*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 4 INVITATIONS
I tried very hard not to be aware of him for the rest of the hour, and, since that was impossible, at least not to let him know that I was aware of him to gather my things, expecting him to leav immediately as usual.
"Bella?" His shouldn't have been so familiar to me, as if I'd known the sound of it all my life rather than for just a few short weeks.
I turned slowly, unwillingly. I didn't want to feel what I knew I would feel when I looked at his too-perfect face. My expression was wary when I finally turned to him; his expression was unreadable. He didn't say anything.
"What?" Are you speaking to me again?" I finally asked, an unitentional mote of petulance in my voice.
His lips twitched, fighting a smile. "No, not really," he admitted.
I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly through my nose, aware that I was gritting my teeth. He waited.
"Then what do you want, Edward?" I asked, keeping my eyes closed; it was easier to talk to him coherently that way.
"I'm sorry." He sounded sincere. "I'm being very rude, I know. but it's better this way, really."
I opened my eyes. His face was very serious.
"I don't know what you mean," I said, my voice guarded.
"It's better if we're not friends," he explained "Trust me."
My eyes narrowed. I'd heard that before.
"It's too bad you didn't figure that our earlier," I hissed through my teeth. "You could have saved yourself all this regret."
"Regret?" The word, and my tone, obviously caught him off guard. "Regret for what?"
"For not juts letting that stupid van squish me."
He was astonished. He stared at me in deisbelief.
When he finally spoke, he almost sounded mad. "You think I regret saving your life?"
"I know you do," I snapped.
"You don't know anything." He was definitely mad.
I turned my head sharply away from him, clenching my jaw against all the wild accusations I wanted to hurl at him. I gathered my books together, then stood and walked to the door. I meant to sweep dramatically out of the room, but of course I caught the toe of my boot on the doorjamb and dropped my books. I stood there for a moment, thinking about leaving them. Then I sighed and bent to pick them up. He was there; he'd already stcked them into a pile. He handed them to me, hi face hard.
"Thank you," I said icily.
His eyes narrowed.
"You're welcome," he retorted.
I straighened up swiftly, turned away from him again, and stalked off to Gym without looking back.
Gym wsa brutal. We'd moved on to basketball. My team never passed me the ball, so that was good, but I fell down a lot. Sometimes I took people with me. Today I was worse than usual because my head was so filled with Edward. I tried to concentrate on my feet, but he kept creeping back into my thoughts just when I really needed my balance.
It was a relief, as always, to leave. I almost ran to the truck; there were just so many people I wanted to avoid. The truck had suffered only minimal damage in the accident. I'd had to replace the taillights, and if I'd had a real paint job, I would have touched that up. Tyler's parents had to sell their van for parts.
I almost had a stroke when I rounded the corner and saw a tall, dark figure leaning against the side of my truck. Then I realized it was just Eric. I started walking again.
"Hey, Eric," I called.
"What's up?" I said as I was unlocking the door. I wasn't paying attention to the uncomfortable edge in his voice, so his next words took me by surprise.
"Uh, I was just wondering... if you would go to the spring dance with me?" His voice broke on the last word.
"I thought it was girls' choice," I said, too startled to be diplomatic.
"Well, yeah," he admitted, shamefaced.
I recovered my compusure and tried to make my smile warm. "Thank you far asking me, but I'm going to be in Seattle that day."
"Oh," he said. "Well, maybe next time."
"Sure," I agreed, and then bit my lip. I wouldn't want him to take that too literally.
He slouched off, back toward the school. I heard a low chuckle.
Edward was walking past the front of my truck, looking straight forward, his lips pressed together. I yanked the door open and jumped inside, alamming it loudly behind me. I revved the engine deafeningly and reversed out into the aisle. Edward was in his car already, two spaces down, sliding out smoothly in front of me, cutting me off. He stopped there - to wait for his family; I could see the four of them walking this way, but still by the cafeteria. I considered taking out the rear of his shiny Volvo, but there were too manyu witnesses. I looked in my rearview mirror. A line was beginning to form. Directly behind me, Tyler Crowley was in his recently acquired used Sentra, waving. I was too aggravated to acknowledge him.
Whil I was sitting there, looking everywhere but at the car in front of me, I heard a knock on my passenger side window. I looked over; it was Tyler. I glanced back in my rearview mirrir, confused. His car was still running, the door left open. I leaned across the cab to crank the window down. It was stiff. I got it halfway down, then I gave.
"I'm sorry, Tyler, I'm stuck behind Cullen." I was annoyed - obviously the holdup wasn't my fault.
"Oh, I know - I just wanted to ask you somethine while we're trapped here." He grinned.
This could not be happening.
"Will you ask me to the spring dance?" he continued.
"I'm not going to be in town, Tyler." My voice sounded a little sharp. I had to remember it wasn't his fault that Mike and Eric had already used up my quota of patience for the day.
"Yeah, Mike said that," he admitted.
"Then why - "
He shrugged. "I was hoping you were just letting him down easy."
Okay, it was completely his fault.
"Sorry, Tyler," I said, working to hide my irritation. "I really am going out of town."
"That's cool. We still have prom."
And before I could respond, he was walking back to his car. I could fell the shock on my face. I looked forward to see Alice, Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper all sliding into the Volvo. In his rearview mirror, Edward's eyes were on me. He was unquestionably shaking with laughter, as if he'd heard every word Tyler had said. My foot inched toward the gas pedal... one little bump wouldn't hurt any of them, just that glossy silver paint job. I revved the engine.
But they were all in, and Edward was speeding away. I drove home slowly, carefully, muttering to myself the whole way.
When I got home, I decided to make chicken enchiladas for dinner. It was a long process, and it would keep me busy. While I was simmering the onions and chilies, the phone rang. I was almost afraid to answer it, but it might be Charlie or my mom.
It was Jessica, and she was jubilant; Mike had caught her after school to accept her invitation. I celebrated with her briefly while I stirred. She had to go, she wanted to call Angela and Lauren to tell them. I suggested - with casual innocence - that maybe Angela, the shy girl who had Biology with me, could ask Eric. And Lauren, a standoffish girl who had always ignored me at the lunch table, could ask Tyler; I'd heard he was still available. Jess thought that was a great idea. Now that she was sure of Mike, she actually sounded sincere when she said she wished I would go to the dance. I gave her my Seattle excuse.
After I hung up, I tried to concentrate on dinner - dicing the chicken especialle; I didn't want to take another trip to the emergency room. But my head was spinning, trying to analyze every word Edward had spoken today. What did he mean, it was better if we weren't friends?
My stomach twisted as I realized what he must have meant. He must see how absorbed I was by him; he must not want to lead me on... so we couldn't even be friends... Because he wasn't interested in me at all.
Of course he wasn't interested in me, I thought angrily, my eyes stinging - a delayed reaction to the onions. I wasn't interesting. And he was. Interesting... and brilliant... and mysterious... and perfect... and beautiful... and possibly able to lift full-sized vans with one hand.
Well, that was fine. I could leave him alone. I would leave him alone. I would get through my slef-imposed sentence here in purgatory, and then hopefully some school in the Southwest, or possibly Hawaii, would offer me a scholarship. I focused my thoughts on sunny beaches and palm trees as I finished the enchiladas and put them in the oven.
Charlie seemed suspicious when he came home and smelled the green pepper. I couldn't blame him - the closest edible Mexican food wsa probably in southern California. But he was a cop, even if just a small-town cop, so he was brave enough to take the first bite. He seemed to like it. It was fun to watch as he slowly began trusting me in the kitchen.
"Dad?" I asked when he was almost done.
"Um, I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to Seattle for the day a week from Saturday... if that's okay?" I didn't want to ask permission - it set a bad percedent - but I felt rude, so I taked it on the end.
"Why?" He sounded surprised, as if he were unable to imagine something that Forks couldn't offer.
"Well, I wanted to get a few books - the library here is pretty limited - and maybe look at some clothes." I had more money than I was used to having, since, thanks to Charlie, I hadn't had to pay for a car. Not that the truck didn't cost me quite a bit in the gas department.
"That truck probably doesn't get very good gas mileage," he said, echoing my thoughts.
"I know, I'll stop in Montesano and Olympia - and Tacoma if I have to."
"Are you going all by yourself?" he asked, and I couldn't tell if he was suspicious I had a secret boyfriend or just worried about car trouble.
"Seattle is a big city - you could get lost," he fretted.
"Dad, Poenix is five times the size of Seattle - and I can read a map, don't worry about it."
"Do you want me to come with you?"
I tried to be crafty as I hid my horror.
"That's all right, Dad, I'll probably just be in dressing room all day - very boring."
"Oh, okay." The thought of sitting in woman's clothing stores for any period of time immediately put him off.
"Thanks." I smiled at him.
"Will you be back in time for the dance?"
Grrr. Only in a town this small would a father know when the hgh school dances were.
"No - I don't dance, Dad." He, of all people, should understand that - I didn't get my balance problems from my mother.
He did understand. "Oh, that's right," he realized.