By dint of much elbow grease, I was able to get both windows in the truck almost completely rolled down. I was one of the first ones to school; I hadn't even checked the clock in my hurry to get outside. I parked and headed toward the seldom-used picnic benches on the south side of the cafeteria. The benches were still a little damp, so I sat on my jacket, glad to have a use for it. My homework was done — the product of a slow social life — but there were a few Trig problems I wasn't sure I had right. I took out my book industriously, but halfway through rechecking the first problem I was daydreaming, watching the sunlight play on the red-barked trees. I sketched inattentively along the margins of my homework. After a few minutes, I suddenly realized I'd drawn five pairs of dark eyes staring out of the page at me. I scrubbed them out with the eraser.
"Bella!" I heard someone call, and it sounded like Mike.
I looked around to realize that the school had become populated while I'd been sitting there, absentminded. Everyone was in t-shirts, some even in shorts though the temperature couldn't be over sixty. Mike was coming toward me in khaki shorts and a striped Rugby shirt, waving.
"Hey, Mike," I called, waving back, unable to be halfhearted on a morning like this.
He came to sit by me, the tidy spikes of his hair shining golden in the light, his grin stretching across his face. He was so delighted to see me, I couldn't help but feel gratified.
"I never noticed before — your hair has red in it," he commented, catching between his fingers a strand that was fluttering in the light breeze.
"Only in the sun."
I became just a little uncomfortable as he tucked the lock behind my ear.
"Great day, isn't it?"
"My kind of day," I agreed.
"What did you do yesterday?" His tone was just a bit too proprietary.
"I mostly worked on my essay." I didn't add that I was finished with it — no need to sound smug.
He hit his forehead with the heel of his hand. "Oh yeah — that's due Thursday, right?"
"Um, Wednesday, I think."
"Wednesday?" He frowned. "That's not good… What are you writing yours on?"
"Whether Shakespeare's treatment of the female characters is misogynistic."
He stared at me like I'd just spoken in pig Latin.
"I guess I'll have to get to work on that tonight," he said, deflated. "I was going to ask if you wanted to go out."
"Oh." I was taken off guard. Why couldn't I ever have a pleasant conversation with Mike anymore without it getting awkward?
"Well, we could go to dinner or something… and I could work on it later." He smiled at me hopefully.
"Mike…" I hated being put on the spot. "I don't think that would be the best idea."
His face fell. "Why?" he asked, his eyes guarded. My thoughts flickered to Edward, wondering if that's where his thoughts were as well.
"I think… and if you ever repeat what I'm saying right now I will cheerfully beat you to death," I threatened, "but I think that would hurt Jessica's feelings."
He was bewildered, obviously not thinking in that direction at all. "Jessica?"
"Really, Mike, are you blind?"
"Oh," he exhaled — clearly dazed. I took advantage of that to make my escape.
"It's time for class, and I can't be late again." I gathered my books up and stuffed them in my bag.
We walked in silence to building three, and his expression was distracted. I hoped whatever thoughts he was immersed in were leading him in the right direction.
When I saw Jessica in Trig, she was bubbling with enthusiasm. She, Angela, and Lauren were going to Port Angeles tonight to go dress shopping for the dance, and she wanted me to come, too, even though I didn't need one. I was indecisive. It would be nice to get out of town with some girlfriends, but Lauren would be there. And who knew what I could be doing tonight… But that was definitely the wrong path to let my mind wander down. Of course I was happy about the sunlight. But that wasn't completely responsible for the euphoric mood I was in, not even close.
So I gave her a maybe, telling her I'd have to talk with Charlie first.
She talked of nothing but the dance on the way to Spanish, continuing as if without an interruption when class finally ended, five minutes late, and we were on our way to lunch. I was far too lost in my own frenzy of anticipation to notice much of what she said. I was painfully eager to see not just him but all the Cullens — to compare them with the new suspicions that plagued my mind. As I crossed the threshold of the cafeteria, I felt the first true tingle of fear slither down my spine and settle in my stomach. Would they be able to know what I was thinking? And then a different feeling jolted through me — would Edward be waiting to sit with me again?
As was my routine, I glanced first toward the Cullens' table. A shiver of panic trembled in my stomach as I realized it was empty. With dwindling hope, my eyes scoured the rest of the cafeteria, hoping to find him alone, waiting for me. The place was nearly filled — Spanish had made us late — but there was no sign of Edward or any of his family. Desolation hit me with crippling strength.
I shambled along behind Jessica, not bothering to pretend to listen anymore.
We were late enough that everyone was already at our table. I avoided the empty chair next to Mike in favor of one by Angela. I vaguely noticed that Mike held the chair out politely for Jessica, and that her face lit up in response.
Angela asked a few quiet questions about the Macbeth paper, which I answered as naturally as I could while spiraling downward in misery. She, too, invited me to go with them tonight, and I agreed now, grasping at anything to distract myself.
I realized I'd been holding on to a last shred of hope when I entered Biology, saw his empty seat, and felt a new wave of disappointment.
The rest of the day passed slowly, dismally. In Gym, we had a lecture on the rules of badminton, the next torture they had lined up for me. But at least it meant I got to sit and listen instead of stumbling around on the court. The best part was the coach didn't finish, so I got another day off tomorrow. Never mind that the day after they would arm me with a racket before unleashing me on the rest of the class.