Meet the Cullens
When a group of poachers destroys a wolf family in the forest around Forks, Chief Swan thought he was rescuing a wolf pup from a slow, lonely death. What he got instead was the ultimate gift he could receive: a family.
In which Bella is Faoladh.
There was nothing quite like running with the wind in her fur, Bella reflected as her paws landed amongst brush and bracken of the forest. Her lupine nose was filled with the scents of the forest-decaying earth, rich pine, the faint smell of rain-a storm coming, no doubt - and, there. Her ears perked up when her nose picked up the unmistakable smell of rabbit. She could feel saliva building in her jaws as she closed in on her prey. The jack rabbit sunning himself in a clear patch of forest never knew what got him. Her jaws snapped his neck with a swift crack, and that was that. Bella swallowed the warm, mouthful of meat, satisfied by the rich flavor. Her ear twitched as she heard someone calling her name. Resigned, she finished her meal quickly and padded back into the forest.
She emerged from the woods behind a modest, two-story home to find her father standing with hands on his hips, about to call her once more until he spotted her familiar, red, grey-brown form trotting from the woods.
“Good grief Bella,” he chastised, his expression stern, “You’re nearly late for your first day at school.”
The wolf rolled her eyes and let out a huff, before rolling her shoulders as a series of cracks rippled through her body. Her father winced and looked away as the transformation took hold. In the place of the wolf soon stood a teenage girl, mostly. Her eyes were a greenish brown, her ears had just the slightest taper to them, and her brown hair was peppered with the occasional red, grey, and white. On an ordinary human, the hair might have had an aging effect - but on Bella, who was not human at all, it looked natural. She stretched her human form, only satisfied when her back gave a very audible pop. The change didn’t hurt precisely, but it certainly wasn’t comfortable.
She smirked at Charlie’s red face, still resolutely turned away. “Come on Dad, it’s not like you haven’t seen this before. You’re such a prude.” Stark naked, Bella walked past him and back into the house.
As she got ready for school, Bella reflected on the years leading up to this moment. Even though she had lived with Charlie all of her life, she had never attended the schools in Forks. This was partially because Charlie feared what would happen if people discovered what she was - which, she admitted, was a valid concern. After all, ordinary humans didn’t generally turn into wolves on a whim. And when she had been younger, Bella had not understood the need to keep her identity a secret. The wolf was an equal part of herself - she was as much wolf as human, and so her wolf state was as natural feeling as her human state. She had shifted from wolf to human and back again with no thought to who might be around to see. Some of that rebelliousness was still there, she thought ruefully as she pulled a white t-shirt over her head, evidenced by her change in front of Charlie. That had been completely unnecessary, but oh so fun. She grinned again when she remembered the look on his face. Charlie became so easily flustered.
Selecting a pair of jeans and some worn out chucks, Bella finished getting ready quickly. She slung a side bag over her shoulder-her choice in place of a regular backpack-and headed back downstairs.
Hiding had been necessary in those early years. Bella had needed the time to acclimate to being a human being, and Charlie wasn’t always the best teacher. Now, at 18, she understood why she needed to keep her wolf form under wraps. She would never understand why humans were so callous toward beings different from themselves, but she guessed, as Charlie had repeated to her dozens of times over the years, that was just the way things were. In preparing her to enter society though, Charlie had not neglected her studies. He had been a diligent tutor, and had acquired for her necessary materials to cover areas he himself struggled with. As she neared the upper levels of high school, however, he had reached well past his limit in what he could adequately teach her. And so it was, she thought with a thrill, that she would actually get to attend school. Despite herself, a giddy grin stretched across her face. A grin which withered when she ran into Charlie at the foot of the stairs, his arms folded and a grim expression on his face.
“Cheer up Dad, it’s not like I’m going to my execution.” She said, grinning cheekily at him. Charlie only shook his head, and she could guess what he was thinking. Bella released a sigh as she moved past him. “Alright alright, I know already. Keep my head down, don’t get into trouble, and don’t trust anyone.” Finally, a small smile cracked his facade.
“That’s my girl.” He said fondly, reaching out to ruffle her hair. Bella deftly ducked out of his reach with the ease of practice, laughing. His expression grew serious again. “Just be careful, Bella. I want you to enjoy this, but I don’t know what I would do if anything ever happened to you.” Bella sobered as she saw the worry in his eyes.
Settling herself, she did her best to look reassuring. She didn’t want him to change his mind, after all. “I promise I’ll be careful. I’ll call you if I have any trouble.” She stuck her hands in her pockets and smiled. There was silence for a few moments, before Charlie smiled as well and they both relaxed.
“Okay,” he said, gesturing to the door, “If I hold you up any longer, you really will be late. Go on outside, I have a surprise for you.”
Lifting an eyebrow in interest, Bella spun on her heel and headed for the door. When she pulled it open, she couldn’t help the gasp that escaped her lips. There, in the driveway, was a banged up old truck. The red paint was worn off in places, and it looked like it had survived a war zone. Bella instantly loved it.
“I know it’s not much, but I got it for a good price and I know it runs...” Bella cut off Charlie’s rambling when she turned back around and threw her arms around him in excitement. She squeezed the breath out of him.
“Dad it’s perfect! Thank you so much!” She released him and missed his pained groan and the hand he passed over his ribs in her haste to check out her new ride. She went to open the door before realizing she didn’t have the keys. She turned back to Charlie expectantly only to find that the keys were already arcing through the air toward her. Bella snatched them from the air easily, and grinned at Charlie’s red face.
“I’m glad you like it.” He mumbled after a moment, embarrassment still clear in his features. “Now get going!”
Bella didn’t need to be told twice. She hopped into the cab and laughed in delight when the loud engine growled to life. Her ears flinched away from the magnitude of the noise, but she didn’t care. It was perfect. As she looked back at her father standing in the doorway, her heart suddenly swelled in her chest. She had been so lucky to be taken in by this man. What her life would have been like with out him, she didn’t dare think about.
After carefully backing out of the driveway, she was off.
Getting to the school was easy-Forks was her hometown after all, and she had been by there before with her father. What she wasn’t expecting was the sudden bout of nerves that hit her the moment she pulled into the parking lot. Every head swiveled in her direction, surveying the loud truck and the new student driving it. Bella parked as quickly as she could and killed the engine. Her heart was suddenly pounding and her face was flushed with embarrassment. What she was embarrassed about exactly, she wasn’t sure. Being dropped off in her dad’s squad car would have been even more embarrassing, she reminded herself. After taking a deep breath, she hopped out of the cab and slung her bag across her body.
“Take it easy girl.” She muttered to herself under her breath. “You’re the new kid, but you aren’t exactly new. They know who you are.”
Pep talk over, Bella headed toward the front office to get her schedule for the day. She studiously avoided meeting the curious stares directed her way, and kept her hands clenched around the strap of her bag. Her eyes stayed firmly on her shoes as she walked until she reached the office. Shyness wasn’t normally part of her personality, but she couldn’t help feeling nervous. Nerves quickly fled her mind when she reached the office, however.
The moment she walked into the room, her sharp nose picked up a scent she had never encountered before. The hackles at the base of her neck rose, and she felt a growl building in her chest. Startled by her sudden, instinctual reaction, Bella forced herself to stop and take another whiff to figure out what was going on. Again, immediately, her body reacted. The fine hairs on her arms stood on end, and she could feel the wolf wanting to be free. Only a lifetime of carefully practiced control kept her from changing right then and there. Bella took a careful step out of the office and braced her back against the cool bricks of the building. She forced herself to focus on the cool, rough surface behind her and took a deep breath of fresh air. Thankfully she didn’t smell it out here. Whatever the scent belonged to must have entered the office from the main building.
Once she was sufficiently calm, Bella felt only dismay. What could possibly be here that would set off her instincts that way? The animal part of her brain was practically screaming danger. This was just what she needed! Irrational anger surged in her. She finally, finally had a chance to go to a real school and she almost blew it on the first day! “Great job, idiot.” She growled under her breath. What even was this smell?
The bell rang. Noting the time, Bella forced herself back into the office to get her schedule, breathing through her mouth this time to be on the safe side. Once that was completed, she gave herself time to think.
It hadn’t smelled bad persay-it was a strange, sweet scent that otherwise might even have been pleasant. She had no idea what it could be, but clearly her wolf side recognized it as an enemy. What would happen when she met the owner of this scent? She hardly dared think of it. Her keen ears picked up someone moving to fall into step with her.
“Hello!” A jovial voice sounded in her ear and she winced slightly. Distracted, she offered the boy a faint smile, taking in his slicked back black hair, black frame glasses hiding blue eyes, and acne ravaged face. He sported an open, welcoming smile that caught her a little off guard. “I’m Eric!” The boy stuck out his hand, and Bella warily met it with her own. After giving her hand a surprisingly firm shake, he continued. “And you’re Isabella right? Chief’s kid?” Bella winced at the use of her full name, but nodded. “I’ve seen you around before, thought it’s been a while.” He hadn’t asked a question, but Bella felt it all the same.
“Dad used to home-school me, but this year I thought it would be fun to try regular school.” She explained. Eric nodded in understanding. “And call me Bella,” she added.
“Well then, allow me to welcome you to Forks High, land of terrible cafeteria food, and well-meaning, but boring teachers.” His grin was crooked and infectious, and despite her previous unease, she found herself smiling back. “Let me see your schedule?” Eric asked, and Bella wordlessly passed it to him. She was relieved he hadn’t questioned her about her homeschooling. Charlie had led her to believe that high schoolers were a nosy lot, but Eric seemed alright.
“Cool,” he said, interrupting her reverie, “I’ve got 1st hour with you; we can walk together.” He passed her back her schedule, and Bella slipped it into her backpack.
“Thanks,” she replied, finding her voice again, “I might have been late trying to find it.” Eric waved her off and chattered animatedly about their 1st hour math teacher, sharing everything he’d heard about the man. Bella found herself unintentionally tuning him out as she inwardly exulted that she’d already met someone nice, who might be her friend.
“Here we are!” Eric announced, and Bella realized they’d made it. Most of the students were already there, but she found a spot easily enough and returned Eric’s wave as he sat across the room. Class got underway a few minutes later, and she was glad of Eric’s help. No need to draw more attention to herself by being late to her first class ever.
Math class was surprisingly easy, but she reminded herself that math was Charlie’s best subject, so naturally the material came more easily to her. Her next two classes passed simply enough-English and wood shop. Bella came out of wood shop beaming and covered in sawdust. She shook some of the dust from her grey/brown hair and laughed. She knew which class would be her favorite. Eric found her again in the grassy area in front of the wood shop, and she met his smile more easily this time.
“Hey Bella!” He laughed when he saw the state of her, and Bella continued brushing the saw dust off herself. “I see Ms. Ruben already let you guys work. She’s pretty cool.” His eyes glazed a little and Bella raised an eyebrow. Seemed he was hung up on the “pretty” part. Well, Bella couldn’t blame him. Ms. Ruben was in her 30s at least, but that didn’t diminish her good looks in the slightest. Her light brown hair, bright blue eyes and dimples were killer...not to mention how good she was with her hands... With a start, Bella realized she was probably mirroring Eric’s glazed expression. Her cheeks flushed as she shook herself out of it, and she cleared her throat rather pointedly at her companion. Eric nodded several times and motioned for her to follow him. “Come on,” he said, “Lunch room’s over here. You can sit with us.”
Bella followed after Eric happily enough, sparing only a stray thought to who “us” was. Eric would introduce her, she was sure.
As Eric pushed the double doors open, Bella found herself overwhelmed by the sudden noise-and so many people. Her first instinct was to cover her ears against the cacophony of clattering silverware and trays, scrape of chairs, and din of raised voices. One hand even drifted up, but she jerked it down and took a deep breath, trying to calm her thundering heart. Eric turned back to say something and must have seen something of her expression because he immediately ushered her back out of the room and closed the doors, blessedly blocking some of the noise.
“Hey, you okay?” He asked awkwardly, hands shoved in his pockets. Bella smiled gratefully at him.
“Yeah, sorry. The noise and the people-just kind of overwhelmed me for a sec. I’m good.” She felt a little embarrassed, but the way Eric’s expression morphed into understanding made her feel better.
“Oh sure-that makes sense. I can see how it would be unsettling at first, since you’ve never gone to public school. All good now?” When Bella nodded, he opened one of the doors again and led her first to the line, where they each received the day’s lunch-Bella saw what he meant by “horrible”, her enhanced sense of smell was not enjoying the stench of over cooked vegetables, stale bread, and something that was decidedly not real meat on it.
She felt Eric glance at her sidelong. “Too bad burgers are your first taste of cafeteria food,” Eric remarked. “At least taco day isn’t this bad.” Bella just shrugged in response. She’d get used to it.
It was as she followed Eric to a table that the smell from the morning hit her again. Her muscles locked and heart rate spiked as her instincts screamed to take over. It took a monumental effort not to drop her tray, and to force her legs to start moving again. To appease her instincts, she told herself she was going to act like she had noticed nothing until she had identified and assessed the threat. This seemed to help loosen her muscles a bit, and she cast her brown eyes slowly around, her brain deftly filtering through the other scents in the lunchroom until-
As her eyes landed on the table of students a few tables away from the one Eric had led her to, she knew without further investigation that the danger smell was coming from them. Bella allowed her eyes to take them in-their bodies such utter perfection even her keen eyes detected no flaws. It wasn’t natural. And the way they sat-so still. They might as well be stone. She swallowed the growl rising in her throat. Whatever they were, they couldn’t be human.
“Here Bella, let me introduce you.” Eric’s voice disrupted her thoughts for the second time that day, and it was difficult this time to refocus on him, to deliberately turn away from the threat.
I don’t know what they are yet, she told herself internally, Until I do, it’s best to stay away. That was easier said than done, however. It went against her kinds purpose-protection. Protection of humans. She forced a smile as she was introduced to Mike, Angela, Lauren, and Jessica. She sat and endured their questions-and imposing a calm on herself that she didn’t really feel. Her facade only cracked once when she felt eyes on her. Bella’s eyes flicked up to meet burning gold. She assessed the boy looking at her, with his burnished bronze hair and perfect skin. She supposed he was handsome, but just then there was a look on his face that made him look constipated as he stared hard at her. The dominance of her wolf rose in her and kept her from looking away. She felt satisfied when he finally did, and tuned back in to the table only to find they had gone silent. She flushed sheepishly.
They were all smiling at her now, but it was Mike who spoke up. “Don’t worry about it. Everyone who sees the Cullens for the first time does that. They’re hard to miss, right?” He nodded his head to the table she’d been looking at.
Bella blinked. “They’re all related?” She glanced back at the table again, taking in the bronze-haired boy, the hulking guy next to him with short black hair, the short, petite girl with spiky black hair, and the boy of medium height and build by her with shaggy, sandy blonde hair. None of them looked remotely related, apart from clearly being the same type of creature, and her eyes detected no even vaguely similar facial markers that would indicate siblings. She looked back at Mike, who explained.
“They’re all adopted, actually. Emmett, the big guy, and Alice are the only two actually related.” Bella’s eyes flicked over sharply and assessed Emmett and Alice again. No-no way they were related. Her eyes narrowed, but she looked back at Mike as he continued. “They all moved down here last year. The doctor at the hospital, Dr. Cullen, is their dad. He and his wife are really young though.” Bella took in this information and popped a fry into her mouth.
Jessica interjected. “Mike, you forgot Rosalie and Jasper.” Bell’as gazed turned to her as she spoke. “Rosalie and Jasper are brother and sister too-and their last name is actually Hale. Jasper dates Alice and Emmett dates Rosalie, though I guess she’s not here today.” Bella’s eyes had tracked back to the table already and noted this “Rosalie” must not be here because she saw only one female at their table. Jessica was still talking, she realized.
“Unnatural, if you ask me.” Bella froze for a second before she realized the girl wasn’t talking about her. She relaxed as the girl finished. “They shouldn’t all be dating like that.” Bella frowned.
“Well if they aren’t related, what difference does it make?” She posed the question to Jessica, but she swore she saw the smallest Cullen, Alice smile from the corner of her eyes. Could these creatures hear them? Alarmed at the possibility, she immediately decided to watch her words.
Jessica huffed in response. “Still...” she grumbled. At that point Mike suddenly swore as he noted something on his phone, and the topic changed to the Seahawks prospects for the season. Bella was thankful for the subject change, as it gave her a chance to think.
So there were at least five of these creatures...these Cullens. She knew instinctively they were not human, anymore than she was. As for what they were, only time would tell. For the moment at least, they didn’t seem to be causing any harm. She wondered suddenly if they could tell that she wasn’t human, either. Worry worked through her until she had an idea. If they did know, they couldn’t necessarily out her. Not unless they too wanted their secret revealed. That would have to be enough.
The bell rang, and Bella realized with a start that she had barely touched her food. She got up to dispose of it, and found herself in sudden proximity to one of the Cullens - Alice. She eyed the small girl cautiously, and felt suspicion snake through her when it became apparent none of the Cullens had eaten anything from their trays either. She handed her tray off to a lunch lady and turned to leave, but stopped short of running right into the small Cullen - Alice - again. The creature was looking up at her with a curious smile, and Bella couldn’t help smiling back. Odd, considering her reaction to their scent. She tentatively scented the air, and felt some of the same reactions coming. She resigned herself to breathing through her mouth until she got a handle on this.
“Hi!” Said Alice, in a voice so bubbly and cheerful it could only be described as a chirp, “I’m Alice! Who are you?” Bella hestiated a moment, surprised Alice didn’t seem to know of her. Or perhaps she did, and was merely being polite.
“Hi.” Her response came belatedly, “I’m Bella...Swan.”
Alice’s eyes seemed to shimmer in delight, and she held out her hand. “Swan like Chief Swan?” At her nod, she continued, “I like your dad, he’s a nice man.” Bella wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or alarmed that this creature knew her father. She eyed Alice’s outstretched hand for a moment before shaking it. Alice’s hand was surprisingly cool, cold even, Bella thought. Regular humans felt a bit cool to her too, as her blood naturally ran hot, but Alice’s hand was markedly cooler even than a human’s.
“Yeah, he is. Well, nice to meet you Alice. See you around?” She ventured after a moment. She was painfully aware of how suspicious she herself was acting, but couldn’t find it in herself to do any better. Alice, for her part, just smiled her assent and skipped away. Her eyes widened incredulously. How dangerous could a creature who skipped be? Shaking herself, Bella hurried off for Biology. With any luck, she’d be ahead in that class too and be able to ponder what she had learned. Not for the first time, she lamented the loss of her family, who might have educated her more about the supernatural world. She had been too young - only five - when they were killed. She remembered little. It was possible Charlie knew more, but she was certain he would have warned her if he had noticed anything...off...about them. She sighed, and realized her feet had delivered her straight to the Biology room. She pushed the door open just as the bell rang.
“Cutting it a bit close Miss Swan, aren’t we?” The teacher addressed her as she walked in, and she flushed. The Cullen scent washed over her then, and she closed her eyes in resignation. No rest for the weary it seemed. Funny how the thought of just ditching school never occurred to her. “Take a seat beside Mr. Cullen please - you two will be partners this semester.” A groan escaped her and her eyes flew open when she realized she’d groaned aloud. The teacher, Mr. Banner, raised an eyebrow and waved her to her seat. She turned and stopped briefly when she realized she was partnered with the constipated Cullen. Jessica, who had that class with her, looked at her strangely as she passed, for her reaction at being paired with a Cullen. No doubt Jessica would have been thrilled in her shoes.
She settled gingerly in the chair beside the Cullen boy. For his part, he turned on her a look half curious, half accusing. “I’m Edward.” He said peremptorily.
“I’m Bella.” She responded in kind, and was grateful that Mr. Banner started the lesson then, because she really did not want to talk to Edward.
She felt his eyes on her from time to time, and whenever that happened she felt the fine hairs at the back of her neck stiffen and it was all she could do to keep her lips closed when all they wanted to do was pull back in a snarl. Once, she couldn’t suppress a twitch - and she knew that he had seen it. Bella sat stiffly through the remainder of the class, and moved to leave immediately after. His scent bothered her even more than that girl Alice’s. She was certain now that he was whom she’d smelled in the office.
Before she’d made it out t he door she heard his soft voice calling her back. There was a quality to it that she couldn’t quite identify... It was like he was flirting without actually flirting...or something. Was he trying to be charming? Caught, she turned back toward him reluctantly and found him staring at her intensely in what she was now cluing in as his idea of a sultry, sexy look.. No doubt this drew in humans by the dozens, but Bella was not human. To her, it looked like he was angry or constipated again.
“What?” She asked, just this side of rude. Normally she was quite polite, but she was still struggling with her danger instinct, and she knew it wouldn’t stop until she had fully identified and assessed the threat. It was just how she worked. Besides, she was a little offended that he was turning this look on her without even talking to her first. Sleazebag.
Edward, for his part, seemed puzzled by her lack of reaction, but he recovered. “I wondered if I might escort you to your next class? I wanted a chance to get to know you a little.” His words were courteous, but Bella knew he had an ulterior motive. Still, Mr. Banner was eyeing them impatiently, and she did need to get to her next class.
“Fine.” Her answer was short, and she spun on a heel and headed back into the hallway. Edward appeared next to her after a few seconds, and it seemed he planned to make the most of his time because he jumped right in.
“So you’re Chief Swan’s daughter?” His tone remained distant, and Bella glanced over at him sharply. He already knew the answer to this question.
“How about you ask me what you really want to know?” She was rewarded by the sight of the skin around his eyes tightening. Ha, she thought, got him. He shot her such a sudden look of frustration and perplexity that she almost thought he’d heard her thought. But that was impossible.
“Alright.” His tone was clipped, and she felt inordinately pleased that she had spoiled his niceties. She waited and kept her heart rate under careful control. Whatever these creatures were, they were definitely predators, and they likely had excellent hearing. They stopped outside the history classroom, and he turned to look at her. She noted that his eyes had darkened from a bright yellow gold to almost black. She added that to her mental list of what she knew of these creatures.
“Why haven’t you been to school before today?” His voice was too soft to be overheard, but she answered normally.
“Because my dad homeschooled me. I talked him into letting me try high school this year.” This was an easy enough answer, and it was pretty much the truth. Edward didn’t seem satisfied.
“My family moved here last year, and we’ve - I’ve - never seen you before. Forks isn’t a big place.” Bella’s brow drew down in agitation. Who did he think he was? Luckily, she had a ready answer.
“Not that it’s any of your business, Captain Constipated, but last year I tried an alternative school. It was like boarding school, so I was rarely home.” Another partial truth. Bella rested a hand on top of her bag and shifted her weight impatiently. “Was that all? Class is about to start.” And my other self wants to rip your throat out even though there would be no satisfying gush of hot - Bella’s eyes widened as her brain suddenly realized what her ears had already noted. No heartbeat. Edward, who sported a strange expression on his face now, was standing plenty close enough for her humanoid ears to pick up...silence. Despite her earlier resolve to remain calm and keep a steady heartbeat, she found herself unable to do so anymore. He noticed the change, she could tell, and there was something else behind her eyes. Almost as if he knew of her animosity.
“That’s all for now.” He said finally, walking away. Bella gratefully slipped into her history classroom and had to resist the urge to cry when she saw that the only open seat was beside Jasper Cullen. This was the most stressful day of her life, she thought glumly. And that included the time a bear attacked her because she’d eaten some of his honey. It had taken weeks to calm him back down. Normally Bella could reach an understanding with animals, but bears were temperamental at best.
With some trepidation, she crossed to sit beside Jasper, and found herself relieved when all he did was offer a faint smile by way of greeting. He didn’t seem as chatty as his brother, which could only be a good thing. As she began pulling books and things from her bag, Bella felt some of her previous worry dissipate. It was going to be fine, she reassured herself. These creatures were dangerous, but if they were hurting people she thought it would be obvious. And she lived with the police chief; she would know if there were murders or disappearances right? And, she reflected, she was dangerous too.
Bella passed that class feeling strangely relaxed. She even forgot to think about the fact these things had no heartbeat.
Reality crashed back over her the moment she put some distance between herself and the history class. She gasped as her pent up worries flooded her again. “What the hell?” She asked herself, startling a few students nearby. She apologized and hurried on to the gym. Did my brain fall asleep or something?
Okay, so what had she learned? No heartbeat. She would have to make sure to pay attention the next time she was near one to be certain they were all that way, but she had no real doubts. When she got into the girls’ locker room, she breathed a sigh of relief that no Cullens were around to ambush her. She pulled the shorts and t-shirt she had been told to bring from her bag, and started dressing out with the other girls. It wasn’t until after she’d pulled her shirt off that she belatedly remembered her original plan to only change in the bathroom. Damn these Cullens and their distractions! The gasps around her and widened eyed stares made it clear the damage was done. She sighed.
“Bella...” a girl, Angela, Bella thought, spoke. She knew the unspoken question. A thick, ropy scar curved from beneath her left breast and extended over her rib cage to stop about halfway across her back.
Bella pulled her gym shirt on slowly before answering, letting the girls have a good look. Better they got their fill now, she reasoned. “I had a bad accident when I was little.” The curiosity in their gazes only sharpened. She sighed, realizing that this wouldn't be sufficient. No doubt this was gossip gold. So she told the story she and her dad had concocted together about her backstory. “When I was five, my parents and I were in a car accident. My parents died, and I almost did.” She saw the next natural question and answered it quickly. “Chief Swan is actually my adopted father. He knew my parents, and took me in.” It always hurt to say, but getting it out fast helped. She felt pity in some looks, sympathy from Angela, and almost...glee? From Jessica and Lauren. She narrowed her eyes as anger flashed through her. Gossip mongers. Well, she’d just learned who was and was not friend material. Without another word, she walked out of the locker room and into the gym.
She pulled up short when her eyes took in the other students in the gym. It seemed the Fates weren’t done with her yet, Bella thought with a mental groan. Emmett Cullen was standing near the boys locker rooms, talking to the teacher. Coach Clapp, Bella thought. Well, might as well get this over with.
A few minutes later, Coach Clapp had divided the class up into two teams. They would be playing basketball - a sport Bella had never played. Despite her “supernaturalness”, as she called it, Bella could be a little klutzy sometimes and she’d never really given organized sports a chance. Charlie had taught her some self-defense, but that wasn’t really something that she would need against an ordinary human. Still, as she eyed Emmett Cullen on the opposing team, she thought that perhaps some of those moves would come in handy after all. The big guy met her eyes then, and she narrowed hers in response. Green met gold intensely, and felt the challenge issued. A half feral grin crossed her face, and she gave him the faintest of nods. Challenge accepted.
Coach Clapp blew the whistle, and the game began. Bella realized early in that the humans around her moved at a much slower pace than she did, and grudgingly slowed herself down so that she wouldn’t stand out too much. She also realized that she totally sucked at basketball. She grimaced as Emmett easily slipped around her guard and scored a layup. And she hadn’t even known what a “layup” was until that day. She felt angry as her team took the ball back down the court. Bella didn’t always consider herself competitive, per say, but there was something about losing to this creature that she just couldn’t abide. Picking up the pace a bit she easily caught the ball as Mike passed it to her, and went to dribble up to the basket only to halt as a huge wall of pale skin appeared in front of her. Bella skidded back to avoid slamming into Emmett, and couldn’t help the faint growl that escaped her when he stole the ball from her with a shit-eating grin on his face. He raced past her back down the court and Bella followed just as quickly, pulling up next to him easily. She reached out to swat the ball away from him and cursed as he pivoted away from her so quickly she would have missed it if she’d blinked. The next thing she knew he was dunking the ball and receiving the adulation of his team. He shot her a wink as he jogged away and she gaped at him, affronted.
Her green eyes narrowed once again. Alright Bella. What is it that Charlie always says? Get my head in the game!
The next several minutes of the game were fierce as Bella focused solely on Emmett, and he on her. Once she got a feel for the game, Bella found that she could keep up at times with the huge pale boy, and was gratified to see the surprise in his eyes. And was that...delight? It looked like the creature was genuinely delighted that she could keep up with him. Well, she guessed it did make the game a little more fun. Not much honor in defeating a bunch of humans when they can’t help that they just aren’t as strong and fast as she is. But Emmett? She knew she hadn’t even seen the least of his abilities. That scared her...and oddly thrilled her.
By the end of the game, she was a little winded and enjoying the adrenaline rush. Despite her caution, she met Emmett’s smile with a surprisingly genuine one of her own. The big guy followed her towards the girls’ locker rooms and she paused so he could catch up.
“Hey, Bella right?” His voice was open, friendly, and surprisingly warm. “That was awesome! I mean, I could tell you’ve never played this game before, but you picked it up really fast.” Bella found herself smiling at him, much as she had at his sister Alice. Some kind of reflex she didn’t know she had. Something about Emmett, despite her instincts still indicating danger, made her feel at ease.
“Yeah, that’s me.” She replied, “No, I’ve never played before. My dad loves it, so you’d think I’d have picked up a thing or two but...” She shrugged. A glint entered her green eyes as she recalled the game, and she grinned. “It was fun playing against you Emmett. I think P.E. will be a fun class this year.” Would they ever get a chance to really test their skills against one another? She wondered.
Emmett returned her grin, but she saw the surprise on his face. “How did you...?”
Bella shrugged, “Same way you know my name, I guess. People talk!” Emmett nodded, and took a step back toward the boys’ locker rooms.
“Well, I’ve gotta get ready to go. It was nice meeting you. See you tomorrow Bella!” With a light wave, Emmett turned and jogged away to get himself changed, and Bella turned back into the girls’ locker room herself. She couldn’t help it, she thought as she went to get changed. She rather liked Emmett.
The other girls didn’t stare much when she got changed this time, and she fell into an easy conversation on the way out with Angela. As soon as she made it to her truck, though, she was ready to escape. She needed time to think about what she had seen today, and to talk to Charlie about it. A decision would need to be made. Would she return to Forks High, or continue to be homeschooled? She knew what she wanted, but Bella had learned early on that what she wanted and what was best were often at odds with one another. With a sigh that didn’t really relieve the knotted tension inside her, she turned the key in the ignition and headed for home. So preoccupied was she, that she didn’t notice the four pairs of curious, golden eyes that followed her departure.