~High Anxiety~

Chapter 2~ Moving On

I've dealt with my ghosts

And I've faced all my demons

Finally content with the past I regret

I've found you find strength in your moments of weakness

For once, I'm at peace with myself

I've been burdened with blame

Trapped in the past for too long

I'm moving on

Moving On ~ Rascal Flats


I woke with anticipatory butterflies in my stomach. Sitting in front of the small lighted mirror on my bathroom vanity, I lightly layered on cover up to conceal the little bruise on my nose, and did my makeup as usual. Not knowing how to manage it in this weather, I pulled my long hair back, clipped it up, put on a head band and then gave up completely, realizing that the rain would inevitably make any effort futile.

However, once I emerged from the bathroom, I discovered that the sun was shining brilliantly that morning. Sunshine was a rare and much welcomed emergence in Forks, and I took it as a sign from above that it would be a good day. When Charlie told me to have a nice day, I turned back, realizing I forgot to take my pill in the excitement of getting ready. That would have been a huge mistake. I'd likely be huddled in a ball in the corner of the lunchroom shaking and foaming at the mouth.

Alice was waiting outside on my front steps at seven on the dot. Her eyes widened when she saw me and I watched her scan me from head to toe.

"What?" I asked, looking down at my outfit in confusion.

"Nothing…you look…trendy," she said, looking at my boots with a resigned sigh. We got into the car and I turned on the radio.

"Alice, you are more than welcome to borrow anything of mine whenever you want," I remarked, making a mental note to ask my mom for a care package of the newest arrivals in Alice's size. Her grin spread ear to ear. Alice's parents struggled financially for as long as I could remember. Her mom was a nurse and her dad had worked at the boat docks in Port Angeles, until they divorced and he moved out of state when we were seven. Whatever money he sent, Alice's mom stowed away for college, determined that she would have a career to support herself with and not to have to rely on a man for sole support.

"Hey can you put down the top?" she asked, as I reversed out of the driveway. I nodded and obliged, letting the convertible top down. It was still seven in the morning, and there was a definite chill in the air. I blasted the heat and took off down the road smiling to myself that I was glad I hadn't bothered too much with the hair after all.

"Hey, I love this song!" she squealed, turning the volume up against the noisy wind. The two of us sang cheerfully to the lyrics, bobbing our heads in unison. Then the chorus streamed in, Alice and I belted out the words loudly, dancing in our seats, laughing and being silly. It felt so good to giggle with a girlfriend again. I was certain that it was going to be a great day.

As I turned into the school parking lot, I couldn't help feeling a little self-conscious, as everyone gaped and stared as I pulled into an empty spot. The last thing I needed was for everyone to think I was some rich snobby girl from LA, because really, I was far from that. Alice held her head up with a cheery grin and waved at some of the kids as we passed. As she opened her door, a car came screeching into the spot next to us forcing her to pull back the door abruptly.

"Watch it, Xanax!" A male voice called out of the window of the shiny black sports car.

"Hi Jasper!" she cheerfully replied. I walked around the back, slinging my pink bag over my shoulder. "Jasper, meet Bella Swan."

I lifted my hand in a half-wave to the hot blonde guy departing his car, while Alice continued to ramble on nervously. He tucked a wiry lock of chin length hair behind his ear, before he extended his hand out to me and said, "Hey, I'm Jasper Cullen. That's my brother, Edward." He nodded his head back toward the car where Edward was climbing out the passenger side. I tore myself away from Jasper's piercing blue eyes as Alice's words from the previous day held my attention. I was more than a little curious to get a peek of the gay, quiet psychopath that was supposedly Edward Cullen.

I did the timid, half- bored wave thing again, but Edward just nodded curtly, quickly darting his eyes away from me, and skulked toward the school. "Nice meeting you…" I called after him. He turned slightly to glare at me before continuing to walk briskly ahead of us. I didn't see much of his face before he bolted, but he slid on a black leather biker jacket over his tall, lean frame, walking with a cocky arrogance that I recognized all too well.

Ahhh… the quintessential Bad Boy.

"Don't mind him; he's trying out the brooding, mysterious thing." Jasper smiled.

Not interested anyway, thank you very much.

In the short time it took to walk from the parking lot to the school, Jasper must have asked me a dozen questions. And Alice answered all of them for me in her chirpy voice. She obviously had a thing for Jasper by the way she kept laughing nervously at nothing particularly funny. She also stared up at him in sheer awe like he was a rock star while he spoke, when she allowed him to get a word in edgewise.

He was very sweet and definitely good looking, but totally not my type. He had this sort of surfer/ all American boy next door with an edge thing going on, and while that was fine, I found myself automatically attracted to the jock type with the letter jacket and the football tucked under one arm. Every girl we passed checked Jasper out, after they all had given me the once over. To them, I suppose I was competition. But all I wanted was to get through the school year without shedding tears every seven seconds, not steal their boyfriends.

I had to keep reminding myself to breathe and look down at the ground, in an effort to evade the gaping eyes and to not trip over anything in my path.

Brush it off Bella, they are staring because you are a novelty, not because they know anything about you. Hell. Six schools in five years…you would think I would have gotten used to all the attention by now. I'll never, ever get used to being stared at.

I felt like I was on display, or more like a goldfish in a glass bowl with big scary faces gaping back. By the size of the school and that fact that everyone knew my name before I had even introduced myself, this would not be a school in which I could hide. I did recognize quite a few faces, but could hardly remember names. Six schools in five years made names and faces one big blur. The last time I had seen any of these people was when I was twelve, but aside from evident maturation in obvious places, my old classmates looked generally the same.

When we got to the main building, I left Alice and Jasper, heading into the office to register and get my schedule. The first two periods were fine. I was able to get through them without any anxiety attacks, near catastrophes, or bodily injuries. My heart did race out of my chest at the beginning of each class, and the blatant stares didn't help my paranoia, but it was okay. I survived.

Alice and Jasper were both in my first period American History class, and I was thankful that I knew someone. I didn't sit near either of them, but it wasn't like that made a difference. The teacher, Mrs. Goff, was definitely a hard ass and clearly did not tolerate any bull from her students. She practically threw the textbook at me and demanded that I read the first two chapters by Friday.

Second period Spanish -level three was an easy A for me. Senorita Carmen was a sweet lady with chubby cheeks and an obvious Hispanic heritage. The class work seemed relatively easy. I was enrolled in a few Advanced Placement classes, because I had done some of the junior class curriculum as a sophomore last year in California. And since it was late September, I had already missed three weeks of notes and lectures, but I still knew what the teachers were talking about.

As I walked into my third period geometry class, I immediately noticed the leggy, sultry stunning blonde perched on her desk. Her eyes met mine and she stopped mid-sentence, her mouth dropping before forming a huge smile.

"Bella Swan, you hot bitch!" She screamed as she scrambled off the desk toward me. We hugged, eliciting a ton of unwanted attention from the class, before she stood back to examine me. "You look amazing! What a difference a few years makes!"

Rosalie Hale was never one for subtlety, but she always meant well. I knew I looked different from the last time I was here. I used to be an awkward, scrawny little girl with a frizzy bob haircut and no clue. Time had given me better hair, a considerable amount of confidence, a sense of fashion, and really freaking awesome boobs.

Before the teacher could get the class convened, Rosalie and I caught up briefly and then she tossed some mop-haired kid out of the chair next to her in order to give it to me permanently. In truth, it was such a comfort to know that the friends I had as a child welcomed me back enthusiastically with not only open arms, but equally open hearts. I was grateful beyond explanation.

For fourth period English, I had a hard time finding the class, as it was in the back of the building and the classroom numbers had been scratched off all the doors. I immediately grew nervous, sensing my throat constrict and the beginning feelings of lightheadedness that accompanied panic. I hated this feeling and even though the medication helped, I was sort of stuck in this anxious limbo whenever I was faced with something that made me nervous.

I took a few deep breaths as I leaned against the wall, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Please not now, please. Breathe, breathe…

"You okay?"

I looked up to see the most gorgeous pair of pale green eyes piercing through me. His voice startled me and it took a moment to gather myself.

"Um, yeah, just sort of lost. Room 317?" I squeaked, gesturing to my schedule.

Edward pointed down the hall and jerked his head in that direction as if to say, "Follow me." His face remained expressionless while he strode into a classroom a few doors down as I followed behind. He took a seat in a desk by the window while I handed the teacher my schedule. The teacher informed me that the class was taking an exam on To Kill A Mockingbird for the duration of the period, so she instructed that I read the first few chapters to catch up.

My curiosity got the best of me. Occasionally, I peeked over at Edward, just two seats away from me. He never looked up from his test paper and never raised his eyes.

When the fifth period bell rang, I met Alice and Rosalie in the cafeteria at their semi- filled lunch table. After we attempted the lunch line, they introduced me to Jane and Angela, who sat with them. Jane was a tiny thing with an angelic face and silky black hair, and Angela wore funky glasses and looked trustworthy; like she could keep all of your secrets and be everyone's best friend. I noticed that Rose and Alice both had their chairs angled at the table where Jasper, Edward and five other boys sat just across from us.

Alice lowered her head and whispered, "Okay, so the big, hot, delicious one is Emmett. Usually he leaves early with the other seniors but he's hanging out here today for some unknown reason." Alice rolled her eyes at Rosalie, making it obvious as to the reason Emmett was there.

Rosalie glared at me sideways pointedly uttering, "And he's mine."

I held up both hands in defense. "He's in my Spanish class, I think," I said, vaguely remembering his face from the back of the class.

"The smaller, cute one is Alec," Alice continued. "The one with the spiky hair is Mike, who is our resident man-whore. He will sleep with anything…I mean anything. He has got to have at least five of the eleven STD's. You don't want to get within two feet of him, Bella. Crabs tend to jump." Rosalie scoffed, making an arcing motion with her fingers. I was semi- impressed that she knew how many types of sexually transmitted diseases were available to contract. Knowledge like that had to take research or experience, I decided.

"That's Tyler and Ben. Ben and Angela are in love." Angela giggled across the table. "And you met Jasper and Edward this morning. That's anyone that is important. Well, except for Edward, even though he's gaspy, he's a complete waste of time." Alice waved her hand in disgust.

"That's it?" I said disenchanted, with a sour face. "Seven worthwhile boys in the whole school? And two who are apparently taken; one who's a sexual biohazard and the other who is a social misfit? Wow, talk about limited options."

Not that I had any intention of rounding up a boyfriend any time soon, but a decent selection for the future would be nice nevertheless. Highly disappointing.

"Oh, there are a slew of hot seniors, but apparently Seniors don't have relationships with underclassmen. They just want to screw ..." Rose said in a tone that was highly acidic, if not scornful. Alice shot a grimace at me, which clearly meant to change the subject. I took it as a sign that Rose had personal experience with this.

"Uh…what's gaspy?" I took a bite if bagel.

"Gaspy. It's like 'dreamy', but only a verb. Like he's so hot you have to gasp when you see him," Alice explained.

"That's not a real word, Alice," Rosalie scolded, as she pointed to each table slowly identifying each one. "Nerds and Geeks…Jocks…Kick Line… Emos and Goths…Band…Skanks…The Cullen Boys and Us. That's it. Everyone in this school is mostly just a waste of air," she said indifferently, biting into an apple.

At the mention of Kick Line, Alice stuck her finger down her throat with a gagging sound, and when Rose said Emos and Goths, Jane muttered, "Trashy vampire wannabes," from across the table.

I glanced over at the table Rosalie labeled as Skanks, and noticed that Lauren Mallory and Jessica Stanley were amongst the faces I recognized. There were two other girls, a blonde and a redhead with big boobs sitting with them.

That, however, was the part of high school that I loathed. The labels…the groupings…the fact that if the Goths and Emos sat at a lunch table with the Nerds, the universe would implode. It was all annoying and socially limiting.

Jasper caught me looking over at their table and winked. I rolled my eyes at his overtly sexual gesture and he laughed. Alice shifted uncomfortably in her chair at the noticeable exchange, and I was happy to avoid any further awkwardness when the bell rang. She and Rosalie matched my schedule against their own and we found that I had gym with Alice, Rose and Angela last period. I was practically doing back flips for that. As we emptied out of the cafeteria, Emmett approached Rosalie, holding her behind the group to talk to her. They made a really stunning couple, if in fact they actually were one.

I checked my schedule for my next class and found that I had to go all the way across the building to the science wing for Biology. I was already running late.

Mr. Banner motioned for me to sit at the empty lab table to the right of the class. I sat there at the table alone, completely irritated. It kind of annoyed me that I had to sit by myself, considering I knew we were had lab work and without a lab partner that just sucked. I was the squeamish type for certain. I was not about to cut a frog open unassisted.

Mr. Banner began to write notes on the board, so I took out my crisp new notebook and began to copy with the only pen I could find in my bag. It had a hot pink feather puff on the end of it.

The door opened, and in loped a sopping wet Edward Cullen. "You are tardy, Mr. Cullen," Mr. Banner scolded. Edward muttered something to him, handing Mr. Banner a soggy piece of paper before walking swiftly to his seat…right next to me.

And the Bad Boy is my lab partner...fantastic.

As he sat down in the stool beside me, he didn't even bother to glance over. So I said, "Hey," and he turned slightly and muttered an annoyed, "Hey," in response. I

nodded and thought to myself, friendly little sucker. I could smell the strong odor of cigarettes and new leather mixed in with his cologne and the dampness from the rain that had settled on his clothes. It wasn't unpleasant, and I found I rather enjoyed the scent of Au de Derelict.

I took my notes, my hand cramping up from the excessive writing. Thanks for the carpal tunnel, Mr. Banner.

Once the bell rang, Edward sprinted up out of his seat and disappeared out the door. How weird. Study hall was held in the upstairs part of the library where everyone was expected to be silent. There was a sign in sheet monitored by a teacher who looked like a Rastafarian, immersed in a newspaper. I signed in, asked for the bathroom pass and went to hide in one of the back stairwells, while I called the number on the business card that Charlie had given me.

I never ditched class, but really, it was my first day, so what the hell was I going to study?

I spoke to Billy, who talked briefly about how he couldn't believe that I was a teenager already before he informed me of the requirements and details of the job. It was just as Charlie had said, I would dress up, go to the birthday party, hand out lollipops, wave and jump around like an idiot and then go home. It sounded easy enough, and the best part was that although the parties were right smack in the middle of a weekend, it was only two hours from start to finish and he was paying in cash.

I would make a killing for two hours of work, way more than the other staff received. But seeing as how I was his closest friend's daughter and all, he was willing to give me a higher salary. We agreed that I would come in on Saturday afternoon to accompany one of the other girls to a party to see how it was done, and then I could decide if I wanted the job.

My last period was gym and I trudged off to the locker rooms to meet up with the girls. I sent a silent sentiment of gratitude to the person who decided that Forks high school PE classes did not have assigned uniforms.

I cringed my way through the volleyball games that had already had set teams. I may have been a cheerleader once upon a time, but an athlete I was not. I kind of just stood there, avoiding the occasional wayward ball until the coach instructed me to "put some effort into it." I gave him some mock enthusiasm as I waved my arms in the air. Alice ducked when a rogue ball came flying our way and unfortunately, whacked me in the head.

Rosalie was on the girls' varsity volleyball team, so she played with the hardcore players across the gym, while Alice, Angela and I were stuck with the fools who couldn't care less.

I noticed that Edward and Jasper were playing on the team across the gym opposite Rosalie. Jasper nodded and both Alice and I waved back. I smiled, knowing that even though I sucked at sports, at least I had a nice view of something pretty to look at while I was ducking flying balls.

By the end of the day, I felt edgy. I had made it through the day unscathed for the most part, but I really felt like I needed to relax.

Jasper was leaning against his car, parked next to mine. I threw my bag in the back and approached him with trepidation. Swallowing back a gulp of nervousness, I smiled and took a deep breath.

"Hey Bella, you survived your first day?" It surprised me how much I liked this guy. Not in a romantic way, though he was definitely cute.

"Yeah, still alive, just a little tense. I was wondering," I said, leaning in, "if you knew anyone with… weed?"

A slight smirk covered his face. "You smoke?"

"Now and then… mostly when I'm stressed. Today was one of those days," I explained, just as Edward approached.

Jasper said, "It's open." Edward brushed past me without acknowledgement and sat in the passenger seat, shutting the door behind him.

"I actually have some on me. How much do you need?" He asked.

It began to drizzle lightly, so I zipped up my black jacket and put up my hood. "Just a joint, I guess." I shrugged, feeling like such a druggie dirt bag, but relieved nonetheless for the convenience of it all.

"Do you want some company or do you prefer to smoke alone?"

"Oh, um…company would be great," I responded, surprising myself how quickly and enthusiastically I answered.

Jasper smiled and said, "I'll meet you at your house in twenty. And lose Xanax." He tossed his head toward the school where Alice was skipping across the lot. I nodded and got into my car, just as Alice jumped in the passenger seat.

"Were you just talking to Jasper? What did he say? Isn't he great?" She was out of breath as she settled into the seat. I was pretty sure Alice was not a smoker, considering her mom being a nurse and the fact that Jasper asked that I "lose" her.

I declined to mention my conversation with Jasper, and simply said we were just talking about how my day was. I felt like crap really, because I knew that Jasper clearly felt indifferent towards Alice, and by the nickname he gave her, I got the distinct feeling she annoyed him. I also felt like a delinquent, and it wasn't that way for me at all. Even though it was a fun experience, the main purpose for me smoking was that it helped ease my anxiety. It sucked living like that, always tense and scared of an attack coming on.

Bree turned me on to it back home, and it was the only thing she did for me that didn't leave me begging for mercy. Not that my occasional pot smoking was any good for me, but like I said, it helped with my issues.

I dropped Alice off at the diner in town for her shift, and headed toward home. Jasper's car sat in front of my house idling. I parked and walked over to the driver's side window waiting for Jasper to let me know what the plan was. Jasper shut the engine and got out of his car while Edward got out of the passenger side and slammed the door.

"In the woods behind your house is an old fort." Jasper pointed. I snickered, knowing exactly what he was talking about. Charlie built me the swing set with the connected tree house when I was five. I held tea parties and played with dolls back there, while he fished in the river that was now a part of the Cullen's property. Back when I was five, the land didn't belong to anyone but the state wildlife preserve.

"That's not a fort. It's my Dream House," I said, as the three of us walked through the gate into my back yard.

"That explains the dolls." Edward finally spoke.

"Hope there was no sentimental attachment," Jasper added, apologetically. I shook my head, not entirely understanding what he meant. I could hear Edward snickering under his breath as we walked the long overgrown path that cut through the woods between our houses. The wet leaves sloshed noisily underneath our feet, soaking my beautiful boots.

I hadn't been back there in ages. The tree house was still pretty much the same, only the pretty little window boxes with the plastic tulips had been ripped off and there were scorched, naked Barbie dolls strewn about the ground. The two yellow swings and the chained tire swing were still intact. As a kid, I would spend countless hours swinging, the soothing motion eliciting the greatest of daydreams and stories that I would conjure up in my head. It occurred to me that even at seven years old I was looking to escape my real life in some way.

"What did you do to my Pretty Princess Barbie?" I demanded, picking up her royally charred plastic corpse off of the muddy ground. Her blonde hair had been singed to the scalp, leaving her bald. Edward laughed again, but this time it was a wholehearted belly laugh and I couldn't help but join him.

Jasper said, "Emmett went hog wild with his lighter one day. We didn't know the dolls actually belonged to anyone, so uh…sorry about that."

I shook my head and tossed poor Pyro Victim Barbie into the bushes, climbing up the ladder into the tree house behind Jasper. The three of us sat on the cold wood floor, while Edward pulled out a zip lock bag and a pack rolling papers.

I looked around my old tree house that Alice and Rosalie and I had spent countless hours hiding out in, talking about boys and school and Alice's dad leaving. Charlie had constructed the set for my fifth birthday. He built it all by himself, grumbling and grunting as he lifted and screwed the large wooden beams together. He added wood to the structure, so that the house part had been entirely closed off to the elements. It was supposed to be painted pink, but since it was always so rainy, my dad never found the opportunity to get it done. In an effort to make it more homey, my mom had placed a small table with chairs in there and she hung cute framed pictures of kittens on the walls. Everything was gone now.

Jasper handed Edward a magazine that had been stashed in the corner, as Edward began to roll the joint. I watched his long fingers maneuver the paper quickly and skillfully, like he had been doing it for years. When he finished, he stuck his tongue out and licked the length of the cigarette.

My breath hitched watching his tongue stroke the length of the joint and I was instantly embarrassed and confused at the same time. It was the first time all day I had actually really looked at Edward's face. I realized that he was stunningly beautiful in a very masculine way.

His eyes seemed to hold so much anger in them. They were the most startling shade of pale green, resembling the color of the beach glass my mother and I would often find along the shore. And his face was absolutely perfect. His strong jaw line was clean shaven and smooth. He had long, dark eyelashes. His hair was a wild disarray of dark brown that sort of met in the middle in a messy fauxhawk. He was actually pretty, for a boy.

He put the joint to his mouth, pausing as he looked up at me through his eyelashes. In a voice that was bordering on sweet he asked, "Can you do me a favor?" My eyes met his and I smiled, thinking for a split second that we were sharing a moment or something. "Wipe that shit off your lips, please."

He lit up the joint, took a deep drag and held the smoke in his mouth. With the back of my hand pressed firmly to my mouth, I wiped off my semi-sticky lip gloss as he passed the joint to Jasper. I glowered at him, disappointed in his deceitful demeanor and in myself, for thinking he was going to say something nice to me.

The heady scent of the pot, mixed in with the boy's cologne and wet leather jackets was intoxicating, comforting, and familiar all at the same time. Jasper inhaled the joint in three long consecutive sucks. "This is strong shit, don't take too much," he said. His voice was strained and raspy. He passed the joint to me and I fingered the marijuana cigarette reverently in my hands before bringing it to my lips.

"Whoa, this is strong." It had been a while and my throat burned. "Wow, this is impressive." I said genuinely, holding the perfectly rolled joint in front of me, examining its flawlessness.

Jasper laughed and said, "Edward has very talented fingers." I looked up at Jasper and smirked, slightly embarrassed that my mind diverted his statement to a sexual innuendo.

I passed Jasper the joint and glanced at Edward who was looking down at his lap and shaking his head in annoyance.

"Dick," Edward muttered, elbowing Jasper in his ribs.

"Good to know," I smirked.

"I meant," Jasper said, glaring at Edward, "he has a gift with his hands in general. Edward plays the piano, and he pit..."

Before Jasper could finish his sentence, Edward glared at him angrily and said sharply, "Bro…" His tone clearly meant, shut the fuck up.

I did not expect Edward to be a piano player. It seemed to be such an elegant, classy instrument to play, and Edward did not strike me as having the probability for either of those traits.

We sat for a while in silence, enjoying our disconnected states. I looked at them both, heavy lids over their bloodshot eyes. They were both so gaspy it made me want to cry and sing love songs out my bedroom window. I definitely was able to see what Alice saw in Jasper. But I was still wrestling with what I saw in Edward.

Beautiful. But painfully sad and not very nice.

I leaned back on the wood panels and picked up the magazine Edward rolled the joint on. "Glamour? Is this yours?" I asked jokingly, as I leafed through it. Edward snickered, and his whole slumped over body shook silently with the laugh.

At the same time they both blurted out, "It's Emmett's." Jasper was lying back on his elbows with his long legs crossed in front of him. He let out a little chuckle, which got Edward laughing harder.

Not quite understanding the amusement of the joke, I said, "He seems more like a Teen Vogue kind of boy." Then the two of them were clutching their sides and shaking on the ground in hysterical fits.

"Teen Vogue," Edward muttered through a stifled laugh. The two of them burst out laughing again.

"Emmett bought the magazine because it had tips on how to perfect oral sex techniques."

Mental note to mention that to Rosalie

I laughed with them as I realized my feet were freezing. My boots had soaked up a lot of water, drenching my socks. I unzipped a boot, pulling it off as Jasper and Edward looked at me incredulously.

"What?" I asked, placing my boot in the corner. "My feet do not smell. Besides, this is my house, remember? I should be charging you back rent and property damage for destroying my beautiful house. And you killed all my fake tulips and the pretty little flower boxes. And…besides all of that, your pyromaniac brother burned my Pretty Princess Barbie to death and made her bald." I stuck my tongue out at them while they watched me remove my boots as if it were the most interesting thing they had ever witnessed. They began to laugh hysterically again staring at my very bright, admittedly very odd socks.

"Are those pigs?" Edward asked pointing.

"Oh shut up. I like my socks. Do not mock the piglets." I wiggled my toes, each one of them adorned with pink piglet faces. I rolled my eyes as they continued to laugh wildly. When their chuckles eventually died down, I looked at them both and cocked my head to the side admiring the boys in front of me. I felt fuzzy and fun and my head felt full of water and sparkles like a snow globe.

"You know, you guys look nothing alike. Like the three of you grew up on entirely different sides of the planet."

Edward's eyes met mine as he silently pulled off the barcode label from his clear plastic lighter. Jasper said, "Well, I look like my mom, and Emmett looks like our dad and Edward's mom is married to our dad, and Edward looks like her sort of, soooo yeah, none of us look anything alike. Wow, I am baked.

"I look like my father," Edward said quietly. I furrowed my brows at his words. They were soft spoken yet definitive and I sensed an innate mark of sadness.

"Oh. How long have your parents been together?" I asked, realizing too late in my stoned state that I probably should have taken the opportunity to change the subject.

"Twelve years. We were both five when they got married." Jasper replied. I was intrigued. I wanted to know about Jasper and Emmett's mother and Edward's biological father and where they were, but considering I had met them only hours prior, I thought that maybe it was too presumptuous to ask.

Some time passed and we were chatting about school and the fact that I had someone I knew in almost every one of my classes. They began talking about a stupid workout regimen, and in my fuzzy brain, I lost interest, picking up the magazine in front of Edward.

As I leafed through it, I passed an article that read, "What Type of Dog Are You?"

It was actually one of those nonsensical quizzes that were designed to match your personality with inanimate objects. Like if you were a quiet person, you resembled a chair, or some thing dim-witted like that.

"Hey, what kind of dog are you?" I directed the question to no one specific.

Jasper looked up at me and said a slightly slurred, "Scuse me?"

"What kind of dog… like if I was dog I think I might be a Pomeranian. Or a Bischon Frise."

"Oh," Jasper said, understanding. "Um, maybe a Great Dane." He said it matter of factly, closing the statement with a decisive nod.

Edward turned to him and said flatly, "You are in no way a Great Dane. More like a terrier or some shit."

"Fuck you, Dick. What kind of dog do you think you are?" Jasper spat.

"I'm not a dog at all. I'm … a mountain lion." Edward held his hands up curling his fingers like claws while he bared his teeth in a snarl. He did it with such unbridled enthusiasm that Jasper and I threw our heads back in laughter.

"I'll give you one guess what kind of dog Xanax is," Jasper said, a wry smile on his face.

Edward and I both muttered, "Chihuahua." That got the laughter started all over again. Proof that everything is much funnier when you are high.

I scolded them for making fun of Alice, which they blatantly ignored. We made small talk after that, getting to know each other and asking harmless, non-invasive questions. The conversation was mainly between Jasper and I with an occasional snicker, snort or scowl from Edward. But he did not actually verbally participate in the conversation.

While Jasper and I spoke, Edward leaned back against the wooden panels and played with his lighter, turning it back and forth while watching the fluid drain in and out of the chambers.

"So, what made you move back here, anyway?" Jasper asked. It was the one question he didn't ask me that morning. It was the one question I was hoping to avoid entirely.

"Um, someone hurt me badly and it just made life really hard, so I came here…to kind of start over." I let out a winded breath and sighed at the memory.

Good girl, Bella. You did it.

It was the most evasive explanation I could find while being entirely truthful. Edward looked up and brought his finger to his lips, like he wanted to say something, but changed his mind. I knew Jasper was itching to have me elaborate on it, but I wasn't ready to let them in on why I fled California. Not just yet. Someday.

Once the sky grew dark, and we realized that we were all parched and starving, we parted ways at the trail outside the tree house toward our respective homes. Before we left, I asked Jasper if I could give him money, but he scoffed at my offer.

I headed back home to an empty house, thankful that Charlie was working late on a case. I didn't mind being alone, and truly, it was a perfect arrangement for the teenager who didn't want to be bothered with parental interference. Not that Charlie ever interfered, but I just engaged in a debaucherous act in his yard, so it was in my best interest that he not be around.

As I finished a slice of my leftover pizza, I thought about how much fun I had today. It had been months since I'd been social with kids my own age and I hadn't realized how much I had missed the interaction. And for the first time in my life, I had actually made guy friends. Not an easy task for me, in truth. Girls were usually a cinch, but guys only seemed interested in one thing from me, and being friends was not it.

I headed upstairs to check my email and pick out the next day's outfit.

Dear God,

Thank you so much for getting me through the day without any major fail. I would greatly appreciate it if you could do that tomorrow and Friday as well. Please help all the starving kids in Africa, and look after Mom and Phil, Dad, Alice, Rose, Jasper, Emmett and Edward. Oh, and please not have let the rain have done too much damage to my new boots because I love them. Amen.

Looking in the mirror, I smiled a bit wider, knowing that moving to Forks may have just been the best decision I could have ever made.

Later on, I thought of Edward's face as I drifted off to sleep.

That was the first night I had my way with Edward Cullen.