"Fears have been raised that in their enthusiasm scientists might inadvertently create a black hole or even something called "strange quarks," which could, theoretically, interact with other subatomic particles and propagate uncontrollably. If you are reading this, that hasn't happened." - Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, page 162
Tuesday, 16th of November
5:55 PM (I made a wish!), lying on my bed and listening to the awful rap without melody coming from Emmett's room.
I got interrupted by none other than my dear brother yesterday (he was being strangely nice to me, I don't know what's wrong with him), so that's why the ending sounds awkward. (I just re-read what I'd written on Friday and yesterday. Why do I always add 'or something' to everything? This might be the key as to why my essays are always "good, but...") But I'll try to make it sound as if I wasn't interrupted. Which would mean that I delete this section. Which I won't.
As I was saying, Edward joining with our Drama class surprises me to say the least. And I know I seem to have acted a little (okay, a lot) out of character, but the thing is, I used to be the most awkward quietest person you could imagine—especially around peers who are not Eric. I still am, but only in certain situations. But about three years ago, I figured that being bold and joking and ugly is better than to be invisible and ugly. So I changed myself.
It wasn't easy.
(Yes, it was. All I have to do is to pretend I don't care, and the more I do that, the more I realize that I actually don't.)
I've never been one of the girls who squeal and storm to a friend the moment a guy talks to me. Maybe it's because I've never been in a situation where I'd be under the illusion that a guy liked me (hahaha), maybe it's because students talk to me often because I don't gossip, and maybe it's just because I don't really care who I talk to. If one of the guys from the more popular crowd asked me for a pen, I'd borrow it, but I'd make sure to get it back. I'll leave the gasping jaw-dropping to Vicky. (And I quote what I heard yesterday in the corridor: "Oh my God, oh my God, Michael knows my name, he knows my name! Gah! Should I speak to him? Oh my God! I can't believe he knows my name!")
Vicky, I know your name, too, can I get a squeal? Yaaay! Bella knows my name, she knows my name! (I have to say, it would be pretty damn weird if Michael didn't know Vicky's name. They've shared classes for seven years.)
And back to Earth.
So, where was I before the image of Vicky killed my sane thinking? Oh. Edward. We got to know him a little more yesterday, he was thinking of joining Drama, but wasn't too sure, so he'll "drag along" (his words, not mine) for a few weeks before he figures out whether he wants to join or not. It's cool. I think everyone should do that. Edward loves to write lyrics, but (and again, his words, not mine): "I couldn't play (the guitar) if you threatened to boil me alive. I can't play worth a damn."
We'll see, Edward. We'll see.
(You can mentally add a few 'ums' and 'uhs' to his speech because I'm just cutting his awkwardness out.)
I hate it when people apologize before letting anyone judge their skills. Like when you go and visit a friend who immediately starts to apologize about the "messy" room when in reality there's only one pillow on the floor and an empty cup on the table. Having seen Emmett's room, trust me, my friends' vision of messy is a tad naïve.
(Ohh, the obscure music in Emmett's room changed to Fort Minor's High Road. That, at least, has a rhythm.)
Edward also loves acting, but I can completely understand why he'd be hesitant about joining us. We're a bunch of freaks (with different characteristics, yes, but still weirdos). My first impression of him wasn't wrong—or, well, the first impression of a mature Edward—he's the awkward-ish quite type of guy. Not that I'd type people, because I don't. Don't nitpick, you know what I mean. He's got this band-ish thing going on that girls seem to love, and yes, I agree that he's handsome. But I have no idea how he got so humble or why he speaks to me (I think I'm a safe area, that's why). I don't mind. It would be pretty cool to have a male friend.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. A little.
Our Drama ends at 5:30 on Monday and we coincidentally—yes, seriously—happen to exit the schoolhouse at the same time. It's awkward because we start to walk in the same direction (the school is only about two miles from my home, so I always walk) and neither of us says a word. But then Edward stumbles and I, well, I laugh. Can't help myself! He just reminds me of, well, myself, really. Edward passes me a shy grin. He shrugs.
I break the silence before we go green from awkwardness. "Trying to hold up the pavement, huh?"
He messes with his hair. "Excuse me?"
We keep walking. I motion at our feet. "The pavement. It needs some holding. I hold it sometimes, too, when my daily mortification quota hasn't been filled. But you should see Emmett when he's drunk, that's a sight you won't forget. He's a professional pavement-holder."
Edward raises his eyebrows. I remain serious. Seconds pass before he chuckles. "You really are something, aren't you?"
I nudge him. "I thought we already established that I'm else. You can be something, but I sure as hell am something else."
He raises his hands and steps away, exaggerating the size of his footstep. "Is it contagious?"
"Else? Or something?"
"Highly. The weirdness sticks with you the more time you spend with me."
Edward shakes his head and dodges around a lamp-post. I can't tell if he's smiling or not, but it sounds like he is. "Are we really having this conversation?"
"No. You're dreaming. I'm holding your voodoo doll as we speak."
This time I'm certain he's smiling. "What will you make me do?"
I shrug. "Hold the pavement?"
I don't even know where he lives, but it's kind of fun to be walking home next to Edward. He doesn't seem to be in a hurry and neither am I. I usually walk either by myself (with earpads on) or with Angela (she has to catch a bus one block from our school). I have Drama on Mondays and Thursdays, so that's when I tend to saunter alone. Rarely—in the eclipse kind of rarely—Emmett (sometimes Jasper) joins me, but as already mentioned, I'm kind of a freaky-looking little sister with whom no-one would want to be seen publicly.
Okay, that's an exaggeration. You get the point.
Our school—North Cedar High—is sitting in the suburbs of Seattle. The schoolhouse is quite small and old, so few people attend it, but we have a (relatively) close-knit community and classmates usually know each other. It's not one of those huge schools with thousands of students where you suddenly discover at the end of your senior year that the dude roaring and croaking at every football game or the girl with an eye-twitch is your classmate. That just doesn't happen. (That's also one of the reasons the newbies are so easily recognized. You simply can't hide behind a glass wall.)
"Are you any good?" I ask when we cross the street. "At acting?"
He raises a shoulder before dropping it. "Um. Decent enough, I guess. I wouldn't consider it a profession. I just kinda like it. Nothing serious. You?"
I consider my chances of answering him honestly, but figure I should be vague if I don't want him to laugh at me. "As good as a table-leg could be, I hope. I like it too, though. It's fun." I smile. "So, what else do you do, other than writing mushy lyrics-poetry—" I purse my lips together (not to laugh) as he pulls a face. "—and not finding your way around a two-story schoolhouse?"
He pretends to be strict. "And you expect me to give you a serious answer after mocking me?"
"I don't expect anything. If I did, though, then yes. Certainly. But I offer you the same courtesy. Mocking is probably the only useful thing Em has ever taught me."
Edward shakes his head. "That's kinda sad."
"The sad part is, I don't think he's actually taught me anything. I just used to be a really annoying sister," I pause. "Or, well, I guess I still am a very annoying sister. But I think it was worse when I was little."
"Well, that hasn't changed, you're still little," he notes not with sarcasm, not with a grimace or a once-over, just plain honesty. It hurts a little. I'm quiet for a few seconds to think my response through. I doubt many girls would take that as a bad thing, but for a girl who wishes look like a grown-up woman, I have to admit. It still hurts.
"Yeah." I shrug. "It's useful, too, sometimes. I'm the only girl in high school who can plausibly play a man. I make a kick-ass Schwarzenegger."
He smiles. "I bet."
I don't really focus on the way he doesn't realize how much that hurts, or how well I feign that it doesn't (because I can see that he had no idea I can behave like one of those overly sensitive women on TV. Then again, neither did I). I don't wallow in self-pity for long, though, just because there's no point and it doesn't make me any prettier.
"So, what do you like to do?"
Write this diary which I will soon burn and dedicate my life to film-making? That doesn't sound like the right answer.
"You answer first."
He sighs. "I'm pretty boring, really. I attempt to learn the guitar, I write "mushy poems" and I do some other stuff."
"I'm glad you're so specific. It's refreshing."
"You're very welcome."
We both start to kick a pebble before it disappears into a gully hole.
"Do you like it here?"
He scratches his (horribly disarrayed) hair. "Um. Not really. I hope it'll grow on me, though."
"Why'd you move here?"
"My dad got a job here. Pretty simple. It's an important job, so my mother quit hers to encourage him and I was, well, left without a choice. It's not like I'd fight, I'm old enough not to throw a tantrum, but still. It's a pretty big change."
Why am I sorry? No idea.
"It's cool." He smiles. "No-one died or anything. Change is good, they say."
"Not unless it's hiding under Emmett's bed and starts to smell weird in a few days."
"Sorry, didn't catch that?"
I laugh. "Nothing of consequence. Don't worry."
(It wasn't guffawing? I might retreat to a pony!)
We find another pebble. It has the same fate that the first one did. I clench hands in my pockets because it's getting cold and I forgot my gloves. We're half a block away from my street.
I tilt my head and watch as a cat jumps from the branch of an oak-tree to the roof of a house. I smile. "I like films. I used to have a director-based list of films I'd watch in chronological order, but I'm a little less geeky now. Now I just watch what I haven't seen. I tutor on Saturdays and work at the cinema on the weekends."
"It is. I always bring gloves to work."
He chuckle and I smile a little. We stroll in silence before Edward's phone rings. I try not to listen in, but it's not like I can cover my ears and start singing to myself.
"Edward. Yes. Yesterday evening?" A longer pause. "No. Not yet. Next week." A pause. "I can't, sorry. I have plans... I know. I know, I know. I didn't forget, no, I'd just like to adjust first—I'm not trying to wriggle out of anything." Edward seems to grow more annoyed. "I know. I'm on my way, half an hour away or so—Does it matter? We'll see. Bye."
Our eyes lock as he puts his phone away.
He shrugs. "You could say that."
We walk closer to my two-story house and I notice dad's cruiser's lights reflect from the garage door. That's so him. Edward doesn't realize I'd stopped before he's ten feet away, so he turns around and steps closer.
"Hey listen, I know—" I pause. I know we won't speak again after you've realized what a social suicide I am? I know I'm a weirdo, but I wouldn't mind speaking to you again? I know you'll be amongst the popular crowd in no time, but could you please not turn into a complete prick? I know I'm ugly, but you seem like a nice guy who doesn't mind having ugly friends?
"Um. I don't. What do you know?"
"Nothing. I was just rambling is all."
He smiles. I hope it's genuine. "Guess I'll be seeing you around?"
"See you." He waves before leaving. I watch him vanish from my viewpoint and step into the house. Dad is already watching football—Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins—and I slump down next to him. I know enough about the Y-chromosome to know that I have to wait for a pause in the game to speak to him and have his attention.
"Can you give me the car keys?"
"I'm gonna have wild sex with Michael Newton, but we need a car."
He goes pale white in nanoseconds and then beetroot red a moment later, a change of color only Swans can go through in such a short amount of time.
"Just kidding dad." His face starts to return to its normal color. "He wouldn't have sex with me even if I laid naked on his doorstep."
Again, his face pales. I sigh. "Dad, I'm not suicidal. I'm not into assholes. I'm also not a rebel, unless you haven't noticed. You need to stop worrying about this sort of thing." I'm also quite an ugly girl, but I don't want you to start assuring me otherwise, so perhaps I won't add that. "You just left the lights on."
"I did?" He walks to the window. "Oh. I did. Sure. They're in my left pocket. The blue coat." He turns up the volume as he sits. I turn off the lights of his police car. But in his car—other than an impossible amount of old coffee cups—is something I've never found before. A pink lipstick. It's kind of obscure so I'm not entirely sure if it's a lip gloss or a lipstick, but it sure as hell doesn't belong to my father. (Unless he has transvestite tendencies I'm unaware of. It would be fine, though. He could be besties with Eddie Izzard—how cool would that be?)
Is he seeing anyone? I don't know. The lip-gloss/lipstick smells terribly exotic and kind of nauseating, and I carefully place it back where I found it. I lock the car.
As I make dinner (it's my turn! exciting!), I hear Emmett and dad talk. Their conversation is connected to the game until the word 'Newton' makes me stop chopping carrots. I step closer to the doorway.
"—Bella's seeing anyone?"
I muffle a huff-snort. I expect Emmett to joke or snort, but he sounds surprisingly mature.
"Why won't you ask her?"
"You know me. I—I can't talk to her about that stuff."
"So I have to do it for you?"
"No. I mean, yes. I mean. Do you know anything about that Newton guy? Are they seeing each other?"
"I doubt Newton's the one she's seeing."
"So she is seeing someone."
"Dad, I'm not a gossip column, how the hell should I know? Seeing is a very wide concept. Ask her. She'll probably laugh at you, deny, and dismiss the subject. Since when is it hard to speak to her? She's Bella."
"That's what people do. They change. We're talking about a seventeen-year old. Besides, she's not as uptight about everything as she used to be, don't go and convince her she should lock up in her room and not date anyone. It's hard for her as it is."
I can't believe my ears. I've heard Emmett and dad speak about me before, but not like this. Emmett hasn't cracked a single joke. Aliens must've abducted my brother and replaced him with someone who—cares, really. It's new and weird and, well, sweet. Growing up with two men hasn't made me terribly open about my feelings, but it's nice to know Emmett cares. I realize I should've gone back to the kitchen, but having the chance to hear two people talk honestly about you, who could turn their back on that?
"What do you mean—hard for her as it is?" His voice lowers. "Is she being bullied?"
Exasperated with the conversation, Emmett sighs. "No. I mean, not anymore."
Dad's voice rises. "She—she's been bullied in the past? And you didn't tell me?"
"Oh, c'mon, dad. Leave it. Let's watch the game."
"No. I want to hear this."
"Dad. There's nothing to hear. She had a hard time in middle school, yes, but it's over. Don't bring it up with her."
"Why didn't you tell me? Did you do anything about it?"
"You couldn't have done anything. You don't just bark in and start talking shit about inner beauty like they do in the movies. Beating them up would've just ended with payback."
"So you didn't do anything?"
"No. I beat them up."
"I don't remember you—"
"May. Three years ago, a football injury. I came home with a broken wrist and a bruised face. Couldn't write for two months."
Shit, I remember that. I had no idea.
"Did it work?"
No 'you don't just use physical violence to solve problems,' dad?
"I'm not sure. I think that was the time she decided to change, so it might've been her own work. It seemed to have lessened, though. But that's unimportant. She's not bullied anymore."
"But why is she having a hard time?"
"Dad, I'm not a seventeen year old girl named Bella. Speak with her. Really."
"She's a—teenager. I don't know how."
"Dad, I think the problem here is not that she is a typical teenager, the problem is that she isn't."
There's a pause. I wonder if I've entered an alternate universe in which my brother voices my thoughts and knows my insecurities. Completely unreal.
"You mean, she has problems with the way she looks? She doesn't look that bad."
"Dad, I'm done with this conversation. Get your head out of your ass and speak with her. You'll understand her better when you actually listen."
The volume of the football game is turned up, so I finish making dinner and go to my room. I'm not sure what's wrong with Emmett. Or what's right with him. Did he really beat him up three years ago? I remember the day, and it had been a day when he had a football practice, so I never questioned it. I wonder why he didn't tell me. Would I have the guts to admit I heard their conversation and now want to know if it was really Newton he beat up? Probably not.
It's nice to hear that Emmett isn't such an insensitive jock I imagined him to be. He actually cares.
Lying on my bed, I'm so absorbed in trying to remember how Edward found 106 and trying to write it down as well as I could that I don't realize Emmett sneaks up on me. He reads a few lines of my diary, the ones starring Edward, and I know he saw his name.
Now he probably thinks I like him or something.
"So," Emmett says without any visible emotion.
I roll over. "You ever learned to knock?"
"The door was wide open."
"You could've still knocked."
He doesn't respond as he sits on my bed. I shut my diary and wait.
"Dad wanted me to speak to you, but I guess you already knew that."
"You knew I heard you?"
"Yeah, well, you usually make dinner pretty loudly. Today you didn't. Not nuclear science."
"Huh. Why didn't you tell me to go upstairs?"
"I figured it's best if you know to fear dad's attempt at being a dad. Y'know, prepare yourself and stuff."
"Thanks. That's nice of you."
He rubs his neck. "Hey, listen, I'm sorry about telling him about, you know."
"S'okay. He would've found out eventually." I fiddle with the edge of my sleeve, not knowing how to act around this new serious-ish Emmett. I'm not used to him not cracking jokes at everything I say. "I didn't know about, you know. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I figured you'd want to crawl out of the shit yourself. You're strong like that."
"Not to tell you you weren't right, but still, thank you."
"Worth every bruise." His eyes linger on my diary. "So, got a thing for Jazz's cousin already? I saw you pretty cozy in front of our house before."
"Emmett. I've known him for three days. He's just being nice to me."
"No 'so.' Friends can be nice to each other." I raise my eyebrows and nudge his shoulder as his smile grows. "I'm serious. Don't you dare assume anything or say anything around him."
"See? You're afraid that he'll think you like him. So what if you do?"
I huff, amused. "Only you can confront your sister about nothing at all. Go play PlayStation or something."
He messes up my hair. "Will you do my homework meanwhile?"
"In your dreams."
He laughs. My brother can be quite tolerable sometimes.