I have the sense to recognize that
I don’t know how to let you go
Every moment marked
With apparitions of your soul
The sun was setting on the bay, making the vast stretch of water below look like liquid gold. I smiled as I stretched myself out beneath the dying rays, the warm sand of the beach brushing enticingly against my skin.
"Enjoying yourself?" his smooth voice whispered in my ear, his breath tickling my neck and causing my nerves to tingle with pleasure.
"Mmm," I smiled, rolling into his cool embrace, encasing his hard torso in my arms. He chuckled again and brushed my hair behind my ear with his slender fingers.
"I love you," he murmured, before planting a series of delicate kisses along my jaw line. I shivered, despite the heat, and openly clung to his broad shoulders. Slowly, I opened my eyes…
"No," I groaned, my head burrowing underneath the duvet. "Five more minutes." I was just getting to the good part…
I swore and reached out from beneath the covers, my arm grabbing wildly for the alarm clock. I heard a deafening crash and felt the floor shake. I sat bolt upright, the duvet falling away and exposing me to a wall of freezing cold air. Bleary eyed and disorientated, I looked around the room in confusion, searching for the source of the noise. My eyes fell upon my bed side cabinet- in my haste to switch off the alarm clock it seemed to have been overturned, causing the many books and CDs piled precariously atop it to tumble to the floor. My eyes zeroed in on the alarm clock, which was now innocently nestled in between Jane Eyre and Great Expectations.
"Stupid piece of junk," I mumbled, slamming my hand on the OFF button before reluctantly heaving myself out of bed. I stumbled across the room and across the hall into the bathroom, finding at least three things to trip over on my way. It wasn't until I had showered, dressed and had a glass of orange juice- my tolerance for caffeine was embarrassingly low- that I could even think about the day ahead.
I swung myself onto one of the stools at the counter in the kitchen of my small apartment and glanced at the calendar that hung on the wall. January 4th. Over six years had passed since Edward had left me in the forest in Forks, during which I had struggled through every single day unable, despite my hardest endeavors, to forget him. I had finished school and gotten good grades, even in calculus; evidently emotional heart break and social isolation can do wonders for a person's work ethic. After that I went to College, where I majored in English, before I trained to become a teacher. I got my first job teaching English Literature in a high school in Rochester, New York, and had been living in the city for almost two years.
My life had moved on, even if I hadn't.
I groaned again as I wandered to the window and looked out at a city covered in snow. Rochester weather reminded me of Forks- less rainy but just as unfriendly. I turned and glanced at myself in the mirror that hung on the opposite wall. In terms of my appearance, not much had changed. I was still plain and though my body had gained a few extra curves over the years, it was still mainly slim and unremarkable. My hair and eyes were brown and my lips full, but my face had lost all the roundness of childhood as I had transitioned from teenager to adult. I wonder what he would think of me now?
The errant thought surprised me and I shook my head, irritated at myself. I normally didn't let myself dwell on those sorts of questions; they led to memories I'd rather forget. I had swiftly learnt over the years that it was easier to distance myself from anything that tied me to my past; it was the least painful way of living. It was for this reason that I had taken a job in Rochester, thousands of miles away from Forks. I may have fought Charlie when he tried to send me back to Phoenix in the months following Edward's departure, but by the time I left school, I realized that being surrounded by memories of him was slowly driving me insane.
In truth, this was partly the reason that I'd spent the winter break alone, despite pleas from both Charlie and Renee to go and visit them. I had been in Forks for Thanksgiving though; dinner at La Push had become an annual fixture on my calendar. Jacob and I were still friends.
Ah, Jake, I thought wistfully, my eyes drawn to a photo frame sitting on the coffee table. It was a snapshot of us sitting by a bonfire at First Beach five years ago. He had his arm around me, and I was smiling; it was one of the only photos I owned that showed me genuinely happy. In the background you could just make out the figures of Quil, Embry, Paul, Sam and Jared playing football.
Emily had taken the photo after we had finished eating. I could still remember how she had said we made such a good couple and the triumphant gleam in Jacob's eyes at the word. That had never quite happened though, despite Jake's wishes. We had tried, for a couple of months during the summer before I left for college; perhaps because I was so tired of having to continually redraw my boundaries around him, or else because I had finally accepted that I did love him in that way. Whatever the reason, we decided to give ourselves a chance. It didn't last. To be honest, I think I was still too broken to have a relationship beyond friendship with anybody, let alone someone as important to me as Jacob. I was too afraid to get too close to him, too afraid to lose him like I had lost Edward. It ended when I left for school in September and neither of us ever made any attempt to rekindle the flames in the following years. He had since met a girl, Carole, and they had gotten married. She was everything I would have chosen for Jake- everything that he needed that I could not give him. She was happy, whole and able to love him without conditions, something which I would never have been able to do.
I glanced at the clock; it was time to leave. Carefully picking up my bulging work bag, I threw on my coat and took my keys from the pot on the sideboard. It was even colder on the street than I had expected. I huddled myself against my coat, tilting my head away from the wind. I didn't have a car; I had had to leave my truck behind in Forks and although I still had my motorbike, it wasn't really suitable for driving to work, especially not in the winter. As a result, I travelled almost everywhere by bus.
The journey wasn't long and I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I barely even noticed the streets and houses whipping past. I couldn't help but think about the dream I had been having when I woke up. My dreaming about Edward wasn't unusual, but my imaginings were never usually as vivid as they had been this morning. This could only be a bad thing, what would be next, hearing voices? I smirked at my own joke as the bus came to a halt at my stop and I hopped off, feigning a weak smile at the driver.
Sycamore Grove High School was big, with just over 2500 students on roll. I mainly taught the upperclassmen, but I recognized some of the younger students from the many extra-curriculars I had run last year. I liked to keep busy and volunteering to help organize some of the many activities seemed like an excellent way to do that. The building itself was your typical High School- large and square with sandy colored bricks and steps leading up to the wide front doors, through which students were currently streaming. On my way up the path I had to be careful not to be caught in a crossfire by one of the many snowballs currently being thrown by what seemed like most of the male student population. I shook my head and rolled my eyes; some things never change.
As I reached the door I saw a student that I recognized from one of my classes walking towards me. I groaned half amused half exasperated. It was Adam Carter- a popular junior who was apparently (I didn't really follow the school sport) a bit of a star on the baseball team. He had blond hair and brown eyes and reminded me irresistibly of Mike Newton, in that he seemed intent to follow me everywhere. My colleagues liked to tease me that he had a crush, but I preferred to call it over-friendliness- the attentions of a 17 year old boy was not something I needed. No, you just prefer to dream about them instead. I fiercely dug my nails into my fists and tried to push that thought to the edge of my mind. Like I needed to be reminded of my unhealthy night-time hallucinations- they were taking over my life as it was.
"Hi Ms Swan!" Adam said, his loud voice causing people to turn and stare as he ambled towards me. He made a move to take my bag but I took a step back, trying to cover it up by pretending to stumble. To my misfortune, this didn't seem to deter him.
"Um, hello Adam, good Christmas?" I asked, distractedly, looking over my shoulder for an escape route.
"Oh sure, me and the guys went snowboarding, it was AW-esome," he rattled on earnestly, his words dissolving into mush in my brain. I faintly registered the use of the vernacular and idly thought how the language nowadays was so much more unattractive than the formal speech of the early 1900s, then scolded myself. It was worrying how great an effect that one short dream had had on me.
I interrupted Adam, deciding that it was time to make my getaway. "That's great, but I've got to go and talk to, uh," I racked my brains for a plausible teacher and decided the one whose office was as far away as possible, "Dr Takagi, so I'll see you later." I gave what I hoped would pass for a smile and fled, almost tripping up the steps as I went.
"Yeah," Adam called after me, "first period in 12E!" I didn't reply but dove through the nearest door, shaking my head in disbelief as I went. What was it with me and over-enthusiastic teenage boys? And how come they never seemed to get the message that I was really not as interesting as they made me out to be?
These musings preoccupied me until I reached the staff room, and to my deep relief I was not accosted by any more pubescent admirers. As I walked into the large, beige coloured staff room however, I managed to twist my ankle and drop my bag on my feet, much to the amusement of several maths teachers standing nearby. Irate, I picked up my things and made my way to the kitchen. Screw the caffeine, I thought to myself, I seriously need a coffee.
To my dismay, homeroom eventually came to an end, and I was forced to leave the relative safety of the staffroom and brave the jungle that was the hallways. I glanced at my timetable and realised that Adam had been correct- my first class was indeed in Block 12. That was about a five minute walk away, seven if I counted congestion and snowball dodging into my route. I poured myself another cup of coffee- in for a penny, in for a pound- and exited the lounge hastily, before I could be told off for removing school crockery.
The journey was, thankfully, without impediment- unless you counted the breaking up of one fight, the prevention of throwing snowballs indoors and redirecting a confused freshman when she tried to attend her biology class in the janitor’s closet while several 'helpful' sophomores snickered from behind her.
When I finally made it to 12E I found half of my class already present, changing seats and lounging on desks as they flirted, swapped post-holiday gossip and took photographs of each other on their cell phones. There was still five minutes to go until the official start of class, so I let them be while I sorted out my materials for the lesson. We were starting 'Pride and Prejudice' today and, provided we moved through it fast enough, we were going to progress to 'Jane Eyre' in a matter of weeks. Six years ago, I would not have been able to read my most favourite of Austen and Bröntes' novels without descending into tears. Now however, I felt nothing but a slight pang in my empty chest- uncomfortable but bearable.
I dug deep into my bag to find the sheets of paper I was planning on handing out to the class and as I rummaged, my elbow hit my bag. "Crap," I cursed as one of my folders fell to the floor, the entirety of its contents splaying across the lino. I walked around the desk and bent down, coffee still in hand, to gather up the paper.
"I'll help you Ms Swan!" an eager voice called out, and I looked up to see Adam again. I hadn't noticed him enter the room and felt a flash of irritation.
"No Adam, I'm fine tha-" I protested, but to no avail. He ignored me, vaulting over his desk with the kind of energy only a teenage boy possesses first thing on a Monday morning. He really is like Mike, I thought to myself, as I watched him collect up my papers with so much enthusiasm that he knocked my cup of coffee out of my hand. Or perhaps he's a bit more like me. I winced as the mug landed with a smash on the floor… right at the feet of a man who had just appeared in the doorway.
A series of laughs and whistles erupted from the class, as their eyes flicked from my irritated expression to Adam's mortified one. I sighed. What a way to start the semester.
The man in the doorway cleared his throat and I looked up to see Patrick Delaney standing there. An almost exhaustingly dedicated teacher, Patrick had been my mentor for my first couple of months of teaching and, despite being nearly a decade older than me, we had struck up a sort of friendship. This year, he had been assigned responsibility for the entire junior class- no mean feat, considering that it currently contained over 600 students.
"Hi Ms Swan," he cleared his throat, amused, "is, uh, everything alright?"
"Never better," I said through gritted teeth, painfully aware of the flush beginning to creep up my cheeks. I wasn't worried about Patrick's reaction to the coffee- I knew he wouldn't care in the slightest- but I didn't appreciate the fact that I had just made an idiot of myself in front of a class of unsympathetic teenagers.
Patrick grinned at me unashamedly, his dark eyes sparkling behind his glasses, "Well I just came to tell you that you're expecting a new student in your class this morning. He's with the secretary at the moment collecting his timetable, but he should be along later."
"Thanks, Mr Delaney," I replied, reverting to the use of his surname for the benefit of our audience.
"No problem," he turned his gaze to Adam and pointed at the smashed cup, saying sternly, "I'd get something to clean up this mess if I were you son, before somebody slips in it." He waited long enough for Adam to self-consciously dart out of the classroom, before he winked cheerily at me. "
See you later, Bella."
With a sigh I turned to face the class, ignoring the last-minute stragglers as they scurried to their seats. It was time to actually get some work done.
It was ten minutes into the lesson and most of the stress of the morning had disappeared. Teaching was what I was good at, and I really enjoyed it, especially when it came to discussing novels. When I had left school I had actually toyed with the idea of becoming a librarian before Charlie persuaded me to pursue education as a career. At first I had thought he was crazy; I could barely look at a group of people without blushing. Gradually however, I realized that perhaps it wasn't such a ridiculous idea after all. I had always loved discussing books- now I was getting paid for it. There was also something inordinately satisfying in sharing my love for literature and seeing the students grow to enjoy the books they studied. I soon found that my total lack of confidence wasn't an issue; it was as if by discussing the characters I loved so much, I was shielding myself from any insecurities. Outside the classroom it was a completely different matter, but inside I was in my element.
I had just instructed the class to get themselves into pairs when, over the outbreak of noise that ensued, I heard the door open again. Expecting it to be Adam with cleaning materials I didn't look up, but busied myself with distributing handouts to the groups of students and breaking up any squabbles over grouping. It wasn't until I had returned to the front of the class that I realized that Adam had still not entered the room.
"Adam," I sighed, "please don't hover in the doorway, come and-" the words died in my throat as I looked at the figure in the door. It wasn't Adam. I felt myself go rigid as I stared, shocked, into his face.
No. It couldn't be, not after all this time. No, Bella. You're still dreaming. I shook my head, dazed, as I looked away and then back at him, unable to believe what I was seeing. Wake UP Bella, wake up! But I was awake. I was awake and staring right into the very face I had been trying to forget for years, the face of the first and last person I had ever truly loved.
The world fell away, leaving nothing but him. I couldn't believe that he was here, after six years of nothing, here he was standing three feet away from me. He looked exactly the same as he had always done: tall, pale and of course, devastatingly beautiful. As my eyes raked his face hungrily, I instantly knew that my dreams had been laughably poor in their quality. It was delicious agony; I revelled in each detail, but every glance just tore my heart apart further.
"Ed-dward," I stuttered, my hands gripping the edge of my desk to prevent me from falling. I dimly registered that the chattering in the classroom had quietened slightly, and I could sense the curious gazes of the students on the front row taking in my rigid posture and shocked expression with great interest. I knew I should say something, anything, but I couldn't. My mind was swamped as all the memories I had hitherto repressed rushed forward, like water breaking through a dam.
Edward laughing as he shook snow from his hair; Edward in the meadow; playing video games with Emmett; listening to music; speeding down the highway in his car; Edward kissing my neck; his hands running down my sides as he murmured against my lips…
I gasped as this last one came to me, such was the force of the sensations it caused. I looked at Edward, my heart pounding.
"Bella," he breathed, his velvety voice so quiet that only I could hear. He looked surprised, but much, much more composed than I was, at least, he wasn't shaking uncontrollably.
We stared at each other for an eternity until, finally, I was saved.
"Ms Swan?" It was Patrick again. He still looked indecently good-humoured, given the emotional turmoil I was currently in. His eyes searched the room before they fell on Edward and, nodding, Patrick ticked a name off of his list.
"Ah, there you are Mr Cullen. Were there any problems with your timetable?"
And then I realized… It came to me in one, horrific sweep of understanding. Edward was the new student. Edward, my centenarian vampire ex-boyfriend who had, until one moment ago, been absent from my life for over six years was now one of my students. If I hadn't been so appalled, I might have laughed.
"No sir," Edward replied, his voice apparently unshaken. Underneath the wave of hysteria rising within me, I felt a stab of hurt indignation. Did seeing me after six years really have no effect on him whatsoever? Judging by his expression, I guessed not. Of course he doesn't care Bella, I wryly told myself. Don't you remember what he said in the forest? I did remember, vividly. The memory of my rejection still had the power to bring me to my knees with the pain it caused.
"Excellent. I suggest you take a seat," Patrick smiled, indicating an empty desk two rows back by the wall, before turning to face me. For a split second I thought I detected a flicker of emotion cross Edward's features, but before I could be sure he turned his back on me and moved gracefully towards his seat. Unwillingly, I looked back to Patrick.
"Well, I'll leave you to it then," he grinned, dropping his voice conspiratorially. "You shouldn't have any trouble with this one Bella, according to his records he was an honor student back in San Francisco." I just nodded dumbly, unable to bring myself to reply; something which Patrick, in all his cheerful chatter, did not seem to notice. "Have a nice day Bella," he trilled as he swept from the room.
A nice day. Sure.
I turned to face the now quiet class, trying my best to disguise the fact that I was trembling and making deadly sure that my eyes did not stray to the seat by the wall, two rows from the front.
"Okay people, let's turn to chapter three," I managed to choke out. The scene where the would-be lovers first meet; how sickly appropriate, I thought to myself.
Then, knowing that the only way out of this nightmare was to just keep teaching until I was saved by the bell announcing break, I clenched my fists, hardened my resolve and prepared myself for the hardest morning of my life.