The Burning Sun
Dad used to say that some things were better left alone. He told me this almost every day. That sentence summarized his entire attitude towards the subject of my mom.
I'd hardly knew anything about her. Charlie told me that I'd been found alone and there had not been any claims once I was taken by Social Services. He insisted that was all he knew. But the strange part was that he didn't even let me indulge in harmless speculation. I imagined what the color of her eyes was. Where they brown like mine? Or where they lighter? Perhaps they were a different color altogether. That was when Charlie changed the subject. He said it wasn't important; I had the prettiest brown eyes he had ever seen and that should be enough. Compliments weren't enough to distract me. I wanted to know.
It was not just about the past, but my present. I asked him why I was unlike most people. He said it wasn't important, the important thing was that I was healthy and I was loved. That answer was enough to calm me down. Being different doesn't matter when you're loved.
That lasted until he died. With his death, that apparent calm shattered and I was left with my questions. I had been fortunate enough to have Charlie who just loved me. Now I would live with a couple of strangers I had only seen a number of times. What would they think of me?
I feared rejection. For that, I was so mad at my dad for leaving me. For dying and destroying everything I knew. It always makes me feel guilty to remember just how enraged I was; something that only increased when I learned about how he died.
There had been a fire in a warehouse outside of town. My dad was in one of his rare patrolling jobs, he almost worked exclusively behind a desk these days since he was looking for a promotion. A family that lived nearby called it in. Charlie was the first one to get the call and to arrive at the scene. At the beginning all we knew was that he'd tried to stop the fire and had lost control of the situation.
When they found the others, I finally understood. Charlie arrived at the scene and quickly realized there were people inside the warehouse, probably homeless people looking for a place to spend the night, or so Ernie said. They were trapped when the fire started. Charlie managed to get in, but he didn't get them out.
A man that had died entering into a burning building, fearlessly throwing himself into a painful death, and he had looked scared when I brought up my mother and who I could be so terrible about the truth?
Billy was as interested about learning the truth as Charlie had been. When I first came to the Reservation he seemed tense and uncomfortable. In those first days I didn't care for his emotions since I was so caught up in mine. But as days went by, I noticed. He was very stressed. I appeased myself, thinking his distant attitude towards me was nothing but sorrow for the loss of his friend. Soon I realized it had to be something else. He'd watched me all the time. He kept me closely supervised and was reluctant to leave Jake and I alone for extended periods of time. Eventually, he eased up. Until finally, he treated me like he does now. Like a father to a daughter. And as far as my differences he only said that everyone's different. Then again he said that to Jake when he grew a foot in less than a year. So maybe Billy is adaptable. Although his initial wariness did not go amiss.
Jake was far less complicated than anyone else. Like Charlie, Jake is a person who can live with very little information. He never inquired how I could remember the exact words to a book I had read just once. He was unaware of my age, he was just happy to know when my birthday was so he could make me a present. The way he sees things is that the past is behind us and there is no use in looking back. He stands by that, he never speaks about his mother, for example. So as long as I can be normal at present, it makes no difference if I was "weird" before. He doesn't wonder about the future either. He doesn't realize that I have no intention of staying in the Reservation forever and if he does, he has a very good way of hiding it.
As far as I'm concerned, my differences are not as important, since they don't reveal any actual answer. I can state what I am, but stating it a million times brings me no closer to my nature. My interest is focused on how I came to be. As I see it, if I was allowed to find more about where I come from, my future would be a lot easier to discern. I couldn't live like Charlie, Billy or Jake. They didn't question themselves so thoroughly because they knew their place in the world. Who they were, where they were going to and who they wanted to be. Even Jake. I didn't. Not all of us were fortunate to share that kind of innate certainty.
If I wanted to find my place to be, I would have to look for it. Not knowing might have been enough for them, but not for me.
My purpose was easily felt, but it was rough to translate it into action.
An entire week went by and I didn't have the guts to ask Alice for that shopping trip. Today was Saturday and I wouldn't beat myself up with what I had or hadn't done in the week. My day would be all about hanging out with Jake; since his friends had bailed on him.
The day was warm, Jake had been checking for two weeks to see that it stayed that way. Granted, it was low 50's but it was still warmer than it used to be; Perfect weather for cliff diving. With the bizarre week we've experienced we were in dire need of a distraction.
"So Embry's not coming?" I told Jake as I threw my backpack and a towel in the back of his car. He threw in a bag of chips. If anyone looked into the car they would think we we're going camping for weeks. That was how much food we were taking with us.
"No. He still says he feels sick, the idiot." If you understood Jake like I did, you knew that overt hostility meant he was worried.
"Did he go to the doctor?" Jake rolled his eyes. I corrected myself quickly. "Stupid question. Moving on." Dr. Cullen was on call this weekend. How did I know? Billy had informed us. He'd even posted a calendar with the precise dates in which we were not allowed to be anywhere near the hospital. I was going to say that seemed extreme but I had no time, for he proceeded to take out a map. He pointed out the places we were not allowed to go to anymore. "Since we're on the subject," might as well talk about it. We were already driving towards the beach. "What is with the territory divisions? And how can they even tell if we cross the boundaries or not?" They didn't have the resources to patrol that amount of terrain, did they? It seemed really extreme. Jake shrugged.
"I don't know, but they're serious about that. You should have heard them on Thursday." He referred to the council meeting they'd held. I hadn't been there because I wasn't allowed. Jake was forced and he made sure to express his displeasure for the entire day and the ones that followed. "They said that Sam and his groupies are going to make sure kids don't go into Cullen lands. I mean, come on, there's just three of them! How the hell do they think-" It was better to stop him before he went too far.
"Does that mean we are actually going to follow the rules?" I hadn't expected that. He sighed, his fingers tightening on the steering wheel.
"We have to. If Billy finds out we were over there, he'll flip." I crossed my arms stubbornly over my chest. This was getting annoying. Especially because one of the places I liked going to the most was off limits. Of all the places in the area, that little field where I liked to go to was Cullen territory. Great. I looked out the window, deciding to not talk about it anymore.
Quil wouldn't come because he had homework. His parents were really strict about that. Not that it mattered, Jake should've acted a little more affected by the absence of his friends but he seemed relaxed once we dropped the subject. He parked in our usual spot and we unpacked. We'd eat and chill before jumping.
We took some blankets and spread them around the ground. We had the radio Billy used to take on his fishing trips. The clouds parted and for a few moments there was sun, so we laid down with the food and made up pillows to be comfortable enough to forget the entire past week had happened.
"You have to be the only person that was born in Phoenix that has skin like that, Bella." said Jake, right before shoving a fistful of chips into his mouth. I'd taken off my sweater and rolled my sleeves up to attempt to decrease my body temperature. I knew it was pointless but I still tried.
"I've been here for two years, Jake. Are you ever going to get tired of picking on me just because I don't look like that?" I said and pointed at his perfectly tanned belly. He'd taken off his shirt again. He wouldn't admit it, but since his unusual growing spur had granted him with an impressively developed body he had become quite the exhibitionist. It was hilarious to hear the girls panting when he walked by.
"Nop." he said with a smug smile and I punched him in the arm. He laughed it off. Then he took a deep breath as he stretched like a cat. "Tell you one thing, I'm not going to miss all the crap we've had to put up with when we leave." Jake liked to daydream of the day when we left. I always went along with him, making plans that at least I knew were true for me. When high school was over I would probably move to whatever college accepted me and I would get a part time job to help pay for tuition. I hadn't decided where this would be but I had options due to my above average grades. Jake on the other hand, was barely getting through school because he didn't care. In his plans, he'd follow me wherever I went, and get a part time job somewhere to pay for rent until he found what he actually wanted to do. "Any chance you've decided where we're going? Like I've said before, I'm not picky. But I'd appreciate it if it was not a small town, I'm done with that." I laid on my side, resting my head on my hand and looked at him.
"How about California? Berkeley has an interesting curriculum and it is quite close to San Francisco so it meets your requirements." He grinned as he put his clasped hands behind his head. He closed his eyes.
"Sounds good." then he opened his eyes and looked gravely at me. "They have hot chicks and all that, right?" I dropped on the blanket as I rolled my eyes.
"Pig." I murmured. He laughed.
"Sunny California!" He exclaimed with a smile as he looked at the pathetic excuse for sunlight amid the darkened sky. The rain was looming in the horizon and it was getting colder. Surprisingly enough, he didn't seem to mind in spite of his half naked state. "It would be a nice change. Not just because we would be miles away from Billy and the tribe, but it might be nice to live somewhere sunny for a change." He sat up and leaned his elbows on his knees. "I won't be asked to be Chief of anything down there, that's for sure." his tone was serious, and I knew that he meant it. But it felt like ages ago since we'd had a relaxed conversation; I had no intention of being stern.
"Are you saying that you have no intention of getting a management position at the Pizza Hut you'll be working in? You'll be happy to stay as an unambitious waiter?" He grinned.
"Waiter? How about bus boy, or dishwasher? Sounds relaxing." I knew he was joking, but at the same time, there was truth to his sarcasm. And it bothered me, because his prospects could be a lot higher than he wanted to admit.
"And after that, Jake? When I'm a College graduate and I leave campus, where will you go?" I sat up, too, in the same position. He gave me a sneaky smile and slid an arm over my shoulders.
"You'll get a kick ass job and I'll marry you for your money." he grinned widely. I had to laugh; he would absolutely let me support him. "Don't worry, in exchange I'll let you name the children." I laughed now.
"What children?" It sounded so ridiculous. He looked offended.
"Our children." he frowned "I'll need the first boy to be called Jacob Jr., then you can name the other three." I raised my eyebrows.
"The other three? How do you expect me to support you if I'm pregnant half of my life." He shrugged and leaned his head on my shoulder.
"That's a mystery. But you can do anything you set your mind to, Bella. I'm sure you'll figure it out." He looked up at me again. "We will be so happy." He grinned. I moved so his head would fall off my shoulder. He groaned as if he was in pain before sitting back up.
"I have a better idea: You get a job. We don't have kids and you support me." He shook his head.
"I would never do that to you, Bella. I love you." he said in a phony in love voice he put on sometimes. "And I know you are a liberated woman. I want to encourage your personal empowerment, even if it means that I'll let you pay the bills. I'm willing to make that sacrifice." I laughed again.
He then proceeded to explain in detail how our married life would be. He then decided we would have two girls after Jacob Jr. and he told me their names. And after them, another boy. It was so ridiculous he had me laughing all morning, then the fun part came, it was time to cliff dive. We got up and I happily inhaled the scent of salt and water brought on by the breeze as we got closer to the edge. Jake was anything but enthusiastic.
"Are you sure you want to do it? The water is still freezing." I was too excited to care about that.
"It's not so cold. It's the warmest it's been in months! But I get it Jake, if you don't want to jump you don't have to." He scoffed.
"It's not that, I didn't-" he grunted "let's just do it and go home. I'm hungry." He'd eaten everything we'd packed. He was still hungry. It must be so nice to like food as much as Jake did.
"Race you to it?" I told him hopefully. He didn't answer, he started running. "Jake!" I whined as I ran after him. Honestly, I was faster than him. I just didn't need to rub it in his already affected male ego. We reached the edge, Jake was panting. I pretended to be tired too, I breathed with difficulty.
"Ladies first." He said and attempted to push me, I was too quick for that and moved away. He'd grabbed me by the waist though, and he kept on trying to push me. I grabbed his arm, if I fell, he was coming with me. We spoke as we struggled in our odd embrace. After a while I yielded or we'd never jump.
"Jerk!" I said and he laughed. "You won, you can go first." he shook his head.
"No, I need to stretch first." I snorted.
"What for?" He never did.
"My arm is... hurting." I was about to complain about that when we heard a loud laughter. Then someone shouting before several feet away from us Jared ran towards the edge of the cliff and leaped high into the air before diving into the water. He hadn't even flinched. Jake's mood soured. Paul and Sam were always with Jared; they had to be coming too. Sure enough, we heard Paul's screams soon after.
"That sucks! You didn't even make it to the rock!" Paul and Sam were visible now, no longer concealed behind the trees. Sam laughed. Jake turned to leave, but I held on to his arm. They spotted us soon after.
"Jacob." said Sam at the moment when Jake turned to look at me. Paul behind him followed his eyes in our direction. He looked tense and annoyed. Of the three of them, I disliked Paul the most. He seemed to have a problem with me so our dislike was mutual. Sam walked towards us. He was pleasant. His manners were a little forced with us, like he was being more politically correct than actually nice but I had no complaint.
"Hey." said Jake, not a note of enthusiasm in his voice.
"Bella." said Sam and nodded in my direction.
"Hi." I said trying to smile. Paul was behind Sam now. Inevitably he was looking at me.
"Jacob, you left so early on Thursday we didn't have a chance to talk." The tension was almost palpable. I never let go of Jake, he usually calmed down when I touched him.
"Yeah, I had stuff to do." Mumbled Jake.
"Sure you did." Paul muttered his teeth and Sam gave him a reproving look. Paul's expression sobered. I never understood the dynamics of their relationship. They seemed more like an authority figure and his subordinates instead of friends.
"Maybe next time you can stick around, sometimes we continue to talk once the official council is over." Said Sam. Jake's irritation was quite obvious.
"Yeah, maybe." he answered. Sam insisted.
"You should consider it Jake, you are a very important part of this community." Even I could notice a double inflection in his statement. His participation wasn't optional. Jake tensed.
"Yeah, well, I don't really know where I belong yet, but sure. I'll be there." I wished Sam had let it go.
"You belong here, with your people." Paul, that had managed to look away for a minute, glared at me. Jake noticed and that's how he lost his already feeble control.
"You know what, Sam, I really don't need this friendly encouragement bullshit you feel like you have to hand out. I'm fine on my own. And if I want to go to those fucking meetings, I will." Paul tensed, Sam looked disapproving. Jared was still dripping wet and looked excited but he immediately noticed the tension between us. He stood next to Sam, opposite to Paul. They both looked tense, expectant.
"There's no need to be disrespectful, Jacob. You are free to do as you please, I just don't understand why you refuse to accept your place." Jake took a deep breath in. All this time, Paul hadn't stopped glaring at me. I looked straight at him; I was getting tired of his hostility especially since I hadn't done anything to incite it.
"That's none of your business." Jared scoffed at that and Jacob gave him a menacing look. That only made Jared glare back in defiance. Sam raised a hand in Jared's direction and he looked away.
"Jake," I said, "let's go." I whispered and Jake relaxed very slightly. He gave a step back.
"You are such an idiot." said Paul, very quietly. It was obvious he meant Jake. I hoped for a moment that he hadn't heard but he let go of me and astoundingly quickly, shoved Paul back. Paul was as surprised as we all were, it took him a second to return to his place and try to shove Jake back.
"Enough!" said Sam in a deeply dictatorial tone. I'd given a step back when they started shoving each other. I would intervene if I wasn't entirely sure I would make it much worse. Paul stopped immediately but Jake didn't.
"Fuck you, Lahote! You're not worth it!" Said Jake after shoving him one more time. To my surprise, he did nothing more to defend himself.
"But she is?" whispered Paul. Jake looked like he would kill him if he said another word.
"If you can't control yourself, go now, Paul." said Sam severely. Paul looked at him and after a moment he turned around and walked away. "Go with him." Sam told Jared. He promptly obliged. Jake didn't say anything as he returned to his place next to me. I took his hand, he squeeze it gently. He was repentant but still evidently enraged.
"I'm sorry you don't see your place as clearly as you should, Jacob. But it changes nothing, we will welcome you if you ever decide to join us."
"Don't hold your breath." Jacob said clearly. Sam nodded sternly. His expression was not sarcastic, it was obvious he was simply above these discussions. He nodded in my direction and left. I didn't let go of Jake, he might be angry but there were three of them.
"Let's go, Jake." I whispered. He didn't move until Sam was out of view. As soon as that was the case he turned around and we walked back to where our things were. I wish I hadn't heard the conversation that followed, but I couldn't help it.
"Paul," said Sam's deep voice. "You are not to antagonize Jacob, and that includes insulting Bella Swan." Paul's response was immediate.
"Why not? She's shouldn't be here! Seeing them together, it's disgusting." he was deeply repulsed. The dislike I suspected he felt toward me was nothing compared to the hatred I heard in his voice. What had I ever done to him?
"It is not your place to question Billy's decisions. If he allows her to live here, we will stand by that. Jacob will eventually find his way to us, in the meantime, we wait."
"For what? First it was her and now the others, are we going to let them move in, too?" Sam's voice was anything but patient by this point. I heard him clearly because he yelled. I was already getting too far to listen.
"Enough, Paul. I forbid you to speak of them!" Paul shut up. "You can leave, but you better stay away from Jacob and Bella. As for you Jared, we'll start a watch on the edge of the land by the creek. Harry said he'd seen some kids playing there, let's make sure it doesn't happen again." I stopped listening, I was too far.
I tightened my grip on Jake's hand. Our dreams of leaving the Reservation and having a new life were fun, but they were just dreams. He belonged with them. As for me, I was tired of feeling out of place.
On Monday Jessica managed to distract me momentarily from my determination, her anxiety was too obvious to overlook. We were assigned to do some equations together and I dreaded it, until it became apparent that she was not her usual chatty self at the moment. The only thing that stopped me from asking her if something was wrong was that she never stopped texting or passing notes with Kate. Which meant she was probably talking about what was bothering her with them. The reason behind her anxiety became evident in Spanish.
Señora Goff had told us we would be working with partners today to translate a small text while she graded some exams. Which meant we would work for a total of five minutes and then we would talk to each other until the class was over. I'd been partnered up with a boy named Keith who never did any work and Jessica would work with Linda who was always drawing in her notebook. Edward was working with a girl named Leslie that looked terrified of the prospect. When we all changed seats, I actually saw her gulping. I couldn't help being curious about their interaction. It wasn't everyday that Edward was forced to talk to others.
"Hello." he said pleasantly. Leslie looked down.
"Hi." she said softly.
"Bella?" asked Keith, when did he sit next to me? I'd better work and listen.
"Sorry, Keith." He sat beside me. We started working. I usually tried to explain what I was doing so at least we could pretend to be working together but since I had some other interests in mind I just did it myself. Keith seemed more than glad to let me.
I'd never seen Jessica work so diligently she managed to finish her composition soon after we did and now she looked even more nervous than before. She throwing nervous glances at Edward who was consumed in his task. Meanwhile, Leslie reminded me of Señora Goff's Chihuahua in a picture she'd shown us. You could see Taco's raw anxiety when he was forced to endure a hot air balloon ride. That was exactly what Leslie looked like now, trembling and wide eyed. Since I was listening to their conversation I knew that it was not Edward's fault. He was actually being pretty nice, he'd been explaining everything more than once even so she would learn as well. I couldn't blame her, though, he was somewhat unsettling. When they finished she came up with some weak excuse and returned to her seat. She looked relaxed after that. Edward returned to his brooding.
Keith took out a graphic novel and read beside me, so I was free to intrude in Edward's privacy when Jessica got up and went to him sitting where Leslie had been. Edward looked at her with polite disinterest. I finally understood her nervousness, she was going to ask him out.
"Hi." said Jessica. I knew her well enough to know she was deeply nervous, but to others it might not be so noticeable.
"Hello." Answered Edward. It shocked me to see that he was not as kind as he had been with Leslie. He sounded impatient.
"I know I hadn't said hi before, but you know how school is, it's kind of crazy!" she giggled nervously. Edward didn't smile. When he didn't say anything, she went on. "But anyway, hi! I'm Jessica Stanley!" he sat up, the change in stance was not encouraging.
"I'm Edward Cullen." his tone was charged with arrogance. Or at least that's what it seemed like to me. It angered me a little; the girl was clearly making an effort to be friendly. So did he have to be such a snob?
"Yeah," she giggled, brushing her hair behind her ear nervously. "We all know your name." She blushed since it was meant to be a compliment, Edward remained unmoved. "Anyway, some friends and I are going to this really hot club in Seattle on Friday," I wasn't invited, it was the first I'd heard of this. "Tyler's brother who's in college knows a guy that's going to let us in through the back. It's going to be awesome, and we were wondering if you wanted to come, since you're new and all..." Edward didn't even look tempted. Jessica started panicking "It will be a good way to get to know some other kids from school, get out a little?" she kept waiting for him to interrupt her with an affirmative answer. He never did. He was just looking at her with disdain.
"I appreciate the invitation, Jessica." It was clear this was a lie. Jessica noticed. "But I'm not interested." Jessica's expression fell quickly, she looked deeply embarrassed. He'd spoken at a very low voice so no one had heard, but they didn't need to. Her expression said it all.
"Oh, ok," she stammered and I felt bad for her. Did he really have to be such a jerk? He could've been nicer, made something up? And on top of it all, he looked deeply irritated. As if it insulted him that she had even asked. What a jerk. I felt oddly protective over my estranged friend.
Jessica got up and went back to her seat. She didn't look at anyone; I wrote something on my notebook, so she would think that I hadn't seen it. But she looked blushed and for the rest of the class she didn't talk or even text. Now I was mad. I didn't think Jessica was the nicest person, but she deserved to be treated with more consideration.
The bell rang and Jessica didn't care to keep her cool long enough, she stood and left quickly. I followed her to the bathroom. She was crying very softly from inside a bathroom stall.
"Jess?" I said quietly against the door.
"Go away, Bella." she said. I knew she didn't like to cry in front of people but we'd been friends for two years. It had to count for something.
"Jess," I said softly "Come on out," I tried my best to be sensitive even though this was not really my forte. "He is so not worth it, Jess. Forget about it." That's what you're supposed to say, isn't it? Apparently not. She came out of the stall. She didn't look sad anymore, she was furious.
"Why do you even care, Bella? I thought you didn't give a shit about the Cullens." said Jessica angrily. This emotions were brought on by Edward's rejection, this couldn't be about me.
"I don't. We're friends, Jess. I just wanted to make sure you're all right." I said and she crossed her arms over her chest.
"Yeah, right. You're probably going to tell me you knew it all along." she sneered.
"I didn't , Jess. That's not-" I began, but she didn't let me finish.
"But you know what, I had a good a chance with him as any other girl in the school. Even you!" Where was this coming from?
"I never said you didn't-" I was on her side, why couldn't she see it?
"Oh, please! Lauren was right; you do think you're better than the rest of us. But you know what? You're not. You're just a stuck up bitch." Her angry words came so naturally that it was clear that for the first time she was saying what she meant. How long had she thought that about me?
"Fine, you know what? I'm leaving." I said, my temper flaring.
"No one's stopping you." she said with an ironic smile.
"I thought we were friends, Jessica. I was clearly mistaken." It pained me a little, she'd been one of the first people I had talked to and I thought I owed that moment of kindness a little respect. I held on to that thought, I didn't want to be hurtful.
"Thank you for the insight, genius." she said and I took a deep breath. It really wouldn't do any good if I answered to that. The bell had already rang, great, I'd be late for Gym.
At Gym I was completely determined. I'd barely even said hello to Alice and handed her a racket when she spared me the trouble.
"Bella, want to go shopping on Friday?" I smiled a little, she hadn't asked me directly before. I couldn't overlook such opportunity.
"Yes." She'd asked, but when she heard my reply she froze.
"Really?" Her eyes were wide; as if it was the most incredible thing she had ever heard.
"Yes, Alice." Her mouth opened.
"Oh, Bella!" She jumped up and down eagerly. "You are not going to regret this! Where should we go?" Her eyes looked away as she stared into a world of possibilities. I feared that if I let her go wild, she might end up taking me to New York or Paris. I didn't know if they were rich or not, but Alice didn't seem like the person to let something as unimportant as money to stop her.
"Let's just keep it close. Port Angeles is an hour away, maybe we should do that." Her enthusiasm dimmed slightly. She needed more valid reasons to accept. "It's Friday but I still have a curfew." She looked resigned.
"All right, but if it we don't find anything, we're going to Seattle. Don't worry about the time, I'll get you home on time." She winked. I was more worried than I'd been before.
"I'm not sure what that means, but making it back alive would be nice." She gestured my worries away as she went on mumbling about possibilities. I did nothing to curb her enthusiasm. It was nice to make someone happy for a change. However, as the week went on, I feared that I was way over my head. Every day at Gym she'd question me about things I had never thought of before. Colors, textures, form. I pretended that I knew, and she went on with very little encouragement. By Friday I wondered what it would entail to become Alice's new project. The outlook wasn't great.
"What are you doing later?" asked Angela at lunch on Friday. I knew she had the twins, so she wasn't really asking to set something up.
"Hanging out with Alice." I said in a low voice. Not that I needed to. It was just Angela, Ben, Austin and Mike in our table now. Jessica and her friends had moved to another table after our discussion. I didn't really care, it was better that way. Needless to say, Lauren, Kate and Ashley officially hated me. They glared at the Cullens, too. Jessica must have shared her tragic story.
"Are you?" Angela asked surprised as she took some of her homemade sushi and put some soy sauce in it.
"Yeah, why?" She smiled and shook her head.
"Nothing in particular. It's just a nice change. I thought you'd be hanging out with Jake." Jake. Since the argument he had with Sam and the others, I'd hardly seen him lately. Or Billy. This past week was a lot like living by myself. Except of course when we happened to be in the house at the same time and everyone was tense but no one talked about it.
Billy had even gotten to the extreme of speaking Quileute when I was present and he had to say something to Jake I wasn't supposed to know. Jake answered in English, but I still pretended not to hear anything. It wasn't my business if Billy didn't think it was. It still made me feel uncomfortable.
On Thursday I'd already known they had an assembly so after school I went to Charlie's house instead. Doing homework was easier when you didn't feel like you were intruding in a conversation. Which was true every time they got back home and I was there.
"No, Jake's busy." I told her. She didn't ask anything else but I knew she was curious. "He's more involved in the tribe's matters now. Billy is trying to give him more responsibilities." Angela nodded wistfully.
"And how is he coping?" She'd only met Jake a couple of times but that was enough for her to realize the conflict I knew so well.
"Not too good. So I'd rather not be home right now." she nodded.
"It's a good thing you're making new friends, then." She was happy for me, genuinely pleased. I smiled.
"I know." I took a bite of the cookie I'd brought for lunch. Then, I realized our conversation was too calm and uninterrupted. "Where's Mike?" I said, looking around. No wonder everything was so quiet. I felt slightly bad, I hadn't noticed he was gone until now.
"I don't know. You're the one he usually tells." said Angela. She was right. I took my cellphone out of my pocket. Sure enough, I had two messages from Mike I'd missed. I can't make it to school today, I'm still in Seattle. Dad had some questions about inventory and we couldn't speak to the guy at the store until today. I knew we had the project today, but I doubt we're going to make it. Sorry :( Mind telling Mr. Banner?
I wasn't really disappointed. I texted him back that it was ok and that I would tell him. I also added an excuse of being too busy to answer his text until lunch. I hope he bought it. He answered right , you're the best! See you on Monday.
It didn't matter anyway; I usually did all the work myself. Angela looked at me with an expectant expression.
"He's in Seattle. He's not coming to school today." I said putting my cellphone away.
"Oh, ok." she said and ate some more sushi. "So what are you and Alice going to do today?" she asked and when I answered she laughed, she knew that shopping was painful to me. We continued on that topic on conversation until the bell rang and it was time for Biology. We walked together and she told me about her mom already pressuring her to get a dress for the Spring formal.
"Already?" I groaned, thinking of dresses and cringing inside. I made a mental note not to mention anything to Alice while shopping. I feared it would unleash a side of her I was not brave enough to face.
"Yes, she says it is a good idea. I don't even have a date, what's the rush?" I smiled. She looked disappointed and I thought I knew why. Angela was observant but I wasn't a total idiot. I knew she liked Ben even if she didn't talk about it.
"It's a girl's choice so you can easily fix that." She blushed.
"I'll pass. But do tell, who are you asking to the dance?" I rolled my eyes.
"It's months away, I won't torture myself with that kind of pointless question." She smiled and shook her head.
We went into the classroom and I hovered on Angela's desk as she continued to make fun of me in that really nice way she had. Then the bell rang, and Mr. Banner cleared his throat. So we reluctantly took our seats. And that's when it hit me.
"Ok, as you know the project is today so take your seats with your partners and try not to be too loud as I give out the worksheets." I looked around. Mike was the only absent one. I had no partner.
Mr. Banner moved down the rows of tables giving out sheets, he reached my spot. "Bella, Mike's dad told me why he wasn't coming. So you can work with Edward today." he looked at Edward but I didn't turn.
I sighed. This was not my week.