Author's Note: To all those who read EOM, this is not a concentrated effort, don't expect great things from this. It really was just written to pass the time in an unoccupied hour. Maybe now you all will be believe that I can't actually write.

In a Handbasket

Chapter One

'Damn Stephenie Meyer!' Edward thought furiously. Ever since her turnip of a book had been published, girls started looking at him differently. Instead of a mixture of aesthetic appreciation and healthy fear with which they usually regarded him, now they were doe eyed, and their thoughts repulsively romantic. Instead of keeping their distance, they would get close to him, flip their hair in his direction, hoping that her scent would be 'the one.' Of course, they weren't certain that he was a vampire, but that stupid book had filled their heads with romantic notions.

Who in their right mind would think a vampire is romantic? It was so far fetched, he knew Meyer was a human. Had to be. No vampire would ever think up something so ridiculous. To make matters worse, he shared his name with the hero, and even answered to his description. It was as if the woman purposefully wrote the slander to ruin his life. Existence, rather.

He could tell in all their thoughts that they never shared their secret suspicions with their friends, they wanted to snare him themselves. The worst thing was, he couldn't even eat them without raising suspicion. And oh he'd been sorely tempted. They made it so easy on him. They actually tried to arrange to be alone with him. They assumed he was a 'vegetarian'. There was no such thing. But he did try to blend in, and he knew that if a single person at his school were to vanish, suspicion would immediately fall on him. Similarly, were he to simply leave now, suspicions would also be raised. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't. Actually he'd had that particular handbasket reserved for over a century.

"Hi Edward," one of the girls greeted. He heard her friends' thoughts, hoping she wouldn't be successful. The girl herself was going over the lines she had rehearsed earlier that day in front of the mirror in the girls' bathroom.

"Hmm." That was as close to a greeting as he could muster.

'I hope his eyes are brown today, oh wait, what if he actuallycanhear what I'm thinking?—'

He rolled his eyes, which were always brown. They never changed colour. Yet for some reason, this chit of a girl thought that he'd be safer that way.

'Oh well, just do it!' she encouraged herself. Meanwhile he was thinking of getting black contact lenses. Maybe that would keep them away. No, that would only raise more suspicions.

"Would you like to sit at our table?" she offered.

"Thank you, but I've already finished," he said, grabbing his tray and getting up to leave.

"Maybe tomorrow?"

"Maybe."

This was exhausting. Wasn't there a single girl in the room who hadn't read that book which was the bane of his existence? He could tell by their thoughts that most of the guys hadn't, but that didn't stop them from disliking him. They never had before, they considered him a freak, which granted, he was, but their animosity rose with his popularity with the girls. There was no escape. He'd have to stick it out till graduation. Then he'd leave to a country whose language that damned novel hadn't been translated into.

His only sanctuary at that school was in empty classrooms, or in his biology teacher's office. The man had clearly never read the acursed novel, and his thoughts were almost always thankfully on botany. In fact, he had grown quite used having Edward in his office.

They hardly ever spoke. Mr. Banner left him to his business, and Edward left Mr. Banner to his. When he entered the office his teacher merely thought, 'Hiding away again, poor boy,' before his thoughts were once again enveloped in the fascinating world of apoptosis. Or rather, the abysmal world of grading tests on the subject. It was all the same to Edward. The repetitiveness of his teacher's mind as he graded each test was easy to tune out.

It helped that Banner wasn't at all appealing. In fact, the man reeked. He'd never smelled more rotten, un-tempting blood before. Mr. Banner was easily his favourite human.

But he'd need to hunt soon if he wanted to contain his temper. How badly he just wanted to give those insipid females what they deserved, being hungry didn't help. He worked full time night shifts (for what else was he supposed to do) as a security guard the next town over. Perhaps he'd grab a snack on the way.

All too soon, the bell rang and he was forced out into the monotony again. He trudged into English, and nearly recoiled with the onslaught of bitter sentiments radiating from most every girl in the room. They always did that. It was like a ritual. Every day they'd rush in a try to get the seat next to his. He sat in the very back row next to the window. So the last row second seat from the window was the prize they all fought for every day. It was like that with every class. If he were a vain sort of fellow this would have amused him immensely. He wondered if there was some way tobecome vain. It would make his days ever so much more agreeable if he could enjoy all the attention.

Today the lucky winner was Emily. The other girls had to find consolation in the desks that were next nearest his, farther down the row or in the row in front of his. The girl herself looked rather smug.

"Congratulations," he told her sarcastically. Her triumphant expression fell into mortification at being caught in her scheme. Honestly, did they think he didn't notice how the jockeyed for positions near him?

'Oh my god, he's making fun of me. Just... try to act cool, pretend like you don't know what he's talking about.'

"I don't know what you're talking about," she said unconvincingly, and sat down next to him.

He smirked. Apparently there was some amusement to be had after all. Pointing out to fan girls how ridiculous they are was not only fun for him, but was doing them a favour. He was making the world a better place.

He snorted darkly at that. The thought of him making the world a better place was laughable. Vampires as a force of good in any capacity was a joke. How wrong the woman had it. His kind weren't pretty, in fact, Edward had seen quite a few ugly vampires in his day. He just didn't happen to be one of them. If he were ugly, perhaps women wouldn't plague him so. It takes the fun out of the hunt when your prey jumps willingly into your arms.

That's why unless he was in a particular hurry, he'd always hunt men. They put up a better fight.

The class began and they continued their discussion of Hamlet. A quarter of an hour into the lesson there was a hesitant knock on the door and a girl meekly entered.

'I don't care if it's the right room or not, I'm tired of looking. I'll just sit here andpretendit's English class.'

"Mr. Matthews' junior year English?" she asked.

"That's it. I've been told you were coming. Go ahead and take your seat."

'Good, I'd planned to anyway. Back looks incredibly crowded. Is this class that bad?' she wondered. She sat in the very front row next to the window. He tried to catch her scent through the room but he couldn't through all the others. It was only an idle curiosity anyway. The new was always more interesting than the old wares. She didn't have a copy of the play with her so one of the boys moved over to share his. 'Here's one Edward hasn't got to yet,' the boy thought. Apparently even humans appreciated the concept of fresh meat.

He turned his attention back to the window.

'Just look over at me, just notice me. I put so much thought into what I wore this morning...'

Should put some more thought into your thoughts, he retorted in his own mind. Vapid as they currently are.

'Nails are chipping again, I'll have to redo them.'

'Tomorrow I'll skip lunch. Win-win. Less calories and I'll definitely make it here first.'

He moved his mental ear over to the male side of the room. Some of them were actually paying attention... sort of.

'What the hell is a bodkin? A bare bodkin? Is that like body? Is he naked?'

Actually it's a bare blade, with which one can kill oneself... unless one is a vampire in which case it would take a bit more doing,he thought morosely. He wondered how he could go about ending it all. It wouldn't be easy. But really, what was the point in continuing to exist? He had no raison d'être. He lived alone, he had no friends, he hadn't had a genuine conversation in over a decade. Really, what was the point?

Ah, you say that now Ed, but you'll be thinking differently tonight when you're on the hunt.

True, it was a high every time. He, like most of his kind, lived for the hunt. That was the point. To kill. They reveled in it. That was his trouble; he didn't take time to appreciate the better parts of existence. He needed a hobby to divert him in between hunts, but what?

'She's actually paying attention,' the teacher's enthused thoughts permeated into his own and he saw through the man's eyes the face of the new girl. Edward searched her unfamiliar mind and found that it was true. She was completely engaged in the lesson. No, no wait, not entirely.

'Conscience does make cowards of us all... was suicide really the right answer? Was it cowardly to bow out? Or was he taking action against the world by ending it? No, there is a way to fix nearly every problem. Death is the only irreversible problem, and she never had to deal with a loss. She just inflicted that on me.'

Sorry teach, she's just as gone as the rest of them, Edward thought. Although her thoughts were related to the class, they were definitely not there. He had thought at first she was paying attention, but the consistent use of past tense, and he soon learned that the 'he' in her mind wasn't Hamlet. Whosever face it was kept flashing through her mind.

Poker, he thought. That would be his new hobby. He'd make money doing that, give him something more amusing to do other than his job. That was one way the 'other' Edward was enviable. He had conveniently rich foster parents to pay for anything his un-beating heart desired. He, on the other hand, had to work for him money, clothes, car, apartment. Granted never sleeping and never being tired helped with the full time job. And he didn't have to spend money on food...

He chuckled to himself.

'I wonder what he's laughing about. I wish I could make him smile like that. He's even more handsome when he smiles...'

His grin immediately vanished. Would it be that detrimental to kill just one? Would anyone notice? No, they definitely would. No deaths or disappearances in his own town. Fouling one's own nest, and all that...

He decided to run to work that night. He was glad he did, not for the joy in the exercise itself, but he made the most gratifying kill. He would have missed the man all together had he taken his car.

He showed up to work, completely buzzed. He saw Sam ready for his shift to end. Exhilarated, Edward contemplated taking Sam out too, he couldn't stop smiling at the idea. But no, if a co-worker died, he'd be questioned, and he didn't want to get caught up in that. Lucky you, Sam, he thought.

Edward clocked in and Sam clocked out, the changing of the guards, he had humourlessly called it.

He sat in the room with the security televisions, tapping his foot impatiently. 8 hours of this, and yet he was twitching from his fresh feed.

He came down from the high after two hours, where he fell into monotony again. Homework took naught but half an hour, the rest of the time he sat there, a century of thoughts and memories floating around abstracting in his mind, trying to think of a raison d'être.

The next day at school his mental scans weren't idle as they usually had been. He actively searched as many people as he could, unfortunately people didn't seem to go around focusing on what made life worth living.

Unless sex, petty squabbles with friends and family, and his humble self made life worth living, for it was those thoughts that seemed to predominate among the student body. Pity he couldn't look deeper into the mind, only the shallow scrapings off the top, what people were thinking at that very moment. He took his seat in second period biology. He wasn't surprised that the one next to him was already taken. It seemed that Amanda had won that day. It was a pity that the more mentally tolerable females didn't fight to sit next to him. It was always the most annoying that were so insistent. The meeker souls didn't have the courage, or rather, weren't willing to make fools of themselves. Didn't stop them from sighing longingly in his direction. No, they'd probably be just as bad if they were in the hot seat. What active imaginations women had. If men truly knew what expectations women had of them... they'd turn gay out of fear and revulsion.

Luckily for the continuation of the human race, only he was plagued with the gift. There was no greater turn-off, then knowing the entire truth. No mystery involved, no chance of deluding oneself with fantasies of what the person could be, rather than what they are. No. He saw everything, the ugliness of the mind that everyone fought to keep to themselves. Fake, the lot of them. The images they put out were almost always untrue to who they were underneath.

What a hypocrite I am, he thought amusedly. He was putting on a show as well to gain his own ends. He was the biggest pretender of them all, he supposed it was unfair for him to judge.

He continued mentally eavesdropping, sifting through his classmates' thoughts. They were all old, like re-runs of a television program. The same preoccupations, the same desires, the same half-focus on what the teacher was saying. The only thing new came from the pair at the front row desk.

She has nice handwriting, it suits her, elegant, graceful. 'I'm Wyatt,' he whispered in introduction.

"Izzy," she replied shaking the boys hand a bit nervously.

'Izzy? Weird name.'

'He thinks it's a weird name too, I can see it on his face. You aren't fooling anyone, Bella."

"Short of Isabella," she explained.

"Oh, right. I wondered. So do you want to go first or should I?"

"You go ahead," she told him. 'I've done already done this lab anyway.

Edward then remembered his own partner and that he had his own lab to do. "Ladies first," he told her, then went back to listening into the other conversation across the room.

'Gorgeous, nice hair, great body. Wonder what she thinks of me,' thought her lab partner. To Edward's amusement, the girl's thoughts weren't along those lines at all.

'He misspelled mitochondria. Are we graded individually or together? Could I get a new lab partner? Damn it, did I forget to turn off the heating before I left. That's twice this week, the bill will be monstrous. I could dip into savings or I could try to work another shift—No, he's got it wrong again.'

"Nope," she told him, smiling charmingly from Wyatt's point of view. "Try again."

'Is she teasing me? Cute smile, oh, crap, yeah thatiswrong.'

Edward absentmindedly scribbled the correct answer on his own page.

"So why did you transfer here of all places?"

'I had no choice.' "It's a custody thing." Living on my own now I can't afford my old school.'

"Ah. My parents are divorced too," he told her. 'I understand how she feels, I had to move too. I was the new kid once. I can use that to my advantage. "Since you're new to the area I could show you around. Granted, there isn't much to see."

"Oh, I've been here before." 'I spent two weeks here every summer, and moved here in September.'

"Oh." 'Shot down, ouch.'

They went back to working on the lab in silence. Edward answered the rest of his questions and pushed it over to the girl to copy if she wanted, he was tired of her trying to get his attention.

'Ha. Thompson was rejected. Good. I'll ask her to lunch.'

O'Malley was unaware that most of the other males in the room were thinking similar things. It looked as if this Isabella was desirable simply because she wasn't interested in him... yet.It's only a matter of time, he thought sadly. Perhaps he'd avoid her entirely. So long as she was unaware of him she wouldn't fall for him. Her thoughts would be more worth listening to.

He had gathered his things and was halfway to the door before the bell stopped ringing for lunch.

'Freak.'

'Damn it I was going to ask him to sit with me at lunch.'

'Ha. Someone who is actually more eager than I am to get out of here.'Isabella thought. Edward smirked to himself.

He decided to avoid the lunchroom today, appearances be damned. He didn't feel up to the cafeteria of giggling girls and frustrated boys, and the ridiculous inner workings of their bitter minds.

"Edward?" Curse it, he'd been followed out.

"What?"

"I was wondering..." 'Oh my god, why did I come out here? He's going to think I'm stupid.'

Already do, no worries.

"Yes?"

"It's just, you look so upset. I was wondering if you are alright." 'Just be understanding. Give him a chance to open up and he'll see how good I am for him.'

"I'm fine," he told her impatiently. Her face fell. She was thinking , but I understand you.

Like hell you do.

"I've noticed, you know. You're... different."

"Oh?"

"Your... your skin is pale white, you never go out into the sun..."

Was that a direct quote from the book? Could have been."So?"

"Well..." Oh god, I can't actually say it.

"Elizabeth..." he began, annoyed. 'Ohmygod, he knows my name.' "I have a skin condition. I can't go out into the sun without getting severe sunburn." That much was entirely true. He didn't 'sparkle like diamonds. Going out into the sunlight hurt. It was just about the only thing that did. "So yes, I am pale. Thank you very kindly for pointing that out."

Maybe she'd tell all her friends that. Maybe they'd leave him alone.

'Okay, that might be true, but isn't that what a vampirewouldsay?'

Edward suppressed the exasperated growl that wanted to rumble in his throat and scare her away.

"Could you answer me one question?" he asked.

"Anything," she said immediately.

"Do you think you're the first person to approach me with those observations? You think you're the only one who thinks they have me figured out because they read some two-bit romance novel? Do you honestly think I'm a vampire? Just because I'm pale? Are you really that stupid?"

The girl burst into tears and ran away. He shouldn't have insulted her, he had let his annoyance run away with him. But as he listened to her humiliated thoughts as she fled; at least he had convinced her that he wasn't a vampire.

'I'm so humiliated, he'll tell everyone how stupid I am. God, of course there's no such thing as vampires, what was I thinking? Why did I say that?'

Too bad she wouldn't tell all of her friends what he'd said, she'd be too embarrassed. Would he have to repeat this whole hideous performance with every girl in the school? Perhaps he ought to walk out into the sunlight where many people could see him. Just for a minute, just to show them he didn't sparkle. It would be worth the pain.

Still, he couldn't help but continue listening in the vain hope that she might share her experience with others, that the word would spread, that maybe people would leave him alone.Damn Stephenie Meyer.

Unfortunately the girl didn't go to the cafeteria to blurt out a public confession, but headed directly for the bathroom. For the first time, Edward allowed him mind to follow inside. The image of the new girl Isabella flashed by on her way to lock herself in the stall.

'Stupid stupid stupid. How can I face him? He'll tell everyone and then the whole school will know. My life is over.'

'I don't even know her, but she looks upset. Is she alright? Should I ask what's wrong?'

"Um... are you alright?" she asked uncertainly.

'No, go away, leave me alone with my humiliation.'

"Do you need help? I could get someone..."

'She just won't give up, will she?'"No, I'm fine."

'Yes, because I lock myself in the bathroom and ball my eyes out when I'm fine.'"Are you sure?"

'Just stop crying, wipe your face, show that you're okay.' She opened the door the stall, still hiccoughing slightly, trails in her face from where the tears ruined her makeup.

'Poor thing...' Isabella smiled at her, trying to cheer up a girl she didn't even know. "What's wrong?"

'She doesn't know me or Edward. Besides, she'll find out soon enough if he goes off telling everyone.'"I made a fool of myself in front of someone."

"I'm sure it's not so bad."

"No, it is. I made a stupid assumption, something so terrible, so... so stupid. I read too many stupid books and my imagination ran away with me and now he'll hate me now and tell everyone."

'Like Catherine Morland inNorthanger Abbey.' Isabella thought. Edward smirked. She liked the classics. "I'm sure you can fix it. If you talk to him, apologize."

"I can't talk to him after that!" she said, scandalized.

"Ignoring him and hiding in bathrooms will only make it worse, trust me. Just apologize, and try to laugh it off. It'll be forgotten in no time."

"How can I face him again?"

"Were you really close?" she asked sympathetically. 'He'll forgive her if he cares.'

"Erm... well... no, not really." 'I wish I was. I wonder what it would be like to be loved by Edward.

Edward briefly wondered that too.

"Just talk to him anyway. He'll be reasonable about it. This sort of thing happens all the time. It's not the end of the world, I promise." She gave another one of those encouraging smiles.'She probably liked him. Even if the guy doesn't forgive her, there are other fish in the sea. It's not as if her friends and family will abandon her. She still has what's important.

Why didn't she say that last bit aloud? It seemed to be the most important part and yet she left it out.

"I'm Beth, by the way."

"Iz." 'Will that ever sound normal to me?'

"Iz?" 'Iz?'

"It's just what they call me." 'New life, new name. Get used to it, Bells.'

"Nice to meet you, sorry about all this."

"It's no problem, really." 'It's nice to focus onotherpeople's problems.'

"Thanks. I should probably go find him." 'Before I lose my nerve.'

"Good luck." 'I'm sure he'll forgive you. It couldn't really have been that bad.'

Again, Edward wondered why she didn't say that aloud. She seemed to have a maturity most others lacked. How old was she? How did she come to sound like an adult in her mind? He was suddenly curious about her, but he couldn't get the answers he wanted unless she thought them. Unless it's their birthday, few people thought about their age, or why they came to be as mature as they are. The only way he'd get answers to his questions would be to ask her, which was of course, impossible.

Hi, I was just listening into your thoughts the other day and I couldn't help but wonder...

Right...

"Um... Edward?"

Elizabeth Wood had come back to make her apologies.

"Yes?"

"I'm... I'm sorry. It was stupid of me."

"No, I acted badly. I apologize, I shouldn't have insulted you."

"I deserved it."

"No, I over reacted. Don't feel bad. You are not the first girl to do that and unfortunately I doubt you'll be the last." He gave her a rueful grin.

'Thatdoesmake me feel better. I wonder who else did it. I bet Kacy did. Probably Anna too.'

She chuckled awkwardly and waved bye, running off to use what remained of the lunch hour to eat and talk with her friends as Edward turned in the direction of his English class.

One down, 314 to go, he thought. Still, he'd have the chance to drop in on Isabella's thoughts during English. To his surprise, she was already there. Did she not go to lunch? Why not?

'Ugh,'she thought when she saw him and immediately turned away. Well that was a new one. It was almost... refreshing? 'Here comes another one. I just wanted some peace and quiet. Honestly, they act as if I'm the only girl in this school.'

That's right, he'd heard the thoughts himself. They had all planned on making their move at lunch time. He could see through her mind the assault she had suffered through in the cafeteria, several different guys trying to get her to sit with them, to pay for her lunch, to talk to her. She'd felt overwhelmed, annoyed, and even slightly afraid. Edward could understand that. That was what he went through every day.

He felt he ought to apologize to her. It was because all the women were after him that she seemed to be the only girl available for the other guys. But from the resentment directed towards his sex that was radiating from her, he decided now was not the best time to strike up a conversation. She'd take it the wrong way.

He took his seat in the very back next to the window. He needed to be near a clean air supply when surrounded by humans. Still, with no one else in the room he could smell her perfectly.Nice, he thought. Very appealing. But not enough to tempt him into making things difficult for himself.

He pulled out a book to pretend to read as he eavesdropped. Unfortunately her mind was focused on the novel she was reading. He'd read that one, in fact he'd read a lot of books. In his life he had a lot of spare time. Books filled it up nicely. He wondered if she would enjoy The Kite Runner, what she would think about it. Come to think of it, what music did she like? What did she do in her spare time? He'd find out eventually. One of the boys was bound to ask her and he'd hear her answers.

Mary-Anne sped into the room thinking triumphant thoughts but stopped immediately when she saw him already there.

'What do I do. Can I sit next to him when there's no one else here? Will he think that's weird? Should I try to talk to him? But he's reading... he be annoyed if I interrupt?'

To save both of them any anguish, he got up and left, leaving his things in his seat, pretending he needed that bathroom. He didn't, of course. His body didn't work that way, but he made frequent trips there throughout the day to keep up appearances. He left his mental ears in the classroom though, in case Mary-Anne said anything to Isabella.

She didn't. But she did get into an argument with her best friend about her getting to sit next to him twice in the same week. Other girls joined a moment later, put out that they were too late, yet again.

'Is sitting in the back really that important?' thought Isabella. He was grateful none of the girls had mentioned his name. They seemed embarrassed to admit aloud. So much the better, the new girl wouldn't think to notice him. Not that she'd have much time to. She was besieged by a fresh wave of eager males. 'Do people actually find me more attractive here? No, that's nonsense. There must be some kind of bet, who can get the new girl. Good luck with that one, boys,'she thought sarcastically.

"I'll be right back, just going to the bathroom before class," she excused herself. 'I don't even know where they are. I'll just wander around until the bell rings. Maybe I'll sit outside. No, I don't want to get my book wet. I'll have to leave it here.'

He followed her thoughts out the door, down the hall, out the main doors, down the steps and to a table where no one was sitting due to the rain. She pulled up her hood and sat.'Where's Jake when you need him,' she thought wistfully. 'Too bad I'm not part of the tribe; I could go to school on reservation too. At least I'd know people.'Her thoughts changed into a series of happier scenes from her past tainted with the typical nostalgia of older people who have already outlived their youth. It was out of place in a girl so young.

He left the relative protection of the bathroom to return to usual, he did his best to tune out the thoughts of those around him, but to do so entirely was impossible. He might be able to blur the actual words, but the resentment, hate, lust, and hope was as inescapable as it was unmistakable.

He tried to be as polite as possible to the girls who attempted conversation, but he didn't want to encourage them, answering as succinctly as possible.

The first bell rang and a minute later Isabella walked in the door. She cast a cursory glance about the room and for the first time she met his eyes. She looked away quickly though, and he thought he read a small smirk in the corner of her lips.

'Poor guy looks as miserable as I feel.' He then saw an image of himself sitting back perfectly straight, but leaning slightly towards the wall, as if in attempt to put distance between himself and those next to him. He realized that he did, indeed, sit that way and tried to relax into a more humanoid posture. 'But the mystery of the crowded back row is solved. All I need is a mustache and a Belgian accent and I could be Hercule Poirot.' She snorted to herself, looking back to her female classmates shaking her head. 'More like Nancy Drew,' she thought drily.

Edward found her literary scope amusing. She seemed to reference real life with literature. The teacher walked in, pleased to see that Isabella was once again sitting in the front willing to pay attention, and that her presence had brought forth a few other students to the front row as well. He doubted their motives, and rightly so.

They read aloud that day, so most people were forced to follow along so as to not miss their own cues.

Witch shrewd logic, Mr. Mathews assigned Edward the role of Hamlet, assuming (correctly) that the girls would be more inclined to pay attention if he were often speaking. Several were eager to then volunteer for the role of Ophelia. Isabella ended up playing Polonius, whom Hamlet misguidedly murders.

She, Isabella that is, seemed nervous when she had to read her lines. She stumbled over a few in the beginning. 'Way to go, Bella. People will think I'm illiterate.'

Edward, who had spent a shameful amount of recent time in her head, knew the absurdity in her being unable to read.

.

The following fortnight was spent in the same manner, him avoiding actual interaction with her, but spying on her from other people's eyes. He tried to give her privacy, when he thought about it, but he didn't often remember. He had found out where she worked, but had resisted going there to 'run into' her as if by happenstance rather than design. Once he found her entranced in a book he had somehow not yet read, which he bought and read that evening just to understand her a bit more She was always thinking about things, and more often than not it was relatively interesting. Edward, who knew his classmates well enough after 2 years of being forced to hear their every thought, found it oddly fascinating to see this world through the eyes of a newcomer. Her silent observations were more often than not alarmingly accurate, and she couldn't even read minds. She was just unnaturally perceptive, empathetic. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, she maintained a distance from her peers. She reminded him of himself; in close quarters with everyone else, but mentally miles away, or at least wishing to be. For this he felt closer to her, even though he had never spoken a word to her, and she hadn't given him much thought since that day in English two weeks previous. He would know, he checked often enough.

Strange, he had meant to pick up poker as his new hobby and somehow it had turned into mentally stalking Bella instead. For that's how she called herself in her own mind. He'd gotten used to that appellation, rather than the one she insisted other people use.

And no, the irony that her name was Isabella wasn't lost on him. It was just another one of those disgusting coincidences he refused to acknowledge. He could only be grateful that the other superstitious students knew her only as Iz or Izzy. When he thought about it the nickname seemed entirely inappropriate, too frivolous for such a serious soul.

'Back off Cullen, she's mine,' someone thought possessively, bringing him out of his thoughts. Beau Jackson was given him a death glare. 'He has every girl in the school after him and he's going after Iz? He's just doing it to be a prick. Show off.'

Edward was ashamed of himself for having been outwardly staring. He used to be more subtle, but she was just three tables down in the cafeteria, directly in his sights. He couldn't help it. He'd been so focused on her thoughts the others had been mostly drowned out. Now that he was paying attention he heard girls wishing evil fates to befall Bella.

'Bitch,' they said unrepentantly. 'What does she have that I don't? She's not that attractive, why does he keep staring at her?'

She has a mind worth being in, for one, he silently answered.

'She should go back to that private school she came from,'thought another girl. 'She thinks she's special just because she's new.'

Edward knew she thought no such thing. She wasn't oblivious to the disapproving stares, just confused by them. She didn't understand why this week, people suddenly disliked her when last week they didn't seem to mind. She took it personally, and once more Edward felt the need to apologize. Again, it was his fault. He hadn't even introduced himself, he couldn't very well say sorry for an offence he couldn't even admit to.

He wanted to do something, stand up for her, protect her from the malevolent thoughts of catty girls who had no defendable reason to dislike her. But how? He hadn't truly interacted with humans in years. Not only that but his interference would seem entirely uncalled for to everyone else. What would he accuse them of, thinking mean things?

Annoyed by his impotence to do anything to defend her, he got up, tossed his uneaten food into the trash and stormed out of the room, furiously ignoring the confused thoughts he left behind him. Unwilling to go to English, where he knew a fan girl would be sitting in wait to ambush him, he went to sit on the bench outside which Bella frequently used before class. It wasn't raining that day, but still overcast enough to ease any worries he might have had.

He put his headphones and listened to calming music, it always helped him block out other thoughts if he could concentrate hard enough on the peaceful tune. Clair de Lune was a personal favourite of his.

For some reason, he was surprised when Bella appeared, clearly heading for her usual table. She was disappointed to see it already taken. Upset, she turned around to go.

"Wait," he called out to her. She stopped and turned around curiously. 'Was he talking to me?'

He felt bad for taking her spot. For it was hers, in both their minds. "You can have it. I'll find someplace else."

Before she could say anything (knowing her she would insist he stay, despite his blatant theft) he got up and strode purposefully away. Planning to sit himself under a tree 20 yards off.

In her thoughts he saw himself stalk away. 'Kind of him,' she thought. 'Odd, but kind. I can imagine why he wants to get away too. English class would try anyone's patience.'

She opened her book and read, her thoughts moving away from him and onto the characters. He noticed that this disappointed him slightly. She was so understanding of others, yet she made no attempt to understand him. He found himself wishing she'd try.

When the first bell rang, she thought, 'One more page to finish the chapter, then I'll go in,' and picked up the pace of her reading. He made it back to the classroom before her therefore, and took his usual seat. When she came in a minute later he caught her eye. She gave him a quick embarrassed smile, thinking but not saying a very genuine, 'Thank you,' before turning away, which elicited several bad names to be mentally hurled at her from across the room accompanied by aggravated male grumbling along the lines of 'Damn it, Cullen finally got to her.' This wasn't true, of course, but that didn't stop Edward from smiling at the thought.