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It turned out that Alice and Jasper had been spending time together while I was in school. They shared their hopes and dreams and told each other their deepest fears. She said he was her soulmate and her other half, that she knew as soon as she met Jasper he was the only one for her. It’s like a Lifetime movie, and I missed all of it.
We sat up talking late into the night. Well she talked, and I mostly listened. She told me about their whirlwind romance and their plans for the small bookshop in Port Angeles that had been for sale for over a year. My thoughts were all over the place. I was happy for them while feeling sorry for myself. It didn’t seem fair that Alice had fallen in love while I mourned.
For the next few days I found my mind drifting between thoughts of Alice and Jasper and memories of my own love story. Luckily my students were studying a poetry unit, so I spent the school days distracted by Frost, Whitman, Dickinson and friends. I dissected some of my favorite pieces with my students and pretended my life was fine.
Edward was the one person that I wanted to talk to, and he had been at a conference most of the week. I felt like if anyone could understand how torn I felt it was him. We passed each other in the halls a couple of times on Thursday, but there wasn’t time for conversation.
The football team was in the playoffs, and there was a pep-rally Friday afternoon before the game. Everyone was dressed in blue and gold spartan gear, from football jerseys to t-shirts and sweats. I’d even worn an old Forks t-shirt I found in Garrett’s boxes.
Near the end of fifth period Mrs. Cope’s voice came over the loudspeaker. She read the end of the day announcements and said that it was time for everyone to report to the gymnasium. I closed up my classroom and followed my students through the noisy hallways.
Mike and Angela had given me the lowdown over lunch, explaining that the students all sat in the stands and the teachers stood along the wall to watch the rally.
“So, 300 hormonal teens fill the bleachers, and we all just watch from a distance?”
“Right.” Mike nodded.
I looked at Angela with a raised brow.
“I’m with you,” she laughed. “It’s totally dumb, but you know these guys and their traditions.”
I was certainly learning that Forks was steeped in tradition, and that very little had changed since my friends graduated. I was pretty sure that some things hadn’t even changed since my father graduated.
It was loud in the gymnasium as the students filed in, and I found way to a group of teachers over by the far wall. Students and teachers alike were talking and laughing as the bleachers began to fill up, and the energy in the room was exciting.
I leaned against the wall next to Angela and Mike. “So this is a pep rally?”
Mike snorted. “This is just the set up. Wait for the music.”
I looked at Angela. “There’s music? This is quite a production.”
She rolled her eyes. “You have no idea.”
“Oh, here we go!”
Mike pointed to the other side of the gym where the cheerleading coach sat at with a laptop. She moved her hands over the keyboard and the theme to Rocky started to blast through the speakers.
Students cheered and stomped on the bleachers making a god awful noise. Suddenly, Edward ran out onto the gym floor and hopped on the stage. He was dressed casually in jeans a spartan football jersey with ‘Cullen’ across the back. The cheering got even louder, and he had to quiet everyone down. He went over the details about a spirit bus for students to ride to the game and gave a short speech about sportsmanship.
Over the previous weeks I’d seen Edward interact with the staff and students. He had a great rapport and was respected despite being rather young for a principal, but I’d never seen him like this… He had this charisma when he stood on the podium that was almost mesmerizing.
Beyond that, it was like looking at a picture from one of Garrett’s albums, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I could imagine Garrett and Edward with their friends at a pep rally just like this when they were in school. My stomach flipped a little, feeling both impossibly close to Garrett and horribly disconnected. It was a bizarre collision of his past and my present and I didn’t know what to think.
“He’s awesome right?” Angela whispered. “The students love how he gets into football.”
“He led us to regional championship in high school,” Mike added.
I licked my lips and took a deep breath, trying to re-center myself. “He was the quarterback, right?”
“Yeah.” Mike nodded. “He could have gotten a full scholarship somewhere, but he blew out his knee.”
“That sucks. I had no idea.” Angela shook her head as she watched Edward, totally unaware of the way Mike was checking her out. Their relationship made no sense to me, but they seemed to enjoy the cat and mouse game they had going on.
Edward introduced Coach Clapp and waited until he made his way to the stage. They shook hands as the crowd cheered again, then Edward stepped down and began walking towards us. He waved at a couple of teachers then stood in the open space beside me.
“Hey yourself,” I said, a little surprised that he’d chosen to stand with me and not Mike or someone else.
“Dude,” Mike whisper-yelled, reaching across Angela and me with his fist out.
Edward bumped his fist and gave him a nod.
I turned my head slightly to raise an eyebrow at Edward, and he rolled his eyes in response. My shoulders shook as I laughed quietly. Mike could be such a dork, and I loved that Edward got it but was such a good friend that he could ignore it.
Coach Clapp called the cheerleading squad onto the floor and they did a couple of spirit yells and cheers. The music came on again, this time playing We Are the Champions and the girls held up a banner for the football team to run through. The coach began to introduce the players, and I felt Edward lean closer to me.
“Are you going to the game?”
He nodded. “Are you coming out with everyone later?”
There was a group of people going to dinner after the game. Alice had already invited me, saying it was her and Jasper’s first official night out since they’d told everyone they were dating.
I bit my lip, still unsure what I wanted to do. I still wasn’t entirely comfortable with my mixed feelings about Alice and Jasper. “I might just go home.”
He put his hand over his heart like I’d wounded him. “You’re going to make me ride with Alice and Jasper by myself?”
I laughed, then after a few seconds shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“What?” The tone of his voice told me that he knew I was talking about more than just the night out.
I put my hands in my pockets and avoided looking at him. “I don’t know if I can handle seeing them all happy and lovey-dovey.”
“Okay,” he laughed, “first, no one says ‘lovey-dovey. And second, think about this—is it going to be harder to see them together out at the bar with a group of us, or up close and personal in your living room when it’s just the three of you? Because that’s going to happen sooner than later.”
I groaned and banged my head lightly on the cinderblock wall a couple of times. “Am I a total bitch? I’m happy for them. I just… I don’t think I can watch it.”
“You’re not a bitch, but you don’t really have a choice. She’s your best friend, and they’re in love. I’ve already seen them together—there’s no hiding what’s between them. You’re just going to have to suck it up or you’re going to end up in a huge fight with Alice.”
“Did you just tell me to suck it up?”
“I did.” He kept a straight face but I could see a twinkle in his eye as he teased me.
I rolled my eyes and tried not to laugh. He was right though, I didn’t want to fight with Alice. I was truly happy for them. I liked Jasper. He was a good, calming influence on her. And I was thrilled she was staying in Washington. I’d made a few friends at school and I had Rosalie and Kate, but no one could replace the friendship we had.
“Fine, I’ll go—but only if you’re going. I don’t want to feel like a third wheel.”
“You won’t. I’m going. I swear.” He used his index finger to make a cross-my-heart motion in front of his chest. “I’ll call Jasper and make arrangements. We’ll pick you girls up.”
I nodded, because what else could I do? Day by day my life moved forward at a snails pace but with the changes that were coming I couldn’t deny anymore that life was actually moving on.
I simply had to decide if I was ready to move on too.
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