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New Moon (Twilight #2)(9)
Stephenie Meyer

"What did I do?" I felt my face crumple. It was so unfair. My behavior had been above reproach for the past four months. After that first week, which neither of us ever mentioned, I hadn't missed a day of school or work. My grades were perfect. I never broke curfew - I never went anywhere from which to break curfew in the first place. I only very rarely served leftovers.

Charlie was scowling.

"You didn't do anything. That's the problem. You never do anything."

"You want me to get into trouble?" I wondered, my eyebrows pulling together in mystification. I made an effort to pay attention. It wasn't easy. I was so used to tuning everything out, my ears felt stopped up.

"Trouble would be better than this... this moping around all the time!"

That stung a bit. I'd been careful to avoid all forms of moroseness, moping included.

"I am not moping around."

"Wrong word," he grudgingly conceded. "Moping would be better - that would be doing something. You're just... lifeless, Bella. I think that's the word I want."

This accusation struck home. I sighed and tried to put some animation into my response.

"I'm sorry, Dad." My apology sounded a little flat, even to me. I'd thought I'd been fooling him. Keeping Charlie from suffering was the whole point of all this effort. How depressing to think that the effort had been wasted.

"I don't want you to apologize."

I sighed. "Then tell me what you do want me to do."

"Bella," he hesitated, scrutinizing my reaction to his next words. "Honey, you're not the first person to go through this kind of thing, you know."

"I know that." My accompanying grimace was limp and unimpressive.

"Listen, honey. I think that - that maybe you need some help."


He paused, searching for the words again. "When your mother left," he began, frowning, "and took you with her." He inhaled deeply. "Well, that was a really bad time for me."

"I know, Dad," I mumbled.

"But I handled it," he pointed out. "Honey, you're not handling it. I waited, I hoped it would get better." He stared at me and I looked down quickly. "I think we both know it's not getting better."


He ignored me. "Maybe, well, maybe if you talked to someone about it. A professional."

"You want me to see a shrink?" My voice was a shade sharper as I realized what he was getting at.

"Maybe it would help."

"And maybe it wouldn't help one little bit."

I didn't know much about psychoanalysis, but I was pretty sure that it didn't work unless the subject was relatively honest. Sure, I could tell the truth - if I wanted to spend the rest of my life in a padded cell.

He examined my obstinate expression, and switched to another line of attack.

"It's beyond me, Bella. Maybe your mother - "

"Look," I said in a flat voice. "I'll go out tonight, if you want. I'll call Jess or Angela."

"That's not what I want," he argued, frustrated. "I don't think I can live through seeing you try harder. I've never seen anyone trying so hard. It hurts to watch."

I pretended to be dense, looking down at the table. "I don't understand, Dad. First you're mad because I'm not doing anything, and then you say you don't want me to go out."

"I want you to be happy - no, not even that much. I just want you not to be miserable. I think you'll have

a better chance if you get out of Forks."

My eyes flashed up with the first small spark of feeling I'd had in too long to contemplate.

"I'm not leaving," I said.

"Why not?" he demanded.

"I'm in my last semester of school - it would screw everything up."

"You're a good student - you'll figure it out."

"I don't want to crowd Mom and Phil."

"Your mother's been dying to have you back."

"Florida is too hot."

His fist came down on the table again. "We both know what's really going on here, Bella, and it's not good for you." He took a deep breath. "It's been months. No calls, no letters, no contact. You can't keep waitingforhim."

I glowered at him. The heat almost, but not quite, reached my face. It had been a long time since I'd blushed with any emotion.

This whole subject was utterly forbidden, as he was well aware.

"I'm not waiting for anything. I don't expect anything," I said in a low monotone.

"Bella - ," Charlie began, his voice thick.

"I have to get to school," I interrupted, standing up and yanking my untouched breakfast from the table. I dumped my bowl in the sink without pausing to wash it out. I couldn't deal with any more conversation.

"I'll make plans with Jessica," I called over my shoulder as I strapped on my school bag, not meeting his eyes. "Maybe I won't be home for dinner. We'll go to Port Angeles and watch a movie."

I was out the front door before he could react.

In my haste to get away from Charlie, I ended up being one of the first ones to school. The plus side was that I got a really good parking spot. The downside was that I had free time on my hands, and I tried to avoid free time at all costs.

Quickly, before I could start thinking about Charlie's accusations, I pulled out my Calculus book. I flipped it open to the section we should be starting today, and tried to make sense of it. Reading math was even worse than listening to it, but I was getting better at it. In the last several months, I'd spent ten times the amount of time on Calculus than I'd ever spent on math before. As a result, I was managing to keep in the range of a low A. I knew Mr. Varner felt my improvement was all due to his superior teaching methods. And if that made him happy, I wasn't going to burst his bubble.

I forced myself to keep at it until the parking lot was full, and I ended up rushing to English. We were working on Animal Farm, an easy subject matter. I didn't mind communism; it was a welcome change from the exhausting romances that made up most of the curriculum. I settled into my seat, pleased by the distraction of Mr. Berty's lecture.

Time moved easily while I was in school. The bell rang all too soon. I started repacking my bag.


I recognized Mike's voice, and I knew what his next words would be before he said them.

"Are you working tomorrow?"

I looked up. He was leaning across the aisle with an anxious expression. Every Friday he asked me the same question. Never mind that I hadn't taken so much as a sick day. Well, with one exception, months ago. But he had no reason to look at me with such concern. I was a model employee.

"Tomorrow is Saturday, isn't it?" I said. Having just had it pointed out to me by Charlie, I realized how lifeless my voice really sounded.

"Yeah, it is," he agreed. "See you in Spanish." He waved once before turning his back. He didn't bother walking me to class anymore.

I trudged off to Calculus with a grim expression. This was the class where I sat next to Jessica.

It had been weeks, maybe months, since Jess had even greeted me when I passed her in the hall. I knew I had offended her with my antisocial behavior, and she was sulking. It wasn't going to be easy to talk to her now - especially to ask her to do me a favor. I weighed my options carefully as I loitered outside the classroom, procrastinating.

I wasn't about to face Charlie again without some kind of social interaction to report. I knew I couldn't lie, though the thought of driving to Port Angeles and back alone - being sure my odometer reflected the correct mileage, just in case he checked - was very tempting. Jessica's mom was the biggest gossip in town, and Charlie was bound to run into Mrs. Stanley sooner rather than later. When he did, he would no doubt mention the trip. Lying was out.

With a sigh, I shoved the door open.

Mr. Varner gave me a dark look - he'd already started the lecture. I hurried to my seat. Jessica didn't look up as I sat next to her. I was glad that I had fifty minutes to mentally prepare myself.

This class flew by even faster than English. A small part of that speed was due to my goody-goody preparation this morning in the truck - but mostly it stemmed from the fact that time always sped up when I was looking forward to something unpleasant.

I grimaced when Mr. Varner dismissed the class five minutes early. He smiled like he was being nice.

"Jess?" My nose wrinkled as I cringed, waiting for her to turn on me.

She twisted in her seat to face me, eyeing me incredulously. "Are you talking to me, Bella?"

"Of course." I widened my eyes to suggest innocence.

"What? Do you need help with Calculus?" Her tone was a tad sour.

"No." I shook my head. "Actually, I wanted to know if you would... go to the movies with me tonight? I really need a girls' night out." The words sounded stiff, like badly delivered lines, and she looked suspicious.

"Why are you asking me?" she asked, still unfriendly.

"You're the first person I think of when I want girl time." I smiled, and I hoped the smile looked genuine. It was probably true. She was at least the first person I thought of when I wanted to avoid Charlie. It amounted to the same thing.

She seemed a little mollified. "Well, I don't know."

"Do you have plans?"

"No... I guess I can go with you. What do you want to see?"

"I'm not sure what's playing," I hedged. This was the tricky part. I racked my brain for a clue - hadn't I heard someone talk about a movie recently? Seen a poster? "How about that one with the female president?"

She looked at me oddly. "Bella, that one's been out of the theater forever."

"Oh." I frowned. "Is there anything you'd like to see?"

Jessica's natural bubbliness started to leak out in spite of herself as she thought out loud. "Well, there's that new romantic comedy that's getting great reviews. I want to see that one. And my dad just saw Dead End and he really liked it."

I grasped at the promising title. "What's that one about?"

"Zombies or something. He said it was the scariest thing he'd seen in years."

"That sounds perfect." I'd rather deal with real zombies than watch a romance.

"Okay." She seemed surprised by my response. I tried to remember if I liked scary movies, but I wasn't sure. "Do you want me to pick you up after school?" she offered.


Jessica smiled at me with tentative friendliness before she left. My answering smile was just a little late, but I thought that she saw it.

The rest of the day passed quickly, my thoughts focused on planning for tonight. I knew from experience that once I got Jessica talking, I would be able to get away with a few mumbled responses at the appropriate moments. Only minimal interaction would be required.

The thick haze that blurred my days now was sometimes confusing. I was surprised when I found myself in my room, not clearly remembering the drive home from school or even opening the front door. But that didn't matter. Losing track of time was the most I asked from life.

I didn't fight the haze as I turned to my closet. The numbness was more essential in some places than in others. I barely registered what I was looking at as I slid the door aside to reveal the pile of rubbish on the left side of my closet, under the clothes I never wore.

My eyes did not stray toward the black garbage bag that held my present from that last birthday, did not see the shape of the stereo where it strained against the black plastic; I didn't think of the bloody mess my nails had been when I'd finished clawing it out of the dashboard.

I yanked the old purse I rarely used off the nail it hung from, and shoved the door shut.

Just then I heard a horn honking. I swiftly traded my wallet from my schoolbag into the purse. I was in a

hurry, as if rushing would somehow make the night pass more quickly.

I glanced at myself in the hall mirror before I opened the door, arranging my features carefully into a smile and trying to hold them there.

"Thanks for coming with me tonight," I told Jess as I climbed into the passenger seat, trying to infuse my tone with gratitude. It had been a while since I'd really thought about what I was saying to anyone besides Charlie. Jess was harder. I wasn't sure which were the right emotions to fake.

"Sure. So, what brought this on?" Jess wondered as she drove down my street.

"Brought what on?"

"Why did you suddenly decide... to go out?" It sounded like she changed her question halfway through.

I shrugged. "Just needed a change."

I recognized the song on the radio then, and quickly reached for the dial. "Do you mind?" I asked.

"No, go ahead."

I scanned through the stations until I found one that was harmless. I peeked at Jess's expression as the new music filled the car.

Her eyes squinted. "Since when do you listen to rap?"

"I don't know," I said. "A while."

"You like this?" she asked doubtfully.


It would be much too hard to interact with Jessica normally if I had to work to tune out the music, too. I nodded my head, hoping I was in time with the beat.

"Okay..." She stared out the windshield with wide eyes.

"So what's up with you and Mike these days?" I asked quickly.

"You see him more than I do."

The question hadn't started her talking like I'd hoped it would.

"It's hard to talk at work," I mumbled, and then I tried again. "Have you been out with anyone lately?"

"Not really. I go out with Conner sometimes. I went out with Eric two weeks ago." She rolled her eyes, and I sensed a long story. I clutched at the opportunity.

"Eric Yorkie? Who asked who?"

She groaned, getting more animated. "He did, of course! I couldn't think of a nice way to say no."

"Where did he take you?" I demanded, knowing she would interpret my eagerness as interest. "Tell me all about it."

She launched into her tale, and I settled into my seat, more comfortable now. I paid strict attention,

murmuring in sympathy and gasping in horror as called for. When she was finished with her Eric story, she continued into a Conner comparison without any prodding.

The movie was playing early, so Jess thought we should hit the twilight showing and eat later. I was happy to go along with whatever she wanted; after all, I was getting what I wanted - Charlie off my back.

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