One: Tempest Brewing
Major Trigger Warnings for the WHOLE story: All chapters contain implicit references of a past sexual assault on a 17yo girl by an adult male. There will never be explicit details or graphic scenes relating to this notion. Please be cautious when reading if this type of scenario upsets or triggers you in any way. If you have been a victim of assault of any kind and would like someone to talk to, ringing a helpline is a great idea. In Australia, there is the "Kids Helpline" for those up the age of 25 (1800 55 1800) and "Lifeline" (13 11 14). In the USA, there is "RAINN", and in the UK, "Supportline". If you want to feel like you're not alone and don't want to talk – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is an incredibly real and relatable novel.
Other stuff to warn you of: This fic also contains scenes of a consensual sexual/sensual nature, allusions to consensual intercourse between minors, and frequent coarse language.
Oh, and there's a bit of faux-feminist bashing in this fic by way of the character Victoria; I didn't really realise I may have been putting out a bad vibe about the sisterhood until recently! Oops. Bella's the real feminist heroine of this story, anyway. Victoria's just a person with too many opinions and not enough sense.
Thanks to everyone who reviews, and thanks to PasticheLethe for being an awesome beta!
"I am sooo glad that I quit math. I'd hate to be you, Bella."
I scowl at my 'best friend', Jessica, from where I am crouched on the ground. She can be incredibly kind in rare moments, but is mostly ridiculously tactless. Case in point: I dropped all my books as I came out of our math classroom, and instead of helping me pick them up, Jess takes this opportunity to make my already bad mood worse. I think she's punishing me for still attempting to associate with her.
We bonded back in grade nine because she and Lauren were the only girls I could talk to about sex without being automatically branded a dirty slut, or knew what I was talking about. Angela was a great friend, but she just didn't know. I wasn't vocal about my conquests – I was just a quiet girl with some experience who needed a confidant. However, now, because of the incident, I have been branded a dirty, pathetic slut. When I asked my friends if they were able to keep a secret, they had nodded, their facial expression serious, and then proceeded to spread the news around.
Nowadays, teachers keep their distance for fear I might bring them up on sexual assault charges. Guys insult me because they think I enjoy the company of older men. Girls whisper that I had it coming, and probably enjoyed all the attention I received.
The worst part of all is that I can understand their points of view. Sometimes I wonder if I did deserve what happened.
"Gee, thanks," I mutter in reply to Jess after a moment. I finally have a hold on all my books; none of my fellow maths students had offered to help me, so it took me longer than necessary. James Whitlam did kindly offer to "give me the ride of my life," but I don't think that really counts as helpful.
I had thought that a good summer away from everyone at school would change things; that things would go back to the way they were. My friends had assured me that there were newer, bigger, and better scandals. However, it seemed Tyler giving Lauren chlamydia wasn't enough to stop me falling off the social ladder. This first day of school has made that clear.
Jess gives me a caustic smile and a wave as she departs for her English classroom. The second bell rings, and I sprint towards the crowd of Advanced English students lazing about outside A Block. I get there just in time to hear everyone collectively agree to lie and say that they've read the prescribed texts. I stand, holed up in the corner, and try to appear inconspicuous. Students who are destined to get a GPA of 5.0 surround me, and I don't even fit in.
I read King Lear twice. And made notes.
Just kill me now.
English is boring. Another speech about hard work, integrity…God, it's even too boring to summarize. The only slightly interesting about English is that I sit next to Alice Brandon. She's a quiet, nice girl whose socializing is severely limited by her strictly religious mother – but I think it's Mary Brandon's absurd stringency rather than theological beliefs that restrict Alice. She's had the guts to have a short, spiky haircut though, which is pretty admirable in my opinion.
I find out that Alice has read King Lear as well – I guess I'm not a loner anymore.
On my way out of the classroom, Alice places a small hand on my forearm and whispers, "Look at who your friends really are." A year ago, I would have looked at Alice as if she was crazy and proceeded to laugh about her with Jess and Lauren. Now, a strange shiver runs down my back as she speaks, and I can't help wonder if she's right.
In period three, I get a detention for wearing the wrong school shirt – too low cut, apparently. Laurent, who claims his one-fifteenth French heritage way too often, makes a stupid comment about my lack of breasts. My explanation, more like excuse, is cut off mid-way, and I don't even bother pointing out that every other student in the class has the incorrect shoes on. The bell for recess rings, and I am saved.
I meet the girls at the lockers. Jess is already chattering away about her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Mike Newton. Angela kindly helps me shove my massive pile of books into my locker as Lauren, who isn't known for her subtlety, inquires to Jess about Mike's oral sex skills.
Angela is the nicer one of our group. She doesn't say much, but she does let Jess and Lauren walk over her, which is a bit of a shame. We had been friends since grade five, but over the past couple of years our bond had slipped due to Angela's boyfriend, Ben. I would resent him taking up all of Ang's time if he wasn't so nice – but even if he wasn't, who would I secretly beat at Halo?
I ask Angela how her first couple of classes of our second-to-last senior year have been as my stupid locker door refuses to close. She's in a higher ranked math class than me and has a much cooler teacher. They'd been learning about limits, and Ms Cassidy, in all her infinite wisdom, decided to go through the non-existent limit formula from Mean Girls. Angela commiserates with me about my detention as us four girls walk towards the cafeteria, and as we grab our lunch and Lauren starts bitching about some senior girl with super bad acne. Jess joins in.
Even Angela laughs as Jess cries, "Um, Proactive, anyone?"
I wonder if Jess's frizzy hair is so big because it's full of secrets, like Gretchen Weiner's. I don't think Jess's joke is funny. I feel myself automatically distancing myself from my 'friends' – I absolutely hate it when they put their stupidity on display.
Jess turns away from the line, waiting for Lauren and I to finish piling our trays, when her eyes go big. I have gossip big.
"You look like you've just spotted Leonardo Di Caprio strutting across the playground, Jess," I observe.
"Oh, God, almost. I met this totally hot dude at the back-to-school party last night."
I turn around as Jess and Angela begin to wave towards this new guy. They call out, "Hey, Edward!", and I freeze.
This can't be happening.
One of the few good things in my life is irrevocably fucked up as Edward Cullen's gaze locks me into place.
He looks shocked to see me. I'm sure my face mirrors his. Fear grabs at my heart, and I look elsewhere. In my peripheral vision, I see that Edward gets distracted by Jess' overenthusiastic waving and finally waves back.
Holy fucking shit! What on earth is Edward Cullen doing at Forks High? What alternate universe is this?
"His name's Edward Cullen," Jess whispers as Edward returns to what looked like an enthusiastic conversation. He's sitting with Tyler, Mike, Ben, Eric and a few other football freaks about five tables away. "He's from Florida. His mom got a council job around here, and they decided to move them all like three weeks ago."
I don't even remember walking to our lunch table. I pick at my salad as Lauren openly claims Edward.
I wish I had my copy of Sense and Sensibility to hide in. I feel angry and scared. Edward didn't tell me he was moving here! Why didn't he call me and warn me for God's sake?
Because you never gave him your number, Oh Smart One.
It was I, fifteen and already aware of how stupid it was to trust in someone emotionally, that suggested that our summer "lust-capades" be only summer "lust-capades". My mom had left my dad heartbroken when I was three – and had left me with him. Charlie had gotten most of the custody, with my mom having custody of me during the summer. It was an uncommon arrangement that both Renee and Charlie had agreed to.
I had grown up looking at the result of getting close enough to be hurt by someone you care for every day in the face of Charlie. Edward had been my first real relationship – and I wasn't going to make the same mistakes that my parents had. I had to be stronger.
So our distance during the year was something I was used to. We lived in different states, so it was easy. We weren't even Myspace friends. But what would I do now? I couldn't let people know that Edward was mine for the summer, and I his. I was a very private person – it was none of their business that Edward was my summerboy. Besides, Edward would just be dragged into the mess that was me and the incident. Rumours would start, and that wasn't a great position for the new kid to be in.
Lauren and Jess kinda ignore me for the rest of lunch, waxing poetical over Edward's bronze hair. It looks more red-brown to me, but I don't say anything – not even when they call his eyes emerald. Ew.
I'm hanging by a thread with them, and I'm sure my preoccupied silence will just aggravate them even more. It's not cool to hang out with the girl who called sexual assault on her mom's boyfriend. I'm ruining their reputation by hanging out with them. It's only a matter of time before I'll have to find a new lunch table to sit at, and all four of us know that.
I sneak a peek at Edward from behind my hair. He looks like he's settled in well here at Forks High. He has a smile on his face. I'm sure he's really shitty about all the rain. Edward hates rain.
I decide to ignore him. If we ever speak, he'll hopefully get the message that we have never met before. I just hope Jess and Lauren keep their interest muted, and that I never run into Emmett, Edward's older brother, in the supermarket.
The rest of the day passes in a boring blur. I don't have Biology, which is a bummer, because Science has been my favourite subject for the past two years. I answer a question wrong in Modern History, and some girl with ugly braces and a feminist attitude corrects me loudly and makes an innuendo about my sexual perversions.
I had thought that the feminists would be on my side. It used to hurt that girls I knew thought I was lying about the sexual assault. My mom had assured me that girls would understand, that strange victimised feeling and be on my side, even if some boys thought I was lying. She was wrong. I was a slut because I wasn't a virgin in a small town. And because I was a slut, I apparently deserved to be sexually assaulted. I probably just wanted the attention. It was about time someone put me in my place.
Phil's hand reaches the zip of my light-blue denim jeans and I tell the bad-teeth feminist that I'd like to hit her ignorant head with my copy of The Bell Jar. I get a detention. Braceface gets a correct answer. I tell myself that I don't feel hurt by what she said.
School ends. I serve my detention, and I am told I have another one tomorrow. No shit. When I get home, Charlie has ordered pizza for dinner. I explain what happened at school, and the police chief offers to ring up the school and threaten a meeting with the principal. I give him a better offer: forget about it. I thank him for ordering the veggo pizza this time and eat quickly.
As I wash up, Charlie sits at the table reviewing a new case, the basketball game on TV muted but in viewing range. I say goodnight and go have a shower. I make it a long one. The steam obscures my face in the mirror for a moment as I stand dripping wet with a towel around my waist. I can see that my shower hasn't gotten rid of all my makeup – there's eyeliner smudged under my bottom eyelashes. I rub at it, like the way make up artists' tell you will give you wrinkles.
This morning I had paused as I reached for my powder foundation. I used to feel like I was a completely different person on vacation in Florida. No need to wear make-up, care if I ate a whole bag of chips or watched the Mr-Darcy-Coming-Out-Of-The-Water scene ten times in a row. I wasn't me on vacation. But since this last cold, rainy summer, I had felt more like I left myself behind in Florida and carved a new Bella Swan back in Forks. Instead of becoming more confident with age and experience, I was slowly drawing within myself.
This morning I had remembered I wanted, for some bizarre reason, to keep my friends, and put my Bella-Swan-Forks face on.
The skin under my eyes is red from rubbing. I'm tired. I wonder if Alice Brandon will let me copy the notes that we were meant to make for tomorrow's lesson. I remember her strange, truthful words, and get dressed into my pyjamas.
I try not to think about Edward Cullen. Thankfully, Charlie hadn't mentioned the family friend's arrival in our home town. I slip under the bedcovers and stare at the blue and green woven dream catcher my friend, Jacob ,gave me for Christmas. I make a wish as the rain washes down my window and close my eyes, but I have nightmares regardless.
We are sixteen. Edward has come to this vacation with a really bad haircut – it looks like Emmett attacked him with a razor. We lay on the beach. My hair is tangled and dry with sea salt, and as I try to look up into Edward's face, I have to squint. The sun is hot and blinding.
Edward is tracing a finger along the jagged scar on my thigh I was rewarded with by the southern rock pools. His pale green eyes look almost colourless in the sun.
"Bella," Edward says, his voice all grown up and honey. Last year it had been breaking, but on this vacation it has seemed to have reached adulthood. "I think I'm sort of in love with you."
I ignore the thousands of thoughts and feelings, and Edward's sentiment too. It might hurt him – my deliberate ignorance. But we only see each other every summer. Declarations of feelings would lead to a long-distance relationship and even more hurt.
I kiss him on his lips, and let my hands slip over his broad, sunburnt shoulders.
"Let's get an ice-cream, loverboy." I giggle, and pull him up from the warm, smooth sand. We race each other to the ice cream van, getting lost in the oblivion of the incandescent cloudless sky.
A/N: What do you think of Bella? What about Alice's mysterious warning? And doesn't Edward sound sort of heavenly? xx