Infatuated Twilight fan Greta Abelove is convinced that Edward Cullen will find her someday--that she and Edward are meant to be. She has to have him. But what will she do when real love finds her, and in the most unbelievable triangle? If she continues to shoot for the moon, will she still land among to stars, or will she plummet back down to earth?
2. 2. Partner
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2803 Review this Chapter
I woke to find the sparkly pink sleeping bag rolled up tightly, tucked back up into the top shelf of my closet, the way it found it for the past four mornings. My window was hazy with morning dew as a crisp autumn chill floated through the small gap between the glass and the sill. I took all of this in before I felt Lucas’ weight as he was sprawled across the foot of my bed, inspecting a loose thread in the seams of my quilt.
"Morning," I stretched and moaned. Lucas caught a hearty yawn from my breathy greeting and we rose from my bed. He had already dressed from the duffel bag we had picked up after school three days ago, the day after his first appearance through my window, but he trailed me to the bathroom anyway.
"I’m going to need my Biology book today for the lab review," he announced as my mouth foamed with mint froth. "Do you mind if we swing by on the way to school?"
I shook my head automatically. "Not at all," I trilled, spitting the foam into the sink. His house was only two blocks off our walk to school. "We should probably be checking in on your dad anyway."
Mr. Craig had looked aged and ashen, his face shadowed with stubble, when we had stopped in for Lucas’ duffel. He wore a superficial smile, though his crows-feet made it appear almost genuine. I might’ve been fooled if his voice hadn’t sounded so hollow saying "You kids have fun with your little pow-wow." He was probably the most broken man I had ever seen in my life.
Lucas hauled our backpacks into the kitchen as I finished dressing. My parents had already left for work together (my mom taught at the school that my dad was the principal of), but my mom had left us each a stack of three pancakes.
"Your parents are too good to me," Lucas mumbled over a mouthful of pancake as I strolled in, pulling a brush through my stubborn hair.
"You know they love you," I reassured him, though they did that enough for themselves. I settled into the stool next to him at the counter and forked the buttery layers.
"I know," he smiled slightly. I could tell he was contemplating the demise of his own little family because the smile faded as quickly as it appeared, his eyes suddenly searching, though still.
"I think we’re getting our partners for the dissection lab in Bio today," I forced a change of subject; his pained expression could easily be the death of me if I let it continue.
"I don’t know why Mrs. Crass can’t just let us pick our own partners like she usually does," he said with exaggerated annoyance. "She probably just wants to split you and me up."
"Luke, I highly doubt the woman has such a vendetta against us that she would format the whole assignment around splitting us up." I rolled my eyes and drizzled syrup onto my last bite of pancake.
"Well, whatever. Whether or not this is some evil ploy, she’s still splitting us up."
He picked up our dishes and placed them in the metal sink, running warm water over the sticky messes. We slid into our backpack straps and broke into the dull orange day, my arms wrapped in a secure embrace around Twilight. We had only to wander down two streets until we turned into Lucas’ cul-de-sac. His peach-strained house (the color his mother had insisted on painting it two summers ago, which now seemed like an eternity in her absence) was still, clashing with the diluted orange-peel tinge of the sky. The driveway was empty, a grease spot marring the square where Mr. Craig’s dark green sedan usually parked.
"Guess he finally got over the ‘flu’," Lucas muttered. We clambered through the front door and found ourselves in the pit of a wasteland. Beer bottles, pizza boxes, and old newspapers hid the hardwood floor. A stale, stifling, invisible fog hung in the air.
"Sorry you had to see this," Lucas grimaced, wading through the ankle-deep debris. He disappeared up the narrow staircase before us. I heard shuffling and intermittent thumps—I imagined he was probably trying to unearth his book from under his own cleaner mess—until his door creaked shut. He stalked down the steps heavily, one by one. I hugged at the cubic shape of my makeshift security blanket, bracing myself against his unsettlingly sour mood. We escaped the scene in silence, out the same way we entered; I heard the deadbolt snap locked as he twisted his key in the jagged rectangular hole.
We headed back onto our route to school, still silent. Lucas eyed my hands as my knuckles whitened, renewing my death-grip around my book, and his face softened significantly.
"So, anything new this time around?" he pushed his chin toward the treasure mummified in my arms.
"Alas, nothing new but my strengthened love," I cooed, fluttering my eyelashes at him.
"Man, what does a real guy have to do around here to get a girl to talk about him that way?" he complained. "Would it make me more appealing if I bit you?" He flashed his teeth at me, then began taking monstrous bites of the air as he leaned into the hair that fell over my shoulder.
"Um, yeah…no." I freed one of my arms from around my book and planted my palm across his face like a mask, pushing him away.
The rest of our walk carried on in the same manner—teasing, laughing, and nudging—until we finally set foot on the edge of the lawn of. S. D. Lambert High School. All around us, people were swarming toward one building or another, gathered in chattery circles, or leaned into their lockers, collecting books and binders. Lucas and I were passing the Front Office on our way to our locker, but the last thing I heard was his shout, "GRETA!" as a collided with wall of cold metal, coming at me at a swing.
My head was pounding when I opened my eyes to the white cork ceiling of the nurse’s office. I shut my eyes again because the brightness of the ceiling was suddenly too much to handle, but when I reopened them, I was staring into two pools of copper.
"Are you alright?" a voice that wasn’t Lucas’ growled. The voice wasn’t friendly, though the eyes hovering just over my own were stricken with worry.
I sat up a little too quickly and fell backwards into the wall the cot was pushed against. The owner of the voice and startling eyes was an alabaster-skinned boy with a perfectly messy black-brown heap of hair upon his head.
"Back off, man," Lucas pushed past him rudely. "Are you alright, Greta?" he fell into a squat in front at my knees and took my face in his hands, inspecting it, seeking signs of life.
I put a hand to my forehead; the spot beneath the heel of my hand throbbed in protest to the pressure. Though I didn’t say anything, Lucas knew the question that accompanied the groan that escaped my lips now.
"This genius came charging out of the office like a raging maniac, not thinking people might be, oh, I don’t know, walking on the other side of it," Lucas glared at over the stranger, the remarkably beautiful stranger, over his shoulder.
"Sorry, Greta," he murmured. My name sounded surprisingly creamy in his gravelly voice.
My eyes refocused on him. "Edward…" was all I could manage in a feeble whisper.
"Your book is fine, Greta. It’s right here," he pushed the book into my arms, but I didn’t look down as my arms coiled automatically around it; my eyes stayed trained on his and I felt my cheeks flush.
"Edward?" I murmured a little more distinct now, but once the name escaped my lips, I felt foolish.
"Geez, how hard did you run into the door?" ‘Edward’ raised a wondering eyebrow at me, looking a little frightened now.
"You mean, how hard did you hit her with the door?" Lucas clarified.
"Who’s this ‘Edward’ she keeps asking for?" he ignored Lucas’ ambush.
"Y-you…" I stammered. The sound of him saying my name was clouding my coherence; it still rang in my ears from his apology.
"I am Charles Goode, actually. Not Edward," he smiled, crookedly, for the first time. My eyes widened. "I was just getting done registering when you—er—I hit you with the door. Sorry about that again, Greta." My head spun at the glorious sound again. "I’m not from around here, but I’m sure it’s not customary to make friends by giving people concussions." I felt so lightheaded from his second crooked smile, and my heart was beating against my ribcage, wanting to reach out and touch him just as much as I did.
"We’re not your friends," Lucas spat acidly.
"Stop being mean, Lucas. It was an accident," I was finally able to gather my thoughts in Charles’ defense. Lucas looked at me, completely taken aback. He stood from his squat and evened out the creases in his jeans. I glanced up at him long enough to catch him shoot a heated glare at Charles again before I, too, stood gingerly, holding my hand out to the vision in the metal folding chair by the door.
"My name is Greta Abelove," I did my best to suppress a tremble as he took my hand in his and, to my giddy surprise, pressed it to his lips.
"It’s a pleasure," he crooned, standing up now. Lucas buckled in fury, crashing into me and pushing me back into the cot, my hand slipping from Charles’ grasp.
"Woah," I steadied myself into the dip of the cot.
"Nice one, Wonder Boy," Charles eyed Lucas with a wicked grin, more frightening than the stunning crooked smiles that had near-floored me.
"We’d better get to class," Lucas took hold of my arm just below my shoulder and placed his other hand at the small of my back to push me into a standing position again. Now that Charles was standing too, Lucas had to look a head above his own just shoot hateful glances at him. Lucas draped the arm that wasn’t clinging to my beloved book around his shoulders and grasped my wrist firmly. His other arm was coiled around my waist, territorially more than supportively, and he shuffled me toward the door. Charles picked up my backpack and notebook from the medicine counter.
"Hey, what do you think you’re doing with those?" Lucas protested.
"I’ll carry these for her," Charles stated matter-of-factly.
"You should probably run off to class too, new guy," Lucas momentarily released his grip on my wrist to shoo him away like a bothersome fly.
"That’s where I’m going," Charles smiled crookedly at me again. He jabbed a finger at my schedule, framed in the plastic lining of my notebook in his arms "I’ve got third period Biology, too."
Lucas’ eyebrows furrowed in horror and disbelief.
"Third period?" I gasped as I calculated in my head. "I’ve been out for two hours? Honestly, how hard did you hit me with that door?!"
Lucas chuckled triumphantly, but his was drowned out by Charles’ hearty laughter.
"Have I mentioned how sorry I am, Greta?" My head was bowed in concentration of the walk, so he stooped to make eye contact with me behind my wall of hair.
My "yes" turned into more of a girlish squeal and we all wandered in silence into Mrs. Crass’ classroom just as everyone was perching themselves onto lab stools in twos at each lab station. Everyone’s attention turned to watch Lucas and me hobble awkwardly through the doorway first, Charles at our heels.
"What is the meaning of this?" Mrs. Crass demanded, appraising us in horror over the frames of her bifocals. Charles produced a neon green pass. "Very well," Mrs. Crass huffed. "Take your seats."
Lucas ushered me into a stool at the last empty lab station and took the seat beside me. Charles settled into the vacant spot at the station beside ours; only the aisle separated him from me.
"As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted, don’t get too comfortable where you are, as you’ll soon be moving around to get into your assigned lab pairs," Mrs. Crass waved a warning finger at us all. Lucas shot a weary glance at me. I rested my chin upon my fist, the fingers of my free hand grazing the aching bump undoubtedly forming just below my hairline.
Mrs. Crass brandished a clipboard and inspected it over the rim of her spectacles.
"When I call your names, please stand with your partner in the back of room until all the pairs are called. At the end, your Pair Number will correspond with the lab number you will work at for the dissection practical."
She coughed theatrically and began:
"Brandon Sullivan and Melissa Host, you are Pair One."
"Lucas Craig and Erica Finney, you are Pair Two." Lucas elbowed me goodbye and marched to the back of the class with Erica.
After several scrapings of the feet of the stools across the tile floor and a shuffling of backpacks later, her eyes probed her clipboard.
"Ma’am," Charles coughed.
"Well why didn’t you tell me you were a new student when you came in?" she chimed, forgetting her disgust at our eleven-second tardiness before.
"Er," Charles began, probably about to remind her of it.
"Nevertheless," Mrs. Crass didn’t let him introduce himself anyway. "You could not have come at a better time. Ms. Abelove was an oddball out. Your timeliness in joining the class has helped us avoid having one group of three." I looked over at Lucas. Erica was talking his ear off—even hushed, her voice was harsh and irritating, like a mosquito—and his face failed to hide the disappointment in not being able to turn his partnership into a threesome.
"So you and Greta will be partners, then. We are out of student lab stations, however I will have you two work at the instructor’s station after demonstrations."
Charles and I rose from our stools as the rest of the pairs dispersed to their labs. We were forced to occupy two metal folding chairs at the front of the class until Mrs. Crass was done with the demonstration. Charles settled into the seat closest the door and gestured me into the seat next to him. I melted into the deflated foam cushion of the old chair as he offered another crooked smile.
I sat so stiff and upright, not knowing what to do with myself sitting next to him. I could hardly keep my notes straight during the demonstration; I kept leaving the pen idle too long and it would leave a dark circle of ink where the point rested—I had a flashback of my memorial to Mr. Goodwrite on my bedroom carpet every time. Charles’ pen scratched evenly and unwaveringly as Mrs. Crass spoke. I strained my eye as far to the right as it would go without me having to turn my head, just to catch a glimpse of the way his hand danced across the page so fluidly. His handwriting wasn’t the elegant script I was expecting to see, but it was still surprisingly neat for a boy. I smiled to myself and tried to focus on Mrs. Crass as she dimmed the lights and went through the procedure on an overhead transparency.
I breathed in deeply, searching for the indescribable musk that Bella had always attributed to Edward. All I smelled was formaldehyde and the antibacterial gel. The science lab was ruining these vital moments of discovery for me.
Before I could retrace my thoughts to the demonstration at hand, the bell rang and Mrs. Crass was letting the screen retract back into its roll suspended above the whiteboard.
I dared a full look at Charles and found his golden eyes waiting to meet mine.
"So, partner," he nudged me and my skin erupted in goose bumps.
"So," I responded, tucking my hair behind my ear, making his eyes dart to my forehead.
"I really am sorry, Greta."
"I know," I nodded and did my best to flatten my bangs over my souvenir. "It’s okay. Partner." I nearly giggled the two glorious syllables of the last word.
The rest of the school day soared by. Lucas and I had nearly every class together, but we barely talked during passing periods. Or maybe he had spoken, but I was so lost in delight that I could hardly remember anything he had said, if he had.
I was so numb, I could hardly feel my feet touch the ground. I absently walked the memorized paths from class to class. Even the throb in my forehead was muffled.
The only sensations keeping me aware of my existence were my palpitating heart, the squared edges of the book nestled tightly in my fingertips, and the ache of my cheeks from the unwavering ear-to-ear smile I couldn’t shake.