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The Ripple Effect

Summary:
What if Bella’s parents never divorced & she was a normal girl. Best friends with Jacob Black for all her life & suddenly the Cullen’s moved to Forks. Everything is Alternate Universe, Romance, drama and friendships galore.


Notes:


4. Chapter 4, Unlikely Friends

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Chapter 4, Unlikely Friends

When I awoke Monday morning, I was running late. I had slept so soundly and had the oddest dreams. I had never dreamed about a boy before, not a real one. There were of course the weird movie star dreams, but if Mike or Tyler ever made any appearances, they were as friends. This time Edward Cullen had occupied my thoughts and I blushed pulling on a pair of worn jeans thinking about it. I threw a sweater over a t-shirt and skipped downstairs trying to keep my balance.

“You’re late Bells,” Renee sang as she wrapped a pop tart in a paper towel.

“Thanks Mom,” I groaned as she laughed shrugging.

“Angela’s outside waiting. Tell her to just come in next time.” I waved grabbing my bag before hurrying out the door. Fall was in full roar and the leaves were going from green to brown.

I sighed skipping a few wet leaves before sliding into my friend’s car.

“Sorry I’m late, over slept right through my alarm.” I sighed as Angela shrugged pulling out of my driveway.

“No biggie,” she smirked; “we’re still on time.”

I took a deep breath, pushing my bag down by my feet.

“How did you do on your microbiology project?” I asked smiling.

“It was unreal Bella,” she gushed, “all weekend with Ben.”

I laughed easing into my seat as she pulled onto the main drag.

“And,” I teased hoping she wouldn’t ask me about my weekend.

“And, I’m still a coward but I think he likes me,” she sang as we turned into the school’s driveway.

I could see Ben waiting with Tyler and Mike by his car. He was trying to be nonchalant but Mike and Tyler both punched him on the shoulder as Angela parked next to his car. I laughed shaking my head.

“Real smooth guys,” I said dryly.

Angela turned to me confused as I shrugged.

I didn’t even notice Alice was waiting by Edward’s Volvo, until she came skipping to me as I slung my backpack to one side.

“Morning Bella,” she chimed as Angela turned smiling.

“I printed out our reports, and Edward’s going to hand in his copy this morning.”

Angela smiled at my friend and I felt I had to introduce them.

“Oh, Alice this is Angela, Angela, Alice.” The two girls smiled at each other brightly, before Ben poked my shy friend taking her attention away from us.

“I’ll see you in homeroom, Ang,” I called leaving her to fend off the boys.

“So I was thinking we could hang out this Friday again,” Alice sang as she hooked her arm through mine; skipping gracefully next to me.

“O-oh yeah, you want to come over?” I asked unsure.

“Yes, we could go shopping, or I could organize your closets,” she seemed so enthused by the idea.

“Won’t Jasper get lonely?” I asked as Alice tilted her head thinking about it.

“No, Jaz is fine.” I smiled at her nickname for her boyfriend. Jaz seemed to be too informal for him. I laughed, wondering what they called Edward.

She waited for me, as I opened my locker scanning the hallway patiently her feet twisting to and fro.

When I was done, she closed my locker smirking, as I walked towards my homeroom.

“So I’ll see you at lunch.” She waved as I smiled shrugging. Jasper, as if like a magnet, found his girlfriend and they softly embraced walking down the hall towards their classrooms.

When I finally sat down next to Angela, she was flushed.

“You okay, Ang?” I asked as my friend broke out of a thought.

“Oh, yeah.” She laughed at herself before turning towards me.

“So what’s the Cullen’s place like?” she questioned; an interested few heads turned our way as I winced.

“Normal, you should see their Mom, she’s perfect,” I giggled; Angela bit and twisted her bottom lip intrigued.

“Is Doctor Cullen as gorgeous as everyone says?”

I smiled, immediately thinking of Edward as I took a moment to think of how to answer.

“He’s perfect, like a father out of one of those catalogues. But the best part is they’re so nice," I added smiling.

Angela sighed, resting her chin on my desk as she imagined the house.

“I bet it’s huge, was it hard to find?”

I blushed shrugging.

“No, I got a ride,” I avoided the rest of the story like who gave me a ride. “They have such beautiful gardens, and the view of the river is to die for.”

Angela laughed, and I hoped I had done the house justice.

“What about the others?” she inquired.

I gave a quick nod.

“Very polite, Esme, their Mother is a saint can you imagine adopting all those teens? But she barely looks like a mother. She makes the best quiches though.” I chuckled remembering Alice’s mother’s cooking.

“Sounds great,” she remarked dryly, trying to make light of it.

“So, how about you and Ben; any fireworks?”

She shrugged blushing.

“His Mom was working so we made peanut butter and fluff sandwiches. We worked in his dinning hall for most of the weekend. My Dad had us in the kitchen on Sunday, so embarrassing.” Angela frowned.

Her Dad was a minister and strict with Angela. We used to compare notes between fathers and found a Sheriff vs. a clergyman was a draw.

“But worth it?” I asked; trying to cheer her up. She beamed, nodding, “absolutely.”

We laughed as the bell rang and our homeroom teacher swept in at the last minute.

By the time lunch started, I was late walking into a full crowded cafeteria. Alice was beaming and waiting for me as she stepped in line.

“Edward said Mr. Grodner loved the report and we could work together next time,” she sang as I grabbed milk, changing up my routine for the day.

“Great,” I replied; stealing a glance at her brother who was picking a sandwich apart.

“I just wanted to let you know, since Bio isn’t your favorite subject. So no worries.” She waved dancing her way back to her lunch table. I shook my head. Was I that easy to read? Had Alice figured me out in only a month?

I sat at the lunch table lost in thought as my friends traded stories and gossip.

“What about you Bella?” Mike asked as I looked up; I hadn’t been paying any attention to their conversation.

“Movie this weekend? Are you in? You’re not on the schedule,” he asked. I shrugged looking over at Alice, wondering if there was some way to weasel out of the commitment.

“We’re all going,” Angela added her eyes widening, pleading for me to be her wing girl.

“Yeah, sure. What movie?” I inquired; my eyes turning to the Cullen’s again before back at my friends.

By the time the period was over, I was going with the entire group to see some monster movie. It had started out as Ben mentioning it to Angela before the whole group of us were tagging along. I sighed dropping my bag in the science lab as Alice sat beside me smiling.

“So I’ll just run home on Friday and then come over at your place around four-ish?” Alice asked; picking up our conversation from this morning with graceful ease.

“Yeah, sure,” Alice gave a quick nod, beaming.

“Great, I’ll bring the snacks; you really liked those quiches, right? Esme has another recipe for them.” I bit my lip nodding as Alice fluttered with excitement.

As Mr. Grodner collected our projects, I couldn’t help but wonder. Why would Alice, this perfect pixie girl with a gorgeous boyfriend and friends; want to hang out with me this Friday night? She turned to me at the end of the period smiling almost reassuringly as the bell rang.

“It’s going to be beautiful for the next two days,” she announced.

“My family and I will be heading up north to do some backpacking.” She sighed slightly, as if missing school was a nuisance.

"So I won’t see you again until Thursday,” she finished; turning away from me as she ran towards Jasper. I shook my head in wonderment, as my feet dragged to gym.

I lucked out since there was an uneven amount of girls in the class. I was chosen thankfully as an alternate, which meant for most of the period I was sitting on the bench watching. My gaze kept sliding to the boy’s side of the gym as Edward Cullen would toss a ball carefully to another player. His gaze never seemed to meet mine, but that didn’t stop me from blushing in amusement.

The next two days seemed to drag without Alice there. The school day wasn’t nearly as interesting without the Cullens. Angela was preoccupied with what to wear on Saturday and I was trying to be a good friend. Lauren and Jessica were in their own world, ignoring us as usual. When Thursday finally arrived, I was excited, I had come to rely on Alice in Biology. Mr. Grodner was less unbearable with my lab partner there. He seemed to pick me out for questions more than the other students in the class. I wondered if he thought he was doing me a service by keeping me involved without Alice present. He only encouraged my thoughts of skipping his class.

As Angela pulled into the parking lot on Thursday, I saw the Cullens, they looked happy, excited to be back. I noted a hint of rose to their cheeks and a glow to their skin. I wondered if backpacking really could add to a person’s hue. Alice waved as I walked with Angela towards Ben’s car where everyone had gathered. She looked excited as she pulled on Jasper's arm. I laughed; I was just as excited that she was back and wrinkled my nose in anticipation.

When we finally met in Biology, Alice was tapping the lab table lightly with her fingertips. I smirked setting my bag down before handing her my notes.

“What did I miss?” she asked hungrily. The tinge of pink in her cheeks slightly flushed with excitement. I shrugged looking around the class as students began to file in.

“Nothing too exciting, we’re taking a field trip down to the River next week. We're going to collect samples for some project.” She beamed; the idea of a science field trip exciting her.

“Fantastic, I’ll go get a permission slip.” She danced to Mr. Grodner’s desk as I shook my head in amazement. Her moods were infectious as I began to get excited about the event. I wondered if Edward would come too. That made me blush and shake my head. Never had one boy stayed in my mind as Edward Cullen had.

“You haven’t forgotten about Friday have you?” Alice asked as the bell rang. I moaned, hoping someone else was sick in gym class.

“No, everything’s still a go.”

Alice beamed as Jasper was at her side keeping strides with his girlfriend.

“Excellent, I’ll see you after Gym,” she called as Jasper gave me a quick nod. He smiled, before wrapping his arm around Alice and heading the opposite way. I wondered what she meant, as I walked into the gymnasium.

I sighed with relief as most of the class sat in chairs on the gym floor. A TV was set up and a substitute was trying to set the DVD player. When I found a seat next to a freshman girl, I whispered a question.

“What’s up with the Mr. Foster?” I asked. She giggled before answering, “out with mono is the rumor.”

It was horrible to be happy when someone was ill, but I was ecstatic as the lights were turned off and the movie began to play. I took the time to write down a few ideas or some dialogue as it came to mind. It wasn’t a complete waste of time but bits and pieces of the movie held my attention for only a few short moments. I was willing myself not to look for Edward. This was a new game for myself. See how long I didn’t see him, or at least try to. I had made it most of the class until I saw the bronze hair pass me by and stop right by the doors stunned.

Alice was waiting for me, Jasper standing a few feet away confused and awkward.

“Hey Alice.” I smiled as she hooked her arm in mine and Jasper spoke quickly with Edward.

“You have no idea how hard it was not to tell you about the sub in gym,” she sighed laughing to herself. "I know how much you hate the class but I figured you’d like the surprise."

I smiled shrugging. Alice was amazing at times, I felt like we had been friends for years.

“Well we’re off to French, aur voir mon ami,” she called with a perfect accent as I waved laughing. Edward didn’t glance my way as he walked into the cafeteria with his head down.

When Friday morning finally came, I was actually excited. I tried to think of the last friend to come over my house other than for a school project. Jacob was practically family, so he didn’t count. It was Angela last year; I laughed trying to pick up my room the best I could. I didn’t have much time to make my bed but I opened the window to air the room out.

“I slipped the permission slip in your bag Bella, Before you forget it again;” Renee said as she turned towards the stove moving the teakettle.

“Great, thanks Mom.” I smiled. “It’s still okay if Alice comes over tonight, right?” I asked. Renee grinned nodding.

“Of course, I’m going to pick out a movie today after I do some shopping,” she added as I shrugged. My Mom didn’t have the worst tastes in movies, but I wondered if Alice would be up for movie night with the Swans.

Angela was her usual self, a little more self-conscious as she described her outfit for tomorrow. I hadn’t given it much thought, maybe I would ask Alice to pick something out for me. The Cullens, especially Alice and Rosalie, always dressed perfectly. They would mix colors and fabrics the way I’d only seen on TV. Angela wasn’t the only one excited for the movies on Saturday. Mike was talking my ear off about it all last night and I rolled my eyes at the memory. I wondered what it was with boys and violent movies. I couldn’t understand the draw and was sure I’d spend more time eating popcorn then focusing on the screen.

“What should I say to him?” Angela asked, continuing a conversation I had been ignoring in the car.

“Uh, you’ll figure it out, Ang.” I smiled as Ben grinned walking towards us.

“See ya later,” I called laughing as I walked ahead into the school.

The day went by quickly. I found out in Biology as Alice handed in a permission slip for herself and her brother that Edward was indeed coming with us. Alice seemed triumphant, as she placed to two sheets into Mr. Grodner’s hand.

“So my Mom’s going to rent a movie, but we can do whatever you want tonight.” Alice beamed at me, itching to get into my closets.

“That’s fine, I’m just glad to get to drive my new car.” She seemed hyperactive, as if the prospect of just driving to my house was an adventure.

“New car?” I asked as she shrugged.

“Carlisle likes to spoil us. We can go for a ride tonight,” her eyes widened at the idea. I laughed, I saw how Alice drove, but I gave her a nod to be polite.

“Maybe you can help me pick out something to wear on Saturday,” I offered. “It’s sort of important for Angela since she’s into Ben, so I’m her wing woman for the night.” Alice squealed softly in delight, as I instantly regretted the offer. There was nothing in my closet that would work for Alice.

“That’s great, this will be fun,” Alice said gleefully as the bell rang.

I was happy that my new friend was so easily pleased but I wondered if her expectations were too high. I was no Alice nor Rosalie; my closet consisted of three skirts, one dress and a lot of jeans and corduroys. The Cullens never seemed to repeat an outfit while the rest of Forks stumbled to keep up.

I was lost in thought for the rest of the day. I had a perfect score for my Edward game. Thinking about spending the night with Alice and the worry that came over me was consuming. It was the second day of mono for our gym teacher and I barely blinked when Alice met me outside of class again.

“So I’ll be at your house at four, okay?” She practically bounced at the thought and Jasper couldn’t help but grin at his girlfriend.

“Okay see you then.” She waved as we parted.

All throughout study hall, I came up with a list of things to do. I hoped nothing was too boring for Alice. My parents would insist she stay for dinner and I wondered what Renee had planned. I hoped for something simple, but then frowned imagining Alice eating pizza from Forks House of Pies. No, I shrugged; Alice seemed like a sushi and sashimi type of girl. I decided I would let Alice drive me in her car, since she seemed to glow at the prospect. At least that way, if my parents were too much we’d have an easy out clause.

I let my imagination go wild as I absent mindedly walked out of study hall. I heard Jessica and Lauren laughing at some inside joke as I tripped on the carpet. A steady pair of hands caught me as Lauren laughed.

“Klutz much, Bella?” she asked, saying my name with a hint of disdain. There wasn’t anything I could do to get on Lauren’s good graces.

I looked up wondering who had rescued me but the hallway was filled with other students and no-one seemed to pay me any attention. I shook off the uneasy feeling as I made my way to my locker. Angela was talking with Ben, gushing was more like it, as I turned the combination to my lock. I stuffed all my unneeded books inside the metal closet before easing it closed. Angela laughed waving Ben away as she walked with me.

“I am this close to just asking him out Bells, I swear,” she giggled shaking her high ponytail in awe. I smiled encouraging her. Angela was too shy for her own good, and she deserved to be happy with someone.

I sighed as we made our way to her Sedan.

My mother was as nervous as I was when I closed the door and kissed her hello. The vacuum was sitting next to the closet and the house smelled of pine sol. I hoped she wasn’t making a fuss over Alice. Renee had the habit of overestimating other people’s houses. She always thought her house wasn’t up to par. And pulling the refrigerator out and cleaning behind it was her m.o. I winced slightly, the house looked great and she made a point of cleaning it thoroughly every weekend.

“Mom, it’s just Alice, she’s been here before,” I remarked as Renee threw a used paper towel away.

“Oh I know, I just figured I’d get some cleaning done.” She laughed.

“Do you want to order something in tonight.” I shrugged picking a piece of raisin bread apart.

“Maybe, is Dad working late?”

“Uh huh,” Renee replied.

“Can you just check your room for me? I vacuumed and picked up a little,” I groaned, my Mother’s idea of picking up a little usually meant it took me a week to find things.

“Thanks, Mom, let me know when Alice gets here.” Renee waved me away, as I ran up to my room to access the damage.

It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. My clothes were put away neatly; it seemed my laundry was all done. Something I was very grateful for, and my bed was made. I started to turn all the lights on glancing at my clock every few minutes. At three forty-five I heard an engine purr and ran to the window. Outside was a yellow convertible, it was a sporty car, small and perfect for Alice. It looked so beautiful in my driveway.

“Alice is here,” Renee called as I stormed out of my room. Alice was at the door as I opened it to welcome her.

“That car is yours?” I asked amazed, to think I was jealous of Angela’s car. Alice’s yellow beauty was enough to make you want to cry.

“Yeah, it was a present.” I smiled.

“I’ll take you for a ride later.” She laughed skipping into my house.

“Hello, Mrs. Swan,” she sang as Renee stuffed the closet with the vacuum and beamed. Alice floated over to her giving her a gentle hug. My Mother smiled, we weren’t the hugging type of family. I imagined the Cullens were, like the Tanners from ‘Full House.’

“It was so nice of you to let me come over. My Mother sent me with some mini quiches, Bella liked them so.” She placed the perfect pink plate on the counter as Renee smiled.

“That’s so nice, make sure to tell her thank you,” she chuckled wringing her hands a bit.

"We got a movie if you want to watch," I smiled helping my Mom.

Alice shrugged. "Sure, it's up to you." She glanced up the stairs towards my bedroom.

"We'll be upstairs, Mom," Renee waved as she went back to picking up the living room.

Alice glided to my bed before sitting on it; she bounced up and down for a moment like a child. She seemed very excited.

"I've never been over a friend's house," she admitted. "You know except for projects or stuff."

"Really?" I asked.

She nodded looking around. "I don't remember much before being adopted by the Cullens."

"Really, wow that's...terrible," I replied shocked. She shrugged.

"It's all I know." I bit my lip looking around.

"Well this is it, you've seen it before." I laughed lightly as she eyed my open closet. "Can I take a peek?" she asked smiling. "Let's see if we can find something for Saturday?"

I shrugged as she danced to the double doors.

"Okay," Alice mused, and I winced.

"I'm not much of a shopper; I usually just let my mother pick something up. And she's not much of a shopper either."

"Yeah," she mused. "Washington fashion, it's really unfortunate."

I shrugged. "Must be the same as Alaska, right? I mean you dress for the weather, not much else you can do."

"True," she retorted. "But you would be surprised at what you can get away with."

I laughed as she started pulling clothes together. "You separate them like this, huh?"

I blushed, embarrassed. "Yeah, why? How do you do it?"

"By outfit," she answered. I shook my head amazed.

"You must have so many clothes."

"Clothes are a passion of mine," she perked one eyebrow before looking back to my closet.

"I can put this together for you at least that could help."

"Fine," I sighed.

"So, a group movie thing, huh?"

"Yeah," I moaned. "You wanna come?"

"Sorry." She giggled. "Saturday's date night."

I locked my jaw, I was jealous. "Right."

She turned to me, with two pairs of corduroys in one hand. "Do you ever go on dates, Bella?" she asked, inquisitively.

"No," I shook my head animated. "I don't date, I guess. You know there's never been a guy that I wanted to," I laughed rambling. I wonder if she saw right through me. How I wanted her brother, how I had become obsessed with him?

"I've only ever been with Jasper," she admitted.

"Oh," I gasped as she nodded. "What is that like?"

"What, being in love?"

"Yeah," I nodded my gaze going to the floor.

She paused for a moment thinking.

"It's...the greatest feeling. I mean people try to describe it in poems and songs, but nothing truly captures it. They can try all they want but until you feel it for yourself it's just an idea."

I nodded smiling. Alice was so mature, but so teeny. I wondered how much I could learn from this girl with the tiny little frame.

"There," she finally exclaimed, "everything is in order, now we have to get you shopping."

"I told you Alice, I'm hopeless."

She shook her head. "Nothing's hopeless. I can makeover anyone."

"Well maybe," I said as she beamed.

She was eyeing my music collection, which she had gone through a few days before. "Got anything new?"

I laughed shrugging. "Just the new Coldplay album and some Beethoven Piano Sonatas."

"Beethoven, huh?" she asked shaking her head.

"Yeah, why?"

“Oh nothing, Edward's been driving us crazy playing at home."

"Oh, he plays the piano."

She shrugged smiling, moving onto my books. "Yeah, you should ask him to play for you sometime, he's sort of the family musician."

I smirked as she fingered the old leather of some of my books. "I like your book collection," she commented moving to my photos.

"Thanks," I chuckled.

"Is this?" she pointed to a picture of me and Jacob when we were little.

"That's Jacob, long time best friend."

"Oh, does he come here often?"

"Oh, sometimes, he's turning fifteen so he doesn't have his license yet."

She grinned turning to more pictures. Alice seemed like a sponge and I was the most interesting person. As far as friends go, she was the only one who seemed to want to learn as much as she could about me, like my life was intriguing. Finally, dinnertime was approaching and I wondered if Alice would want to chance Renee's cooking.

"So, up for that ride?" she asked before I could even inquire about eating.

"Yeah, sure," I smile, leading the way down the stairs.

"We're going for a ride, Mom."

Renee glanced up from studying a few takeout menus.

"Oh, aren't you girls hungry?" Alice shook her head as she slid into her cashmere jacket.

"No thank you, Mrs. Swan. My Mother is making Boeuf En Daube and I had an after school snack." I laughed as Renee looked to me as I shrugged.

"We'll be back in like an hour," I turned towards Alice, as she gave a reassuring nod to Renee.

"Thanks so much for having me. This was great," she beamed at my Mother who melted.

"Oh no problem, please come back anytime." And Renee meant it, I could tell my Mother was putty in my new friend's hands.

As we walked into the driveway, the sun was already setting. Even with the floodlights from my side of my house, Alice's car looked amazing. She ran her fingers across the hood, the yellow paint smooth beneath her fingers.

"Carlisle bought it for me at the beginning of the year, but my brother drives so much that I haven't been able to drive it really. You are the first non-Hale or Cullen to be in it, so enjoy." She looked like she was in love as we slipped into the vehicle.

"What is it?" I was horrible with car makes.

"It's a Porsche." She didn't go into specifics, thankfully, since it would go right over my head.

"It's pretty awesome," I said as she started the car and the lights lit up yellow and orange.

"You better buckle up," I laughed following her suggestion as she backed out of my driveway.

She didn't floor it until we were on the highway, and I giggled despite myself. Fast cars and breaking speed limits was a Cullen thing. And even I, the Sheriff's daughter, was enjoying myself. When I went to sleep that night my head was spinning from the ride, and I was excited to see what tomorrow would bring.

A week had past and Alice was still interested in being my friend. It amazed me everyday when she met me by my locker or walked with me to a class. I had always made friends easily but I never usually cared much to invest in them myself. Angela and Jacob were different; being friends with them was easy, natural. Until I met Alice, I had thought they were the only ones, but Alice proved to me how wrong I was. Despite myself, I looked forward to talking with her, I even got used to her subtle hints about Edward.

When the biology field trip finally came Alice was absent from school. I wondered if she might be sick as I watched Jasper, Edward and the rest of her family walk into the school. My heart thudded, other than Mike and Angela, I would be on my own. And this was a prime time for Ben and Angela to hang out; I couldn't be the third wheel.

"You coming, Bella?" Tyler asked enthused; too enthusiastic for Lauren who gave me a dirty look as she passed us.

"Yeah, I'll be there in a second." I frowned watching as the only Cullen, Edward, walked towards Mr. Grodner and checked in. I watched my friends head to one bus and Edward to the other.

I had two choices, go on one bus and make Angela feel guilty choosing between Ben and I and cause rifts between Lauren and Tyler, or chance it on Edward's bus. I took the latter walking onto the second choice as it quickly filled up. The seat in front of Edward was open and I took it, smiling politely as I sat down. His earbuds were already tucked in his ears as he gave a quick nod, so subtle that I was unsure of it a moment later. I groaned as Mike Newton climbed up into the bus and his eyes found mine. He walked towards me hitting fists with someone before taking the seat in front of me. I wondered if he would turn my way, I hoped he wouldn't but I was foolish.

"Hey Bella," he said as the bus started to move. I removed my earbuds pausing my Ipod.

"Hey Mike." He smiled looking at my device then back at me.

"Anything interesting on there?" He was admiring the device in my hand, there were only a few kids with an IPod in school, and I knew Mike was saving up for one of his own.

"Just some Coldplay, Beethoven and Strauss," I answered, wondering if he would laugh. His eyes widened instead.

"That's quite a collection; I didn't know you were into Classical music." I heard a snort, it was quiet, but I recognized that it came from Edward.

"Uh yeah," I continued, "I am." He gave a quick nod stalling for another topic that would lengthen the conversation.

I wasn't paying attention, my eyes drifted to the window, I could make out Edward's face turning towards the opposite window. He looked like he was listening so intently I wondered if he was listening to Mike and me; I blushed at the thought as Mike smiled asking a question.

"What?" He smirked thinking the blush was because of him. I squirmed. I was giving him the wrong impression.

"Have you been to the new galaxy bowl?" I shook my head.

"Uh no, me and bowling, not a great idea." I gave a quick nod, hoping he would turn around or talk with someone else.

"Oh right, Angela's thirteenth birthday, I remember." I grimaced; the problem with going to school in a small town was that everyone had long memories.

I wasn't allowed at Galaxy Bowl for the rest of the year after throwing the ball into the other lane and cracking it. I also took a few balls with mine. Angela made light of it and was really sweet, but there were boys at the party, including Mike. Lauren made comments about it all year. To say I was absolutely mortified would be putting it mildly.

"Do you know what time it is, Bella?" I turned looking up at the velvety voice. It was Edward, his smile on Mike and I as he quirked an eyebrow.

"Get a watch, Cullen," Mike spat as I whispered the answer.

"Eight thirty, we should be there any minute," I added lost in his eyes as he smirked at Mike before looking back to me.

"Thank you, Bella." He held my gaze for a moment, before disappearing behind the seat.

Mike looked flustered as he turned around in his chair and I was glad for the break. I pressed my IPod back to life, biting my lip to steady a giggle.

I kept my eyes on Edward for the entire trip. He seemed to enjoy the river, more than the others did, smelling each flower, taking meticulous notes. I watched his every move and nodded politely when Angela made a comment or wanted to tell me something

"Bella, are you listening?" I looked up and could see Edward turn towards us in the corner of my eye.

"Yeah, it's just the smells out here, they're great," I replied as she smiled shyly.

"It looked like you were staring at Edward," she laughed tilting her head towards me.

"I just hope Alice is okay, she's out sick or something." Angela narrowed her eyes smirking.

"Yeah, I hope she's feeling okay too." She didn't look convinced but I shook my head continuing our walk.

"So, you were saying about Ben..." I started, hoping to get the attention off me. We were ahead of Edward and I winced inwardly that I couldn't watch him anymore.

"Yeah, well he's so sweet and he asked to eat lunch with me, but I don't know if he was thinking like just the two of us or...?" I shrugged.

"So you make sure it's just the two of you, find a table for two everyone else should understand.” I smiled biting my bottom lip.

I was half-right, when it came time for lunch Eric was the only one who didn't understand. I dragged him to another table playing good friend. I couldn't help but watch as Edward avoided the picnic tables. He was leaning against a tree on the far-side of the park his leg leaning on the trunk as his fingers moved with the music in his ears. I ignored all my friends' ramblings as I watched him, eating my lunch mechanically.

As we rode home, I couldn't help but feel like Alice had done me a favor. We would have been chattering away and I would have never been able to stare at her brother without being noticed. Alice was always observant. I watched as the Cullens greeted their brother, when we finally emptied out into the school parking lot. I stood there by the door of the bus as Jasper playfully punched Emmett before instinctively greeting Edward. The Cullens were like a cell, moving together. Without Alice, they seemed to fill the missing void but a blanket of melancholy surrounded them.

"So did you ask him?" Angela asked as we pulled out onto the road.

"Ask who what?" I replied lost in thought.

"Edward, if Alice was okay?"

I shook my head. "No, there never seemed to be a right time."

I lied; fact was I had no idea how to talk with Edward. I wasn't even sure I could form complete sentences. Sure I had talked to him before, but not after the dreams and the stalking. No, there was no way I could converse with a Greek god, it was impossible. I snorted at myself; I was sounding more and more like Jessica.

"Well I'm glad you're friends with Alice." Angela was such a nice person. This comment didn't surprise me.

"Yeah me too." She sighed smiling.

"Not enough people have really connected with them you know." She shrugged as I sat back.

It was odd how no-one other than myself had penetrated the Cullen's inner circle. I wondered if it was true, that sometimes the beautiful did scare people away. When I made it home, a message was left with Renee for me. It was from Alice.

'I had an appointment, sorry I missed the fieldtrip.'