Suggested Listening: 'Love Song' by Husband
Post-its & Potty Mouths
Oh, first day of school, how I love thee.
I sit in the parking lot, contemplating the monotonous hell that awaits inside. This is definitely one of those ‘grass is greener’ situations. It’s screwed up considering I spent all summer wishing the semester would start, just to have something productive to do.
I’d hoped Isabella would provide some much needed entertainment, but the girl is evasive as hell. Dad was right about her addition to the fam’ not being a big deal; my life is exactly the same as it was a month ago.
That’s a little depressing.
I like moving forward.
Forward is good.
“Come on, man! We don’t wanna be late on the first day!” Emmett yells through the wet glass of my car window, knocking obnoxiously. I roll my eyes, but grab my bag and join him anyway.
“What’s the hold up? Nervous about getting reacquainted with actual people?” He slaps me on the back and I wince, pretending the force didn’t almost wind me.
“Oh, I don’t know, you nervous about getting reacquainted with actual brain cells?”
He smiles despite our polar senses of humor. “There he is.”
We enter through the main doors, but thankfully go our separate ways without another word. After shoving my crap in my locker, I turn around and cringe at the sight of Mike giving an inappropriate ‘Hello’ to Jessica’s tits. He must feel my gaze, because he looks up and casually gives me one of those ‘bro nods’. I stupidly nod back, not having a fucking clue what I just communicated to him.
I make my way to Spanish, which starts out a little more interesting than usual. The new teacher, Mrs. Goff, is cool, but her novelty soon wears off and I easily zone out. I’m sure I hear Isabella’s name whispered a bunch of times, but that’s to be expected. This Podunk town hasn’t had much in the way of gossip since… five years ago, actually. The return of the tragedy poster-child was bound to peak their interest.
They’ll get over it.
By the time lunch rolls around, I’m ready to stick my head in one of the cafeteria ovens. I’m pretty certain the lunch ladies would let me back there, too. Jess says the cougars love my ‘boyish charm’, whatever the hell that means.
Speaking of Jess, she’s already seated at her table, which is packed as usual. I don’t know how she deals with being popular. All those people around you constantly? It must be fucking exhausting, especially today when there are even more than just her regular sheep. I’d take a quick guess, and say that has everything to do with Isabella and her prime position, squashed between Alice and Jess.
I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Bella looks altogether overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Not ‘pleasantly’ because I’m an asshole, but because she doesn’t seem to be relishing the attention like most girls would be.
Alice probably dressed her this morning, too. Gone are the baggy tees and sweats I was getting accustomed to. A soft-looking teal sweater replaces them, and I’d wager some of those spray-on jeans girls use to exhibit their ass cracks.
When our eyes meet awkwardly in the lunch queue, I’m torn between saving her from the ambush or just laughing at her. I do neither, instead choosing to show my disinterest by quickly turning away.
I’m tempted to report the food in front of me to heath officials. Instant mashed potato and reformed chicken have absolutely no nutritional value.
Pot, meet kettle. I think dryly.
I have to shake my head at my own hypocrisy, since dad is forever giving me shit about my preferred diet of eighty per cent Fruit Loops. Mom is slightly more understanding. Apparently it’s just a coping mechanism; they were Lizzy’s favorite food.
I call bullshit; they just taste good.
Still, mom continues to serve me a plate at dinner, making me a master at artfully rearranging food.
Paying for my soda, I spy an inviting-looking, vacant table by the window. I pop in my earphones and crack open a book, assuming my usual ‘sit down and I’ll knife you’ posture.
I’m not sure why, or how much time has passed, but I get the urge to look back over at Jess and Alice’s table.
I don’t regret it.
Isabella is still there of course, staring absently at the table with a half-eaten apple propped in her bent wrist. The group around her seems to have lost interest momentarily, engaged in their own separate conversations. I watch her for a few minutes, when she suddenly looks straight up into my eyes without moving her head. It’s freaky as shit, and vaguely reminds me of something from a horror movie. She doesn’t look away, and I’d swear she was pissed at me for something if her expression wasn’t so blank.
Without breaking her gaze, Isabella slowly places her palms flat on the table, using them as leverage to push herself up. Everyone pauses, looking up at her in question, but, to my amusement she just turns and casually walks away, exiting the cafeteria. Her abandoned lunch buddies look around at each other, clearly confused by her behavior. Inevitably they turn to Alice, as if she’s supposed to know what’s up. All she can do is shrug and get the gossip mill churning.
The art of backstabbing would be lost without teenage girls, I swear. I love my kid sister, but she’s perpetually stuck in that stage where her insecurities and need for social acceptance drive her actions.
I think high school is probably easier for guys. Sure, getting your ass kicked by some jock with a penis-complex sucks, but it’s still quicker than the daily mental torture girls like to inflict on each other.
Band-Aids are cheaper than therapy, after all.
Since lip-reading is not a skill I possess, I abandon my attempt to discern what Alice is saying and take a more direct approach, following Isabella’s lead and leaving the cafeteria silently. Only the lunch lady and a few stoned- looking freshmen notice my quick escape.
Fifteen minutes go by before I finally locate her. She’s sat Indian-style at the back of the gym, scribbling away on a post-it note with a small frown of concentration.
“Hey, Sylvia Plath, lighten up.” Bella doesn’t acknowledge my presence, not even to pause the movement of her pen. “What was that? Are you always this moody or is today a special occasion?” I ask sarcastically, leaning against the wall beside her.
“I’d ask the same of you, but you’re clearly always an abrasive fuck.”
Whoa, easy tiger.
“You’re pretty intense then, huh?” I light a cigarette and tilt my chin up to exhale the smoke dramatically.
Note to self: cut down on the film noir.
“If that’s your preferred adjective,” she answers simply. There’s no emotion to her voice, and I get the feeling I’m just adding to her background noise. She doesn’t even look up.
A few minutes pass in silence while I smoke, and she fills a couple more post-its. I can’t read them from where I’m standing, but I’m curious to see what’s seemingly so important. I bend down next to her, bracing my weight with my hands on my knees, “Your time travel thesis, or?”
She finally looks up. “You’re kind of a dick, aren’t you?”
As much as I want to, I can’t stop the genuine laughter that erupts from my chest. You’ve got to admire that kind of blunt, unfiltered honesty. Bella just continues to stare at me, completely straight-faced, while I regain my composure. I wonder if she talks like this around my parents? I doubt mom would be as enamored if she did.
I’ve never been this close to her before, and I take the opportunity to properly look at her face. My eyes scan her features, and I reluctantly admit to myself that she’s actually very pretty. All big, brown doe eyes, with long, dark lashes and pouty lips. She’s the exact opposite of Jessica, in a pale, brunette, girl-next-door kind of way.
“Alright, Chuckles, there’s such a thing as personal space,” Bella sighs, looking back down at her crossed legs. Suddenly, she gathers up the notes, sticks them together and places them in a blue, overcapacity notebook. Next, she stands up and brushes herself off.
“Can you give me a ride home today?”
“You want a ride from the ‘dick’?” I laugh.
“‘Dick’ beats your over-bearing sister and girlfriend. Yes, or no?”
“Fine, yes. And she’s not my girlfriend,” I add, purely for clarification purposes.
“Somebody should probably tell her that, then,” she says flatly. I’m about to respond when Bella pops up on her tiptoes and takes the cigarette from my mouth, placing it in her own. “Later, then,” she says with a smirk.
I watch her walk away, trying to decide whether I’m pleased or disappointed with her lack of spray-on pants.
~ X ~
So, gym was fun… if you’re into getting hit in the face with balls.
Actual balls… not sweaty man-balls.
I shudder at the thought. That’s definitely a mental image I never want to have again.
I wouldn’t even normally have to participate if dad hadn’t busted me forging notes on his behalf last semester. I’d debated skipping the class altogether, but I can’t have a blot like that on my college application. Not this late in the game. The promise of escape, and the freedom to indulge my interests is worth an hour of hell.
Mr. Banner and his biology class are my saving grace, and I’m thankful it’s the last one of the day. Although it’s an AP class, I already know the material and still have trouble keeping focus. What I really look forward to is our lengthy discussions after the other students leave.
Mostly we just shoot the shit about research developments, and he lends me his journal subscriptions. It’s the intelligent kind of conversation that I crave from college.
I know it’s shitty of me, but I often flit between respect and pity of him. When his social-climbing ex-wife got impatient, she left him in the middle his PhD, forcing him to substitute teach in lieu of her financial support. It took a huge strain on his work, eventually leading him to accept a full-time position here in the Forks Science Department.
His dream career is now on hold. Indefinitely.
There’s nothing more depressing than seeing someone have to settle. You’d never know he was miserable from his classes. His enthusiasm and wild mannerisms make him an awesome teacher, but if you take a closer look, the signs are there.
The dismissal bell rings and I gather up my things, approaching Mr. Banner’s desk.
“Edward, my boy, how was your summer?” I smile at the endearment.
“Absolutely thrilling. Yours?”
“I thought as much,” he laughs, pulling a seat out for me.
Shit, why did I tell Bella I’d give her a ride?
“Sorry, Sir, I’ll have to take a rain check. I’m sure you’ve heard about Carlisle’s latest stray- she needs a ride home.”
“Ah, not to worry. The elusive Miss Isabella Swan, correct?”
“Yeah. Mom would kill me if I made her walk, so…” I say, turning to leave.
“I see. Please tell her I’ll let this one slide, but if she skips my class again I won’t be happy.”
“She’s in this class?” I stop, turning in the doorway.
“In theory, yes. Unfortunately for you, Lone Ranger, she’ll also be your lab partner when she bothers to show up.”
My face visibly falls.
“Sorry, kid, I know how you prefer to work alone.”
“Thanks for telling me… and ruining my day.”
“Anytime!” He calls out behind me, chuckling.
I swear to god, if she doesn’t pull her weight, or screws up my grade I’ll… I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’m not down for giving anyone an easy ‘A’.
The sight that greets me as I exit the building only adds to my irritation.
“Get your skinny ass off my car right now, or you’re walking!” I yell aggressively across the parking lot.
Bella doesn’t move, but I know she’s heard me from the smile that creeps across her face. “You think I’m kidding?” I pick up my stride in an attempt to frighten her.
“Okay, okay! Calm down, dude.” She finally leans away from the door, her hands raised in mock-surrender.
“You’ve already pissed me off today, don’t push it,” I warn, moving around the car.
“What did I-” I quickly get in the drivers seat, shutting her noise out with the door. I already know the end of her question.
“Mr. Banner’s class?” I ask, turning toward her in the small space when she gets in.
Bella still looks confused, putting her seatbelt on as I start the engine. “AP bio? You know, the class you just skipped?”
“You’re mad ‘cause I skipped a class?” she asks, confused.
“No,” I sigh, “I’m mad because you’re in the class.”
“Oh,” is her simple reply. I start to feel guilty when she begins to fidget with the fabric of her sweater, turning to stare out the window. I can’t blame her for trying to block me out; I know I’m just projecting.
The awkward silence becomes too much and I give in. “Sorry,” I apologize, but it only seems to add to the tension. “I just like working on my own, I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m sure you’re as smart as mom says you are.”
Wow, dad would be so proud. The mollifying ability appears to run in the family.
“It’s fine,” her flat tone from earlier has returned, “I don’t plan on attending anyway.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The class. I’m not going.”
Oh, yeah? Just like that?
“Bella, this isn’t college, you can’t just not show up for class. You won’t graduate.”
“I know, that’s fine.”
“Stop saying ‘fine’, Jesus, and how is that okay?” I don’t understand her logic at all. If she doesn’t graduate she can’t apply to college, and even working minimum wage requires a high school diploma.
“I have other plans,” she turns to me, shrugging.
Oh I see, no big deal, then.
“What other plans could you possibly have?”
“Ones that don’t concern you, so just drop it.” I glance back over at her, about to push for more, but the way she’s eyeballing me makes me think better of it. I resolve to just ask mom later.
The silence resumes as we drive through town. I think maybe it’s less awkward now, but I’m not exactly an expert on human interaction. I forget she’s there for a moment, wishing I were home, and quietly saying my thanks for the genius that is TiVo.
As a consequence of floating in my happy place, I nearly shit myself when she leans over, grabs the wheel and yells, “Stop the car! Now!”
I slam the brakes on.
Breathe, breathe, breathe.
The fuck just happened?
The momentum of braking so suddenly causes both our bodies to lurch forward. We fall back against the seats heavily, but my hands are still gripping the wheel tightly.
My knuckles are actually white. “Are you trying to fucking kill us!” I fume. She’s not even looking.
What is she looki-?
Leaning forward, I look past her through the passenger window. All I see is an old, beat-up, red truck parked outside the grocery store. I see a tan guy with a ponytail approaching it.
“Shit!” Bella curses under her breath, ducking her head between her legs, apparently hiding.
“What are yo-“
“Here!” She snaps, shoving a post-it pad at my hands from her bag on the floor. I take it, but what I’m supposed to do with it, exactly, escapes me.
“Write the fucking plate down!” Bella yells, probably sensing my stupor.
“In my fucking blood, or what?” I wasn’t aware my voice could go this high “Give me a pen!”
She passes one from her awkward position with her head still down, and huffs impatiently.
“The red truck?”
“Okay! Stop fucking yelling at me, woman!” The truck in question is pulling out, but I manage to jot the number down in time. I don’t tell Bella he’s gone yet. I need a moment to collect my shit together.
“Did you get it?” Her voice is muffled from the fabric of her jeans.
“That depends on whether or not you tell me what the hell you’re doing.”
She calls my bluff and sits up anyway, her face flushed and hands still shaking.
“Well?” I prompt.
She opens her mouth, but nothing comes out. I can practically see the cogs turning in her head, trying to come up with a legit excuse, I imagine.
“And don’t just make something up.” I add.
She closes her mouth and straightens her sweater, “That’s my truck.”
“Bullshit, you didn’t even own a toothbrush until a month ago.”
“It is!” She insists, “That asshole stole it!”
“Where? From your fictional garage?” I raise my eyebrows, “Did he steal your unicorn, too, sweetie?”
“Fuck you, I’m telling the truth. I’ve had that thing since I was eight!”
She’s a nut job, clearly.
I’m sure dad can arrange a nice bed for her in one of those homes for the perpetually befuddled. It all makes sense now. Her post non-graduation plans include bouncing off the walls, and eating fruit from the wallpaper.
“Bella, nobody owns a car when they’re eight years old, unless it’s a plastic one,” I reason.
“It’s mine.” She looks so sure, but I can’t help the condescending look on my face. I simply don’t believe her.
After a beat, she unbuckles her seatbelt and swings the door open, grabbing her bag.
“Where are you going?”
“Home!” She shouts in my face, bending down through the open door. I flinch as she slams it shut, making the car jolt.
Lord, give me strength.
I get out, placing my hand on the roof, “Get back in the car! Stop being so fucking dramatic!” I yell behind her. Bella is across the street now, tying her hair up roughly as she walks.
“Just let me take you home and I’ll drop it! I promise!” This is getting embarrassing; cars are actually slowing to enjoy the spectacle.
“That place isn’t my home!” Her voice is getting hoarse from all the yelling, and she shakes her head. I shake mine too, because I don’t have time for this crap. I should have just stayed away.
“You’re going in the wrong direction!” I mock.
She flips me the bird without turning around, disappearing down the next street.