Helllllllllloooo thank you all for reading, thank you LayAtHomeMom for rec-ing this at TLS. Wow xx

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chapter seven: andromeda

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It hasn't rained in a while, and if it has, it's usually in the morning and tapers off by the time I'm out of school. It's a relief, because even though clouds remain ever present, the sun is shining through more and more as the temperature slowly drops. Halloween is a clear night, the streets I walk every night are crawling with kids dressed as mummies and princesses and cowboys. Sounds of laughter float around me as I reach Bella, who for once is not looking up.

She's looking right at me and goddamn, she's grinning.

"Trick or treat," she says and holds out her hand. A caramel apple sucker rests in her palm. My favorite candy. I think I mentioned it to her once in passing.

"You're amazing," I breathe and she does this languid, full body shrug. Her expression isn't as dark as it usually is, her eyes shine bright with stars.

"Fan of Halloween?" I ask and she laughs.

"Hardly, can you hear all this noise?"

"But it's good noise. Like, happy noises. I think it adds to the evening."

A careful blush creeps up her neck as she hums, thoughtful.

"You keep surprising me, New Kid."

"I'm going to start calling you names."

"Good luck with that."

We are shrouded in a comfortable silence for a good ten minutes until I notice her eyes directed upwards yet again. She's looking in the direction of the constellation Andromeda—or at least, that's the first one that comes to my mind.

"Andromeda is one of my favorites," I say and she flashes her gaze to meet mine, brows furrowed. "The constellation," I clarify, gesturing to where she was looking before. I keep talking, "I mean, she was chained to a rock, waiting to be sacrificed to a sea monster through no fault of her own and then Perseus just happens upon her while he's invisible, kills the monster and does everything he can to marry her. And when she dies, she's placed among the stars, with her husband and her mother. I don't know, I feel like it's one of the better myths. And I'm rambling so I'll shut up now."

I fucked up.

Now she knows I'm a giant nerd and I'm nowhere near cool enough to be in her presence.

But Bella Swan looks like she could cry, those eyes turning into the murky depths of the Pacific Ocean.

"A true hero's love story," she murmurs. "Too bad that's all it is. A story."

"Still," I say, just because I feel the need to defend it.

"Let's face it, Andromeda probably did deserve it and poor Perseus is fooled into trying to save her and she probably ended up getting them both killed. She dragged him down with her."

The bitterness in her tone is acid as she spits her words out, falling harshly into the cool air.

"Bella," I begin, though I'm not sure what my follow up is going to be. She spares me the trouble by throwing me a quick, watery smile.

"It is a good story, though."

And then she's disappearing across the street and I spend the night staring at Andromeda and Perseus and Cassiopeia through my Star Scanner until the sun starts to come up, willing it all to be real.

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"Andromeda is my favorite constellation," is Bella's form of greeting the next evening, her voice low. This offering of personal information bowls me over. "It's graceful, I don't know."

"I agree," I say, eager to contribute, to hear more.

She whispers, "thank you."

"What for?"

"For listening. For being here, I guess."

"I feel like I should be saying that to you."

Heart is pounding, oh, I am desperate to kiss her into next millennium. Bella shakes her head.

"I'm just here, I'm always just right here."

There's a harshness, a sadness to her voice that causes everything in me to sink.

She doesn't want to be here.

But still, tonight, she doesn't leave for a very long time. We don't talk, we just stare at the sky as if we both just need the other to know that we're here.

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I am starting to get used to the death glares Rosalie sends my way during lunch. Her stare burns holes into my skin for the five minutes Alice lingers at our table every day, grinning madly as Jasper the entire time. Jessica squirms in her presence and I can't understand why she's even sitting here, still. She has other friends all over the school but she always picks the seat next to Jasper.

I stand by my theory that she wants to claw her way out of the friendzone but Alice is making that impossible. She's all he talks about and I wonder if he's all Alice talks about, too. The irritated look on Rosalie's face that appears when Alice returns to her side might support that theory. Bella maintains strange detachment, her expression remaining entirely neutral all through the period, save for the occasional almost-smile I get when our eyes meet. I'd kill to know what she's thinking—her mind's impenetrability is similar to that of a steel gate without a key.

All these weeks talking to her, I don't really know anything about her. She remains this enigma that only seems to grow more and more mysterious the more we meet up. She always leaves so quickly I can't help but think that I say or do something to upset her. But then I'll get a smirk in the hallway or a glance during English and I can't help but feel that she's happy to see me.

Call it wishful thinking.

Call it delusion.

Either way, it's ruining my life.

I leave lunch early, needing to swing by the library before my next class. Bella had mentioned this book last night so of course I feel this desperation to read it even though she claims its girly, poetic garbage. Echo she'd said it was called. Her eyes shined when she talked about it and I want to understand why.

Again, ruining my life.

The librarian eyes me skeptically when she scans the barcode at the top corner. I'm not sure what this book is about but it's got a girl on the front cover. I'm starting to feel self-conscious as I start to make my way to my locker. I'll leave the book there and read it at home. It's not very long and since I have so much time on my hands in the middle of the night, it'll be back on the shelf by tomorrow morning.

I flip through it as I walk through the empty halls, my eyes landing on one particular passage.

"I wanted him to hold me, to take care of me. To make the pain dissolve away. I know that this was part of what had ruined everything but I wanted it once more anyway."

My breath catches. Poetic, but not garbage. I wonder how much of this Bella Swan identifies with. I'm sad, distracted for the rest of the walk but I've just gotten my locker open when I feel a change in the air. It makes my head hurt.

"Edward," a voice nearly growls from beside me. It's Rosalie with her cold, angry eyes and her harshly painted mouth.

"Um," I stammer. She's truly scary—I can see why she's feared.

"Stop bothering Bella." My face ignites. "Stop going to find her at night."

"I don't know what you're talking about," I defend, indignant. She laughs and the sound is cruel.

"Oh, I think you do."

I don't want to feel this…shame. This embarrassment.

"She's never going to like you," Rosalie continues. "She's just too nice to tell you to get lost. Leave her alone."

Like a slap in the face.

"Fuck off, Rosalie," I spit, though my voice wavers. She smirks and her eyes darken.

"It's not my fault you've let this little crush get out of hand. I'm just trying to help." Her voice is too sweet, too artificial. I'm about to go off on her and she can tell. With one last glance, she sends a sneer my way and as soon as she turns, my locker door slams shut.

Right on my hand.

"Fucking hell!" I scream as the metal makes contact before bouncing back.

I swear I hear her laughing.

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I spend my evening icing my swollen hand while it turns black and blue. I can barely make a fist. When Mom sees it she freaks the fuck out and calls Carlisle home to take a look at it.

"Nothing broken, just going to be sore," he says and Mom won't leave me alone about it.

"How did this happen?" she keeps demanding. Did I get into a fight? Am I being bullied? Am I on drugs?

"It was an accident," I tell her, though I get the sinking feeling that it wasn't.

I'll never be able to prove it, but Rosalie caused the door to slam on me. I know it.

I spend the night confining myself to my room, Rosalie's words turning themselves over and over in my mind.

She's never going to like you.

She's never going to like you.

She's never going to like you.

It shouldn't matter to me if she likes me or not, the ache in my chest should not hurt more than the ache in my hand. I don't know Bella Swan, she owes me nothing and I don't expect anything from her. It was just conversation. A way to pass the time.

A way to avoid wasting the evening like tonight, not falling asleep, staring past the posters on my wall. I don't open the book Bella recommended. My telescope sits untouched near my window, thunder booms overhead.

The storm rages all night, angry, confused and all-consuming of the world below it.

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Echo by Francesca Lia Block is one of my favorites. It's beautiful. Til Thursday, xo