Somewhere, an insistent obnoxious buzzing sound was trying to infiltrate my sleep-logged brain and, even though I was still mostly unconscious, I wanted to kick the shit out of it for disturbing my slumber. It took a few more seconds for me to wake up enough and realize it was my cell phone alarm, and I cracked open my good eye to glare at it balefully as it droned and blinked away on my nightstand, oblivious to how close it was to meeting a very violent, untimely death by my fist.
“Die,” I grumbled at the phone, my voice still thick and choked with sleep. It blinked at me again, as if in challenge, and I finally leaned over and shut the offending thing off.
I didn’t even have to look out the window to know that the weather was its usual dreary self and I yanked the covers over my head, wishing fiercely that I could lay in my bed for the rest of the day…
“Bella?” Charlie’s voice was muffled by my door and I heard his heavy knock against the wood. “You planning on going to school today?”
I pulled back the covers and yawned. “Yeah, why?”
“Well, I heard your alarm going off a half hour ago and you never got up,” he replied.
My body was bolting out of bed before my brain could even catch up and I nearly did a face plant on the floor in my haste to free myself from the tangle of blankets on my bed.
“Fuck!” I shouted angrily. I whipped open the drawer that held my t-shirts, only to realize that I was sorely overdue for a laundry day. The only ones left were ragged and stained. I rifled furiously through them and unearthed a pink one emblazoned with an outline of a state, and a logo that loudly proclaimed: “New Jersey: Only the strong survive”.
Charlie was still standing in the cramped hallway, an eyebrow cocked, his expression a mixture of amusement and irritation when I flew out of my room with a bundle of clothes and disappeared into the bathroom.
“I take it you overslept?” he asked drolly when I slammed the door.
“You’re a regular Sherlock,” I snapped back as I simultaneously tried to kick off my pajama bottoms and remove my shirt.I hopped on one foot, my vision completely obscured by my t-shirt before I finally managed to wrench it off. In the process, I slammed my elbow against the shelf, sending a clattering array of toiletries to the bathroom floor that were nearly drowned out by the stream of profanities coming from my mouth.
“All right, Sailor, knock it off,” Charlie’s gruff police voice was back. “I’m leaving now. Try not to tear the house down around your ears while I’m gone.”
I was on my hands and knees, searching for my face soap amidst the disaster I had made and only grunted.
Miraculously, I somehow managed to make it out of the house in ten minutes and without further incident. My jeans were slightly wrinkled from laying in a heap on my floor, my sweatshirt had a small stain in the corner but I was, for the most part, reasonably put together. Unfortunately, my hair was a lost cause and I pulled it up into a messy mass of tangles on the top of my head. Normally, I preferred to leave my hair down but, thanks to ignoring the bitching of my alarm clock, I had no time to try to coax my tresses into something more manageable. The cold wind bit into my neck, normally shrouded by the curtain of my hair, and I shivered, feeling a little exposed and uncomfortable as I hurried to my truck. It's coffee to wake up and it's liquor to bed/ somewhere in between you gotta fight your way to live...
“Come on, come on, come on, you old fucker, start!” I twisted the key in the ignition for a third time and finally the old Chevy roared to life, sounding just as disgruntled as I felt about having to wake up at such an ungodly hour. I slammed my foot against the gas, forcing the truck to speeds it was not happy reaching. As I hurtled across town, I thought I saw Charlie’s cruiser parked at the diner and I narrowed my eyes, almost daring him to try and pull me over for speeding. Nothing would scream “badass” as pulling up to the high school with the cops in hot pursuit. Not that I actually wanted the attention, anyway. God knew I was already going to have enough people staring at me as it was.
My Chevy apparently was in the mood to pay me back for cursing it out because it decided to backfire as I pulled into a parking space. Even over the rumble of the ancient engine, the staccato boom was loud and I heard shrieking coming from the parking lot. I glanced up in my rear view mirror just in time to see a group of freshman scattering, their faces bright with alarm.
I grinned for the first time that morning.
Wrenching the key from the ignition, I grabbed my backpack and hopped out of the truck, nearly twisting my ankle in the process. Great. Not only was I sporting a black eye but I had to hobble through the lot to where Edward was waiting for me, a bemused expression on his face. My answering smile was a little more grim.
"Leave it to you to arrive with such… fanfare. Glad you could make it." His lip lifted in a crooked smile as he leaned down to kiss me. "How's the nose?"
"Better," I grumbled, hoisting my backpack over my shoulder. "But not gone."
"Are you ready?" He didn’t need to elaborate. I already knew what the day held in store for me.
"Fuck these people," I spat, annoyed. I wasn't dreading the inevitable stares and whispers but my ire was increasing with every step closer to the school. "You would think these people would have something better to do than talk shit about each other. Fucking losers."
"Meow," Edward replied, smirking slightly as he rubbed my back. "Down, kitty."
"Let's get this over with." I strode purposefully up the stairs and pushed open the doors to the school, Edward walking closely next to me. A warm blast of air whispered against my face and I was greeted with the cheerful cacophony of teenage voices and the slamming of lockers.
The sea of faces spread out before us as Edward and I moved down the hall. Kids scattered out of our way, reluctant to catch our attention. A gaggle of girls were walking together, coming toward Edward and I, giggling to themselves. They looked so carefree, until one caught my eye. She nudged the others and they sort of shrank together next to locker, their laughter dying down into quiet murmurs.
Suddenly, I was keenly aware that my presence in Forks High was very well known, a thought that was troublesome. I had spent most of my life moving through the shadows of schools, blending in with the crowd and surviving unnoticed; until the first fight, that is. Red Light Stop/ Green Light Go/ I'm hearing voices/ On my stereo/ They wanna tell me something right now/ We're the girls with the bad reputations/ We're the girls gonna make you pay/ We're the girls with the bad reputation/ We are gonna have our say...
In larger schools this was never a problem. I was always quick to lash out with my fists because I knew that was the only way to keep people from fucking with you. The action was never unprovoked and usually any rumors or whispering would die down almost immediately because there were just too many kids, too much drama, and too many other fights for one to linger in the gossip mill for long.
In Phoenix, I was just another fish in the ocean. In Forks, I was a shark in a kiddie pool.
A freshman boy, pimply and gangly, his mousy light brown hair clinging greasily to his forehead, eyed Edward warily, trepidation in his eyes. If Edward noticed, he didn't acknowledge it.
Then the boy noticed me and his eyes widened, curiosity burning in them but wisely he made no comment. My lips pursed in a tight line as others began to stare and I felt Edward’s fingers tighten around mine; I wasn’t sure if he was trying to comfort me or warn me to calm down. Two girls leaned in to whisper their gleeful conspiracies, their eyes trained on my face, looking away only after I shot them with a pointed stare. They were brave enough to talk behind my back but not stupid enough to say it to my face.
I had a feeling I might not be the only one with a black eye by the time the last bell rang.
Tyler Crowley was the first from Lauren's gang to cross our path; his locker was three down from mine. Tall and rangy, Tyler was neither brave nor smart and did a double take, gaping at me as his dark eyes swiveled from me to Edward.
"Damn," he finally crowed, his sneakers squeaking against the dirty linoleum as he approached us. I couldn’t help but arch an eyebrow in surprise when he came within arms distance from Edward, whose stature was becoming more tense by the second. "That is some shiner, Bella. Looks like you finally met your match!"
"Do you want to meet yours, Crowley?" Edward asked, the unveiled threat loud and clear as he pulled himself to his full, menacing height. The tension emanated from his frame and with a sigh, I put my hand on his arm.
"You’re a fucking idiot," I told Tyler, barely able to keep the growl from my voice. "I'm sure the rumors are going to be flying because you people don't seem to have anything better to do than talk about each other but I’ll tell you what really happened--I was at a show and I got hit in the pit. Got it?"
Tyler's face crumbled in disappointment, obviously hoping for something more controversial than my explanation. "A pit?" he repeated dubiously.
"Yes. I’m sure you don’t know what it is because they don’t usually have them at those lame ass boy-band concerts you go to but you can Google it."
Tyler just shrugged as he walked away from us and twirled the lock on his locker, his eyes still darting over to where Edward and I were standing. Quickly, I opened my own locker and pulled some books out, shoving them viciously into my backpack.
"Want me to walk you to class?" Edward asked, his voice low as he hovered over me, protectively.
"Nah." I zipped up my bag. "I'll see you in Biology."
Edward's lips brushed against my hair. "Biology," he agreed. "Don't let them get to you, Bella."
"I don't intend to," I replied resolutely. I fished my iPod from my backpack and stuffed the earbuds into my ears, squeezed his hand and walked away.
The gawking continued as I headed toward first period. I couldn't hear the whispers over the music piping through my ears and I didn't want to. Even some of the teachers paused, though their looks were more concerned than curious.
No one said anything to me as I sat silently in my classes, aware of all the eyes on me. I was starting to wish someone would, just so I could punch them. I felt like I was in a fishbowl, unable to hide from the constant eyes slanting in my direction. It was pissing me off.
When Edward and I entered the Biology classroom, Mike Newton's eyes nearly bugged out of his head, a slow, dumb grin spreading on his baby face as he took out his cell phone and began texting furiously. My lip curled menacingly on its own accord and even Edward stared at him, an unspoken warning in his eyes.
"You haven't killed anyone yet, have you?" Edward murmured as we took our places. I dropped my bookbag on the scratched black tabletop and slumped into my chair.
I laughed shortly and shook my head. "Not yet. But the day is young..."
We were cut off as Mr. Banner wheeled an ancient television into the room and announced that we were going to watch a film. He flipped off the lights and Edward found my hand beneath the desk. Just sitting next to Edward made me feel better. We sat quietly for the rest of the period and I closed my eyes, uninterested in the movie, smiling slightly every time Edward rubbed his thumb against the flesh of my hand. A calm drifted over me, relaxing muscles I hadn’t realized were taut. All the irritation that was coiling through my body slowly ebbed away and I drifted off into a half sleep, jerking awake only when Mr. Banner turned the lights back on and the bell rang.
"Miss Swan," Mr. Banner said as we stood and shouldered our backpacks. "Can I speak to you for a moment?"
Shit. He must have caught me dozing off during the film. "Sure, Mr. Banner," I replied in what I hoped was an agreeable tone. Edward sighed next to me and made no move to leave.
Mr. Banner glanced at him, a little disapprovingly, and ran a hand absently over his graying hair. "Mr. Cullen, you should head off to class. You don't want to be late."
Edward stiffened, but complied unhappily, squeezing my hand apologetically.
Once we were alone, Mr. Banner fixed me with an intense stare. "Everything okay, Bella?"
This was not the line of questioning I was expecting and it took me by surprise.
"Are you sure?"
"That's quite a bruise you have there," Mr. Banner remarked bluntly. "Care to tell me how you got it?"
I was tempted to refuse but decided that would only arouse his suspicions more. "I went to a show on Saturday and got hit in the face in the pit."
"A show?" Mr. Banner's brow furrowed.
"Yes," I replied as evenly as I could, though I could hear the impatience creeping through my tone. "It was a hardcore band that played. The pit can get pretty rough."
"I see." It was clear he did not. He coughed once into his hand and paused, as if debating whether or not to continue peppering me with questions.
I shifted uncomfortably and crossed my arms over my chest. "Is that all?" I asked, throwing a quick glance at the door.
"Yes." Mr. Banner walked slowly to the other side of his desk. "Bella, if you ever need to talk to someone about... anything, you can always come to me. Or any of the teachers, for that matter."
A derisive snort escaped me. "I'm all good."
Mr. Banner hesitated then dismissed me and I hurried out the door to find Edward. I didn’t even have to turn the corner to the next hall to find him leaning against the wall, waiting for me. I stepped past him and he followed me wordlessly as I banged open the back door and headed to my truck.
Neither of us spoke until I had unlocked the behemoth and climbed in, Edward close behind me. Quickly, we settled in so I was nestled as closely as I could be to him, our bodies stretched across the bench seat and our book bags forgotten on the floor.
“What did Mr. Banner want?” he asked casually as he pulled the rubber band from my hair, letting it tumble down in a messy wave against his arm. I tilted my head up and hummed contentedly as he absently ran his fingers through my tresses.
“He wanted to know if I was okay.”
“Oh?” Edward seemed amused. “And what did you tell him.”
“I told him it was nothing a few decades of intensive therapy couldn’t cure.”
His chuckle reverberated through the cab. “Did you really say that?”
I shook my head. “No, I just said I was fine, which I am. He wanted to know where I got the shiner so I told him. I mean, it's really not a big fucking deal, you know?”
“I wonder if he was trying to find out if you got into a fight in school and he just hadn’t heard about it yet.”
I shrugged dismissively. “Nah. If someone sneezes in that school everyone knows. He was just being nosy.”
“Maybe. Any of our wonderful, brilliant peers give you trouble?” Edward's voice dripped sarcasm.
“Nope. People have been surprisingly quiet about it,” I replied, picking at my the tassel on my sweatshirt. “The whole rubbernecking thing in the hallway is pretty fucking annoying but as long as everyone keeps their traps shut, I’m all good.”
“Of course people are going to keep their mouths shut,” Edward told me. “They know better now. Your little...argument with Lauren made sure of that.”
“And if they haven’t yet, they’ll figure it out real fast,” I agreed.
Our conversation slowly tapered off into a companionable silence and I was lulled into comfort by the steady rhythm of Edward’s fingers gently pulling at my hair. I drew in a deep breath, Edward’s scent mingling with the wet earthy smell that permeated the truck and found the combination rather pleasant. His body was warm and solid next to mine and I studied his hand that was draped lazily across my middle, his long lean fingers occasionally pressing into my belly.
For the first time in a long while, I didn’t have the urge to break the silence with music. It took me a moment to realize that my mind was actually quiet, instead of filled with things I'd rather not think about. I was content to listen to our even breaths and the almost-imperceptible beating of Edward’s heart. Even a few weeks ago I would have felt uncomfortable with the situation but now, as I twisted my head a little to nuzzle Edward’s shoulder, I felt a little sad that I knew the moment would end.
As if on cue, the warning bell jangled irritably in the distance and we both heaved a resigned sigh at the same time.
“Well, this day should be over soon,” I said to Edward as he helped me out of the truck and handed me my bag. “I’ll see you in lunch?”
He ran a hand through his wayward hair and quirked me with a crooked smile. “Absolutely, Bella.”
It was only a few moments before I gave up pointedly ignoring the gawking and chatter as I walked through the halls and settled for openly glaring at anyone who cast their eyes my way. Any curious eyes were quickly averted shortly after that, but the chit chat carried on as soon as they thought I was out of earshot.
The constant hum of conjecture was beginning to grate on my nerves. I popped in my earbuds and swirled the wheel, looking for something that would sufficiently drown out the noise around me. It didn't really help.
I hated being the center of attention.
By the time I got to lunch, my anger was reaching a level that was potentially murderous. I was tired of being the focus of all the inane attention and wanted to throttle the next person who stared at me and ask them why the hell they thought I was so interesting. They'll find pieces of you/ scattered on the ground/ I am the madman in your dreams/ We are the evil ones...
The whispers started as soon as I walked through the lunchroom door and I slumped grumpily into my chair, ignoring all the goggling that was happening around me. The others were already sitting at the table when Edward and I arrived.
"Want to know what happened to you?" Rosalie commented as I picked at my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A slight, amused smile played on her beautiful face as she eyed me expectantly, bursting with gossip she obviously couldn't wait to share.
"What happened to me?" I repeated, confused.
Rose rolled her eyes and took on a condescending tone, speaking slowly to me. "Yes. Your eye. Want to know the rumors?"
"Kind of," I admitted. "Are there any juicy ones?"
"Well, most people think you got your ass kicked in a fight," Rose began, chewing thoughtfully on a french fry. "But that was a given. It seems that everyone is happy little-miss-tough-guy got her ass handed to her."
"Morons," I said flatly. "They all really need to get a life."
Edward and Emmett nodded in agreement but Alice and Jasper were too busy staring into each other's eyes to make a comment. Their adoration for each other was nauseating sometimes.
"No one is stupid enough to take credit for it," Rosalie continued. "I have to admit, I'm kind of disappointed. I was hoping Lauren would 'fess up' so you could go over there and wipe that annoying smirk off her face but she hasn't."
Edward chuckled. "Are you telling me you now condone Bella fighting?" he asked wryly, snaking a fry from Rosalie's plate.
"Do that again and I'll stab you with my fork," she retorted pleasantly. "And no, I don't. I can't understand why the two of you feel the need to fucking knock someone out every two seconds."
"I got into one fight!" I protested, exasperated.
"Here," Rosalie countered. "How many fights did you get into when you were living in Phoenix? And we all know Edward got into fights all the time when he was-"
"Rosalie," Edward cut in warningly as he leaned forward, shooting Rose an angry glare.
Rosalie backpedaled. "Growing up," she finished lamely.
Frowning, I watched the exchange suspiciously. It was glaringly obvious that Rosalie knew something about Edward that he didn’t want anyone else to know. This wasn't the first time he'd cut her off with a dark expression. I didn’t care at first, since I was unwilling to share my own secrets but I was starting to become curious. Edward was watching me with a guarded expression but before I could question him we were distracted by raucous howl of laughter coming from Lauren's table and we all glanced over.
Lauren and Jessica seemed to be recreating something and Lauren was standing in front of Jess, hands curled into fists as she assumed a haphazard fighting stance. Though she was grinning from ear to ear, Jessica flung her hands up in mock defense, yelling in a nasally falsetto, "don't hurt me!!"
Lauren swung a fist, narrowly missing Jessica's face, which was the whole point and I felt the icy tingle of annoyance sweep through me. Jessica fell to the ground, wailing and everyone laughed again.
"Too bad someone didn't break her teeth!" Lauren said loudly, bowing in front of her crew of sheep. "It's about time that bitch gets what she deserved. I mean, I would have totally kicked her ass if her crazy boyfriend didn't get involved..."
"Oh, hell no!" I let my sandwich drop to the table and pushed back my chair. "I think it's time to give Lauren another shot at kicking my ass, that fucking-"
Edward grabbed my arm and yanked me roughly into my seat. Emmett guffawed, while Alice and Jasper finally stopped cooing at each other and followed my glare to Lauren’s table.
“Someone has a death wish,” Jasper remarked calmly, a slight smile playing on his face. Edward grunted in agreement.
"Stay," he demanded sternly. "Do not fight anyone today. You’ll get yourself expelled if you do." His green eyes glimmered in warning, his lips pressed together tightly and he arched a brow as I made a face at him.
"She's telling people she can kick my ass!" I seethed, pushing my sandwich into the wrinkled brown paper bag, my appetite forgotten. "What the fuck? I don't care if people talk shit about me but-"
"Come on, let's go outside." Edward picked up my backpack hurriedly and grabbed my hand. "Calm down, Bella. Right now."
I acquiesced and started to follow Edward out of the lunchroom but before he could stop me, I swerved my direction and stalked up to Lauren. Her back was to me and she was still laughing about my black eye but Jessica, Tyler and Mike were facing me and as soon as I was near Lauren, they all stopped smiling.
"Hey, chucklehead," I said loudly. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Edward glowering at me as he stormed over and Lauren jumped at the close proximity of my voice. She whirled around, eyes wide and nervous. I could practically smell her fear. I grinned. Head straight for the edge/ Same mistakes again/Lessons never learned/ Strike the match and watch it burn...
"You think you can kick my ass, Lauren?" I asked her, moving in until our faces were only inches apart, our noses practically touching. My fists curled against my sides. "I promise you, baby, any time you want a re-match, you just let me know." Lauren’s jaw dropped and I saw a slight tremor crawl through her frame.
Edward was coming up on me and I backed away from Lauren, who was still staring at me, openmouthed.
"Let's go," I muttered to Edward and grabbed his hand. "Oh, and don't let me forget to remind Rose there is more than one way to wipe someone's smug fucking smirk off their face."
"I think she almost pissed herself," Edward laughed as we pushed open the cafeteria doors. "And you say I'm mean? You almost gave that poor girl a heart attack."
"It wasn't unprovoked," I argued. "She called me a bitch and was acting all high and mighty." I snorted. “As if she could kick my ass. Please. That asshole better tread lightly from now on.”
Edward rolled his eyes. "Uh huh."
We rounded the corner, holding hands, and stopped short when we saw Mrs. Cope, the Principal's secretary, heading toward us with a harried look in her eyes. We started to move aside but she stopped in front of us. Edward and I looked at each other and shrugged, both wondering which one she was after but not particularly caring either way.
"Oh, Miss Swan," her breath left in a swoosh and she looked relieved. "I was just coming to find you."
I arched my eyebrows, wondering if someone already tattled on me. It was impossible; we had left the lunchroom less than a minute earlier. Her carrot curls were piled on top of her head, her round apple cheeks flushed. Mrs. Cope was wearing a pair of mom-jeans and a red sweatshirt with a teddy bear on it.
And people wondered why I didn't take authority seriously.
"Yes." Mrs. Cope glanced down at the papers in her hands. "Follow me please. The Principal would like to have a word with you."
"What for?" I crossed my arms over my chest and narrowed my eyes. "I haven't done anything."
"Bella," Edward warned softly beside me.
"You're not in trouble, Bella," she tried to assure me. Mike and Tyler rounded the corner as she was speaking, and slow, mischievous smiles lit up their faces.
"For once," Mike grumbled as they passed.
"Shut your piehole, fuck-nut," I snarled. Mrs. Cope gasped and Edward groaned, pinching my side slightly, trying to stop me from running my mouth. Unfortunately, it often had a mind of its own.
"Come quickly, please," Mrs. Cope insisted. "This will only take a moment."
"Fine." I turned and looked at Edward. "I'll find you later," I told him.
"Behave yourself." Was his curt reply but his eyes were twinkling in silent mirth as Mrs. Cope looked nervously at me.
Mrs. Cope and I walked in silence toward the Principal's office and I tried to remember if I had committed some kind of punishable offense but couldn't come up with anything, besides threatening Lauren and cursing out Mike and Tyler. A few minutes later, I found myself sitting in that familiar cracked plastic chair outside of Mr. Anderson's office, my feet stuck out in front of me as I slouched over, scowling.
"Ms. Swan." The door opened and Mr. Anderson gestured for me to enter. His gaze zeroed in on my eye as I stalked forward and slumped down into a slightly more comfortable chair inside his office.
There was a woman standing there who I had never seen before. She was young, probably in her mid to late twenties and wearing something stylish that Alice would have squealed over. Her frame was slender, lithe like a dancer’s, and I wondered if she had been one when she was younger. Renee once signed me up for ballet lessons when I was younger but I sucked and she pulled me out shortly after I started. The woman’s jet black hair was pulled up into a loose chignon and she appraised me with a kind stare.
"Bella, I'd like you to meet Angela," Mr. Anderson began, clearing his throat a little as he sat behind his intimidating desk and shuffled some papers. "We have a few questions we'd like you to answer."
"About what?" I asked, bored.
"A teacher has expressed concern over your recent... injury," he replied.
I rolled my eyes, exasperated. "Mr. Banner? Are you serious?" I answered. "I told him I got the fuc-freaking black eye at a show over the weekend." I leaned over, fixing Mr. Anderson with a pointed stare. "In a mosh pit."
"Yes, well, if you don't mind, will you please tell us the story," Angela's soothing, lilting voice broke in.
"Fine," I huffed. "I was at a show - a hardcore band was playing. You know, those kind of shows are always rough and sh-stuff and I was in the pit," I formed quotations with my fingers as I said the words, "and I got smacked in the face with something. It's not a big deal. It happens all the time."
"You've been injured before?" Angela raised a brow.
"Um, I'm 17. I don't think any 17 year old has gone through life without getting a bruise of some sort."
"But you've been hurt at... shows like this before?" Angela persisted.
"Yes," I replied acidly. "I have. Can someone please tell me what the big deal is?"
Mr. Anderson and Angela exchanged a look I couldn't decipher and ignored my question.
"Who was with you at this show, Bella? Anyone from Forks?" Mr. Anderson put an emphasis on the word “show” and it was clear that he did not believe my story.
"Just my boyfriend-" Suddenly I realized exactly what they were getting at and internally cursed myself for being so stupid. "Oh, I get it. You guys think Edward did this."
"Bella," Mr. Anderson took on a very serious timbre. "We are not the enemy here. We are here to make sure you are safe."
"You are here to make sure I get an education," I snapped, standing quickly. Mr. Anderson's face burned with annoyance and Angela backed away in surprise. "And I can assure you, I'm quite safe with Edward Cullen. Is that all? Can I go?"
“Yes,” Mr. Anderson waved a hand to dismiss me and jotted something down in on a notepad. “Please know you can speak to us any time if you’re having… problems. Anything you say will be confidential, of course.”
“Whatever.” It would be a cold day in hell before I spilled my guts to anyone in that school. Or ever, for that matter.
"Perhaps you'd like to take a walk with me before you head back to class?" Angela smiled at me.
"Do I have a choice?"
"Yes, you do," she answered gently. "But I'd appreciate it if you would come with me. I'm sure you're not exactly eager to get back to Spanish."
I glanced at my cell phone--lunch had long since ended and I decided whoever this lady was, she would get me out of trouble for being late to my next period. "Fine."
Reluctantly, I shouldered my backpack and fell into step behind Angela. Once we got to the hall, however, she slowed her pace and walked next to me.
"How do you like Forks?" she asked me in her quiet voice. It was almost soothing.
"You moved here from Phoenix, right?"
I nodded and pressed my lips together in a firm line.
"Were you upset that you had to come here?"
My heart constricted as I remembered Renee dumping me off at the airport with my luggage, while Phil sat in the car. She had given me a quick kiss, and I had begged her not to send me away, just like I always did. Phil had honked the horn before she could answer, though and I had grabbed my bags and stormed inside the airport, ashamed. I hated myself for begging and, as I sat on a stiff airport chair waiting for my plane, I cursed myself for being such a baby. At the time I didn't realize that Renee was moving to Florida and I wondered if I would have acted differently had I known. It didn't matter now. Where my ma is now, I don't know/she was living in her car, I was living on the road/ And I hear she's putting stuff up her nose/ And still wearing that rabbit fur coat...
"No," I answered her forlornly.
"Were you close with your mother and stepfather?" Angela was pressing, searching for information.
“And you live with the Chief now, correct?”
I nodded and silently willed Angela to shut the hell up.
"Are you close with him?"
I shrugged. "I guess."
A hint of frustration marred her delicate features and she changed the line of questioning. "I understand you had some problems with some of the students here."
"Do you want to talk about that?"
"Okay," she sighed and shifted topics again. "You and Edward seem pretty close."
I bristled. "I s'pose."
"Do you spend a lot of time together? I mean, it sounds like you spend a lot of time with each other in school. What about outside of school?"
I stopped suddenly and turned to her. "Are you a shrink?"
Angela gave me a small smile. "You could say that."
"Well, I don't need a shrink," I told her flatly. "What are you getting at with all these questions, anyway?"
"I'm trying to help you. Bella, you seem so-"
Calm the ocean breeze/ Quiet the raging sea/ This stormy ship we sail/ Is a bottle filled with rage. "So, what?" My muscles tensed with aggravation at her intrusive questioning. "I don't have to talk to you, right?"
She was taken aback by my hostility and stuttered a little."N-n-no, uh, you don't."
"Then we're done here." I turned quickly on my heel and stalked off, leaving Angela openmouthed in the hallway. Looking around to make sure she didn’t decide to follow me, I dodged into the nearest girl's bathroom and locked myself in a stall as I eased my cell phone out of my bookbag and texted Edward.
I'm ditching. If you're interested meet me at my truck when your class lets out.
With a loud snap I shut the phone, shoved it back in my bag and cautiously left the bathroom. It was ridiculously easy to sneak out of the high school and I made it to my truck without any interference. My nerves were raw and I fidgeted with the wheel of my iPod as I waited for Edward to show up. Over the sound of music I heard the bell ring and I rolled my shoulders, tried to calm my jitters.
Edward climbed into the passenger seat a few moments later, his face etched with concern.
I paused, searching for words. "Edward, can I ask you something?"
"Of course," he replied smoothly. "What is it?"
"Why do people seem to think you were the one who gave me a black eye?"
His face suddenly turned to stone, devoid of all emotion. "What?"
"That was what the principal wanted to talk to me about. They thought you hit me. And so did Rose. Why?"
"Bella, you're not the only one who's been in fights around here." His voice was bitter, acerbic.
So please don't go and build a fence around your heart/ like you've done before/ when you're losing ground...
"There's something you're not telling me," I insisted. "And it's something that Rose knows, isn't it? And you don't want her to tell me?"
Edward sighed deeply, his jade eyes tight and tense as he rubbed a hand roughly through his tousled auburn hair. Seconds ticked by before finally he spoke. "I was in a lot of trouble when I first came to Forks."
It was my turn to be shocked. "What do you mean,'when I first came to Forks'. I thought you guys have lived here your whole lives."
"The Cullens have always lived here, but not me."
"The Cullens? You mean your parents and your brother?" I furrowed my brow. "I don't get it. I mean, aren't you a Cullen?"
"Bella." Edward turned to me, almost pleadingly. "It's not that I didn't want to tell you. I just didn't know how."
A dry lump formed in my throat. "Tell me what?" I whispered.
His expression changed again, his features twisting with arrogance and anger. "I came to Forks five years ago when I was thirteen. From Chicago."
"Okay." I dragged the word out slowly, confused and unsure of what he was about to say. "Back then, I wasn't Edward Cullen. I was Edward Masen."
"I don't understand." I was starting to wonder if perhaps I didn't want to understand. Somehow I knew the whatever Edward was about to tell me was going to change things.
"Carlisle and Esme," he began tightly, "are my parents in every sense of the word but the literal. They aren't my biological parents. They are my aunt and uncle. My mother was Esme's sister."
Words flittered in my brain as I processed this information and I finally settled on a lame, "Oh."
The silence was thick and heavy between us and I didn't know what say. So I said nothing.
Edward glanced up at me warily and licked his lips before he continued. "They adopted me when I was thirteen and brought me to Forks. My mother was... well, never mind. I had no one to take care of me when I was released so Carlisle and Esme came and got me."
"Released?" My brain was beginning to feel like it was filled with mud but somewhere, the panic began to grow.
"Yeah." Edward trained his gaze on a crack in my windshield, his voice so full of chilling bitterness it was almost painful to listen to. "Released. From Chicago's grand ol' Cook County Juvenile Detention Center."
My body jerked involuntarily, as if had been slapped in the face. "What?!" My voice was louder than I anticipated, tinged with confusion and alarm.
"Start driving," Edward ordered suddenly, his voice cold. "I'll explain everything.
Lyrics Jenny Jump - The Roadside Graves Finale - Bikini Kill Walk Among Us - The Misfits Watch it Burn - Sick of it All Rabbit Fur Coat - Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins Wanderlust - Flogging Molly Banana Ghost - Man Man
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