“Edward, why don’t we have a party to celebrate your birthday this year? You can invite your new friend from school to come over” Esme gently prompts, she has been trying to figure out a subtle way to get me to invite Bella over for the past hour. Having finally decided on a birthday celebration as the most inconspicuous event to host at our home.
“She has a boyfriend, I don’t think that would be such a good idea.” Knowing she is already aware of this piece of information, hoping she understands that I really don’t want to discuss this further. “Besides, we never have birthday celebrations. Do you really think everyone would be onboard with having outsiders in our home?” It’s no secret that our home is our private sanctuary, the idea of my classmates knowing where we live somehow feels like an invasion.
“Of course, he is more than welcome as well. It would be nice to know some of your classmates Edward, what kind of mother would I be if I didn’t have a party for my son’s birthday?” Her gentle smile never fading as she continues to persuade me on the topic of my impending birthday. Her thoughts already turning from harmless scheming on how best to invite Bella over, to the fine details of the party. “Alice would love the opportunity to throw a party, we haven’t celebrated anything besides Rosalie and Emmets wedding in a while. I think it is past time we shower you with some attention, don’t you think?” Eyes twinkling with delight as she realizes that bringing Alice into the discussion is sure to win me over.
“Did someone say party-planning?!” Alice’s soft voice whispers from across the house. “I’ll have everything taken care of by the weekend! We’ll need cake, music, balloons, streamers...” Alice begins to rattle off everything she anticipates Bella will expect at a birthday party. Her body lifts off whatever surface she had been reclined on, and I hear the soft close of a book as she places it back on a shelf and switches her attention to that party.
“I can see I am outnumbered...”Admitting defeat, I let out a sigh. Esme cannot help but let her thoughts run excitedly over the many possible outcomes of this party. Drifting on various ideas about how Bella may swoon after meeting our family, deciding her life would be better intertwined with ours.
“No, that’s not the life she deserves” I can’t help the growl that is pulled from my throat. Esme’s thoughts abruptly stop, her eyes turn to me and soften.
“Of course, I apologize. I didn’t mean to go so far-”
“It’s fine. Bella’s life is perfect on the path it’s on now, I won’t interfere with that.” Cutting off her unnecessary apology, I remind Esme that Bella’s future is already decided. Alice has already seen it, Bella will graduate highschool, go to the same college as her boyfriend, Mike. He’ll propose, they’ll be married, have a few children, successful careers, and spend the rest of their days together. The way all of our lives were supposed to be, I won’t do anything to get in the way of her future, her happiness.
“I’ll mention the party to her this week in school, but we won’t force the issue if she doesn’t want to come” I firmly say to both Esme and Alice who I know is still listening to our conversation from her and Jasper’s room.
Esme quietly nods, and I hear Alice huff softly as she concedes.
I’ve always struggled most with Monday mornings, after having two days to myself that I only have to interact with the people I choose to interact with, it’s a challenge to get myself to school. The only thing I look forward to is seeing Mike, my boyfriend, and of course Angela and Jessica. I could go the rest of my highschool career without engaging with the rest of the student body but the three of them are my saving grace.
Mike generally works at his parents' sporting supply store most weekends and after school so we don’t get a lot of time together outside of our classes.The impending excitement of seeing my small group of friends is what finally motivates me to get to school on time.
Parking my old truck at the back of the school parking lot, I grab my bag and step out of the warmth of the cab into the cool, dreary morning. Even in midMay, Washington mornings tend to be cooler than my hometown of Phoenix.
I see Mike waiting for me near the entrance of the school, the hood of his jacket pulled up to protect himself against the list mist that seems to be the constant weather of Forks. As I approach, he breaks into a smile and opens his arms to greet me with a hug. Grateful for the momentary warmth he provides, I cling to him.
“Morning Bells” He says with enthusiasm.
“Morning.” I mumble back from where my face is still buried into his jacket. Stepping back, I look
up at him and give a small smile.
“How was your weekend, babe?” He turns to walk with me to my first class of the day.
“It was fine,” I shrug, ”Charlie was fishing near the Res so I managed to finish some class
projects, study for finals, and clean the house up a little bit. How was yours?” Taking his hand, we walk with our shoulders gently brushing each other, down the narrow hallways of the highschool.
“Mine was fine, same-ol, worked with Mom mostly this weeked, getting ready for tourist hiking and backpacking season. I should have prepped for finals next week but I just couldn’t find the motivation. Perhaps if you were there to keep me on track I could get things done” He winks down at me and I feel the blush creeping across my cheeks. He laughs at my obvious unease
“Only teasing hon, we’ll get there one day. But in all seriousness, Mom was asking what your plans were for the upcoming weekend, she wants you to come over for a camp-out.” He gently squeezes my hand in reassurance.
“She’s aware that we have final exams next week, right? It might not be the best time for a campout.”
“Yeah she knows, but she also knows you’re already prepared for them and I probably won’t do much prep-work myself.” His easy-going attitude when it comes to school is something I could never understand. How do you expect to get into a good college with mediocre highschool grades?
“Hmm, well I won’t agree just yet, let’s see how I feel by the end of the week. I could probably manage to be free Saturday evening for a little while.” I can’t commit to an entire weekend of camping without knowing for sure I feel ready for all of my exams. But I could agree to dinner one night.
“Great! I’ll let her know, she’ll be so excited” We reached my class and he gives my hand one last squeeze before letting go, “I’ll see you at lunch”. He turns to walk to his own class.
As I walk into class, Jessica rushes up to greet me. “Bella!” Her energy first thing in the morning, every morning, somehow only makes me feel more exhausted. “Are you ready for finals next week? Did you get to study this weekend?”
“Hey Jess. Uh, yeah, I feel okay about some of them. I’m guessing you’re feeling pretty good about yours? I managed to study a bit, did you?” I smile at her as I shuffle pass and take my seat.
“Oh yeah! I feel great, I am so getting valedictorian next year. Her bubbly energy seeping from her voice into the rest of her body as she seems to almost bounce with excitement at the prospect of being able to claim valedictorian. “So what all did you do this weekend? What did Mike do? Did you guys spend a lot of time together?” Her questions turning from a casual passing thought into more firm prodding as she attempts to gather more information about my relationship.
“No, not really. He works a lot on the weekends, remember? I didn’t really see him much until this morning. We were texting a bit though.” I can’t help but grit my teeth over admitting that while Mike and I have been dating for a few months now, we still don’t see each other very much. We’ve barely exchanged so much as a quick peck on the lips.
“Hmm, that’s too bad. If I were dating someone like Mike I might just go spend time at his work and that way we could still spend time together when work is slow or on his breaks or something” She plays off her comment as if it were something nonconsequential. But I get irritated at her constant reminding that she would probably make a better girlfriend for Mike. She’s my best friend so I try not to let it bother me too much.
“We have plans to spend this upcoming weekend together though! I am really looking forward to spending more time with his family.” I can’t help the biting edge that seeps into my voice as I mention that his family has invited me to spend the weekend with them. That seems to end the topic as Jessica smiles at me and turns to the front of the class. The teacher finally standing up to begin our lecture for the day.
The monotony of my classes leaves me feeling as though I am on autopilot until lunch provides the reprieve I need. Mike saves me a seat next to him at our table, Jessica takes up the chair across from myself, and others file in and claim the remaining chairs at our table. Jessica and Mike begin their typical debate over the best players on our highschool sports teams- I couldn’t be interested in who is playing what game, what they would be better off playing or who is holding the team back the most.
Staring blankly at my tray of half eaten food I don’t notice that my name has been brought up in conversation until Mike gently prods me with his elbow.
“Hey, Bells, where are you?” Looking up at his concerned face, I smile reassuringly.
“Sorry, I zoned out. I must still be tired. What did I miss?”
“I said, Cullen has been staring at you from across the lunch room for the past few minutes. Did you do something to him?” He mumbles under his breath to me, trying to hide the subtle suspiciousness he has at the situation.
“Oh, uhh” I glance past Jessica’s head to see that Mike was right. Edward was staring straight back at me with an impassive expression across his face. “I’ve no idea what he could possibly want. Maybe he just wants to make sure I have been keeping up on our Biology project that’s due on Friday.” Looking back at Mike I briefly press my shoulder into him “You know if anyone takes their grades more seriously than me, it’s him”
He nods, shakes his head before responding “Yeah, I guess that’s true. But he should know that you are going to do your share of the project. It’s worth 25% of our grade. I guess I should work on that this week....” He trails off as though just remembering that we even had the assignment coming due.
“I’ll talk to him about it in class after lunch” I glance back to Edward one last time, his gaze unwavering at the fact that he has been caught watching me. I drop my eyes back to my tray and fidget with my fingers until the bell signals the end of lunch.
Mike and I walk together in silence to Biology. I am grateful that we are comfortable in the silence and that neither of us feels the compulsive need to fill the space with unnecessary conversation. I look up at him and see he is lost in thought, perhaps we are more similar than I give us credit for.
He barely looks up when he heads to his seat near the back of class and I continue to my own lab table next to Edward.
Edward glances up at my approach and offers a subtle smile as greeting.
“Hey” I mutter to him as I drop my back next to my seat and slide into the chair next to him.
“Hello Bella, lovely weekend?” He turns toward me as he offers obligatory small talk.
“Mostly, I managed to finish my half of our project. How far along are you on your part?” I look towards him without fully committing to turning my seat to face him directly.
He breaks into a grin, “You should know the answer to that already Bella. I finished it the week Mr. Banner assigned it to us.”
“Oh, good. I was worried I may have to pick up your slack again.” I can’t help the teasing comment, since we both know that would never happen.
He chuckles in response to my comment “You know, we should probably get together after school some time to make sure that our content lines up. And to make sure you didn’t accidentally do the wrong part, you know you were on the third and fourth parts right? Analysis of the cells, and writing the conclusion of our research paper.” He looks over at me, all joking gone from his face as he discusses the project.
I feel the color drain from my face, and my heart starts to skip. What?! No! Those were the parts HE is supposed to do! I thought I was on discussion of the cells, the breakdown of the project, our methods, and testing. I could have sworn he was supposed to analyze the cells and discuss the results. I swallow hard, “Mmhmm, yeah. Done and done, I probably can’t meet until later this week though, super busy at home right now...” If I can buy some time I can do the other part of the project and pass it off as if I have had it done the entire time.
He breaks into a full smile, genuinely laughing now. I mentally note that the sound of his laughter is so pure. Like chimes, it’s crystal clear and makes me smile in return. “I’m only joking with you Bella, I know that those are my parts. But imagine if I had done the wrong part of the assignment by mistake?! Would you have even corrected me?” His gaze returns to my face and I could swear I almost saw his eyes briefly glance toward the back of the room. I fight to turn my head to see what he is looking at, but his gaze is captivating.
I laugh a little uncomfortably before responding “Right, yeah I definitely wouldn’t have said anything. I was just going to do the other piece of the assignment over the next few days before we meet. It wouldn’t be a big deal, I already did the hard part”
He jerks back in his seat, “I’m hurt, you don’t think my part was hard?” He feigns a pain expression but his eyes can’t keep the smile out of them.
“You know you have the easier part. You aren’t fooling anyone, you’re not as good of an actor as you think you are” I roll my eyes turning back to the front of the classroom.
“So you don’t think I should quit all my career aspirations in favor of a career in Hollywood just yet? That’s fine, I have time to improve my skills.”He drops his voice as Mr. Banner begins to remind the class of the impending deadline of the research project. Having chosen a presentation over an actual final. “So what night this week are you actually free to go over the project? I can make anything work.”
“I should be free all week, do you want to plan on Wednesday evening? That would give us time to make revisions before Monday”
Wednesday is also the night that Charlie usually plans on going to Billy’s after work. The last thing I want is for Charlie to be home while Edward and I are trying to work together. The way Charlie reacted to Mike the first few times he came over was mortifying enough, I couldn’t image what Charlie would do if someone like Edward came over. And we’re not even dating, I would die on the spot if Charlie tried to make implications that we were. As if. Edward and I are in two different worlds. The only reason we even talk is because we’re lab partners. I doubt he’d even notice someone like me if we didn’t get partnered together.
“Wednesday is good for me, your place or mine?” His voice turning to a hushed whisper so as to not draw attention from Mr. Banner
I hadn’t expected him to offer to have me over to his house! Oh man, definitely not, I would probably end up embarrassing myself in front of his entire family. I’d likely try to drink a glass of water, miss my mouth, spill down my face, shirt, all over their furniture...definitely not a good option.
At least if he came to Charlie’s then I wouldn’t feel so out of sorts. “You can come over to my place. If that is alright with you, just bring your part of the project with you and we can take over the kitchen table. Sometime after dinner would be great” That will eliminate the possibility of Charlie deciding to come home after work unexpectedly to change or something before heading to Billy’s.
“That sounds perfect, I’ll plan to stop by around 6.” We lapse into silence as class begins. I spend the rest of the hour jotting down notes as Edward seems to disengage from Mr. Banner’s review of plant cells vs animal cells.
As the bell rings, signaling the end of class I grab my bag and start to slide my notebook inside. Edwards stands and starts to walk towards the door, pausing in front of me on the other side of the table. Leaning towards me he clears his throat, “Bella, I was wondering if you had any plans this weekend?”
Stunned I stare up at him from my hunched over position, did he just ask me if I had plans this weekend? My mind goes blank...crap, do I?! “I’m not sure to be honest with you, does Wednesday not work for you to come over?” I can feel my heart pounding, and there’s an annoying flutter in my stomach, what the heck is happening to me?
“No, Wednesday is still fine. My family is throwing me a birthday party this weekend, they wanted me to extend the invitation to you as well” His response is so nonchalant, as though I should have expected an invitation to his birthday party.
“Oh! I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize it was your birthday! When was it? Or is it still coming up soon? I’m sure I can make it to the party, what day did you say?” Guilt crashes through me. Have I really missed his birthday? I don’t think he said anything about it recently, right?
Suddenly Mike is beside me, “You ready to go Bells?” I can feel him shift his weight uncomfortably between his feet as he glances between Edward and myself.
Edward nods his head toward Mike “My birthday isn’t until June, but my parents wanted to celebrate early so I could invite friends from school before everyone gets busy with summer travels. It will be Saturday, early afternoon.” He glances between Mike and myself, “Mike, you’re welcome to come as well. It’s nothing crazy, just some music and food. If the weather is nice, maybe some games outside” The corner of his mouth twitches up ever so slightly at the mention of nice weather. We all know that the only forecast for the next several weeks is rain.
“We have plans with my family this weekend Cullen, if only it were another time” Mike snaps out, the animosity in his voice so unexpected to me. I look at him then back at Edward.
“I’m sure we can make it for a few hours, count us in.” Mike grabs my hand and squeezes, silently urging me to reconsider. I give him a gentle squeeze in return, Edward has been my lab partner most of the semester, I haven’t seen him with anyone besides his siblings, he doesn’t have many friends. The least we can do is show up for his birthday party for a little bit.
Edward smiles “Great, I’ll let my mom know to plan on the both of you attending.” He nods his head to Mike again before turning towards the door “See you tomorrow Bella”, He calls over his shoulder as he walks away.
“Beeeeellsssss....” Mike groans as realization hits that we had just agreed to spend our Saturday afternoon at the Cullen residence. “Why couldn’t you just tell him that we were busy?”
“Because that would have been rude, what if you were in his position? How would you feel if you didn’t have any friends to invite to celebrate your birthday?” What’s the big deal anyway? It’s just a few hours of our time, then we can go right back to hanging out with his parents.
“What was up with you two at the beginning of class anyway? He seemed awfully chummy with you. I don’t think I have ever seen Cullen so much as smile at another person, let alone laugh at what they were saying. What was that about?” He glances sideways at me as we walk away from the biology room.
I bristle at the note of suspicion in his tone “We were discussing the project, he must have thought I made a joke about something.” I know I was coming across a bit defensive, but just because Mike doesn’t laugh at my jokes doesn’t mean that everyone finds me so humorless.
Taking the hint, he walks quietly beside me and doesn't bring it up the rest of the day.