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as long as i'm going to hell

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Forks High School wasn’t that much different than any other when it came to their thinking. Sure, over time, bigots were dragged into slightly better ways of thinking, but for the most part, all thoughts boiled down to the same kinds of things.

Most of the towns they’d lived in over the years had reacted the same way to them—awe, extreme curiosity, disappointment, and finally, complete disinterest.

The students of Forks High School were pretty solidly in the complete disinterest phase at this time. Two and a half years of strangeness did that kind of thing.

Edythe always monitored the thoughts of people around her. For one thing, she couldn’t turn it off—for another, if anyone was suspicious, she’d know right away.

No one was suspicious, even after the stunt she’d pulled saving Bella from Tyler’s van.

Well, except Bella. But then, a huge part of her wanted Bella to find out. She wanted to show her every part of her and see what she thought. She wanted Bella to know her.

No one was paying any particular attention to Edythe as she leaned against her car, waiting, even though she’d never really done this before. Most thoughts were focused on homework or sex or fights between friends, and mostly streams of overlapping conscious. It took time and parsing to really understand what anyone was thinking, but that was why she mostly listened for relevant names, or on occasion, faces.

Like Jessica Stanley focusing in on her face suddenly, with the thought, ‘Okay, I get it. She’s weird, but crazy hot.’

It wasn’t an unusual thought from teens. It wasn’t even weird to hear from Jessica, who had, over the past few years, spent quite a bit of time studying her face. Sometimes she’d imagined touching it, running her fingers over Edythe’s jaw or pushing her hair behind her ears. It had always made Edythe...nervous.

Oh—now that she thought about it, it was probably her own latent lesbianism making her nervous. She chuckled to herself. Weird how that all played out.

Edythe reconsidered what Jess had just thought—she got it. Meaning someone had probably just confessed to having a crush on Edythe. Her breath caught—could it have been Bella? Had she come out to her friend and told her about Edythe? A smile slid over her lips as she imagined Bella saying those words—“I like Edythe.”

It was silly that she was so happy to think of it. She knew that Bella liked her, but every confirmation felt like birdsong, her favorite album on vinyl, or Esme singing to Carlisle.

She heard the rumbling of Bella’s truck before she saw it. It was so ugly, a rusty red and bulbous exterior, fit Bella. Something about the contrast, maybe.

She’d watched Alice’s thoughts all night. There had been several questionable book choices that she’d breezed through. She usually had already had the story spoiled by her visions before she even opened the books, but she took the time to read through them anyway. She got a fuller picture that way. She’d had a vision of a vacation with Jasper—down to New Mexico, running through the desert at night, laughing and laughing—but nothing about Bella.

Edythe had already decided she wasn’t going to approach Bella; it just seemed respectful to let her make the first move, to announce that she was done thinking about it, or at least that she wanted answers.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to wait by her car until Bella parked, got out of her ugly truck, and gave her an indication of which way the day would go.

‘Everything will be fine!’ Alice thought in her direction. There was no accompanying vision to prove it, so she figured Alice had also heard Bella arriving and was just being supportive. She and Jasper had already left to go to class, but their hearing extended pretty far.

Bella drove slowly around the parking lot until she managed to find a spot about two rows away from Edythe’s car. There may as well not have been any other sound in the area. Sure, Bella’s truck was loud, but in truth, it could have been a Prius, and the world still would have gone silent for Edythe when it turned off.

There was the thump of the closing door and the crunch of her rain boots on the asphalt—it was raining, kind of heavy but not so much that it really caused a problem for anyone—and then there was the sight of Bella, bundled up in a raincoat and wearing a scarf over her mouth. She only looked kind of miserable as she walked toward Edythe. Was it the weather, or Edythe herself causing this reaction?

When she was only a few feet away, she pulled her scarf down. “Hey,” she said, and licked her lips. “No coffee today?”

Fuck. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t sure you would want to see me today and...I didn’t think of it.” She looked down at her watch. Enough time that she could make it if she left right away. “I could get it for you now.”

“No,” Bella said, laughter in her voice. “I was joking. That’s sweet, though. I’d rather talk to you, if it’s ok?”

“Yes,” she said, maybe too quickly. Bella probably wouldn’t change her mind, but Edythe couldn’t help but grab the opportunity. “I could walk you to class?”

She grimaced. Her mind was still silent to Edythe, but she could guess that Mike was the reason Bella was hesitant to go.

“I’d hate for you to get too cold,” she hedged. “We could sit down in the car.”

Across the campus, Alice had a vision of the car smelling like Bella. It was fine, but put everyone in a bad mood, including Edythe. The smell of her blood was still potent...

“Or your car?” She winced. Did that seem weird?

Bella shrugged like she couldn’t figure that one out but wasn’t too concerned about it. Maybe. It was kind of hard to tell. It was possible, maybe, that Edythe relied on her gift just a bit too much. 

“Sure. Cozy seats, I get it.” Bella turned around and started walking back toward her truck. She was shivering. Edythe wished she was capable of producing body heat, that she could wrap Bella up in an embrace that would actually help. She sighed at the thought and hurried after her.

The seats in Bella’s truck were cozy, at least partially because of the blanket that Bella had pressed into the creases. It was fleece, in a red and brown pattern that reminded Edythe of the sun.

Bella’s scent was pretty strong here, but she could also smell the rain from outside and the lingering scent of some sort of coffee. She couldn’t identify the exact flavor, having no reference for it. She wondered if it had been Bella it Charlie who had brought it into the car.

“Gum?” Bella offered a small package, spearmint flavored.

She took it out of curiosity more than anything. She knew that chewing gum was enjoyable for humans because they were tasting their own flavored saliva as they chewed. Would her own work the same? Would she end up throwing it up later? All interesting and somewhat disgusting to think about, but...she was curious.

“We’re not going to have time to talk about everything, obviously,” Bella said as she unwrapped her own piece of gum. “Mainly, I want to know if you still want to kill me.” She popped the gum into her mouth, and chewed a few times, staring at Edythe expectantly.

“I never wanted to,” she tried, a little sheepish. “Mostly. I mean, the first day we met, I...I didn’t want to. But instinctively...”

Bella nodded. “I picked up on that. It really confused me, too. I thought maybe I smelled bad?”

“Definitely not,” she promised. Very delicately, she slid the gum into her mouth. It had a sharp flavor, kind of. It was still a little bland, to be perfectly honest, but not as bad as most food, which usually tasted like ash.

“I didn’t think so, either. I could only smell my coconut shampoo.”

“I can smell that,” Edythe agreed. “And your soap—pomegranate? And I know that Chief Swan buys off brand Tide for your laundry.” She chewed a few more times. “That’s not what you smell like, though.” That was a weird thing to say, right? She probably shouldn’t say it, or she should say something more obvious and get all of this over with. was kind of fun to watch Bella understand mountains out of bread crumbs.

“What do I smell like?” Bella asked. She shifted closer, sliding a few inches across the cab, her hand pressing onto the back of the seat to support her.

If Edythe wanted, she could lean forward and press her mouth against the pulse of her neck. She...shouldn’t. She licked her lips, thinking about it anyway.

“You,” she said, watching Bella blow a green bubble. “You smell floral.”

“Floral,” she repeated, the question obvious.

Edythe moved closer, too, unable to look away from her face—she can’t focus on any part of it, all of it is so—“Like honeysuckles,” she managed.

She pursed her lips, and Edythe stared at them. “I’ve never seen a honeysuckle. Or smelled one.”

“We’ll find some in the spring,” she promised. “There’s a couple varieties and...I don’t know if the species I’m thinking of grows here, but we’ll find a similar one.” Bella’s lips are slightly disproportionate, her upper lip a little too full. It looks...she wants to put her own mouth on it. Fuck.

“I’d like that,” Bella said.

In that moment, it didn’t matter that Edythe couldn’t read her mind. She could hear the rush of Bella’s heartbeat, see the soft red flush of her face, see the way her chocolate eyes darkened. She wondered, briefly, what she looked like in this moment, staring back at the girl she wanted, the girl who, inexplicably, wanted her, too.

“Bella,” she said quietly, starting to reach for her. “I—“

The first bell rang, jolting them out of their charged moment.

“Huh,” Bella sighed. “We should go.”

She thought about asking Bella to cut class with her. They could drive away, she’d take her...somewhere dry. It wouldn’t be anywhere close, but...they could.

Then she remembered why they had been talking in the first place. She wasn’t sure what Bella was feeling, if she was still scared or weirded out. Whatever desire had overcome them both couldn’t erase that. She sighed. “Yes,” she agreed. She hoped that her childish disappointment wasn’t too obvious.

Bella nodded, looking around the emptying parking lot. None of the kids walking through were looking at them. “We do have ten minutes before class…” She looked back at Edythe, biting her lip. “Remember when you said you wanted to kiss me again?” She blushed deeply even as she leaned forward.

The blush made Edythe lick her lips. God, she wished she could taste it in the air, even if it would be unsafe…. If they did kiss, if they touched, in a car that smelled like Bella, would she be able to control herself? She tried to breathe evenly again, staring at Bella with wide eyes. “Yeah,” she said. She could do this, probably, because Alice wasn’t having any visions of Bella dying, so—

Bella leaned forward slowly.

Edythe felt at war with herself. She appreciated the carefulness in that it allowed her to prepare (how did Bella know that she needed it? Was she so obvious? Was this simply the nervousness of a real first kiss, or was she picking up on too much again?), but she was so desperately full of want that she thought about yanking Bella the rest of the distance across the seat.

She compromised by leaning forward to meet her halfway. Each inhale nearly overwhelmed her, but, she reminded herself, she had kissed Bella’s cheek before, and anyway, she was in public. People would notice if they didn’t show up for class. She had excellent control and had hunted the night before—this wouldn’t break her.

She’d thought about that first kiss in the hospital enough times she thought she had the feel of Bella’s cheek memorized. She’d traced the image of Bella’s shocked face over and over in her mind, and briefly sketched it once, though she’d been disappointed by the results. She hadn’t quite captured the life in her eyes. But then, she wasn’t much of an artist, beyond technical proficiency.

For all the times she’d gone over the moment in her imagination, she hadn’t been able to predict what it would be like to kiss Bella and be kissed back.

Her lips were as soft and delicate as she remembered. Warm, too, and it was just as startling as it had been before.

One of Bella’s hands touched her face. It was shockingly cold—how strange—but the feel of it overwhelmed her immediately, and she yanked backwards, gasping lightly. It only meant that she inhaled more of Bella’s scent. “Fuck,” she whispered, reaching up to tangle her fingers in her hair. She tugged it lightly and it grounded her for a moment.

“Are you okay?” Bella asked. There was a slight tremble in her voice, and Edythe wondered how frightening she must look at the moment.

She made an effort to breathe normally, closing her eyes and setting her hands in her lap. When she thought she could speak, she said, “I’m sorry, it’s—you just. Smell so good.” Tasted good, too, even if it had only been a brush of lips for just a moment. She ran her tongue over her lips, trying to chase it. God, even without blood… Of course, half of the loss of control hadn’t had anything to do with blood at all, which was…embarrassing.

“It’s okay,” Bella said, looking less upset and more like she was putting a few more pieces together. “Um, you…do you need to get out of the car? We could walk to class, now.”

It was smart, and it would help calm Edythe, but it was also the last thing she wanted to do. But she was still committed to letting Bella call the shots today. Kissing aside, there was still the issue of Emmett. “Okay.”

“Will you sit with me at lunch again?” Bella wondered as she climbed out of the truck.

Edythe ran around the truck as quickly as she could without drawing undue attention, unwilling to be separate from Bella for very long. It was a good sign, she thought, that she’d been able to pull herself together so very quickly after that overwhelming…sensation. “If you’d like.”

“I would,” she said.

They smiled at each other for a moment. Bella’s skin was flushed and her deep brown eyes were blown darker than usual. She reached up to run her fingers through Edythe’s curls. “I ruined your hair,” she laughed.

Edythe glances at her reflection in the truck’s window. Her hair had been pulled loose from her braid, and with a chuckle, she undid it quickly, shaking it out. She almost always wore it up, but the way Bella bit her lip made her hesitate in redoing it.

“Your hair is beautiful,” she said.

It was comforting to know that even without mind reading, Edythe could recognize the way Bella’s eyes lingered and know what it meant.

She snapped her hair tie onto her wrist. She would leave it down for the day, then. “Thank you. I like yours, too.” Even if it was hidden under a beanie—she did love the pecan brown color and the shape it always ended up pressed into. Bella, she had quickly surmised, was so unused to the weather that she wore a hat almost every day, and as a result, her hair was always a little messy.

As they walked toward Bella’s first class, she muttered, “Will your family be okay with us sitting together?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?” Edythe asked, nonplussed.

“I just figured Emmett said something to me because he didn’t really approve.”

“Well...kind of.” She drew the word out thoughtfully. “Though he’s more understanding of the situation now.”

She hummed in response, and didn’t exactly look convinced.

“Oh,” Edythe said suddenly, realizing what might be going through her head. (It was so odd to think that it only might be what she was thinking, not a guarantee. It was...refreshing.) she reached out and carefully took Bella’s hand. Yesterday, holding hands had frightened her, but with today’s semi-failed kiss, she felt a little more confident. “It’s not because you’re a girl.” She was distracted even as she said it, intrigued by how cold her hand was, compared to the rest of her. The weather impacted vampires, too, though not in terms of comfort. They didn’t produce body heat, so they hovered around whatever temperature their environment was. Today, it was only fifty degrees. She imagined that’s how cold she was feeling to touch, or fairly close, anyway. Of course Bella, as a human, would be producing her own heat, but it must not be enough for her extremities to adjust.

“It’s because I’m going to figure out your secret?” Bella guessed.

Going to. The idea was still a bit...disturbing—what would even happen when Bella found out? Would she want nothing to do with her after that? Probably not, based on Alice’s visions, but she’d been wrong before. She hoped Alice was wrong about Bella becoming a vampire. It wasn’t something she would wish on anyone.

Still...she knew that whatever was between them would never work out if Bella didn’t find out the truth. She desperately wanted things to work out. She wanted Bella to see her glitter in the sun, to find out that she drank blood, to discover that she didn’t have a soul, not care. To like her anyway.

“Yes,” she answered. That was what Emmett was worried about, anyway. Rose, too, she thought, but it seemed like her sisters were more open to Bella joining them—in whatever capacity—after their talk the day before. And...she didn’t actually know what Jasper thought. If Esme and Carlisle even knew what she was up to, they hadn’t mentioned it to her. “Alice is excited to meet you, though.”

“She’s the smaller sister, right?”

Edythe nodded. “We’re very close. She’s known about...all of this...since you got here.” This didn’t seem to reassure her companion all that much. A little flustered, she realized she was expecting Bella to know exactly what that entailed without having ever spoken to Alice. “She approves of all of it. She’d rather I just tell you all the secrets so the two of you can go ahead and become friends.”


“That’s Alice.”

“I’m excited to meet her, too. She sounds really great.”

They had almost reached the class at this point, and they still hadn’t discussed what Emmett had said. Based on her actions in the truck, it seemed like Bella wasn’t holding anything against her. But Edythe remembered the charged air between them. Before getting into the truck with her, she’d had no plans to do anything like that—they were going to talk. Bella might still be upset, just caught up in their mutual intense attraction.

Nervously, she came to a stop a few feet away from the door. “Are we cool?”

Bella stopped, too, and turned to face her with a look of surprise. “I would like to talk more later, but yeah, we’re good.”

Relief coursed through her.

‘—wonder where Bella is—‘ A snatch of a thought. Mike Newton, she was pretty sure. Could he see them through the open door of the classroom? Probably not.

It would be nice if he backed off a little, especially after yesterday. There wasn’t a single shred of regret in his thoughts. He mostly seemed irritated.

Edythe observed the subject of his ire, still looking somewhat mussed from their kiss. She reached out and combed fingers through Bella’s hair and straightened her hat for good measure. She wasn’t sure how to tell Bella that she was jealous of the easy way Mike assumed she would come around. She knew it wouldn’t happen, but she didn’t feel that confidence about her own relationship with Bella. She really wanted to feel it, though.

“You should go,” Edythe sighed. “There’s only about thirty seconds until class starts.”

“Shit, will you make it on time?”

She shrugged. “Probably.”

Bella smiled, starting to back toward her classroom. She stumbled a little over a bump in the sidewalk, and Edythe quickly grabbed her wrist, gently pulling her back up. She blushed, like she always seemed to. “Lunch?”

“Lunch,” she agreed, and then, because she thought she was allowed to, and she thought she could manage it, here in the open air, she kissed her. It was chaste and quick, but…something.

Bella’s face was even redder than before, but the grin that had spread across it was brighter than any Edythe had seen before.

Edythe was monitoring thoughts again.

It had spread, a little, that she had kissed Bella outside of her classroom. Even though it had been right before the final bell, there had been a few stragglers who had seen them. None of them were in Bella’s friend group, but the two of them were obviously recognizable enough, with Bella still being “the new girl,” and Edythe being...Edythe.

Their names were popping up in random minds more and more frequently. Apparently people didn’t really care that texting wasn’t allowed in class.

Some people, like Jessica Stanley, were pretty positive. Jessica herself had found out via text, but she’d only texted one person: Angela. ‘I’m so happy Bella got her!’ she mentally enthused. ‘Angela will be so excited!’

Others were…less kind.

She had been prepared not to care: humans could not physically harm her, unless they knew what they were doing, and none of the students here did. Anyway, they’d have to catch her off guard, which was unlikely.

They could be pretty rude, though. Someone was already angrily composing their thoughts into a Facebook status about the Bible and the gay agenda.

Edythe actually rolled her eyes. Whatever. She was going to hell, all right, but it had nothing to do with being a lesbian.

‘I told you it would be fine!’ Alice thought in her direction, apparently having overheard what happened from students in her second period class. Interesting that she hadn’t had an accompanying vision, but truthfully, Jasper was the only one she was constantly tuned into—Edythe kissing Bella must not have been major enough to merit a vision.

It felt pretty damn major to her, though.

Someone was picturing the two of them fucking. That was the only way it could be described: animalistic movements and screams that were probably supposed to be of pleasure, but just sounded painful.

She tried to narrow down who it was, and she could sense the general location, but it wasn’t a mind she was familiar with.

She was pretty sure it was a boy, though. He seemed to have no concept of how lesbian sex would actually work. Not that she did, either, but she was pretty sure it wasn’t like that. Also, why would she keep her nails that long, especially if she was having sex? And her breasts were not that large, for fuck’s sake. She wouldn’t even call them big.

She avoided studying at the facsimile of Bella—it just felt wrong, even if she was certain her proportions were equally incorrect.

Mostly, she tried to tune those thoughts out. It wasn’t actually unusual for her to see people daydreaming about fucking her. She’d always been able to ignore it before, but…this one did catch her mind.

Her thoughts wandered to what it would actually be like. Dangerous, certainly, as she was pretty sure she wouldn’t have as much control during an orgasm as she did during a kiss, and she barely had it then. But…Bella would be so soft. She could picture her lips parting with a quiet moan, her chest arching—

She slammed the thought away and covered her face in embarrassment. God. Thinking about this now, just because of someone’s crappy fantasy? She really shouldn’t—Bella deserved better, deserved someone who wasn’t so goddamn weak. She definitely deserved respect.

‘Jesus, Edythe. I felt that from here.’ Jasper, from two classrooms down the walkway.

She slid her phone onto her lap. After all, she didn’t care about the no-cell-phones rule, either. “Please say you were feeling the embarrassment,” she typed quickly.

He didn’t bother texting back. ’If you’d prefer it.’ He obviously tried not to think about it, but his own embarrassment abut having sensed her arousal was apparent in the flavor of his thoughts.

Edythe groaned softly. Humiliating. She wondered how he put up with it from the other couples he lived with. Hearing Esme and Carlisle’s thoughts was difficult enough. Sensing the emotions along with it would be another level of distressing. “Sorry,” she sent.

‘Don’t worry about it. We ever gonna talk about it? I’m starting to feel left out.’ A joke—but there was some underlying truth.

“I’m sorry about that, too. I…wasn’t sure how to broach it, given our last discussion of Bella.”

She wasn’t used to being on uneven footing with people. Generally speaking, humans and vampires alike were open books to her. While she could only read surface thoughts, that was usually enough for her to understand the immediate reasons why people did things. The rare exception happened of course—Bella was impossible to read, and everything was a guess when it came to her.

Jasper was…different.

When Edythe had first met Jasper, she’d been so distracted by Alice’s ability, and the way they could read each other, she hadn’t been able to form a first impression of him. As time went on, Jasper got better at hiding what he wanted to, just like the rest of her family. It was fine—good, actually. They all deserved their privacy. But she wished she’d taken the time to understand Jasper, before this chasm opened between them.

It left her unsure, most of the time, when it came to personal discussions with Jasper. They could joke around on occasion and play games, but he held himself apart from the rest of the family. Sometimes she wondered if he even counted himself among their number.

‘I’m sorry about that. Alice has explained some of it, and she wants me to tell you that being gay is okay. Those were here specific words, actually.’

It was a relief to hear. His thoughts seemed amused, but he also seemed to truly believe them. Edythe really hadn’t let herself worry, given that Jasper always went along with Alice, but it was nice to know that he actually agreed and wasn’t just trying to present a united front.

“Thank you,” she texted. “I wasn’t really worried that you wouldn’t be supportive of me choosing a girl, it was more that I remembered how you felt about my attachment to a human. Back then, it wasn’t even as serious as it is now.”

‘You’re saying “back then,” like it wasn’t just a few weeks ago,’ Jasper thought pointedly, but he didn’t contradict her.

“Nonetheless, my feelings are more than just passing interest now. I thought that might disturb you.”

‘It does.’ He didn’t elaborate, choosing instead to cover whatever he was thinking by listing the many different species of irises.

Edythe figured that was the end of their conversation for now, and turned her attention to the front of the room. Her history teacher was saying something she probably thought was important about The Great Depression, but which was pretty useless for Edythe, who had actually lived through it.

Jasper mentally called her name, interrupting her thoughts on the value of getting another high school diploma, especially when it came to history. ‘Obviously, I’m not gonna try to prevent anything. I just wanna make sure you’re aware of the dangers of the situation. People know about the two of you, now, more than they did yesterday. Are you gonna be able to stay in control of yourself? Are you gonna be okay with Bella finding out about us? Because if she does…’ He followed the thought up with his mental image of the Volturi. He had never actually met them, so they very strongly resembled the painting in Carlisle’s office, down to the poses. Their facial expressions were more like Nosferatu, though. It was certainly amusing, but he did bring up a valid point.

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” she typed out to him quickly. It was an unfortunate circumstance. She wanted Bella around and she wanted her to know the truth, but if she did, and Aro found out...she would either have to die or become a vampire. Hardly a pleasant choice to make.

If Edythe were kind, she would break things off now. Even if Bella figured things out, without the proximity to any vampires, Aro would never have reason to find out about her.

But she was not kind.

She sighed. She would cross that bridge when she came to it.

‘One more thing, Edythe.’ He hesitated, covering it with thoughts of Rosalie’s most recent video game purchase. His mind cleared then. ‘If your choices put Alice in danger, I won’t hesitate to put an end to it.’

She wondered where he would draw that line in the sand. Would it be Bella finding out the truth? The first slip up, when one of them lost control? They hadn’t had an incident in over two decades, but it was always on the back of their minds. If Bella was that slip up, she wasn’t sure their family would survive.

Frankly, she wasn’t sure she would survive.

Not that Jasper needed to know about that. “Don’t worry. I won’t let anything happen to Alice. I love her, too, you know.”

The message must have been enough of a reassurance for him, because he pointedly thought about other things for the rest of the period.

When lunch rolled around, Edythe caught up to Bella in line again. “What’s on the menu today?” she asked casually.

“Mystery meat, maybe,” Bella said lightly.

She snorted. She’d gotten her fair share of strange school lunches over the years, but the last thirty or so had been the worst in terms of nutritional value. Thank god she didn’t actually have to eat any of it.

Bella picked up a similar array of food as the one she’d gotten the day before—all vegetarian, with ingredients that were readily visible. Edythe paid again, which seemed to irritate Bella a little.

“Doesn’t seem fair that you aren’t eating any of this food you’re paying for,” she muttered.

She shook her head dismissively. “Money is really not that important.”

She got a disbelieving look in response. “Only rich people say that.”

She shrugged. The money they had was a tool to stay alive and avoid notice. Nothing else to it. She never really thought about it.

“We need to sit with my friends again,” she said apologetically, apparently ready to change the subject. “Yesterday with Mike and Jess...I don’t want to leave her alone to deal with him.”

“That’s fine,” she promised. “Though I don’t think we’ll have much time to discuss anything else, either.”

“I guess that just means we’ll have to meet up later,” she said brieezily.

Edythe smiled to herself. The day was shaping up better than she could have imagined. Sure, they hadn’t actually talked about everything yet, but it was obvious that Bella still wanted to move forward. And...maybe that had been an invitation for a date?

The minds around them swirled with a visual confirmation that the two of them were eating together. Reactions ranged from disbelief to excitement and then back to disgust.

Yikes. Instinctively, she put her arm around Bella.

It...wasn’t easy to touch her, but it wasn’t as difficult as it had previously been, either. Sure, Bella smelled like the best thing she could imagine putting her mouth on, but...she was Bella.

It was a stupid way to describe it, but she couldn’t think of a better one. No matter how delicious she smelled, she was also the girl who kept reaching out and accepting all the strangeness.

Maybe it would have been fine to let the kiss in the truck go further this morning...

She shook the thought from her head and quietly joined Bella at the table. Jessica and Angela were both already there, beaming. “Congratulations,” Angela said sincerely. “Sorry the whole school knows, though.”

“It’s okay with me,” Bella said. “I know I hadn’t come out and said anything, but I wasn’t really trying to hide anything.” She looked over at Edythe. “Are you okay?”

“Oh, yeah.” It was sweet of Bella—and Angela, actually—to worry. “I was out to everyone who mattered...” Her voice trailed off. She hadn’t told Carlisle or Esme—not out of spite, of course, just...well, maybe a little out of fear.

It wasn’t that she expected either of them to immediately dismiss her out of hand. She personally hadn’t had any hang ups about being gay, but it had also taken her about 100 years to realize that she was, which did speak to some internalized...confusion, to say the least.

The fact that they’d never spoken much about queerness before seemed to indicate...well, she wasn’t sure. Would they be fine with it, like her siblings seemed to be? She hoped so, but if not...

“Well, I haven’t told my parents yet, but I will tonight,” she admitted.

“Aw, I hope it goes well!” Jessica said cheerily.

“I’m sure it will,” Angela said, though her thoughts were uneasy. She had a picture in her mind of Carlisle and Esme at the grocery store, wrapped up in each other the way they always were. ‘Hope they aren’t like my parents,’ she thought.

Edythe wished, again, that she could turn her gift off on occasion. Angela wasn’t the first person who had been unknowingly outed by her thoughts around Edythe, but the more time they spent time together, the worse Edythe felt for knowing what was obviously a carefully guarded secret.

‘I could tell them,’ Angela thought. ‘They would keep it safe...too easy for someone to overhear in the cafeteria...maybe when we go shopping...’

Bella started to eat her PB&J, apparently deeming it the most edible of the options.

Edythe went for the carrots again. They were easy to discard without notice—except apparently when Bella was around.

“Well, now that you two are together,” Jessica said, began, grinning slyly. “Have you changed your mind about the dance?”

Bella nearly choked on her sandwich. She shook her head vehemently while she coughed. “I don’t do dances,” she said when she finally had cleared her throat.

“I heard you do ballet,” Angela said innocently.

Edythe has heard that rumor, too, but she’d dismissed it when Bella has proven to be a bit clumsy. Nothing terrible or worth mentioning, but she bumped into doors and tables a little too regularly. She glanced over at Bella, an eyebrow raised. “Have you been holding out on me?” she teased. She doubted it, but teasing meant no pretending to eat.

“You all know a disturbing amount about me,” Bella said accusatorially. She took a drink of her chocolate milk and cleared her throat. “But I haven’t done ballet in a few years.”

“There’s a studio in town,” Jessica said, grinning. She was imagining Bella doing an arabesque in a purple tutu. It was cute.

“Um, it’s pretty pricy,” Bella said, awkwardly. “Also...around the time I was thirteen, it became very clear to both me and my teacher that I wouldn’t be losing any baby fat.” She drew air quotes around the words, and looked more than a little embarrassed.

True enough, Bella wasn’t the stick thin figure traditionally associated with ballet, but Edythe couldn’t imagine anything she wanted to see more than a performance from Bella. “Your teacher sounds horrible.”

“He was,” she agreed, glancing at Edythe shyly. “It was...not good for my mental health. My mom gave him an earful, but I didn’t want to go back and have him snipe at me any more. So I quit.”

Jessica broke the awkward silence that followed her statement. “I only dance...ballet.”

The turn in conversation was baffling, but Angela immediately replied, “What an incredible coincidence. So do I.” They both burst into giggles at the pronouncement.

Bella, who still looked a little squeamish, chuckled slightly. “Was that...Spy Kids?”

“The second one,” Jessica said primly.

“Every year for Halloween between the time we were six and ten, Jessica made me dress up as Juni Cortez because she was obsessed with Carmen,” Angela said breezily. Internally, she was hoping that the conversation would distract Bella away from the memory of her terrible dance instructor.

It seemed to be working—Bella was smiling more genuinely, as Jessica crowed back, “Who wouldn’t be? She was awesome!”

“She used to make me recite Carmen’s entire name before letting me into her bedroom,” Angela continued, like Jessica hadn’t even spoken.

Bella laughed. “Wait, I’m trying to picture it. How did you dress?”

“Oh, um, black outfits, dorky sunglasses.” Jess waved a hand, smiling. “I bet there’s a picture...”

“I had to wear a wig,” Angela added.

“A very cute wig!”

She rolled her eyes.

“Anyway,” Jess stretches the word out, turning back to Bella. “The dance?”

She looked shifty, like perhaps she was contemplating how easy it would be to ditch the three of them. “I really, uh...don’t want to?”

Edythe frowned. It would throw a wrench in whatever Alice was planning, and the opportunity to hold Bella close was still enticing, but she certainly wouldn’t press the issue. It was Bella’s decision. Anyway, she could find out more about her reservations later. On their maybe-date, she thought with a small smile.

Jess huffed, preparing to launch into something of a lecture, when Mike arrived.

He stood next to Edythe at the table, scowling. His thoughts were...unpleasant. “Bella,” he said, trying to sound calm. “May I speak with you privately.” His didn’t ask it as a question.

“No,” Bella answered, and returned her attention to her sandwich, which really couldn’t have been that satisfying. Would she be opposed to Edythe bringing her lunch from home? She could make something nutritionally balanced, probably. She’d never cooked before, but it couldn’t be that hard. Right? Something to look into. She made a mental note to look into some books to order tonight, about cooking and nutrition. Maybe vegetarian, since Bella had expressed a preference for preparing her own meat.

Mike had not left, but Edythe decided to take a page out of Bella’s book and ignore him, even though he was clearly trying to loom over her. His thoughts were actually a little laughable, so she didn’t give him the satisfaction of a reaction.

Jess was opening her mouth to say something when Emmett meandered over to the table. “Mike, what’s up?” he asked genially, like the two of them spoke every day.

She still didn’t look their direction, but she watched Mike’s face through Emmett’s thoughts. Mostly, he looked confused, but a little freaked out, too. “Uh, just trying to talk to my friends, here.”

“Sure. This just seems a little public for that kind of discussion, you know?”

Edythe just barely kept herself from laughing aloud. Emmett was using an exact script from a bystander intervention training book he’d read out of boredom the last time he’d been in a college advisor’s office. Not that long ago, considering he and Rose had already picked out the school they’d be attending in the fall. Jasper was electing to take a “gap year,” which really meant that he was sticking around town until Alice graduated the following year.

“I am trying to speak to her in private,” Mike answered. The confusion was getting more and more pronounced.

“But she doesn’t seem interested,” Emmett agreed, clapping a hand on Mike’s shoulder. “So…maybe leave it for later.”

He frowned, but his thoughts clearly showed he understood that whatever he wanted to say to Bella wasn’t going to happen just yet. “I…guess I’ll talk to you later, Bella.”

As soon as his back was turned, Emmett doffed an imaginary hat in Bella’s direction, and then returned to his own table.

Bella laughed softly, shaking her head.

Though Mike’s thoughts hadn’t exactly been headed in a homophobic direction (it had been more about Bella’s prior dismissal of him. Then again, that did, in itself, speak to a…disrespect…for sapphic relationships), Emmett had just made it clear to everyone in the surrounding area that he wouldn’t stand for any public comments to be made about Bella and Edythe. It had probably done more to make up for his behavior the day before than anything Edythe would have been able to say.

“Fucking hell,” Jess commented, watching Mike walk away. “Bullet dodged.”

Angela snorted and took a sip of her orange juice. Her thoughts were pleased as she considered not having to deal with Mike again.

Bella leaned her head onto Edythe’s shoulder. “So, are you free tonight?” she asked quietly.

She put her arm around Bella’s waist again, still careful. The warmth was still…so overwhelming, but sweet, too. Easier with every breath, actually. Tonight, maybe they’d even be able to continue that kiss. “Yes,” she murmured, and she could feel Bella’s smile on her shoulder.