“Bella, I don’t like you’re newfound friends,” Angela said to me the minute I was alone. We were on our way to our next lesson, Biology. It was pouring with rain and we had about five minutes before the bell rings again, so we were sheltering underneath the excess roof of the Arts building.
“You mean Jasper and his family?” I shook the water from my new jacket; it was the cheap raincoat kind that I bought from Thriftway at the same time as my toothbrush. Shaking the water out, though, was a pointless gesture since it was bound to get wet again. “What’s wrong with them being my friends?”
“There’s just something wrong with them, Bella.” A faraway look graced Angela’s face, her gray eyes focusing on something I cannot see. “When they moved here two years ago, I knew the minute I laid eyes on them that they weren’t normal.”
I looked at her oddly. “What do you mean not normal?” Moreover, the term ‘normal’ was a foreign concept to me.
“It’s just a vibe that I get, Bella. You haven’t been here long enough to know them like I do, but…” Angela cringed. “Look, there’s something weird going on with that family. It’s dangerous to mingle with them. Have you noticed their eyes? It’s got a strange glint to it – doesn’t it remind you of a predator… of amonster?”
The last word came out as a whisper.
I had noticed the bright topaz eyes of Jasper, and everyone else’s eyes for that matter. They did remind me of a predator. I must admit that Angela was right, but if Alice and her family were monsters, then how come they didn’t kill me the moment I sat with them for lunch? How come they haven’t killed Angela yet, who has lived in this town longer than the two years they’ve been here. In addition, Alice had the perfect opportunity while we were walking to the cafeteria to kill me, and so did Jasper during English class. For a monster, a class of fifteen plus a teacher was a piece of cake.
“Angela, the Cullens and Hales seem normal enough to me,” I said, resolute. “They were courteous and friendly and nice, and Emmett’s a laugh once you get him going about sock monkeys.”
“But that’s just it,” she insisted. She looked around, as if afraid that what she was going to say next was going to be overheard. That was unlikely. We were the only students left outside in the rain. I mean, no one was as foolish as us. “The Cullens and the Hales,” she whispered, “aren’t the friendly kind. They keep to themselves and ignore everyone else. They must be up to something if they’re befriending you.”
“Are you saying that I’m not worthy of being their friend, that they must have an ulterior motive to inviting me for lunch?” I frowned, not liking what Angela was implying. She might be a daughter of Athena, but she wasn’t being very wise right now.
“No!” she exclaimed. She grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me to face her. “You’re a wonderful girl, Bella, and anyone would be lucky to be your friend. But the Cullens, no matter how charming they might seem to be, are hiding something. I know it.” She let go of me and stepped back. “I like you, Bella,” she said quietly. “You’re like a kindred spirit, and I just want you to be safe.”
I felt tears misting in my eyes. “Angela,” I said in an equally soft tone. “You know just as much as me that my safety is my priority, just like your safety is a priority to you. That still won’t change the fact though, that the Cullens are my friends. They invited me to lunch and I enjoyed their company. If there’s something strange going on with them, then I’d tell you about it and we can work it out together, all right?”
“Do you swear on the River Styx?”
I bit my bottom lip. Swearing on the River Styx was a heavy thing. You don’t just do it lightly. “Okay,” I said finally. “I swear.”
As Angela and I walked to our Biology class together, I wondered if swearing on the River Styx was such a good idea. I knew there was something off about the Cullens, but I had a feeling deep in my gut that whatever that secret was, it wasn’t as dangerous as Angela was making it out to be. Perhaps the Cullens were just plastic surgery addicts.
Hey, it could happen. I doubted it very highly, but it could happen.
“Ms. Weber, Ms. Swan,” Mr. Banner the Biology teacher, scowled the moment we stepped through the door. “You’re both late.”
I stepped up before Angela could open her mouth. I didn’t want to brag, but I had more experience in lying to teachers than Angela has – after all, she’s been going to this same school for the entirety of her high school career. I, on the other hand, wasn’t so unlucky.
“We’re sorry, Mr. Banner,” I said, “but I got lost getting here and Angela, kind soul that she is, realized that I had taken a wrong turn. She doubled back to the cafeteria and found me hanging around by the Arts building.”
Mr. Banner’s frown deepened, but he did accept my explanation. He told us not to be tardy again and sent us both to our respective seats. My seat just so happens to be right next to Edward Cullen, my lab partner. This was the first time I’d be working with him, him having been absent for the past week.
“Bella,” he said lightly, “you’re soaking wet.”
“Wow, gee,” I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t realize that, Edward. Thank you for pointing it out to me.”
Edward laughed but said nothing, seeing as Mr. Banner was beginning the lecture. Afterwards, when the class was assigned a worksheet to complete, Edward coerced me into speaking even though Mr. Banner had explicitly told us not to. I mean, how could I ever resist Edward’s velvety voice tempting me to conversation? It was like Alice’s puppy dog eyes, only more effective. Much, much more.
“It was nice of you to stick up for your friend like that,” he said. By now, he was finished with his worksheet. I, on the other hand, was still struggling with question number six. I’ve encountered mitosis before back in Sacagawea High, but I couldn’t make head or tails of the questions. My mind was acting up on me, the words gibberish before my eyes.
“What do you mean?” I asked distractedly. I cast a fleeting look at him, and saw that he was wringing his hands in a way that showed nervousness. I hadn’t pegged him to be the nervous kind. If anything else, he sounded kind of cocky and overconfident to me during lunch.
“What you did just before,” he clarified, “when Mr. Banner asked the two of you why you were late. You lied to him so that Angela wouldn’t get into trouble.”
“I prefer deliberately withholding the truth,” I said impishly, returning my gaze to my paper. “And I did that to get myself out of trouble as well, you know.”
“There is that, too.” Edward chuckled, which made my heart beat fast. I forced myself to focus on my schoolwork. I was thinking hard about the last question when Edward tempted me again to speak.
“So are you enjoying the rain?” he asked.
I didn’t mean to snap at him – really, I didn’t. Except that I did and I felt really, really bad for it. He had it coming though. I was in the middle of answering the worksheet and he was talking to me as if I was finished with it. I wasn’t as smart as him; I didn’t have the luxury of having the ability to read properly.
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking absolutely apologetic. “It slipped my mind that you were dyslexic.”
My pen froze in between writing cytokinesis. “So you know about that?” I resumed writing, pretending that nothing was wrong.
I was shocked that he knew. Hell, I was shocked that anyone knew. When the students found out last week that I was dyslexic, they were pretty nice about it, so sometimes it felt like no one knew at all.
“Yes,” Edward said. “Does that bother you?”
“No,” I answered truthfully. “It doesn’t.” I finished the last word on my worksheet with a flourish, dropping the pen with a clatter and stretched my arms. “Done, finally!” I whisper screamed.
“Does this mean we can converse normally now?” Edward teased, his crooked smile surfacing.
“Well, I’ve got nothing else to do now but listen to you prattle,” I teased right back. “So shoot. Talk yourself hoarse. I’ve been listening to people prattle – and by people, I mean Jessica – the entire day, and I don’t mind that much anymore.”
Edward laughed softly. “All right then. Do you mind if I ask you questions?” I shook my head no, and he began his line of questioning. “What’s your middle name?”
I raised an eyebrow at the random question, but Edward motioned for me to answer. And so I did. “Marie.”
“Isabella Marie Swan,” Edward tested out my full name. “It has a nice ring to it.”
“Gee, thanks,” was my dry reply.
“Year you were born?”
“Song you last listened to?”
“How You Remind Me by Nickelback.”
“Last thing you saw on the TV?”
“An advertisement for Dior perfume, oddly enough.”
“It varies from day to day.”
“Favorite color today, then?”
“Bronze,” I answered without hesitation. If anyone had asked me this question before I had met Edward, then I would’ve said sky blue (hence the blue shirt I was wearing). This morning I had felt like commemorating the sky, which was now covered by thick, ominous clouds.
“Why?” Edward asked.
I stopped myself before I could blurt out that it was the color of his hair. Looking away, I firmly glued my lips together and crossed my arms. When it became obvious that I was not going to give an answer, not even a slight clue, Edward carried on questioning me. His questions varied from my favorite pastime (listening to music) to least favorite football team (I told him I wasn’t a sports oriented girl). Eventually, he stumbled upon a question that I was very reluctant to answer. At the rate he was going, it was a wonder it didn’t come sooner.
“So why did you move to Forks?”
“Aside from the fact that it’s the rainiest place in the continental US and thus my most favorite place on earth?” I retorted sarcastically. I was avoiding the question, but who could blame me? I didn’t want to tell him that my mother kicked me out because my last high school expelled me. I could just see how he’ll react to hearing that Renée shipped her delinquent daughter to her Police Chief ex-husband.
The irony surely wouldn’t be missed.
Edward snuck a side glance at me. “You needn’t answer the question if you are unwilling,” he assured me, and I snorted. That was reverse psychology if I ever saw it. I told him so just that. “All right,” he smiled wanly. “You caught me, I was baiting you. But really, you don’t have to tell me anything. I’m not trying to discomfort you in any way.”
I stared at Edward unabashedly, not particularly caring that Mr. Banner was requesting for all worksheets to be handed in. I studied Edward’s face, looking for traces of insincerity or deceit, but found none. He was being honest, which was a rare thing in people nowadays, and I knew that I could trust him. I knew that I can trust Edward. And so I told him the reason I moved to Forks.
“You see,” I said, “it all began one morning when this letter came from my old high school, Sacagawea High…”
I wasn’t able to concentrate on any of the lessons that came after Biology, mainly because my mind was reeling, trying to figure out the oddity that was Edward Cullen. After class had ended, he had volunteered to walk me to my next class, Gym. I knew for a fact that his next lesson, Spanish, was on the other side of the school campus, so I found his offer both sweet and stupid. But mostly stupid.
I didn’t want to offend him though, so I ended up accepting his chivalrous offer. At least, that was my excuse.
Walking down the hallway, I noticed that more people than usual was staring at me. As a new kid I suppose it was expected, but this was my second week of school already. Surely they were over my newness by now. But then it dawned on me that the reason people were staring was not because I was the new girl. It was because the new girl was walking with Edward Cullen.
“You know everyone is staring,” I whispered to him, barely moving my lips. “I hate it when they stare.”
“But you are familiar with it, aren’t you?” he said more than asked. “Moving from school to school every year, meeting new people, going through the niceties of new introductions… it gets tiring.”
He spoke as if he experienced moving from school to school himself, which struck me as odd. I thought the he and his family had stayed in Forks for the past two years. Perhaps they moved around a lot before they settled here – hey, I could ever know.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “It does.” We turned a corner and Edward opened the door for me to enter. We were in the gymnasium now, where I was supposed to meet Jessica so that we can head into the changing rooms together. “But if you have to move due to necessity, you learn to get used to it.”
Edward nodded but chose to keep his thoughts to himself. I wanted to prod him for an answer, except Jessica had just waltzed in with Tyler and another friend of hers, Katie, trailing after her. “Well,” I breathed, “this is where we say goodbye, Mr. Cullen.”
“Not a farewell, Miss Swan,” he smiled, “but a brief separation.” He began walking away from me. “I’ll see you after school next to your car?” He had shouted the question loud enough for the people in the near vicinity to hear, and I found myself blushing at their scrutiny.
Edward had, in the loosest sense of the word, asked me out on a date. Well, not precisely a date, but an invitation to meet up with him at a later time. Oh, it was a poor excuse for one, but it was a date all right.
“Er, yeah,” I shouted back awkwardly, shoving one hand into my pockets while the other flew to rub my neck nervously.
I couldn’t wait until after school – gods, I hope I can survive until then. I closed my eyes and took a deep, calming breath. I would be in denial if I said that I didn’t feel a sort of attraction towards Edward. Because I did. I was extremely attracted to him, to his crooked smile, his deep topaz eyes, his gallant manner… I just can’t believe that someone like him would show interest in someone like me.
He was the average good looking mortal teenager. I, on the other hand, was the average not-quite-good-looking half-blood teenager. We weren’t exactly two peas in a pod.
Sighing, I opened my eyes and returned to reality. In other words, I readied myself to play volleyball.