Bella Playing Soccer
Edward had resumed his schedule from the beginning of the year, which put him in most of my classes again. There was one minor schedule change, however.
At first I was confused when I heard him explain to a dazzled Mrs. Cope that he’d already finished Physics in L.A. (she had no trouble believing his fib about how his school in L.A. operated in trimesters instead of semesters). It wasn’t until I looked at the new schedule that she printed out for him that I realized…to my complete horror…that he’d arranged his schedule so that we would have gym together.
I barely registered his velvety voice quietly thanking the flustered secretary. I was too busy trying to push back the feeling of dread that was spreading through the pit of my stomach. This god-like creature—whom I’d seen hit baseballs so hard that they ended up in other counties—didn’t belong in the same universe as someone as klutzy as me, let alone the same gym class. I racked my brain for possible motives.
On one hand, he could just be trying to show off. That would certainly annoy Mike Newton—my ever-shafted admirer—who still came to my rescue every gym class despite over a year of me returning the favor with nothing but a consistent stream of polite rejection. I tried to picture the two of them pit against each other in tennis. No matter how I mentally altered the match, it always ended with Mike being subtly shown up in his favorite sport. I felt a surge of pity. On the other hand, there was the sickening possibility that Edward had switched classes simply because he found the potential entertainment value of the “bumbling Bella show” too good to pass up. I imagined him grinning in amusement as I stumbled around making a fool of myself. Humiliations galore. As we left the little office to walk to first hour, I begged him to switch to another gym class. Any other gym class. He wouldn’t budge.
“Bella,” he said, his angel’s eyes pleading. “After all this time away from you, I don’t want to waste a second!” he whirled around, catching my hands in his. “I just wanted more time with you. I thought that you’d be surprised and pleased,” he murmured, a touch of hurt staining his satiny voice.
“More surprised than pleased,” I said stiffly, forcing myself not to melt in his presence as his scent swept over me. Just breathe, I thought.
“What’s wrong? Do you need space?” he said suddenly.
“What?” I asked in bewilderment as I watched worry flit across his perfect face.
“Am I doing this all wrong?” he said in a rush of words. “Am I smothering you? I know how much I hurt you…if all this is just too much…if I’m coming on too strong…” he suddenly looked self-conscious. I laughed, unable to believe that he was concerning himself with winning me back.
“No, silly. It’s not that,” I said. He stared at me, looking frustrated. I momentarily forgot our argument as I realized that after seven months absence I’d failed to remember just how lovely he looked when he was frustrated.
“What is it then?” he blurted out impatiently, after a few seconds of my silence. “I still can’t read your mind, you know.”
“I look like an idiot in gym,” I said, stating the obvious. “I’d prefer for you not to be utterly embarrassed that we’re together.” He laughed out loud.
“Oh! Is that all?” he said in relief. I scowled at him, and he laughed again. He put his arms around me and pulled me close.
“I could never be embarrassed by you,” he whispered in my ear. “You’re my whole world.” My heart thudded as I inhaled the dizzying fragrance that my memory had simply not been able to capture in its entirety. The bell rang. He sighed as he pulled away from me, and we hurried to class. As we walked, I found myself wondering if Alice could see any futures that didn’t involve me being humiliated in fifth hour.
When I asked her about that over lunch I was distraught to realize that Edward wasn’t the only one who’d dazzled Mrs. Cope. The pixie-like vampire had “mysteriously” ended up with a schedule change that placed her in my gym class as well. Not her too…I thought. An image of the three-foot hurdles that coach set up last spring on the outdoor track sprang to mind. I’d gotten to miss that activity last year thanks to my broken leg, but the track and field sessions were coming up again within the month. I imagined Alice leaping over each barrier with superhuman grace, effortlessly as a gazelle. I tried to figure out how I would make it over even one without toppling it. The knot in my stomach tightened. I insisted over and over that I’d rather her not be there, but she acted as though she hadn’t heard me. I eventually gave up arguing, and ate my lunch in silence, trying to communicate with every fiber of my being that I was angry with them. It was hard to do when my heart was still bubbling with the unbelievable realization that they were both actually here…right here…sitting in front of me…fighting for the right to be near me.
The first day wasn’t so bad. We played dodge ball. Every time a ball came my way Alice or Edward would leap in front of me, either letting the ball hit one of them (in their attempts to appear normal), or catching it so they could be “it”, and throw the ball at everyone BUT me. It didn’t escape my notice that every time Alice was “it” that Tyler Crowley would end up doubled over because the gym ball had hit him in the stomach.
The second day was worse. Though it was overcast as always, the weatherman had predicted several days with a low chance of rain (Alice confirmed this prediction). This allowed Coach Clapp the rare opportunity to plan a series of outdoor sports, starting with soccer. Conner was made captain of one team, while Lauren was made captain of the other. Conner—who had always been nice to me—picked me first. I was certain that it was out of pity. Lauren, who’d never really gotten over her Cullen obsession, picked both Edward and Alice to be on her team. If either of them disliked this arrangement, their faces said nothing about it. Alice actually seemed slightly triumphant, and I noticed that she raised one eyebrow at her brother. I could almost sense them having some kind of a private conversation, glancing back and forth between each other, their eyes occasionally flitting to me. I frowned. They were up to something.
My team made me goalie. They probably thought that if I had less running and more standing around to do that I would have the least chance of tripping and breaking my neck. Mike and Tyler volunteered to be on defense. I figured that it was so they could jump in front of me whenever anything came toward the goal. From my place between the goal posts, I couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful bronze-haired boy down the field, who was busy bouncing the ball from one knee to the other. He looked like a World Cup pro, of course. Despite my bad mood, I had to smile. Only he could make pasty white legs in seventies gym shorts look attractive. When the whistle blew, he dribbled the ball gracefully down the field, looking quite bored. I fumed with jealousy. Why did Edward have to be perfect at everything?
The game started out okay. It was right after lunch and the Mexican food we'd had was a little too spicy. Since everyone was feeling a little queasy from the cafeteria food, the game moved at a sluggish pace, which I didn’t mind...the ball only came near me three times. The first two of those times, Mike came to my rescue, blocking the shots before they had a chance to even get to me. The third time, however, as I was distractedly ogling at Edward…hardly able to believe that he was really, truly, honestly back…he looked at me with a gleam in his eye and suddenly kicked the ball towards my goal. It hit my unsuspecting foot, bounced off, and flew down the field. To anyone who hadn’t been watching closely enough, it would have appeared that I’d blocked Edward’s shot, saving my team from losing the lead. Mike and Tyler cheered, slapping me high fives, celebrating the first athletic success of my high school career. The coach blew the whistle, signaling the end of the game. My team had won, one to zero. I stared at Edward in disbelief. He grinned crookedly, eyes twinkling. I turned on my heel and stalked to the locker room, furious.
“Nice save,” Alice said casually, as I slammed my locker shut. I glared at her.
“What?” she asked. Her gorgeous eyes widened in a hurt expression that I saw through in an instant.
“Oh shut up,” I hissed. “You know. I know. You know I know. So stop pretending...it’s just plain insulting.” I undressed in a hurry, refusing to meet her eye. As I stepped into the shower area, my foot hit a soapy patch of tile and I began to slip. A hard, icy hand gripped my elbow, preventing me from falling. I sighed.
“Does becoming a vampire automatically make one patronizing and overprotective for all eternity?” I asked irritably.
“We’re just trying to make your life easier,” she said. Her face was apologetic. “After all the hell you went through since we left, it’s not like we’re going to let anything hurt you ever again.”
“There’s a difference between the dangers of a bloodthirsty vampire who wants to revenge the death of her mate and the dangers of getting hit by a soccer ball,” I pointed out.
“Actually, for you there isn’t,” she said. “You would have gotten a concussion out there if it hadn’t been for us.” She pointed to her head. “I know things.”
“Not my fault that I can’t be graceful and perfect at everything like some people,” I muttered. Alice patted my shoulder.
“Soon,” she whispered. Her golden eyes glowed in anticipation, hiding something I couldn’t quite decipher. I wondered what she was seeing—what unbeknownst fragments of my future were dancing in her mind. The shivers I got up my spine weren’t due to the cold of her hand. I felt a little better as I changed back into my jeans and t-shirt.
After graduation, I thought to myself.