Waking up in Edward's arms was just about the best feeling in the world. His tone, as he attempted to rouse me, was low and soft. Gentle. His fingers were caressing as he danced them up and down my arm. His nuzzling of my hair was accompanied by frequent kisses.
Alarms essentially screamed, in the harshest way possible: Get! Up!
With Edward, it was more like: I would love for you to join me in being awake.
And he always seemed to know when I was. The moment I felt even slightly lucid, he was wishing me a good morning, and asking how I slept.
And then I remembered something. "How was your night? Did you—?"
He interrupted me before I could even finish the question, but he didn't tense, like he usually did whenever I brought up the subject of him hunting. I took it as an encouraging sign and pressed a little further.
"How often do you need to do that?"
"Not as often as humans need to eat."
Still no tension. And the answer came quickly. Interesting. Did something happen to change his mind? Was he now willing to share? I braved forward.
"Alice and Esme do this? Rosalie?"
Rosalie wasn't as hard to believe. She had an edge to her. But Alice and Esme seemed so delicate.
There was a slight amount of tension that time, and the answer didn't come as fast, but I decided to continue anyway.
"Do you guys hunt in packs, or…?"
Yeah, I should have stopped while I was ahead. His entire body turned to stone. He stopped his unnecessary breathing. His arm around me tightened.
"I'm sorry. It's just… you seemed a little more willing to share. I was just curious. Relax. Please. I'll stop."
He did. He relaxed. Considerably. And then he sighed.
"I know you're curious, but too much information will allow you to imagine. I would rather you didn't."
"Do you think it'll scare me, to imagine you like that?"
He laughed. "Nothing seems to scare you."
"So, if that's not the problem, then what is?"
It took him years to answer, but I knew he would eventually. I was gaining a better sense of him. There was a subtle difference between his 'I'm not answering that' silence and his 'I'm thinking of how to answer' silence.
"I like that you don't see me as a monster."
"And you think if I imagine that side of you, that I'll start thinking you are?" He didn't answer. "I wouldn't think that, Edward."
He didn't respond to that, either, and then he just changed the subject.
"You should get ready for school. We need to arrive there early today."
It was a successful detour on his part. My curiosity piqued. "We do? Why?"
"You left yesterday without permission."
Right. Crap. My slap on the wrist would be waiting for me. Not such a big deal, though. And, really, no reason to get there early. Missing a few minutes of first period to deal with it wouldn't hurt my grade any.
"I have a spotless record, Edward. Trust me, we don't have to get there early. They'll just slap me on the wrist and send me off to first period."
He made a huffing sound. The idea of that clearly annoyed him.
"They won't really slap my wrist, Edward. It's just a figure of speech. At worst, I'll get detention."
He huffed again. "No, you won't. Get ready. Breakfast will be waiting for you."
He slipped out from under me, and then he was gone.
But, how did he know I wouldn't get a detention?
Alice. She probably saw something.
I climbed out of bed and moved through my morning routine, then headed down the stairs for breakfast.
Esme had been busy. Not only was my breakfast ready and waiting for me, but so was my lunch for school. Beside the brown paper bag – which had my name so neatly penned on it, it looked like a professional calligrapher had written it – was a plate loaded down with six muffins, all sealed individually in zippy bags.
Edward was watching me as I entered. I smiled at him as I took my usual spot.
"What's with the muffins?"
"A gift for Angela. Esme was quite pleased by her compliment."
That was sure nice of her. Angela would be eating muffins for a week, morning, noon, and night!
"And the lunch? You're not bringing it to me today?"
I tried to hide my disappointment. I thought that was the plan. Maybe he was angry with me for pushing to know stuff he clearly didn't want me to know. I took a bite of my… Eggs Benedict? Minus the ham, but the sauce was definitely a hollandaise.
"Out of curiosity, who wrote my name on the bag?" I asked, attempting to sound nonchalant.
He quirked an eyebrow at me before answering. "I did."
Was there anything this guy couldn't do? Even his penmanship was stellar.
"Did you study calligraphy or something?"
"Yes, but not in a classroom."
I gave a nod, then fell silent as I continued eating.
I had to know. If he was angry with me, I needed to apologize. Find a way to fix it. But I wasn't sure how to go about bringing it up.
Finally, after fifteen years of awkwardness, I asked, "Will it be safe to go to the forest today?"
He didn't exactly sound mad, but he seemed, at the very least, miffed. He obviously didn't want to talk about it, though. I gave him a couple openings, and he never elaborated past his clipped responses.
I needed to listen to my inner voice more. I should have stopped asking him questions about his hunting activities, but I didn't. I ignored the possible ramifications and pushed him too far. Now he was upset with me.
I wouldn't make that mistake again. If he didn't want to talk about it, I wouldn't press for him to.
I ate the rest of my breakfast in silence.
When I came down the stairs after brushing my teeth, he was waiting for me by the door, holding my jacket and lunch, wearing a smile. Okay, maybe he wasn't that upset with me after all. Or maybe he was just a quick to forgive kind of guy. Either way, it made me feel a million times better. And then his gentlemanly ways added a million more to that.
He helped me with my jacket, holding it out to me so I could slip it on. He took my backpack so that I wouldn't have to carry it. He opened the house and car doors for me. As soon as he started the engine, he flipped on the heater so that I wouldn't be cold.
But still, we didn't talk. Not one word. Not until we entered school grounds.
Instead of pulling up to the curb, he parked.
He answered before I even had two words out of my mouth.
"I'm accompanying you to the office. I will get your door."
He still sounded miffed. But somehow, now, it didn't seem to be directed at me.
He offered me his hand when he opened my door. I took it, of course, and then everything just felt right. He carried my backpack and I carried my lunch as we headed for the office.
A moment before we entered, he leaned into me.
"Let me handle this. Please," he added, as if it were an afterthought.
What was going on? Was this situation the reason why he was upset? Did he really think a slap on the wrist or detention was such a big deal?
"Mr. Cullen! It's a pleasure to see you again!"
Okay, wow. What the hell was that? Mrs. Cope sounded almost giddy! She was always nice, but in a very reserved kind of way.
"The pleasure is all mine."
He said this in a very smooth, suave manner, but it lacked something. A genuineness. Mrs. Cope didn't seem to notice.
"What can I do for you?"
She seemed more than just eager to fulfill whatever request he might make of her.
"There was some confusion yesterday," he said as he pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and extended it towards her. "Miss Swan fell ill…"
He trailed off as Mrs. Cope unfolded the note and began to read.
"My father is very insistent," he added, as she set the paper down in front of her.
"Of course. She does seem a bit peaked, doesn't she?"
Huh? I did? Confused, yeah, but I wasn't feeling ill at all.
"Just precautionary," he said. "She will also need to be assigned a day in which she can retake the test she missed."
"The scheduled make-up day for that is next Friday. I'll just put her on the list now, and excuse the absence, after I get your visitor's badge."
Visitor's badge? Like the one he had worn for lunch on Tuesday? He was staying?
I leaned in a little when Mrs. Cope started filling out the sticky guest tag.
'All day pass'
He was staying! All day! That was why I had to bring my lunch!
When I felt Edward squeeze my hand, I realized I was grinning. I wiped it off my face before Mrs. Cope looked up from her task.
He seemed in a much better mood as we left the office. So it was the situation that had him tense.
"What did the note say?" I asked. We started heading for my first period class as soon as we turned the corner.
"Carlisle explained that you had a mild case of food poisoning, and asked that I remain with you for the day, in case you began to feel ill again."
Sure. If Dr. Cullen said it, it would hold much more weight. But why not just tell me? And why was Edward really staying with me all day?
"Why didn't you tell me about the note from your dad?"
"You don't like to lie. This way, you didn't have to. I did it for you."
I didn't ask him why he was staying. It didn't matter why. I just wanted him to stay.
"I thought I upset you this morning," I said instead. "I mean, I know I did, but I thought that was why you weren't planning on bringing me my lunch today."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to leave you with that impression. It was never you who I was upset with."
That confused me. "Who were you upset with?"
"Myself," he answered. He tensed again.
"Why were you upset with yourself? You have every right not to tell me things. I shouldn't have pushed you."
He stopped walking then. It was then that I noticed… while people around us were certainly curious, they were giving us a wide berth.
"Bella, I'm not upset that you are curious."
"Then why were you upset?"
It took several long seconds for him to answer. "I don't like using my… abilities… the way I did just now with Mrs. Cope."
Oh! He was purposefully appealing to her – the charm, the voice – so that she would clear my absence and allow him to stay.
And then I felt guilty.
"I'm sorry. It's my fault that you had to."
"No, Bella, the fault is mine. I had an obligation to set it right."
I scowled. "How was this your fault? You weren't the one who couldn't add two plus two plus two. You weren't the one who freaked out. And you weren't the one who walked off campus without permission."
"By existing. Your life was simpler before I came into it and confused it."
"No, Edward. Stop it." Irritation was in my voice, but I didn't care. I wanted him to hear it. "My life was simple before you came into it. Not bad, but nothing special. You changed that. For the better."
My irritation seemed to help in some way. I doubt he completely believed me, but I could tell he wanted to. He brought our clasped hands up and kissed the back of mine. Then he smiled at me.
Oh, great. Jessica sure had a way of killing a moment. Edward tensed. His grip on my hand – which he had dropped to our sides when we heard Jessica's voice – tightened.
"Mike said you left school yesterday 'cause you were sick. You seem okay now."
The implication was clear. She didn't believe I was ill at all.
"A little better today, thanks," I said. My focus remained on Edward through my peripheral vision. I gave the ground my outward attention.
"So, Edward, I see you're staying with us today." Jessica gave his name badge a tap.
That was not a good thing. Edward didn't growl, but his eyes darkened and he tensed further, almost like he was set to attack. I pushed myself up against him, hoping my body's contact would ease him down.
"Dr. Cullen wants Edward to keep an eye on me today. He feels responsible for me, since my folks are out of town, and what with him being a doctor…"
Jessica had basically ignored me, though I know she heard me.
"That's very dutiful of you, Edward."
Four things came to mind at that moment.
First, Jessica seemed to be implying that Edward was only with me out of obligation. Like I was a chore he had been assigned. There was just something in the way she said dutiful.
Second, she was oblivious. Edward was clearly irritated with her, yet she acted as if she was completely unaware of it.
Third, Edward's irritation seemed to go beyond finding Jessica annoying.
And fourth, if I didn't get Edward away from her, something bad was going to happen.
He probably wouldn't hurt her – he had better control than that – but the more attention he brought to himself, the bigger the chance their family would be further scrutinized.
I decided to intervene.
"Edward? I don't want to be late for class."
"Yeah, you don't want to add another mark to your previously spotless record."
She said this with a combination of animosity and glee. Like she was jealous of my clean record, and happy that it was now marred. Which it wasn't, actually, thanks to Edward and Dr. Cullen.
I didn't care enough to correct her. I gave Edward a nudge, and he finally relaxed a little. When he looked to me, his eyes lightened.
"Ready?" I asked, giving a little jerk of my head in the direction of building two.
"Yeah, I should get going, too. I'll see you at lunch…" I thought she was talking to me, so I was just about to respond, but then she added, "Edward."
I could feel the rumble of his growl, but I couldn't hear it, which meant Jessica probably didn't know it had happened. I wasn't about to take chances, though. I tightened my grip on Edward's hand and pulled him with me as I walked away.
"Yeah, she hates me," I whispered, after we had some distance between us and Jessica. "I'm not asking for you to confirm it," I added. "I know she does."
"I'm sorry," he whispered back.
I wasn't. I honestly didn't care. I was tired of her insidiousness. Maybe there was a reason why she was the way she was, but that didn't justify her harassment of the Cullens. What, did she think she'd get Edward at a cafeteria table at lunch and just coax his life story out of him? And even if she thought she could, then what?
Well, I knew what she would do next, actually. She spread rumors like a plague, and she did it for no other reason than for the attention it would give her. She thought it made her popular.
"You have nothing to apologize for, Edward."
I stumbled to a stop, right before the door to the building. When I looked up at him, he had guilt written all over his face.
"No, you don't," I insisted. And then I replayed what had happened with Jessica a minute before, trying to determine where his remorse was coming from. But nothing clicked. Had he done something so fast, it was undetectable to me? Or to Jessica?
"I'm sorry for losing my temper."
Wait. I didn't see him lose his temper. If anything, I was amazed by his restraint.
"In what way did you do that?" Again, I had to consider the idea that he had done something undetectable to the human eye.
He sighed. "She very nearly found herself catapulted across the campus."
The mental image of Jessica in flight, flailing all appendages, made me laugh. And my laugh obviously confused him. His eyebrow quirked.
"Where I come from, that's the definition of not losing control." His quirk turned into a scowl. I just rolled my eyes and dragged him towards the building. "C'mon. I don't want to be late."
The room fell deathly silent as we entered. All eyes had shifted to me and Edward. Even Mr. Jefferson's, though his didn't show curiosity. They showed annoyance.
I could tell he was about to say something, but before his mouth could even fully open to form words, Edward, very calmly, tapped his visitor's badge. The teacher's gaze dropped to it for a moment.
"I see. Well, Mr. …" Mr. Jefferson glanced again at the name sticker. "Cullen. Take a seat in the back. And just know, I won't tolerate any disruptions in my classroom."
"Yes, sir," Edward said, very respectfully. My classmates started murmuring.
He walked me to my seat, held my chair out for me, waited until I was settled before placing my backpack on the floor beside me, and then he casually strolled down the aisle towards the back.
I so wanted to turn around and look at him, but I knew I would be caught doing so. All the kids were looking at me, except for the ones who were looking at him, and I could tell the teacher was just waiting for an opportunity to complain. He clearly didn't want Edward in his classroom.
Angela nudged me. "This is new," she whispered.
"His dad is a bit overprotective," I whispered back. "I was sick yesterday, and Edward is here to make sure I don't relapse or something."
"I heard you left. Mike said something about your lunch not agreeing with you."
"Yeah. Remind me to never get the cheese sandwich again."
She laughed, but then the bell rang, so she turned it into a cough and grabbed for her backpack to retrieve her textbook.
Mr. Varner was even more annoyed by Edward's presence than Mr. Jefferson had been. He even called the front office to be certain of the arrangements.
When he hung up the phone, his glare landed on me. "It seems a highly intelligent educator and a room full of gifted students are incapable of detecting if you're ill, Miss Swan." Then he glared at Edward. "You may stay, but you will sit in the back and make like the furnishings. Am I clear?"
Edward gave a curt nod, then gave my hand a tug and led me towards my desk. I wasn't sure how he knew which one was mine, but I stopped questioning how he knew stuff a while ago.
Same routine as before, only this time, he gave my shoulder a little squeeze before strolling to the back of the room.
Things in third period went very differently.
Mrs. Goff seemed thrilled to be seeing a new face. And then Edward greeted her in perfect Spanish – or at least I assumed it was; I only understood the first sentence – and the teacher shifted from thrilled to giddy. I only recognized a few words here and there, but from what I could gather, she had asked him where he was from, and he answered that he was from Alaska, originally, but spent a great deal of time in Spain when he was younger.
She had no problem at all with him being in her classroom.
And a pattern was starting to emerge. Men seemed to take an instant dislike to Edward, while women seemed to be smitten. Interesting.
To be continued…
Okay, this chapter was beta-ed. Thanks, Kristy!
Quitting smoking sucks! Apparently, lack of nicotine makes me irritable and paranoid. You have Kristy to thank for this chapter being posted today. In my state of irritation and paranoia, I had myself convinced that the chapter sucked. Then I was on my way to convincing myself that the whole fic sucked. I even considered pulling it.
Yeah. Bad day for Jana.
But then, as Kristy was beta-ing for me, I reread all the reviews this story has received.
So many of you have been extremely supportive and kind… I wouldn't feel right yanking the story now, even if I am scared to death that it's about to plummet into crap.
I'm just in a really weird, bad place right now. Sorry.
Please review, and MTLBYAKY