I was sitting in the back of the classroom, trying not to stare. Yes, here in Podunk town USA (aka Forks, Washington) it would be odd for the girl everyone thought was straight to admire from afar the girl she was secretly attracted to. No, it would be much more realistic to act like I didn't really like Bella Swan, because she was pretty, new to our school, and stole all the boys' attention. Pop culture (or MTV reality shows, I couldn't remember which) conditioned my generation to think all girls were jealous of each other. I was essentially an actress playing a part …
The role of normal, catty teen girl will today and every day until she graduates be played by Jessica Stanley.
So, when the hottest guy in our class had asked my crush to sit with him at lunch earlier that day, I had acted annoyed that he wanted to eat with her and not me.
Play the part, Jessica, and act like you care about hot guys.
My annoyance wasn't really that he didn't know I was alive. It was that she didn't. That's not to say Bella wasn't aware of me. I mean, we ran with the same circle of friends, but I wasn't on her radar like she was on mine. This was mostly, because I'd kept her at arm's length … not wanting to do something stupid that would throw away the identity I created. I needed to preserve that character.
"Stop staring at them, Jessica," my friend Angela had whispered from her position at my side when she noticed my eyesight lingering a little too long on the table Bella had moved to.
"But why is he eating with her? Hello. I've been here this whole time, Edward, and I'm sure I could give you a much more interesting conversation … and then some," I had whined.
"Sorry Jess, but I think that ship has sailed," she replied and went back to eating her sandwich.
After I graduated next year someone should really give me an Emmy or Oscar for this amazing role I was nailing.
Suddenly I was distracted from my daydream when someone put a cardboard box on my desk. I grumbled with irritation that I was being bothered away from my hobby of crush gazing. I looked over the box and noticed it was filled with items I wasn't all that interested in to thoroughly investigate. Then I heard the loud clearing of a throat above me. My eyes traveled upward to the boy who had dropped the box. Mike Newton. Yes, I was supposed to like him too. I internally sighed. How many lies had I trapped myself in?
I smiled brightly at the boy and he returned my gesture with his own toothy grin. I'd heard that he might ask me to the upcoming dance and had already decided that I would say yes. This bit of gossip had been delivered via third source, like a game of telephone. Angela had heard from Ben who had heard from Mike that he wanted to ask me, so I wasn't sure how reliable it all was, but maybe he was trying to gather the courage to ask me right then and there. He certainly looked nervous enough. If we did end up being dates, I hoped Mike wouldn't expect me to make out with him in his car afterward. I wasn't really going to play my part that thoroughly. My contract specifically stated no kissing, nude or sex scenes.
Thankfully he moved on to the next desk, so I wouldn't have to feign interest anymore or agree to any dates to dances. It didn't take long for me to go back to watching Bella … like five seconds. I noticed that she was nervously playing with a lock of her brown hair. Something was bothering her. I'd seen her do this before when she was nervous or anxious … usually when hottest guy in our class talked with her. I did a quick sweep of the classroom and noticed Bella's stalker aka hottest guy wasn't there. I sighed happily. I was sure that if Edward was around he would have swooped in to ask her what was wrong. It was hard not to notice when someone else observed Bella just as much as I did.
Stop staring, Jessica.
I moved my eyes away from the object of my affection and down into the box Mike had placed in front of me moments before. I examined the objects. None of them made sense, but I assumed our teacher, Mr. Banner, would explain it or maybe he already had. I had a hard time paying attention to things when I shared classes with Bella. I was a straight A student with the goal of being Valedictorian next year. I really had to work harder on being focused on the right things, before I started to slip all due to an infatuation I could never resolve.
I looked around for any indication that the other students were working with the things inside the box and noticed they were. Damn it. I'd done it again. I was just about to whisper to the boy next to me and ask for his help, when I heard Mr. Banner say, "Bella, are you all right?"
At the mention of Bella's name, I looked back up to the front of the class where she sat. She was slumped forward, her hair spread out over her desk. Underneath the long brown strands of her hair, she rested her face against the wood. From the short conversation between teacher and student that followed it seemed that Bella was feeling faint.
Then there was a request for someone to take Bella to the nurse. The initial urge I had conditioned my brain to think told me to look away from the image and ignore that I was being offered the chance to be alone with Bella. But I was feeling extra exhausted from my charade at that moment and told my inner closeted lesbian to shut up. Taking Bella to the nurse wasn't exactly a declaration that I was gay. It was simply a nice gesture and nothing about that would be weird to anyone else. Jessica Stanley did occasionally think of others over herself.
"I'll take her," I said, raising my hand.
No one batted an eye at my offer and Mr. Banner motioned for me to step forward. Bella looked at me when I came to help her out of her seat, her eyes suspicious. Of course, she didn't trust me. I hadn't exactly presented myself as being very trust worthy around her. Maybe she thought I would use this opportunity to be vengeful for her eating lunch with Edward, because everyone assumed I had like the hugest crush on him, because oh my god he was like so hot.
"Can you walk?" I asked gently.
"I think so, but I might need your help," she replied.
I gingerly pulled on Bella's arm to help her stand. Once I had her on her feet, I wrapped my arm around her waist. As I did this a few of her hair strands tickled my cheek and I smelled strawberries. I had to fight the urge to take in a lungful of the wonderful smell again when she leaned against me for support.
Keep yourself in check, Jessica.
"So, what happened in there?" I asked as we walked out of the classroom.
"It's just ... blood makes me sick," she said and then covered her mouth.
"Are you going to throw up?" I asked, suddenly worried that my decision to take Bella to the nurse would end up in a situation where I would be covered in vomit.
"I need ... to sit down ... for a minute, please." Her voice sounded weak and I helped her find a spot on the sidewalk where she could lean her back against a wall.
We were outside and I was thankful that I'd managed to take her that far. I figured that at least if she spewed out here it would be easier to clean up.
"So, where was this blood that made you sick?" I asked, trying to make conversation when a few minutes of awkward silence had passed between us.
Although, as an afterthought, I figured it was probably not a smart idea to mention the reason Bella was sick. Hopefully I hadn't made things worse. As it was, Bella required a whole minute to recover before she was able remove her head from between her legs and reply, "Um … from everyone else in the class. They were all pricking their fingers to figure out their blood type. Didn't you?"
She was looking at me like I was a bit crazy. From her perspective why wouldn't I know what everyone else had been doing in class? I had been there hadn't I?
No, Bella, I didn't prick my finger, because I was too busy staring at you.
I tried to salvage the situation with some humor, "Nah, I'm part of the movement, no violence against students. I was protesting." I showed her my fingers much like someone would do jazz hands, "Ta Dah … see no injuries."
Bella laughed softly, which caused my heart to do a flip flop.
"Do you have weekly meetings, because I'd really like to join this protest group?" Bella said, her face brightening, a start contrast from the anemic expression it had been when we first walked out of class.
"Well, this can be our little sit in right here," I joked and chanted in mock protest, "Hell no, we won't go!"
Bella smiled at me and I noticed that her color was returning to the usual pale skin I'd grown accustomed to seeing on her as opposed to the green it had been. I had to resist the impulse to run my fingertips across the soft skin that made up her cheeks. Something told me that doing this would be super creepy to someone who barely labeled me as a friend.
"Bella? What's wrong?"
I heard his voice coming from somewhere nearby and groaned. Hottest guy in class was coming to help. Great. Apparently when he played hooky from class he didn't go far. There was no way I'd win in a battle of who will now walk Bella to the nurse's office.
But to my surprise, Bella seemed just as glad to see Edward as I was, "Oh god, can you make him go away. I do not want to talk to him right now."
She put her head back down between her legs much like an ostrich would put its head in the sand and I wondered if she actually thought this would hide her from him.
"Hiding your face isn't going to make him think you aren't actually here," I snorted.
"I know … he has super human senses or something and could probably detect me from miles away," her voice was sarcastic and morose at the same time.
"Are you hurt?" Edward asked when he finally reached us.
"Nope … just two girls hanging out, you know girl stuff," I answered for Bella, but her stalker ignored me.
"Bella," Edward kneeled on the ground and placed his face mere inches from Bella's head. "Can you hear me?"
"I said she's fine," my voice came out harsher than I intended.
At the sound of my severe tone, Edward finally acknowledged my presence with a quick glare in my direction or maybe it was a smolder. I had a hard time reading guys sometimes. He then turned his focus back on Bella and gave her shoulders a good shake. "Bella!" he said, sounding upset. "Did Jessica do something to hurt you?"
I couldn't nor did I want to fight the bubble of laughter that found its way out of my throat and into Edward's face. Hottest guy's hot face scrunched up into a sneer, but fell placid when he heard Bella mumble, "I'm fine."
"Do you need help?" he asked, his voice just a bit too sincere.
"No," she groaned. "Go away."
Edward chuckled as if it was a joke, but I took it upon myself to correct him, "No, she's not trying to be funny. Bella really does want you to leave. I was walking her to the nurse and she needed to sit for a little bit. No cause for alarm … so, go back to doing whatever you were doing."
I was shocked at my boldness in the way I was talking to Edward. I always tried hard to indicate that I was attracted to him, but my irritation was showing in full force. The reason was Bella. I felt a protectiveness of her and if she didn't want this creepy stalker around then I would make sure it happened.
"I can take her," Edward said, totally disregarding what Bella and I had told him. "You can go back to class, Jess."
"Or you can do as two capable ladies told you and shove off. She doesn't need your help," I protested angrily.
Continuing to ignore me, Edward pulled Bella into his arms and I heard a gasp of shock, followed by her ordering, "Put me down!"
Apparently doing as someone wished wasn't in the cards for this guy and he quickly walked away with Bella cradled against his chest. I hurried after them hearing Bella moan, "Put me back on the sidewalk."
He said something back to her and laughed as if everything was a big joke. I managed to catch up to them, but had to keep a quick pace which left me somewhat breathless, "Listen Don Draper, this isn't the 1950s. You can't just take a girl against her will, even when you think you're trying to help her."
Again he ignored me and before I could yell to ask if he'd heard what I'd said or if hearing was defective in misogynists, we were in front of the nurse's office. He walked inside with Bella and I suddenly felt extremely vulnerable. I wanted to follow, but my inner closeted lesbian was finding her voice again. She was telling me to back off and go back to being Jessica Stanley the actress. I'd already gotten my alone time with Bella and that's all I had set out to accomplish to begin with. I sighed heavily and turned on my heel to head back to class. When I heard the door of the nurse's office open behind me, I didn't even bother to look and see if it was Bella.
Edward came striding up alongside me and I decided it was best to ignore him. I needed to pull myself together and not lash out.
"It would never work," he said after a few seconds of me giving him the silent treatment.
This caused me to twist my head in his direction. I didn't understand what Edward meant, but a part of me worried that I'd let just enough of the true Jessica slip earlier and I was now in trouble. I wanted to let him know that it would never work with him either, 'cause he was a big bag of dicks, but in the end I settled on the much safer sarcastic, "Sure."
He didn't bother me anymore and I made my way back to class, vowing to not let myself get away from my goal of being straight until I was away from this town. No more distractions from Bella. Although, that proved difficult when she came up to me later in the day to offer her thanks.
"Wow. Can you believe he actually picked me up like that? He's so weird," she confided.
I chuckled. Bella and I had similar feelings about Edward Cullen and this made me happy. "Yeah, I think he must be a time traveler from the past and not aware that damsel's in distress no longer need a knight to rescue them."
"Hey, maybe we could form another protest group. Our chant could be, put me down, punk! I can do this myself, " Bella said in mock anger.
"I would most definitely join you for this. Maybe we could start at Edward's house," I suggested and we shared a laugh.
"Well, I have to run, but I'll see you tomorrow?" Bella eventually said once we stopped laughing.
I nodded my head, "Yep, see you then."
As I watched her walk away, I wanted to groan as loudly as possible, because there was no way this crush was going to go away and in a small town like Forks it wasn't possible to avoid Bella Swan.