Chapter Five: Lightning Strike
Hey, do u have ur bio text at school?
This delightful text from an unknown number stops me from pressing the start button on the toaster. I put down my phone and press the red button. As my breakfast starts toasting, I reply after much deliberation. I hope it's not Forks Number One Feminist trying to get her daily payout in before school even starts. I was hoping that Tuesday would be uneventful.
Who's this? I send back, leaning on the counter. My message ring tone sounds after ten seconds, and the stranger's reply pops up on the screen.
I freeze. Fuuuuuuck. Just play it cool, Bella. I even wait a good two minutes before replying so that it seems like I'm not all that interested in the conversation – like I'm doing something else far more important. I get the butter out of the fridge as my toast pops up. I nervously reply.
How did you get my number?
Edward's not worried about seeming too keen. His text comes back quickly. I stole it out of Lauren's cell.
Oh, so I guess their "study session" yesterday afternoon went well. I attempt to swallow my jealous feelings and nonchalantly text, I have my textbook in my locker. Why?
Mine met an untimely death from all the fucking rain. What u up to?I don't want to make pleasant conversation with Edward via text message. I reply, saying I'll bring my textbook today. We're going to have a sub because Mr Banner's sick, so it's note copying for us in our double lesson. We'll have to share.
I finish buttering my wholegrain toast in preoccupied silence. I spend more time chewing my lip in anxiety than I do eating my breakfast.
I also save his number in my contacts before I wig out.
I wait at my desk in biology, second period, with anxiety rising like bile in my throat. Edward walks in wearing a long-sleeved blue shirt that accentuates his lean muscles. Tyler, who is walking with him, pales in comparison. Edward's one of the few guys in our year who doesn't look like a gangly fifteen year old.
I attach my gaze to the desk, pretending that I wasn't totally checking out Edward. He sits down next to me, and I lift my eyes to watch him.
"Oh, hey, you bought the textbook," Edward notices happily, as his gaze locks with mine. "Thanks."
He has such weird eyes. They're kinda cool though, the colour goes all transparent in the sun. Holy shit, Bella, stop staring.
"…No problem," I answer so belatedly that it's awkward. I finally remember to stop being such a freak and tear my gaze away. The sub turns up and starts giving our class directions on how to take notes from Chapter Five, Recombinant DNA. No one listens.
I open up the book for show and begin drawing random patterns in my notebook and colouring in some letters in my headings. I then progress onto sucking the end of my pen while I run through a list of all my unfinished homework in my head. The two of us are silent for around five minutes. Edward even copies down some notes from possibly the most wankiest subject in bio - biotechnology. Ew.
"How are you liking the rain?" Edward inquires finally, setting down his pen in the spine of his notebook with a sigh. He leans towards me. His proximity is electric.
"You're talking to me about the weather?" I remark bewilderedly.
Edward rolls his eyes good-naturedly. "I suppose I am. How are you?"
I cock my eyebrow at him, and slowly pull the pen from between my lips. It's gross and slick with spit. Edward seems annoyed by the action. I don't respond to his lame attempt at conversation, and turn away from him, inspecting the teeth marks on the end of my blue biro. Edward tells me it's rude to ignore people.
I ignore that remark, too. I have no idea why I'm being so rude to him, but the logical part of my brain whispers that it's something to do with his over-friendliness and the kiss we shared last week.
Edward goes silent for a moment before speaking up. "Are you okay after everything that happened yesterday? I know that the…fight…was sort of about me."
That comment gets me aggravated enough to speak. I can't keep the jealous, bitter tone out of my voice as I look at his handsome face. "I was ruining their stellar rep, anyways. I guess Lauren told you that during your French lesson?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Edward's voice takes on a sudden defensive edge.
"Well, you obviously got along with her well enough to get her number," I point out scathingly.
Edward makes an infuriated noise. He speaks to me slowly, as if I'm mentally handicapped or something. "Bella, I went through her phone to get your number, since you never gave it to me."
"So I'm the bad guy in this scenario?" I snap. My pen's long forgotten, having fallen out of my grasp.
Edward's fingers clench around the edge of his notebook so hard that his knuckles go white. I've really pissed him off. Good. He's being so fucking…rude to me.
Okay, I know he's not, but he's annoying the hell out of me with his incessant nagging. Hasn't he ever heard of privacy?
"No," Edward replies stiffly. "You aren't. Look, I thought you understood on Friday that I meant what I said. I want to help you."
"What if I don't want your help?" I ask, my voice rising slightly as I glare at him. I don't like to appear weak.
Edward replies, and it's as if those pale eyes can see right into my soul.
"You want someone to help you so badly, Bella. You've always been a terrible liar and a bad actress. I just can't believe no one else can see how much you're hurting. All they can see is how you're affecting them."
I stare at him in shock. In an instant, my anger is replaced by fear. I feel small, like a child. The instinctual need to feel loved and understood lodges in the back of my throat and threatens to make tears fall from my eyes.
Edward fumbles around in his jeans pocket. He retrieves a piece of crumpled paper. He unfurls it and holds it between his thumb and forefinger.
"This is the number of the Forks Abuse Program – they offer support groups for people who've dealt with sexual assault. You should give them a call. I figured it would be a good idea since you haven't been able to speak to anyone you know heaps well."
I'm touched by his action, but also afraid. A support group? Where you get up and tell strangers what happened? I can barely admit to myself what happened with Phil. What if they have worse stories and I realise I have nothing to complain about?
"Take it," Edward encourages. I freak out, and shake my head. I can't even force the words out of my pathetic mouth.
Edward's face falls, and he pouts, as though this is a situation he can be funny in. "Please?"
"Bella, people there would understand what you're going through. They wouldn't judge you. They can probably give you better advice than anyone else."
I open my mouth, about to respond. Edward can see that he's gotten through to me – that he's won. His thin lips melt into a small smile.
"You know, your lips part in that same way when you orgasm," he says in a low voice, leaning closer to me.
I snap out of whatever emotionally tumultuous vortex I'd been lost in. That cocky sentimental bastard!
"Give me the damn piece of paper, Edward," I growl.
Five minutes later, we get yelled at by the sub. Edward had taunted me with the piece of paper – I ended up falling off my chair and hitting my head on the desk in an attempt to reach it. Edward had burst into laughter.
He gives it to me when the bell rings, raising a hand to his head and saluting goodbye as I glower in his wake.
At lunch, I tell Alice what happened in Bio. It's sort of sunny, so we're sitting on the outside playground tables - far away from the girls' bitchy comments.
"Do you want to go?" Alice questions about the program.
"I don't know. What do you think I should do?"
Alice thinks about this for a while, before answering slowly, "Whatever feels right; just go with your instincts."
That's just the answer I was looking for. Not."Can you just have one of your feelings and tell me if I go or not?" I whine. Alice laughs in reply.
"You know, Edward sounds too good to be true. He seems too nice and caring towards you. What teenage boy who you've only seen every summer goes out of their way to help you like that? It's…weird. Not your average boy behaviour. "
I snort. "Oh, trust me," I reassure her in a dry tone, "he can be as selfish and arrogant as Lauren can when the mood strikes him. He also has a habit of thinking he's right."
Alice's lips curl upward. "I guess you both have that in common, huh?"
I stick my tongue out at her childishly. Alice thinks that Edward and I are destined to be together, and that by fighting with him, I'm pushing away the inevitable. I don't know whether to hope she's right or wrong.
We talk about random stuff until the end of lunch. Alice has her strange vision-moment where she spaces out and tells me, "Don't let…the lipstick…get you down?" We ponder what her feeling could mean – maybe I'm going to buy an atrocious shade of Revlon in the near future.
My class watches the first forty-five minutes of Dances With Wolves in Modern History. I have to go to the bathroom in fifth period. I enter the bathroom, where two senior girls are laughing about something. I envy their height and confidence – I wonder if I'll look that adult-like in a year's time. They stop when I enter and share a look. As I close my cubicle door, I see one of the girls rummaging through a make up bag.
When I get out, the seniors have already left. But they've kindly left something for me.
The word SKANK is scrawled across the dirty mirror. The garish pink hue looks almost obscene in the fluorescent lighting of the bathroom.
My first reaction is who the fuck wears lipstick to school? My second is the sudden impulse to smash the mirror with my bare hands. I've never even talked to those girls before – and they're older than me! How could they be so…mean?
Are they waiting outside the bathroom to laugh at me?
Alice's warning of don't let the lipstick get you down circles in my head. I remind myself to take Alice to a psychic expo one day. She'd go nuts.
I hide in the bathroom for the rest of the period. I do let the message on the mirror get me down. I look at the stupid piece of paper Edward gave me the whole time. I dial the number half a dozen times, but never hit the call button.
Maybe I'll ask Charlie first and see what he thinks. Maybe there, people will understand. Maybe I'll go.
The rest of the day passes me by as I preoccupy myself with weighing the pros and cons of going to a support group. I wonder if people fake it and get addicted to a group like in Fight Club. I wonder if I'll know anybody there. I hope I won't have to go into detail about what happened. I wonder why Edward gives such a shit about my emotional well-being.
Finally, I decide I just don't have enough information. When I get home from school, I start up my Mac laptop and type "Forks Abuse Program" into the search engine.
Ten seconds later, I find that they have their own website. It's pretty cool. I click on "Support Groups" and read all the info. I find out that I have to ring up and verify I'm suitable for the group that deals with sexual assault. I guess there won't be any Marla's in the Forks Abuse Program. I don't click on any of the other links like "resources". Before I told Renee what happened, I tried to Google information about assault and violence and what to do – government pages advising women how to delete their internet history just in case frightened and saddened me so much I ended up shutting down my computer for a week.
I print out all the information and give it to Charlie when he comes home from work. He looks at me like I've just bought him tickets to the rugby World Cup. He says that it sounds like a great idea, and seems even more surprised when I tell him that Edward told me about it.
I guess I haven't been looking so stable in Charlie's eyes. I'm so tired from staring at my computer screen for two hours, plus the day's events, that I can't be fucked to make dinner. I grab two tins of tomato soup out of the cupboard and tell Charlie to read the instructions on the labels – that's the height of his culinary skill. He grabs a saucepan; at least he knows what kitchen implement to use. I tell him to add milk to the mix to make it creamier and go lie down on the lounge, closing my eyes.
I block out the voice that says you have algebra homework due tomorrow. Dinner is a quiet affair, and I return to the couch to laze around afterwards. I slip into a doze. It takes me a while to come back to conscious, but when I do, I can hear Charlie talking. He's on the phone.
"Damnit, Renee. Why didn't I think of this? She never wanted to talk about it with any of us. Why didn't we come to this conclusion? A seventeen year old figured it out."
My mom says something, and Charlie sounds impatient as he replies, "I know he's a good kid, Renee. No, I'm not blaming you – I'm not – for God's sakes, Renee, I don't want to talk about that man –"
I jump up from the couch and run up to my room, slamming the door. It's a reflex reaction. It stresses the hell out of me to hear my parents fight, especially about Phil. My parents are pretty good to each other, unlike a lot of divorced couples I know. Lauren's parents had a terrible custody battle. Knowing this doesn't make it any easier to hear them, though. At least I can't hear what Renee is saying. She usually says something pretty shit which makes me ignore her for a week.
At ten o'clock, I creep downstairs to see my dad watching the news. I tell him that I'm going to call the program tomorrow. They hold meetings every Wednesday, so I'll probably go to the next one, which is tomorrow.
I tell him not to worry about me. Charlie responds gruffly, "Can't help it, Bells. You're my daughter."
I feel uncomfortable as he looks at me. "Um, I'm just going to finish up my homework and then go to bed, 'kay?"
Charlie takes a long drink from his beer. "All right. Don't stay up too late."
I finish half of the algebra formulas without a calculator. At a quarter to twelve, I give up challenging my brain and copy out the answers from the back of the textbook. I don't know why anyone felt as though writing a quotient as a product would be fantastic idea. No one gives a shit what a over x equals (although my calculator cares enough to tell me it's one.)
I stay awake until three playing solitaire on my computer. It makes me think of the time Edward and I played strip solitaire, which was his idea because I suck at poker. I'm reminded of his scent and his strong chest and the way he knew how to touch me. My mind flourishes with a million scenarios, where Edward touches me, kisses me, holds me, licks me, loves me. I'm reminded of the kindness he showed me today when I didn't deserve it. I'm reminded that even though he can be an ass, there's a part of me that melts when he gets that cocky grin on his face after doing something daring, or when his smile goes lopsided when he's being cute.
I should have played minesweeper.
"Hey, look," Edward says, pointing at the faded graffiti along the dock's wooden floorboards. Someone has written "Edward Roolz" in red spray-paint.
A confident, cheeky grin sweeps across Edward's handsome face. "See?" he continues as he runs up to the edge of the dock, and raises his arms. "Everyone knows I'm awesome!"
I give Edward an indulgent smile, and look at him from under my eyelashes. He thinks I'm turned on by his awesomeness. I stalk over to him, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt like I can't get enough of him. It's the shirt his mom told him specifically not to get dirty – or wet.
I shove Edward with all my might. He loses his footing on the dock, and with a yelp, he crashes into the murky water below.
He starts to resurface, spurting water from his mouth. I don't even have time to laugh.
I leg it as fast as I can.
A/N: The Forks Abuse Program is a real program in Washington, and they do have a website (www dot forksabuseprogram dot org). However, the scenes depicted in the group/the way it is run are not real depiction of what happens there – I've never been there myself. Also, in this ficverse, their meetings are held on Wednesday, not a Thursday like in RL. It seems like a truly wonderful organisation. Just a lil' disclaimer.
ANYWHO. I love hearing all of your feedback. What do you think of Edward and Bella's bio lesson? xx