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chapter six: orbit

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It doesn't take long for my days to begin revolving around Bella Swan. By the time October rolls in, cooler air coming with it, I have a new routine. It goes as follows:

Wake up early for school, think about the way she laughed at me the night before.

At school, be on high alert for any sign of her—always hope to hear a hello from Alice. This means that Bella isn't far behind.

Stare at her in English, the way she rests her head on her desk as Mrs. Hayes talks about symbolism in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Be amazed at every question she answers correctly, her eyes never opening. Heart thrums at the sound of her low, tired voice.

Pretend like the smile she gives me across the cafeteria during lunch isn't making me feel like she's kicking my insides around.

Spend the rest of the day in total agony. We don't cross paths at school again. At home, try to do my homework but my concentration is nonexistent.

Take a nap. Dream about her skin on mine.

Eat dinner with my mom and Carlisle, avoid their questions about my mental health.

Take another stab at doing homework.

Give up.

Sneak out the front door after the sun has gone down. Act like I'm not going to the bench.

Go to the bench.

Try not to run to where she's sitting.

Pretend like she's waiting for me.

Talk her ear off until she disappears, never saying goodbye.

Go home, don't sleep, find new stars.

Rinse and repeat.

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"How many places have you lived? Can you list them?"

Bella is one to ask random questions. No transition or reason needed.

"Um." I haven't actually thought about it in a long time, I try not to dwell. But on this chilly October night, Bella's attention is focused solely on my answer. "I've lived in Chicago, Ypsilanti, Sunbury, Chapel Hill, Amarillo, uh, Phoenix and most recently Jersey City."

She lets out a puff of air.

"It's an insane number of cities I know," I say, vaguely ashamed though I can't place why.

"Sounds lonely," she murmurs and she keeps her gaze locked with mine, not letting my eyes travel to my shoes like I want them to. All I can do is shrug. I don't trust my voice anymore. I've been meeting her at this park for a little over a week now and I'm still not used to her careful consideration of me. She looks at me with wide eyes, swimming with some kind of intrigue, some emotion I can't identify. It sets me on fire.

"I've never left this part of Washington," she rasps. "But it's still lonely, so what do I know?"

I try to imagine her carrying the same empty feeling I do, the same exhaustion, the same fear of, well, everything. A fear of letting people in, a fear of never finding a place to land.

"But you have Alice and Rosalie," I offer, hoping to make her feel better. She blinks twice, slowly.

"That's…it's not…I guess you're right." She untangles herself, stepping onto the grass. She's about to leave, I know it as soon as she takes a single step.

I reach out, my hand landing gently on her forearm. Soft, cool skin. Electricity from the contact. She jerks away, stumbling, turning to me.

She looks as if I've burned her.

The wind blows and she makes her way across the street.

I said something wrong, whatever it was.

"I'm sorry," I call but she doesn't stop. She keeps going, dipping between two sagging houses, and disappearing from view.

Our nights are built on tentative conversation. She asks me questions and I answer them, while I only learn bits and pieces about her life through vague mutterings.

We never explicitly say that we are going to meet, it's just…I always come to the bench and she's always there staring at the sky.

The second night I came to find her, she asked me how my day was. I was taken aback that she'd even remotely care and I tried my best to not stutter through my answer. Again, I can only ever be honest with her.

"Too long, too boring."

She hummed in agreement.

"How was yours?" I asked and it was almost as if she did a double take. As if no one had ever asked her that before. Her features smoothed out as she said, "Boring as well."

Small talk, I was having small talk with Bella Swan.

Our conversations from then on were varied, but I did most of the talking. I tried to steer the conversation to her, but she always redirected it with more and more questions.

What movie makes you cry? The Graduate.

What do you want to be doing when you're forty? I can't picture myself past twenty-five.

Have you ever tried to kill yourself? Once unintentionally. I think it was unintentional.

I only know this about Bella Swan:

She always wears a sweater or sweatshirt, no matter the weather. She doesn't sleep—she's a night owl. She hates school, she hates being up with the sun.

"The night is so much quieter," she had said, her small hand gesturing towards the empty street. "Everything is more manageable, more beautiful."

"Like the stars," I'd added and she whipped around to face me. This was the first time she faced me, the first time I'd gotten to really study her face. Her lips were parted, her eyes on me as if she was trying to figure me out. I almost told her about my telescope. About my nighttime hobbies.

It was the closest I'd ever come to sharing that part of myself.

Who was Bella? What was it about her that made me want to tell her everything? For her to tell me everything. I'm not just wanting her to fill the lonely space in me with skin on skin, a breathy moan in my mouth. There's something different. Don't get me wrong, I want her that way every time I watch her hips sway as she leaves me.

But I want to know what makes her laugh. What makes her cry.

What makes her her.

The want twists my insides but I do my best to not let it show.

I can never let it show.

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"Alice, which version of Dream a Little Dream of Me is your favorite?"

She doesn't even have to think about it before she blurts, "Cass Eliot's, duh."

"Hallelujah?"

"Leonard Cohen."

"No way, Jeff Buckley's is so much better."

"Okay, I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion but here is why you're wrong." She begins explaining it to me, as if her life depends on it.

I enjoy this game we play in study hall when we have nothing to do, mainly because Alice is fun as hell to talk to. She isn't shy, not at all. She won't hesitate to speak her mind but she's always kind about her disagreement, even when she's teasing me like she is now. I can see why Jasper likes her so much.

I'm trying to think of another song when my eyes are drawn to the open doorway, where Bella Swan stands in the dim glow of the hallway lights looking tired and dangerous and beautiful.

Our stares lock and she seems surprised at herself when a smirk forms on her violet lips before she's whirling around, her thick curtain of hair coming between us as she walks her usual slow, languid walk out of sight.

"Oh," Alice murmurs softly and I turn back to her, trying to slow my heartrate down.

"What?" I ask, a little too defensively. Her mouth is twisted into a grin that seems to grow by the second.

"It's exciting, isn't it?" The bell rings and she gets to her feet.

"What is?" She's already walking away. Her only response is the vague wave her hand over her head, gesturing to nothing in particular.

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For the first time in more than 300 years, a lunar eclipse is falling on the winter solstice. It doesn't seem like a big deal but to an astronomy nerd—it's thrilling, the shortest day of the year, the longest we could see the moon and it's going to burn orange for seventy-minutes. It'll be visible around 3am and as long as it's not cloudy, it will be visible even from major cities.

It's circled on my calendar and I'm anxious for it. It feels ominous, the date looming. Just a little more than two months away.

It's the same feeling I get when I shut my locker at school and I feel her before I see her. When she's parting the crowd like the red sea. The feeling I get when Bella Swan is looking right at me, a smirk poised on her dark lips and something fierce in her dark eyes. There's something about her, something otherworldly. A storm is coming and I feel like I'm about to be caught in it.

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Sorry this one is short, next one will be up in a few days weeeeeee

What's your favorite version of hallelujah? (I agree with Edward—Jeff Buckley always)