Chapter Three: Rolling Thunder
A/N: Thanks to ttharman, joeyBB and Minnakoda for being such lovely reviewers, and to pastichelethe for being a fab beta.
The furious torrent of rain is the soundtrack for my drive to school. I check my make up in my rear-view mirror as I start the engine of my old, faithful Chevy. It looks Bella-Swan-Forks appropriate, I suppose. My Maybelline concealer has done a great job covering up the remnants of the dark corners and large, spindly fingers playing with the thin straps of my white t-shirt that plagued my nightmares. I desperately want to take all of my make up off and go soak up the sun in Florida.
Feeling resigned, I mentally check that I have all of my textbooks for the day and pull out of our gravel driveway.
Homeroom and history are boooooring. English, third period, is much better.
I sit down next to Alice, who flashes me a brilliant smile. I tell her that I love her dress – it's long-sleeved, green, and vintage. We talk about a few things because our English teacher is late. Alice seems a little freaked out that I'm actually having a conversation with her, and that I'm interested in what she says….which totally sucks. I remember that she normally sits alone at lunch, reading obscure stuff like the French version of Vogue. I find out that we both have the taste in books – she's an Austen fan, too.
Alice lets me copy her notes with a chirpy, "Sure!" It's raining, it's Tuesday, and we're at school. It baffles much how she can see the bright side, but I'm grateful, anyways.
I ask Alice if she likes the infamous BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice as Mike lobs a ball of paper over our heads. It misses the wastebasket completely. I look to Alice for a reply; her gray-blue eyes are unfocused, as though she's distracted.
"Alice?" Worry colors my voice.
Alice doesn't respond for a moment, before she shakes her head and smiles ruefully.
"Sorry," she replies, slowly returning to her bright demeanour. "Sometimes I just…feel things and it distracts me. I, uh, do like that series – but the Keira Knightley one was pretty awful, wasn't it? Oh, and watch out for ladders, by the way."
Her random warning floors me for a beat or two. Her guess about my friends the day before was pretty accurate; I decide I'm going to heed her advice.
Once our teacher arrives, the class is launched into a discussion about different interpretations of King Lear. It seems most of my GPA 5.0 classmates have gone to the effort to check out SparkNotes. I think Mike might have even read a study guide. I wish Alice would put up her hand and share her thoughts, but I'm not hypocritical enough to push someone to do something they don't want to do. Her notes are amazing – she's used her own Roman Catholic context to highlight some great religious motifs in the play. Alice has even found Hazlitt quotes that fit her thesis. It's far more intelligent than my rehashed list of Shakespearian techniques.
On second thought, maybe it's better if Alice doesn't share her opinion with the class. 5.0 GPA classmates might steal her ideas. She's going to own us all in our exams and I can't wait.
I'm really beginning to like Alice Brandon.
I wave goodbye to her at the end of class, feeling sort of…happy…as I walk into the cafeteria for recess. I grab my lunch and sit down at our table. Angela gives me a feeble smile, and Jess bothers to look my way for a moment before returning to her cell. I assume she's texting Mike. I look around for Lauren, and I spot her.
She's walking towards our table and laughing. She's laughing because Edward, who is walking with her, has probably said something extremely witty.
I can't seem to escape him.
Edward sits down next to me, but he's facing Lauren, Jess and Angela. Lauren replies in low voice to whatever he said that made her laugh. His knee bumps my thigh as he positions his legs over the table-seat. In a nanosecond, I go from fearful to flustered, a blush flushing up my neck and face. I usually get like this when we meet for the first time every vacation; I then become quickly relaxed once we settle into the ease of our summer rhythm, and I transform from quiet girl into Florida-Bella. But now, in the Forks High cafeteria, I'm completely out of sync. There's something undeniable and unidentifiable between us, and I can just feel it.
I can feel Edward's eyes on me. I take a bite out of my sandwich: lettuce, tomato, asparagus and cheese on wholemeal bread. It tastes absolutely disgusting.
"Edward was just teaching me how to swear in French, Jess." Lauren giggles.
I look from behind my obscuring veil of hair – the outgrowing of a long-gone side fringe – to see Edward grin amusedly.
"I Googled it as soon as I started the subject," he admits, playfully. He extends a hand to my curly-haired friend. "Jess, was it?"
"Oh, yep. I'm Jess. " I bet Jess will extract his DNA from her sweaty palm and store it in her freezer. She's good at science.
"Cool. I'm Edward."
Jess smiles in excitement as Angela introduces herself. I take the chance to look around the room. It seems everyone knows now that Edward is considered cool and has more than the appeal of the new kid – he's hung out with the popular guys in our year, and now our group. If he were anything less, Lauren wouldn't have invited him to sit with us for lunch. Popularity in our small ole' sleepy town isn't measured by the latest iPod or the coolest car or if you can host house parties all the time like it is in the big cities. Our group is considered popular because we – Lauren and Jessica especially – think that we are untouchable, and that we just are cooler than everyone else. Everyone else in our year knows that we're just sluts who drink whole bottles of vodka and that we are just as unnoticeable as they are – but they let us believe we are popular. Not even Braces Girl will stand up and tell us that we're full of shit.
Sometimes I wish someone would just disillusion us all.
So, Jess isn't your dumb brunette who goes along with whatever Lauren says. She beats everyone at Chemistry and refuses to straighten her hair. But she latches on to things that are exotic, niche, and that will make everyone jealous. Edward fits the bill.
"Sooo…you're from Florida?" she asks brightly. She even bats her eyelashes, enhanced by Covergirl black mascara.
Lauren takes the more direct approach as Jess inquires of Edward – she wears Lancôme, in any case. She's sucking on the blue straw from her small carton of strawberry milk as if it's Edward's cock. I'm ninety percent sure that's the allusion she's going for, anyways. Edward notices and smirks at me, as though we're sharing a secret joke. We do normally parody girls like that. However, I look away, suddenly finding the most revolting salad sandwich I have ever tasted very interesting.
"Yeah," Edward replies, laughing, "I kinda miss the sun."
Angela smiles sympathetically. "Did you surf much back home?"
Edward breaks out his best lopsided smile as he locks in on what is obviously a fond topic.
"I surfed sometimes, but I wasn't very good at it," he replies, his face lighting up. His pale eyes look darker in the dim lighting, almost hazel in colour. "My brother was more of the surf pro. Oh, but this one time, Bella - "
Oh, Lord no. He's going to launch into the story of how he was teaching me to surf and I ended up crashing into Emmett, cutting in on some stoned-out-of-their-mind local's wave.
" –I'm not very good at surfing. Thanks for asking, though," I blurt out loudly, before Edward ruins this whole thing. I hope my voice sounded polite.
I think I may have flung myself down a few more rungs of the social ladder, judging by the looks that the girls give me. Edward eyes me with confusion.
"I'm just gonna go get an apple," I say quickly, rising from the seat in attempt to escape. I turn away and head of the lunch line, where I will probably find a green, bruised apple waiting for me. I hate green apples.
Then I hear Edward say, "Oh, hey, I think I'll get one too."
Con: There's no avoiding him in the lunch line. Pro: There's red apples.
I can feel that strange, charged and secretive feeling between us; the electrical idea that we both know, and secret that sparks between our bodies. He bends low, down to my height, and whispers, "What the hell was that?"
There's no masking the desperation on my face as I pleading look at him. "I'll tell you later, okay? Just ignore me for the rest of lunch."
Edward doesn't ignore me for the rest of lunch, the beautiful bastard. He keeps trying to include me in conversations. Jess almost blows everything when she jokes that maybe I'd spotted Edward during my vacations to Florida. My uneasy laugh must have signalled something to Edward, though, because he doesn't say a word in response.
He's definitely impressed the girls. It's easy to see why I fell in lust with him, and why he became such a wonderful summer friend to me. He's nice, funny, intelligent, artsy and genetically blessed. His only fault is that he would rather listen to Chopin than Linkin Park – which I think is a secret he didn't really want me to find out. He's certainly led the guys to believe he's a fan of Rammstein and Rage Against The Machine.
I don't know what he was like back home in Florida – we never really talked about exes – but it's obvious he's a charmer. By the middle of lunch, Lauren's invited Edward over to study for French, and Jess has half-asked him to prom. Angela mentioned that she was going to see a movie in Seattle with Ben and the boys on the weekend – so she'd probably see him there.
I can see exactly how pathetic and petty I am being by ignoring someone I truly care for. I just can't reconcile the rational part of my brain with the part that screams I need help, I want help; I don't need to talk, why can't someone see how bad this is; why won't everyone stop asking me if I'm all right; it's none of their business. I'm fine. I'm okay. I'm so fucked.
I get out of the cafeteria as fast as I can when the bell rings, and fumble with my schedule when I try to see what my next class is. I take a deep breath, be calm Bella, and head to D Block. I get to my classroom and find out that I read the schedule wrong. Fuuuck. When I get to the right one, I'm late.
I trip over the Biology classroom threshold. Great. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I get assigned to sit next to Edward Cullen.
He looks happy to see me as I walk over to our desk; almost as though he's going to give me a hug. Maybe he thinks that I'll go back to normal when it's just the two of us. I can't deal with hugs.
"Hey, Bella," Edward greets warmly as I take my seat, his hair falling over his strange eyes.
"Hey," I mumble back softly. The weird tingling feeling between us is back. "Um, so, about what happened at lunch –"
I'm cut off by our biology teacher, Mr. Banner, who introduces himself to the class and gives a run down of what we'll be learning this semester. I need to let Edward know what's going on, and give him a reason why I'm acting so stupidly, but I also want to hear what my teacher has to say. Before I knew I was seated next to Mr. I Make Love To You Every Summer, I was anticipating on this class being one I would actually enjoy.
Mr. Banner gives us a pop quiz straight away, just to see what type of stuff we know already about our first topic, "Cells". This means I have to shut up for the moment.
The quiz totally freaks my brain out – which means I'm thinking in gibberish for the next half an hour because sitting next to Edward has already got me wired. We've never really studied cells before – I mean, I can name the parts of one, like "nucleus", but that's it.
And what does our bio teacher inquire of us?
1. What does a eukaryotic cell have that a prokaryotic cell does not?
Just let me grab my keys and drive home, thanks.
The test is eventually over, and the bell rings. Although I need to speak with Edward, I'm kinda glad that I can leave. The strange sparks I feel from him are entirely too familiar: it usually leads to us intertwining legs in fresh cream-colored sheets. There's the part of me that needs him, that wants him – and then there's the other part that's too afraid, that has been tainted by Phil, that kept us quiet last summer.
I get up to go when The Handmaid's Tale/Braceface snickers at me from the front row. "We have a double period, douchebag."
Why does she have to hate on me so much? Moreover, why does she have to be in my bio class?
I sink slowly back down into my seat.
Mr. Banner calls the class to attention and announces that he's going to give us some slides of cells to identify. Mitosis, meiosis, telophase, and prophase: the works.
The class is all set up and peering away at the stupid slides when Edward asks how my first day at school was yesterday.
My throat feels dry, and my words stumble over my tongue. Edward waits patiently with an amused expression. As I speak, the amusement slips into concern.
"I can't deal with this…you…right now," I explain worriedly. "I haven't even dealt with the incident properly – which Charlie keeps reminding me of. He's been hinting that I should see a shrink."
Edward interrupts me before I can finish. "The nightmares are still as bad as they were on vacation?"
His question distracts me as memories of waking up in the dark, sweating, to find Edward's strong arms cradling me, infiltrate my mind.
I nod my head a little, embarrassed by his concern. I don't like showing my weakness like that – and he had been privy to all of it. I continue to talk for fear if I don't get it out now, I never will.
"You moving here out of the blue just blew me away," I admit slowly. "I don't know what to think. I don't even know who I'm meant to be here anymore. I feel like the same sad girl from last summer."
Edward looks even more concerned by this. "Bella — " he starts again in a low voice.
I can hear the pleading tone in my voice. "Can we just pretend that we don't screw around every vacation? That we don't know each other?"
"Screw around?" Edward's eyes narrow. I think I've hurt him. "Is that what we do?"
I close my eyes and curse inwardly. It's not what we do at all. We make love and talk as though it hasn't been a year since we've seen our best friend.
"Edward, I'm sorry, that was rude of me- "
Edward cuts me off. In a second's passing, he seems to totally understand. I hate it when he does that. "You should deal with the Phil stuff soon," he replies, his eyebrows raised to emphasize his unease. He places a comforting hand on top of mine. I feel like I've been zapped by something electrical and faulty. "I want to be your friend. I miss you."
I know that Edward's right. I should do something about the nightmares and the thoughts. But if I do see a shrink or whatever then I'll have to think about the incident all the time, compared to the brief flashes when someone comes up behind me or taps me on the shoulder. I'm fairly certain that it's not normal to be so afraid and tormented when you've been assaulted. I mean, it's like Lauren had said, it's not as if I was raped – that would be something to have nightmares about.
I ignore the voice in my head that replies to Edward, I miss you too. My thought processes feel more complex than these cell phases. "Okay, I'll deal with it. Whatever. Pass me a slide."
Edward sighs, but hands me the next slide, nonetheless.
The next two weeks pass in much the same style. Jess and Lauren's eyes slowly shrink to jealous little slits as Edward always makes the effort to pull me into conversation when he sits with us at lunch. My second detention is a blur. In English, Alice and I trade homework notes when one of us forgot to do them the night before, or couldn't be bothered. In biology, Edward leeches onto the idea that maybe if I talk to him about all my problems, I'll be able to accept and deal with the incident in my own way. The idea is sucked dry of its sweet, well-intentioned life by the end of the second week. Edward tried to get me to talk about how it made me feel as I filled up a test tube with water from the high-pressure tap. Breath hot on my face as Phil's hands reach down resulted in a trip to the school nurse as the glass shards stuck into my palm. Edward apologized a million times as I tried not to faint from the rusty, sickening smell – or utter embarrassment. He was making such a scene, and it's not like I was dying or anything, so I snapped at him to back off and stop making a big deal out of nothing. He dropped it after that.
It's obvious that talking to someone I'm close to isn't going to work.
On Thursday, during P.E, I overhear Eric Yorkie talking to Tyler about Lauren's party on Friday night. Eric says he's pretty excited to underage drink – his older sister's going to buy him some beers. Tyler seems keen too – he's gonna tap some ass. I would blame the sinking disappointment that spilled inside of me as the reason I didn't see the volleyball come my way and hit my head, but it was probably just my lame reflexes and lack of good peripheral vision. I think that the stupid volleyball sucker-punching me is a good analogy for Lauren's move. I guess I'll have to give Lauren back that friends forever necklace she gave me in year nine for my birthday. It had turned green after I showered with it on, anyways.
For once in my life, I'm glad that I have a part-time job; it takes my mind off things. My weekly shifts at Newton's Outfitters. Newton's is a camping supplies store owned by Mike's parents. My first shift for the week is with Mike, after school on Friday afternoon.
My black, button-up work shirt smells like fresh laundry. It's one of my favourite scents – it's such a different type of wet than the cold and dirty Forks rain. I'm dwelling on this mundane thought as I'm scanning our shelves of knives and electrical goods – it's my turn to do stock take. I'm standing on the fourth rung of the store's ladder, trying to be extra cautious. It's my first encounter with a ladder since Alice's weird warning, and I'm taking my chances, knowing my luck – or unbelievable lack thereof.
I'm glad I'm doing the stock take on my own. Mike was harping on and on about Jess while we cleaned the windows. Apparently, she was angry at him. When I asked why, he said that Jessica had just replied with, "You know why." Poor Mike. I was as oblivious as he was to his blunder – although it probably had something to do with him staring down a freshman's top that afternoon in the parking lot. For some reason, Jess found Mike's tendency to be really fucking annoying very endearing, so it probably wasn't his monologue about a new thriller called Arm Twist that bugged her.
The scanner bleeps as I whish it the six-in-one pocketknife that's on sale, just as the rusty Newton's door is jostled open.
Time to put a smile on, you have a customer!
Emmett Cullen struts into the store, followed by Edward. I half expect Emmett to tackle me put to the ground until I laughingly cry mercy, but he seems to be on a mission to buy some camping supplies. He goes straight up to Mike and inquires about a new set of tent pegs. Emmett is a complete outdoorsman and knows his shit. He just finished an accelerated construction apprenticeship last year. It makes me wonder whether he's gotten a job in town.
Edward wanders over, which is not cool. I step down from the ladder, my ponytail bobbing up and down, and busy myself with scanning a can on mosquito repellent spray. I pretend that it's taking up all of my concentration.
"I didn't know you worked here," Edward comments idly from behind me.
"Stop stalking me, Edward," I reply tersely, and brush a stray piece of hair back behind my ear.
I spin around to find Edward up in my face. He places a comforting hand on my upper arm.
"Bella, what's going on?" Edward asks, his eyes locked on mine. "I'm really worried about you."
I falter, completely caught off guard. I owe him my honesty. I blurt it all out as if I'm Hamlet chucking out a monologue about slings and arrows.
"I need to deal with the incident, but I don't know how. Talking to you and Charlie and Renee doesn't work. My friends think I'm awesome because I tried to get an older guy; they don't understand. Even the school counsellor was a dead end; he didn't offer me any advice, like he couldn't be impartial or whatever. You…you're a part of my life that I love, the only part these past couple of months that's felt right…I'm already fucked up in the head. I just don't want to fuck over what we have during the summer. I need it too much."
Edward takes a moment to comprehend all that I've just said. I hear Mike and Emmett laugh from across the store.
Edward pulls me into a hug, and to my complete mortification, I almost burst into tears.
"I don't know what's wrong with me," I choke in a low voice as Edward brushes his strong hands down my back. "He didn't even touch me touch me, but it scares the living shit out of me –"
Edward pulls out of our hug, and I stop. I vaguely hear Mike walking over to me, asking about the policy on refundable goods, the squeakiness of his shoes denoting how close he is – he's one aisle away. But all I can hear is Edward breathing. All I can feel is the tears at the back of my throat, and Edward's strong, warm hand cupping the right side of my face.
Edward kisses me on the lips. Warm, soft, sweet, safe. It feels no different from the summer. His lips are smooth and sure as they press against mine. I move my head and part my lips as his hot tongue slips inside. I instinctively move closer as Edward wraps a supportive arm around my waist. I close my eyes, leaning against his chest, as Edward breaks our kiss. I step backwards, unsteady with the question what just happened here? I wince as my head hits the side of the stupid ladder.
"I'll help you," Edward says in a breathy, confident voice, coming closer to me and leaning against the ladder as Mike drops a box of tent pegs behind us in shock.
Edward falls asleep next to me, curled up on the foldout lounge in mom and I's cabin. The low afternoon sun acts like a blanket. I feel foolish and lazy, stuffed from our afternoon feast of fish and chips, but not enough to crash like Edward has. My one-piece black-with-pink-spots swimsuit feels a little tighter than it did before lunch, so I'm kinda glad we aren't fooling around. Edward's pale, skinny arm is hanging across my body.
We're fifteen, but when, later, Renee walks in on us entangled and sandy, she doesn't go all strict like Charlie probably would. I meet her brown gaze, to which mine is scarily identical, and we share a goofy smile once she sees that I've gotten out my pack of textas and drawn a purple moustache above Edward's lips. She's more of sister than a mother, really, but I don't mind that too much. She closes the creaky caravan door as the sun begins to slip out of the ocean-blue sky.
I start to feel tired. I twist around and give Edward, who is snoring, a kiss on his sunburnt lips.
He tastes like whiting and chicken salt.