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Waste-of-time friendships

Summary:
Bella seems to attract every queer person within a ten mile radius. Vampires, werewolves... She's seen it all. But what she's missing is a human friend. And of course, Bella wouldn't be Bella unless that person was strange and possibly dangerous, too. Mythical creature expertise doesn't always help with humans.


Notes:
There are a few things to say about this story : Amelia often thinks about drugs, drinking, suicide, etc. Although the actual act is never shown in my story, I suggest you don't read on if those topics make you uneasy. It's nothing major, though. I would like to thank my beta, bloodredskies for editing my work. She went through each chapter for me, and has been a great help. And lastly, I'd like to remind everyone to review. It's honestly the best gift you can give to any author, and how else could I improve if I don't know what you're thinking? Just spare me a minute once you're done.


7. Book Club

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3744   Review this Chapter

Bella Swan was slowly turning into a real burden.

Not for a second could I keep my mind off her, nor could I forget the way she saw right through me, or the manner in which she spoke of her fiancé. And then there was my exceedingly irritating notion that she was hiding something, keeping some sort of dark secret behind those deep eyes. I knew she was a riddle just waiting to be solved. I just didn't know what that riddle was.

There was something about her that simply kept me on edge.

But who was I kidding? It wasn't just her apparent secret that drove me insane. It was her.

I hated to admit it, I truly did, but she had read me like an open book, and I still seemed no closer to scaring her off. I was still afraid of her – afraid that she would blow my cover and benefit from my few weaknesses – and felt like I needed something against her, too. Something I could fight back with.

Her secret was the key. If I could discover what she was trying so hard to hide, I could even the score and protect myself from her silly – though undeniably accurate – psychoanalysis. I needed a weapon of my own.

Tonight, I would squeeze it out of her, one way or the other.

My night had been restless, due to my constant worry of the dinner planned for the following evening. The morning had been no better, and the afternoon no less dull. It was during those tedious hours of work that I had formed my plan to penetrate Bella's obviously not-so-safe mind at dinner. If there was a way to win the battle, it was by playing nice. And that was what I must do.

At six o'clock sharp, Jack burst into my room. It was time to leave.

Bring it on, Isabella Swan. Bring it on.

The car ride was spent by listening to my father's endless lectures, telling me to behave well as long as we were guests. He practically begged me on his knees to behave somewhat correctly during dinner, and to actually join in on the conversations. Usually, I would have ignored his request. But tonight, it was all for a greater good.

My good.

The Swan residence was no different from all the other houses in Forks. I could have driven past it without as much as a glance in its direction. Nothing suggested that a potentially dangerous girl was living behind those walls, a girl who could destroy many lives if she wanted to, a girl who could destroy mine.

It was ridiculous to fear an insignificant girl this way. But then again – what was ever remotely rational about me? I should stop regarding the whole affair as a matter of life and death, but as just another unlucky exploit of my meaningless life. I was determined to return to my previous reality, when I didn't need to worry about something as outrageous as a girl who had happened to combine the right words, causing me to think she understood me. I couldn't let her ruin my carefully built wall of nonchalance.

But I could gather myself later. Now was for battle.

Though my heart was beating furiously by the time we were standing at the door, my mind was set. Bella Swan was losing her advantage tonight. Soon, she would be under my power as much as I was under hers.

It was her who answered the door, wearing a warm smile on her face.

The smile would fade as soon as she grasped my intentions, I was sure, but not until it was too late.

Bella's voice was politely calm, though genuinely delighted. "Jack! Amelia! Come on in! It's great that you came."

I forced a smile upon my face, and stepped inside, leaving a wide distance between me and my victim. "Good evening, Bella."

She startled at my warm words. I was usually not the type to answer pointless greetings, and even that simple sentence sounded unnatural on my lips. I just returned her bewildered stare with an equally feigned smile.

"Jack! Amelia! Great that you came!" A familiar-looking police officer entered the room, grinning as widely as his round face would allow. Chief Swan walked right over to my father, and gave him a hug that surely broke all his ribs.

Jack laughed at the same loud volume, and gave Charlie an exaggerated handshake. "I'm happy we did. You know I'm always up for a free dinner!"

Both men laughed boomingly at this, and led the way to the kitchen where a small, laid table awaited us. Still wearing the strained smile on my face, I sat beside Bella on one of the uncomfortable chairs. My victim was still smiling, too, though I could tell she was feeling a little discomforted by our fathers' conduct. Both men were already chatting away happily, and seemed completely oblivious to the presence of their daughters.

Police officers. Humph.

Eventually, when the most urgent talk was out of the way, our fathers settled down and included us in their conversation.

"So, Charlie, tell me – you didn't cook, did you? I'd rather not end up at the hospital with food poisoning."

Charlie laughed – for the hundredth time since our arrival – and answered proudly, "No worries, Jack. Bella did all the cooking."

All attention turned to her, then, and her cheeks lit up in a fiery crimson. To my great dismay, Bella hadn't spoken since her greeting, and therefore denied me any chance to begin my attack. Even now, with all eyes in the room focused on her, she only blushed and smiled timidly.

She would need a little help to begin a conversation. Very well.

"So, Bella. You like to cook?" That question was innocent enough, wasn't it? Not suspicious in any way.

She didn't appear to share my thoughts. Bella blinked twice before answering, indubitably wondering why I, Amelia Betch, would be interested in such an insignificant fact. "Well, it's not one of my favorite hobbies, but I can't exactly eat pizza every day. And neither can Charlie."

Her comment lightened up the atmosphere again, and the two men started talking to each other about the latest news. I drowned the conversation out, not really interested in the gossip. Instead I chose to watch Bella, waited for an opportunity to strike.

As I could see her standing up from her chair and walking over to a counter, I called after her, "Hey, you need some help?"

What I wouldn't do for self-defense. The sugar sweet tone in my voice was embarrassing.

Bella, startled again by my overly friendly manner, answered a few seconds too late. "Uh, yeah. I just need some help with the sauce. You don't have to, though."

I just smiled and joined her at the counter.

It was an unusual sensation, smiling. The way my muscles had to pull my lips up instead of down was alien to me; I didn't know how to classify the feeling. It wasn't enjoyable – the feeling was merely a reflection of frowning – but it wasn't unpleasant, either. In fact, I found the sensation rather agreeable, and wondered if maybe I was too prejudiced about it. Smiling a little more couldn't hurt.

What was I thinking? The smile on my face was nothing but a grimace turned on its head. It was simply a weapon against my momentarily greatest foe.

"So, where do you need help?"

Bella's eyes were almost timid as she answered. "If you could just mix that sauce over there for me? Once I fold these fajitas, I'm done."

I nodded and turned to my little task, hoping my façade was friendly enough to gain her trust.

Apparently, it was. Bella's voice was slightly more confident when she broke the short silence. "I'm glad you came. We don't get that many dinner guests."

"Uhuh." My knowledge of small talk was very slim. What could I say? Every phrase that I thought of sounded tacky, false.

My small vocabulary didn't seem to bother Bella, however. She smiled to herself while fingering the different plates of food on the table, looking almost angelic as she did. That was the best adjective to describe Bella's serene and untroubled manner – angelic. I couldn't imagine any image more peaceful than her bent over her cooking.

Except maybe her fiancé doing the same thing. But it was almost unfair to compare anyone to that divine creature. He was… inhuman.

Nevertheless, Bella was beautiful. That was another thing I noticed about her when taking a better look at her face – Her average, imperfect features suddenly glowed in the dim light of the kitchen. I saw things that I'd ignored before – Her voluptuous lips, the slightly reddish color of her hair, the fair, smooth texture of her skin… Little details that I had missed when inspecting her from afar. All her flaws were still there. Only now, they were outshone by the new qualities that lay hidden no more.

Listen to yourself! It's almost like you are in love with her or something. It's hilarious.

Bella caught my eye as she turned around to fetch something from a drawer, and, loyal to her manner, flushed bright red in a second. Gosh, that girl's incredibly self-conscious.

I tried to repair my mistake of making her uncomfortable, and passed to another topic of Smalltalk.

"So, if cooking isn't your hobby, what is?"

Now that was an innocent question. I knew I would soon be bombarded by a polite list of small hobbies that I would forget as soon as I heard. Then she would ask me about my hobbies, and I'd have to invent an own little list of my own. And then we would move on to another subject.

But what happened next was unexpected.

"Well, I like to read a lot. It's one of my favorite pastimes. But other than that, I don't really have any hobbies at all. I spend most of my time with Edward, and he sometimes drags me to some random activities that are only enjoyable because he's there with me."

Her answer was not surprising. The list was shorter than I'd thought, perhaps, and the mention of Edward unusual. But other than that, there was nothing curious, nothing bizarre about her response at all.

No, it wasn't her answer that shocked me. It was my own.

"You like to read? What kind of books?"

Bella started carrying the dishes to the table as she spoke. "A lot of different kinds. I especially like the classics, I guess. They have some sort of… elegance, I suppose. And I like to lose myself in the worlds of the characters – Their life is so different from mine, yet still the same. New books don't have that charm in them anymore."

I carried the sauce to the table, and sat down next to her. The men made some comments about the delicious-smelling food, but their words passed right through my ears. I was too occupied trying to figure my own thoughts out to care what they said.

Once Bella was done blushing at the men's compliments about her cooking, I continued the odd conversation. "I like the classics too. Or… I used to, anyway. I don't read that much anymore. Do you have a favorite?"

I was worried I might have said too much, but Bella seemed oblivious to my hinting words. "I like Wuthering Heights a lot. The characters are so… queer, so malevolent, but they still manage to love each other. Catherine and Heathcliff are both such despicable people, and still they truly love each other."

Grateful that Bella hadn't asked about the reason I'd stopped reading, I felt myself bring down my defenses, and talk more openly than I had for a long time. "I liked that book, too. It's nice to read something where the main characters aren't so perfect all the time. Authors tend to think their heroes and heroines should be faultless and brave, when in reality, nobody is. Wuthering Heights is not my favorite, though. It was a little too slow-paced for my taste."

"Then what is your favorite?" I faintly heard the men lost in a conversation of their own while chewing on the fajitas, but couldn't keep my eyes and ears away from Bella for any more than a few seconds at a time. She was looking at me in interest, and seemed to be enjoying the discussion just as much as I was. And I had to admit – It felt good to be able to talk freely, to show real curiosity and eagerness.

Deep down, I still wondered why I was acting this way. But that side of me was long suppressed.

"I like horror stories. Dracula is one of the best. But I don't like the heroes in it – Dr Van Helsing is a charlatan in my eyes. He may not say it out loud at any part of the story, but I believe he thinks of himself as a martyr, someone irreplaceable. I don't like him, or the others, for that matter. I think the true hero of the story is Count Dracula. He's a vampire, invincible, and manages to escape again and again, taking many people down as he goes along. Sometimes I wish vampires were real. Think about it – What would humans do if there was suddenly a race much stronger and more dangerous than them? Wouldn't that teach them a lesson? It's actually quite a shame mythical creatures don't exist."

I stopped when I saw Bella suddenly having a coughing fit, no doubt to cover the laughter over my silly speech. My defenses immediately went up again once I noticed she was mocking me.

I warned you, didn't I? Bella Swan is just like all the rest. You spill your heart out to her, and then she laughs at your thoughts. YOU were supposed to be attacking today. But now you messed it up. Great job!

It was true – She had fooled me. She had feigned her interest, and led me to believe that she really cared about my silly thoughts on the books I'd read. But surprisingly, I didn't feel angry. The sensation of fury didn't flare up in my chest, but was substituted by other emotions – Dejection, disappointment. I thought I'd found an equal, someone who was similarly fascinated by books and their characters. Once again, I had been let down.

When Bella somewhat regained herself and was able to swallow down the bit of fajita she was chewing, I gave her my fiercest glare. She had used me enough for one evening.

Bella's expression immediately shifted from amused to apologizing. "I-I'm sorry, Amelia."

I kept my tone cold as I accused her. "Were you making fun of me?"

Bella put down her fajita and reached for my hand, but I pulled back, not wanting to let her persuade me to trust her again. Her burrows furrowed when she noticed my anger – Or did she notice my disappointment? "Amelia, please listen. I'm sorry I laughed. It wasn't because of what you said, and I wasn't mocking you whatsoever. But still I shouldn't have reacted that way."

Against my better judgment, I started warming up to her again. Was it the genuine tone of her voice? The intense stare of her deep eyes? Her honestly regretting expression?

How can she have this invisible power over you? Get over it.

I tried to keep my tone hard, but failed miserably. My disappointment leaked through clearly. "Then why did you laugh?"

Bella hesitated before she answered. When she finally did, I could tell she was struggling with words. "Well… I-I'm not sure. I guess it was because I've heard that explanation before."

I didn't buy it.

The skeptical look in my eyes must have alerted Bella, for she immediately started talking again, this time with more confidence in her voice. "But I really am sorry. Do you forgive me? I think you have good ideas. It's nice to talk to you."

I couldn't help but forgive the pleading girl. She truthfully did seem sorry.

I shrugged as an acknowledgment to her words. Bella smiled encouragingly, and we continued our discussion as if nothing had happened.

The remainder of the evening passed by pleasantly, I found myself quite enjoying the company, and even the loud laughs of my father stopped bothering me after a while. The food was good – Bella really did know how to cook – and soon my strained smile turned into a natural one, and I realized how unable I was to wipe the content expression off my face. My chattering came spontaneously, and all thoughts of discovering Bella's secret faded, leaving nothing but my pondering about why I was suddenly enjoying myself. It was extremely unusual of me to even feel at ease – Why was I suddenly this relaxed? All walls were down between me and Bella. We were talking like old friends.

No, not all the walls were down. Though I saw how open Bella was in many aspects, I could help but notice a constant holding back. She shied away from certain topics – When I asked her about the college she was leaving to, she only gave me a brief response before leading me away from the issue altogether. I might have been blind at the time of our exchange, but even then I could tell there was something she was hiding, something she guarded with all her might.

And then there was another matter that grew more and more irksome as the evening stretched out – Edward Cullen never left the room, though Bella's fiancé wasn't there physically at the time, his ghost still lingered in the air, mostly due to Bella's constant falling back on the subject. Not ten minutes passed without her somehow mentioning Edward, and thereby pulling him into every conversation we had. I grew exasperated – I wanted to talk to Bella without hearing about the oh-so-perfect man she was about to marry.

By nine o'clock that evening, I found that I quite abhorred Edward Cullen.

But even with these minor challenges, dinner was enjoyable, and I wished the moment would last forever. I didn't want to have to think about the following day, when I'd surely question my own behavior and draw conclusions that I hardly wanted to hear.

When it was almost time for us to leave – for it was getting pretty late – I couldn't hold back my ever burning curiosity, and asked her the question that had been bugging me from the very day we'd met. "Bella? I'm sorry if this sounds strange, but… is there something you're hiding from me? I can't help but get the impression that you're not completely honest sometimes, like you're leaving me out on something."

For a fracture of a second, Bella's expression grew worried – scared, even. And though she composed her face before I could take a closer look, the anxiety never left her eyes; her smile was all but authentic. Her words, however, were heartfelt. "We've only known each other for a few days, Amelia. I like you a lot, but still we both have a long way to go before we truly know each other. And then again – we all have secrets, don't we? You're not always straightforward with me, either. Some things are better left unsaid."

I had to admit – Bella Swan was smart. Already in our discussions she had proven that she was not an average teenager, and that she, too, was interested in a great variety of things. But now, in yet another of her short analyses, she had once again shown that she was more perceptive than I gave her credit for.

I dropped the matter – I really had no desire to go any deeper into the secrets I was keeping – and was slightly more silent until the end of dinner.

When the clock hands reached ten o'clock, Jack sighed and stood up reluctantly. "I'm sorry, but we really should be getting home now. It's a school night."

All heads in the room turned to me for a fleeting second. I pretended not to notice the stares. 'Didn't Amelia get suspended? Wasn't she drinking at school?' Their unspoken thoughts rang in my ears.

"I understand. Thank you for coming! It was a great evening." Charlie rose to his feet, too, and began the customary round of thanks.

Bella and I stood up as well, and started making our way to the front door.

Bella talked to Jack while I put on my rain jacket, and didn't approach me until we were almost out the door. When she did, her words shocked and bewildered me. "I had a nice time tonight. So I was thinking… since you haven't had the time to make any friends at school, would you like to do something with me on Saturday? We could watch a movie, or… uh, go shopping… or just talk. Whatever you want. I need an alibi for the weekend, or my soon-to-be sister-in-law will drown me in wedding preparations. What do you say?"

I didn't know what to say.

Nobody had invited me anywhere in the last couple of years. I had spent my time isolated from the world, from all the bothersome adolescents, and learned the pointlessness of my wretched life in the hours of solitude. And now Isabella Swan, the girl whom I had been determined to destroy, was showing unmistakable kindness and chivalry towards me. My mind was not equipped to handle this sort of request.

So I reacted the only way I knew, the only way I could keep my composure. My tone was spiteful when I talked. "Why would I? You only want to murder me in some quiet spot, since your attack the other day didn't do the job. What – you think I fell for your whole friend act? I'm not that obtuse. Though life is meaningless, I'd still rather stick around for a bit more."

Before I turned away, I caught a glimpse of Bella's hurt expression.

What I saw pained me.

For her deep eyes revealed her disappointment clearly.