Forgot to post this. Whoops.


Bella


Six a.m. sharp the front door slammed, jolting me from sleep.

At least, I thought I had been asleep. The way things were going this past summer my eyes were probably still open. My brain, switched off for its own well being.

Last I'd glanced at the clock it read three twenty-three and I was wide awake, staring at the stars through the skylight above my bed. Wondering if anyone was up there with them, looking back down at me.

The Chevy Corvette in our newly paved driveway started up, vrooming the neighborhood to life. I sighed, throwing my blankets aside and swinging my feet to the floor. I sat there with my head in my hands, missing the smell of bacon and eggs. The aroma now was exhaust from a Z06 my dad had purchased in an obnoxious attempt to reclaim his youth or replace my mother or something equally as lame.

Maybe Hotrod Charlie could spend some of that life insurance payout on a chef. That way his child of eighteen years would be fed and he wouldn't have to drive all the way to the next town over to drown his sorrows in Scotch and steak.

It had been ages since I'd had a steak. Ages since I'd had a good, warm meal come to think of it. My last had been at the end of the school year at my best friend Jessica's. Lima beans and burnt lasagna had never tasted so good.

My stomach growled in remembrance of food. I ignored her, heading into the bathroom to get ready for the first day of school. My usual excitement for catching up with everyone and showing off my new back to school outfits was nonexistent. Instead, school was the last place I wanted to be. There I had to smile and be friendly because that was who I'd always been. It was expected of the Lady Trojans co-cheer captain.

But I didn't feel like being friendly. I didn't want to smile. I wanted my face to stay like it was in the mirror. Stoic, unmoving. Maybe not so sunken. Big thanks to my mother for the naturally olive-toned skin, I guessed.

Still, it wouldn't help me much. Jess would be forced to commit murder if she saw me looking like this.

"The only circles I want to see are formation. Don't let me catch you bitches with them under your eyes."

My BFF had a real way with words.

While my life had previously revolved around cheering, it was now the last thing I wanted to do. This year or ever again. With any luck I'd be cut from the squad for not showing up to camp this summer.

My phone pinged from somewhere in my bedspread. I whipped it through the air, sending the device crashing into the wall. I hoped it broke. I was so sick of seeing Jess' threats for all the texts I'd ignored. So what if she'd heard Angie, a sophomore, was out for her spot as captain? Who fucking cared? Not me. In fact, I cared so little that I forewent styling my hair in loose, brown curls like I usually did and twisted the long, wet strands into a side braid so it would dry with a natural wave.

On the plus side of not caring, I'd lost so much weight over the summer I was actually able to fit into my mother's vintage, high-waisted jeans she'd worn when she was my age. They were so old they'd distressed from wear, looking like something that would now go for seventy bucks or more at some name brand store. The white, ribbed crop top was a risk but it covered enough arm and chest, the length just long enough to keep my ribs from peeking out. If I kept my arms down.

Grabbing my bag I made my way downstairs, plucking my keys from the hook on the wall by the door as I slid on a pair of strappy, tan sandals.

Stupidly, I'd left the top off the Jeep overnight. I had taken a joyride the evening before since we were having unusually dry weather. The dewiness on the seat soaked through my clothes, sending a chill through me. I played it safe and tossed on the soft top before heading to school with the heat on full-blast to keep me warm and dry my hair faster.

Something akin to sadness befell the parking lot when I pulled in. I sat in my spot not wanting to get out and go inside. Maybe I could just homeschool myself. I was eighteen. I could do what I wanted, right? Like drop out and get my GED, become a stripper.

Meh.

I lacked the energy and ambition for either.

Prior to the end of the last school year I had a lot of energy and ambition. I had been sure of my direction in life. Jess and I had plans. We were going to get scholarships to Texas A&M. When our four years were up we'd try out to be Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Basically cheer until we landed a couple of football players and popped out three kids each. Twin boys and a girl. We'd all be the best of friends for the rest of our lives and have cookouts every Saturday.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life anymore. Leave BFE behind, yeah. But for what, I didn't know.

Dropping my visor I did an under-eye check in the natural light. It wasn't as bad but the school had fluorescent lighting which highlighted every damn flaw.

So, maybe I did care.

But just a little.

Once I'd dabbed on some concealer and applied a layer of mascara I headed for the building, undoing my braid before I made it inside. The lasting scent of summer surrounded me in the form of coconut shampoo as I made my way to my locker.

I heard Jess before I saw her.

"Jesus Christ, B. I thought you were dead," she yelled, her loud voice echoing down the hall. I swore everybody stopped what they were doing to look at her then me before getting on with their lives.

"Sorry, but you've hardly answered any of my texts this summer. None this past week. I mean, what the hell?" The bitch-out I was getting was put on hold when Jess got distracted, practically glaring through me.

"Ugh, don't look now but here comes the everything black brigade." Jess grumbled something else under her breath I didn't catch and slammed her locker door shut. "I mean, I can appreciate a good black ensemble. But not head to toe and not every day. What, was Spirit Halloween having a sale?" she asked loudly as the group of emo kids walked by.

For the most part none of them could be bothered to acknowledge our presence. Especially Edward the e-boy, who was always skulking around with his head down. But the little one, Alice, she was a spunky little thing with spiked blue and black hair that was shorter than her legs. She acted more like one of those tiny yipping dogs who thought they were bigger than they really were. She never took any shit.

Especially from Jess.

Stopping in the middle of the hallway, Alice stared at her for a moment before striking forward like a snake and hissing in her face. Jessica practically concussed herself hitting the back of her head on her locker. Alice smiled sweetly, the majority of her friends laughing as they went on their way. All but Edward who had never even stopped in the first place. I had to gum my lips to keep from laughing myself.

"What?" Jessica snapped, noticing and turning her scorn on me.

"Nothing." I shook my head, acting as if I didn't notice Alice glance back and smirk in my direction.

"You think it's so funny you can strap a choker around your neck and jump off a chair."

For the second time today Jessica stopped traffic with her big mouth. Even Edward the e-boy gave us a quick glance before disappearing into a classroom.

Unaware of what a bitch she actually was, Jessica turned away and flipped her hair at me. I looked after her, not bothering to push off from the locker I was leaning against until she turned back and asked if I was coming.

I should have told her no and to fuck off but did neither. Instead I acted like nothing was wrong as we walked to first period English.

The way most of the classrooms were set up the entrances were in the back half of the room. Jess had always insisted we sit in the front of these backward classrooms and the back in all the rest. That way she'd reach more lines of vision and was better able to show off her outfit of the day. I used to share that shallow view. All that mattered was what was on the outside. How everything looked.

I followed Jess as she headed toward the front, muttering something I couldn't make out under her breath as she passed Alice and company. At the same time Alice stuck out her foot.

It all happened in slow motion.

The heel of Alice's combat boot hit the floor with a thunk. The white toe of Jessica's flats caught on the thick, leathery ankle, and slow-mo switched to fast-forward sending Jess down like a sack of potatoes.

An unexpected whoosh of surprised laughter escaped my throat. I clamped my hand over my mouth in an attempt to cover it up but was busted by a pair of green eyes I hadn't seen since freshman year. I had forgotten how bright they were, always hidden under that shaggy mess of dark brown hair.

My reaction to them was the same after all these years, my stomach twisting like Maggie May when we threw her up in the air for a basket toss spin. I had been attracted to him back then. But I quickly learned we lived in different worlds. It just wouldn't have worked out even if we'd tried. As if he'd even want to try. Yeah, right …

Breaking eye contact, I bent to help Jess up off the floor and keep her from ripping out what was left of Alice's short, spiky hair. All it took was me whispering the word suspension in her ear. One fight and she knew she'd be lucky if she only lost her place as captain and didn't get completely cut from the team.

Against her instincts she calmed and took a seat. I plopped down beside her, needlessly craning my neck to glance behind me as I hung my bag on the back of my seat. A flicker of disappointment flashed through me that Edward was no longer looking at me but at his hands resting on the desk in front of him.

The rest of the morning was a blur, my brain feeling as foggy as it looked outside. I spent the majority of it staring out the window, not seeing or hearing. Especially Mike Newton's attempts to get my attention.

I was pretty sure I had made myself perfectly clear. Just because I let him eat me out in the backseat of his car over the summer didn't mean we were together. Not that I was opposed to him doing it ever again. But I wasn't interested in holding hands and going to the movies. Don't get me wrong, the guy had a nice, firm tongue, but he was as dull as a stepping stone.

By the time lunch rolled around I considered spending the hour hiding in the bathroom or outside with the delinquents and possibly taking up smoking. The ones that did always seemed so lax. Like nothing could or ever would bother them.

I wanted to be that unbothered.

I couldn't even contemplate putting on my usual smile for the hordes of friends who would stop by our table. Not even a fake one.

Before I could sneak off to try and bum a cigarette off someone, Jess tucked her arm under mine to hook our elbows. All forgiven and forgotten. At least from where she was standing.

"Have I told you you look good? Because you look good."

"Yeah. Really good, B," Mike added from behind us. Jess rolled her eyes at him then turned her attention back to me.

"Well …" she hedged.

"Well, what?" I asked, having no idea what she expected anymore.

"I just gave you a compliment. Now, you're supposed to pay me one back … Tell me I look good."

"You do." I half-heartedly complied. It wasn't worth the wrath that would ensue if I didn't. Thankfully it was enough to placate her. Jess was so vain she didn't need me to tell her what she already knew. She always looked good with her slim, hourglass figure, perky tits, and perfect, platinum-blonde hair. You couldn't even tell half of it was extensions.

The lunch room was buzzing with a swarm of voices that sounded akin to white noise.

Jess led the way through the line where we grabbed an apple and a bottle of water each before joining our "friends" at the designated table.

All the cheerleaders and players on the football team always sat together. It was the rule.

The only outsider allowed was Jessica's younger sister, Rose. She was clearly the prettier of the two but outweighed Jess by about thirty pounds. It was the only reason she allowed the kid to sit with us.

Mike's thigh rubbed up against mine. Since my other leg already cozied up to Jess' I had no room to scoot over and away from his unwelcome intrusion.

It wasn't like Mike wasn't a nice guy. He was blond, tall, and slender, his skin still kissed by the summer sun. He had a nice, smooth complexion that highlighted his bright blue eyes, but there was something missing. There was no depth, no connection. I just wasn't into him.

Not the way Emmett, a senior and captain of the football team, was into Rose. He had that something more in his eyes everyone could see. Kindness and mirth. He spread it around like VD. But there was something a little extra there for Rose, her plump lips, big tits, and thick, rounded thighs.

My favorite pastime was watching the two flirt while Jess looked on, scrunching her nose in distaste. She'd never admit it but she was jealous of Rose and the attention she received. Not only was Rose prettier, she was smarter and sweeter. She lead with love, not fear like Jess felt she had to.

"I'm pretty sure you're wearing my shirt, Rose. Now it's gonna be all stretched out. Thanks for that." Jess was always putting her sister down in front of everyone in a pathetic attempt to feel superior. It only made her look petty and spiteful.

"I think it looks nice on you, Rose," Emmett told her, nudging her shoulder with his large upper arm. If it were at all possible, Rose's cheeks burned even redder. I wished they'd both get their heads out of their asses and bone already. They would be so sweet together.

"You know these peaches taste pretty good," Mike announced then leaned closer to me. "But not as good as you." His whisper in my ear ruined everything good and pure in this moment.

Mistaking my shudder for a shiver of desire he draped his arm over my shoulders. I nudged him off, my eyes rolling to the ceiling before landing on a set of green ones for the second time today. My whole body went numb, my stomach doing that nice tightening thing again.

"Hey!" Mike yelled a little too close to my ear. I flinched. Nice feeling gone. "Vampire boy. You got a staring problem? Stop looking over here."

"What the fuck, Mike? Lower your voice," Emmett ordered.

"What do you expect, E? He's staring at my girl like he's fixing to eat her."

"I'm not your girl, Mike," I reminded him again, nudging him off for a second time.

Emmett pointed his thick finger. "I expect you to show some tact. Yelling shit across the lunchroom isn't the kind of behavior I expect from a Trojan. Are you using again?" Emmett asked openly, knowing we were already aware of Mike's past indiscretions with steroids.

"No, E. Shit."

"Good, cause if you are and I find out, that's it, man. You're done. You feel me?"

Mike nodded once.

"Save those threats for your opponents on the field, not our fellow classmates."

Rose was looking up at Emmett like she was one witnessed verbal lashing away from humping his leg. I had to admit it was pretty hot when he was giving Mike the what-for.

"You gotta admit, those piercings in his lip do look like fangs," Jess observed, breaking the silence.

"They're called spider bites," I corrected without thinking.

"They're what now?" Her brow quirked.

"The fangs. They're called spider bites." His were two black rings sitting side by side on each corner of his lower lip. I thought they looked kinda cool. A little sexy even. But I'd never tell Jessica that.

"That's even worse. And since when did you become such an expert on emo-ology, huh? Are you into all that now? Are you gonna get spider bitten, punch a hole in your eyebrow, which both need tending to by the way. I bet you'd look really cool with spools stuck in your ears."

"Spools?" I expelled a quiet, clipped laugh. "You mean plugs, Grandma? Really? You think it'd be cool if I plugged my earlobes?"

"Yeah. Super cool."

"Well, you know what I think would be super cool, Jess?"

"What, Bella? Tell me, please."

There had been times I'd wanted to slap Jess. But I'd never wanted to take her out as bad as I wanted to in that moment. "I think it would be cool if you took a plug and shoved it—"

"Okay, ladies …" Rose interrupted. She'd always been tense around our fighting. Probably because her parents did so much of it.

"What? I was gonna say, 'In your mouth.' It'd be nice if she shut it for once." With that, the bell rang. I popped up, glancing in the direction I'd caught those green eyes once before only to find the owner missing.

I followed suit, ignoring how Jess' glare seared me through the back of my shirt.

I didn't bother waiting around for her after school let out and headed straight home. Dad wouldn't be back until late so I had the place to myself like I always did. It was nice, peaceful, and quiet.

Sometimes too quiet.

Every morning was like Groundhog Day in the Swan house. Except we didn't get any do-overs. Carbs counted and if we killed ourselves we didn't come back.

Six a.m. on the dot my dad left the house with a slam of the door. I got up to get ready for school, throwing on a baggy, gray Trojans zip-up hoodie over my tight, red tank top.

This was my favorite time of year. When the leaves were changing and the weather was perfect. Not too hot for sweatshirts and not too cold for flip flops.

Mike finally took the hint and was leaving me alone. For the most part. He still stared at my boobs whenever I wore a low-cut shirt. But I could deal with that. It felt nice to be wanted. Even if the one wanting you wasn't the one you wanted wanting you. If that even made sense.

I hadn't caught one glimpse of those mysterious green eyes since that first day in the cafeteria. I saw the owner almost everywhere I went but not his eyes. The razor sharp jaw and plump, pierced lip, yes. Never those eyes.

I'd thought about approaching him to apologize for Mike's behavior and make him look up at me as I told him to not worry about Mike because he was an asshole that no one should pay attention to. Instead, he should pay attention to me because before when he had, I felt seen. I wanted to make sure he knew I wasn't Mike's girl. So, he didn't have to worry about that. If that was the reason he wasn't paying attention.

But of course that wasn't why he wasn't paying attention. He wasn't paying attention because he never paid any attention to anything but the ground he was walking on.

And me, just a couple of times.

"We have a practice today after school until five. Are you actually going to come to it or what?" Jess asked, shuffling things around inside her messy locker.

I hung back and waited for her to finish, glancing down the hallway every once in a while. "I doubt it but we'll see." I gave her the same answer every day. It wasn't like I needed the practice and she knew it. I helped choreograph all the routines, kept myself limber with stretches and some yoga at home.

Jess huffed into her locker. I ignored her, my attention instead on who was now coming down the hallway.

Edward's dark hair was the first thing I noticed. He was the tallest of the group, bringing up the slack in the back, his mouth going to town on the piercings at one side of his lip. I bit mine in reflex wondering what metal felt like pressed against your mouth.

"Bella!" Jess snapped her fingers in my face. I released my lip, my line of vision cutting to Alice's smirking face as she passed. The usual blue in her black hair was purple today and she'd caught me gawking.

Shit.

Nudging my shoulder, Jess was none the wiser. "Let's move, bitch. We're gonna be late."

Lunch couldn't come soon enough. Not because I was hungry. My stomach had finally gotten used to eating itself. I wanted to smoke, a smoke, light one up. Whatever the kids were calling it these days. I'd never tried it before. Never had the desire. But I had it now. It was like a nagging in the back of my mind that shot down my neck and into my fingers. And yeah, maybe I was just bored. Maybe I just needed something to do. Maybe Jess was right and I needed to go back to practice and cheer it out. But that wasn't for another four hours. I needed to satiate whatever this was now.

I had the whole thing planned out. To avoid Jess I'd cut out of chemistry early and head out the back of the school before everyone packed the halls and headed in the opposite direction.

That was as far as I had gotten with the whole planning thing. I didn't have any cigarettes or a lighter on me. I wasn't exactly the social butterfly I'd been in the past but I guessed I could handle asking to bum off someone. And if they refused I was prepared to pay cash.

The crisp autumn air whooshed in, hitting me in the face as I pushed open the back exit. It was enough to bring me to my senses when I smelled the smoke. So there I was, no longer wanting to smoke but outside with all the smokers. It was the only reason anyone came back here.

Most of them ignored me, noses in their phones. The ones who paid attention seemed perturbed by my presence. Basically all the girls, except Alice. Edward was nowhere to be found, thank God for that.

Pulling the cuffs of my sweatshirt over my hands I stood there and hugged myself like that was what I was planning to do all along.

"Are you like lost?" a nasally female voice asked.

I internally sighed. Here we go.

"I know where I am, thanks." Now everyone was looking. Fucktastic.

"Really?" she asked, flinging her hair with a tilt of her head, obviously mocking me. "Because your kind don't belong out here."

"My kind?"

The girl's friend whispered something in her ear and they both giggled.

I turned to go back inside, not in the mood to deal with a bitch. If I was, I'd have stayed inside with Jess.

"Hold up." For some stupid reason I stopped. Hand on the door, I turned slightly.

"You're her, aren't you? The one whose mom offed herself over the summer?"

I could feel the blood drain from my face to settle in my chest. The trees surrounding the patio started closing in. Out of the corner of my eye someone rounded the far side of the school but close enough to hear. I glanced over, mortified that I was this close to crying in front of Edward, who could probably be considered the biggest hardass in this school.

Pinching a cigarette between his thumb and index finger, he brought it to his mouth and started toward us. I inhaled as he did, letting the deep breath out slowly. Smoke rolled up from between both of our lips. His surrounded him, wafting up from the hand at his side to meet up with the smoke expelled from his lungs and mixing with the cool air.

"How did she do it? Was there blood? Did you find her?" My wearing consciousness switched back to the girl. She went to open her mouth and ask another question but Alice stopped her.

"Enough, Lauren." Throwing her cigarette on the ground she jumped off the picnic table and toed it out with her combat boot. "You're a real sick fuck, you know that?"

"I do, thank you." Lauren stood on the seat of the picnic table she was sitting on and curtsied.

Alice gave her a nasty face then started toward me. "Ignore her. She vapes."

That didn't mean much to me and not just because my brain was buzzing and my body was numb. But it certainly pissed Lauren off.

"Fuck you, midget."

"No thanks, poser." Alice blew her a kiss over her shoulder, nudging mine.

I caught Edward's tall, dark figure again. He'd stopped just short of the tree line, out of sight of the others, smoke still rolling from the cigarette between his fingers.

My gaze flickered from his long, lean fingers to his usually plump lips pressed into a straight line.

I couldn't bring myself to look him in the eyes. If he was even looking. Instead I turned away to head inside, Alice trailing behind me.

"I'm sorry about her. If it makes you feel any better, her mom drinks and sleeps around. She's slept with more than one of Lauren's boyfriends." Alice tried to lighten the mood but only ended up making it darker.

I didn't respond, just put one foot in front of the other with no idea what I was doing or where I was going.

"You wanna get out of here?" Alice asked finally.

All I could do was nod.


I originally wrote this for a charity Babies at the border years ago. I wrote it as a OS that I plan on posting here in 3 parts but who knows I might add more.