To love is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.
- Emily Dickinson
I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
I stare without breaking across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and she looked pleasantly back at me.
Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.
I knew that if I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be facing death now. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decision. When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.
The hunter smiled in a friendly way as she sauntered forward to kill me.
My mom drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. Though it was January everywhere else, it was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt—sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka.
In the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains on this small town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old. It was in this town that I’d been compelled to spend a month every summer until I was fourteen. That was the year I finally suggested a compromise; these past three summers, my dad, Charlie, vacationed with me in California for two weeks instead.
Yet somehow, I now found myself exiled to Forks for the rest of my high school education. A year and a half. Of course, this was my choice. Self-imposed exile. But that didn’t make it any easier.
I loved Phoenix. I loved the sun and the blistering heat. I loved the vigorous, sprawling city. And I loved living with my mom.
“Bella,” my mom said to me—the last of a hundred times—just before I got to the TSA post. “You don’t have to do this.”
I look like my mom, except for her short hair and laugh lines. I felt a spasm of panic as I stared at her wide, childlike eyes. How could I leave my loving, erratic, harebrained mother to fend for herself? Of course she had Phil now, so the bills would probably get paid, there would be food in the refrigerator, gas in her car, and someone to call when she got lost, but still…
“I want to go,” I lied. I’d always been a bad liar, but I’d been saying this lie so frequently lately that it sounded almost convincing now.
“Tell Charlie I said hi.”
“I’ll see you soon,” she promised. “You can come back home whenever you want—I’ll come right back as soon as you need me.”
But I knew what it would cost her to do that.
“Don’t worry about me,” I insisted. “It’ll be great. I love you, Mom.”
She hugged me tightly for a minute, and then I walked through the metal detectors, and she was gone.
It’s a four-hour flight from Phoenix to Seattle, another hour in a small plane up to Port Angeles, and then an hour drive back down to Forks. Flying doesn’t bother me; the hour in the car with Charlie, though, I was a little worried about.
Charlie had really been pretty great about the whole thing. He seemed genuinely pleased that I was coming to leave with him for the first time with any degree of permanence. He’d already gotten me registered for high school and was going to help me get a car.
But it was sure to be awkward with Charlie. Neither of us was what anyone would call extroverted, and I didn’t know what there was to say regardless. I knew he was more than a little confused by my decision—like my mother before me, I hadn’t kept the way I felt about Forks a secret.
When I landed in Port Angeles, it was raining. I didn’t see it as an omen—just unavoidable. I’d already said my goodbyes to the sun.
Charlie was waiting for me with the cruiser. This I was expecting, too. Charlie is Police Chief Swan to the good people of Forks. My primary motivation behind buying a car, despite the scarcity of my funds, was that I hated being driven around town in a car with red and blue lights on top. Nothing draws attention like a cop.
Charlie gave me an awkward, one-armed hug when I stumbled my way off the plane.
“It’s good to see you, Bells,” he said, smiling as he automatically caught and steadied me. “You haven’t changed much. How’s Renée?”
“Mom’s fine. It’s good to see you, Dad.” I wasn’t allowed to call him Charlie to his face.
I only had a few bags. Most of my Arizona clothes were too permeable for Washington. My mom and I had pooled our resources to supplement my winter wardrobe, but it was still scanty. It all fit easily into the trunk of the cruiser.
“I found a good car for you, really cheap,” he announced when we were strapped in.
“What kind of car?” I was suspicious of the way he said “good car for you” as opposed to just “good car.”
“Well, it’s a truck actually, a Chevy.”
“Where did you find it?”
“Do you remember Billy Black down at La Push?” La Push is the tiny Native American reservation on the coast.
“He used to go fishing with us during the summer,” Charlie prompted.
That would I explain why I didn’t remember him. I do a good job blocking painful things from my memory.
“He’s in a wheelchair now,” Charlie continued when I didn’t respond, “so he can’t drive anymore, and he offered to sell me his truck cheap.”
“What year is it?” I could see from his change of expression that this was the question he was hoping wouldn’t ask.
“Well, Billy’s had a lot of work done on the engine—it’s only a few years old, really.”
I hoped he knew better than to think I would give up that easily.
“When did he buy it?”
“He bought it in 1984, I think.”
“Did he buy it new?”
“Well, no. I think it was new in the early sixties—or late fifties at the earliest,” he admitted sheepishly.
“Ch—Dad, I don’t really know anything about cars. I wouldn’t be able to fix it if anything went wrong, and I couldn’t afford a mechanic…”
“Really, Bella, the thing runs great. They don’t build them like that anymore.”
The thing, I thought to myself… it had possibilities—as a nickname, at the very least.
“How cheap is cheap?” After all, that was the part I couldn’t compromise on.
“Well, honey, I kind of already bought it for you. As a homecoming gift.” Charlie peeked sideways at me with a hopeful expression.
“You didn’t need to do that, Dad. I was going to buy myself a car.”
“I don’t mind. I want you to be happy here.” He was looking ahead at the road when he said this. Charlie wasn’t comfortable with expressing his emotions out loud. I inherited that from him. So I was looking straight ahead as I responded.
“That’s amazing, Dad. Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
No need to add that my being happy in Forks was a stretch. He didn’t need to suffer along with me. And I never looked a free truck in the mouth—or engine.
“Well, now, you’re welcome,” he mumbled, embarrassed by my thanks.
We exchanged a few more comments on the weather, which was wet, and that was pretty much it for conversation. We stared out the windows in silence.
It was beautiful, of course; I couldn’t deny that. Everything was green: the trees, their trunks covered with moss, their branches hanging with a canopy of it, the ground covered with ferns. Even the air filtered down greenly through the leaves.
But it was too green—an alien planet.
Eventually we made it to Charlie’s. He still lived in the small, two-bedroom house that he’d bought with my mother in the early days of their marriage. Those were the only kind of days their marriage had—the early ones. There, parked on the street in front of the house that never changed, was my new—well, new to me—truck. It was a faded red color, with big, rounded fenders and a bulbous cab.
And I loved it. I didn’t know if it would run, but I could see myself in it. Plus, it was one of those solid iron affairs that never gets damaged—the kind you see at the scene of an accident, paint unscratched, surrounded by the pieces of the foreign car it had destroyed.
“Wow, Dad, I love it! Thanks!” Now my day tomorrow would be just that much less difficult. I wouldn’t be faced with the choice of either walking two miles in the rain to school or accepting a ride in the Chief’s cruiser.
“I’m glad you like it,” Charlie said gruffly, embarrassed again.
It took only one trip to get all my stuff upstairs. I got the west bedroom that faced out over the front yard. The room was familiar; it had belonged to me since I was born. The wooden floor, the light blue walls, the peaked ceiling, the yellowed lace curtains around the window—these were all a part of my childhood. The only changes Charlie had ever made were switching the crib for a bed and adding a desk as I grew. The desk now held a secondhand computer, with the phone line for the modem stapled along the floor to the nearest phone jack. This was a stipulation from my mother, so that we could stay in touch easily. The rocking chair from my baby days was still in the corner.
There was only one small bathroom at the top of the stairs, which I would have to share with Charlie. I didn’t mind too much; I had to share with Renée, and she was probably messier.
One of the best things about Charlie is he doesn’t hover. He left me alone to unpack and get settled, a feat that would have been altogether impossible for my mom. It was nice to be alone, not to have to smile and look pleased; a relief to stare out the window at the sheeting rain and let just a few tears escape. I wasn’t in the mood to go on a real crying jag. I would save that for bedtime, when I 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; there were more than seven hundred people in my junior high class alone back home. All of the kids here had grown up together—their grandparents had been toddlers together. I would be the new girl from the big city, something to stare at and whisper about.
Maybe, if I looked like a girl from Phoenix should, I could work this to my advantage. But physically, I’d never fit in anywhere. I should be tan, sporty, blond—a track star, or a cheerleader, perhaps—all the things that go with living somewhere sunny and warm.
Instead, I was incredibly pale, without even the excuse of blue eyes or red hair, despite the constant sunshine. I had always been lean, but never athletic; I didn’t have the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating myself—and harming both myself and anyone else who stood too close.
When I finished putting my clothes in the old pine dresser, I took my bag of bathroom necessities and went to the bathroom to clean myself up after the day of travel. I looked at my face in the mirror as I brushed through my tangled, damp hair. Maybe it was the light, but I already looked paler, in that was even possible.
Facing my pallid reflection in the mirror, I was forced to admit that I was lying to myself. It wasn’t just physically that I’d never fit in. And if I couldn’t find a niche in a school with three thousand people, what were my chances here?
I didn’t relate well to people my age. Maybe the truth was that I didn’t relate well to people, period. Even my mother, who I was closer to than anyone else on the planet, was never in harmony with me, never exactly on the same page. Sometimes I wondered if I was seeing the same things through my eyes that the rest of the world was seeing through theirs. Maybe there was a glitch in my brain.
But the cause didn’t matter. All that mattered was the effect. And tomorrow would be just the beginning.
I didn’t sleep well that night, even after I was done crying. The constant whooshing of the rain and wind across the roof wouldn’t fade into the background. I pulled the faded old quilt over my head, and later added the pillow, too. But I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight, when the rain finally settled into a quieter drizzle.
Thick fog was all I could see out my window in the morning, and I could feel the claustrophobia creeping up on me. You could never see the sky here; it was like a cage.
Breakfast with Charlie was quiet. He wished me good luck at school. I thanked him, knowing his hope was wasted. Good luck tended to avoid me. Charlie left first, off to the police station that was his wife and family. After he left, I sat at the old square oak table in one of the three unmatching chairs and examined the familiar kitchen, with its dark paneled walls, bright yellow cabinets, and white linoleum floor. Nothing had changed. My mom had painted the cabinets eighteen years ago in an attempt to bring some sunshine into the house. Over the small fireplace in the adjoining modest-sized family room was a row of pictures. First, a wedding picture of Charlie and my mom in Las Vegas, then one of the three of us in the hospital after I was born, taken by a helpful nurse, followed by the procession of my school pictures up to last year’s. Those were embarrassing to look at—I wondered if I could get Charlie to put them somewhere else, at least while I was living here.
It was impossible, being in this house, not to realize that Charlie had never gotten over my mom. It made me sad.
I didn’t want to be too early to school, but I couldn’t stay in the house anymore. I put on my jacket—thick, non-breathing plastic, like a biohazard suit—and headed out into the rain.
It was just drizzling still, not enough to soak me through immediately as I reached for the house key that was always hidden under the eaves by the door and locked up. The sloshing of my new waterproof boots sounded weird. I already missed the dry crunch of gravel as I walked. I couldn’t pause and admire my new truck as I wanted; I was in a hurry to get out of the misty wet that swirled around my head and clung to my hair under my hood.
Inside the truck, it was nice and dry. Either Billy or Charlie had obviously cleaned it up, but the tan upholstered seats still smelled faintly of tobacco, gasoline, and peppermint. The engine started quickly, to my relief, but loudly, roaring to life and then idling at top volume. Well, a truck this old was bound to have a flaw. The antique radio worked, a bonus that I hadn’t expected.
Finding the school wasn’t difficult, though I’d never been there before. The school was, like most other things, just off the highway. It was not obvious that it was a school; only the sign, which declared it to be the Forks High School, made me stop. It looked like a collection of matching houses, built with maroon-colored bricks. There were so many trees and shrubs I couldn’t see its size at first. Where was the feel of the institution? I wondered nostalgically. Where were the chain-link fences, the metal detectors?
I parked in front of the first building, which had a small sign over the door reading FRONT OFFICE. No one else was parked there, so I was sure it was off limits, but I decided I would get directions inside instead of circling around in the rain like an idiot. I stepped unwillingly out of the toasty truck cab and walked down a little stone path lined with dark hedges. I took a deep breath before opening the door.
Inside, it was brightly lit, and warmer than I’d hoped. The office was small; a little waiting area with padded folding chairs, orange-flecked commercial carpet, notices and awards cluttering the walls, and a big clock ticking loudly. Plants grew everywhere in large plastic pots, as if there wasn’t enough greenery outside. The room was cut in half by a long counter, cluttered with wire baskets full of papers and brightly colored flyers taped to its front. There were three desks behind the counter, one of which was manned by a round, balding man in glasses. He was wearing a t-shirt, which immediately made me feel overdressed for the weather.
The balding man looked up. “Can I help you?”
“I’m Bella Swan,” I informed him, and saw the immediate awareness light his eyes. I was expected, already the subject of gossip. Daughter of the Chief’s flighty ex-wife come home at last.
“Of course,” he said. He dug through a leaning stack of papers on his desk til he found the ones he was looking for. “I have your schedule right here, Isabella, and a map of the school.” He brought several sheets to the counter to show me.
“Um, it’s Bella, please.”
“Oh, sure, Bella.”
He went through my classes for me, highlighting the best route to each on the map, and gave me a slip to have each teacher sign, which I was to bring back at the end of the day. He smiled at me and hoped, like Charlie, that I would like it here in Forks. I smiled back as convincingly as I could.
When I went back to my truck, other students were starting to arrive. I drove around the school, following the line of traffic. I was glad to see that most of the cars were older like mine, nothing flashy. At home I’d lived in one of the few lower-income neighborhoods that were included in the Paradise Valley District. It was a common thing to see a new Mercedes or Porsche in the student lot. The nicest car here was a brand-new silver Volvo, and it stood out. Still, I cut the engine as soon as I was in a spot, so that the thunderous volume wouldn’t draw attention to me.
I looked at the map in the truck, trying to memorize it now; hopefully I wouldn’t have to walk around with it stuck in front of my nose all day. I stuffed everything in my backpack, slung the strap over my shoulder, and sucked in a huge breath. I can do this, I lied to myself. No one was going to bite me. I finally exhaled and stepped out of the truck.
I kept my face pulled back into my hood as I walked to the sidewalk, crowded with other students. My plain black jacket didn’t stand out, I noticed with relief.
Once I got around the cafeteria, building three was easy to spot. A large black “3” was painted on a white square on the east corner. I felt my breathing gradually creeping toward hyperventilation as I approached the door. I tried holding my breath as I followed two unisex raincoats through the door.
The classroom was small. The people in front of me stopped just inside the door to hang up their coats on a long row of hooks. I copied them. They were two girls, one a porcelain-colored blonde, the other also pale, with light brown hair. At least my skin wouldn’t be a standout here.
I took the slip up to the teacher, a narrow woman with a severe face whose desk had a nameplate identifying her as Ms. Mason. She gawked at me when she saw my name—not an encouraging response—and of course I flushed tomato red. But at least she sent me to an empty desk at the back without introducing me to the class. It was harder for my new classmates to stare at me in the back, but somehow, they managed. I kept my eyes down on the reading list the teacher had given me. It was fairly basic: Brontë, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Faulkner. I’d already read everything. That was comforting… and boring. I wondered if my mom would send me my folder of old essays, or if she would think that was cheating. I went through different arguments with her in my head while the teacher droned on.
When the bell rang, a nasal buzzing sound, a gangly boy with jet-black hair leaned across the aisle to talk to me.
“You’re Isabella Swan, aren’t you?” He looked like the overly helpful, chess club type.
“Bella,” I corrected. Everyone within a three-seat radius turned to look at me.
“Where’s your next class?” he asked.
I had to check in my backpack. “Um, Government, with Jefferson, in building six.”
There was nowhere to look without meeting curious eyes.
“I’m headed toward building four, I could show you the way…” Definitely over-helpful. “I’m Eric,” he added.
I smiled tentatively. “Thanks.”
We got our jackets and headed out into the rain, which had picked up. I could have sworn several people behind us were walking close enough to eavesdrop. I hoped I wasn’t getting paranoid.
“So, this is a lot different than Phoenix, huh?” he asked.
“It doesn’t rain much there, does it?”
“Wow, what must that be like?” he wondered.
“Sunny,” I deadpanned.
“You don’t look very tan.”
“That’s probably why they kicked me out.”
He studied my face apprehensively, and I sighed. It looked like clouds and a sense of humor didn’t mix. A few months of this and I’d forget how to use sarcasm.
We walked back around the cafeteria, to the south buildings by the gym. Eric walked me right to the door, though it was clearly marked.
“Well, good luck,” he said as I touched the handle. “Maybe we’ll have some other classes together.” He sounded hopeful.
I smiled at him vaguely and went inside.
The rest of the morning passed in about the same fashion. My trigonometry teacher, Mr. Varner, who I would have hated anyway just because of the subject he taught, was the only one who made me stand in front of the class and introduce myself. I stammered, blushed, and tripped over my own boots on the way to my seat.
After two classes, I started to recognize several of the faces in each class. There was always someone braver than the others who would introduce themselves and ask me questions about how I was liking Forks. I tried to be diplomatic, but mostly I just lied a lot. At least I never needed a map.
One girl sat next to me in both Trig and Spanish, and she walked with me to the cafeteria for lunch. She was tiny, several inches shorter than my five feet four inches, but her wildly curly dark hair made up a lot of the difference between our heights. I couldn’t remember her name, so I smiled and nodded as she talked about teachers and classes. I couldn’t quite keep up, though.
We sat at the end of a full table with several of her friends, who she introduced to me. I couldn’t manage to remember their names, despite my best effort. They seemed impressed by her bravery in speaking to me. The boy from English, Eric, waved at me from across the room.
It was there, sitting in the lunchroom, trying to make conversation with seven curious strangers, that I first saw them.
They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. There were five of them. And they weren’t talking, and they weren’t eating, though they each had a tray of food in front of them. They weren’t gawking at me, unlike most 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 help, my attention.
They didn’t look anything alike. Of the three boys, one was big—muscled like a serious weight lifter, with dark, curly hair. Another was taller, leaner, but still muscular, and honey blond. The last was very short and thin in the extreme, his hair was a deep black, cropped short and pointing in every direction. All three of them looked more like college students, or even teachers here rather than students.
The two girls were both stunning. The tall one was statuesque. She had a beautiful figure, the kind you saw on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, the kind that made every girl around her take a hit on her self-esteem just by being in the same room. Her hair was golden, gently waving to the middle of her back.
The other girl was smaller, with hair somewhere between red and brown, but different than either, almost metallic somehow, a bronze-like color. She looked younger than all the others, more girlish.
All so different, and yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler even than me. They all had very dark eyes—from here they looked black—despite the range in hair colors. They also had dark shadows under those eyes—purplish, bruise like shadows. As if they were all suffering from a sleepless night, or almost done recovering from a broken nose. Though their noses, all their features, were straight, perfect, angular.
But all this is not why I couldn’t look away.
I stared because their faces, so different, so similar, were all devastatingly inhumanly beautiful. They were faces you never expected to see except perhaps on the airbrushed pages of a fashion magazine. Or painted by an old master as the face of an angel. It was hard to believe they were real. It was hard to decide who was the most beautiful—maybe the model-like blond, or the bronze-haired girl.
They were all looking away—away from each other, away from the other students, away from anything in particular as far as I could tell. As I watched, the thin boy rose with his tray—unopened soda, untouched apple—and walked away with a quick, graceful lope that belonged on a runway. I watched, wondering if he had training as a dancer, till he dumped his tray and glided through the back door, faster than I would have thought possible. My eyes darted back to the others, who sat unchanging.
“Who are they?” I asked the girl from my Spanish class, whose name I still couldn’t remember.
As she looked up to see who I meant—though already knowing, probably, from my tone—suddenly she looked at us, the bronze-haired one. She looked at my neighbor for just a fraction of a second, and then her dark eyes flickered to mine. Mysteriously fierce eyes, with thick lashes.
She looked away quickly, more quickly than I could, though in a flush of embarrassment I dropped my eyes at once. In that brief flash of a glance, her face held nothing interest—it was as if my neighbor had called her name, and she’d looked up in involuntary response, having already decided not to answer.
My neighbor coughed once, uncomfortable, looking down at the table like I did.
“That’s Edith and Emmett Cullen, and Rosalie and Jasper Hale. The one who left was Archie Cullen; they all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife.” She said this under her breath.
I glanced sideways at the beautiful girl, who was looking at her tray now, picking a bagel to pieces with thin, pale fingers. Her mouth was moving very quickly, her full lips barely opening. The other three looked away, but I still thought she might be speaking quietly to them.
Strange names. Old-fashioned. The kinds of names grandparents had. But maybe that was popular here—small-town names? I finally remembered that my neighbor was called Jessica, a totally normal name. There were two girls named Jessica in my History class back home.
“They are… very nice-looking.” I struggled with the conspicuous understatement.
“Yes!” Jessica agreed with a giggle. “They’re, like, together though—Emmett and Rosalie, I mean. There’s even a rumor that Archie and Jasper are a thing. And they live together.” Her voice held all the shock and condemnation of the small town, I thought critically. But, if I was being honest, I had to admit that even in Phoenix, it would cause gossip.
“Which ones are the Cullens?” I 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 Hales are brother and sister, twins—the blondes—and they’re foster children.”
“They look a little old for foster children.”
“They are now, Jasper and Rosalie are both eighteen, but they’ve been with Mrs. Cullen since they were eight. She’s their aunt or something like that.”
“That’s really kind of nice—for them to take care of all those kids like that, when they’re so young and everything.”
“I guess so,” Jessica admitted somewhat reluctantly, and I got the impression that she didn’t like the doctor and his wife for some reason. With the glances she was throwing at their adopted children, I would presume the reason was jealousy. “I think that Mrs. Cullen can’t have any kids, though,” she added, as if that lessened their kindness.
Throughout all this conversation, my eyes flickered again and again to the table where the strange family sat. They continued to look at the walls and not eat.
“Have they always lived in Forks?” I asked. Surely I would have noticed them on one of my summers here.
“No,” she said in a voice that implied it should be obvious, even to a new arrival like me. “They just moved down two years ago from somewhere in Alaska.” Not the most interesting by any standard.
I felt a surge of pity, and relief. Pity because, as beautiful as they were, they were outsiders, clearly not accepted. Relief that I wasn’t the only newcomer here, and certainly not the most interesting by any standard.
As I examined them, the bronze-haired girl, one of the Cullens, looked up and met my gaze, this time with obvious curiosity. As I immediately looked away, I thought that her look held some kind of unanswered expectation.
“Which one is the girl with the reddish-brown hair?” I asked. I peeked at her from the corner of my eye, and she was still staring at me, but not gawking like the other students had today—she had a slightly frustrated expression. I looked down again.
“That’s Edith. Don’t hold your breath that she’ll be nice to you, though. She’s totally stuck up.” Jessica sniffed. I wondered what had happened between them to inspire such negative feelings.
I decided to glance at bronze-haired girl again. Her face was turned away, but I thought her cheek appeared lifted, as if she were smirking.
After a few more minutes, the four of them left the table together. They were all noticeably graceful—even the big, brawny one. It was unsettling to watch. The one named Edith didn’t look at me again.
I sat at the table with Jessica and her friends longer than I would have if I’d been sitting alone. I was anxious not to be late for class on my first day. One of my new acquaintances, who considerately reminded me that her name was Angela, had Biology II with me the next hour. We walked to class together in comfortable silence. She was shy, too.
When we entered the classroom, Angela went to sit at a black-topped lab table exactly like the ones I was used to. She already had a neighbor. In fact, all the tables were filled but one. Next to the center aisle, I recognized Edith Cullen but her unusual hair, sitting next to that single open seat.
My heart started pounding a little faster than usual.
As I walked down the aisle to introduce myself to the teacher and get my slip signed, I was watching her surreptitiously. Just as I passed, she suddenly went rigid in her seat. Her face jerked up toward mine so fast it surprised me, staring with the strangest expression—it was more than angry, it was furious, hostile. I looked away, stunned, going bright red. I stumbled over a book in the walkway and had to catch myself on the edge of a table. The girl sitting there giggled.
I’d been right about the eyes. They were black—coal black.
Mrs. Banner signed my slip and handed me a book with no nonsense about introductions and no mention of my full name. I could tell we were going to get along. Of course, she had no choice but to send me to the one open seat in the middle of the room. I kept my eyes down as I went to sit by her, bewildered by the antagonistic stare she’d given me.
I didn’t look up as I set my book on the table and took my seat, but I saw her posture change from the corner of my eye. She was leaning away from me, sitting on the extreme edge of her chair and averting her face like she smelled something bad. Inconspicuously, I sniffed my hair. It smelled like my favorite shampoo. It seemed an innocent enough odor. I let my hair fall over my right shoulder, making a dark curtain between us, and tried to pay attention to the teacher.
The lecture was on cellular anatomy, something I’d already studied. I took notes carefully anyway, always looking down.
I couldn’t stop myself from shooting the occasional glance at the strange girl next to me. Throughout the entire class, she never relaxed her stiff position on the edge of her chair, sitting as far from me as possible, with her own hair hiding most of her face. Her hand was clenched into a fist on top of her left thigh, tendons standing out under he pale skin. This, too, she never relaxed. She had the sleeves of her white Henley pushed up to her elbows, and her forearm flexed with surprisingly hard muscle beneath her pale skin.
The class seemed to drag on longer than the rest. Was it because the day was finally ending, or because I was waiting or her tight fist to loosen? It never did; she continued to sit so still it looked like she wasn’t even breathing. What was wrong with her? Was this how she usually acted? I remember what Jessica had said at lunch today, maybe she was right about Edith Cullen being rude.
This couldn’t have anything to do with me, though. She didn’t know me from Eve.
Mrs. Banner passed some quizzes back when the glass was almost done. She handed me one to give to the girl. I glanced at the top automatically—one hundred percent… and I’d been spelling her name wrong in my head. It was Edythe, not Edith. I’d never seen it spelled that way.
I peeked over at her as I slid the paper over, and then instantly regretted it. She was glaring at me again, her black eyes full of revulsion. As I flinched away from her, shrinking against my chair, the phrase if looks could kill suddenly ran through my mind.
At that moment, the bell rang loudly, making me jump, and Edythe Cullen was out of her seat. Fluidly she rose—she moved like a dancer—her back to me, and she was out the door before anyone else was out of their seat.
I sat frozen, staring blankly after her. She was so mean. It made no sense. I began gathering up my things slowly, trying to block the anger that filled me, for fear my eyes would tear up. For some reason, my temper was hardwired to my tear ducts. I usually cried when I was angry, an embarrassing tendency.
“Aren’t you Isabella Swan?” a male voice asked.
I looked up to see a cute, baby-faced boy, his pale blond hair carefully gelled into a faux-hawk style, smiling at me in a friendly way. He obviously didn’t think I smelled bad.
“Bella,” I corrected him, with a smile.
“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 seemed thrilled, though it wasn’t that big of a coincidence in a school this small.
We walked to class together; he was a chatterer—he supplied most of the conversation, which made it easy for me. He’d lived in California till he was ten, so he knew how I felt about the sun. It turned out he was in my English class also. He was the nicest person I’d met today.
But as we were entering the gym, he asked, “So, did you stab Edythe Cullen with a pencil or what? I’ve never seen her act like that.”
I cringed. So I wasn’t the only one who had noticed. And, apparently, that wasn’t Edythe Cullen’s usual behavior. I decided to play dumb.
“Was that the girl I sat next to in Biology?”
“Yeah,” he said. “She looked like she was in pain or something.”
“I don’t know,” I responded. “I never spoke to her.”
“She’s weird. She’s always been kind of cold.” Mike lingered by me instead of heading to the boys’ locker room. “If I were lucky enough to sit by you, I would have talked to you.”
I smiled at him before walking through the girls’ locker room door. He was friendly and clearly admiring. But it wasn’t enough to ease my irritation.
The Gym teacher, Coach Clapp, found me a uniform but didn’t make me dress down for today’s class. At home only two years of P.E. were required. Here, P.E. was mandatory all four years. Forks was quickly proving to be my own personal hell on Earth.
I watched four volleyball games running simultaneously. Remembering how many injuries I had sustained—and inflicted—playing volleyball, I felt faintly nauseated.
The final bell rang at last. I walked slowly to the office to return my paperwork. The rain had drifted away but the wind was strong, and colder. I wrapped my arms around myself.
When I walked into the warm office, I almost turned around and walked back out.
Edythe Cullen stood at the desk in front of me. I recognized her strange bronze hair. She didn’t seem to notice the sound of my entrance. I stood pressed against the back wall, waiting for the receptionist to be free.
She was arguing with him in a low, velvety voice. I quickly picked up the gist of the argument. She was trying to trade from sixth-hour Biology to another time—any other time.
This could notbe about me. It had to be something else, something that happened before I got to the Biology room. The look on her face must have been about some other problem. It was impossible that a stranger could take such a sudden, intense dislike to me. I wasn’t interesting enough to be worth that strong of a reaction.
The door opened again, and the cold wind suddenly gusted through the room, rustling the papers on the desk, swirling my hair around my face. The girl who came in merely stepped to the desk, placed a note in the wire basket, and walked out again. But Edythe Cullen’s back stiffened, and she turned slowly to glare at me—her face was absurdly beautiful— with piercing, hate-filled eyes. For an instant, I felt a thrill of genuine fear, sending goosebumps up my arms. The look only lasted a second, but it chilled me more than the freezing wind. She turned back to the receptionist.
“Never mind, then,” she said quickly in a voice like silk. “I can see that it’s impossible. Thank you so much for your help.” And she turned on her heel without another look at me and disappeared out the door.
I went meekly to the desk, my face white for once instead of red, and handed him the signed slip.
“How did you first day go?” he asked.
“Fine,” I lied, my voice weak. He didn’t look convinced.
When I got to my truck, it was almost the last car in the lot. It seemed like a haven, already the closest thing to home I had in this damp green hell. I sat inside for a while, just staring out the windshield blankly. But soon I was cold enough to need the heater, so I turned the key and the engine roared to life. I headed back to Charlie’s house, fighting tears the whole way there.