little smile.
For some reason this tickles Emmett and he lets out this great big laugh. His voice is all deep and warm and I can see that Rosie looking at him so adoringly. His laugh sets off a chain reaction and we're all laughing. Except for Edward that is. He's just leaning on the fence and he's still smiling…. smirking. And those crazy green eyes are on me.
I don't really like Jessica Stanley. I haven't since third grade when she tried to say she was Rosie's best friend. She bought them best friends necklaces. Rosie wore it for a week just to be nice but then she said she lost it when she really tossed it. We only started hanging out with Jessica in the first place because her family had the only pool in the neighborhood. Now we only hang out with her because her mom is desperate to be cool and takes us anywhere we want to go. Like today she's giving us a ride to the mall to do back to school shopping. I'm super excited Mrs. Stanley talked my dad into letting me go with them instead of him taking me. My dad is great but he doesn't seem to get that I'm pretty much a teenager now. He still wants me in ruffley dresses and bows.
"Damn it!" Rosie huffs throwing the cordless phone on her bed. She's been trying to call next door for the last fifteen minutes to tell Allie to get over here but no one is answering the phone. With three teenagers in the house the phone is always off the hook and missing or dead.
Since they moved in Allie's become our third musketeer. She's loads of fun. She always has her camera with her so we've got about a million pictures of the past month. But I like that she loves taking pictures so much. It's the same way I feel about writing. I always have my notebook with me too. Rosie never really understood so it's nice to have someone who gets it.
"I'll go grab her," I volunteer. I've been watching Rosie try on outfit after outfit but I'm getting kind of bored.
"You should tell Em to come with us if you see him," she says as I head out the door.
I just roll my eyes. Like he wants to spend all day at the mall with a bunch of girls. I haven't seen Emmett do one single thing that would make Rosie think he likes her more than a little sister friend but she swears he's into her. She's always telling him to come hang out when were swimming. He usually just laughs and stays inside playing video games but sometimes, usually when Jas is around so he's not the only boy, he'll come running through the gate and cannonball into the deep end. He's strong enough to toss us off his shoulders and with two boys around we can chicken fight. Even if Rosie's been saying just wants to work on her tan all day she's in the water in no time flat. She's so obvious.
I kind of regret knocking on the front door when Edward opens it. Mrs. E, that's what we call Esme Alice's mom, has told us a million times to just come in the back but I always forget. Now I've got to deal with Edward. I hate dealing with Edward. He almost never hangs out with us because he thinks he's too cool. He's always smiling his smart-aleck boy smile and making jokes I don't understand. And he hardly ever wears a shirt. I know its summer but he could put on a shirt for goodness sake.
As soon as he sees it's me he leans in the doorway and smiles that smile. He's looking at my shoes.
"What's up babydoll shoes?" he asks. Calling me by my shoes. How stupid.
I look down at them. Even though I know he's just being stupid and Edward, as usual, I have to look. They're Sugar shoes, flats with stripes and buckle. I think they're super cute.
"What's wrong with my shoes?" I ask wrinkling my nose at him.
He doesn't answer, of course, just keeps smiling that that smile. That stupid smirk. Thankfully, Emmett rescues me.
"Babydoll?" he asks pushing his brother out of the way. Apparently he didn't hear the whole conversation. He puts his huge arm around my shoulders and drags me inside. "Baby Bella Babydoll. Yeah, that's perfect."
Emmett's grinning down at me. I make a fussy face at him.
"Allie's littler, she's the babydoll," I tell him as we walk to the kitchen with Edward trailing after us.
"Nope," Em says opening the fridge as I hop up on a kitchen stool. "You're my Bella Babydoll."
"No way," I say shaking my head. Nope, not getting saddled with that nickname. "Is Allie almost ready?"
Em takes a huge bite out of left over sub sandwich as he takes a seat across the island from me. With his free hand he reaches out to playfully pinch my cheeks.
"Looka those cute little cheekies," he says around a mouthful of sandwich as I bat at his huge paw. "You're Babydoll for sure."
Edward startles us both from our play fight by screaming up the stairs for Allie. He just shrugs when we look at him like he's crazy. Seconds later Allie is bounding down the stairs making more noise than anyone her size should really make.
"Move it buttface," she says pushing past Edward. Just like I thought the first day I met them Allie and Edward fight a lot. They're constantly pushing each other's buttons. I don't think I'd ever do that if I had a brother or a sister. But it sure is fun to watch Allie wipe that stupid smile off Edward's face.
"Look, Bella, I got pictures printed out from last weekend," she says thrusting a cardboard folder into my hands. I take it and start rifling through pictures of all of us hanging out around the pool and sleeping over at Rosie's.
Edward comes to stand behind me and look over my shoulder. He's shirtless as always and he's so close I can feel the heat off of his chest. I don't know why but him being that close to me makes my stomach go all wonky.
"Guess what, Little," Em tells Alice. "Bella's got a new nickname. She's my Babydoll."
I look up from the pictures and give him a dirty look but can't really hold it because he's smiling like he's all proud of himself.
"Babydoll Bella," Allie says with a laugh. It doesn't sound so bad when she says it.
"I told him you're the little babydoll," I say sticking my tongue out at her.
"BellaBabydoll, BellaBabydoll, BellaBabydoll," she sings dancing around all silly.
I can't help but laugh even though I've now got the silliest nickname in the whole world. My laugh kind of gets stuck in my throat when Edward reaches over my shoulder and grabs to my hands to stop them from flipping through pictures. It's a picture Allie took of me with a huge piece of watermelon in my hand, grinning like a fool. He snags the picture from me.
"Babydoll," he says with a chuckle. He takes the picture with him as he leaves the room.
"Weirdo!" Allie yells up the stairs after him.
A/N: So, a new story to tell. ExB as usual. I think it's going to going to be a long ride and I also foresee a slow build so be forewarned on those. Like I said in the summary it's about growing up. Hopefully you'll stick it out with me and maybe even let me know what you think.
Chapter Songs: Swing Swing – All American Rejects
21 and Invincible – Something Corporate
We're Gonna Be Friends – The White Stripes