Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Daughter of Apollo - Chapter 7

The Daughter of Apollo
Chapter 7: In the Parking Lot
“So…” The locker door slammed shut, making me jump a foot in the air. It certainly couldn’t have moved by itself, so I looked around for the perpetrator. It was Jessica, and she had this wide, evil grin on her face. Frankly, it scared me even more than a monster ever could. Evil grins were bad omens – very bad omens.
“So what, Jess?” I maneuvered my arm around Jessica’s and pried the locker door open. I was standing half-naked in the middle of the girls’ changing rooms and was more than eager to get out of the stuffy enclosure. I could barely see through the mist, let alone manage to go to point B from point A without causing any permanent hemorrhaging to anyone nearby. “I’m changing, if you don’t mind.”
“So,” she said again, that grin still shining bright. “I heard someone’s got a date with the Edward Cullen.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Is the ‘the’ part really necessary?” Jessica just kept her eyes on me, her gaze never wavering, not even once. I rolled my eyes and reached for a clean shirt, donning it on. “Look, it’s not a date or anything. He’s just meeting me by my awesome Chevy. It’s not a big deal.”
“Not a big deal,” she repeated, eyes popping in disbelief. “Not a big deal?” Her voice was beginning to sound like a mesh between a harpy and a Fury’s – believe me, I know. I’ve met the three Furies once on a mission. Not very nice old ladies… “Bella,” Jessica shrieked, “how could you say that it’s not a big deal? You’ve bagged Edward friggin’ Cullen. That’s like, an accomplishment.”
“It’s like when the Apollo spacecraft landed on the moon. You’d be like, the first person to ‘land’ on ‘the surface,’ if you know what I mean.”
I glared at Katie for her comment before turning to Jessica. Despite my blushing red face, I managed to get out: “Jess, we’re just friends. It’s not like we’re an item or anything.” And ‘bagging’ a guy wasn’t an accomplishment. Dating wasn’t meant to be a game wherein you score the highest points by getting asked out by the most desirable boy in school – yes, Edward was the most desirable, if I do say so myself.
“Friends don’t walk each other to their classes, Bella – at least, not the way the two of you did it.” Jessica insisted. “You were all angled towards each other as if you’re like, fending off the rest of the world or something. And you’re not an item yet. Oh, just you wait. I can see it now: you and him walking down corridors hand in hand, him holding your books for you and waiting for you by your locker, you leaning your head on his shoulder as you sit together… it’s sickeningly sweet, but still. Amazing.”
I had nothing to say her little speech; I just blinked a couple of times and then closed the locker door. I had to try really hard to not imagine those things Jessica had mentioned – the last thing I needed was me not paying attention whilst maneuvering out of the locker room – but as if a dam had broken, images of Edward and I cuddling each other on a white leather sofa, surrounded by his chattering family, came to the forefront of my mind. I smiled involuntarily.
Shaking my head to clear it, I walked out of the changing rooms, ignoring Jessica’s calls on the way. Just as I was about to exit the gym, Coach Clapp called me over to talk about something. I wasn’t really paying attention. I wanted badly to go out into the parking lot, but at the same time, I wanted time to slow down.
I had this feeling at the pit of my stomach that something bad was going to happen. And whatever that thing was, I prayed to the gods that I will come out of it alive. I usually get this feeling when some monster was out to get me, but this was Forks. A small, out-of-the-way town like this couldn’t be in any monster’s radar. Still, something was bound to happen.
“Is it understood then, Ms. Swan,” smiled Coach Clapp. I nodded my head to whatever it was I was supposed to understand. “You can go now. But remember: next time, don’t be too afraid to dive for the ball. It’s not going to attack you, all right?”
Hearing the dismissal, I was all but flying towards the parking lot, I was that eager to get there. When I reached the general area that separated the lot from the official school area, I made myself slow down to single steps so that I wouldn’t appear to be too excited. That would be embarrassing. I had to be calm. I had to be collected. I prayed silently to Irene, who was one of the goddesses of law-and-order and the embodiment of peace itself, for some help in that area.
Breathe in…
…Breathe out.
To my disappointment, no one was standing by my truck when I laid eyes on it. Grudgingly, I walked over to my rusty Chevy and, upon reaching it, threw my bag into the back. It was wet, so my things would get wet, but I didn’t have it in me to care. Though it wasn’t technically a date, did Edward just ‘stand me up’?
I lingered by my truck for a minute or two, pretending to be searching for something in my bag. When the three-minute mark chimed, there was no Edward approaching me. He really did stand me up.
My breath hitched when a horrible realization hit me.
Was this just a joke to him? Was he just playing me, all the way from the beginning? He played into my good side, acting charming during lunch, pretending to want to know more about me during Biology, getting all angry when I mentioned my mother and what she did… was all that a lie? Did he actually care?
From the look of things, I didn’t think so. I suppose he had just, out of the blue, decided to play a trick on the new girl. I scoffed at that. I would expect that from a junior high student, not a junior. Edward should act more his age, not his shoe size.
As I was climbing into the driver’s seat, a wave of sadness – no, not sadness – a wave of intense anger and self-deprecation hit me and just overtook my entire being. So passionate were my emotions that I had turned deaf towards the world. This was ill-fated,because right at that very moment, screams were echoing around the parking lot, yelling my name.
“Bella, get out of the way!”
“The van’s coming at you, Bella!”
“Tyler’s about to crush you, Bella. Get out of the friggin’ way!”
I didn’t notice anything besides myself and how hard I was gripping the door frame of my car. I was holding it to steady myself, because the sobs that were threatening to spill was too strong for me to fight. I wasn’t usually this emotional over boys, but the painting Jessica has described to me – about the holding hands and such, and then that idea springing up in my mind about Edward and I sitting on the couch with his family surrounding us – well, it had pulled at my heartstrings. I’ve never had a tender family moment like that for years; not since I was five, maybe even a year or two before that.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, something definitely solid hit me from my side, making me lose my balance.
My brain went into overdrive. It took in details at frightening speed. I took in the fact that a huge purple metal van was careening towards the area where I was just seconds before. I took in the fact that I wasn’t there anymore, though I didn’t remember making any conscious decisions of moving. I also took in the fact that Edward Cullen was looking down at me, eyes pools of concern.
“Wait – what?” I stammered. I looked around me. There was a flurry of people rushing towards us and the van, helping out the driver. I saw Tyler’s head peeping out the window, blood gushing from a wound with striking clarity. I felt sick to my stomach.
“Bella,” Edward called. I didn’t answer him. I was too engrossed by the scene of chaos around me to form a reply. Someone was calling 911. Someone else was calling the paramedics, another shouting herself hoarse for a teacher to come. There was a car accident in the parking lot and where were the teachers? Marking test papers in the teacher’s lounge?
“Bella,” Edward tried again. “Bella, answer me. You have to answer me. Please, listen to my voice. Answer me if you can hear me. Bella? Bella?”
“I –,” I locked eyes with Edward. “I can hear you,” I said. “I’m fine. I just…” I tried to stand up, but Edward’s hold prevented me from doing so. I didn’t complain. My heart was still racing, my body still locked in place.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Didn’t you know?” Edward looked at me incredulously. He shook his head in disbelief before explaining everything. Tyler had lost control of the van, apparently because someone ran in front of the moving vehicle. He turned and headed straight towards me. Since I was facing the opposite direction, I didn’t see the van coming my way. Edward then told me his actions of how he pushed me to the side, so that was how we found ourselves on the cold, wet pavement.
“Then, how did you get to me so quickly?” I inquired, still confused. “You weren’t near me enough to have pulled me away like you described. In fact, I don’t think you were in the parking lot at all. I would’ve seen you.”
“Bella,” Edward’s smile was far too easy and laidback to be genuine, “I was with you the entire time. I said I was going to be waiting by your car, remember? I told you that. We were in the gym.”
“Yes but,” I frowned, “I was alone. I remember getting mad at myself because…” I shook my head, only to regret doing so because a spasm of pain erupted in my head. I slammed my eyes shut, wanting to groan in pain, but I decided to hold it in. I could hear the ‘nee-naw’ of the ambulance and I desperately didn’t want to be hauled into hospital with those silly tourniquets.
“You weren’t with me,” I said with conviction, eyes still closed. It was easier that way. It was easier to admit the truth when I wasn’t looking at Edward’s appealing gaze. It was like he was tempting me to believe him, and I wasn’t going to do that. “I was alone,” I repeated. “I was by myself. No one was next to me or within running distance to help me, let alone you, Edward Cullen.” I opened my eyes, looking accusingly at him. “How did you get to me so fast?”
There was something he was not telling me, something I’m going to assume was connected to whatever secret he and his family were hiding. Whatever it was, it sure had nothing to do with plastic surgery. Last time I checked, plastic surgery didn’t give you the ability to materialize out of thin air.
“You hit your head on the pavement really hard, Bella,” said Edward. “You just didn’t see me standing next to you, or maybe you can’t recall.”
“No,” I snarled. “My memory’s as fine as can be. Edward, I was alone.” I struggled my way out of Edward’s embrace, forcing myself to ignore the pain in my head. When I was fully on my feet, I was so close to Edward that our noses were only about an inch apart. “You,” I said, poking his chest, “are not telling me the truth.” I poked him again. “And if there’s anything in this world that I hate more than someone interrupting me while I’m concentrating on trying to read a question in a worksheet, is that someone lying to me to my face – unabashedly.”
“I’m not lying to you, Bella.”
“Edward, you were not beside me when I was suddenly pushed aside from the van’s way. I know that for a fact.”
Seemingly to be struggling with something, Edward ran a hand through his beautiful bronze hair. I leaned back and crossed my arms, smug. So he was lying. Well, that was disappointing. I suppose not even Edward Cullen was perfect: he had faults, just like everyone else. Disappointing, but oddly uplifting as well. It was good to know that he wasn’t perfect. It made him sound more human, not like some kind of robot that was too good to be true.
“Bella,” Edward said finally, defeated. “If you tell anyone about your version of events, no one’s going to believe you. I highly suggest that you stick to my story.”
My eyes softened at the visibly weary man in front of me, and I felt my anger subside. “I wasn’t going to tell anybody,” I whispered gently. “I just want to know the truth, Edward. How were you able to save me from the van?”
“You’re not ready for the truth,” he quipped.
I raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t getting away that easily. “They say the truth sets you free.”
“They also say that ignorance is bliss.”
“Bliss is overrated. Are you going to tell me the truth or not? I can keep secrets, you know.”
I was wasting my breath trying to convince Edward to talk. He wasn’t going to be forthcoming with answers. In fact, he seemed to be reluctant to be even talking to me, as if being in my presence was slowly convincing him to speak, to say whatever it was he was hiding.
But I didn’t want him to feel like that, so I sighed and walked away. Just like that. I walked away without turning back. After all, I had to talk to a doctor to see if I had a concussion or not. I wandered through the maze of students, making a conscious effort of not dodging suddenly to step out of someone’s way because my head had begun spinning again. How I managed to reach the paramedics tending to a bloodied Tyler without falling down, I would never know.
“Um, excuse me…” I said timidly, not wanting to disturb the medic dabbing pristine white cotton on one of Tyler wounds. Well, it wasn’t pristinely white now, but it must have been before it was smothered with blood.
“Yes, dear?” said the medic distractedly. She was a middle-aged lady with her thick brown hair tied low in a ponytail.
“Oh, I was just wondering if – after you’re done with Tyler, of course – you could check me and see if I have a concussion. I sort of hit my head hard when I…” I trailed off, not knowing what to say. Should I say when Edward came out of nowhere to get me out of the way? Or should I follow his advice and say he was beside me all along and then pushed the both of us down on the pavement?
I was just about to sprout out some vague half truth about banging my head on the ground when Tyler, poor soul, realized that I was within hearing distance. His eyes focused on me, taking on an expression that was a mix of what looked like a strangled cat and a terrorized puppy. He was a terrorized cat. Or a strangled puppy. Either way, he didn’t look good.
“Bella!” he exclaimed. “I am so sorry! I honestly didn’t mean to come at you, but the van was out of control! Are you okay? I don’t have to pay for your hospital bills, don’t I? Crap, the Chief doesn’t have to know about this, right? Crap, crap, crap…” He twitched his head in anger, much to the medic’s consternation.
“Tyler,” I rushed to sooth him. “Don’t give yourself a hemorrhage or whatever. I’m fine; just hit my head on the pavement is all. I think you should worry about your own hospital bill instead of mine. And about Charlie, I’m sure he’d understand that it was an accident.”
“Accident…” Tyler muttered under his breath. He then looked at me. “I was sure you were a goner there, Bella. How did you get out of the way so quickly?”
I schooled my face to not show any telltale signs that I was lying through my teeth. “Oh, Edward was beside me and pushed me out of the way. Kind of heroic of him, don’t you think?”
“Edward?” Tyler repeated, a baffled light in his dark eyes. “Cullen was with you?” I didn’t bother gracing that question with an answer, not wanting to lie anymore. Tyler’s reaction only proved more my suspicions. Besides, I knew that it was a rhetorical question.
“Oh yeah,” Tyler frowned, “he was supposed to meet you by your car, right? He practically shouted it to the entire gym class…” He then murmured something I couldn’t catch. It would most likely be an insult, judging from the way the medic looked down at Tyler with a disapproving glare.
After the medic was done finishing up the still muttering boy, she told him to take it easy as he was transported to the hospital. It turns out that he will need three stitches for that gash on his forehead, and five more for a gruesome looking cut on his arm. It was a wonder that he escaped with his life when his van collided with my ogre of a truck.
“Now, let’s take a looksie at you, dear,” the medic said, turning towards me. She led me towards one of those rolling beds that hospitals use and allowed me to sit. She then began flashing lights to my eyes, asking the most random and innocuous questions like the today’s date and my name.
As it turns out, I did have a concussion after all. And to make things worse, the lady medic was insisting on whisking me away to the hospital just to further check if I had no other injuries, such as broken bones and internal bleeding. Before I could squeeze out a coherent sentence out of my suddenly uncooperative mouth, I had a tourniquet around my neck and was being driven away inside an ambulance.
“Why, Isabella,” I turned around to see that a nurse with long blonde hair and striking green eyes was inside the van with me. “You ought to settle yourself. It’ll be a long ride ahead of you.”
When I showed signs of not following what the nurse said, she pursed her lips and pushed me roughly on the bed. She then strapped the straps around my waist and legs, hindering me from moving. I tried to shout for help, but she quickly silenced me and said that this was for my own good. I had a concussion after all.
For some reason, I knew that this wasn’t the reason I was being tied down.

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