Text Size Large SizeMedium SizeSmall Size    Color Scheme Black SchemeWhite SchemeGrey SchemePaper Scheme        

Seducing Ms Swan

Summary:
AU Post-New Moon. Bella never jumped, Alice never had her vision and Edward never came back. Six years later, Bella is struggling to make a new life for herself as a teacher in Rochester, New York. How will she fare when a very familiar student crops up in her classroom? Will she be able to remain professional, or will old ties get in the way? Edward is convinced that getting Bella back is just a matter of 'persuasion', but Bella isn't prepared to be that cooperative. What's more, she's in the grip of a dark secret which threatens to prevent her from loving ever again. Bella Swan is slipping under...


Notes:
Thankyou to twike for beta work. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


7. Motorbikes

Rating 3.7/5   Word Count 7138   Review this Chapter

It’s hard to fly when you can’t even run
Once I had the world, but now I’ve got no one
If I needed someone to control me
If I needed someone to hold me down
I would change my direction
And save myself before I drown



BPOV

The evening continued to tick by, with each appointment seeming to drag on even longer than the last. I tried to stay focused, but despite my best efforts my attention started to wane and everything- the students, their parents, the questions- all blurred into a meaningless haze. By the time nine o’ clock had rolled around, I had misspelt two students’ names, mispronounced three more and even called a burly male football playing sophomore ‘Katherine’. It was official; I was cracking up.

Therefore I was severely relieved when the bell finally rang at 9:30 P.M., signifying the end of appointments. I said an eager goodbye to my last student and her parents, who looked taken aback at my sudden animation, and ushered them towards the exit. Once they were safely through the door, I returned to my desk and flopped exhaustedly into my seat.

What a night.

I had been wrong when I had predicted the evening would be unpleasant; it had been much, much worse. The word ‘disaster’ wasn’t nearly strong enough to describe it. My behavior towards Edward had been appalling and I felt sick with guilt at the way I had lied to Esme. My only consolation was that at least I hadn’t really lost anything; it wasn’t like Edward had had many warm feelings towards me in the first place, now he would just have considerably less.

No, my most pressing problem was not Edward; rather it was the serious matter of my colleagues. As I looked around I noticed that nearly all of them were either watching or talking about me. So much for my decision to attempt to stay inconspicuous following my public argument with Edward in the classroom; in a mere couple of moments I had managed to make the whole situation ten times worse. The few people who hadn’t been aware of any ‘issues’ surrounding me and the attractive new student now certainly would be.

I could feel the panic rise in my throat, and I suddenly became hyper conscious of the way that everybody’s eyes were boring into me. It was like being under an extra bright spotlight. I have to get away, I thought to myself. I quickly began to gather my papers together, ignoring the whispers and heads flicking in my direction as I did so. My cheeks were on fire as I jumped to my feet and pushed my chair underneath my desk. I was just embarking on the walk to the doorway- since when had it been so far away?- looking determinedly at the floor, when a shadow fell across my path.

I looked up to see one of the Teacher’s Assistants- a short, curvy woman with blonde curly hair and big blue eyes; her name was Leanne. I had worked with her in my Junior classes last year and she clearly thought that meant we were on speaking terms. She was currently eyeing me with a daring expression and as I glanced behind her I saw that her friends were watching us breathlessly from a couple of desks away. I felt as though my insides had been drenched in ice.

What does she want? Is she going to ask something about Edward? Would she do that in front of all these people?

My mind went into overdrive and I braced myself for the absolute worse-case scenario.

“Who was that guy?” Leanne asked breathlessly.

I felt my body stiffen. What could I say? ‘Oh, he’s my 112 year old vampire ex-boyfriend, why do you ask?’ I cringed; this whole situation could have been entirely avoidable were it not for my rash actions.

“He’s a student here…” I said cautiously, trying to act as though her question meant nothing to me.

She looked at me confusedly for a second, before suddenly letting out an irritating, high-pitched laugh.

“Oh my Gawd, I didn’t mean the kid! I meant that guy with him!”

At first I was distracted by the fact that she had just called Edward a kid- something which was both amusing when I pictured his reaction, and mortifying when I remembered the age gap between us. After a few moments, however, I managed to process the rest of the sentence.

“You mean Carlisle?” I asked, startled. I watched with disbelief as she practically swooned right there in front of me.

“Is that his name?” she asked eagerly, “I should’ve known it’d be just as hot as him. He’s gorgeous isn’t he?”

I just looked at her open-mouthed. Carlisle? Hot? Sure, I’d always known he was extraordinarily attractive- I wasn’t blind, after all- but I’d never thought of him as ‘hot’. It was just too weird; he’d almost been my father and, although I knew he was only in his twenties, he’d always come across as much more mature. It felt very strange to be having this conversation and I suddenly felt a bit nauseous.

“So, why was he here at a parents’ evening? He’s like, what, twenty-six?” Leanne asked, bringing me back to Earth.

“Um, yeah, about that age,” I said quickly, glancing longingly towards the door, “He’s Edward’s father- adoptive father, that is. He and Esme adopted Edward and his siblings a few years ago,” I explained. “None of them are related, well, the blond ones are, but the others aren’t. They’re all kind of together though, but it’s okay, ‘cause they’re not really brothers and sisters.”

What had happened to me? It was like I had verbal diarrhea. I clamped my mouth shut, noticing Leanne’s nonplussed expression.

She stared at me oddly for a moment, before asking, in disappointed tones, “So Carlisle and the brunette are married then?”

“Uh-huh,” I said, unwilling to allow myself to go off on another nervous tangent, “very happily married, have been for years; the perfect couple. Will you excuse me?”

Without waiting for an answer, I walked hastily towards the exit, ignoring Leanne’s cry of “Wait, does he, like, have a brother?” and darting out of sight, letting the heavy double doors slam closed behind me.

The corridor was quiet and empty- an excellent improvement on the noisy hall. Most of the students and their families seemed to have already left the building; no doubt they still had hopes to salvage their Friday night. I glanced out of the window and saw that at least another inch of snow had accumulated on the ground outside in the three hours I had been in the hall. I cursed bad temperedly. I was riding my motorbike home tonight; extra snow was the last thing I needed.

I hardly ever got the bike out in winter anyway, but I had been forced to tonight by Rochester’s erratic and unhelpful Friday night bus scheduling; my choice had either been to ride my bike home or wait for an hour and a half in the cold bus shelter. I was starting to wonder if the bus shelter hadn’t been a better idea; although I had special tire chains, they were limited in their effectiveness, especially in deep snow. One thing was for certain; it would not be an enjoyable ride.

It was with a heavy heart that I turned away from the window and began to walk down the corridor to my office which was on the other side of the school. As I turned the corner, I froze. There was somebody sitting on a chair at the end of the hallway, but it was too dark for me to identify them. Unwilling to speak to any of my colleagues again I started to turn, intending to make a quick exit, but then the figure stood and stepped into the light and I realised with a shock who it was.

“Alice!” I cried involuntarily. The minute I said it I wished I hadn’t. Unlike her brother, Alice had made no attempt to contact me since her arrival in Forks; I had barely even seen her, except for rare glimpses at lunch or on my way to class. At first I had been very upset by her silence, but I had gradually accepted it. I couldn’t lie and say it didn’t hurt- it did, awfully, - but I decided that it was much better in the long run if Alice didn’t want to be friends. That way, when the Cullens left as I knew they inevitably would, I would only have to suffer the pain of losing Edward again and not Alice too. All of this made me certain that Alice would not appreciate my speaking to her.

But I was surprised. Instead of merely acknowledging me with a nod and then hurrying away, Alice took a few tentative steps towards me, before stopping uncertainly halfway down the corridor. She opened her mouth as though to speak then paused doubtfully again, as if apprehensive of how she would be received. Finally she spoke, “Hi.”

It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps the reason for Alice’s uncertainty was that she was worried about my reaction to her. It was a ridiculous idea, but one that seemed all the more likely as I took in her anxious expression. If that was what she was thinking I had to put her straight immediately, regardless of what it did to me later. I smiled at her with all the strength I could muster. “Hey Alice,” I said softly, “how’ve you been?” Without warning she bounded gracefully towards me, throwing her arms tightly around my neck.

“Oh, Bella,” she breathed into my shoulder, her sweet scent enveloping me. “I’ve missed you so much!” She broke off and let out a tearless sob, holding me tighter. I patted her back lamely, unable to do anything else; it was now becoming extremely difficult for me to breathe; I’d forgotten just how constricting vampire hugs were. She seemed to notice my discomfort because she suddenly loosened her grip on me and leant back a little, surveying my face with sorrowful eyes.

“I’m so sorry Bella,” she said mournfully, “for everything, for leaving, for not saying goodbye,” she shook her head sadly “I never should have agreed to it but he made me.”

I baulked at the mention of Edward and immediately tried to steer the conversation back to safer topics. “Um, It’s okay Alice,” I said and, as the words left my lips, I realized that I really meant them. Just as I had been with Carlisle and Esme, I was thrilled to have Alice back in my life. She was still the best friend I had ever had and I couldn’t honestly say that I was anything but delighted to see her again. However it seemed that Alice wouldn’t be deterred and she continued to apologize.

“I wanted to come and see you, to explain, but Edward said I couldn’t, he was so anxious to leave,” I winced slightly at this inadvertent confirmation of Edward’s indifference towards me, but Alice carried on obliviously, “and then when we got to Rochester, he said that he wanted to talk to you on his own, so-”

I grimaced. More talk of Edward. “It’s okay,” I repeated, “I completely forgive you; there’s hardly even anything to forgive.”

She looked at me anxiously before continuing, “Are you sure? You’re really not mad? Because if you are, I can totally get down on my knees and beg for forgiveness; I had it all planned out and everything, I even wore scruffy jeans tonight!” I had to laugh as I gazed at Alice’s perfectly fitting, beautifully distressed jeans which looked like they had come straight off of an Italian catwalk. Only Alice could call such a stunning garment ‘scruffy’.

“No,” I assured her, “I don’t want you to beg. I completely accept your apology.”

An expression of great relief crossed her features. “Thank God,” she exhaled, “I was so worried that you’d never want to talk to me again. Which I would have completely deserved; I acted horribly.” She wrapped her arms around me again, “Thank you,” she said, her words muffled by my shoulder.

“You’re welcome,” I replied, hugging her back for a few moments. As I released her, however, something struck me. “Hang on a second,” I asked perplexedly, “didn’t you see my acceptance coming? I mean, couldn’t you see that I’d be fine with it?”

An odd, slightly embarrassed expression crossed Alice’s face. “Well… no, I couldn’t,” she replied reluctantly, “I haven’t been able to see you for… well for about six years, actually.” I looked at her, amazed. Six years? So basically since-

“Since you left, then?” I asked, in need of clarification. Never in the year that I had known the Cullens in Forks had any of them ever indicated that Alice’s visions concerning a certain person could just stop altogether. I wondered grimly what that said about my future in relation to her and her family.

“Not exactly, I could see you for a few months after we left…” Alice trailed off and I realized she must be thinking of my zombie like state that had encompassed most of the Fall semester of my Senior year. I felt my face flush with embarrassment; it had never occurred to me at the time that Alice might have been witness to my pain.

“But then sometime in February, everything to do with you just disappeared,” Alice continued. “I couldn’t see you at all, not even little glimpses; it was terrifying for me- I’d never felt so blind in my life.” She shuddered slightly, her expression haunted. “I started to panic; I didn’t know what had happened to you. I started to wonder if maybe you’d died. So I came back to Forks.”

On hearing these words I gasped, and moved backwards slightly to get a better look at her. “You did what??” I asked, disbelieving. She came back without telling me?

“I came back,” she repeated ashamedly, “it was during the day, you were at school. I lingered in the parking lot watching you through the window, just long enough to establish you were still alive…”

“…then you left again,” I said hollowly. To think she had been there watching me, and I never knew. What would I have done if I had seen her? Cried? Laughed? Shouted? Perhaps it was better that I hadn’t; in February I had barely started to recover from Edward’s desertion and I was still incredibly fragile emotionally. Who knows how I would have reacted to seeing Alice, only to have her leave again?

“I didn’t want to!” Alice assured me urgently, “Honestly Bella, if I’d had it my way we never would have left at all, but Edward made me promise not to look for your future or contact you. He convinced me it was for the best but…” she hesitated slightly, before continuing more cautiously, “well, after what I saw in those first few months… I’m not so sure I agree.”

There was a long silence after that, in which we both dwelt on thoughts of my prolonged catatonia. “I’m sorry,” she said finally in a very small voice, “I’m sorry for everything we put you through; you would’ve been better if you had never known me.” This apology snapped me out of my reverie and I looked at Alice fiercely.

“No Alice, don’t you dare apologize for that of all things. I will never regret befriending you, not once. The time I spent with you and your family the summer after my Junior year was the best time of my life and nothing can ever change that. I… I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re back and I’m determined to make the most of it.”

Before you leave again.

The last part of the sentence was unspoken but I knew that she could sense it hanging there in the air. There was another long silence in which I smiled tentatively at Alice, whilst inwardly wondering if I had been too forward. I was reassured however when she finally broke the awkwardness with a big, beaming smile.

“I really have missed you,” she said, flashing her perfect teeth at me, “we have so much to catch up on. I want to know everything that’s happened to you since we left.” That won’t take very long, my mind said wryly, but I tried to paste on a convincing smile.

“Sounds great,” I said as enthusiastically as I could. In truth, I was a little wary of canvassing any topic of conversation with Alice that could potentially move onto Edward. If Alice noticed my reluctance, however, she showed no outward sign of it.
“What are your plans for this weekend?” she asked brightly.

“Um…” Somehow, I didn’t think that, as far as Alice was concerned, reading reams of depressing poetry and consuming half the contents of my fridge would count as ‘plans’.

“Excellent,” she interjected, “you can come shopping with Rosalie and me.” Woah, back up.

“Rosalie?” I questioned Alice incredulously, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I knew that Rosalie had always had the most difficulty accepting me into her family, and I had hardly even been on speaking terms with her, even at the absolute best of times. She had generally treated me like traffic jams in rush hour: irritating but unavoidable. I secretly thought it was because she resented the fact I had been unable to even vaguely measure up to her standards of perfection. I had never voiced these beliefs, however; I had always known that Alice loved her sister dearly and would not take kindly to disparaging remarks about her. I had no desire to break my own rule now.

“Oh come on now,” Alice said gaily, “you and Rosalie were friends too!” There was a silence as I surveyed Alice with a look that said ‘have you gone utterly insane?

“Well, okay,” she finally conceded begrudgingly, “that’s not strictly true-”

“Not strictly true?!” I asked in amazement, “Alice, this is me and Rosalie we’re talking about!”

“-but there’s no reason you can’t be friends now!” she finished, ignoring my assertion. “Besides, I’m almost certain that she missed you too. For one thing, life has been a lot less interesting without you-” I snorted; it was nice to know that she counted my being stalked halfway across the country by a psychotic vampire as ‘interesting’, “- and for another, she thinks you have a good influence on Edward.”

I felt my stomach lurch; we had somehow gotten back onto the topic of Edward again. Was there any escaping it? Such was my displeasure that I hardly noticed the small grin that crossed Alice’s face on her words, as though she was recalling a particularly amusing memory. However before I could question her about it, she had fixed me with a determined gaze again. “So will you come tomorrow?” Her eyes widened and she looked at me, her face full of hopeful pleading.

“I don’t know…” I said noncommittally. I did want to catch up with Alice again like old times- I could even put up with a day of shopping and Rosalie- but I was still reluctant to subject myself to unnecessary ‘Edward talk’.

“Pleeease,” she wheedled unashamedly. I sighed; somewhere there was a puppy dog who wanted its eyes back. I shook my head at my own weakness.

“Fine,” I caved.

“Yes!” she squealed, hugging me quickly again before clapping her hands in delight. “You won’t regret this Bella, it’s going to be brilliant.”

“Sure, sure,” I said tolerantly, “but it’s just shopping with you and Rosalie, right? There won’t be anyone… anyone else there?” I knew I was being ridiculous, but I still couldn’t bring myself to say his name when I could possibly avoid it.

Alice immediately knew who I was talking about- or rather, who I wasn’t talking about. Her smile faded slightly, but she tried to cover it up. “No, it’ll just be us girls; we’ll make a full day of it! I haven’t had a chance to check out the malls here yet, but I’ve heard they’re quite passable. Of course, we could take a day trip to New York…” I sighed with relief and relaxed, half tuning out, as Alice went off on a monologue where she seemed to analyze every single shopping mall she had visited and gave each one points out of ten in over five different categories.

As she talked we walked towards my office, where I picked up a bulging rucksack. I had traded it in for my usual bag for the night because I required extra space for my leather motorcycle jacket and helmet. I had only recently begun to wear safety equipment- it was mainly Charlie’s endless threats and pleas, culminating in a promise that he would write me out of his will if I didn’t that had persuaded me- and even now I didn’t remember to wear it as often as I should. Alice didn’t ask why my bag was so large and I didn’t tell her; I didn’t need to be psychic to guess that she would be less than impressed at my new preferred means of transport. As we made our way back through the building to the parking lot, we came across Rosalie.

“There you are,” she said, very fast, to Alice, “where have you been? Carlisle told me to come and get you, the others are-” she stopped abruptly as she noticed me standing next to Alice. “Oh,” she said briefly, a look of irritated understanding crossing her face.

“Bella and I have been having a little chat,” Alice said quickly to fill the sudden uncomfortable silence that had descended upon us.

“Really?” asked Rosalie and she sent Alice a piercing glance before saying something to her at vampire speed. I only caught the phrases ‘told you’ and ‘not allowed’, but her meaning was clear enough. I looked away, my cheeks burning again. It was embarrassing enough that Edward had felt the need to set down such ‘rules’, let alone that everyone had to keep referring to them. Depressed, I didn’t even bother to try and decipher Alice’s short reply, instead preferring to play dejectedly with the straps on my bag. A frustrated “Fine!” from Rosalie signified the end of their conversation and I looked up to see her throw us both a displeased glance, before turning on her heel and walking briskly down the corridor. I looked helplessly to Alice, who was watching her discontentedly. I rolled my eyes; sure, Rosalie and I could be friends.

“Come on,” Alice said in a low voice, “we better follow her.” I just nodded dumbly and began to walk, only vaguely listening as Alice half-heartedly resumed her shopping talk. We passed through a door and stepped outside into a wall of ice cold air. I shivered and instantly wrapped my arms around myself; in the few hours since school had ended the temperature must have dropped by at least ten degrees. I forced myself to pay more attention to Alice in order to distract myself from the temperature.

Why on Earth did I choose to work somewhere so cold?

Alice was just making some amusing comment about the shop assistants in a mall in Connecticut, when we turned a corner into the central paved courtyard of the school. I laughed freely; I felt happier than I had done in months. I usually only felt like this when I was with Jacob. I suddenly noticed that Alice had stopped walking. “Oh crap,” she swore quietly, her eyes fixed on something at the other end of the courtyard.

I followed her gaze, confused, and gasped loudly. All of the Cullens were there, standing in a closely knit group among the snow covered tables. My blush returned in full force as I felt seven pairs of golden eyes fall upon me. I looked away with embarrassment but from the corner of my eye I saw Edward’s head flicker towards Esme. This is bad, I thought, this is really, really, really-

“Bella?” Alice whispered quickly at me, “Bella, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said, my breathing reaching near hyperventilation.

“Don’t panic,” Alice said in a comforting voice, so quietly that only I could hear her, “everything will be fine, just relax.”

Something about her sentence didn’t quite make sense. What was going to be fine? As I looked back to where the Cullens had been standing, I noticed with horror that they had all gone, leaving only…

“Alice!” I hissed frantically, whipping around to face at her. But she too had disappeared. The courtyard was now completely deserted apart from Edward and me.

VAMPIRES! My mind screamed with aggravation. I was now completely helpless; running away was not an option, no doubt my vampire friends would retrieve me immediately. My heart filled with dread, I watched through the snow that had now begun to fall in slow flurries as Edward turned around to face me. I was expecting a renewed slur of angry attacks and braced myself for more shouting, but it didn’t come. I took Edward’s expression in with open-mouthed surprise; he was practically unrecognizable from the infuriated creature I had seen earlier that evening.

What’s going on? I wondered with confusion. I was even more shocked as I saw him smile- actually smile- and walk towards me. I was so shocked that I couldn’t do anything but stand there, gormless as a lemon, watching as Edward approached me. He was now mere feet away from me, and I swore that I could feel the air crackle between us as though charged by static electricity.

“Hello Bella,” he breathed, his gentle voice echoing slightly in the silence. My eyes took in every inch of his expression. It was calm, repentant and warm. What on earth had gotten in to him? I wondered, dumbfounded. It was hard to be hostile when he looked so welcoming. Very, very uncertainly I half-returned his smile.

“Hello Edward.”

“Will you walk with me?” he asked politely. I could see from his face that it really was a request; he seemed to think I was perfectly entitled to turn him down if I wanted to. I was still so shocked by the turn of events that I couldn’t think of anything intelligent to say, so I just nodded dumbly.

I shifted the rucksack on my back slightly; it was heavy and all this standing around had started to take its toll. Edward noticed my discomfort immediately and instantly stuck out his hand. “May I?” he asked. For one insane moment I thought he was actually asking to hold my hand, until I realized he was looking pointedly at my bag.

“Um, sure,” I said doubtfully, trying to shrug off the rucksack. In a typical display of my rampant clumsiness, I managed to twist the straps and get one of them caught on the back of my belt. “Oh shoot,” I said in frustration as craned my neck to look over my shoulder and flapped helplessly like a turtle stuck on its back, trying in vain to disentangle myself. My cheeks were now tomato red as I thought of what I must look like to Edward. Then I froze, as I felt Edward’s cool hand touch my shoulder.

“Allow me,” he murmured, his voice smooth as velvet. My heart rate instantly increased by a hundred beats a minute as I realized how close he was; his slow breathing was actually tickling the back of my neck, causing goose bumps to break out on my skin immediately. I held my breath, not daring to move, as I felt his hands trace across my shoulder blades, lingering slightly at the base of my neck.

Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God my thoughts blithered incoherently. Was he trying to make me faint? If so, he was doing very well; I doubted I would be able to keep standing for longer than a minute if he continued to touch me like this. Slowly, he moved his hands to the straps and began to untwist them gently, his face still mere inches behind me. I let out an involuntary gasp as he moved his hands again, this time to brush them down along my spine, coming to a halt just below my waist where the bag’s strap was caught in my belt loop.

“Edward,” I choked hoarsely, my breathing ragged. He had to stop this now; if he didn’t I would jump on him again. If only he knew what kind of affect his touch was having on me.

“Yes?” he asked innocently, a hint of a chuckle lacing his honeyed tones. He leaned even closer and his scent washed over me, causing me to forget what I had been going to say. I wasn’t sure I would’ve even been able to answer if he had asked me my own name, I was so stunned.

As he disentangled the clips his fingertips brushed the hem of my shirt and for the briefest second, his hands came into contact with my bare skin. My entire body convulsed as I felt electricity surging through my veins. Edward’s hands froze at my reaction and I closed my eyes, mortified, waiting for him to get angry again at my blatant display of how obsessed I was with him. After a few seconds, however, he wordlessly resumed the removal of my bag. I let out my breath in a low whoosh, bewildered to the supreme.

Seriously, what ISgoing on? To my utmost relief, he finally released me from my rucksack and I instantly put a safe amount of distance between me and those wicked hands. Edward and I just stared at each other for a couple of moments, before he broke the silence. “I’ll carry this to the parking lot for you,” he said courteously, gesturing towards the door through which his family had disappeared. I just nodded, still too dazed to say anything.

His unexplained gentlemanly behavior continued as we reached the door, with him holding it open for me. This was starting to freak me out; it was like I had accidentally wandered into a very odd, but not necessarily unpleasant, dream. We walked through school and all the while I was waiting for the moment when Edward would suddenly realize that he was walking with me, Bella- the same Bella who he had previously found so repulsive- and go back to his frustrated, angry self. So when he abruptly came to a stop by the large front doors in the entrance hall, I mentally prepared myself for the shouting. But it didn’t come. Instead, Edward said in a level voice, “Before we go out there, I’d like to apologize.”

I gaped at him. What? “Apologize for what?” I asked, nonplussed.

“For the atrocious way that I’ve treated you over the last few weeks,” he said earnestly, “I’ve been obnoxious and abrasive and I’m truly sorry if I hurt you; I assure you that was not my intention.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Although it was true that he had made life difficult for me, especially in the classroom, it wasn’t like it had been entirely his fault. To some extent I was just as much to blame as he was for the disastrous events of the past weeks and, taking in to account my behavior tonight, much more so. I noticed that Edward was still staring at me apprehensively and realized that I hadn’t responded to his words.

“Um,” I began, before inwardly cringing at myself. He was so eloquent yet I, who usually fancied myself as rather articulate, became completely tongue-tied whenever he looked at me. “That’s, uh, fine. I accept your apology.”

What else could I say? How could I tell him that the thing that hurt me most was the fact that he didn’t love me? I could put up with a thousand petty fights if it meant things could go back to how they were six years ago, but that was impossible- Edward didn’t feel the same way, so even mentioning my love for him was pointless. It was far safer to just pretend, as I had done to Esme, that I had merely been offended by his disruption and rudeness. I looked back at Edward who seemed to be watching me with a certain amount of dissatisfaction on his flawless features, but before I could begin to wonder why, he flashed me a dazzling smile.

“Thank you,” he said genuinely, his eyes a mesmerising liquid topaz, “would you like to show me where you’re parked?” He held up my bag, my favourite crooked grin crossing his face. I stared at him dazedly for a few seconds before blinking rapidly, trying to force myself to focus.

“Yeah, sure,” I said, slightly disorientated, “it’s, uh, this way,” I pulled at the door handle, my hands shaking slightly. Nothing happened. I continued to pull with a renewed force, putting all my effort into it.

“Bella?”

“Yes, Edward?” I said through gritted teeth as I glared at the insubordinate door handle.

“The sign says ‘Push’.”

“Oh. Thanks,” I cringed, pushing it open, my cheeks flaming again. Again with the humiliation, I thought, what is with you tonight?

It was freezing outside. I instantly hunched my shoulders and bowed my head against the snowflakes that were still falling. There was just a smattering of cars left in the parking lot, including two very-fast looking cars that I instantly would have guessed as belonging to the Cullens, even if the entire family minus Edward hadn’t all been sitting inside them. I vaguely recognized the one on the left as Carlisle’s Mercedes, but I was sure that the second one was new.

“Do you drive that to school now?” I asked Edward, my voice muffled by the cold wind. He glanced at the car offhandedly.

“Yes, Carlisle and Rosalie chose it.”

“It’s nice,” I said blandly. Really, I had no idea whether it was or not- I didn’t know enough about cars- but it certainly was shiny.

Edward looked at me with a raised eyebrow and then chuckled; the sound sent pleasant shivers down my spine. “You don’t have to pretend, Bella, I know you don’t care much for cars.”

“I liked the Volvo,” I corrected him, “at least, I did when you weren’t driving it at five hundred miles per hour. Have you still got it?”

Edward was silent. I looked at him curiously and was surprised to see that he was staring at me with a pained expression. I racked my brains for what I could possibly have said to upset him, but I couldn’t think of anything. “Yes,” he finally said, very quietly, “I still have it.”

“But you don’t drive it?” I began, confusedly, “Why no-”

“So where am I taking your bag?” Edward interrupted me loudly. I was watching him in confusion, wondering why he had changed the subject, before it dawned on me that perhaps he was just getting tired of this small talk. I instantly felt embarrassed for exploiting his simple apology by engaging him in nonsensical conversation. I hadn’t intended to do so- it was just far too easy to forget everything that had happened when I was around him. He was like balm for my wounds, which was ironic since he had been their cause in the first place.

“I’m parked over there,” I said, pointing to a spot a couple of spaces away. Parked there were a silver Mondeo, a battered blue Ford and a large dirty white van, beyond which, concealed from view, was my motorbike. Edward took one glance at the motley collection of vehicles before heading straight for the Ford.

“I see your taste in cars is still just as poor,” he commented, running a disdainful hand over the car’s dented bonnet and pausing to peer disparagingly through the windows at the dingy interior. “Is there a particular reason that you repeatedly seek the slowest forms of transportation available to you?”

I rolled my eyes. Men and cars; they were all exactly the same. Show them something with wheels and an engine and they instantly used it as an opportunity to bore everyone with their superior knowledge. Maybe Jacob and Edward wouldn’t get on so badly after all. I eased my bag from Edward’s grip, ignoring his continued comments about the car, and squeezed past him through the gap between the Ford and the van, coming out on the other side.

There sat my motorbike. Red and shiny, it was almost unrecognizable to the rusty pile of parts I had saved from the Markse family’s scrap heap. Over the years Jacob had tweaked and modified it to his heart’s content, and it was now a pretty respectable piece of machinery. Its engine and top speed might not have impressed the likes of Edward, but it suited me perfectly well. I placed my rucksack on the ground next to the bike and began to unzip it. From the corner of my eye I saw that Edward had emerged from the other side of the van. He stood there watching me rummage through my bag, a look of wary mystification on his face.

“What are you doing Bella?” he asked, as I pulled my leather jacket from the depths of my rucksack and shrugged it on.

“Going home,” I replied, pulling out my helmet and clipping my hair back from my face before donning it too. Then I zipped closed the bag and put my arms through the straps, key in hand.

Edward’s eyes narrowed. “But what about your car?”

“It’s not my car,” I said, swinging my leg over the saddle.

“But you-”

“No I didn’t, you just assumed,” I replied, sticking the key in the ignition. The bike immediately roared to life. I smiled slowly. I love that sound. It brought back memories of hot summers and rainy autumns, of hours spent in Jacob’s garage with no sound but the hiss of opening soda cans and the clink of tools, the heat rolling off of his bare chest in waves as he worked tirelessly away at the engine of his old Rabbit.

If I tried hard enough, I could still hear the rain pounding against the iron roof, Jacob’s infectious laughter and the far off beating of paws on the track outside which always announced the arrival of Quil or Embry. I miss it all so much. I thought wistfully. Maybe it was a time for a change; perhaps once the Cullens left I should start looking for a job back West.

I looked back to Edward to see he had moved inhumanly fast to stand in front of the bike, blocking its path. His eyes were flashing like fire and his mouth was curled down into an angry scowl; he looked almost as menacing as he had earlier that evening. Oh look, I thought wryly to myself, angry Edward’s back.

“You are NOT riding that,” he growled warningly.

“I think you’ll find I am,” I said, revving the engine loudly to prove my point.

“NO!” Edward shouted. His beautiful voice was blissfully furious and I realized with a slight chill that he sounded just had he always had done in my hallucinations when I had first started riding my motorbike. It was hard to pretend that I didn’t find his anger more than a little bit attractive, but it was also rather irritating. I was cold, it was late and I wanted to go home. I didn’t have time for this.

“Edward, you’re being ridiculous.” I sighed.

“I’M being ridiculous? Bella, you can hardly walk over a flat surface without tripping and now you’re telling me that you’ve taken up riding motorcycles, MOTORCYCLES?! Of all the stupid, reckless, insane things to do-”

Why do you care? I thought wistfully, What’s it to you if I hurt myself on this bike? I wanted so badly to pretend that he was worried about me and wanted to keep me safe, but I knew that was delusional. It was more likely that he was doing this just out of habit; it was just an irritating hang-over from the days where he had been protective of me.

“-do you know how many people get KILLED on these death-traps a year? Is that what you want- to become a statistic?” He was still ranting at me. I noticed from the corner of my eye that the rest of the Cullens had got out of their cars and were walking towards us, no doubt wondering what the hold up was. I groaned; there were only so many ‘scenes’ I could take today.

“Look,” I said hastily, “whether or not I choose to ride a motorbike is up to me. I’m an adult now, and I’m fully capable of making my own decisions.”

“Well you clearly AREN’T if you choose to do something as ludicrous as ride a motorbike!” Edward yelled at me, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND!? Have you actually gone INSANE?!”

That was it; I was angry again. So much for apologies and truces, now I just wanted to fight back. How dare he treat me like an idiot?

“Stop it Edward, this has nothing to do with you.”

“Yes it does!” He shouted, apoplectic with rage.

“No it doesn’t!” I snapped, irritated, “It’s no concern of yours what I do with my life; you made that pretty clear when you left. Now out of my way please!”

I knew Edward would refuse again, but I didn’t wait for a response. Trusting that the element of surprise would play to my advantage, I revved the engine again and wrenched the handlebars, causing the bike to turn sharply, facing the opposite direction to Edward. Then, ignoring his outraged roars, I slammed my foot down on the acceleration pedal with all the force I could muster, making the bike shoot forwards like a bullet from a gun. Within seconds I was already twenty metres away from an astounded Edward. I was going so fast that I only just had time to steer away from the Cullen family who were all standing, staring open-mouthed at me, in the middle of the parking lot.

“See you tomorrow Alice!” I cried over the roar of my engine and Edward’s howling profanities. “You can pick me up at 11:00!” And then I sped off towards the open road, not even bothering to conceal my wide grin.

Who ever said Bella Swan couldn’t be cool?