2011-1-13 15:11




The fog had almost dissolved by the end of the second hour, but the day was still dark with low, oppressing clouds. I smiled up at the sky.

Edward was right, of course. When I walked into Trig Jessica was sitting in the back row, nearly bouncing off her seat in agitation. I reluctantly went to sit by her, trying to convince myself it would be better to get it over with as soon as possible.

"Tell me everything!" she commanded before I was in the seat.

"What do you want to know?" I hedged.

"What happened last night?"

"He bought me dinner, and then he drove me home."

She glared at me, her expression stiff with skepticism. "How did you get home so fast?"

"He drives like a maniac. It was terrifying." I hoped he heard that.

"Was it like a date — did you tell him to meet you there?"

I hadn't thought of that. "No — I was very surprised to see him there."

Her lips puckered in disappointment at the transparent honesty in my voice.

"But he picked you up for school today?" she probed.

"Yes — that was a surprise, too. He noticed I didn't have a jacket last night," I explained.

"So are you going out again?"

"He offered to drive me to Seattle Saturday because he thinks toy truck isn't up to it — does that count?"

"Yes." She nodded.

"Well, then, yes."

"W-o-w." She exaggerated the word into three syllables. "Edward Cullen."

"I know," I agreed. "Wow" didn't even cover it.

"Wait!" Her hands flew up, palms toward me like she was stopping traffic. "Has he kissed you?"

"No," I mumbled. "It's not like that."

She looked disappointed. I'm sure I did, too.

"Do you think Saturday… ?" She raised her eyebrows.

"I really doubt it." The discontent in my voice was poorly disguised.

"What did you talk about?" She pushed for more information in a whisper. Class had started but Mr. Varner wasn't paying close attention and we weren't the only ones still talking.

"I don't know, Jess, lots of stuff," I whispered back. "We talked about the English essay a little." A very, very little. I think he mentioned it in passing.

"Please, Bella," she begged. "Give me some details."

"Well… okay, I've got one. You should have seen the waitress flirting with him — it was over the top. But he didn't pay any attention to her at all." Let him make what he could of that.

"That's a good sign," she nodded. "Was she pretty?"

"Very — and probably nineteen or twenty."

"Even better. He must like you."

"I think so, but it's hard to tell. He's always so cryptic," I threw in for his benefit, sighing.

"I don't know how you're brave enough to be alone with him," she breathed.

"Why?" I was shocked, but she didn't understand my reaction.

"He's so… intimidating. I wouldn't know what to say to him." She made a face, probably remembering this morning or last night, when he'd turned the overwhelming force of his eyes on her.

"I do have some trouble with incoherency when I'm around him," I admitted.

"Oh well. He is unbelievably gorgeous." Jessica shrugged as if this excused any flaws. Which, in her book, it probably did.

"There's a lot more to him than that."

"Really? Like what?"

I wished I had let it go. Almost as much as I was hoping he'd been kidding about listening in.

"I can't explain it right… but he's even more unbelievable behind the face." The vampire who wanted to be good — who ran around saving people's lives so he wouldn't be a monster… I stared toward the front of the room.

"Is that possible?" She giggled.

I ignored her, trying to look like I was paying attention to Mr. Varner.

"So you like him, then?" She wasn't about to give up.

"Yes," I said curtly.

"I mean, do you really like him?" she urged.

"Yes," I said again, blushing. I hoped that detail wouldn't register in her thoughts.

She'd had enough with the single syllable answers. "How much do you like him?"

"Too much," I whispered back. "More than he likes me. But I don't see how I can help that." I sighed, one blush blending into the next.

Then, thankfully, Mr. Varner called on Jessica for an answer.

She didn't get a chance to start on the subject again during class, and as soon as the bell rang, I took evasive action.

"In English, Mike asked me if you said anything about Monday night," I told her.

"You're kidding! What did you say?!" she gasped, completely sidetracked.

"I told him you said you had a lot of fun — he looked pleased."

"Tell me exactly what he said, and your exact answer!"

We spent the rest of the walk dissecting sentence structures and most of Spanish on a minute description of Mike's facial expressions. I wouldn't have helped draw it out for as long as I did if I wasn't worried about the subject returning to me.

And then the bell rang for lunch. As I jumped up out of my seat, shoving my books roughly in my bag, my uplifted expression must have tipped Jessica off.

"You're not sitting with us today, are you?" she guessed.

"I don't think so." I couldn't be sure that he wouldn't disappear inconveniently again.

But outside the door to our Spanish class, leaning against the wall — looking more like a Greek god than anyone had a right to — Edward was waiting for me. Jessica took one look, rolled her eyes, and departed.

"See you later, Bella." Her voice was thick with implications. I might have to turn off the ringer on the phone.

"Hello." His voice was amused and irritated at the same time. He had been listening, it was obvious.


I couldn't think of anything else to say, and he didn't speak — biding his time, I presumed — so it was a quiet walk to the cafeteria. Walking with Edward through the crowded lunchtime rush was a lot like my first day here; everyone stared.

He led the way into the line, still not speaking, though his eyes returned to my face every few seconds, their expression speculative. It seemed to me that irritation was winning out over amusement as the dominant emotion in his face. I fidgeted nervously with the zipper on my jacket.

He stepped up to the counter and filled a tray with food.

"What are you doing?" I objected. "You're not getting all that for me?"

He shook his head, stepping forward to buy the food.

"Half is for me, of course."

I raised one eyebrow.

He led the way to the same place we'd sat that one time before. From the other end of the long table, a group of seniors gazed at us in amazement as we sat across from each other. Edward seemed oblivious.

"Take whatever you want," he said, pushing the tray toward me.

"I'm curious," I said as I picked up an apple, turning it around in my hands, "what would you do if someone dared you to eat food?"

"You're always curious." He grimaced, shaking his head. He glared at me, holding my eyes as he lifted the slice of pizza off the tray, and deliberately bit off a mouthful, chewed quickly, and then swallowed. I watched, eyes wide.

"If someone dared you to eat dirt, you could, couldn't you?" he asked condescendingly.

I wrinkled my nose. "I did once… on a dare," I admitted. "It wasn't so bad."

He laughed. "I suppose I'm not surprised." Something over my shoulder seemed to catch his attention.

"Jessica's analyzing everything I do — she'll break it down for you later." He pushed the rest of the pizza toward me. The mention of Jessica brought a hint of his former irritation back to his features.

I put down the apple and took a bite of the pizza, looking away, knowing he was about to start.

"So the waitress was pretty, was she?" he asked casually.

"You really didn't notice?"

"No. I wasn't paying attention. I had a lot on my mind."

"Poor girl." I could afford to be generous now.

"Something you said to Jessica… well, it bothers me." He refused to be distracted. His voice was husky, and he glanced up from under his lashes with troubled eyes.

"I'm not surprised you heard something you didn't like. You know what they say about eavesdropners," I reminded him.

"I warned you I would be listening."

"And I warned you that you didn't want to know everything I was thinking."

"You did," he agreed, but his voice was still rough. "You aren't precisely right, though. I do want to know what you're thinking — everything. I just wish… that you wouldn't be thinking some things."

I scowled. "That's quite a distinction."

"But that's not really the point at the moment."

"Then what is?" We were inclined toward each other across the table now. He had his large white hands folded under his chin; I leaned forward, my right hand cupped around my neck. I had to remind myself that we were in a crowded lunchroom, with probably many curious eyes on us. It was too easy to get wrapped up in our own private, tense little bubble.

"Do you truly believe that you care more for me than I do for you?" he murmured, leaning closer to me as he spoke, his dark golden eyes piercing.

I tried to remember how to exhale. I had to look away before it came back to me.

"You're doing it again," I muttered.

His eyes opened wide with surprise. "What?"

"Dazzling me," I admitted, trying to concentrate as I looked back at him.

"Oh." He frowned.

"It's not your fault," I sighed. "You can't help it."

"Are you going to answer the question?"

I looked down. "Yes."

"Yes, you are going to answer, or yes, you really think that?" He was irritated again.

"Yes, I really think that." I kept my eyes down on the table, my eyes tracing the pattern of the faux wood grains printed on the laminate. The silence dragged on. I stubbornly refused to be the first to break it this time, fighting hard against the temptation to peek at his expression.

Finally he spoke, voice velvet soft. "You're wrong."

I glanced up to see that his eyes were gentle.

"You can't know that," I disagreed in a whisper. I shook my head in doubt, though my heart throbbed at his words and I wanted so badly to believe them.

"What makes you think so?" His liquid topaz eyes were penetrating — trying futilely, I assumed, to lift the truth straight from my mind.