Summary: Cassie Swan - Bella's cousin - has just lost her parents when she's forced to move away from Denver and go live with her uncle Charlie in Forks. There she meets Edward Cullen, the seemingly perfect boy who hides a big secret. She can't help but fall in love with him, even if their love seems to be doomed from the start.
NOT SO MUCH AN OPEN BOOK
“Moral wounds have this peculiarity - they may be hidden, but they never close;
always painful, always ready to bleed when touched,
they remain fresh and open in the heart.”
(Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo)
“Moral wounds have this peculiarity - they may be hidden, but they never close;
always painful, always ready to bleed when touched,
they remain fresh and open in the heart.”
(Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo)
The next day was better… and worse.
It was better because at least it wasn't raining. It was better because I knew what to expect after the first day so it was easier. Mike came to sit by me in English and walked me to my next class, with Eric glaring at him all the while; that was awkward, and weird. It was better because people didn't look at me as much as they did yesterday, even if they still looked a lot. I sat at lunch with Mike, Jessica, Angela, Eric - the only names I could remember - and a bunch of other people whose faces I could remember, but not their names. I was starting to feel like I was floating on water instead of drowning in it.
It was worse, because I was much more tired than yesterday. I still couldn't sleep, memories of the accident gave me no respite even at night. Plus, there was the weather, the wind echoing around the house and the raindrops hitting on my window glass. It was worse because Mr Varner called on me when my hand wasn't raised and I had the wrong answer. If there was a subject I wasn't good at, that was Trig. It was worse because I was forced to play volleyball and as I was expecting, I returned home with bruises all over my arms. And it was worse because Edward Cullen wasn't at school and I had the nagging feeling that it was because of me.
All morning I was waiting for lunch and dreading it in equal measure. I had decided that I would confront him. Fear and danger be damned. I wanted to know what the hell was his problem. I had even prepared what I was going to say to him when I was lying sleepless in my bed. But he wasn't there.
When I walked into the cafeteria with Jessica - looking at the table where he sat from the corner of my eye - I noticed that while his siblings were there, he was conspicuous for his absence.
Mike intercepted us on the way to our table and steered us towards his. Jessica was elated, her admiration towards Mike obvious to anyone with eyes - expect Mike himself probably -. Jessica's friends quickly joined us - Angela one of them - and I tried to pay attention to the conversations going on around me but I couldn't seem to take my eyes off his table, waiting for the moment he would showed up. A part of me hoped he would simply ignore me, proving this way my suspicions false.
He didn't come, and as time passed I grew more and more tense.
I walked to Biology half-irritated that Edward was absent and half-relived. I wouldn't be forced to bear his murderous looks aimed my way. Mike escorted me all the way to class, walking faithfully by my side and frightfully taking on the qualities of a golden retriever. I went to my seat, the one next to it - Edward's seat - predictably empty. Mike followed, talking about an upcoming trip to the beach - how could we face a day at the beach in this weather was beyond me but whatever -. He lingered by my desk till the bell rang and then he smiled at me wistfully when he finally left my side and went to sit by a girl with braces and a bad perm. I would have to do something about the 'Mike situation' and soon. But diplomacy had never been my forte, not was tactfulness. I hated lying - even by omission - even If I was pretty good at it If I wanted to. In Denver, I often turned down boys in the worst way possible, even if it was unintentionally done.
I told myself repeatedly that I was relieved that Edward wasn't there. But I couldn't help but think that I was the reason he hadn't come at school that day. Of course, it was absolutely ridiculous that I could affect anyone so negatively and so strongly. It was impossible, unbelievable . And yet I couldn't stop worrying that it was true.
When the day was finally over and I was finally done with the two hours of volleyball from hell, I changed quickly back into my skinny light blue jeans and red pullover. I hurried out of the girls' locker room, sighing with relief that my blond retriever was somewhere else away from me at the moment. I crossed quickly the parking lot up to my truck, digging through my bag all the while, making sure I wasn't missing anything.
Last night I had discovered that Charlie couldn't cook much besides fried eggs and bacon. So I requested to be assigned to kitchen duty for the duration of my stay. I wasn't an exceptional cook by any means but I could manage some simple plates. Since the fridge was practically empty - Charlie had survived thanks to takeout and evenings out at the local diner - I was on my way to the Thriftway, shopping list in hand. I had completely ignored the jar in the cupboard labeled FOOD MONEY and I instead opted to pay for groceries with the cash I had brought with me. It was the least I could do to thank Charlie for his hospitality.
I started the engine, trying to ignore the heads turned my way at the deafening sound, and backed carefully into a place in the line of cars that were waiting to exit the parking lot. It was in that moment that I noticed the two Cullens and the Hales twins getting into their car. It was the shiny Volvo I had seen the day before. They were beautiful and rich, of course. Not that they needed the designer clothes they were wearing. With their remarkable good looks, the style with which they carried themselves, they could have worn dishrags and pulled it off. Unfortunately for them their good looks and money had only served to alienate them from their peers.
A moment later I realized that it wasn't like that at all. The isolation had to be their choice. I couldn't imagine anyone rejecting someone with that degree of beauty and perfection.
They too looked at my noisy truck as I passed by them. I kept my eyes on the road in front of me and I breathed a sigh of relief when I was finally away from school grounds.
The Thriftway was on the way to Charlie's house. I walked inside, observing with surprise that it was bigger than I thought it would be and nicely furbished. I picked up a bit of everything from the shelves and walked out of it with two very full bags.
When I reached home, I unloaded all the groceries in every open space I was able to find, hoping Charlie didn't have some kind of order system I was involuntary disrupting. 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 finished that task, I got upstairs to my room, book bag in hand. I changed into a pair of sweatpants and pulled my hair into a ponytail before finally starting my homework.
I had decided to re-read Wuthering Heights - the novel we were currently studying in English - just for the fun of it. I was definitely a 'Pride and Prejudice' kind of girl - I challenge anyone to not swoon just a little when faced with a love story like that of Elizabeth and Darcy - but I still appreciated that novel well enough.
I was still reading when Charlie finally 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.
"Cassie?" my uncle called out when he heard me descending the stairs.
"Yep, Uncle Charlie, just me. Welcome home." I answered with a smile.
"Thanks." He hung up his gun belt and stepped out of his boots while I was busy checking the potatoes. As far as I knew, he had never needed to use the gun on the job, even if he always kept it ready. When I was little and I used to came here with Bella, he would always remove the bullets, maybe scared than one of us could shoot the other or ourselves by accident. I guess now that I was older, he didn't possess that fear anymore.
"What's for dinner?" he asked me warily. He probably didn't know what to except from me. The only one who had ever cooked for him had been Renée and she was an imaginative cook, her experiments couldn't be considered edible most often than not.
“Steak and potatoes,” I answered, and he looked relieved.
He was visibly awkward standing in the kitchen and doing nothing so I pushed him towards the television with a smile. I kept working on dinner, preparing 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.
"It smells good, Cassie."
We ate in silence, but it was not an awkward one. Neither of us was bothered by the quiet. In some strange way, we were well suited for living together.
"So, how was your first day? Have you made any friends?" He asked then, during a pause from eating.
"It was..good. I have a few classes with a girl named Jessica. I sat with her at lunch. And then there's this boy...Mike. He seemed very friendly. Everybody seems pretty nice." Expect for one outstanding exception of course, but I had no intention of telling Charlie about him.
"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.” He was obvious that Charlie knew about every last family in Forks and therefore all of my new schoolmates.
"Do you know the Cullen family?" I asked him hesitantly, not able to help myself.
"Dr. Cullen's family? Sure. Dr. Cullen's a great man."
"I saw his adoptive children at school today. They don't seem to fit in very well."
Charlie looked angry at that, thing that surprised me since he was usually so calm.
"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."
I looked at Charlie a little awed. It was the longest speech I've ever heard him make. He must feel strongly about what he was saying.
"Wow. I didn't mean to imply anything. I just noticed that they keep to themselves." I defended my words. "But I'm sure that they're nice enough." A second of silence. "They're all very attractive."
Charlie laughed at that. "You should see the doctor. 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."
I smirked, amused at that. Poor nurses. If Dr. Cullen was as attractive as Edward Cullen was, I could easily understand them.
I froze at my thoughts. What the hell was I thinking? Edward Cullen was a jerk. Point. Finished.
We continued our dinner in silence. After we finished eating, Uncle Charlie cleared the table while I started on the dishes. He went back to the TV after that and I went upstairs so I could finish my homework.
That night it was finally quiet. I fell asleep quickly, exhausted and I slept deeply through the night. I woke up the next morning and, for the first time in weeks, I realized that I didn't have nightmares.
The rest of the week passed uneventful. I got used to the routine of my classes and I was able to recognize almost all the students at school. At gym I found out to my surprise that I had a good serve at volleyball and that I wasn't completely useless for my team.
Edward Cullen didn't come back to school the whole week.
Every day, I waited anxiously for him to appear and every day he didn't. I would then, disappointed, 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 decided to go, more out of politeness than everything else. I really didn't expect much from it since the weather was not exactly favorable.
Friday I entered the Biology class and headed directly towards my seat, not even once turning in the direction of the table next to mine that I knew to be empty. For all I knew Edward had dropped out of school. I really tried not to think about him but part of me couldn't help it. I couldn't totally suppress the thought that I was responsible for his continued absence, as ridiculous a notion as it seemed.
My first weekend in Forks was spent without incident. Charlie, used to abandon the usually empty house, worked most of the weekend. I cleaned the house a little, - another thing I was definitively not used to - I got ahead on my homework and spent my free time reading. I even went to the local library Saturday but it was so poorly stocked that I didn't bother to get a card. I would have to make a date soon and visit Olympia or Seattle, find a good bookstore. I wondered what kind of gas mileage the truck got. I didn't really know enough about cars.
The rain stayed soft over the weekend, quiet, a pleasant background sound that accompanied me in my sleep.
People greeted me in the parking lot Monday morning. I waved and smiled indiscriminately at them since I still didn't know all their names then I went inside. It was colder that morning - a temperature that didn't bother me in the least though - but fortunately it was not raining. In English Mike took his usual seat beside me, to my great chagrin. We had a pop quiz on Wuthering Heights that was pretty straightforward, very easy.
All in all I was feeling more comfortable than I thought I would feel by this point. More comfortable than I thought I would feel in a place completely new and especially after what had happened.
When Mike and I walked out of class, Eric just a little behind us, I noticed that the air was full of swirling bits of white. The cold air hit my cheeks and nose but I didn't care. I really smiled for the first time in what seemed like forever. I could hear people shouting excitedly at each other and I shared in their enthusiasm. It was snowing.
“Wow,” Mike said. “It's snowing.”
"I know!" I smiled at him, completely involuntarily in my excitement, and he blushed just a little. I ignored it.
I looked at the little cotton fluffs that were building up along the sidewalk and swirling erratically past my face. I raised my head and closed my eyes, breathing deeply through my nose. I felt a little snowflake imbedded in my eyelids and I opened my eyes. I felt suddenly calm and at peace. The snow had always had this kind of effect on me.
"You really like snow, don't you?" Mike asked a little stupidly.
"Well, duh. Of course. I lived in Denver all my life remember?"
Mike laughed at my answer, not at all offended. 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 apparently had the same notion. He bent over and began scraping together a big pile of snow, obviously preparing for a fight.
I decided then that that was my clue to leave. I loved snow but I didn't have any intention of ending up wet and freezing when I couldn't go back home for many hours still.
“I'll see you at lunch, okay?” I said to Mike before heading inside. Mike waved at me but his attention was all 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 imagined that here in Forks it was not something that happened often. I could understand them perfectly though. I was excited about it and for me seeing the snow was not something at all unusual. It was different for me though I guess. For me the snow represented home.
I walked into the cafeteria while observing with amusement the various snow fights that had erupted everywhere in the corridors.
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. So, he was back.
I didn't really know how to feel about that. Jessica pulled on my arm.
“Hello? Cassie? What do you want?”
I immediately looked away from his table, suddenly feeling self-conscious. Then I decided that I was being stupid and I tried to relax. So what, if he was back? Good for him, I didn't care. I would ignore him and that was that. After all, I hadn't done anything wrong.
"What's with Cassie?" I heard 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 me.
"Nope." Jessica shrugged at me and nodded.
I waited for them to get their food and then I followed them to a table, trying to force myself not to look at his table. I sipped my soda slowly, just to have something to do. Mike asked me twice If I was feeling all right, with unnecessary concern. I answered that I was fine but a part of me wondered if I could use it as an excuse to skip the next hour. Then I shook my head at my thoughts. Why should I be the one to run? I hadn't done anything wrong.
I couldn't help but look at the Cullen's table again. None of them were looking at me, luckily. 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 but I couldn't quite pinpoint what it was. I examined Edward the most carefully. He looked less pale, or at least less sickly pale, his skin was still as pale as the snow outside. Maybe it was flushed from the snow fight? Even the circles under his eyes were less noticeable. And yet, there was something more. I pondered, staring, trying to isolate the change.
"Cassie, what are you staring at?" Jessica intruded on my thoughts, her eyes following my stare. In that exact moment Edward's eyes flashed over to meet mine.
I mentally cursed Jessica and turned my head away. He had heard her, I was sure of that. I didn't know how he could have but he did. Fortunately his gaze was not harsh or unfriendly this time. He'd looked merely curious, unsatisfied in some way. Not that that excused him for the way he had behaved towards me last week.
“Edward Cullen is staring at you,” Jessica giggled in my ear.
"Uhm." I answered noncommittally.
"You don't care? I mean, he's Edward Cullen, and he's looking at you, again." Jessica commented with vehemence.
"Yeah, well I don't care. He's a jerk." I really hoped he heard me. "And anyway he's probably glaring at me, not 'staring'. I'm pretty sure he doesn't like me."
“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 looked at her 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 had no intentions of participating. Snow fights weren't my thing.
For the rest of lunch hour I very carefully did not look in his direction. Like I promised myself, I would go to biology. I would not let him intimidate me and I had no intention of missing classes just to avoid him, I was not a coward. My stomach didn't agree with me though, churning unpleasantly at the thought of sitting next to him.
I didn't really want to walk to class with Mike as usual but I knew it was unavoidable. He would follow me anyway. After having left the cafeteria we noticed that it was raining again, washing away all the traces of snow. I pulled my hood up and frowned. I loved the snow.
Mike kept up a string of complaints on the way to building four. I stayed silent, too busy thinking about what was waiting for me once inside Biology class. Why did he have to come back to school? Why couldn't he have simply stay away forever? I berated myself for my unkind thoughts but I couldn't help it. Nobody had ever make me feel unwanted and unaccepted like he did. I wasn't used to it, usually people liked me. What did he have against me? What it was about me that made him react the way he did? I didn't like feeling insecure but it was exactly the way I was feeling now.
Once inside the classroom, I noticed with relief that my table was still empty. Maybe he had decided to skip Biology after all. 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 jumped slightly when the chair next to me moved but I didn't look in his direction. I decided that pretending he wasn't there was the best course of action.
“Hello,” said a quiet, musical voice to my left.
I looked up, astonished that he was speaking to me. Why was he speaking to me? He was sitting as far away from me as the desk allowed, but his chair was angled toward me. I noticed - and cursed myself for doing so - that his hair was dripping wet, disheveled but that he looked like he'd just finished shooting a commercial for hair gel. How could someone be so perfect all the time? His beautiful face looked friendly, open, a slight smile on his flawless lips. But his eyes were careful.
I didn't return his greeting but he continued anyway. "My name is Edward Cullen. I didn't have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Cassie."
I raised an eyebrow in his direction, confused. He was being perfectly polite now. Had I made up the whole thing? No, I couldn't have. And why was I doubting myself now?
I had to speak, he was waiting. I couldn't ignore him now even I wanted to. I hadn't it in me to be rude. I didn't know what I was supposed to say though.
“How do you know my name?” I blurted out.
He laughed a soft, enchanting laugh, obviously amused by my question. I didn't know why though, I hadn't said anything amusing.
“Oh, I think everyone knows your name. The whole town's been waiting for you to arrive.”
I grimaced, knowing that it was true. "No, I meant... why did you call me Cassie?" I replied stupidly.
He seemed confused. “Do you prefer Cassandra?” My name sounded so much better coming from his lips. I shook my head, trying to shake away these silly thoughts.
"No, I like Cassie." I answered. "It's just that I know Uncle Charlie calls me Cassandra behind my back. That's what everyone here seems to knows me as." I tried to explain, a little inarticulately.
“Oh.” He let it drop. I looked away, not knowing what else to say.
Thankfully, Mr. Banner started class at that moment. I tried to concentrate as he explained the lab we would be doing today, trying to ignore Cullen's presence next me. 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 right.
“Get started,” he commanded.
“Ladies first, partner?” Edward asked. I looked up to see him smiling a beautiful crooked smile. I was trying not get distracted by his physical appearance but sometimes it was difficult.
I had obviously taken too much time to answer because he said, his smile fading "Or I could start, if you wish."
"No, that's fine." I said, regaining possession of my mental capacities. "I'll go ahead."
Fortunately I'd already done this lab and I knew what I was looking for. I snapped the first slide into place under the microscope and adjusted it quickly to the 40X objective. I studied the slide briefly.
“Prophase.” I said with confidence. I knew that I was right.
“Do you mind if I look?” he asked as I began to remove the slide. I glared at him slightly, offended that he was doubting me. He obviously noticed because he smiled at me in sorry and I rolled my eyes. His hand in that same moment had caught mine to stop me. His fingers were ice-cold, like he'd been holding them in a snowdrift before class. But that wasn't why I jerked my hand away so quickly. When he touched me, it stung my hand as if an electric current had passed through us.
“I'm sorry,” he muttered, pulling his hand back immediately. However, he continued to reach for the microscope. I watched him, a little out of sort, as he examined the slide for an even shorter time than I had.
“Prophase,” he agreed, writing it neatly in the first space on our worksheet.
"Like I said." I smirked and he smiled at me, amused.
He swiftly switched out the first slide for the second, and then glanced at it cursorily.
“Anaphase,” he murmured, writing it down as he spoke.
“Do you mind if I look?” I said cheekily, repeating the exact words he had used.
He smirked and pushed the microscope to me.
I looked through the eyepiece eagerly, only to be disappointed.
"Anaphase." I agreed, pouting. “Slide three?” I held out my hand towards him.
He handed it to me, being careful not to touch me again.
I looked quickly at the slide before exclaiming "Interphase". I passed him the microscope before he could ask for it. He took a swift peek and then wrote it down. His calligraphy was perfect, clear and elegant and frankly it intimidated me a little. I decided that it was better leaving him to write the remaining phases too. I didn't want to spoil the page with my clumsy scrawl.
We finished before anyone else was even close to. I could see Mike and his partner comparing two slides again and again, and another group had their book open under the table.
That meant that I was left with nothing to do at least for the next ten minutes or so. I began scribbling on my notebook, concentrating on drawing a perfect rose when I felt his eyes on me. I looked up and to my left involuntarily and here he was, staring at me, that same inexplicable look of frustration in his eyes. Suddenly I realized what else was different about him compared to last week - well, except for his lack of hostility towards me of course -. His eyes were different.
“Did you get contacts?” I blurted out unthinkingly for the second time in an hour.
He seemed puzzled by my unexpected question. “No.”
“Uhm” I mumbled. “I could have sworn your eyes were darker, black almost, last week.”
He shrugged, and looked away. He was obviously uncomfortable by the question though.
In fact I was more than sure that his eyes had been darker last week. I vividly remembered the flat black color of his eyes in striking contrast against the background of his pale skin and auburn hair. That dark glare had been impressed in my mind for a week. But today, his eyes were a completely different color: a strange ocher, darker than butterscotch, but with the same golden tone. It was a color of eyes I had never seen before in my life. I couldn't understand how that was possible. Nobody's eye-color could change so much. Yes, there were people whose eye-color could change from blue to green or green to brown - even my eyes sometimes changed color from light green to light blue to grey depending on what I was wearing -. But I never heard of someone having black eyes and that color changing to a golden one. It was impossible and yet, here it was, the proof, right in front of my eyes.
I looked down and noticed that his hands were clenched into hard firsts again. I kept silent, not wanting him to know that I noticed.
Mr Banner came to our table then, to see why we weren't working. He looked over our shoulders to glance at the completed lab, and then stared more intently to check the answers.
“So, Edward, didn't you think Cassandra should get a chance with the microscope?” Mr. Banner asked. From his tone it was obvious that he didn't like Edward very much.
“Cassie,” Edward corrected automatically. “Actually, she identified three of the five.”
"Actually, we did it together, comparing our answers with each other's." I intervened, a sudden urge to defending him, even if I didn't know why.
Mr. Banner looked at me now; his expression was skeptical.
“Have you done this lab before?” he asked.
I smiled sheepishly. “Not with onion root.”
Mr. Banner nodded. “Were you in an advanced placement program in Denver?”
“Yes.” I simply replied.
“Well,” he said after a moment, “I guess it's good you two are lab partners.” He mumbled something else as he walked away. After he left, I began doodling on my notebook again.
“It's too bad about the snow, isn't it?” Edward asked. I had the feeling that he was forcing himself to make small talk with me. It was like he had heard my conversation with Jessica at lunch and was trying to prove me wrong. Actually, it was probably exactly like that. He had probably heard me say he was a jerk too. Oops!
“Not really,” I answered with a shrug. I was still trying to dislodge the stupid feeling of suspicion, and I couldn't concentrate.
“You don't like snow.” It wasn't a question.
“Oh no, I do.”
“I don't understand” he said confused.
“Well, I like snow but Mike was organizing some snow fight after school, that I have a problem with. I like seeing the snow on the ground but I don't like having it on me.” I muttered darkly. "I don't like wet."
“Forks must be a difficult place for you to live then.” he mused.
“It's not so bad.” I said with a shrug.
He looked fascinated by what I said, for some reason I couldn't imagine. His face was such a distraction that I tried not to look at it any more than courtesy absolutely demanded.
“Why did you come here, then?”
I looked at him strangely. “I thought everyone in Forks knew why I came here.”
“I know about... your parents' passing.” he said delicately.
"You can say dead. It's not a bad word*..." I fake-whispered.
I paused for a long moment, thinking about what to say. Then I made the mistake of meeting his gaze. His dark gold eyes confused me, and I answered without thinking.
"I think I can keep up." He said with a strange smile, almost like he was thinking of an inside joke.
“Well, the choice was between living with Charlie - my dad's brother - or Renée, Charlie's ex-wife and my cousin Bella's mother. And actually, I've always been closer to Renée but she got remarried so...” I rambled, not knowing how to continue.
“That doesn't sound so complex,” he disagreed, but he was suddenly sympathetic. “When did that happen?”
“And you don't like him,” Edward surmised, his tone still kind.
I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “No, Phil is actually very nice. I don't know him so well but he seems good to Renée.”
“Why didn't you go live with them then?” He looked confused again.
I couldn't fathom his interest, but he continued to stare at me with penetrating eyes, as if my life's story was somehow vitally important to him.
“Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living. And Renée usually goes with him while Bella stays home. She's pretty independent, she's used to it. But I'm pretty sure that Renée would feel obligated to stay home if I went to live with her.” I half-smiled.
“Have I heard of him?” he asked, smiling in response.
“Probably not. He doesn't play well. Strictly minor league. He moves around a lot.”
“So Renée decided for you to go live with Charlie so that she could continue travel with him.” He said it as an assumption again, not a question.
My chin raised a little in indignation for her. “No, she didn't decide anything. I chose to be here. ”
His eyebrows knit together. “I don't understand,” he admitted for the second time in our brief conversation, and he seemed unnecessarily frustrated by that fact.
I sighed. Why was I explaining this to him? He continued to stare at me with obvious curiosity. I sighed again and relented.
"I know that she would miss him if she stayed home with me. It would make her unhappy. I think she would convince herself that I needed to have her with me 24/7 after...you know, having lost my parents. So I decided it was time for me to spend some quality time with Uncle Charlie.” I finished with a fake enthusiastic tone.
“But now you're unhappy,” he pointed out.
“I'm not. I love Charlie." I said with conviction. "I mean, Forks is not my ideal town but I like living with him. I can be quiet and moody as I like with him. With Renée something like this wouldn't be possible. I would have to pretend to be okay with her, something I don't have to do with Charlie. So you see, it's not only altruistic reasons that have led me to decide to go live with Charlie."
He didn't say anything to my revelations but his eyes were still intense.
"So that's all. All of my boring history led out before you.” I smiled in fake amusement.
His gaze became appraising. “You put on a good show,” he said slowly. “But I'd be willing to bet that you're suffering more than you let anyone see.”
I knew in that moment that my face had become expressionless, something that I always did as a form of defense.
“Am I wrong?” He prodded. I didn't answer, looking away from him.
“I didn't think so,” he murmured smugly, taking my silence as answer enough.
“Why does it matter to you?” I asked, irritated. I kept my eyes away, watching the teacher make his rounds.
“That's a very good question,” he muttered, so quietly that I wondered if he was talking to himself. However, after a few seconds of silence, I decided that was the only answer I was going to get.
I sighed to myself, scowling at the blackboard. Why did I reveal so much to him? It wasn't like me at all.
“Am I annoying you?” he asked. He sounded amused.
I glanced at him without thinking… and told the truth again. “No. I'm irritated at myself. Usually I'm pretty good at masking what I'm feeling. But I don't seem to be able to do it with you."
“On the contrary, I find you very difficult to read.” Despite everything that I'd said and he'd guessed, he sounded like he meant it.
“You must be a good reader then,” I replied.
“Usually.” He smiled widely, flashing a set of perfect, ultra-white teeth.
Mr. Banner called the class to order then, and I turned with relief to listen. I was in disbelief that I'd just explained my dreary life to this bizarre, beautiful boy who was a complete stranger to me and who may or may not despise me. He'd seemed engrossed in our conversation a few seconds ago, but now I could see, from the corner of my eye, that he was leaning away from me again, his hands gripping the edge of the table with unmistakable tension. He was so damn confusing. I didn't understand his behavior at all.
I tried to appear attentive to Mr Banner's explanation of the slides we were just working on to the people who had found difficulty in completing the assigned work. But my thoughts were concentrated on the beautiful enigma to my left.
When the bell finally rang, Edward rushed as swiftly and as gracefully from the room as he had last Monday. And, like last Monday, I stared after him in complete surprise and confusion.
Mike skipped quickly to my side and picked up my books for me. I imagined him with a wagging tail. I sighed, exasperated by his behavior, but I didn't comment on it.
“That was awful,” he groaned. “They all looked exactly the same. You're lucky you had Cullen for a partner.”
“I didn't have any trouble with it,” I said, stung by his assumption. Why everyone thought I couldn't manage to do a simple work on my own? When I noticed his hurt expression though, I added, to remedy the situation “I've done the lab before, though.”
“Cullen seemed friendly enough today,” he commented as we shrugged into our raincoats. He didn't seem pleased about it.
“I guess.” I said, feigning indifference.
I couldn't concentrate on Mike's chatter as we walked to Gym, and, to be truthful, he didn't do much to hold my attention, either. Mike was on my team today. I tried to concentrate on the game but I often found myself distracted. Mike was fortunately able to cover my position though, allowing us to win the game.
The rain was just a mist as I walked to the parking lot, but I was happier when I was in the dry cab. I got the heater running, for once not caring about the mind-numbing roar of the engine. I unzipped my jacket, put the hood down, and fluffed my damp hair out so the heater could dry it on the way home.
I looked around to make sure it was clear. That's when I noticed the still, white figure of Edward Cullen, leaning against the front door of his Volvo, three cars down from me, and staring intently in my direction. I swiftly looked away and threw the truck into reverse, almost hitting a rusty Toyota Corolla in my haste. Lucky for the Toyota, I stomped on the brake in time. It was just the sort of car that my truck would make scrap metal of. I took a deep breath, still looking out the other side of my car, and cautiously pulled out again, with greater success. I stared straight ahead as I passed the Volvo, but from a peripheral peek, I would swear I saw him laughing.
*I kind of borrowed these words from 'Damon Salvatore' from 'The Vampire Diaries'.
Current Mood: grumpy
Current Music: Still Here - Digital Daggers