Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters.

Chapter 1



OK. If I stand exactly four feet from the buffet table and four feet from this wall, the distance will be sufficient to move back if anyone gets too close. I'll also be far enough into the room that I don't look like I'm purposefully avoiding socializing. And, added bonus, I'm still five steps from the door for a quick escape once I've gotten what I came for. I'll estimate the distance from the corner of the buffet. See? Already making progress. Now, I just need to pace-off four feet from the wall. My shoe is exactly 12.5 inches...

I prefer metric, but US standard measures worked out more evenly when I measured my shoe again this afternoon.

...so, I'll need four toe-to-heel steps, and then two inches back. Well, I suppose 50 inches will be sufficient, this time.

Ah, a "small victory." I'll write that in my journal later, along with the buffet estimation.

OK: One. Two. What is this?

"Excuse me!" I yelled at the perfume-laden blonde who suddenly hijacked my wall vector. "I need to get by."

"Oh! I'm sorry," she said with an obvious lack of sincerity. Then she moved six inches to my right. SIX GODDAMN INCHES! I sucked in my gut as turned sideways to pass by. I don't think we made contact.

How am I going to keep people from touching me if they won't move an appropriate distance away from me?

In my haste, I failed to take note of where I left off in my measurement. So I ended up having to estimate the distance from the wall as well. I acknowledged my discomfort at not being exactly equidistant from both the buffet and the wall, but decided to let it go—another victory for my journal.

As I stood alone in the middle of the room, I realized I should probably feel awkward. People were starting to stare at me: hands in pockets, standing alone, sweating. But at that moment, I was more concerned with how I was going to avoid further exposure.

Dr. Cullen had truly presented me with a challenge, but I had confidence I could do it. Buoyed slightly by this realization, I returned to my inner dialogue (with myself—I don't have dissociative identity disorder):

If I talk to them, will they expect to shake my hand?

I'll keep my hands in my pockets.

But what if they reach out and touch me? Will I do like last time and yell at them?

No, I'll do better this time...I'll make a plan!

Why didn't I make a plan for this at home?

Because I spent too much time preparing for the trip over here! I didn't budget enough time to prepare for all eventualities! Now Focus.

All I have to do is make casual conversation with one person this evening, that's it. And if someone gets too close, I have room to maneuver, or I can ask politely; so it's going to be OK.

So, what am I going to say if someone tries to touch me and I can't step away?

How about: "If you want to keep your hand, please remove it from my person. I'm armed with a hand gun and am crazy."

Hmmm, good start, but that might need work. I should drop one of those sentences.

Yes, valid point...But which one?

I stepped back to allow a tubby man to get to the buffet...I presumed. I didn't actually watch him once he passed. I couldn't even look towardthe food without wanting to retch.

Instead, I began to stare at the cracks in the ceiling, imagining the plaster falling as the roof opened up, sucking me into oblivion...then realized that by doing that I might look unavailable for conversation.

Not that I cared particularly, but this is a step in my recovery, and a major one at that: attending a social function and having a conversation.

Getting my head back in the game, I decided to go through the memorized conversation starters I discussed with Dr. Cullen at our last session. It was my idea, and he approved whole-heartedly. As usual, he tried to guide me while encouraging me to take ownership of my choices. There were only two of the ten I prepared that he showed any enthusiasm for:

Dr. Cullen Approved Option One: "Hi, I'm Edward. Sorry, I can't shake your hand, I don't feel comfortable with that. I am an IT consultant. What do you do for a living?"

Dr. Cullen Approved Option Two: "What about this weather we're having? I don't worry too much about the weather. The decimation of our planet is much more likely to be caused by an asteroid, than weather phenomena."

After I read the second one to Dr. Cullen, he suggested I shorten it to leave an opening for the other person to respond. I suddenly remembered that I didn't have him clarify which part he meant for me to edit. I ruminated on each sentence, considering which one was the most open-ended.

Then, to my amazement, and outside of any possibilities I imagined, someone spoke to me!

"Excuse, me."

I looked up into a pair of lovely chocolate brown eyes and yelled, "Hi, my name is Edward! Our planet is more likely to be decimated by an asteroid than weather phenomena!" I didn't mean to yell, but my experience told me that people moved away from loud voices when in close proximity, so loud speaking to strangers has become second-nature.

My brown-eyed conversation partner stepped back slightly, looking perturbed, and I suddenly realized why. So I added, "I'm sorry. What do youthink will cause our planet's decimation?"

Good save! I congratulated myself.

"Ahem. I need to get by you, and I didn't want to shove you with my plate or glass. Do you mind?"

Although this gentleman had lovely brown eyes, his personality was unfortunately defective. I made a mental note to add it to my list of issues to discuss with Dr. Cullen.

I suppose I did not move quickly enough, because he lifted his burdens to my line of sight as I continued to stare into his lovely eyes.

Not one to meet unkindness with unkindness, I stepped back for him to pass. And at that moment, fate or god or happenstance stepped in. I backed into someone. Sort of. I really barely brushed her, because as I stepped back she moved to avoid me.

"Sorry!" she said, tripping and falling on her ass. The back of my heel ended up resting against the sole of one of her shoes.

As soon as I was aware of the contact, I jerked my foot back, almost making contact with another person, but deftly avoided them, by throwing my arms in the air and twisting to the left.

She looked up without meeting my eyes, then turned over to pull herself up to her hands and knees. So, I immediately thought of fucking her from behind (the most sanitary position, in my opinion).

Her behind was lovely. I stared at the loose blue skirt that fanned around her, and watched as she tripped on it twice trying to get up. When she regained her footing, I noticed the skirt was pulled down a little on the right side. I felt compelled to reach down and adjust it for her, but refused to give in. I would make a note of this victory in my journal later.

She put her hands out to steady herself, as though she might spontaneously fall again. Then she dusted her knees. Unfortunately for me, she failed to fix her skirt. I felt even more uncomfortable.

Even more distressing, she turned away and headed for the door, neck and shoulders flushed red with embarrassment. I was so enchanted by the sight I almost forgot her lopsided skirt.

She is who I should converse with, I decided on the spot. However, there were major obstacles to handle first: namely the crowd of people and the fact that she was almost out the door.

I suddenly realized that this was one of those "defining moments that leads to a breakthrough," as Dr. Cullen would say. So, I seized it.

"Hey! Hey, you! Girl who just fell!" I yelled as loudly as I could, cupping my hands around my mouth to aim the sound as accurately as possible in her direction. I wanted to ensure, as much as I could, that she would hear me.

She stopped. Success! I would easily have ten pages of victory for my journal. Dr. Cullen would be so proud of me.

Victory was short-lived, though, for as suddenly as she stopped, she ran. I waited 3 seconds (I couldn't help but notice the clock with a second hand above the entrance) for the crowd of five to move further away from my exit vector, and then made chase.

As I ran, I wondered if this conversation would count with Dr. Cullen if it occurred outside of the party. Surely meeting her at the party would allow me a waiver on that rule. Dr. Cullen seemed to be pleased anytime I bent one of my rules, so I hoped he would be as understanding about his own.

Presently, I caught up with my klutzy beauty in the main hall, just as she reached for the door.

"Please wait! I have something to say!"

Feeling suddenly exposed, I put my hands back in my pockets, but decided to counteract my apparent physical nonchalance with verbal fervor.

"I am truly sorry my inappropriate touching lead to your fall and public humiliation. From the bottom of my heart, I beg for your forgiveness. And let me add that if it were not for the fact that I irrationally fear being contaminated by any possible diseases you may be carrying, I would be happy to shake your hand. My name is Edward."

She stared at me; face red, eyes saucer-shaped, mouth slightly wet with drool (possibly due to hand, foot and mouth disease...but I hoped not). I also noted brown eyes, my favorite, and decided to add this to my victory journal. Although, I couldn't figure out how how her eye color would help me in my treatment. Perhaps reflection would bring a reason to mind...

But that was for later. At the moment, I wondered what I said that left her speechless and apparently embarrassed. It suddenly occurred to me that I was being inconsiderate as I remembered Dr. Cullen's advice during my last session. So, I added one more thing:

"Sorry, I didn't leave my side of the conversation open. That was very thoughtless. Um...Tell me, what do you think about this weather we've been having?"