Darlings,

And so the two shall meet.

Thank you, Project Team Beta, you are my shiny light break in the storm...as Joni would say. I apologize for my incessant misuse of commas and semicolons.

Again, quoted italics are lyrics from Joni Mitchell songs.

Disclaimer: I don't own it.

CH 2 I Hate You Some, I Love You Some

BPOV

As the cabin pressure dipped and the plane began its descent into Seattle, I glanced longingly at the broad band of blue. The sun was beginning to sink below the hazy cloud cover, igniting the milky barrier in opalescence: "Ice cream castles in the air…" The plane quickly became engulfed in the white billows and then a flood of gray and green. The finality of this transition caught in my throat and I stifled a sob, closing my eyes and leaning against the headrest. Breathe, Bella, damnit. You can handle this.

I took a cab to my father's house. He had been rushed into emergency surgery last week, spent four days in the hospital and sent home to recover. Four days. They opened his chest, bypassed three of his coronary arteries, harvesting the necessary grafts from a large blood vessel in his leg and sent him home four days later. It seemed a lot to ask of an old, out of shape body.

As the car approached Forks, I felt a strong sense of familiarity and dread. I knew this town. I had lived here for the first ten years of my life, but I was an outsider now. The daughter that the Chief didn't want, offspring of a flighty ex-wife, coming home to nurse her poor hero of a father. I couldn't fathom the random-ass shit I was going to endure tomorrow, my first day of school at Forks High.

And then I was there, in the driveway of that house. It hadn't changed at all. It looked worn and neglected, paint peeling from the wood siding, overgrown foliage covering the windows with green. It looked vacant and still; however, I knew what awaited me inside. My stomach lurched and I felt the nausea brimming, even though there was nothing left to purge.

I unloaded my suitcase from the trunk, paid the fare with the small amount of cash my mom had given me before I left, and keeled over to put my head between my knees. What am I doing here? This is my nightmare; I am walking willfully into my own personal hell. Stop being an idiot, Bella. Get the fuck in the house, it's freezing out here.

I made my way carefully up the icy path to the front door, pausing often to regain my balance. Sneakers don't have much traction. I am so not prepared for this. I grabbed the knob and taking a deep breath, walked through the door.

A slight musty smell invaded my senses first, then bleach and plastic, the clinical scent of hospital equipment. I searched for the tobacco or the grease, the after shave or even the bread; but I couldn't find a trace of my past here. I must have looked like a moron, moving around the small entry way, sniffing the air.

"Hello?" I called out, setting my suitcase down. I made my way to the living room. It was littered with clothing, books, magazines, piles of mail, and various medical paraphernalia wrapped in pristine plastic. The inside of the house mirrored the exterior and I found myself recalling memories of fishing poles and bear hugs. I looked around again. It wasn't all that different, really, the clutter camouflaging the fact that nothing had changed. Even the furniture was still in the same arrangement. I stared at the couch, velvet and dusty, recalling the hundreds of times I had curled up there with a crocheted afghan and my bowl of Honeycomb to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I realized that not one of these things held any comfort for me now, not the couch or the cartoons and most definitely not the Honeycomb.

Where the hell was everybody? I called out again. "Hello?"

"Isabella?" A soft voice from upstairs called my formal name.

Here we go.

"Yeah." I dragged my feet up the stairs. I made my way to one of the two bedrooms. The Chief was situated in his bed. He was wearing gray sweats and a thin t-shirt and he looked like hell. I mean, really awful. His massive form took up much more of the bed than it should have and his dark hair, interspersed with gray, was sticking to his forehead, a thick mustache overpowering his lips. He had dark black bruises under both eyes and his arms were riddled with puncture wounds. He wasn't anything like I remembered. He was broken and soft, defeat etched across his brow and in the creases of his eyes.

"Bella. I just…It's just Bella…now," I explained, shifting uncomfortably in the small space.

"Billy had to leave, but I expect someone will be coming around soon to bring dinner, so if you're hungry…" he replied quickly.

"Oh. Okay. Is there anything you need me to do, to get?" I hadn't expected this indifference. Charlie was acting like I'd just been up in my room for the last seven years.

"Well, the mail hasn't been attended to and we're pretty much out of groceries; so if you'll be wanting anything special, you'll need to go to the market." He avoided my eyes, looking instead at my shoulder.

"Sure, I can take care of the groceries." That was easy enough. "I can cook too. So, if you want, I can make the meals."

"You can cook?" He was surprised.

"Yeah, I've picked up a few things," I shrugged.

"Okay. Your room is down the hall. I had Sue Clearwater get some things for you. I hope it's okay." I tried to remember the Clearwaters but came up blank.

We stood in silence a bit longer. I was dying to escape that room, but didn't want to seem too anxious.

"Okay. Well, let me know if you need anything." I finally said, moving towards the door.

"I'm glad you're here, Bella." He mumbled to the tiny window.

I left the room then and found the bathroom. I washed my face and ran my fingers through the tangled beast that is my hair. I had to admit, I expected a much bigger confrontation upon our reunion. I foresaw a long, drawn out, epic fight scene, full of dramatic displays of remorse and pained declarations of wrongdoing. I was going to tell him off, tell him exactly how much he had ruined me. But when I saw him helpless, broken, perforated with dependency, I couldn't be the one to shatter him further.

That night, I stepped into my position as caretaker. I cleaned the kitchen and downstairs living room. I found places for things that had no place. I brought Charlie his array of meds when it was time. I met and socialized briefly with the Clearwaters when they had brought the Chief his supper. I did laundry and I sighed at the fact that I was existing here in the exact same fashion as I had in Phoenix. I was tired and satisfied with my offering to Karma when I finally laid down on the purple comforter in the tiny bedroom that had been mine once before.

I was still in my clothes from the night before when I awoke. The rain had kept me up most of the night, reminding me of my location. I dragged my sorry, sleepy ass out of bed and went to ready myself for the impending doom that was to ensue this very day. I realized that I hadn't even bothered to unpack last night.

I snuck a peak in Charlie's room. He was asleep, sitting up slightly. The small television was blaring some infomercial for exercise equipment.

I quickly showered and assessed my wardrobe situation. I had a very small selection of jeans and t-shirts to choose from. I settled on my boot-cut jeans and my favorite Stones t-shirt. Yeah, it was old, faded and torn, but it was so molded. You know, forming me perfectly in all the most contented places, a tiny cocoon of comfort without drawing attention to the protruding collarbones or shoulder blades that often raised suspicions. I have to be careful not to look too skinny. People start questioning, figuring shit out.

I examined my face in the mirror. Sallow, sunken in cheeks, and black circles enveloping my dark brown eyes. Forks was going to have a field day. I tried to smooth my unruly hair, but with the misty, humid air of the Olympic Peninsula, I was fighting an uphill battle. I left it down, hopefully it would distract from my face.

I checked in with Charlie. I had no idea how I was going to get to school. I didn't think walking was a viable option, seeing as how I could hardly walk across a flat surface without tripping over my own feet. Charlie was awake now, just staring out the window into misty gray nothingness.

"Umm, so, I have to go to school today. Is anyone…" Charlie interrupted before I could finish.

"There's a truck, in the garage. You can drive that to school. The school's just off the main highway, you'll see a sign." His voice was like gravel. "Sue Clearwater will be here this morning and then Billy Black in the afternoon until you get home from school," he continued.

"Okay. Well, I'm going to leave now." I blurted out. "I mean, I don't want to be late and I don't really know where I'm going so…"

"Drive careful." Charlie wouldn't even look at me. This lack of attention was confusing. Did he really hate me so much that he couldn't stand the sight of me? Or worse, did he not care enough even to hate me? Because it wasn't hate in his expression and voice. It wasn't anything.

"Yeah," was all I could think of to say.

I left quickly, slipping on my sneakers, grabbing my heavy corduroy coat and tote bag, just itching to get out of that house. I found an old, decrepit looking truck in the garage. It smelled like grease and tobacco. The smell was overwhelming, dredging up memories I had kept in a distant pocket of my mind. I almost got out and walked. It really was freaking cold though, and comfort won me over again. The keys were in the ignition and I started it up, blasting the heater.

I pulled into the parking lot at the small school a short while later. Students were starting to arrive in flocks now, exiting their cars and greeting each other with exuberance. I grabbed my tote and made my way to the front office, just trying to blend in. I blasted Joni on my mp3 player, taking solace in the kind and familiar voice. "Will you take me as I am?"

It was lunch and I was going to hurl. I felt the desperation, that acute awareness of bile swelling in my chest and burning in the back of my throat. I had to get it out. I was suffocating, choking on the insanity of this decision, to do this here at school. A fucking new school, where I haven't acclimated myself to the most convenient or safest place to, um, evacuate.

I should have just told them I wasn't hungry or that I was allergic to milk or something. The day had not been as bad as I thought. Everyone just seemed really curious. I had met a couple of kids. Er, Jennifer? No, Jeanette? Jessica! Her name is Jessica, like the singer, curvy and fake. Then there was Mark… or Mike…? Yes, Mike Newton, like the fig, a chewy fruited cake. Anyway, they seemed nice enough, contrived and ridiculous, yes, but they were helpful. As lunch approached, I knew I would have to handle the situation with some finesse.

After Spanish, Jessica and I walked to the lunchroom. I had gotten a plate of fruit and a bottle of lemonade from the lunch counter and followed Jessica to sit at their table, fully intending on eating some grapes and tossing the rest. Fruits and vegetables affected me the least; I could usually keep a couple carrot sticks or apple slices down. This appeased any overly perceptive onlookers. I whipped out my reading material and tried to casually look like I was eating, just very slowly, on account of me being so utterly immersed in my classic literature. The guy, Mike, was acting a bit more enthralled with my existence than I cared for and kept commenting on how skinny I was, how petite, minuscule, tiny, ugh, shut up! I mean really, who fucking says that to someone they've barely met?

Then they started asking questions about my mom, Phoenix, my dad, and I just couldn't take it. One of them, Tyler something-or-other, made some comment about how I need to eat and threw a slice of pizza across the table and onto my plate. I just ate it. Partially to shut them up, but a small part of me just wanted to be normal with them, eat fucking pizza and not have to punish myself.

And now I was frantically searching for a secluded bathroom, somewhere that looked like it remained pretty vacant. I found a girls restroom towards the back of the school, behind the science building. I catapulted myself through the door of the first stall and heaved into the toilet. This was a new low, curling over a public toilet, my knees on the cool, grimy tile. I didn't even want to touch the thing. The thought in itself brought on a new wave of nausea and I wretched again. I stilled, panting and spitting into the bowl. I grabbed some cheap, public restroom, toilet paper and wiped my mouth.

I walked out of the stall and the tiniest pixie of a girl was standing in front of me. Her small frame was wrapped in soft gauze, her peasant blouse flowing around her. Long sleeves hid her tiny fingers, which seemed to be clutching onto a bundle of silk. She wore flared jeans that looked vintage, secondhand, patched and embroidered with delicate flowers. Her small feet donned a pair of black Doc Marten boots, scuffed and wrinkled, and a large paisley bag slung sloppily over her shoulder.

Her face was some sort of stunning. Not the beautiful you find in a magazine, but ethereal and wispy, not of this planet. She gazed past her perfectly pointy nose at me, her cool jade eyes surveying the situation. She brought her empty hand to her black tuft of hair, scratching her head, not removing her eyes.

"Tough day, huh?" She spoke, a chiming soprano and immediately I was comforted. "Little Green, be a gypsy dancer,"Joni's words rang in my peripheral.

"I'm allergic to milk." I blurted out, moving to the sink, washing my hands and rinsing my mouth. I'd been caught like this before, back in Phoenix. The best thing to do is to pretend like nothing out of the ordinary is happening. People don't usually see the obvious. So I don't know why I had decided to lie, to fake a cover. Something told me she was well informed, intuition thick in her deep eyes.

"You want a smoke?" She casually reached in her bag pulling out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

"Yeah, sure." Anything to get that taste out of my mouth. I placed the slender, papery, cylinder between my lips, lighting it swiftly and inhaling deeply, the smoke swirling around me as I exhaled. It was no peppermint, but it would do.

She stepped into a stall and balancing on the toilet, popped open the two small windows that butted up against the ceiling. Her cigarette was dangling from the corner of her lips, her silk parcel still in her fist.

"This bathroom's the best for school day smokes. They forgot to install a smoke detector in here and if you leave the windows open, you can hardly even smell the smoke." The girl mumbled, the cigarette bobbing as she talked. She jumped gracefully to the floor in front of me and lit her cigarette quickly, taking a long pull and whispering an exhale.

"I'm Alice. Alice Cullen," She stood against the tile wall, leaning casually between the stall and the paper towel dispenser.

"Bella," I took another drag, flicking the ash before exhaling.

"Did you just move here Bella?" Alice eyed me inquisitively. She looked too young to be in high school and why was she smoking? Kids shouldn't smoke.

"Yeah, I'm here to help my dad." It sounded like a question. "How old are you Alice?"

"Sixteen," She puffed that cigarette like she'd been smoking for years, not wasting one drag. I'd hung out with girls who pretended to smoke, you know, to look sexy or whatever. They usually wasted the whole fucking cigarette, just standing there, holding on to it, letting the ash accumulate while it burned. Not Alice. She quickly finished, tossing her butt in the toilet, and produced a fresh cigarette in seconds, lighting it and inhaling in the same fashion as before.

"Don't you think you're a little too young to smoke?" I asked her, a double standard I know. She just looked so young; like thirteen or fourteen, and that was because of her eye makeup. Could you imagine watching a thirteen-year-old gulping cigarettes like a chain smoker? It was borderline disturbing.

"Don't you think you're a little too old to be puking on the first day of school?" She retorted, acknowledging my hypocrisy.

I grinned at that, because she was so dead on. I was relieved that she passed my "episode" off as first day jitters. I didn't want to lie to her again. I liked her; she was someone I could easily be friends with.

She finished her cigarette, disposing of the evidence as before and shoved her stuff in her large bag. She made to leave, pausing at the door.

"I'll see you around Bella." She said lazily as she walked out the door.

I quickly finished and like Alice, tossed the butt in the toilet and flushed. I made my way back to the lunchroom, searching for my tote. Luckily, my bag was still in the empty lunchroom, hidden under the chair I'd been sitting in. I grabbed the bag and searched for a peppermint. I slipped one in my mouth and pulled out my mp3 player, immersing myself in piano and soft melodies. "And her coat's a secondhand one…"

There was no way in hell I was walking into my next class now that I was unforgivably late. Advanced Biology would have to wait until tomorrow. I sat in my truck the rest of the day, reading and listening, and just folding in on myself.

EPOV

The school had been a buzz of electricity all day. Every inch of the small campus was humming with excitement, all because of some stupid girl. I hated to be one to give in to preconceived notions, but if Emmett was correct in his assumptions, the whole of Forks had been anticipating a mindless, vacant plaything. I had seen them earlier, in-between classes, walking a little too close to the new girl, trying to place some unspoken claim. Tap, tap, she's mine and shit.

It was pathetic, like she was the last good shovel at the sandbox, a shiny, new toy brought out for show and tell and they all wanted a chance to hold and fondle the acquisition. The girls were hoping she would become their best friend, making them marginally cooler by adding a sense of mystery. The males, well, they just want to play doctor with the naughty nurse. It's really hard to find new people to date in a town like Forks. The dating pool is like a carousel, going round and round, everyone just swapping ponies. And though I didn't want to admit it, I'd even taken a ride or two. Rosalie, my cousin's girlfriend, was also my first kiss. It didn't mean anything, at all. We were at Jessica Stanley's 15th birthday party and like a dumb fuck, I got tricked into playing spin the bottle. Because that's what kids in Forks do to get off, they take turns kissing each other.

I didn't really get a good look at the new girl. She was constantly surrounded by Stanley and her cronies and there was no way I was going near that. Fake-ass bitches. Mike Newton looked like he was going to blow a load right there in the lunch room. She was smaller than I had anticipated and her hair was dark, keeping her face hidden. She just looked average, like an ordinary girl. I really couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

Alice seemed to be unusually interested in this new girl, Isabella, I think I had heard someone call her. She kept craning her neck, trying to catch a glimpse of her face. She was also fiddling with her cards again. I shot her a warning glance, put them the fuck away, I was trying to tell her. She just glared at me and tossed the bundle in her bag, took out a bag of carrot sticks and proceeded to munch.

"Well, personally, I don't see what everyone's so worked up about." Rosalie declared, trying to sound indifferent. Rosalie was pissed. This was probably the first time that Newton, did not eyeball her ass as she sauntered into the lunchroom. "I mean, she's nothing to look at. Like literally, there's nothing to her. She looks malnourished, like one of those Sally Struthers commercials. She doesn't even have boobs, for Christ's sake."

"Babe, she's just new; it'll wear off." Emmett took another rather pointed look at the new girl. "Yeah, you're right. No boobs." He looked disappointed, naughty nurse fizzling away. Rosalie just glared at him, smacking his massive bicep with her flat palm.

Jasper, Rosalie's brother, entered the lunchroom, taking a detour so he could pass Stanley and her new project. He casually walked over to our table, hands in his pockets.

"Hey, Rose, give me your keys." Jasper sat down next to Alice, facing Rosalie. He glanced sideways at my sister so quickly, if I hadn't been looking in his direction I would have missed it. Alice just looked down at her bag and…blushed? Was she fucking blushing?

"Why the hell would I give you my keys, Jasper? You know you're not allowed to drive my car, or anything else for the matter." Rosalie smiled sweetly at her twin. Jasper used to ride this Ducati, but last month, after a night of substance induced stupor, he accidentally-or maybe it was intentional, you really can't tell with Jasper-drove it through the front window of the only Walgreens for miles. The geriatric community was in an uproar. Jasper got off easy, community service, thanks in part to a large donation on behalf of the Hale family to the Forks Senior Center.

"I just need to get my shit out of the trunk." Jasper brought his hands to the table, leaning forward. "I'll bring them right back."

Alice quietly got up from her chair. "I'll see you guys around. I gotta use the little girl's room," she said lightly and skipped out of the lunchroom.

"I swear Jasper, if you so much as breathe on the ignition, I'm telling mom about the porn and the pot and your little gir-," Jasper stood up, making his chair scrape loudly against the linoleum.

"All right! Fuck! Do you have to be such a bitch all the time?" Jasper interrupted. Rosalie threw her keys at him, hitting him in the chest. He fumbled to catch them before they fell to the floor, then turned, raised his hand slightly in the air and flipped her off as he walked out of the lunch room.

"Hey, where'd Stanley's pet go?" Rosalie was trying not to obviously stare at the table the new girl was no longer occupying.

I smirked to myself, turning to look at the table. Apparently, even the best of us get caught up at the sandbox.

Alice met me at the Volvo and I drove her home after school. I had to go to the market to get some ingredients for dinner. At some point in the past two years, I had taken over the cooking duties. When I first moved here, Carlisle had thought the culinary classes would be a good outlet for my…behavior. He signed Alice and I up for this vocational program, designed for high school students suffering from all kinds of shit; mental illness, abuse, traumatic loss. I just kind of had a knack for cooking.

After the program ended, I started watching Food Network, learning everything I could about special techniques and how to choose ingredients, blend flavors and use spices. I learned about the chemistry of cooking, which foods were acidic and which were basic, which unions complimented each other and which were fucking disasters. It was a distraction and I was able to distract the people around me without really having to even talk to them. As long as I was cooking, Carlisle and Esme felt I was stable, interacting, and functioning in society: normal. It was all I had to offer, because God knows I wasn't going to discuss any of this shit with them. They'd have me back on those meds in a mad rush and I can't cook all catatonic.

Pulling from my musing, I parked at the local organic market and pulled a shopping cart from the pile. I had to focus now. Grocery shopping is my favorite part of cooking. All the possibilities piled in neat, tidy rows of inspiration. I was in my element, searching the fresh produce first. I walked slowly down each aisle, choosing carefully, inspecting tomatoes for blemishes, peeling away layers of onion, smelling the fresh basil, oregano and thyme, filling my cart with raw materials for my masterpieces.

I was thoroughly engrossed in choosing a basket of strawberries when a soft, tiny form slammed into my back. I pitched forward into the display, crushing several containers of berries in the process.

"Shit!" I heard a low oath behind me. I spun around to find myself staring down at a thick tangle of mahogany hair. "Shit, I'm sorry. I'm just…shit." She was staring down at the ground, her delicate face a soft shade of pink.

I took the lack of eye contact as an opportunity to scrutinize the small figure that had just assaulted me in the produce aisle of the grocery store. She was pulling at her fingers, twisting the tips of each digit over and over again, her tiny wrists twirling gently. She had tons of almost black hair, cascading down the middle of her back overpowering and deeply contrasting her pale, heart-shaped face. Her full bottom lip was caught between her teeth and my gaze lingered here, my eyes intent on her plump pink lip, her white teeth gently pressing, accentuated with the tiniest gap. She was skinny, too skinny, her jeans hanging low on her hips, her shirt two sizes too big, emblazoned with a big set of red lips and that signature tongue.

"A fan of the classics?" I asked with a smirk.

"Huh?" She finally looked up at me. Her wide expansive eyes were velvet, smooth and brown, framed by dark feathery lashes, the skin of her lids and cheekbones shadowed. Her gaze was unrestraining and penetrating, as if I had never really been seen before this moment. I was overcome with the desire to see the world through these eyes, these ever reaching portals, jealous of the minute facets they must be able to detect and infiltrate. My breath sort of caught in my chest as I lost my focus, inching closer to her, trying to find the bottom of those deep pools. Energy was palpable in the atmosphere, radiating and humming, so thick I could feel every tiny hair on my body stand on end. And then I could smell her, floral, sweet, organic and natural, like lavender blooming in the spring.

Tap, Tap, she's mine…

She gasped and then exhaled, blanketing my face with warm peppermint, her eyes narrowed inquisitively. "Do I know you? Your eyes…I've seen them. Before. I mean, they're familiar." She shook her head, closing her lids.

I pursed my lips, "I don't think so." No, I would have remembered that meeting, just as surely as I would not forget this one.

"Hmmm," she shook her head again waving her hand, "Never mind."

I stepped back, gathering myself and looked down as well, running a hand through my hair, smoothing it from my face. "Your shirt. The Stones, right" I explained myself.

"Oh. Right, classic." She smiled a small smile and glanced up swiftly through the safety of her lashes, flushing pink and rosy again. "Sorry I crashed into you. I tripped."

"You're Chief Swan's daughter, Isabella?" Jesus, I hope that's her name. I internally kicked myself for losing my feigned nonchalance.

"Just Bella." She looked down again. Why won't she look at me?

"Bella, is that Italian?" I inquired, trying to meet her gaze.

"I guess so." She bit that damn lip again, forcing my eyes there.

"Well Bella, it was nice, er, being assaulted by you this afternoon?" I was trying to be funny and failing miserably. Why wouldn't my brain tell my mouth to shut the fuck up?

She grimaced. "Sorry, I shouldn't be let out of the house. I'm a danger to everyone around me, including myself."

I snorted; she looked about as dangerous as a small kitten, a tiny, awkward, soft, warm kitten.

Holy hell, I'm making gaga eyes at this girl and equating her with kittens and flowers. I had to get this shit under control.

"Well, I'll see you around, Bella." I said quickly. I didn't want to be a dick, but I couldn't drag her into this mess. She'd be running for the hills if she knew about the ticking bomb, constantly set to self-destruct.

I grabbed some strawberries and tried to hightail it out of there, but she called to me as I was leaving.

"Hey! What's your name?"

I stopped. This is a bad idea. Pretend you didn't hear her and avoid her like the plague that you are.

But I couldn't do that, now could I? Because my life wasn't fucked up enough as it is, because I was beginning to realize I had no control against the gravity pulling me to her, magnetic, stars aligning, cosmic bullshit or whatever, and because all I could think about was her warm body pressed up against me, filling me up. I stopped.

"Edward. Edward Cullen." I quickly made my way through the checkout line and rushed home. I had to see Alice.

"Alice?" I walked in the door, carrying the groceries to the kitchen and setting them on the counter. I ran to the stairs. "Alice?"

"Edward, what's wrong?" Esme appeared at the top of the stairs.

"Nothing." Everything. "I just need to ask Alice something."

"She's not here. She went for a walk." Esme eyed me carefully. "Are you okay?"

"What do you mean, she went for a walk? Since when does she go for walks?" Shit, we needed to do this now, before I chickened out.

"She's been doing this for weeks now. She says it clears her head, "It soothes my soul" were her words, I believe. You know how she is," she shrugged.

Esme was always the portrait of calm, care, and patience. She used to be an interior decorator, but she quit her job when Alice and I came to live here. She said she wanted to focus on us, that being a mom was a fulltime job, and one she didn't take lightly. And she didn't, she treated us exactly like she treated her own son, Emmett. She loved us all equally, giving of herself everything she could and I respected the hell out of her. But she wasn't my mother. My mother was in a cemetery in Chicago.

I turned, leaving Esme at the top of the stairs, and walked back to the kitchen, removing the groceries from the bags and putting them in their proper places. I was making a Vegetable Lasagna tonight, which takes an hour or so to cook, so I quickly sharpened the blade of my knife and started chopping the vegetables. Zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and fresh spinach, my knife whirled through them in minutes. I was getting quite accomplished in slicing, cubing and mincing but Julienning was still a bitch. Luckily, lasagna doesn't require tiny sticks of veggies, so my cuts were perfect and swift.

I pulled out the leftover sauce from the night before and then mixed the ricotta and shredded the mozzarella. I had just put on a large pot of water to boil when I heard the front door open and close.

Alice glided into the kitchen, slightly flushed, from walking I guess. Her cheeks were pink, her blush reminding me of my initial urgency to see her.

"Hey," she said lazily and plopped herself onto the counter.

"Hey," I replied. My earlier frantic demeanor had been silenced by the therapeutic relief of cutting shit up. I didn't know how to ask her now.

"Seen anything interesting lately?" I hedged, hoping she'd figure it out.

She looked at me, confused. "I saw the Crowley's cat licking its balls on our front porch." Apparently, I was going to have to be more direct.

"No, Alice, have you seen anything?" I emphasized the word and pointed to the middle of my forehead, indicating the psychic, all-seeing third eye. Alice loves that shit, astrology, palm reading, tarot cards. She thinks she's psychic and I'll admit she's been right on more than one occasion.

"Um, what are you talking about? Does it say "Fuck You" on your forehead or something?" Oh my God, how could she not get it.

"Fuck, Alice, can you read your cards for me?" I just came out and asked because I only had an hour. I put the noodles and a bit of olive oil into the boiling water.

"Oh! Oh, I get it, third eye, right." Alice jumped off the counter and went up the stairs. She returned in a few moments with her cards, neatly wrapped in a silk scarf. She unbound the cards, laying the scarf delicately on the countertop.

"No longer a skeptic?" she asked as she shuffled the cards. She called it "seasoning" but it looked like plain old poker shuffling to me.

"I'm just curious. I think it'd be interesting if you could predict something actually before it happened." I smiled at my sister, stirring the boiling noodles.

"If you're going to make fun, I'm not going to do this." Alice took her "craft" very seriously.

"I'm joking. I really am curious." I pulled the barely cooked noodles from the water and rinsed them in the sink. "Besides, you know you're dying to do it."

"Okay, okay. Enough." She took a couple deep breaths, the cards still in her hand. "Edward, I want you to open your mind and ask a question. You can ask it out loud or keep it to yourself, but I'm going to ask that you meditate on this question for the duration of the reading."

I rolled my eyes. Alice has read for everyone; Emmett, Esme, Carlisle and even Rosalie. I have never explicitly asked her to read for me, like this. Sometimes she would perform these "random readings," as she called them, like the one yesterday. She claimed that those readings were brought on by some inexplicable inspiration, something beyond this realm. Alice thought they were more powerful, more meaningful because they didn't pertain to anything in particular. I'll admit, they were far more intense than the readings I'd seen her perform for our family. The random readings caused her to slip into an almost trancelike state, voicing the first connection to the card that came to mind. That's why she wrote them in her notebook, so she could compare her predictions with actual events, to gauge accuracy.

It was all just a real tough pill to swallow; that the random placing of cards could bear some indication on the future. And it was just so subjective. Any reader could interpret the cards based on what the subject wanted to know. But I was in foreign territory, with this whole "feelings" thing. I was fucking desperate here. After the encounter with Bella in the grocery store, I wasn't sure I could count anything out anymore, because if anything is more skeptical than fortune telling, it's love-at-first-sight.

I mentally scolded myself for using the "L" word. How can you love someone you've only spoken to once? "You know I'm not going to say it out loud," I said to Alice, who was now spreading all the cards out in front of her on the scarf, raking her fingers through them, mixing the up.

Alice sighed. "It would make it so much easier! Please?"

"No way." No way in hell was I going to tell her what I was thinking about. She'd be laughing her ass off for weeks.

"Alright, "ask" away." Alice rolled her eyes at me before closing them.

I knew what I wanted to ask. It constantly affected every decision I made, forcing me to live as a shell of a human being, reigning over my emotions. That bomb, ready to go off any day now…

Will I hurt Isabella Swan?

I meditated on this phrase and I began piling the layers of noodles, cheeses, sauce and veggies, my fingers working; rhythmic and automatic. And Alice began laying the cards.

"I'm going to use the cross spread tonight, because this is a special reading, isn't it?" Damn her and her intuition.

"Just read the cards, Alice, before I change my mind."

"Shhhh." She continued laying out six cards to form a cross, the first two crossing in the middle and four cards in a vertical line beside the cross.

She turned over the center card first.

"The Fool, the beginning of something. You're expanding your horizons." She grinned at me, giving me an old at-a-boy. I rolled my eyes. This was a mistake.

"Second position represents conditions or obstacles." She flipped the card. "High Priestess, secrets and hiding." She quirked an eyebrow.

"Are you going to look at me like that after every card? I have to finish dinner you know, this can't take all night." I had just put the lasagna into the oven and was quickly gathering the ingredients for strawberry shortcake.

She went back to the cards, ignoring my remark, however she didn't look up any longer. She focused now on the cards.

"The Star, you hope to open your heart, to see the path clear."

"Eight of Wands, you have already begun to see how fast it can happen."

"Nine of Pentacles, your past is full of self control and discipline but the future," she flipped another card, "the Lovers, being sexual yet determining values."

She stopped. I'm sure I was 10 shades of green at this point, but when she read that last one, I almost dropped the knife I was using to chop the berries.

"So, you're finally going to get laid, Edward." Alice was laughing. "Halle-fucking-lujah!"

"I don't think real psychics can use that kind of language with their clients." She's such a pain-in-the-ass.

"Okay, sorry. It was just too easy." She cleared her throat and continued with the cards.

"Okay, your attitude suggests a realization or downfall, The Tower." She frowned at me, slowly flipping the next card. I was frowning as well, I was regretting asking her to do this.

"The Two of Wands, your family and friends think you brilliant and vital, they believe in your worth." She smiled softly now, no longer joking. "We really do, Edward."

She flipped the ninth card, "The Devil. It's not bad though, it just means that you fear being obsessed, afraid of the unknown."

She hesitated with the last card. "This is about a girl, huh?"

I wanted to tell her, to share this with her, but I didn't know yet what to think of these feelings, things I've never really felt before. Okay, so I kissed Rosalie in the ninth grade, I got a hand job from Lauren Mallory in the movie theater during sophomore year and Jessica Stanley sucked my dick at her party a couple months ago, effectively ending any further alcohol consumption, ever. That was it. Three girls, one of which is now dating my cousin. I am a seventeen-year-old virgin. I think I may be the only seventeen-year-old virgin. I am why the porn industry is thriving.

But I had never felt this, this overwhelming compulsion to be near someone. I wanted to kiss her so bad in that produce aisle, to touch her, tangle my fingers in her hair, protect her, love her…and I don't want to love anything because things that I love get hurt, broken, destroyed. How can I feel this after only a minute's meeting? How can 5 minutes of awkward conversation fuck me up so badly?

No, I couldn't tell Alice because I couldn't let this happen. I had to avoid Isabella Swan, deny every pull of my being, and pretend she didn't exist. She was a force, gravity, sheer magnetism and I would destroy that. I would crush her very essence, because that is what explosives do. Compressed and encased, I was just fucking waiting for that electrical impulse to trigger the fuse, detonating an explosion and sending shrapnel into everything around me. I had to make sure the blast wouldn't reach her.

"When has it ever been about a girl?" I asked my sister. She just scowled at me and flipped the last card.

"This is the culmination of all the other cards, the outcome." She looked at the card and paused.

She scrutinized the card, tilting her head to the side. "The Emperor, fathering, establishing a family line, but it's upside down, see? That means it's reversed, or not expressed completely or normally." She looked up, sadly now.

"You'll find someone. They're just cards, Edward, a game."

I just kept cutting, the blade slicing into the thick red berries, reminding me of Bella's bottom lip and the indentation from her white teeth.

Alice was trying to reassure me that I would, what, be a father someday? It didn't matter if I would end up hurting Bella or not, because apparently I wouldn't get the chance. Shit, this is way over my head. All I could focus on were the words, not expressed completely or normally. I wasn't complete or normal. I am defective, malfunctioning, flawed, my own hypothalamus plotting my destruction. Alice may be psychic after all.

A/N

So, I'm not an expert in Tarot, just a little versed. I'm using the site for reference:

Just in case anyone's interested, Joni Mitchell songs quoted: Ladies of the Canyon, Little Green, California and Clouds

And please, my dears, leave a review! Don't make me use the Jedi mind trick...you want to leave a review...

Oh and thank you to my darling family members that did leave reviews...lovelies!