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This Youthful Heart Can Love You

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The sun shone brightly through the small, rounded window of the airplane, and Bella was basking in it. These were the last few rays of Arizona sun she would be seeing for a long time. The final destination of this trip was a little town called Forks, Washington, where her father Charlie lived. She wasn’t particularly excited about the move—the thought of leaving Phoenix, the city that she loved, and especially of leaving her mother, terrified her. Yet it was for the best that she left, because Phil, her mother’s new husband, traveled a lot. Bella knew her mother wanted to travel with him, so to make her happy, Bella left. Knowing it was the right thing to do was her one source of comfort as the plane took off, headed toward Seattle. She settled back in her seat, closed her eyes, and tuned out the pilot’s voice over the speakers as she thought about the hour-long drive from the airport to Charlie’s home in Forks, knowing it was bound to be awkward.

Unsurprisingly, it was raining when she landed in Port Angeles. Charlie was waiting for her in his cruiser, which was also not a surprise. It was the reason, in fact, that one of the first things Bella intended to do when they got to Charlie’s house was buy a car. Charlie was the chief of police to the good people of Forks, and being driven around in a car with red and blue lights on top sounded agonizing to her. Nothing slows down traffic like a cop.

“It’s good to see you, Bells,” said Charlie when she reached the cruiser. He gave his daughter an awkward, one-armed hug before helping her with her bags. She didn’t have many things with her; most of her clothes were suited to the Arizona heat, and she wouldn’t be needing them. She had bought some warmer clothes to bring, but her wardrobe was still scarce. It all fit easily into the trunk of Charlie’s cruiser. “How’s Renée?”

“Mom’s fine. It’s good to see you, too, Ch-Dad.” Bella stuttered on her father’s name. She was so used to calling him Charlie that she’d almost slipped up and done so to his face. She knew she couldn’t call him that anymore. That would take some getting used to. Bella made her way around her father’s car and stepped off the curb by the passenger door, stumbling a bit as she did so. Charlie reached out to steady her.

“Haven’t changed a bit,” he said, smiling. Bella had always been clumsy, but it was endearing to her father. He opened the door for her before going around to the driver’s side. “So,” he began once they were both in the cruiser. “I found a good car for you, really cheap.”

“What kind of car?” she asked, suspicious.

“Well, it’s a truck really, a Chevy.”

“Where did you find it?”

“Billy Black, from down at La Push, he sold it to me cheap. You probably don’t remember him. Anyway, he’s in a wheelchair now, so he can’t drive the thing. I thought you might like it,” said Charlie. The thing, Bella thought to herself. It made for a decent nickname.

“How cheap is cheap?” she asked, remembering her budget. She didn’t have much to spend on a car, and hadn’t been planning on Charlie finding one for her. The two had been talking about finding one together when Bella got to Forks.

“Well, honey, I kind of already bought it for you. As a homecoming gift,” he said, peeking sideways at her, a small, hesitant smile on his face. Bella was taken aback. Free was a better price than she could have hoped for.

Soon after Bella thanked him, the conversation died down. They exhausted the car discussion fairly quickly (Bella got it out of him that the car was originally from the early sixties, but he assured her it ran great), and exchanged a few comments about the weather—how much wetter it was than Phoenix, mainly—and then their only other option was staring out the windows in silence. Looking around, Bella had to admit, the scenery here was beautiful. It was much greener than she was used to. After a while though, she began to think that perhaps it was too green—like an alien planet.

The first thing Bella noticed when they eventually pulled up to Charlie’s house was the truck—her truck—parked on the street in front of it. It was a faded red color, with big, rounded fenders and a bulbous cab. To her surprise, she loved it. She could really see herself driving it, and it looked sturdy despite its age. If it was true that it ran fine, then she was more than happy with it. Bella smiled and got out of Charlie’s cruiser to get a closer look.

“Wow, dad, I love it! Thank you so much!” she said, grinning, running her hand along the body.

“I’m glad you like it,” Charlie said, embarrassed. He, like Bella, wasn’t particularly comfortable expressing his emotions out loud, so he could be a bit awkward whenever he tried.

When Bella and her father went into the house, it only took one trip to get all of her stuff upstairs to the west bedroom, the one that faced out over the front yard. This room was familiar to Bella. It had been hers for the past seventeen years, ever since she was born, and even though three summers ago she had finally put her foot down and stopped coming to stay in Forks, it remained largely unchanged. The wooden floors, the light blue walls, the yellowed lace curtains around the window, even the rocking chair from when she was a baby was still in the corner. All of this had been there since the room first became hers, except for the bed that had replaced the crib and a desk that was added to the room as she grew up. Now, all that was different from when she had last seen it was the secondhand computer sitting on the desk. This was a stipulation from her mother, so the two of them could stay in touch easily. After she had her bags in the room, Bella went to the bathroom to put her toiletries away and freshen up a bit after a day of traveling. The bathroom was the only one in the house, and she would have to share it with Charlie—a fact she was trying not to dwell on. She looked at herself in the mirror above the sink, and thought that, somehow, she already looked sallower, unhealthy. Bella had always been pale, despite living in a city with near-constant sun, but her skin could be pretty. It all depended on color though, and maybe it was the lighting, but looking at herself then, she felt she had none. After washing her face, Bella went back to her room to start putting her things away.

To Bella, one of the best things about Charlie is he doesn’t hover. She had been left alone to unpack and get settled, something that would not have been possible with her mother. She appreciated the time to herself, not having to act pleased, free to stare dejectedly out the window at the sheeting rain and let a few tears escape. She promised herself that wouldn’t truly cry though, not yet anyway. She would have to hold on until bedtime, when she would have to think about the coming morning.

Forks high school had a total of only three hundred and fifty-seven—now fifty-eight—students. This was nothing like Bella’s school back home; her junior class alone had over seven-hundred people in it. In Forks, all of the kids had grown up together, and everybody knew each other. Bella would be the new girl from the big city. A curiosity, she thought; a freak. If she looked like a girl from Phoenix, maybe she could use this to her advantage, but physically, she felt she’d never fit in anywhere. One would expect her to be tan, sporty, blond; all the things that go with life in a city with near-constant sunshine. She didn’t have the excuse of light hair or light eyes for her fair complexion though, and she was too slender and soft to be an athlete, not to mention her lack of coordination. All of this had made her a bit of an outsider at her old school. She had had a few friends over the years, but nothing ever clicked. She never found her niche, and was worried that if she were unable to do so in a school with three thousand people, her chances here were fairly slim. Bella also worried that, in such a small town, people wouldn’t be as accepting of the fact than she was gay as they were back in Phoenix. She had decided to keep that to herself for now, at least until she could get a feel for people’s attitudes in Forks. It could go either way, really. Washington was likely to be more accepting, but with a small town, no matter the state, attitudes were unpredictable.

Part of the problem Bella had with making friends was she didn’t relate well to people her age. Or, if she were being honest with herself, maybe she didn’t relate well to people at all. She never even felt totally in harmony with her own mother, who she was closer to than anyone. Sometimes she felt like she just didn’t quite see the world the way everyone else did. Sighing, Bella finished putting her clothes in the old pine dresser and climbed into bed. She didn’t sleep well that night though, even after she was done crying. The constant whooshing of the rain and wind across the roof wouldn’t fade into the background, too unfamiliar to her to be comforting. She pulled the faded old quilt over her head in an attempt to drown it out, and later added the pillow, too. It was after midnight when she finally fell asleep, after the rain had settled into a quieter drizzle.

When she woke up, thick fog was all that was visible out her bedroom window. She felt vaguely claustrophobic as she got dressed for the day and went downstairs. Breakfast with Charlie was a quiet event. He wished his daughter good luck at school, and she thanked him, despite knowing his hope was wasted. Bella felt that good luck tended to avoid her. Charlie left first, off to the police station. After he was gone Bella sat at the old square oak table in one of the three mismatched chairs and examined his small kitchen, with its dark paneled walls, bright yellow cabinets, and white linoleum floor.

Nothing had changed in the years since Bella’s mother Renée left Charlie. They had bought this small, two-bedroom house together in the early days of their marriage. Those were the only kind of days their marriage had—the early ones. Eighteen years ago, Renée had painted the cabinets in an attempt to bring some sunshine into the house, since there was none to be had outside of it. Over the small fireplace in the small adjoining family room was a row of pictures. First, a wedding photo of Charlie and Renée in Las Vegas, followed by one of the them with a newborn Bella in the hospital. After that was a procession of Bella’s school pictures, up to last year’s. Those were embarrassing—Bella thought she’d have to remember to talk to Charlie about those and see if he would take them down. It was impossible, being in this house, not to realize that Charlie had never gotten over Renée. It made Bella uncomfortable. Not wanting to be in the house anymore, Bella donned her jacket, which felt too big and unfamiliar, and headed out into the rain. It was just drizzling, not enough to soak her through immediately as Bella headed for her truck, but she hurried anyway. Inside, it was nice and dry. The truck had obviously been cleaned up before it was given to her, but the tan upholstered seats still smelled faintly of tobacco, gasoline, and peppermint. Thankfully, the engine started quickly and without protest, but once it roared to life, it kept roaring, and at top volume. This was frustrating, but a truck this old couldn’t be perfect. The radio worked though, a plus Bella hadn’t expected.

Finding the school wasn’t difficult, though she’d never been there before. It was, like most other things, just off the highway. Bella would have driven right past it if it hadn’t been for the sign which declared it to be the Forks High School, as it looked nothing like the high schools she was used to seeing. It simply looked like a collection of matching houses, built with maroon-colored bricks. Plus, there was so much greenery around it that she couldn’t see its size at first. She nostalgically wondered where the feel of the institution was, the chain-link fences, the metal detectors.

Bella parked in front of the first building, which had a small sign over the door reading front office. She decided to go get directions from inside, and regrettably stepped out from the warmth of the truck cab and back into the biting rain. Inside, the space was brightly lit, and warmer than she had expected. The office was small. It had a little waiting area, color-flecked carpet, and notices and awards cluttering the walls. The large clock in the room was ticking loudly as Bella looked around. The room was cut in half by a long, cluttered counter. Bella approached it, and a woman in a purple t-shirt and thin wire glasses looked up from her place at one of the three desks behind the counter.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“I’m Isabella Swan,” Bella said, and saw the recognition dawn on her face. Bella was a topic of gossip at the school, her arrival highly anticipated. The daughter of the Chief’s flighty ex-wife, come home at last. She had been dreading this reaction. She wasn’t one to enjoy being at the center of attention.

“Of course,” the woman from the office said. She dug through a precariously stacked pile of documents on her desk until she found the ones she was looking for. “I have your schedule right here, and a map of the school.” She brought the papers up to the counter where Bella stood, showing them to her. She went through Bella’s schedule, and showed her her classes on the map, highlighting the best routes to take from building to building. She then gave Bella a slip of paper to have each teacher sign, which she was to bring back at the end of the day. The woman smiled at Bella as she turned to leave, and Bella offered what she hoped was a convincing smile back.

By the time Bella made it back to her truck, other students were starting to arrive, and she decided to follow the line of traffic to find where she was supposed to park. She was glad to see that most of the other cars were older like hers, nothing flashy, save for a single shiny Volvo in the lot. At home, she’d lived in one of the few lower-income neighborhoods that were included in the Paradise Valley District. It was not at all uncommon to see brand-new luxury cars in the student lot there. As soon as Bella was in a spot, she cut the engine to her truck, knowing that its thunderous volume could still draw unwanted attention to her even if the truck itself blended in with the rest. Before getting out, Bella took a long look at the map the woman in the office had given her, hoping she would be able to memorize it now instead of having to walk around with it all day. Finally, feeling that she’d absorbed all she could from it, she stuffed the papers into her backpack and slung a strap over her shoulder. Sucking in a huge breath and holding it, she put her hand on the door handle. I can do this, she lied to herself feebly. Then, she exhaled and stepped out of the truck. On the walk to the school, she kept her face pulled back into the hood of her black jacket, which thankfully didn’t stand out from the others. She was looking for building three, where her first class of the day was. It was easy to spot once she got close to the cafeteria. Bella walked up to the building with a large black ‘3’ painted on the side, and followed two students through the door. The classroom was small. The people in front of Bella stopped just inside the room to hang up their coats on a long row of hooks, and she followed suit. The students in front of her were, she noticed, very pale. She was glad that at least her complexion wouldn’t stand out in Forks.

After Bella took the slip from the office up to the teacher, whose nameplate identified him as Mr. Mason, she was sent to an empty desk in the back of the class. Bella had hoped it would be harder for the students to stare at her from the back, but they still managed. She did her best to pretend not to notice, instead focusing on the reading list for the class that Mr. Mason had handed to her. It was fairly basic. She had already read everything, which was comforting, but also boring. The teacher droned on while she wondered if her mother would send her some of her old essays, or if she would think that was cheating.

When the bell rang, a gangly boy with skin problems and hair black as an oil slick leaned across the aisle to talk to her.

“You’re Isabella Swan, aren’t you?” said the boy. He seemed overly helpful, and a little nerdy. The chess club type, Bella thought.

“Just Bella,” she corrected. A few kids turned to look at her when she spoke.

“Where’s your next class?” The boy asked. Bella had to check her bag.

“Um,” she began, flipping through the stack of papers she had been given. She felt her cheeks get a bit warm, feeling silly for not at least knowing class number two. “Government,” she said when she finally found it. “With Jefferson, in building six.” Bella glanced up and found that there was nowhere to look without meeting curious eyes.

“I’m headed toward building four, I could show you the way.” The boy said. Bella had been right—definitely over-helpful, she thought. “I’m Eric, by the way,” he added. Bella smiled politely. She knew he was just being nice, even if she didn’t want the attention, and years of living with her eccentric mother had given her the patience she would need to get through talking to all the curious students she was sure to encounter that day.

“Thanks,” Bella said. They got their jackets and headed back out into the rain, which had picked up.

“So, this is a lot different than Phoenix, huh?” said Eric. That’s an understatement, thought Bella.

“Very,” she said.

“It doesn’t rain much there, does it?”

“Just three or four times a year.”

“Wow, what must that be like?” he wondered.

“Sunny,” she told him.

“You don’t look very tan.” He said. Bella had anticipated this observation from others, but it still made her feel a bit self-conscious. She shrugged, not knowing what to say. Eric walked Bella all the way to building six, which was among the south buildings by the gym. He walked her right to the door, though it was clearly marked. Bella didn’t feel this was necessary, but reminded herself that he was just being friendly.

“Well, good luck,” said Eric as Bella reached for the door handle. “Maybe we’ll have some other classes together,” he said, sounding hopeful. She smiled at him before going inside.

The rest of the morning passed in the same fashion, other than in Trigonometry, when Mr. Varner, the teacher, had Bella stand in front of the class and introduce herself. The incident resulted in lots of stammering, blushing, and a trip on the way back to her seat. This was not surprising, but humiliating nonetheless. In each class, there were some faces she recognized from a class she’d had before then, and there was always someone braver than the others who would introduce themselves and ask her questions about how she was liking Forks. It was tiring, but on the upside, at least she never needed the map. Everyone here was being extremely friendly, but Bella was generally a very shy person. She was torn between wanting to make friends and wanting to blend in.

One girl, Jessica, sat next to Bella in both Trig and Spanish, and she walked with her to the cafeteria for lunch. The girl was tiny, several inches shorter than Bella’s five feet four inches, but her wildly curly dark hair made up a lot of the difference between their heights. They sat at the end of a full table with several of her friends, who she introduced to Bella. Bella tried to remember their names as the girl said them, but was unsuccessful. The boy from English, Eric, waved at Bella from across the room. It was then when she first noticed them.

They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where Bella sat as possible in the long room. There were four of them. They weren’t talking, and they weren’t eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them. They weren’t gawking at Bella, unlike many of the other students, so it was safe to stare at them without fear of meeting an excessively interested pair of eyes. But it was none of these things that caught, and held, her attention.

They somehow looked both completely unalike each other, and remarkably similar. Of the three boys, one was big—very tall, broad-shouldered, and impressively muscled. The boy next to him was taller, and leaner than the boy next to him, but still muscular, with wavy, honey blond hair that fell at his jaw whereas the other boy’s was very short and dark. The last was smaller, less bulky, with untidy, bronze-colored hair. He was more boyish than the others, who looked like they could be in college, or even teachers rather than students. The girl with them was statuesque, with a beautiful figure, the kind usually seen on actresses and models. Her hair was golden like the hair of one of the boys, gently waving to the middle of her back. Bella’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of her: she more beautiful than any girl she could ever remember seeing. However, while all of their features were very much different from one another, there was no denying how similar they were. Every one of them was shockingly pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Their eyes were also all very dark, despite the range in their hair colors. They had dark circles under their eyes, too, almost bruiselike, as if they were all suffering from sleep deprivation or a broken nose. None of their noses looked like they had ever been broken though, as all of their features were perfectly symmetrical, straight, angular. However, none of this was why Bella couldn’t look away. She stared because these people, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful.

“Who are they?” Bella asked Jessica. She looked up to see who Bella meant. As she did this, the boyish one glanced their way, and met Bella’s staring eyes. He looked bored at first, but then something shifted in his face and he looked over at Bella intensely, his brows drawn together, his head tilted to the side. Maybe he had heard about Bella’s arrival just like all the other students, but it seemed unlikely to her that a boy like him would care about the current gossip.

“That’s Edward and Emmett Cullen, and Rosalie and Jasper Hale. They all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife,” said Bella’s neighbor under her breath. Bella glanced back over to the table, and the copper-haired boy had looked away again, focusing his attention on his lunch now, though he still did not eat it. Strange, unpopular names, Bella thought.

“They’re very… nice-looking.” Bella said, struggling with the conspicuous understatement.

“Yes!” Jessica agreed with a giggle.

“Which ones are the Cullens?” she asked. “They don’t look related.”

“Oh, they’re not. Dr. Cullen is really young, in his twenties or early thirties. They’re all adopted. The big one and the redhead are the Cullens. There’s another one, too, a girl. Alice Cullen. I don’t see her though,” said Jessica, looking around despite knowing the Cullens never strayed from their usual table together. “The blond ones are twins—the Hales. They’re foster children. Been with Mrs. Cullen for ten years, since they were eight. She’s their aunt or something.” Jessica finished talking, and the pair of them glanced back over to the table where the four of beautiful people still sat in silence together. Bella was too entranced by them to notice when Alice, the fifth Cullen, entered the Cafeteria.

Alice had not meant to be late for lunch. She was worried about it, in fact, because it had been some time since her family’s last hunt, and Jasper, the Cullen with the least self-control of them, would be having a difficult time being in a room so full of humans today. The family relied on Alice during times like these. Because of her special talent, she would be able to see, if it came to that, Jasper’s decision to kill someone before he made it, and she could intercept. If she wasn’t with her siblings though, then she could not give this warning. If she could capture Edward’s attention by thinking his name, then perhaps he could read her mind and see the vision she was having, but that would take longer. It was dangerous to waste time like that. Besides, he seemed to be very distracted at the moment. She turned to see what he was so focused on, and saw the new girl. Instantly, she was hit with a vision.

For nearly two decades, Alice had been having the same visions over and over. They were all centered around her, and her relationship with… someone. Who, Alice did not know. The other woman in these visions was always obscured from view, blurred indefinitely until Alice met the girl and could connect her to the visions. She had shared this with her family, of course, and Edward had seen many of them for himself, whenever he was undistracted enough to see her thoughts accidentally. He had to focus on giving his family privacy, and sometimes there wasn’t enough for him to focus on. They had all discussed these visions, and they had all talked of coming across another one of their kind—a vampire—when talking of the mystery girl. Never would any of them had dreamed that Alice would fall for a human. Really, it wasn’t that far-fetched that, of all of them, Alice would fall for a human girl. She related better to the humans than any of the other Cullens, save for Carlisle, who was constantly interacting with them. Carlisle was their father, at least in every way that counted. Still, Alice was surprised by the visions she had now.

Bella Swan was now being stared at by two vampires—Edward, who was for some reason finding her mind difficult to read, and Alice, who had just fallen in love with her. Every vision Alice had ever had of this future mate was filled in, unobscured, and Alice saw her future clearly now: she would, eventually, form a relationship with this human, who would one day become one of them. This future was clear, because Alice would not fight it. She couldn’t.

The vision lasted much longer than her visions usually do, and when she refocused on the present, she noticed Rosalie and Emmett staring at her. She shook her head at them, knowing they were wondering what she had just seen. Edward was still staring at Bella, and Jasper, Alice realized, was staring thirstily at a young girl standing by the table next to theirs. Alice remembered why she had hurried to the cafeteria in the first place and focused on Jasper’s future as best as she could. Edward seemed to notice Jasper, too. His thoughts were loud as he considered draining the blood of the girl near them. He was picturing it. Edward kicked his chair.

“Sorry,” Jasper muttered as Alice began to stride across the room. Bella saw her as she crossed over to the Cullens’ table, and immediately knew from the girl’s dark undereyes and uniquely chalky complexion that she was a Cullen. Watching her, Bella saw that she was short, even shorter than Jessica. She probably wasn’t even five feet tall, Bella thought. She was also very slender, with small features. Like the other Cullens, she had dark eyes, as dark as her deep black hair, which was cropped short. She looked almost pixielike. She walked across the cafeteria quickly yet gracefully, almost as if she was gliding across the floor; a lope that belonged on a runway. Bella’s mouth fell open slightly at the sight.

“You weren’t going to do anything,” Alice murmured to Jasper as she sat down next to him, soothing his chagrin. "I could see that." Edward, his focus now off of Bella, fought back the grimace that would give his sister’s lie away. They had to stick together, he and Alice. It wasn't easy, hearing voices or seeing visions of the future. They were both freaks among those who were already freaks, and they protected each other’s secrets.

"It helps a little if you think of them as people," Alice suggested, her high, musical voice too fast for human ears to understand, if any had been close enough to hear. "Her name is Whitney. She has a baby sister she adores. Her mother invited Esme to that garden party, do you remember?"

"I know who she is," Jasper said curtly. He turned away to stare out one of the small windows that were spaced just under the eaves around the long room. His tone ended the conversation. Bella, who had watched Alice’s progress across the room, now stared curiously at the way her lips moved. She must have been speaking to the others, but her mouth was nearly closed, moving strangely fast.

“Is that Alice?” Bella asked Jessica in a low voice. The dark-haired girl looked her way when she said the name, though she was surely too far to hear, and their eyes met. Bella thought Alice’s stare held some strange depth to it, but it was probable that Bella had just imagined it. She looked away, the action a little harder than she expected under Alice’s gaze, which was incredibly captivating. She turned to face Jessica, who nodded in response to Bella’s question.

“Have the Cullens always lived in Forks?” Bella asked. Surely, she would have noticed them during one of her summers here.

“No, they just moved down two years ago from somewhere in Alaska,” Jessica replied. At this, Bella felt both pity and relief. Pity, because they were outsiders, clearly not accepted despite their undeniable beauty. Relief because she was definitely not the most interesting newcomer here, by any standard. Glancing at their table, Bella saw that Alice was looking at her, though she quickly looked away when she locked eyes with her. Alice would ordinarily be watching Bella’s future to see if she was going to look up, but she was too focused on Jasper’s future at the moment. No matter how badly she wanted to focus her attention on the girl, if Jasper did something bad, attacked a human, then the Cullens would be forced to leave and Alice would lose her chance with Bella entirely. Edward glanced at Bella then too, looked focused, almost frustrated, before looking away again. His gaze was a little unsettling to Bella, where Alice’s was nothing short of enchanting.

“Which one is the boy with the reddish brown hair?” Bella asked, braving another peek at the Cullens out of the corner of her eye. None of them were looking anymore.

“That’s Edward. He’s gorgeous, of course, but don’t waste your time. He doesn’t date. Apparently, none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him.” She sniffed, a clear case of sour grapes. Bella wondered when he’d turned her down. She didn't respond to Jessica, who clearly thought Bella was asking because she was interested, not wanting to give her sexuality away too quickly. After a moment, Bella couldn’t help but look over to where the Cullens sat again. Edward was turned away, but his cheeks appeared lifted, as if he were smiling.

After a few more minutes, the Cullens left the cafeteria together. They were all notably graceful—even the big, brawny one, Bella noticed. She deduced that he must be Emmett, remembering Edward as the youngest and Jasper as the blond. Alice was still the most graceful of them however, almost dancing across the floor. Alice looked at Bella again as she walked by, and Bella looked down at her lunch, feeling self-conscious under her intense gaze.

One of Bella’s new acquaintances, who reminded her that her name was Angela, had Biology with her after lunch, and they walked to class together in silence. Bella thought she must be shy, too. It was refreshing. When they entered the classroom, Angela went to sit down in her seat. She already had a neighbor. Looking around, Bella noticed only one seat open for herself. Next to the center aisle, Edward Cullen sat alone at one of the black-topped lab tables. Looking away from him for the moment, Bella walked over to the teacher, Mr. Banner, and had him sign her slip. He handed it back to her, and then sent her to the only open seat in the room. She kept her eyes down as she went to her new seat.

Bella didn’t look up as she set her things down and took her seat, but she could see him staring at her out of the corner of her eye. After a moment, she glanced over, smiling weakly, and he smiled back.

“Hello,” He said, pushing off of the wall he was leaning against and shifting in his seat to face her. “I’m Edward. You must be Bella Swan.”

“Hi, yeah, I am,” she said, a bit shocked that he was talking to her. “How’d you know?” He smiled slightly.

“I think everyone here knows your name. The whole town was waiting for you to arrive.”

“I figured,” she said, looking down again. So close, it was hard for her to look into his dark eyes for too long. He looked at her with an unusual intensity. “You said Bella, though. Everyone’s been calling me Isabella.”

“Is that what you prefer?” he asked.

“No, I like Bella. I think my dad must call me Isabella behind my back or something though. That’s what everyone seems to know me as,” she said.

“Oh,” was all Edward replied with, letting it drop. He’d slipped up. If he hadn’t been listening to her conversation during lunch, trying to decipher her thoughts, he would not have called her Bella. She was quite observant; he would have to be more careful.

It was that moment that Mr. Banner decided to start class, and Bella was thankful. She felt like things were about to become awkward between her and Edward. She leaned back in her chair and listened to the teacher go over the syllabus, pretending to be entirely focused on what he had to say. When he was done, he handed out worksheets they were to complete in class. They were permitted to work with their lab partner. Edward made small talk with Bella for most of the period, as they both finished their worksheets relatively quickly. He had decided that there must be something strange about Bella that prevented him from reading her mind, not something wrong with him, and he was determined to understand her. Bella noticed during their conversation that he had a very formal way of speaking, which she found interesting. He was kind, no longer staring at her with the same intensity after they had talked for a while, and she wondered why everyone seemed to avoid him. After class was over, he volunteered to clean off the table. They exchanged goodbyes, and he walked away to put the supplies they’d gathered back where they go as Bella began to pack up her things.

“Aren’t you Isabella Swan?” a male voice asked from beside her. She looked up to see a cute, baby-faced boy, his pale blond hair carefully gelled into orderly spikes, smiling at her in a friendly way.

“Bella,” she corrected him, with a smile.

“I’m Mike.”

“Hi, Mike.”

“Do you need any help finding your next class?”

“I’m headed to the gym, actually. I think I can find it.”

“That’s my next class, too!” he said, seeming thrilled. They walked to class together, and Bella immediately noticed that he’s a chatterer. He supplied most of the conversation, which made it easy for her. She found out that he moved here from California when he was ten, so he knew how she felt about the sun. Apparently, he was in her English class as well. He was likely the nicest person she’d met all day.

“So, what was with you and Edward Cullen? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him talk that much to anyone,” he said. Bella hadn’t known that it was unusual for him to talk to someone sitting right next to him. It seemed like a perfectly normal thing to do.

“We just made small talk is all,” she said.

“Huh,” said Mike, lingering by her instead of heading to the dressing room. “Well, I guess if I were lucky enough to sit by you, I’d be talking to you, too.”

Bella smiled at him before walking through the girls’ locker room door. Thankfully, the gym teacher, Coach Clapp, wasn’t making her dress down for class. As thankful as she was for this, she was upset that she had to take gym at all this year. Back in Phoenix, only two years were required. P.E. was mandatory all four years here.

After class, Bella headed to the office to drop off the slip she’d been given that morning. Then, she began to walk to her truck. She took her backpack off and held it in front of her, so she could more easily search through it for her keys, not paying much attention to where she was going. As she stepped off of the stairs and onto the sidewalk, she felt herself collide with something very hard, causing her to drop her bag. A calculator and a handful of pens slid from the open compartment. When she looked up, she realized that she had run into a person, and instantly she flushed red. Bella recognized the petite girl, who had been walking down the sidewalk perpendicular to her, as Alice Cullen.

“I am so sorry,” Bella said, crouching down to shove her things back into her bag.

“That’s alright,” said Alice. She smiled sweetly at Bella. She of course knew this would happen; she had planned it this way, in fact. She timed it perfectly so that Bella would bump into her. It seemed, to Alice, like an adorable way for them to meet. Alice was kneeling down next to Bella now, and held out a pen the human girl had missed, careful not to let her cold skin touch Bella’s warm fingertips, lest she startle the girl. Alice had noticed that Bella didn’t seem to care for the cold. Bella took the pen, smiling sheepishly at Alice. “Hey, you’re Bella, right?” said Alice, standing up. Bella noticed that didn’t call her ‘Isabella’ just like Edward, but this time said nothing. She stood up too then, zipping up her bag and slinging it over her shoulder.

“I am,” Bella replied. “And you’re Alice?” The girl beamed up at her, and Bella’s heart raced. She couldn’t have looked away from her even if she tried. It wasn’t just her beauty that captivated her either, even if she was very much physically captivating. It was the way Alice looked at her; the same way as before. With the ‘something more’ that Bella couldn’t quite put her finger on. It was strange, but Alice’s eyes, even if the color was a bit unsettling, were kind, gentle. Bella didn’t at all mind being looked at that way by a beautiful girl.

“That’s me!” said Alice, perking up and still smiling widely. Bella couldn’t help but smile back. Alice’s enthusiasm was contagious. She seemed genuinely thrilled to see Bella, despite never having met her. “So, how was your first day?”

“It was fine,” Bella lied. Alice didn’t seem entirely convinced. She looked like she was about to say something else when the blond boy, one of the twins, walked over. The one called Jasper, Bella remembered. He looked to be in immense pain, and kept his distance from the girls.

“Alice, are you coming?” he asked, his body stiff and totally still. Bella couldn’t even see him breathing.

“Yes,” she said, glancing at Bella briefly before looking back to him. He nodded, and hurriedly walked toward the parking lot, careful to steer clear of the other students as he went. “I really have to go, I don’t want to keep my family waiting. Sorry,” she said, and she truly looked sorry to have to go.

“That’s alright,” said Bella, smiling shyly.

“I’ll see you tomorrow!” Alice called as she walked backwards in the direction Jasper had gone. Bella was impressed with her ability to remain graceful even when she couldn’t see where she was going. Bella surely would have fallen had she attempted to do the same thing. Alice smiled at Bella one last time before turning around. Bella let out a sigh after she was gone, and stood in place for a moment, collecting herself. The attention from everyone at school that day had been expected, but something about the attention she got from the two Cullens she’d met felt different. Edward, because apparently any attention from him was unusual, and Alice, because she had almost acted as if Bella were an old friend whose return she had been looking forward to for a long time. Bella was flattered by it, certainly, but still a bit shocked. Once she finally snapped out of it, she headed to her truck and climbed in. She sat there quietly for as long as she could bear before she felt too cold and started the engine, holding her hands in front of the vents before driving away. She headed back to Charlie’s house, her mind racing with thoughts of the Cullens the whole way there.