The next day was better… and worse.
It was better because it wasn't raining yet, though the clouds were dense
and opaque. It was easier because I knew what to expect of my day. Mike
came to sit by me in English, and walked me to my next class, with Chess
Club Eric glaring at him all the while; that was nattering. People didn't
look at me quite as much as they had yesterday. I sat with a big group at
lunch that included Mike, Eric, Jessica, and several other people whose
names and faces I now remembered. I began to feel like I was treading
water, instead of drowning in it.
It was worse because I was tired; I still couldn't sleep with the wind
echoing around the house. It was worse because Mr. Varner called on me in
Trig when my hand wasn't raised and I had the wrong answer. It was
miserable because I had to play volleyball, and the one time I didn't
cringe out of the way of the ball, I hit my teammate in the head with it.
And it was worse because Edward Cullen wasn't in school at all.
All morning I was dreading lunch, fearing his bizarre glares. Part of me
wanted to confront him and demand to know what his problem was. While I
was lying sleepless in my bed, I even imagined what I would say. But I
knew myself too well to think I would really have the guts to do it. I
made the Cowardly Lion look like the terminator.
But when I walked into the cafeteria with Jessica — trying to keep my
eyes from sweeping the place for him, and failing entirely — I saw that
his four siblings of sorts were sitting together at the same table, and
he was not with them.
Mike intercepted us and steered us to his table. Jessica seemed elated by
the attention, and her friends quickly joined us. But as I tried to
listen to their easy chatter, I was terribly uncomfortable, waiting
nervously for the moment he would arrive. I hoped that he would simply
ignore me when he came, and prove my suspicions false.
He didn't come, and as time passed I grew more and more tense.
I walked to Biology with more confidence when, by the end of lunch, he
still hadn't showed. Mike, who was taking on the qualities of a golden
retriever, walked faithfully by my side to class. I held my breath at the
door, but Edward Cullen wasn't there, either. I exhaled and went to my
seat. Mike followed, talking about an upcoming trip to the beach. He
lingered by my desk till the bell rang. Then he smiled at me wistfully
and went to sit by a girl with braces and a bad perm. It looked like I
was going to have to do something about Mike, and it wouldn't be easy. In
a town like this, where everyone lived on top of everyone else, diplomacy
was essential. I had never been enormously tactful; I had no practice
dealing with overly friendly boys.
I was relieved that I had the desk to myself, that Edward was absent. I
told myself that repeatedly. But I couldn't get rid of the nagging
suspicion that I was the reason he wasn't there. It was ridiculous, and
egotistical, to think that I could affect anyone that strongly. It was
impossible. And yet I couldn't stop worrying that it was true.
When the school day was finally done, and the blush was fading out of my
cheeks from the volleyball incident, I changed quickly back into my jeans
and navy blue sweater. I hurried from the girls' locker room, pleased to
find that I had successfully evaded my retriever friend for the moment. I
walked swiftly out to the parking lot. It was crowded now with fleeing
students. I got in my truck and dug through my bag to make sure I had
what I needed.
Last night I'd discovered that Charlie couldn't cook much besides fried
eggs and bacon. So I requested that I be assigned kitchen detail for the
duration of my stay. He was willing enough to hand over the keys to the
banquet hall. I also found out that he had no food in the house. So I had
my shopping list and the cash from the jar in the cupboard labeled FOOD
MONEY, and I was on my way to the Thriftway.
I gunned my deafening engine to life, ignoring the heads that turned in
my direction, and backed carefully into a place in the line of cars that
were waiting to exit the parking lot. As I waited, trying to pretend that
the earsplitting rumble was coming from someone else's car, I saw the two
Cullens and the Hale twins getting into their car. It was the shiny new
Volvo. Of course. I hadn't noticed their clothes before — I'd been too
mesmerized by their faces. Now that I looked, it was obvious that they
were all dressed exceptionally well; simply, but in clothes that subtly
hinted at designer origins. With their remarkable good looks, the style
with which they carried themselves, they could have worn dishrags and
pulled it off. It seemed excessive for them to have both looks and money.
But as far as I could tell, life worked that way most of the time. It
didn't look as if it bought them any acceptance here.
No, I didn't fully believe that. The isolation must be their desire; I
couldn't imagine any door that wouldn't be opened by that degree of
They looked at my noisy truck as I passed them, just like everyone else.
I kept my eyes straight forward and was relieved when I finally was free
of the school grounds.
The Thriftway was not far from the school, just a few streets south, off
the highway. It was nice to be inside the supermarket; it felt normal. I
did the shopping at home, and I fell into the pattern of the familiar
task gladly. The store was big enough inside that I couldn't hear the
tapping of the rain on the roof to remind me where I was.
When I got home, I unloaded all the groceries, stuffing them in wherever
I could find an open space. I hoped Charlie wouldn't mind. I wrapped
potatoes in foil and stuck them in the oven to bake, covered a steak in
marinade and balanced it on top of a carton of eggs in the fridge.
When I was finished with that, I took my book bag upstairs. Before
starting my homework, I changed into a pair of dry sweats, pulled my damp
hair up into a pony-tail, and checked my e-mail for the first time. I had
"Bella," my mom wrote…
Write me as soon as you get in. Tell me how your flight was. Is it
raining? I miss you already. I'm almost finished packing for Florida, but
I can't find my pink blouse. Do you know where I put it? Phil says hi.
I sighed and went to the next. It was sent eight hours after the first.
"Bella," she wrote…
Why haven't you e-mailed me yet? What are you waiting for? Mom.
The last was from this morning.
If I haven't heard from you by 5:30 p.m. today I'm calling Charlie.
I checked the clock. I still had an hour, but my mom was well known for
jumping the gun.
Calm down. I'm writing right now. Don't do anything rash.
I sent that, and began again.
Everything is great. Of course it's raining. I was waiting for something
to write about. School isn't bad, just a little repetitive. I met some
nice kids who sit by me at lunch.
Your blouse is at the dry cleaners - you were supposed to pick it up
Charlie bought me a truck, can you believe it? I love it. It's old, but
really sturdy, which is good, you know, for me.
I miss you, too. I'll write again soon, but I'm not going to check my
e-mail every five minutes. Relax, breathe. I love you.
I had decided to read Wuthering Heights — the novel we were currently
studying in English — yet again for the fun of it, and that's what I was
doing when Charlie came home. I'd lost track of the time, and I hurried
downstairs to take the potatoes out and put the steak in to broil.
"Bella?" my father called out when he heard me on the stairs.
Who else? I thought to myself.
"Hey, Dad, welcome home."
"Thanks." He hung up his gun belt and stepped out of his boots as I
bustled about the kitchen. As far as I was aware, he'd never shot the gun
on the job. But he kept it ready. When I came here as a child, he would
always remove the bullets as soon as he walked in the door. I guess he
considered me old enough now not to shoot myself by accident, and not
depressed enough to shoot myself on purpose.
"What's for dinner?" he asked warily. My mother was an imaginative cook,
and her experiments weren't always edible. I was surprised, and sad, that
he seemed to remember that far back.
"Steak and potatoes," I answered, and he looked relieved.
He seemed to feel awkward standing in the kitchen doing nothing; he
lumbered into the living room to watch TV while I worked. We were both
more comfortable that way. I made a salad while the steaks cooked, and
set the table.
I called him in when dinner was ready, and he sniffed appreciatively as
he walked into the room.
"Smells good, Bell."
We ate in silence for a few minutes. It wasn't uncomfortable. Neither of
us was bothered by the quiet. In some ways, we were well suited for
"So, how did you like school? Have you made any friends?" he asked as he
was taking seconds.
"Well, I have a few classes with a girl named Jessica. I sit with her
friends at lunch. And there's this boy, Mike, who's very friendly.
Everybody seems pretty nice." With one outstanding exception.
"That must be Mike Newton. Nice kid — nice family. His dad owns the
sporting goods store just outside of town. He makes a good living off all
the backpackers who come through here."
"Do you know the Cullen family?" I asked hesitantly.
"Dr. Cullen's family? Sure. Dr. Cullen's a great man."
"They… the kids… are a little different. They don't seem to fit in very
well at school."
Charlie surprised me by looking angry.
"People in this town," he muttered. "Dr. Cullen is a brilliant surgeon
who could probably work in any hospital in the world, make ten times the
salary he gets here," he continued, getting louder. "We're lucky to have
him — lucky that his wife wanted to live in a small town. He's an asset
to the community, and all of those kids are well behaved and polite. I
had my doubts, when they first moved in, with all those adopted
teenagers. I thought we might have some problems with them. But they're
all very mature — I haven't had one speck of trouble from any of them.
That's more than I can say for the children of some folks who have lived
in this town for generations. And they stick together the way a family
should — camping trips every other weekend… Just because they're
newcomers, people have to talk."
It was the longest speech I'd ever heard Charlie make. He must feel
strongly about whatever people were saying.
I backpedaled. "They seemed nice enough to me. I just noticed they kept
to themselves. They're all very attractive," I added, trying to be more
"You should see the doctor," Charlie said, laughing. "It's a good thing
he's happily married. A lot of the nurses at the hospital have a hard
time concentrating on their work with him around."
We lapsed back into silence as we finished eating. He cleared the table
while I started on the dishes. He went back to the TV, and after I
finished washing the dishes by hand — no dishwasher — I went upstairs
unwillingly to work on my math homework. I could feel a tradition in the
That night it was finally quiet. I fell asleep quickly, exhausted.
The rest of the week was uneventful. I got used to the routine of my
classes. By Friday I was able to recognize, if not name, almost all the
students at school. In Gym, the kids on my team learned not to pass me
the ball and to step quickly in front of me if the other team tried to
take advantage of my weakness. I happily stayed out of their way.
Edward Cullen didn't come back to school.
Every day, I watched anxiously until the rest of the Cullens entered the
cafeteria without him. Then I could relax and join in the lunchtime
conversation. Mostly it centered around a trip to the La Push Ocean Park
in two weeks that Mike was putting together. I was invited, and I had
agreed to go, more out of politeness than desire. Beaches should be hot
By Friday I was perfectly comfortable entering my Biology class, no
longer worried that Edward would be there. For all I knew, he had dropped
out of school. I tried not to think about him, but I couldn't totally
suppress the worry that I was responsible for his continued absence,
ridiculous as it seemed.
My first weekend in Forks passed without incident. Charlie, unused to
spending time in the usually empty house, worked most of the weekend. I
cleaned the house, got ahead on my homework, and wrote my mom more
bogusly cheerful e-mail. I did drive to the library Saturday, but it was
so poorly stocked that I didn't bother to get a card; I would have to
make a date to visit Olympia or Seattle soon and find a good bookstore. I
wondered idly what kind of gas mileage the truck got… and shuddered at
The rain stayed soft over the weekend, quiet, so I was able to sleep well.
People greeted me in the parking lot Monday morning. I didn't know all
their names, but I waved back and smiled at everyone. It was colder this
morning, but happily not raining. In English, Mike took his accustomed
seat by my side. We had a pop quiz on Wuthering Heights. It was
straightforward, very easy.
All in all, I was feeling a lot more comfortable than I had thought I
would feel by this point. More comfortable than I had ever expected to
When we walked out of class, the air was full of swirling bits of white.
I could hear people shouting excitedly to each other. The wind bit at my
cheeks, my nose.
"Wow," Mike said. "It's snowing."
I looked at the little cotton fluffs that were building up along the
sidewalk and swirling erratically past my face.
"Ew." Snow. There went my good day.
He looked surprised. "Don't you like snow?"
"No. That means it's too cold for rain." Obviously. "Besides, I thought
it was supposed to come down in flakes — you know, each one unique and
all that. These just look like the ends of Q-tips."
"Haven't you ever seen snow fall before?" he asked incredulously.
"Sure I have." I paused. "On TV."
Mike laughed. And then a big, squishy ball of dripping snow smacked into
the back of his head. We both turned to see where it came from. I had my
suspicions about Eric, who was walking away, his back toward us — in the
wrong direction for his next class. Mike appatently had the same notion.
He bent over and began scraping together a pile of the white mush.
"I'll see you at lunch, okay?" I kept walking as I spoke. "Once people
start throwing wet stuff, I go inside."
He just nodded, his eyes on Eric's retreating figure.
Throughout the morning, everyone chattered excitedly about the snow;
apparently it was the first snowfall of the new year. I kept my mouth
shut. Sure, it was drier than rain — until it melted in your socks.
I walked alertly to the cafeteria with Jessica after Spanish. Mush balls
were flying everywhere. I kept a binder in my hands, ready to use it as a
shield if necessary. Jessica thought I was hilarious, but something in my
expression kept her from lobbing a snowball at me herself.
Mike caught up to us as we walked in the doors, laughing, with ice
melting the spikes in his hair. He and Jessica were talking animatedly
about the snow fight as we got in line to buy food. I glanced toward that
table in the corner out of habit. And then I froze where I stood. There
were five people at the table.
Jessica pulled on my arm.
"Hello? Bella? What do you want?"
I looked down; my ears were hot. I had no reason to feel self-conscious,
I reminded myself. I hadn't done anything wrong.
"What's with Bella?" Mike asked Jessica.
"Nothing," I answered. "I'll just get a soda today." I caught up to the
end of the line.
"Aren't you hungry?" Jessica asked.
"Actually, I feel a little sick," I said, my eyes still on the floor.
I waited for them to get their food, and then followed them to a table,
my eyes on my feet.
I sipped my soda slowly, my stomach churning. Twice Mike asked, with
unnecessary concern, how I was feeling.
I told him it was nothing, but I was wondering if I should play it up and
escape to the nurse's office for the next hour.
Ridiculous. I shouldn't have to run away.
I decided to permit myself one glance at the Cullen family's table. If he
was glaring at me, I would skip Biology, like the coward I was.
I kept my head down and glanced up under my lashes. None of them were
looking this way. I lifted my head a little.
They were laughing. Edward, Jasper, and Emmett all had their hair
entirely saturated with melting snow. Alice and Rosalie were leaning away
as Emmett shook his dripping hair toward them. They were enjoying the
snowy day, just like everyone else — only they looked more like a scene
from a movie than the rest of us.
But, aside from the laughter and playfulness, there was something
different, and I couldn't quite pinpoint what that difference was. I
examined Edward the most carefully. His skin was less pale, I decided —
flushed from the snow fight maybe — the circles under his eyes much less
noticeable. But there was something more. I pondered, staring, trying to
isolate the change.
"Bella, what are you staring at?" Jessica intruded, her eyes following my
At that precise moment, his eyes flashed over to meet mine.
I dropped my head, letting my hair fall to conceal my face. I was sure,
though, in the instant our eyes met, that he didn't look harsh or
unfriendly as he had the last time I'd seen him. He looked merely curious
again, unsatisfied in some way.
"Edward Cullen is staring at you," Jessica giggled in my ear.
"He doesn't look angry, does he?" I couldn't help asking.
"No," she said, sounding confused by my question. "Should he be?"
"I don't think he likes me," I confided. I still felt queasy. I put my
head down on my arm.
"The Cullens don't like anybody… well, they don't notice anybody enough
to like them. But he's still staring at you."
"Stop looking at him," I hissed.
She snickered, but she looked away. I raised my head enough to make sure
that she did, contemplating violence if she resisted.
Mike interrupted us then — he was planning an epic battle of the blizzard
in the parking lot after school and wanted us to join. Jessica agreed
enthusiastically. The way she looked at Mike left little doubt that she
would be up for anything he suggested. I kept silent. I would have to
hide in the gym until the parking lot cleared.
For the rest of the lunch hour I very carefully kept my eyes at my own
table. I decided to honor the bargain I'd made with myself. Since he
didn't look angry, I would go to Biology. My stomach did frightened
little flips at the thought of sitting next to him again.
I didn't really want to walk to class with Mike as usual — he seemed to
be a popular target for the snowball snipers — but when we went to the
door, everyone besides me groaned in unison. It was raining, washing all
traces of the snow away in clear, icy ribbons down the side of the
walkway. I pulled my hood up, secretly pleased. I would be free to go
straight home after Gym.
Mike kept up a string of complaints on the way to building four.
Once inside the classroom, I saw with relief that my table was still
empty. Mr. Banner was walking around the room, distributing one
microscope and box of slides to each table. Class didn't start for a few
minutes, and the room buzzed with conversation. I kept my eyes away from
the door, doodling idly on the cover of my notebook.
I heard very clearly when the chair next to me moved, but my eyes stayed
carefully focused on the pattern I was drawing.
"Hello," said a quiet, musical voice.
I looked up, stunned that he was speaking to me. He was sitting as far
away from me as the desk allowed, but his chair was angled toward me. His
hair was dripping wet, disheveled — even so, he looked like he'd just
finished shooting a commercial for hair gel. His dazzling face was
friendly, open, a slight smile on his flawless lips. But his eyes were
"My name is Edward Cullen," he continued. "I didn't have a chance to
introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan."
My mind was spinning with confusion. Had I made up the whole thing? He
was perfectly polite now. I had to speak; he was waiting. But I couldn't
think of anything conventional to say.
"H-how do you know my name?" I stammered.
He laughed a soft, enchanting laugh.
"Oh, I think everyone knows your name. The whole town's been waiting for
you to arrive."
I grimaced. I knew it was something like that.
"No," I persisted stupidly. "I meant, why did you call me Bella?"
He seemed confused. "Do you prefer Isabella?"
"No, I like Bella," I said. "But I think Charlie — I mean my dad — must
call me Isabella behind my back — that's what everyone here seems to know
me as," I tried to explain, feeling like an utter moron.
"Oh." He let it drop. I looked away awkwardly.
Thankfully, Mr. Banner started class at that moment. I tried to
concentrate as he explained the lab we would be doing today. The slides
in the box were out of order. Working as lab partners, we had to separate
the slides of onion root tip cells into the phases of mitosis they
represented and label them accordingly. We weren't supposed to use our
books. In twenty minutes, he would be coming around to see who had it
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