You don't have to make a hundred mistakes for everything to disintegrate around you.
One will do.
One wrong risk, one misplaced trust, one careless guess is enough to destroy the one thing you can least afford to lose.
But I'd never had any reason to imagine that my disaster would befall me at the time when I was most unexpectedly safe.
Here is how I decided to live with my father in Washington.
My favorite three questions are, What do I want?, What do I have?, and How can I best use the latter to get the former?
Actually, I'm also fond of What kind of person am I?, but that one isn't often directly relevant to decision making on a day-to-day basis.
What did I want? I wanted my mother, Renée, to be happy. She was the most important person to me, bar none. I also wanted her around, but when I honestly evaluated my priorities, it was more important that she be happy. If, implausibly, I had to choose between Renée being happy on Mars, and Renée being miserable living with me as she always had - I wouldn't be thrilled about it. At all. But I'd send her to Mars.
Mars wasn't in the picture, but my new stepfather Phil's travel schedule was. I'm a minor child; one isn't permitted to leave those unattended for too long. And so when he went from city to city, Renée stayed home, with me.
She was not happy.
Renée loves me, but she loves Phil too, or she wouldn't have married him. (I wouldn't call her the world's most self-aware person, but marriage is something she takes very seriously, since her divorce from my father. She was careful this time around.)
What did I have?
Lots of things - but the relevant one was: another parent.
And so, to let Renée follow Phil and be happy, I moved to the town of Forks, Washington - to stay, where I'd previously only spent summers.
It's a significant flight from Phoenix to Forks. A significant two flights and a drive, actually. I stocked my carry-on luggage with books to read and spiral notebooks to fill. I made a habit of carrying notebooks, and pens, everywhere. If I pinned my thoughts onto paper, they couldn't escape later. Without that kind of enforcement, they were liable to morph into versions of themselves that were more idealized, more consistent - and not what they were originally, and therefore false. Or they'd be forgotten altogether, which was even worse (those thoughts were mine, and I wanted them).
I wrote a lot, whenever anything remotely unusual or challenging happened. Once a week or so, I typed it all up, so I'd have a searchable archive. Originally I'd had to write down everything I could come up with in order to be more or less sure that I wasn't fooling myself more than was strictly necessary; after a few years of practice, I mostly trusted myself to remember my actual thoughts and not the fictionalized ones my brain preferred to provide. By the time I moved to Forks, the notebooks were more of a comfort object, which I mostly used for things I might need to refer to that were too important to leave to memory.
My father, Charlie, met my second plane in Port Angeles, hugged me with one arm, and helped me get my suitcases into his police cruiser. Once I'd buckled my seatbelt, in accordance with the law it would have been too ironic not to obey in a cop car, Charlie began the drive to his house - my house, too, I supposed. He told me he'd found a good car for me, a cheap one.
I had wanted a car. Not just to have a car - I didn't care about cars very much as objects - but to have autonomous mobility around town, and to avoid dependence on Charlie for rides, as he a) had other things to do with his time and b) drove a conspicuous vehicle. That he'd found me one for myself was a sign of attentiveness, trust, and spontaneous generosity: he knew what I wanted, thought I'd be responsible enough to have it, and offered it to me without any social obligation to do so whatever. I felt a rush of gratitude, and immediately thanked him warmly. He looked a little embarrassed; I relieved the awkwardness by asking after the details of the car and providing a concrete topic.
He'd already bought the car, which was actually a Chevy truck, for me as a homecoming gift - that was good if the car was adequate because it'd save me the money, but bad if it wasn't, because its gifthood made it harder to replace. I wanted to like the car. It was from his friend Billy Black, who'd become disabled recently and couldn't drive it any more. That reduced the odds that it was a lemon if he had a reason like that to get rid of it, which was important because I knew nothing about fiddling with the innards of engines. Although Charlie did admit to me, after a little prodding, that it was an old truck. Very old.
Charlie's a quiet sort. After our car talk was over, we observed that the weather was damp, then ceased to speak; I observed, silently, that the damp weather characteristic of the area did lead to some very nice, verdant scenery. I liked that, although the moist prerequisites weren't as pleasant. I decided that it would be useful to develop a taste for wet weather, and pulled out my notebook du jour to note that if I saw a way to do that, I should.
We arrived at his house. The truck was a solid red thing that I found strangely appealing. I wrote down that I should think about that - I wouldn't have guessed from a description of it that I'd have liked it, and that meant there was something I didn't know about my aesthetics - and then took it for a test drive around the block. It ran, loudly, but the radio worked and could drown out the engine noises. When I pulled it back into the driveway, Charlie had already hauled my bags inside and up the stairs to my room. I told him I loved the car, and then he stayed out of my way while I unpacked. As soon as I'd stashed the contents of my toiletry kit in the house's single bathroom, my next priority was to fire up my laptop and e-mail Renée, letting her know I'd made it safely and coming up with a short list of remarks about the weather, Charlie's good health, my new (old) truck, and my mixed feelings about the school I'd attend the following day, starting in mid-January no less.
I didn't need to be very detailed in my note to Renée, but the upcoming half-a-year of school was significant enough to warrant some heavy duty scribbling. Out came the spiral notebook. I wrote without dwelling on the words or trying to edit. If I decided that what came out of my brain was too terrible to be recorded, I could set the page on fire - after I had seen what was on it for myself.
I was used to a huge school with the resources that were the privilege of densely populated districts. I was used to being able to disappear in a sea of people. I wasn't used to Fork's student population three hundred and fifty-eight, counting me. I had to enter in the middle of the year. Everyone else already knew each other - moreover, everyone else had known each other from earliest childhood. Forks was one of those towns where a few people left and almost nobody ever turned up. I'd been born here and I'd spent the odd summer month here, but Charlie didn't live close to any families with kids my age, and I'd certainly never attended school here before. I was only sort of native, and wouldn't know any of my classmates.
Towns this small were also the natural habitat of gossip. If Charlie had mentioned to any of his friends or fellow police officers that his daughter was coming to stay for good, everybody in Forks who wasn't too young to have acquired language yet was also party to the information. I couldn't disappear: everyone would know who I was just by process of elimination, even if my resemblance to my father wouldn't do it.
My novelty would probably get me some attention and interest, though. If I were prepared for it, and acted friendly and excited to be there instead of self-conscious and beleaguered, I could probably make some friends on my first day and get their help navigating the school. I decided to psych myself up to make the most of the opportunity on the drive over to the school; friends in an unfamiliar place would be good. Full stop.
It rained a lot in Forks. Around midnight, it quieted to a light patter and I was able to fall asleep; by morning, it was just thick fog. I pulled on some nice, but not uncharacteristic, clothes - to make a good impression on my classmates that wouldn't be undercut by my next outfit - and went downstairs for breakfast. There wasn't any reason for Charlie to say anything while we ate our cereal, and so he didn't.
I reacquainted myself with the house. It had been months since I'd been there, but almost nothing had changed. In fact, almost nothing had changed since my mother had stormed out of the place, baby me in tow: the cabinets in the kitchen were still the same sunny yellow she'd painted them, for instance. I had never quite had the temerity to ask Charlie if he just hated redecorating, or if he wasn't over Renée yet. My suspicion was the latter. The pictures on the mantelpiece included a wedding photo and the pair of them in the delivery room right after my birth. The latter I could explain the same way as the procession of my school photos in a neat chronological row, the former not so readily.
I wasn't sure I could get to the high school as quickly as the distance suggested I should. There was fog everywhere, and I'd never driven in Forks before, only in and around Phoenix, so I didn't have a good sense of the road quality. I put on my raincoat over my knapsack as soon as I'd finished my breakfast, and left early. I raced from the house's door into the dry cab of my truck as fast as I could and roared down the street.
The school didn't look very much like a school. It was a group of brick buildings clustered together just off the highway, nestled in among trees and shrubs and connected by stone paths. (I considered it a poor design choice that the paths were not covered, and was glad of my coat.) I parked in front of the first building I rolled up to, which was conveniently labeled "Front Office". There weren't any other cars there, even the staff I'd expect to show up early, so I was probably going to have to move to some fog-obscured lot elsewhere on the campus, but whoever staffed the office would be able to direct me to it.
The office was a riot of awful color - green potted plants, repulsive orange-and-grey carpet, a rainbow of papers and plaques on the walls, and, behind the counter at one of three desks, a redheaded woman wearing purple. I walked up to the counter, encouraged my face to smile, and said, "Excuse me. I'm Isabella Swan. I -"
Her face lit up when I said my name, and she interrupted me. "Of course! I have your schedule right here, and a map of the school." She pulled them out of a tall, messy paper tower on her desk. It would have done less than no good to let the third sentence I spoke to this woman be a rebuke for the interruption, and even less good to fume about it indefinitely without taking action to prevent its recurrence. I did not like being interrupted as I tried to communicate, and my relentless attacks on this button had done no good; it annoyed me, every time. But I could make the annoyance brief, with a little work.
While the secretary marked all the routes I'd need to follow for my schedule on the map in highlighter, I went through my mood-zapping routine. Some people counted to ten, but that only made explicit the natural diminishing intensity of emotions over time and forced the waiting period. My way took a little longer, even after I'd pruned the process from a notebook-eating timekiller to a streamlined mental process. When I was done, though, I was not annoyed anymore.
The short version was just to review what I knew about my annoyance, and confirm to myself that I knew it. I knew that the woman had not caused it maliciously: she did not know me, did not know about this trigger, had no reason at all to try to irritate me, and was even now being supremely helpful. I knew that it did me no good to be annoyed: the emotion was not pleasant, it did not make me more effective at getting any of the things I wanted, and I did not prefer to be annoyed when interrupted. (It wasn't that I had a general desire to never be annoyed. I would have considered it appropriate if she'd shoved me for no reason or if she'd taken a personal phone call instead of doing her job when I walked in. But I had tried repeatedly in the past to eliminate altogether my dislike of interruptions, and that I'd so attempted was not consistent with wishing to be annoyed about this unspecial interruption in particular.)
Long practice at excising just this sort of reaction made it come loose more easily than some moods might have. But my annoyance was the ascription of motive to the secretary, glued down with entitlement and habit. If the motive were recognized to be nonexistent and the entitlement dissolved and the habit fought as a thing in my brain that I did not welcome, they ceased to trouble me.
The lady finished with her highlighter and gave back my map and schedule. She expressed a hope that I would like it in Forks, and told me the way to the correct parking lot; I thanked her sincerely and was on my way.
My aged truck didn't stand out as it would have if I'd driven it to the school in Phoenix. Except for one conspicuously shiny Volvo, the cars in the parking lot (which had filled up a bit by the time I got there) were old models. I parked, pocketed my keys, and found my location on the map. From there I followed the path of the line of highlighter to building three, and hopped out of the truck to join the swarm of teenagers.
My first class was English. Everything on the reading list was something I'd covered in school already. I'd probably be able to update old essays and spend my reading time on something else. I had no chance before class to introduce myself to anyone. Luckily, after the bell rang to end the class, a dark-haired boy who'd sat next to me leaned over.
"You're Isabella Swan, aren't you?" he asked. All the heads from our region of the classroom swiveled around, which, given that I needed to correct my appellation, was just as well.
"Yes," I said, "but I prefer "Bella". What's your name?"
"I'm Eric," he said, sounding quite friendly. "Where's your next class?"
I checked. "Building six. Government."
"I could show you the way. I'm headed for four, it's not far off," he offered. I smiled at him with a nod, and we collected our jackets from the hooks by the door. Eric set the pace along the crowded footpath and asked, "So, this is a lot different than Phoenix, isn't it?"
"Very," I agreed. It was great that I knew someone's name now and that he seemed helpful, but there wasn't going to be a lot of time for an entire conversation about Phoenix v. Forks between buildings three and six.
"It doesn't rain much there, does it?"
"Just three or four times a year," I said.
"Wow, what must that be like?" Eric mused.
I guessed that if he'd never left Forks, it wouldn't be obvious, a little like how I only knew about snow via the televised winter Olympics. "Dry, bright," I told him, "less greenery, more xeroscaping, fewer raincoats, more sunglasses."
He looked like he might have been confused by the word "xeroscaping" - we weren't exactly in a place famous for its rock gardens and cacti - but said only, "You don't look very tan."
"Skin cancer isn't among my hobbies," I said with a half-smirk. That had been off the cuff, but once I got out of the rain I planned to add it to my list of ways to learn to like Forks's weather: reduced risk of awful tumorous death. I didn't fancy dying at all, so crossing off likely causes was a plus. If I somehow eliminated them all, I'd be immortal. Eric smiled faintly, like he was pretending to get the joke, and escorted me to the door of building six.
"Well," he said as I hauled the door open, "good luck. Maybe we'll have some other classes together." He gave me a hopeful smile.
Government was followed by Trigonometry and Spanish. Trig was notable for the teacher's request that I introduce myself to the whole class. I ought to have expected something like that, but it caught me off guard and I stammered my way through some very basic facts - my name, my preferred nickname, that I was from Phoenix, and that I was "going to sit down now is that chair okay?". I sat, produced my notebook, and wrote cure fear of impromptu public speaking under my to-hack list right after learn to like rain (cancer is bad!).
In Trig, I met a girl named Jessica Stanley. She was tiny, with innumerable black curls and unstoppable chatter. She came with me to Spanish, as she was in the same class, and then invited me to sit with her and her friends at lunch. I went with her even as Eric spotted me from across the cafeteria and waved. By this point I'd met enough people to be running out of memory slots for new names, and I couldn't keep track of who I was sitting with, pleasant and worth remembering though they all seemed. I wanted to write down names and descriptions for them all. I refrained: I'd been cured of that particular hypergraphic urge when a classmate of mine in the eighth grade had looked over my shoulder, been confused by my description of her as "wee", and thrown the notebook into a lavatory puddle.
Everyone wanted to know how I liked Forks. I told them honestly that it was good to get more time with my dad, that the rain took some getting used to, and that everyone I had met was very helpful and polite. They were pleased with this assessment, especially the part where the rain comment gave them a hook into the world's most usual conversation topic. While Jessica and several of the others at the table traded half-remembered fragments of unreliable meteorological knowledge, I looked around the room where I'd be taking my midday meals for the next several months. That's when I saw them.
"They" were simultaneously completely unalike and obviously a group. They all sat at one table, but no two looked similar at a glance. There were three boys and two girls. One of the boys was the approximate size, shape, and menace of a bear; he looked like he was planning to go to college on a weightlifting scholarship, or like he'd done it a few years ago and was only sitting in a high school cafeteria for kicks. His dark curls contrasted with the bright honey mop on his neighbor, a lean, muscular, and vaguely leonine boy. The last boy was wiry, and looked younger than the other two, more like an actual high school student than a professional athlete. His hair was untidily bronze in the light, reddish-brown in less flattering shadow.
The two girls looked as opposite as could be while still both being white, female, and able-bodied. The tall one could have been a statue of Aphrodite with gold leaf caked onto her long, styled hair. She didn't look college-bound so much as Hollywood-bound, or maybe Paris - she'd do well anywhere that being decorative was a job skill. The other girl was littler and spindlier than Jessica. Her black hair was short, pointed away from her head in all directions, and gave her a pixie look.
But apart from the variations in size and hair color, they were all alike. They were paler than me, pale like marble, or ice - all just the same shade. And their faces were all the same. I had a momentary impression that they'd been drawn by a cartoonist who only knew how to sketch a single sort of face, but that wasn't right: they would be recognizeable by face alone - but it would be hard. Not because they had anything that registered as family resemblance; they didn't. Rather, because the easiest thing to think about when looking at any of those five faces was something along the lines of "Pretty!". It occluded the individual character of the features (a sharp chin on the pixie, a few faint scars on the lion). They were too stunning, to the point where it took me a second look to notice that each had dark circles under their eyes, as though they were all very tired.
The pixie got up and moved like a gymnast towards the trash can, where she discarded an unopened soda and an equally unmolested apple. None of the five were eating, now that it occurred to me to look.
The conversation among my table-mates about the weather lulled, and I took the opportunity to ask, "Who are they?"
Jessica looked where I was looking, and then the youngest-looking boy made eye contact with her for just a moment - then, his black eyes flicked over to me, and then they went back to staring at nothing in particular. Jessica giggled, embarrassed, and told me, "That's Edward and Emmett Cullen, and Rosalie and Jasper Hale. The one who left was Alice Cullen; they all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife."
The younger boy was disintegrating a bagel as she said this, picking it to bits; I didn't see any of it making its way to his mouth. "Which ones did you say were the Cullens?" I asked, tempted to make a remark about the pretty! but restrained by the impression that it would be rude. "They don't look related," I said instead.
"Oh, they're not," Jessica informed me. "Dr. Cullen is really young, in his twenties or early thirties. They're all adopted. The Hales are brother and sister, twins - the blondes - and they're foster children. And they're all together - Emmett and Rosalie, and Jasper and Alice, I mean."
"Foster children? How old are they?"
"Jasper and Rosalie are both eighteen," said Jessica, "but they've been with Mrs. Cullen since they were eight. She's their aunt or something like that."
"That's nice of Dr. and Mrs. Cullen to take all of them in like that," I observed.
"I guess so," said Jessica, but she sounded disapproving, like she didn't care for the doctor or his wife. "I think that Mrs. Cullen can't have any kids, though," she went on. I noted - mentally only - that Jessica was not, until further evidence accumulated, the person to trust with any personal information I might want to confide.
I kept stealing glances at the lovely family; it was hard not to, even when all they did was stare at the walls, mutilate food without eating it, and sit. "Have they always lived in Forks?" I asked, expecting the answer to be yes simply because everyone in Forks had always lived in Forks - but these people, if I had noticed them, I would have remembered, and it was such a small town...
"No," said Jessica, sounding like she expected the Cullens and Hales to seem un-Forks-like even to a newcomer. "They just moved down two years ago from somewhere in Alaska."
In a city, two years' residency didn't mean "newcomer" anymore, but in Forks, it did - so that meant I wasn't the only one. That was comforting, in a way; I'd found the attention useful, but I had no reason to expect anyone else new to move to Forks until I graduated from high school, and it would be convenient not to have to bear all of the scrutiny allotted to Forks's novelty. And it was unsettling, in another way, because they were sitting with each other and no one else, and Jessica seemed a fairly typical student and didn't care for the family. That didn't bode well for my eventual integration, although I seemed to have gotten a good reception so far. Perhaps it was the Cullens' and Hales' own choice to set themselves apart and that was all I was seeing.
I looked back at their table one more time, and the younger boy looked at me again. He was so beautiful it was distracting, but as far as I could tell despite that, he looked... expectant? Frustrated, maybe? Something he'd wanted or thought likely wasn't happening. "Which one," I asked Jessica, pulling my eyes away from him and making polite eye contact with her, "is the boy with the reddish brown hair?"
"That's Edward," she labeled him (and now I had identifications for all five: Emmett the bear, Jasper the lion, Rosalie the Aphrodite, Alice the pixie, and Edward, the one who expected something to happen with or to or near me that wasn't). "He's gorgeous, of course," Jessica went on, "but don't waste your time. He doesn't date. Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him." She made a sniffing noise, and I had a mental image of her flinging herself at him only to receive some genteel but firm rejection.
The image was amusing on one level, but sad, and so I chewed on my lip to avoid smiling. Then I looked at Edward again; my eyes just drifted there naturally, as though he were a bright red object on a background of gray or the only moving item in a still visual field. If I hadn't been right in the middle of talking to Jessica, I would have pulled out my notebook and written on my to-hack list, Learn to quit staring at pretty people. He wasn't looking my way anymore, though. A few minutes later the four of them remaining at the table since pixie-Alice's departure got up and left. Even Emmett-the-bear was coordinated and precise when he moved; watching the group walk together was eerie.
I risked lateness to my next class, Biology II, in order to linger with Jessica and her friends, hear their names a few more times, and - it turned out - get an escort to the correct building from Angela, who kindly reminded me what she was called en route after discovering that I was bound for the same class as she. The class was held in a room dominated by two-person black-topped lab tables like those in science rooms everywhere. Unluckily for me, Angela already had a lab partner. There was one unassigned student in the room, though, towards whom the teacher obligingly brought me. Sitting next to the empty chair that was to be my home in Biology for the rest of the school year was Edward Cullen.
I walked towards the empty chair. This was going to be awkward until I cured my tendency to stare at him every fifteen seconds. I hoped that the class would be on something new and unfamiliar that would be easy to attend to.
As I approached, he looked at me. Not an expectant, puzzled look like in the cafeteria. He looked enraged, and he looked it at me. I automatically flinched away from the threatening gaze and promptly tripped over a book in the aisle. Barely catching myself on my new lab table, I regained my footing, and gingerly sat in my chair. I was scared out of my wits - enraged people were dangerous, might hurt me, I didn't have even a clue what provoked him or how to stop doing it and calm him down so he wouldn't snap and do me harm. There were eighteen students in the class besides us, plus the teacher - surely if Jessica hadn't thought to mention any rumors of violent scandal, he was at least controlled enough to avoid exploding in front of numerous witnesses. Until I figured out what was wrong with him, I just needed to stick to groups when he was around, that was all. I tried to control my trembling as I resettled myself in my seat.
The class was on cellular anatomy. I'd covered it already, and the teacher's presentation style wasn't enthralling enough to hold my attention with a terrifying distraction just to my left.
Edward hadn't looked at me like that in the cafeteria, and no one else was reacting to me the same way. I hadn't spoken a word to him - could he be offended that I hadn't introduced myself? Was there some cue to do so that I'd missed? Did I smell weird? I tilted my head to bring a lock of hair near my nose; it smelled like my shampoo, sort of fruity, quite clean. Was he allergic to fake strawberry scent?
I peeked, hoping for more clues. He was holding himself absolutely rigid - if he was breathing, I couldn't tell - and up close, without his older brothers next to him, he didn't look so young and slight at all.
He glared at me again, his black eyes full of unadulterated hate. I scooted my chair an inch away. If he could have disintegrated me into my consitutent atoms with a stare he'd have done it. I made up my mind to try to change classes - or at least lab partners. I looked at the girl who shared Angela's table and wondered if she'd take a bribe to accept Edward Cullen as her new neighbor. Or were the partners assigned? Would I need to convince the teacher? Should I offer to clean glassware -?
The bell rang and I almost jumped out of my skin. I wanted to run home with a notebook and write the fear and confusion away and make the back of my neck stop crawling. Edward got to his feet, facing away from me - he was tall - and was first out of the room.
I stayed put for a moment. I wanted to collect myself, and I wanted to give him a good head start to whatever not-near-me place he was headed for. I inhaled deeply, held my breath for a moment, and then let it out. I tried to call up my mood zapping routine, but I didn't have enough information to really believe that I oughtn't be afraid. There was probably no genuine danger, but there could be, and part of my brain wanted to keep the fear in case it was importantly motivating later in a high-speed chase across campus. Spooked I would remain until, one way or another, the hazard was moot.
"Aren't you Isabella Swan?" asked a boy's voice.
I looked up. The speaker was marvelously nonthreatening, at least as far as I could tell (swell, I thought, am I going to suspect all my classmates are axe murderers now? This boy is no more or less likely to attack me than he would have been if I'd met him in Government this morning, and then I felt quite safe and I was right to feel that way, so I should feel safe about him now. My emotions grudgingly obeyed this logic.) The speaker was a marvelously nonthreatening, cute, blond boy, his hair coated in product and coaxed into rows of little spikes. He was smiling at me, friendly, not infuriated or filled with loathing.
"Yes," I said for the tenth time that day, "but I prefer Bella." I smiled back at him.
"I'm Mike," he said.
"Hi, Mike. It's nice to meet you."
"Do you need help finding your next class?" he asked eagerly.
"It's gym," I said, nodding and getting to my feet with a little help from the lab table.
"That's my next class too!" He seemed thrilled about it, easily made happy by the small coincidence. I tried to soak his glee up and cheer myself. Mike talked all the way to the gym building, which was easy on me. Apparently he'd lived in California until he was ten and considered this a reason to commiserate with me about sunshine's local scarcity. He had noticed me in English too, but hadn't had a chance to introduce himself because Eric had beaten him to it.
My relaxed role of listening to Mike's pleasantries came to an abrupt end as we entered gym class and he said, "So, did you stab Edward Cullen with a pencil or what? I've never seen him act like that."
"I have absolutely no idea what might have happened to provoke him," I said at once, trying to sound categorical but not like I'd been coached by a lawyer. "I never spoke to him."
"He's a weird guy," Mike told me, hanging back instead of veering off to the boys' locker room. "If I were lucky enough to sit by you, I would have talked to you."
The sentiment about conversation was nice... the word "lucky" set off a little alarm bell. It wouldn't do to be entangled in a more than friendly way immediately after moving to Forks. I smiled at Mike and walked into the girls' locker room. The gym teacher found me a uniform, but didn't make me participate in the day's activity, which was volleyball - a good thing, as I bruised very easily and didn't want to walk around all week with black and blue forearms. Or, almost as likely with my brand of grace, veer into one of the posts holding up the net and wind up sprawled on the floor bleeding.
After gym was over, I was done for the day. I made sure I'd gotten all of my little paper slips signed by the relevant teachers, and then headed for the front office to turn them in. It was cold outside, and I rushed into the colorful little building. The door had shut behind me before I realized that in addition to the secretary I'd met that morning, the office also contained Edward Cullen. My luck was such that he didn't notice, or ignored, my entrance; I moved near the wall, waiting for him to finish his business and free up the receptionist. They appeared to be arguing. A few sentences later, I realized he was trying to get her to move him out of our biology class to some other class, any other class. He had an oddly smooth voice - I wondered if he always talked like that or if he was just trying to convince the secretary by turning up the charm. I wondered, crazily, if he sang.
Between the timing and Mike's evaluation of Edward's hostile behavior, it seemed impossible that the attempt at transfer didn't have something to do with me. But then - what did I want? I wanted never to be looked at that way again. Good riddance if he wanted another class, good luck to him.
The door opened again, letting a waft of frigid air into the office. A girl ducked inside, dropped a note into a wire basket on the counter, and slipped out again. And as the door shut behind her, Edward turned around slowly and stared at me with hateful eyes. "Never mind," he said curtly to the receptionist. "I can see that it's impossible. Thank you so much for your help." And then he disappeared out into the cold.
"How did your first day go, dear?" the receptionist asked kindly. She hadn't seen Edward's expression and apparently couldn't tell I was shaking in my boots.
I considered lying, considered telling the whole truth, and finally said, "I met a lot of nice people."
I stalled in the office after I'd turned in my paperwork on the pretense of re-lacing my boots. If Edward wanted so badly to avoid me I wasn't going to give him any trouble. By the time I arrived at my truck, the parking lot was almost deserted. I drove home, resentful and confused.
By the time I got done with it, my notebook was going to regret the day its component trees had sprouted.
Good Things, read my notebook. Eric, Jessica, Angela, Jessica's other friends, and Mike are all friendly. Classwork looks easy (poss. exception trig (work with Jessica? (is she any good at math?)), def. exception gym (break a toe or something? look up attendance rules (cut as many of the worst days as possible) check up on provisions for alternate requirement fulfillment (is this one of those schools where you can just write an essay on the history of soccer??))).
Things To Fix, said the next section. What is Edward's DEAL? See Exceptions re: classwork above. Jessica poss. untrustworthy w/ personal info. Mike too friendly too soon.
I looked at the first Thing To Fix. I looked at it some more. I had no idea. My brain generated hypotheses, but none of them were plausible enough to be worth having thought of, let alone following up on. Edward was not an experimental robot programmed to make scary faces at girls from Phoenix when they got within ten feet of him. Edward was not a rabid anarchist who thought police officers and their families all deserved to die. Edward did not believe that he could stare holes through my skull and thereby learn more about the brain and earn higher marks in Biology.
That didn't tell me what his deal was, but I decided that I didn't have a way to make progress on that question at the moment. And he hadn't gotten out of the biology class, either. I drew a little arrow towards "What is Edward's DEAL?, and at the other end of the arrow I wrote "Discuss issue with bio teacher, request lab partner change." If Edward had found every other science section full, I'd surely find the same thing, but that didn't mean I had to sit right next to him. And if "he looked at me scarily" wasn't moving to the teacher, I could say instead that I was new, didn't know all the class procedures, and would rather have a lab partner who was more willing to spend time bringing me up to speed on things like lab report formatting. So I wouldn't have to bother the teacher with too many questions, of course.
I moved on. Talk to Jessica about trig, I wrote. Talk to gym coach
about how I probably have an inner ear problem and that's so a medical excuse and make vague insinuations about lawsuits or something if I crack my head open and BEG "forget" my uniform a lot, and find some non-sports chore the coach is responsible for and offer to help with that to make up for it. Maybe cleaning gym equipment or doing paperwork or something? Or come up with less risky alternatives?
Don't write thoughts in notebooks around Jessica unless plausibly taking class notes. Talk to her only about non-private things.
And Mike... That was a stumper. There wasn't anything obviously the matter with Mike; I couldn't very well tell him "you're not my type because you're too cute and don't make me fear for my life". My reasons for preferring to dissuade him were entirely about myself. I hadn't yet begun to scratch the surface of what I wanted out of dating or romance or anything in that department. And it seemed like a uniquely hazardous thing to uninformedly test by experiment, both for myself and for anyone else involved.
I hadn't had to address the problem of how to delay, though, because in Phoenix I hadn't had anyone like Mike being puppyish in my direction. Immediately after moving also seemed like a uniquely bad time to try to pair off, when I was still getting acquainted with everything around me and my judgment could be off. And I didn't know why Mike was interested - actually, I was only guessing that he was in the first place, although it seemed like a good guess - so I didn't have any known personality trait that I could tone down for the purpose of making him lose interest. He hadn't said anything explicitly, though, so I decided it was safe to simply wait and see if any good strategies turned up. Wait and try not to be encouraging, I wrote.
I did homework - in other notebooks - for most of the rest of the afternoon. The disadvantage of starting at a new school in January was that I didn't get to ramp up slowly. I managed to get to bed at a reasonable hour anyway, but although it didn't rain that night, it was windy, and I tossed and turned for some time before I managed to get to sleep.