AN: Hey y'all! MDP here again :D I've been rather out of action due to school over here in the UK, but hoping to crank out some pages over the winter vacation. This was one of the short oneshots / fragments I wrote before I left for school, and which I had just rediscovered a few days ago while going through my files. Hope you enjoy!
The first day of school. Lovely. It's not that I hated school per se, but once you started packing your diplomas into filing cabinets rather than hanging them on your wall, the value and overall excitement that school afforded became rather diminished in outlook.
Especially when this was the first day of school for junior year at Forks High.
This was our first, and hopefully last, round in the sleepy little town of Forks. Rose and I hated it after just a month here last September, but the boys loved it. Jasper loved the peace and quiet, and Emmett... well, he just liked any opportunity of wrestling with grizzlies. He would have preferred living in northern British Columbia or Alaska a bit more, but the dearth of skyscrapers and shopping malls in even the remote vicinity was a downright horrifying prospect to Rose and I. So we vetoed them, and compromised on Forks, which was close enough to the Olympic Mountains and wilderness areas to satisfy Emmett, remote enough to please Jasper, and close enough, relatively speaking, to Seattle and Vancouver for me and Rose.
There was an unspoken reason that none of us would mention: it was as far away as possible from where we spent our last few happy years with Carlisle and Esme.
"Bells! Get your sparkly vampire ass down here now!" Emmett called from downstairs.
"We're going to be late for school if you don't move faster, Bella. Your punctuality could put the atomic clock to shame," Rose snarked. Emmett guffawed, and even Jasper snickered a bit.
"Shut up, all of you," I grumbled. Even Rose laughed this time, while I hastily threw on a suitable ensemble. Tank top, studded black leather moto jacket, dark-wash skinny jeans, ankle boots, a beanie. My eyes scanned the room rapidly to make sure I hadn't missed anything. Oh, and my watch and ring. Perfect. I blurred downstairs and found them down in the living room, still chuckling. Rose and Emmett were reclining together on the loveseat, Em's muscled arm wrapped around Rose's beautiful figure, while Jasper was lounging in the armchair.
"No make-up, Bella," Rose mused, giving me a one-over.
"Of course not," I snorted. "Why bother? Just so I can impress some hormonal teenage boys? Puh-leez. As if I have any trouble with that as it is."
Rosalie sniffed, pretending to be affronted, and tutted disapprovingly. "You never feel like impressing anyone except the teachers."
I wrinkled my nose. "Don't make that sound perverse, Rose. You know-"
"Alright, everyone, enough with the banter," Jasper interrupted softly. I shot Rose a mock-withering glare, and her lips twitched upwards in response. "Just want to remind you guys about how we're going to go about this school year. I tried getting our schedules to match each other's as much as possible, but unfortunately, we're all going to have some classes alone. However, I did manage to get all of us into the same English block-"
"Hell yea!" Emmett boomed. Rose and I chuckled at his enthusiasm. "This is gonna be awesome! I can't wait to see the look on Dennis's face when we all walk into her classroom!"
"English is definitely going to be fun this year," I agreed. "Jasper, you're going to send Dennis off into retirement early."
Jasper winked and made a faux bow. "Anyways," he continued. "Just a reminder: no messing around with the humans. Even if we all have great self control, we can never be sure of ourselves."
"Yeah, and you forget we're a heck of a lot cooler than a bunch of humans," Emmett added boisterously, and Rose and Jasper smirked. I nodded along. Same old, same old. Every year, a similar speech from Jasper, and a similar response from one of the lovebirds. It wasn't that I disagreed - after all, none of the humans I've met in my existence so far, apart from one or two who I considered to be friends for a brief time before we moved on to the next town - it was just... boring to hear the same didactic from Jasper year after year.
In the next moment, everyone got up and headed for the garage - Jasper for his Mercedes, Rose and Emmett for Rose's BMW, and I for my lime-green Lamborghini Gallardo. We all revved up, slid down the driveway, and burst down the road into town, all of us attempting to maneuver into lead without scratching any of our beloved cars. Unfortunately, Rose won, and now my Lambo getting stuck between Rose's BMW and Jasper's Mercedes. I gave Rose the finger, which I knew she could spot through her rear-view mirror, and she tapped her brakes in response. Growling, I glanced at the opposite lane, and seeing no one, swerved into the oncoming lane, accelerated hard, passed a dumbstruck Rose with my finger still in the air, and sped forward, making it to school in a record 7 minutes and 48 seconds.
I'm not really competitive. I just hate losing to my siblings.
All of the humans were staring by the time my siblings' cars rolled into the parking lot. In this land of ancient pick-up trucks and sedans, our flashy cars stuck out like garish sore thumbs. I shrugged and sauntered over to the entrance at a breezy human pace. I had memorized my schedule when Jasper passed it to me before we left the house, and first block was AP European History, a class that I shared with none of my siblings but taught this year by Mr. Porter, who wouldn't care a whit if I was late. Still, as a rule, I tried not to be late to any of my classes unless I really felt under the weather.
"Bella," Mr. Porter greeted when I strolled into class. "I'm glad to see you're still taking history. You have a great deal of talent in this subject area."
"Mr. Porter," I said with a nod and small, surprisingly unfeigned smile. "Thank you. Good to see you teaching this year as well." I liked history. And I liked Mr. Porter as a teacher. I just failed to mention to him that I had already earned a doctorate in history from Yale seven years ago for a thesis on medieval history.
As soon as I sat down, I saw from the corner of my visual field that Mike Newton had swaggered into class as well. Good Lord, that imbecile was in my class as well? Oh, and he was followed by no one else than the creeper James Witherdale. Both of them spotted me sitting near the window and attempted (unsuccessfully) to claim the spot next to me without making it look like a mad dash. Mike wedged in a split second before James arrived, and James tried very very hard not to look disappointed as he slouched over to a nearby table, where he proceeded to ogle me, as usual. Well, at least Mike was the lesser of two evils...
"Hey Bella, how was your summer?" he asked me, trying to sound deep and smooth but ending up just sounding smarmy.
So maybe not to the "lesser" part.
"Good enough," I replied with a touch of frost in my voice.
There was a much appreciated moment of silence before I realized that Mike actually expected me to ask him how his summer went. When I didn't say anything and proceeded to turn my head to the window, Mike hastily interjected,
"What classes do you have this year?"
"Too many to bother remembering," I drawled, pointedly keeping my gaze out of the window.
"Umm... would you mind if I took a look at your schedule?" Mike asked, voice quavering slightly.
I slowly turned to face him, looking at him in the eyes. His eyes went wide before he shifted his gaze away from my intent one as he struggled to regain his composure. "Guess what, Newton?" I said in a cold low tone, but still enough for him to hear me. "I do mind. So no thanks. I'd prefer to keep the number of classes we manage to share this year an unpleasant surprise for myself."
With that, I turned away from him just as Mr. Porter announced the official start of class. I heard some people around me snicker a bit at my comment, including James, and the corner of my lips twitched up in a smirk. Thankfully, AP History went by quickly, and my next block, AP Calculus, was with Jasper, the sibling to whom I was the closest.
"How was your first block?" he said in a voice so soft and low that none of the humans could hear, once we sat down beside each other towards the back.
"Decent enough, considering both Mike and James were in my history class," I replied rather crossly in the same voice register. "And how about you?"
"Rose and I had French together with Leplat."
"It was... alright."
I snorted quietly. "That's your way of saying it's boring, Jazz." He flashed me a smile and made no attempt to rectify my accurate interpretation of his feelings towards the class. "Any worthwhile news?"
Jasper hummed, looking straight at the teacher in a very convincing show of being engrossed in what the teacher (Mr. Whats-his-name... Barker?) was saying about the basic rules of differentiation. "Well," he said slowly. "There's apparently a new student. A transfer into our year."
"From?" I asked, rather uninterested.
"The South, I think."
I pursed my lips and scribbled what Mr. Barker had written on the board onto the notepad in front of me, as if I were intently copying down his convoluted and useless notes on differential calculus. "That's rather far for someone to be from in boring Forks. Did you manage to hear why they moved?"
"She's moved here with her mother, so I'm assuming that her parents are separated. I believe her mother's from hereabouts."
"Ah." I paused for a second, backtracking in my thoughts. "She's a girl."
"Yes. Mary Alice Brandon. Likes to be called Alice."
"Figures," I scoffed. "Who the hell is called Mary Alice these days?"
"It's a traditional Southern name," Jasper retorted good-humoredly.
"Ancient, you mean," I retorted, smirking. "Perhaps even more ancient than you." A look ofshock and hurt flitted across his face, but the creases around his eyes, indicating his amusement, gave him away. "So what's she like, anyways, this... Alice girl?"
"I was forced to listen in on Jessica Stanley's remarks on this new girl, unfortunately, but apparently, Alice has a very... positive personality," he drawled.
"Ah." I frowned. I tended to dislike vivacious girls as a rule; they were far too much to handle. Jessica Stanley was a prime example of this. Gods, the girl could chatter on for hours if given the chance. There was no goddamn way to shut her up once you got her started. "A chatterbox?"
"Not sure," he replied, shrugging. Then he grinned. "Jessica has all intentions of befriending her."
"Good Lord," I sighed. "Here comes the new and improved Jessica version 2.0." Jasper's responding snickers morphed into light coughing as Mr. Barker swung his impassive gaze our way. I pretended to look vacantly towards the front, as if I were thinking hard and long about one of the problems he had given the class.
"Miss Cullen, have you solved the problem yet?"
"What problem, sir?" I asked in mild, detached confusion. I honestly had no clue which question he was referring to.
"This one," he growled, pointing to one of the harder differentiation questions on the board. In the split second between pointing to the board and opening his mouth to ask me if I had solved it yet, I mentally debated whether I should honestly answer it or dumb myself down for the first week. Nah, I hate playing dumb anyways. "Did you manage to solve this one?"
"Two X to the power of negative one half, sir," I replied smoothly.
"And how did you calculate that?" he demanded, the slight upward lift in his voice betraying his immense surprise (and irritation) that I had solved it.
"Chain rule, sir, as well as the power rule."
Mr. Barker paused for a moment to process what I had just said, then reluctantly nodded, harrumphed, and descended upon the next poor unwitting student to interrogate.
I had a love-hate relationship with the lunch break. On one hand, it was the time our family got together to rehash what had happened in the previous two blocks. On the other hand, we were doing so in a small, grungy cafeteria surrounded by sweaty humans, the naturally sweet scent of their blood enhanced by the scent of their food. Or some of their food, anyways. Apples and drinks didn't smell all that repulsive to us, but pizza and whatever they called 'lasagna'... blargh, they smelled just as bad as they tasted.
"How was your morning?" I asked Rose and Emmett as I approached the table with Jasper, both of us balancing trays with the usual assortment of apples, juice boxes, and my personal favorite - pizza.
"Boring, what else did you expect?" Rose snapped. "I can't believe Leplat expects us to 'learn' French from her when she can't even pronounce the words correctly herself. And math! Don't even get me started on math-"
"I won't," I interrupted her, offering a placating smile. "I can tell it was pretty bad, and poor Jasper here doesn't need your violent mood swings." Emmett guffawed, and Jasper shot me a small appreciative smile as Rosalie snorted and looked down condescendingly at her tray.
"Drama was great, though," Emmett added. "We did improv. I did a mock-up of a scene from Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead - you know, the one at the very beginning where they're doing the coin flips, and I -" As Emmett continued talking about his drama class, I let my eyes wander around the cafeteria. There were Lauren Mallory and her little clique of cheerleaders right there in the center of the caf, and towards the other set of windows, I spotted Angela, Eric, and them animatedly talking about something. Interestingly enough, both Mike and Jessica were there as well.
My eyes fixated on a girl sitting at the center of the group. A small oval face framed by medium-length black hair that looked a bit thin - too much conditioner, probably - was nothing special, but what caught me off-guard was the expressiveness of her large dark brown eyes, which were currently sparkling with mirth, and a wide easy smile that lit her whole face up. She was rather pretty in an unconventional way. Her eyes caught mine at precisely the moment when I was just about to look away. Her smile faltered, and an unusual expression crossed her face - a mix of curiosity, interest, surprise, and something else I couldn't quite place.
"Who is she?" she asked them softly, her voice carrying just a trace of a different accent, her eyes never leaving mine. Somehow, I couldn't tear my eyes away either.
"Bella Cullen," Jessica replied, just a bit waspishly. "She's actually a year older than us, but for some unknown reason is in our year. I mean, it's totally unfair because she aces every class without even really trying! Oh my God, I can't stand how superior and arrogant she always acts around us, even if she is super smart and pretty, cuz she never talks to anyone nicely other than three people sitting with her. She's such a snob. Anyways, sitting beside her is Jasper Hale. He's pretty gorgeous, and I think Bella and him might be dating..." I nearly scoffed aloud at the ridiculousness of that notion. Jazz was my best friend and nothing more; I had other interests in that department. "...the blond girl sitting opposite Jasper is his sister Rosalie. And sitting beside her is Emmett McCarty, the big muscular jock guy. Rosalie and Emmett are actually dating, and the four of them pretty much only hang out with each other. The other three are not very friendly with us either, especially Rosalie. I mean, Rosalie's kind of a bitch-"
"You're the real bitch, Stanley," Rosalie hissed. I looked at her in surprise. Evidently, my siblings had all tuned in on the conversation once my name was mentioned, but they, unlike me, did a better job of not blatantly staring at the humans while they were talking about us and thus reducing our apparent unnaturalness.
"She's the new girl," Jasper whispered in my ear.
I glanced at her; she was still listening intently to whatever Jessica was saying. "Mary Alice Brandon," I whispered, testing out the name on my tongue. "But of course." As if she had heard me speak, her eyes moved to catch my gaze again.
"She's staring at you... and you're staring too," Jessica pointed out bluntly to Alice after a longish moment. Alice's cheeks tinged red, and she broke off the gaze quickly.
"Yeah. She seems... familiar," Alice mumbled. Familiar? I hadn't seen her before today, had I?
"You probably saw her in the hallway or something before lunch," Jessica concluded firmly. Alice nodded, but it was a half-hearted move that instantly made me suspicious. "Anyways, it's super weird that she's actually looking your way. You'd think that she heard us or something - she normally never even bothers to look at anyone in particular." Jessica quickly turned the topic onto her usual mix of rumors, suspicions, and vitriol about me and my family; I turned my face towards Jasper.
"Jazz," I said quietly, so that Rose and Emmett couldn't hear. Jasper hummed in acknowledgment. "What was the new girl feeling when she saw me?"
"It was rather...odd," Jasper mused pensively. "There was a great deal of excitement but also a fair bit of fear. Anticipation, almost. And surprise. Embarrassment when she was caught staring, both by you and Jessica."
"Yeah, I picked up on all of those," I replied, frowning.
"Perhaps you're becoming an empath now," Jasper quipped lightly. When he saw no responding smile, he asked anxiously, "What's the matter, Bella?"
"I don't know," I answered honestly. "There's just something weird. It feels... I feel like I'm just off-balance. I've never felt this way before, and definitely not because of a stranger. A human, no less."
"Yes, I can tell," Jasper responded, the concern evident in his expression as he sent a wave of calm over me.
"Thanks," I sighed, feeling a bit better. Shifting my plate to Jasper and getting up, I said to Rose and Emmett, who were also now looking at me with concern, "Don't worry. I just need to get some air. I'll see you all in English." They nodded as I stood up and made my way quickly out of the crowded caf. At the door, I paused and sent a glance in Alice's direction. She was staring at me again as the people around her chatted, and her eyes grew wide when they caught mine. After a moment, I hastily broke the connection between our eyes and swept out of the caf, my long strides taking me down the hallways towards the parking lot where I could turn up the stereo in my car and chase out my vague, confused thoughts about Mary Alice Brandon before the lunch break was over. After all, she was just another human.
Unfortunately, she happened to be just another human I shared my English class with.
A human with an indecently appetizing scent.
As I turned the corner of the hallway to where the English classroom wing was, I saw Jazz, Rose, and Emmett approaching from the other end and waved. They waved back.
Just then, the smell hit me like a cement truck going 90 miles an hour. My body instantly tensed up, and I froze there in the hallway for a second. So sweet, so deliciously sweet, I groaned in my mind, as my eyes rapidly scanned the hallway, searching for the source of that mouthwatering aroma. And then I spotted her.
Mary Alice Brandon.
Blood, the Thirst hissed insidiously. Irresistibly warm and tempting blood that was moving away from me, walking blithely down the hallway in front of me, towards my siblings. I began to move, stalking her, weaving between people fluidly at still-human speeds, longer strides, calculating the ways I could get her alone, pin her to a wall, plant kisses down her throat, her neck, her throbbing jugular, the blood boiling beneath her flushed skin...
Suddenly, she turned around. Our eyes met like magnets. I stopped dead in my tracks.
"Oh hi," she chirped, and blushed slightly. "You must be Bella Cullen." The throbbing of her blood was like the throbbing in my temple right now, the incessant chant of blood fueled by my Thirst. The venom was welling in my mouth uncomfortably, and so I swallowed before nodding stiffly. Don't breathe, some voice in my head suddenly commanded. With a shudder, I stopped breathing. Then I realized she was still waiting for my response, an awkwardly uncomfortable tenseness settling on her face as I continued to say nothing.
"Hi," I croaked out without breathing, sounding unusually strangled. Alice arched a pretty eyebrow in response. "Sorry, sore throat," I managed in that same strangled tone, making a vague motion towards my throat. Her eyes softened.
"Oh sorry," she hastily amended. "I didn't - I wasn't - I mean, what class do you have now?"
I jerked my head in the direction of Ms. Dennis's room. Her eyes lit up in response, and she smiled in such a way as to make her positively glow with delight.
"Really? I have English too! I guess we must be in the same class!" I nodded, only half-heartedly listening to her as I swallowed down the venom pooling in my throat and just barely restrained myself from lunging towards her. I didn't even dare imagine the hypothetical scenario, for fear that it would break the tenuous hold of my self-restraint on my bloodlust.
I lifted my eyebrow in surprise as her voice brought me back from my dazed mental state. She was looking at me with that delicious blush in the apples of her cheeks, eyes looking at me hesitantly. Oh Lord, I couldn't stand it... "Do you want to walk to English together?"
I nodded and swallowed thickly again, shoving down with the venom all the decadent pictures my imagination was painting of the moment her blood trickled down my scorched throat.
Just then, a gust of air blew down the hallway in the direction I was facing, and almost immediately, I heard a rumbling snarl and several growls sound from across the hallway. My eyes flicked over, and I saw Emmett and Rose struggling to restrain Jasper, teeth bared mid-snarl and his eyes black and wild, his body arched into hunting stance.
"Shit. Jazz!" I snarled, and at slightly-faster-than-human speeds, I moved in front of Alice, shielding her from my brother, and growled back lowly, warning him off. Mine, the Thirst and the strange voice that had commanded me to stop breathing both hissed. But Jazz did not seem to shake off the effects of his bloodthirst, and I saw in his darkened eyes the fierce battle between his flagging willpower and his Thirst. He was going to snap at any moment, and Emmett and Rosalie were going to have a hard time stopping him without taking down our entire facade of humanity too. A split second later, I threw a partial shield forward over the two of us as I ran forward, shielding from the humans the loud boom of my granite frame slamming into Jasper's and pushing him further down the hallway towards where the door was. He snarled loudly before I shoved my arm into his face and he bit down hard. Hissing in pain, I still managed to shove him down the stairs and out the door, both of us crashing onto the field near the woods.
"Breathe, Jazz," I yelled into his face as I tried to wrestle him down. He snarled and snapped at my arms, nearly throwing me off, to which I responded by slapping him across the face, before he finally complied with my order, breathing in and shuddering as he exhaled. It took a few more minutes before I could see the wildness of the bloodthirst fade from his eyes.
"Sorry," he gasped once his Thirst was under control. "That scent was-"
"I know," I responded grimly. If it hadn't been for Alice's magnetic eyes or the imminent threat of Jasper's attack, Mary Alice Brandon might not even be alive and sitting in English class right now. "Her blood called to me like something I've never experienced before either, and I'm the one with the best control in our family."
Jasper made a motion, and I leaped off him, landing nimbly on my feet three feet away. He got up slowly and dusted his chinos, which had some grass stains on them from our tussle on the field.
"Sorry," he said softly, his eyes still dark but repentant. "For biting you, I mean."
The ache on my right arm suddenly flared up at his mention. "Apology accepted," I winced, rubbing it to alleviate the sting of venom.
"You were protecting her, weren't you?" he asked quietly, as I looked down at the new crescent bite mark on my arm. I frowned in disagreement.
"No," I replied, a little more curtly than I intended. "I was saving all of us from exposure by our thirst."
"No," he said firmly, fixing his steady gaze on me. "No, it was more than that. You were talking to her for a long time before I caught her scent, and right afterwards, I felt protectiveness coming from you that wasn't directed towards us. It was directed towards her." I shrugged and shifted my eyes elsewhere, avoiding his scrutinizing look and trenchant observations.
"I was just feeling a little protective of my food, that's all," I answered nonchalantly, suppressing the anxiety and self-doubt roiling in my gut. "You know how I get a little weird when I'm thirsty."
Jasper opened his mouth a little, as if to disagree yet again, but then closed it and nodded, turning away. "I need to hunt," he stated matter-of-factly. "You need to as well. Your eyes are all black."
"Shit," I swore, whipping out my cell phone. I saw at least a dozen texts from both Emmett and Rosalie asking if we were alright. I quickly texted them back, saying that we were both fine but in need of a long hunt, and that we would probably be taking the next two days off, and could they please please inform the office for us, muchos gracias. Shoving my phone back in my pocket, I said to Jasper, "Rose and Em have got things covered. We're taking the next two days off to hunt. Where do you wanna go?"
Jasper thought silently for a moment. "Yosemite," he answered, grinning slightly.
"Okay," I agreed. Plenty of mule deer and cougars there to sate my appetite. Maybe a black bear or two to spice things up. Quickly texting Rose back that we needed three days because we were heading to Yosemite and lowering my sound shield around Jasper and myself, I followed Jasper into the woods at the edge of the school and started running full-speed. As the trees blurred past us and the landscape changed around us, I wondered anxiously why, when I had seen Jasper's dark fierce eyes boring down on Alice Brandon, an unexpected protectiveness of her had surged up in me like a rogue wave. At that moment, nothing else had mattered - not the fear of exposure, not the love of my family, not all my years of trust and closeness with Jazz - except the inexplicable need to protect at all costs. A mere human.