Just as the Twig Is Bent


I leaned back and kept the windows of the cab open, hoping the cold air would clear my head. It was just the Art Museum and a little conversation; I’d done nothing inappropriate. I reached for my phone and sent Alice a quick text message telling her I lost track of time and I’d be there soon. Then I clicked on my contacts and scrolled to the letter C. There were two new entries—one for Edward Cullen and a second for a Dr. Carlisle Cullen.

What the fuck?

I clicked on the entry for Carlisle and saw a note at the bottom that read, “In case you don’t trust me to ask him myself.”

Did Edward want me to call his father? The cab turned down Sansom Street, and I decided I wasn’t going to think about it. I paid the driver and hurried down the alley to the bar. If I hadn’t needed a drink before, I sure as hell did now.

After flashing my ID to the bouncer, I walked inside and scanned the room. I found Alice and Jasper at a table with Emmett and a blonde woman I didn’t recognize. I worked my way through the crowd and sat down with them.

“Finally,” Alice said when she saw me. “What took you so long? Did you get lost? Or did you meet some dude and sneak into a stairwell for a quickie? Tell me, what’s his name? Oh wait, not relevant as we won’t ever be meeting him.” She turned to the mystery woman. “We never meet her conquests.”

“I didn’t fuck anyone in a stairwell. It’s not like that. I ran into a guy who goes to my school, a senior. We talked about art for a while, and I lost track of time.”

“A senior, huh?” Alice asked. “If he’s eighteen, he’s legal. Are you sure there wasn’t any stairwell action?”

I rolled my eyes.

“Actually,” the blonde said, “the age of consent in Pennsylvania is sixteen. I’m Rose, by the way. I’m Emmett’s girlfriend.”

“I’m Bella.” I held out my hand to shake hers. “And it doesn’t matter because, like I’ve already said, nothing happened. I’d ask how you came to be an expert on statutory rape laws, Rose, but I’m not sure I want to know the answer. Besides, I live in New Jersey.”

“I’m a lawyer,” Rose explained. “And it’s the same in New Jersey, though the fact he is a student where you teach places him in a subordinate position to you which does complicate things. When he graduates, he’s fair game. Remove the teacher/student relationship, and legally sixteen is ripe for sexing.” She winked at me.

“Oh my god,” Alice wailed. “You did not just say that.”

“That’s my girl!” Emmett beamed with pride at Rose.

“I’m kind of appalled that you all find this so easy to joke about,” I admitted.

“Bella, lighten up.” Jasper poured a lager from the pitcher on the table and placed it in front of me. “We know nothing happened. The idea that you would have public sex with a student is completely ridiculous, therefore it has great comedic potential. We know you better than to think you’d ever go there. If nothing else, you’ve always been responsible. Kind of slutty, but responsible.”

“Though the way you’re reacting to us is starting to make me wonder.” Alice spoke quietly enough so that only I could hear her and shot me a very serious look.

Before she could press me for more information, the waitress arrived with another round. We fell into our normal routine of drinking and making fun of bad singers. Fifteen minutes later, no one remembered why I’d been late.

The rest of the weekend passed uneventfully. Soon it was Monday morning, and I was getting ready to go to work. When we’d lived together, Alice regularly teased me about my teacher clothes, jokingly referring to my aesthetic as “middle-aged and frumpy chic”. As I dressed in wide-legged pants and a loose sweater, I thought that couldn’t be further from the truth. My work wardrobe differed vastly from what I wore off-hours, but I thought dressing the part was an absolute necessity given my age and relative inexperience. I may have been twenty-four, but I looked young enough that without my conservative attire, there would be no way to visually distinguish me from the students.

I was thrilled when it took me only ten minutes to drive to work. Not knowing what to expect, I had budgeted forty-five, giving me plenty of time to kill before homeroom. I wandered around the halls absentmindedly for a bit, until I heard someone playing Rachmaninoff’s Romance on a Theme of Paganini. I stood outside the open door and listened, curious as to which of my colleagues was playing, but not wanting to interrupt.

When the piece concluded, I poked my head inside the classroom.

“That’s one of my favorites,” I said. “You did a beautiful job with it.”

A head of disheveled auburn hair popped up from behind the upright piano, looking way too good for this early in the morning.

Edward.

I should have known.

“Thank you,” he said. “It’s one of mine as well.”

I smiled and backed into the hallway, hurrying to the sanctuary of my classroom.

The rest of the week passed quickly, as did the three following it. Soon it was the middle of March, and everything was green again. I decided against calling Edward about the piano lessons. Even though I knew I’d done nothing inappropriate, I was fairly certain he had no idea that I’d entertained licentious thoughts about him. Social contact with Edward was a gray area, and as far as my career was concerned, I needed to have both feet firmly planted in the white zone.

I hadn’t been back to the Art Museum since the night I met Edward, mostly because I’d had other obligations. Alice was in full-blown wedding planning mode, and as her maid-of-honor, she wanted me to join her at various appointments all over town. She knew she was becoming a bit of a bridezilla, but she didn’t care. She’d wanted me to go see yet another possible venue with her this afternoon, but I needed some time to myself. I told her that I would meet her at McGillan’s at six, and we could discuss wedding stuff then.

It was warm for March, but the air was heavy and damp. I felt almost wet by the time I reached the top of the steps leading to the museum’s main entrance, and my hair started to frizz up. Though I’m vain enough to admit that this bothered me, I reminded myself that I wasn’t trying to impress anyone. Once inside, I entered the nineteenth-century European wing. I offered a brief salute to The Moorish Chief, then headed to the back of the exhibition hall, stopping when I saw Edward sitting on the same bench we’d occupied the night we met. I wanted to back away, but he noticed me before I could. I smiled and tentatively approached him.

“Hello, Edward.”

“Ms. Swan,” he said curtly.

I sat down next to him. He said nothing, and he didn’t look at me.

Shit. This was awkward.

A bit of time passed before he spoke.

“You never called.” His voice was quiet and non-accusatory.

“I couldn’t.”

“Why?”

“I think you know the answer to that.”

“Actually, I don’t.”

I sighed. “It wouldn’t be appropriate.”

“Why not? You’re not one of my teachers.”

“No, I’m not. But I do teach at your school, so I might as well be. I can’t be at my house alone with you; I’m sure you understand why.”

He looked genuinely confused. “I would never take advantage of you.”

He had to be kidding. Did he honestly think that what worried me?

“I know.”

We sat in silence for the next five minutes, as people buzzed past us.

“I’m sorry you feel uncomfortable with me.” He sounded rather sad. “I don’t feel uncomfortable with you. I’d seen you around school before, months before I finally got up the courage to speak to you. You’re beautiful, but of course you know that. That’s not the reason I feel drawn to you. I mean, it was initially. I am a guy, you know. But then you spoke to me like I was normal, like I was just anyone. No one has ever done that, not even once. And for that short amount of time, I could be me—not a genius, or a freak, or the asshole who blew the bell curve. Just me. It was the best time I’ve ever had. Even if I’ve scared you off, even if you never speak to me again, I need you to know that.”

“Edward….” I struggled to find the courage to speak my mind. He got up to leave. I put my hand on the front of his leg to keep him with me. He sat back down, and my hand rested on his knee. I pulled it away quickly. “I don’t speak to you as if you were just anyone, and I think maybe that’s part of the problem.”

His eyes met mine, and one corner of his mouth turned up into a tentative half smile. “Oh.”

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

He nodded slowly. “What now?”

“Nothing has changed. You’re still sixteen. You’re still a student where I teach.”

“May I call you Isabella?”

“Absolutely not.”

“May I call you?”

I rolled my eyes at him, while simultaneously smiling at his brazenness.

“Maybe.”

“Maybe isn’t no.” His voice held a hint of hope.

I stood up from the bench. I needed to be on time to meet Alice. I had no desire to explain to her that Edward made me late again. This time, she’d would never believe it was innocent.

I turned and looked at him one last time before leaving. He was adorable.

“It isn’t yes, either.”

I hurried out of the exhibition hall, knowing that if I lingered at all, he would convince me stay. Thankfully, I made it to the bar before Alice. I grabbed us a table and ordered a pitcher of lager. It had just been served when Alice breezed in, barely able to contain her excitement.

“I think I found it!”

“That’s awesome. Wait, what did you find?”

“The venue. I put down a deposit and everything. They had a cancellation in late September and I didn’t want to take my chances. I’m sure Jazz won’t mind. It’s my day after all. Of course, that doesn’t give us much time to plan–”

“Wait, what? Where?”

“Did you know that they have weddings at the Water Works now? Can you imagine the view? You have Boathouse Row one side and the Art Museum on the other. The pictures will be amazing.”

“Why, are you planning on dressing up as Rocky Balboa?”

“Don’t be a bitch; this is a big moment for me.”

“I’m sorry. Should I have the waitress bring champagne instead?”

“No, I’m happy with the Yuengling, but we’re going to toast,” she insisted.

“Okay, then.” I raised my glass. “To the perfect place for the beginning of forever.”

We clinked our glasses, and Alice cheered before raising her lager to her lips.

The next couple of hours, while it was still quiet enough for us to hear each other, she rattled on about the rest of her plans. I oohed and ahed at the right moments, but my mind was elsewhere.

Had I actually admitted to Edward that my feelings for him made me uncomfortable, and had he really asked permission to call me?

I excused myself as soon as Jasper, Rose, and Emmett arrived. I wasn’t sure why, but I wanted to be alone. I walked to the train station and settled into a window seat on the Speed-line. I stared off into space as the underground tunnel became the bright lights of the Ben Franklin Bridge. This meant that I had a minute of cell phone service before the train went back underground.

Before I could second-guess myself, I grabbed my iPhone from my bag. I scrolled through the contacts until I found Edward’s name. I quickly typed a text message.

Yes, you may.

I knew he would know what I meant.

As soon as the train came back above ground, my phone vibrated. One new text message from Edward Cullen.

Call you Isabella?

I laughed out loud. I managed to send a reply before arriving at my station and shoving my iPhone back into my bag.

No, Edward. Just call me.





Leave a Reply

7 Responses

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

  1. on 28 Sep 2010 at 8:34 pmlisa89

    Gah, I’m so excited to keep reading this. I love Youngward.

    [Reply]


  2. on 23 Oct 2010 at 6:09 amcris

    I often wondered if he went there every friday to wait just by chance that she would come 16 ouch, piano lesson sure , I always wondered who taught who here

    [Reply]


  3. on 11 Nov 2010 at 8:21 amKeeWit

    I read Counterpoint before this and loved it. I am glad that I have Edward’s point of view in the back of my mind while I am reading this.

    When you talk about the train in Philly, are you talking about the subway, or are there other trains that travel from Jersey into Philly? I never met anyone in Philly who ever took the Subway or any other trains. Everybody drove everywhere. Of course, the fact that the evening news was basically a list of all the crime that happened at the subway stations didn’t do anything for the subway’s popularity.

    Yuengling – America’s oldest brewery!

    [Reply]

    Colleen reply:

    The Subway doesn’t travel into NJ; it’s run by SEPTA.
    The Speedline does; it’s run by PATCO. And yes, people take it.

    [Reply]


  4. on 25 Nov 2010 at 12:37 pmBooksgalore/Bookishqua

    “May I call you Isabella?”
    “Absolutely not.”

    Favorite exchange. That’s the whole chapter in two perfect lines.

    [Reply]


  5. on 28 Dec 2010 at 6:55 amFancastride

    They are fun together.

    [Reply]


  6. on 03 Jan 2011 at 8:05 pmSea4Me

    I keep thinking of your E & B…but have no time to read! I’m breaking my own rules when I can, though. Thanks for keeping this up & I hope it lasts!

    [Reply]