A/N: Here is my contest entry for TFN’s Non-Canon Contest, which was awarded Most Unique Pairing. This was an interesting challenge, and I have no plans to continue this story. For any curious minds out there, I have included an exceptionally long author’s note with a few of my notes.
In an effort to uncover every known detail about Mr. Molina, I scoured all possible sources at my fingertips. He was known at Forks High School as being one of the most dynamic and popular teachers. Stephenie Meyer believed Mr. Molina had a crush on Bella, and I ran with this tidbit. Actor José Zúñiga, who played Mr. Molina, is originally from Honduras. Therefore, I blended his background with Mr. Molina’s.
One of my biggest issues was what could possibly be Mr. Molina’s first name? Because eventually, Bella will no longer address him as Mr. Molina. So, some were wondering, why Alfred? In my research I found that Edward & Bella’s Biology II teacher in the books, Bob Banner, was possibly named for Bruce Banner, the physics genius who is also the Hulk of comic book and television fame. With his name changed in the movie to Mr. Molina, it is believed he was named for the actor Alfred Molina who played Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2 in 2004. Therefore, I used Alfred then shortened it to Al.
Did you catch all four references to the original Twilight book covers in the story? One of the things I loved most about writing this story was trying to expand on what we already knew about Twilight then twisting it. Things are familiar but different. Bella is still experiencing them, but either with someone else or in another similar way. She’s getting the all-human life Edward wanted for her. So, he should be happy, right?
I want to thank everyone who wrote and contributed their words for the contest. I loved reading all of the entries. Major thank yous to TFN’s team who made another fantastic contest possible. All of your hard work is greatly appreciated. Thank you to everyone who read or reviewed the entries and gave us a chance to win you over once again with these characters, we all love so much.
I can’t ever thank them both enough, but special thanks to my canon forever pre-reader purplec305. I know this one was outside of your comfort zone and I appreciate you going down this path with me. My favorite Spanish hunk wouldn’t be the same without beta extraordinaire, Midnight Cougar who brought his deliciousness to new levels. Thank you for all of your support. xx
Title: Bella Phase
Summary: When Bella moves to a new school, will her crush on the biology teacher become something more or turn out to be just a phase?
Twilight – Rated: M – English – Romance – Chapters: 1 – Words: 15,452 – Published: Jun 1, 2018 – Bella, Mr. Molina – Complete
DISCLAIMER: Twilight and its inclusive material is copyright to Stephenie Meyer. Original creation, including but not limited to plot and characters, is copyright to the respective authors of each story. No copyright infringement is intended.
“What class do you have next, Bella?” Angela sits across from me at the lunch table finishing her yogurt.
“Uh—” I set my apple to the side and dig through my backpack until I locate my schedule. “Biology II with Banner.”
“Oh, Mr. Banner isn’t here anymore. He got an opportunity to sail on the National Geographic Explorer to the Galápagos Islands.” Lauren picks at her salad.
“Yeah, they’re calling it a sabbatical, but I doubt he will come back. I know I wouldn’t,” Mike says, squeezing into the seat between Jessica and me.
“Mr. Molina is filling in for him for the rest of the school year.” Angela peels open her orange.
“Bella, he is so hot and his accent is to die for,” Jessica shares excitedly. “Tall, dark, and handsome.”
“He’s tan with the most brilliant white smile. Plus, muscles for days. His glasses make him the dreamiest science geek I’ve ever seen,” Lauren adds.
All the girls at the lunch table nod in agreement.
“I don’t see what the big deal is.” Mike stuffs almost half his slice of pizza in his mouth.
Jessica rolls her eyes. “Gross. You wouldn’t.”
“Accent? Where is he from?” I wonder.
“Honduras, but he’s been living in America for years. You shouldn’t have any trouble understanding him,” Angela reassures.
“Is he married?” I dig a little deeper.
“No, and the female teachers are constantly stopping by his classroom to borrow the most ridiculous things or ask for help with equipment in their rooms.”
“Is he dating any of them?”
“Not that I know of, but there’s a lot of competition.” Lauren gives up on her salad, tossing it in the trash.
“Maybe he likes them a little younger. He might be tempted with some forbidden fruit.” I grin and hold up my apple crunching away at another bite.
“Bella!” Angela scoffs.
“Hey, I’ll be eighteen in less than a year and not a student in his classroom. He needs to know he has options.”
I look over to a nearby table and notice a male student who keeps looking in our direction.
Lowering my voice, I ask, “Why does that guy keep staring at our table?”
Jessica looks over her shoulder as he turns toward the others at his table. “That’s Edward Cullen. He’s gorgeous, but too good for anyone here in Forks.” She lowers her voice. “The others are his adopted siblings and together together, if you know what I mean. It’s weird, but they keep to themselves.”
The bell rings signaling the end of lunch.
“Bella, you want to walk together?” Mike waits for me to throw away my trash.
We gather our things and shuffle out the doors to our next class.
“Do you like Biology?”
“It’s okay. I was in the advanced placement class in Phoenix.”
“Oooh, you’re smart.”
“I can hold my own.”
Mike slows to let me enter the classroom first, and I walk up to find the teacher organizing Petri dishes.
“Hello, I’m Bella Swan.” I slide my class slip across his lab desk.
“Yes, Isabella. I’m Mr. Molina, your host. Uh, I mean teacher. I don’t know why I said host. We aren’t in a symbiotic relationship where two organisms are living together, which would make you a parasite. And you are definitely not a parasite. And we are not living together.” He lets out a nervous gasp. “I apologize for my rambling.”
A slow smile spreads across my face as his ears pink from embarrassment. “No problem, Mr. Molina. Please call me Bella.”
I study him more closely, taking note of his tanned skin, wavy black hair, and long, lean body. The girls are right. He’s incredibly handsome.
Mr. Molina straightens his glasses looking a little frazzled when he turns to a bookshelf behind him. “It’s wonderful to have you. Here, I mean. In Forks. I have your textbooks.”
He sets a stack of books on the desk then signs my class slip. “Let’s see, where shall you sit?”
Mr. Molina studies the seating chart, while I look around at the students sitting at black top lab tables and notice only a few empty seats.
He glances around the classroom, then our eyes meet and he gives me a warm smile. “You can sit with Edward Cullen. Let me know if you have any questions or issues. I’m happy to help.”
“Great.” I grab the stack of books and locate the seat next to Edward.
I notice him immediately stiffen as I walk toward the lab table.
“Hey.” I set down my books and pull out the stool to sit.
He puts his hand over his mouth instantly and looks like he may lose his lunch.
“Are you okay? Hopefully, you didn’t have the chicken or you may be glued to the toilet this afternoon. I’m new, but I was warned to stay away from it.” I open my lab book as Mr. Molina gets everyone’s attention.
“All right, folks! Today we will be observing Planaria: a genus of planarians in the family Planariidae. You may know them as flatworms. We are going to cut them in half and watch them regenerate into separate worms.”
There are gasps from the girls and excited chatter from the guys.
“That’s right. Zombie worms. They just won’t die.” Mr. Molina slides two Petri dishes onto each lab table.
When he approaches our table, Mr. Molina smiles, then we hear the stool next to mine crash backward. With his hand still covering his nose and mouth, Edward grabs his book bag and darts toward the door. He nearly rips it from its hinges when he throws it open and disappears from the classroom.
I look up at Mr. Molina’s concerned expression as his eyes meet mine.
“I think he had the chicken for lunch.”
He nods in understanding. “Makes sense. If that’s the case, he won’t be back anytime soon.”
Edward makes his reappearance a week later as if he were never gone. However, with his absence, I was reassigned to a new table, and now I’m partners with Angela.
I notice him sitting at his lab table flipping through the pages of his lab book. He looks up when I walk through the door, and I think he actually smiles. I walk over to my new seat and pull out my stool. When I glance back at Edward, his easy demeanor is replaced with a frown that borders on anger.
Angela leans in and whispers, “Did you see who’s back?” Her eyes drift behind me.
“Yes. Although, it doesn’t look like his mood has improved during his time away. I can feel him staring at us without even turning around. I don’t think he likes me. I’m relieved Mr. Molina moved me closer to the front and with you.”
Angela nods, then gets out her own materials and readies them for class.
Mr. Molina steps out from behind his desk and starts setting boxes of slides on each table, leaving ours for last.
When he pauses at our table and smiles, I hear Angela let out a sigh.
“Here you go, Isabella. Angela.”
I get a whiff of his cologne, which makes my mouth water, while my eyes follow him back to his desk admiring his polished, casual style. He pushes the sleeves up to his elbows, ready to start class, making me sigh at his exposed forearms.
“He smells so good,” I whisper. “I’m not sure how I can concentrate.”
“It’s probably his pheromones.” Angela gazes at him dreamily.
I look behind me to find Jessica and Lauren in the same dazed state.
“Okay people, settle down. We have an exciting lab for today: onion root tip cells! You should all have a set of slides. You are to separate and label them into the phases of mitosis. The first partners to get it right win… the golden onion.” Mr. Molina holds the trophy in the air. “Any questions?”
“Is that a real onion?” Mike questions, while Tyler laughs.
“Come on, people. Tick tock. Let’s get started.”
I pull out a slide, snap it in place, then look in the microscope.
I push it over for Angela to confirm and make the notation in my lab book.
“Yep, anaphase.” She pulls out the slide and replaces it with a new one. A quick look is all she needs. “Interphase.”
“You’re right.” I remove the slide and grab another. “Metaphase.”
“How are we doing, girls?”
Angela looks up from her lab book. “Fine, Mr. Molina.”
“Isabella, did you do any labs like this one in Phoenix?”
“Yes, I’ve done all AP sciences actually.” I don’t tell him I did this exact one four years ago in middle school. Forks High School is a little behind on the curriculum.
“Good, good. Are you settling into life here in Forks?”
“I am. I used to visit my dad during summers when I was younger. So it’s nice to reunite with old friends and make new ones too.”
“Have you thought about what you might want to do when you graduate?”
It takes everything I have to hold back the word “you,” but I somehow manage. “I don’t know. Maybe something in biology or conservation.”
Mr. Molina lights up. “Fabulous! You know, I don’t have a teaching assistant right now, and since you’ve done AP, it might be a good fit for you. I’m not sure how set you are on your schedule, but it’s something that would look great on your college applications.”
“Um, I’m not sure. The only class I have which I could possibly change would be my last hour of the day, gym.”
“Oh, well being physically fit is important. I wouldn’t want to take you away from that. However, my last class is Biology I, and I could really use an extra set of hands for helping with dissections, grading papers, and such.”
I laugh. “I’m not exactly the most coordinated person. It wouldn’t break my heart not to continue with gym.”
Mike speaks up from the lab table next to ours. “She almost killed me playing volleyball last week.”
“Yes, it’s not really my thing.”
“I tell you what. Talk to your dad, and if he’s okay with the switch, then have him write you a note. I’m sure I can sweet-talk Mrs. Cope to make the change in your schedule.”
“Great. I’ll talk to him tonight.”
A throat clears next to me. “Mr. Molina?”
We are all shocked to see Edward standing next to our table when he wasn’t there a second ago.
“I’ve completed labeling the slides.” He hands his worksheet over for review.
Mr. Molina looks it over carefully. “Class, we have a winner.” He leaves our table and grabs the golden onion from his desk. “Congratulations, Edward. You have won the prized golden onion. Now, everyone, back to work. You still need to finish during our class time.”
Edward pauses at our table. “Hello, I’m Edward Cullen. You’re Bella.”
I side-eye Angela, who can’t contain her smile, but is busy changing out our slides. “Hi, yes, Bella Swan.”
Edward is about to say something when Angela saves me. “Bella, we need to finish our lab.” She pushes the microscope in my direction. “Prophase.”
“I need to get back to work.”
He hesitates as if there’s something more, but gives up and returns to his lab table.
I glance back to Mr. Molina to find his striking brown eyes staring right back at me.
Angela jabs my side with her elbow and teases me. “Looks like someone is having a Bella Phase.” She looks around the room. “And he’s not the only one.”
“Alfred?” Jessica asks, pulling the tomatoes from her sandwich.
“Who names their kid Alfred?” Mike opens up some type of pre-mixed drink.
“He said it was a family name.” I shrug.
Lauren picks the croutons from her salad. “What else did you find out?”
“Let’s see, he’s twenty-four and has a cat named Darwin who is polydactyl.”
“What does that mean?” Tyler wonders, taking a huge bite of his grilled chicken sandwich.
Mike reaches over and smacks him on the back of the head. “It has extra toes you idiot. Even I know that.”
“Ernest Hemingway’s cats had extra toes too.” Angela opens her bag of pretzels.
Jessica finishes her bite. “Seven years older. I don’t know, Bella. The difference seems like a lot.”
“He’s older and so worldly.” Lauren sighs. “Why can’t all guys be like him?”
“I know. He joined the Peace Corps when he graduated from college and served two years then started teaching.”
“I want to travel. I can’t wait to get out of Forks. Maybe I’ll go to California and become a big star.” Lauren spears a tomato.
Tyler groans. “Forks isn’t that bad.”
“Maybe for you. I can’t wait to get out here and be somebody,” Lauren expresses her hopes.
Mike finishes off his drink then shoots it like a basketball at the trashcan. “At least we are out of here this afternoon for the field trip.”
“Did everyone remember their permission slips?” I glance around the table.
“Shoot, I forgot. Whose signature looks most like my mom’s?” Tyler looks at all the girls with puppy dog eyes.
Jessica waves him off. “Lauren did it last time.”
Lauren holds out her hand. “Give it here.”
“Do you like being a teaching assistant, Bella?” Angela asks.
“Yes, it’s a million times better than gym. Next week, Bio I is doing a frog dissection lab.”
“I remember that one,” Angela recalls.
“It smells so bad.” Mike chuckles. “Lauren passed out.”
“I couldn’t help it, and I thought we all agreed not to bring it up anymore.” Lauren raises her voice.
“You may have agreed, but the rest of us did not.” Mike avoids the napkin she throws at him.
“Jerks. I’m heading to the lobby to wait for the bus. Are you ready, Jessica? We need to get all the alone Mr. Molina time we can before Bella shows up.”
“Hey, when you’ve got it, you’ve got it. I can’t help it if we’ve clicked and he’s always at our lab table.”
Mike and Tyler stand from their seats. “We’re out too. I need to grab my stuff before we leave.”
“Okay, we’ll meet you out front.”
With everyone gone, Angela pounces. “So how’s it really going with Alfred? Do you call him that?”
“No! I call him Mr. Molina, but between the two of us, I think he secretly likes it. And you know what else?”
I lower my voice. “Every day I go home after school worked up from being around him and his casual touches.” I grin wickedly. “I have to relieve some tension, if you know what I mean, so I can focus on finishing my homework.”
“Bella!” She gasps.
A loud crash comes from the Cullens’ table, and we look over to see Edward storming out the door and into the rain, heading toward the edge of the forest next to the school grounds.
“What a hot head. Anyway, I can’t help it. He makes me crazy. I know he would never start something with a student, but it feels like there’s always something simmering just below the surface between us. It feeds all my fantasies, and I can’t get him off my mind.”
“Maybe it’s just a crush.”
“I don’t know, but I’m already addicted to him: his delicious smell, his quirky sense of humor, and his voice. I have no idea what he’s saying, but sometimes he’ll speak or sing to himself in Spanish.”
“I wonder if we could get him to speak some Spanish on the field trip today. I could possibly translate since I’ve had a few years.”
“Angela, you had better be sitting down because it will make you weak in the knees.”
“We should get going. I’m sure everyone is out there anxious to leave. We’re probably the last ones and the bell hasn’t gone off ending lunch yet.”
Angela and I clean up our remaining items from the lunch table, head back to our lockers, then walk to the lobby where our classmates are waiting for our arrival.
“Finally!” Mike shouts. “Can we go out to the bus now?”
“Yes, yes. Let’s get going. Vámonos!” Mr. Molina smiles brightly as we approach. “Señoritas, lovely you could join us today.”
We climb on the bus and choose to share a seat up front, as those are the only ones remaining in front of a couple of the Cullens. Edward is sitting by himself behind them.
Lauren and Jessica are across the aisle, and Mr. Molina chooses the front seat in front of Angela and me.
“Okay, Cliff. I believe we have everyone. We are headed to the greenhouses at Clallam Bay Community College.”
“Sure thing. We should be there in a little over half an hour.”
With the door closed the driver pulls away from the school. There’s excited chatter all around me, but it’s the tap on my shoulder that gets my attention.
I turn around to find a girl with short, dark hair and the most unusual amber-colored eyes staring back at me.
“Hi, I’m Alice Cullen.” She points to the stiff-looking, blond guy sitting next to her. “This is Jasper.”
“Hey.” I look over at Jasper, give him a brief smile, but notice his eyes are the same weird color as Alice’s.
“I believe you know our brother Edward.” Alice smiles.
My eyes look behind them and see Edward staring out the window with earbuds in, ignoring us. “Yes, he’s in my hour of biology.”
“We’re in Mr. Molina’s other Biology II class, which is why we haven’t had a chance to meet before now.”
“Oh, great. Well, nice to meet you.” I keep my expression pleasant and turn back around in my seat. I glance at Angela whose eyebrows are raised to her hairline with a what’s that all about expression.
I chuckle and listen to Mr. Molina explain the two methods for making compost tea to Jessica and Lauren. “There’re aerated and non-aerated versions. We will see both methods today.”
“Aerated is best?” Jessica asks.
“Yes, the main benefit is to increase microbial life in the soil and on the leaf surface of plants.”
“Mr. Molina, can you speak to us in Spanish?” Angela asks with a wry grin.
“I’m your biology teacher not your Spanish teacher.” He tries to avoid her request.
“Yes, but Mrs. White doesn’t have the accent you do.” Lauren pushes and blinks her eyes at him.
“All right. Ah… Tengo los mejores estudiantes de biología. Mis favoritos incluyen Jessica, Lauren, Angela, y especialmente a Isabella que me ayuda en mis otras clases.”
Angela’s hand squeezes my leg, and I look at her puzzled. “What did you say, Mr. Molina?”
“Something about us being his favorites.” Jessica beams.
“Very good, Jessica. I said I have the best biology students. My favorites are Jessica, Lauren, Angela, and especially Isabella who helps me in my other classes,” he translates with a grin.
“Are you planning any field trips for your Biology I students?” I wonder.
“Not at this time. They are concluding their series of dissections right now. Maybe I can come up with something for them closer to the end of school. Isabella, would you be able to come along on a trip like that? I’m sure all the students would love to have you there.”
“Sure, no problem. I can help. I’ll have my dad write me a note and get all my assignments ahead of time.”
“Excellent, then I’ll see what we can do. Maybe a trip out to La Push exploring the tide pools.”
“Oh, I love those!”
“Mr. Molina, do you play any instruments?” Jessica questions.
“Can you sing too?” Lauren quizzes.
“Oh! Can you sing us something in Spanish? I love listening to your accent,” Jessica prompts.
“No, no. I only reluctantly sing karaoke, but it takes a few Coronas to get me up on stage.”
“That’s not true. I heard you singing something the other day in class.”
“Oh, you heard that? It was nothing. A song on the radio.”
“It sounded very sweet. What was it called?”
“Las Cosas Pequeñas.”
“The Little Things?” Angela translates.
“Yes,” he confirms.
“Mr. Molina, where did you go to college?” Jessica continues her interrogation.
“U-Dub for four years. I got a dual degree in Biology and Environmental Science, then I joined the Peace Corps. I wanted to go back and help my community or others like mine in Central and South America. I was an environmental educator in Guyana.”
“What did you do?” I wonder about his responsibilities.
“I taught basic environmental science to grades three to six. However, I spent a lot of time focused on water pollution. There are sewage issues, but water supplies like rivers and streams are threatened by agricultural and industrial chemicals.”
“What was it like living there?” Lauren asks.
“Hot and humid. The land was rough, making for a bumpy ride wherever you went, but we primarily walked or rode a bike, with limited access to electricity and communications. They gave me a satellite phone for emergencies, but we could travel away from our communities once a month for supplies.”
“Okay, folks. Here we are.” Cliff pulls into a parking lot near the greenhouses.
Mr. Molina stands. “I’m sure I don’t have to say it, but I will. Stay together. Be on your best behavior. We will be here for approximately an hour. Do not wander off.” He turns and pats the driver on the shoulder. “Thanks, Cliff.”
“I’ll be here when you’re ready to head back.” He pulls out a newspaper and starts reading while we file off the bus.
Mr. Molina is shaking hands with a woman outside greenhouse number two when we all gather around him waiting to go inside. “Listen up, everyone. This is Gertrude Hyde. She will be leading our tour today.”
Mrs. Hyde opens the door to the greenhouse and begins to explain their program and its history. Angela and I fall in line with the others, but I stop for a minute to remove my jacket as the heat inside is overwhelming.
“I like your top, Bella,” Alice compliments.
“Thanks.” I tie my jacket around my waist and catch up to Angela. “Alice Cullen keeps trying to chat me up.” I look back in her direction. “It’s weird.”
“I’m sure she’s just trying to make a friend. Aren’t these beautiful?” Angela points at the blooming hybrid rose section where Mrs. Hyde explains how graduate students are trying to establish their very own roses. “It would be so cool to have a rose named after me: The Angela Weber rose.”
I chuckle. “What would it look like?”
“I’m thinking yellow with pink edges, like this one.” She points at another.
I look through the varieties. “Hey, check out this white one with the blood red edges.”
“The red is so intense. What’s it called?”
I look for the tag, not finding it, then go to turn the rose catching my finger on one of the thorns. “Ouch!”
Several red petals fall which look like drops of blood on the table when I pull back my hand.
“What happened? Bella, you’re bleeding.”
“I can see that. I was trying to move the base and my hand caught a thorn.” I put my finger to my mouth, trying to stop the flow.
“Here it is.” Angela points out the name. “Amor moribundo de Masen.”
“I think I’m going to need a Band-Aid. Is that Spanish?”
“Yes, it translates to Masen’s dying love.”
“Well, whoever this Masen is my love for his rose is now dying, which seems appropriate.”
“Let’s go find you a Band-Aid. Maybe Cliff has a first aid kit on the bus.”
We turn around and find the Cullens standing behind us frozen in place. Their eyes no longer the unusual amber, but dark black like Edward’s were on my first day of school.
None of them reacts when we try to pass. “Excuse us.”
Alice is the only one who snaps out of her daze. “She smells so good.” I think I hear her say when we pass by while Jasper and Edward let out soft growls.
After exiting the greenhouse, we walk back toward the bus.
“That was quick.”
“Do you by chance have a first aid kit?”
“I sure do.” He reaches overhead and pulls down a box, opening the lid. “What do you need?”
“A Band-Aid, if you have it.”
“Here you go.” He hands me a tube of ointment and a bandage.
Angela grabs the items. “Here, let me fix it.”
With my cut treated and covered, we wave at Cliff and walk back toward the greenhouse hoping to catch up with everyone.
“Everything all right, Isabella?” Mr. Molina looks me over with concern.
“Just a thorn injury.” I laugh and wave my finger in the air. “No big deal.”
“Oh, good. Well, not good. But I’m glad you’re okay. We are getting ready to make some compost tea.” He points toward a table where Eric is adding compost to a machine.
“Keep stuffing it down deep in there, Eric,” Mr. Molina encourages.
Mrs. Hyde looks for another volunteer and directs Tyler over to her side. “Hold this jar under the tap and the liquid will start to drizzle out.”
We watch the container fill, then she shuts off the machine. “Go ahead and pass it around for everyone to see and smell.”
“Ew, that stinks.” Jessica’s face scrunches at the odor.
“This is recycling in its most basic form, but don’t drink it.” Mr. Molina warns just as Mike pretends to take a drink.
Mrs. Hyde continues. “Aerated compost tea has many benefits. It increases nutrient cycling because while you aren’t fertilizing the plant directly you are feeding the microorganisms in the soil, which then convert the nutrients into plant form. The tea also creates soil structure with the aid of fungal hyphae, as well as bacteria and archaea, which break down organic matter aerating the soil. This process increases the biomass and helps with water-holding capacity. Since the tea is in liquid form, covering a greater area is possible, which uses less compost saving time and labor. Now, let’s step outside to the worm beds.”
We shuffle through the greenhouse, and I notice the Cullens are nowhere to be found. Weird.
Angela and I are out the door just as Eric is holding a worm on a stick taunting the girls with it.
Lauren screams. “Grow up, Eric!”
“Hey, Bella. Do you need a wormy kiss?” He shoves the stick near my face.
I pull away. “No, and stop tormenting everyone.”
“Eric,” Mr. Molina utters a warning.
“What? Worms are great. Isn’t that right, Mrs. Hyde?” He sucks up to our guide.
“Yes, composting with worms is a convenient way to dispose of organic waste, saving space in our local landfill, which is good for the environment. It gives worms a happy home and all the free eats they could ever want. A win-win situation.”
“Remember what I always tell you…” Mr. Molina prompts.
Several students chime in together. “Green is good!”
“That’s right. Now, we have about twenty minutes remaining for you to roam around the other greenhouses. There are graduate students inside anxiously awaiting your questions about their projects. Ask them plenty of questions because tonight your homework will be writing a five hundred word essay on something you learned here today.”
Mike lets out a groan of disbelief. “We aren’t supposed to have homework from a field trip. Let alone an essay.”
“Oh, Mike. It will be okay,” I try to reassure him.
“Easy for you to say, Bella. You’re good at everything. I hate writing. There aren’t supposed to be essays in science.”
“Not true. Every scientist needs to be able to communicate their research, experiments, and ideas to others or else we will never make strides toward solving the problems around us if we can’t collaborate.”
He shrugs. “I guess you’re right. I should go figure out something to write about then.”
I smile and watch him leave just as Angela steps up beside me. “Did you notice the Cullens are missing?”
“I noticed earlier when we rejoined the group. They weren’t there.”
Angela nods. “Maybe they left. All three were acting weird when we were trying to go fix your finger. Did you see their eyes?”
“Yes, dark and creepy.” A shiver runs down my spine. “Let’s try not to think about them and figure out what we’re going to write about tonight.”
While touring the remaining greenhouses, I learn about new methods in soilless cultivation, breeding disease, and cold resistant grapevines, plants being grown without water and those grown only in water. It is overwhelming, but I decide to write my essay about the graduate students undertaking the horticulture issues of today. They are passionate about solving our problems due to floods, drought, pests, insecticides, and food shortages throughout the world. There’s this anti-social revolution happening, which is bringing students out of the house and into the sunlight where they are embracing the outdoors and growing flowers, fruits and vegetables in their own gardens rather than staying plugged into their phones and computers.
I climb back on the bus and see Angela already sitting in our seat, but I’m surprised to find all three Cullens sitting in the back of the bus ignoring everyone around them.
I look over at Jessica. “Hey, what?”
“Do you have your prom dress yet?”
I chuckle. “No, why would I?”
“Aren’t you going to prom?” Lauren looks puzzled, as if not going to prom was ever a possibility.
“I don’t know. I guess as a Junior, I really never considered it.”
Mr. Molina sits heavily on the seat in front of us once again. “All right, Cliff; let’s head back to the high school.” He turns toward us and points to himself. “I’m going as a chaperone.”
“What are the perks of that job?” I tease.
“Let’s see.” He counts off on his fingers. “Brownie points with Principal Greene, seeing all of you dressed up, and all the punch I can drink.”
“I’m going with Mike,” Jessica shares.
Lauren nods. “Tyler asked me last week.”
I look over at Angela. “What about you?”
“I asked Ben Cheney a couple of days ago and he said yes.”
“So I’m the only one without a date?” I look around the bus and consider my options.
My eyes briefly make contact with Edward’s as I consider whom I could ask while we ride back to school.
Everyone is still busy talking about how to fix their hair and nails or the details of their dresses and shoes when our field trip ends. I step off the bus, but hang around waiting for the guy I’m going to ask to prom.
I almost miss him when he departs and have to run to catch up. “Hey, Eric!”
He turns and waits for me. “Hey, Bella. What’s up?”
I link my arm with his. “Do you have a date for prom?”
“Are you kidding? Of course not.” His head moves closer me, and he whispers, “I was hoping Edward would ask me, but I don’t think I’m his type.”
“Yes, I’m into the whole broody, sullen thing he has going. Kind of mysterious and misunderstood, but he’s so beautiful. Probably way out of my league, but still a guy can hope.”
“Oh, well, I guess you wouldn’t be interested in going with me then.”
“Of course I would. I hate being left out all the time, especially when everyone pairs off.”
“I understand. I haven’t been here long enough for a boyfriend, not that I’m interested in any of my fellow students. However, I don’t want to miss out on prom.”
“Sounds good to me. Do you have a dress yet?”
“No. I just found out from the girls that prom was coming up.”
“We could go together, and I can help you pick something out. I’m a style master. How do you feel about blue? I think with your creamy skin and dark hair, you would look gorgeous in that color or maybe a red. You know, a deep one, almost a burgundy. There are lots of options. I’m excited.”
“It sounds like I’m in the hands of an expert. Are you available to go shopping this weekend? I can drive us to Port Angeles.”
“Girl, come pick me up and I will have us both styling in no time. You’ll be the belle of the ball.”
“Let’s not get too crazy.”
“Whose idea was casino night for a prom theme?” I fidget.
Lauren keeps the same smile on her face like a pro. “The student council.”
“Aren’t you on the student council?” Eric pinches my side. “Stop moving.”
Lauren’s beautiful blue eyes glance in our direction. “Yes, but it’s a fun theme.”
“We aren’t even playing with real money.” Mike pulls on his tie.
“Stop being such a sour puss. Let’s have fun.” Jessica nudges him with an elbow.
“If we could ever get these photos over with, then we could leave.” Tyler uses his pocket square to dab the sweat from his forehead.
“Just a few more everyone.” Jessica’s mother clicks away taking too many pictures.
The eight of us have been standing in the Stanleys’ backyard for at least a half hour while our parents have us pose in every possible combination: the girls, the guys, each couple, and the entire group together. Then they started with parents and their kids. It’s ridiculous and I am thrilled I opted for my red chucks over the crazy high heels Eric begged me to consider. No one can see my feet, so it just doesn’t matter. I’ll choose comfort over fashion any day, which nearly makes Eric break down and cry.
He’s looking quite debonair with his black tuxedo and coordinating red bow tie and vest. Eric gave the guy at the store a “Hell, no!” when he suggested black dress shoes. I keep teasing him that his ruby-colored shoes look like he could be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. He just keeps clicking his heels together and quoting from the movie.
“All done!” Jessica’s mom finally declares.
We cheer and Charlie looks as relieved as I feel.
“Be home by midnight,” he tells me, while he’s giving Eric his best intimidating stare.
I find it all quite amusing, but this is what Charlie does. “Don’t worry, I’ll make curfew.”
He nods. “I’m working the late shift. See you in the morning.”
I give him a hug, which Charlie awkwardly returns with a few pats on my back.
“I’ll have Bella home before midnight, Chief Swan.” Eric stands a little taller trying not to let my dad get to him.
“You do that.”
We all escape to the front yard and out along the streets into our waiting cars, then drive to the Smoky Ridge Inn, a local bed and breakfast with a banquet hall, which is hosting our prom. When we arrive, we follow a red carpet up to the entrance but pause through an archway for our first official prom photo.
“Hold it right there.” The photographer looks through his camera lens. “Perfect, you two make my job easy. Very photogenic. The perfect couple.”
Eric and I burst out laughing.
“Dude, you have no idea.” Eric ushers me up the stairs and through the doorway.
The music is loud and there are casino gaming tables set up everywhere with our teachers manning each one.
Eric thrusts a cup of gambling chips in my hand then grabs one for himself.
“What’s your poison? Feeling lucky?” he asks, while I scan the room.
When my eyes land on Mr. Molina at the roulette table, I know exactly how I plan to spend the night.
“I’m thinking roulette may be my game for a while.”
“Okay, I’m going to go try my hand at some poker. We can meet up later to compare our winnings.”
I look over at the poker table and see Edward sitting there with Jasper and Alice. “Good luck, Eric.”
I wave at Jessica and Mike who appear busy trying to convince the DJ to play something to their liking. Walking toward the roulette table, I keep my eyes focused on Mr. Molina. I’m not sure why, but I don’t want to miss the moment he sees me all dressed up.
He’s waiting for everyone gathered around the table to place their bets, when his eyes scan the room and finally land on me.
I hold my breath, waiting for his reaction, while his eyes gaze at me fondly from head to toe.
A slow grin spreads across his face, as I pull a seat out next to the table.
“Hello, Mr. Molina. You look handsome this evening.”
He shrugs off my compliment and winks. “I can’t possibly hold a candle to one of my favorite students.”
My eyes take in the other students at the table and find another pair of amber-colored eyes focused on me.
I give him a small smile, which is all the encouragement he needs. “I’m Emmett Cullen. This is Rosalie.”
“I’m Bella Swan.”
“We know.” Rosalie rolls her eyes and lets out a heavy sigh.
Someone pulls out the chair next to mine, and I look up as Alice takes the seat. “Bella, I love your red dress.”
“Thanks, my date helped me choose it.”
“He has great taste.”
Emmett’s grin brightens. “Did you know bulls are color blind?”
Mr. Molina nods. “It’s true. They can’t detect red or green. When a matador waves his red cape in front of a bull, it isn’t the color that causes him to charge forward angrily, but the movement.”
“So why do they use red then?” I ask.
“To mask the blood during the fight,” Emmett answers.
“Well, let’s hope no one comes charging in my direction. I’m kind of clumsy and wouldn’t get out of the way in time.”
“Yes, I would hate for a drop of your precious blood to be spilled.” Rosalie says it with a tone of contempt.
“Sometimes the bull can’t help himself. You’re too irresistible.” Alice’s eyes catch Edward’s at the poker table where he has huge stacks of chips in front of him.
“Your brother seems to be winning over there. Most students aren’t great at poker. Maybe he’s cheating. You know, counting cards or reading everyone’s minds.”
Alice laughs. “He wishes.”
My chips dwindle throughout the evening while I continue to play my odds at the roulette table, until I only have a couple remaining and I’m the last player at the table.
“Alfred, only ten more minutes, then we’ll be shutting down. Can you stick around and help us clean up?”
“Sure. Most of the kids are busy dancing anyway.”
I place my last chips on zero, deciding it’s time to finish playing, and hear Mr. Molina loudly sigh.
“Isabella, why do you continue to make the same bet every time? The odds are not in your favor. 35 to 1.”
“I keep hoping my luck is bound to change. I always go for the long shot. Green is good, right?” I wink, feeling bold.
When that little white ball fails to find its way to the green zero section once again, I’m ready for a change of location.
“I think I’m going to grab some punch and maybe some fresh air.”
Mr. Molina nods and starts closing down the table.
I get a glass then walk outside to the illuminated gazebo. I can still hear the music playing within the banquet hall, along with voices filled with laughter and delight.
I’m lost in my thoughts when I hear someone step up onto the gazebo behind me. I turn around and find Mr. Molina with his own glass of punch in hand.
“I could use some fresh air too.” He smiles. “You look beautiful, Isabella. I can’t remember if I told you or not.”
“I’ve enjoyed your company this evening and as my teaching assistant for the remaining school year.”
“I have too.”
“I’m going to miss talking with you this summer, while I’m away.”
“You know they do have these things called phones.”
“We should exchange numbers then.” He pulls out his phone and hands it to me. I punch in my number, calling my phone that I feel vibrate in my small purse, then save my number in his contact list.
I hand his phone back to him. “Now you have my number and I have yours.”
“Would it be entirely inappropriate for me to ask you for a dance?”
“Absolutely not. There’s nothing wrong with two friends dancing, and who knows where my date is at this moment, but I must warn you, my dancing skills aren’t great. I took ballet when I was younger, but we quickly found I was a lost cause.”
The music changes and Ray Charles begins to belt out the soulful lyrics of You Don’t Know Me over the speakers.
“This is an unusual song considering the others they have played tonight.”
“I may have put in a request, and you are definitely not a lost cause. It’s all in the leading.” He gets a sneaky grin.
I place my hand into his waiting one, then slide my other up the sleeve of his suit, letting it rest on his shoulder while his arm pulls me closer than I’m sure is allowed between a teacher and student. The steady beat of my heart quickens at his touch.
“You give your hand to me
And then you say hello
And I can hardly speak
My heart is beating so
And anyone can tell
You think you know me well
But you don’t know me (no you don’t know me)”
The top of my head nuzzles under his neck as he sways and spins us around our makeshift dance floor. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, smelling his unique, manly scent, which nearly makes me swoon every time I’m near.
“No you don’t know the one
Who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips
Longs to hold you tight
Oh I am just a friend
That’s all I’ve ever been
Cause you don’t know me (no you don’t know me)”
I listen as his smooth voice softly sings along, while feelings of overwhelming comfort spread through me. My body melds with his, and I feel him place a kiss on the top of my head. He releases me then spins me away only to pull me right back. He dips me quickly, then pauses as my green eyes meet his brown ones. Our lips are only a breath away. It would be so easy to press mine to his, but he breaks the spell between us and pulls me back upright.
“I never knew the art of making love
No my heart aches with love for you
Afraid and shy I let my chance go by
The chance that you might love me too (love me too)”
“Bella!” Eric runs out to the gazebo, interrupting our private dance. “Oh, hey, Mr. Molina.”
Instantly, we break apart, putting plenty of distance between us.
“Eric.” Mr. Molina nods.
“Bella, we better get going. I need to get you home before midnight. I don’t want to upset the Chief.”
“It’s already so late?” I look up longingly into Mr. Molina’s dark eyes filled with every bit of desire, which I’m positive is reflected in mine, wishing to share a single kiss before we part, but knowing I’m wishing for the impossible.
“You give your hand to me
And then you say goodbye
I watch you walk away beside the lucky guy
Oh you will never know
The one who loves you so
Well you don’t know me”
“Yes, Isabella. Have a great summer. I will see you next fall. Will you still be available to be my teaching assistant?”
“I’m counting on it. Good night, Mr. Molina.” I smile, then turn to follow Eric back inside.
“Great. Good night, Isabella,” he calls after me.
Eric leads me to his car and I ask about his night.
“I lost all my chips playing poker. How did it go for you at the roulette table?”
“Same, but it was fun. Any luck with Edward?”
“Not a chance. It’s as if he’s pining away for someone else. Plus, I heard him saying something to Alice about moving out of the country to Brazil or something.”
I shrug. “Maybe he has his hopes set on a special someone. I understand how that feels.”
“So, you and Mr. Molina?”
I laugh. “I wish. It’s just a hopeless crush. He’s older, and I’m just a silly high school girl.”
“Don’t give up, Bella. It certainly didn’t look silly when I found you dancing or the way he was looking at you. Good things come to those with the patience to wait. At least that’s what I’m hoping.”
“Aw, Eric. You’ll find the right guy for you. Keep the faith.”
Eric gets me home by my curfew, and as I lie on my bed thinking about all my favorite moments from this evening, I can barely resist the temptation to text my charming dance partner.
I manage to wait a half hour when I can no longer resist the pull to contact him.
I forgot to thank you for the dance. Thank you. 😉
His reply comes instantly.
You’re welcome. I only wish it hadn’t been cut short.
Me too. I’m surprised you’re still awake.
Yes, it’s way past my bedtime, but I can’t sleep. So, I’m doing a little reading.
I’m exhausted. I’m going to call it a night.
Sweet dreams, Isabella.
Good night. x
I fret about that little “x” for weeks, wondering if I was being too forward in wishing to share a kiss with him.
My concerns are easily eliminated by a summer filled with photos and text messages from Mr. Molina, while working on a project about local marine life on San Juan Island, which leaves me feeling hopeful for our reunion in the fall.
He shares photos of dolphins and orcas playing along the Washington coast, then the occasional selfie of him exploring the seaside town of Friday Harbor or Lime Kiln Point State Park.
While his messages keep us connected, it creates this undeniable sense of longing, leaving me on edge at times. I work at Newton’s Olympic Outfitters, which is Mike’s family’s business. We’re busy all summer with hikers looking for supplies for their latest adventures. I enjoy the distraction. However, among our group of friends, I think I’m the only one ready to go back to school. Finally, the day arrives.
“You’re up early.” Charlie looks over the top of his newspaper meeting my gaze.
I pour a bowl of cereal and grab the milk from the refrigerator. “Yeah, first day of school.”
I try not to show my excitement, but I think Charlie sees right through me.
“I can’t believe this is your last year. Have you decided on a college yet?”
“Oh, so close?”
“Yes, it will keep me nearby, if that’s okay with you?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to consider Florida? You would have a chance to be near your mother again.”
“No. I like it here.”
“What do you plan to study?”
“I’m thinking I will study something in conservation. You know, save the earth and all.”
Charlie chuckles. “Well, at least you got something from your mother. I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear she has a fellow crusader.”
“Don’t try to pretend you don’t enjoy your fishing trips with Billy and Harry. There won’t be fish if we don’t protect our lakes, rivers, and streams.”
“You’re right.” He clears his throat. “I know I probably don’t say it enough, but I’m proud of you.”
Our moment doesn’t last long when I glance at the clock and know I need to get going for my last first day of school. I dump my bowl and rinse it in the sink.
“Do you want me to take a picture?”
“No, I’m good. I just need to get going. I don’t want to be late.”
“All right. Have a good one.”
My day goes by at a snail’s pace, as my hour as Mr. Molina’s teaching assistant isn’t until the last one of the day.
I’m practically sprinting to his classroom when the time arrives, and I do everything in my power not to physically attack him when I step over the doorway.
“Isabella.” He says my name as if it is an answer to a prayer.
I feel immediate relief in his presence as well. “Mr. Molina. How was your summer?”
“Long. Too long.”
I grin and settle into a table near his, wanting to hug him after our long absence from one another. “I understand what you mean.”
“I have some items for you to grade.”
“Really, you’re already working everyone on the first day?” I tease.
“Nothing too difficult. It should mostly be review. I’ll grade the essays, but I left the answer key on top of each stack for you.”
“No problem. I’ll get right on it.”
I get lost in grading papers while Mr. Molina stokes the fires of curiosity for a new group of biology students. I scan his classroom and notice the girls hanging on his every word. I understand completely, as I was in their shoes not long ago.
Who am I kidding? I’m still one of those girls.
When the final bell of the day rings and the students excitedly file out of his classroom, I am anxious we are finally alone together.
“I finished grading.”
“Did you need anything else?”
It’s a loaded question. I know I do, but does he? It feels like our friendship could be moving into new territory, and while I’m nervous to proceed, I’m not sure of the lines that exist between us.
I’ll be turning eighteen in less than a month, and though I’m a student, I’m not his student. I don’t want to put his job in jeopardy, but the pull I’m feeling is getting stronger every day.
“I think that’s it for now.”
“Could I ask a favor of you?”
“Could I have a hug?”
He says nothing else, but holds his arms open wide, waiting to give me the closeness I’ve been craving for three months.
I launch myself at him, locking my arms around his neck, pressing our bodies together. His arms wrap around my body and he squeezes just as tightly as I do while lifting me up off the ground.
I take two deep breaths reacquainting myself with his intoxicating scent. He feels and smells like home. My body sags in relief, wanting this feeling never to end.
“I missed you,” I whisper.
“Oh, Isabella.” He groans. “You have no idea how difficult it is to stay away from you.”
All too soon, my feet make contact with the floor and he is reluctantly pulling away.
I feel the loss immediately, and my euphoria over our reunion is short-lived.
“I don’t know how to do this.” His face twists in anguish.
“I turn eighteen in September, if that makes you feel any better. I’m an adult then. I can make my own decisions. I’m not technically your student. You don’t grade me for being your teaching assistant.”
“True, but I’m sure it would be better if we keep this between us. At least until you graduate.”
My head is nodding immediately as hope blooms in my heart. The smile nearly bursts from my lips, and I can feel my happiness is overflowing.
Best first day of school. Ever.
“Happy birthday, Novia.” Al leans in and kisses me on the cheek once we settle into our corner booth at Bella Italia in Port Angeles.
That’s right. I said “Al.” Another big step in our relationship happened when we decided that when we were away from school, I would call him “Al.” I chuckle almost every time I say it, as it’s surreal we are on a first-name basis, but it also reminds me of the Paul Simon song Call Me Al. The Chevy Chase version of the music video for that song always cracks me up. My mom is a big Paul Simon fan, so I know most of his songs by heart.
In the spirit of the song, Al occasionally calls me “Betty,” but also uses other endearments like “Novia,” which he tells me means “sweetie” in Spanish. I did my own Google search and found it also translates to girlfriend, fiancée, or bride. All names I’m perfectly fine with him calling me. This doesn’t feel like a crush to me any longer. It feels like something more. I’m falling head over heels in love, and I have a countdown on my phone of the days until I graduate. I know we are taking baby steps, but I can’t wait until I’m free to show him how I feel about him all the time.
“Thank you. I can’t believe we are actually here on our first date for my birthday.”
“Are you nervous someone will see us?”
“No. I think I’m more excited just to spend time alone with you.”
“I feel the same way. Now, what are you going to order?”
We look over the menu together, debating the various dishes.
“I think I’m going to have the mushroom ravioli. What are you getting?”
“The cioppino sounds good. What would you like to drink?”
“A Coke is fine.”
Al nods his head just as our server approaches our table.
“Good evening, are you ready to order?”
“Yes, the lady will have the mushroom ravioli and I will go with the cioppino.”
“And to drink?”
“I’ll be right back with those.”
When the server is out of range, I tell Al, “You didn’t have to do that. I can order for myself.”
“Isabella, you deserve be treated like a lady, and I promise never to forget that.”
He’s always the perfect gentleman, but I’m hoping he will loosen up on the displays of affection in public. I’m constantly craving more from him and hoping tonight will lead to more.
The restaurant is cozy and romantic. There is barely a breath of space between the two of us. Al drapes his arm around me, pulling my closer, then leaves a kiss on my temple.
Our server returns with our drinks, a loaf of fresh baked bread, and a plate he fills with olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.
“Are you celebrating a special occasion with us this evening?”
I grin brightly. “It’s my birthday.”
“Ah, happy birthday. Your food should be out shortly. Let me know if you need anything else.”
Al reaches in his pocket, pulls out a small box, and sets it on the table in front of me. “Happy birthday, Novia.”
“Al, you didn’t have to get me anything. This is too much.”
“Nonsense. Open it.”
I pull off the red ribbon and open the lid to find a necklace inside with two intertwined hearts: one in silver and the other outlined with small sapphires, my birthstone.
“It’s beautiful. Help me put it on.” I’m quick to pull the necklace from the box, then hold my hair up while he fastens it around my neck.
“There. Let me see.”
I let my hair fall and turn toward him, watching his eyes dance from mine to the necklace.
“Perfect. Do you like it?”
I hold it between my fingers and look at it closely. “I love it. Thank you.”
My lips have a mind of their own as I move closer leaving a brief kiss on his. I pull back slightly, then return for a second and a third.
By the fourth kiss, our lips are connecting like two magnets of opposing poles. Al holds my head in place while he kisses me with more fire and passion than I’ve ever experienced.
We only break apart when prompted by a nearby throat clearing as a server from the kitchen is holding our entrees.
“The mushroom ravioli?”
“And the cioppino for you, sir. Can I get you anything else?”
We merely shake our heads, still breathless from those passionate kisses.
“All right. Let us know if you need anything. Enjoy.”
“Isabella, I need to apolo—”
“Don’t you dare apologize. I have no regrets other than being forced to stop.”
“Still. My behavior in public should be more respectful. You deserve more.”
“Hey, I’m fine and we’re good. Don’t overthink this. Now, I’m starving. Let’s eat.”
We dig into our food and share bites while making small talk about school and our classes.
Before we know it, our food is gone and Al is driving me back to Forks. Charlie is working late tonight, which made getting away easier for today’s outing.
When we pull up to my home, he insists on walking me to the door. I want to invite him in, but we both have school tomorrow, so I already know what his answer will be. Plus, he still has the drive back this evening to his apartment in Port Angeles.
“I had a wonderful time tonight.”
“I’m glad. Maybe we can find another opportunity and I can cook for you.”
“A second date?” I smile.
“Absolutely. I want all your dates.”
Our good night kiss picks right back up where we left off at the restaurant with our mouths fused together, his tongue prompting mine for an opening. I’m eager to please and soon feel our tongues tangling together. His kisses leave me panting for more when I finally break away, even though I’m pinned against the front door. His mouth trails kisses along my jaw and down my neck before ending just behind my ear. I feel the tug of his teeth on my earlobe while his arms wrap me up tightly and my hands make a mess of his wavy dark hair.
“Oh, Al.” I gasp and shiver.
He pulls away and rests our foreheads together. “I should go.”
His pants are in time with mine as his finger gently traces the hearts of my necklace. The feel of his fingers on my bare skin nearly makes my heart beat out of my chest. I have a new craving building inside of me, and I can’t wait for another chance to have his hands and fingers touching me in other places.
“Happy birthday, Isabella.” He places a quick peck on my lips. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Thank you. Good night.”
I step inside the front door and peek out the side window while I watch him return to his car and his taillights fade into the dark night.
I’ve never had a boyfriend for any length of time and especially not during the holidays. However, it doesn’t seem right Al should spend Thanksgiving alone when we are having the Blacks and the Clearwaters over for the day, while Sue and I create a huge feast for everyone in our tiny kitchen.
I work up the nerve to approach Charlie on Saturday morning, cooking up breakfast with his favorites: eggs over easy, crispy bacon, and buttered toast.
“Wow, what’s all this about?” He refills his coffee mug just as I’m setting our full plates on the table.
“Can’t I make you breakfast occasionally? Now that I’ve been accepted into U-Dub and I’m planning my move to Seattle, we aren’t always going to have opportunities to have breakfast together like this.”
Charlie’s mustache twitches and I’m positive he sees right through me. “Sure, breakfast together.”
I pour myself an orange juice, then we both sit enjoying our food in comfortable silence until I bring up my idea.
“You know how I’ve been a teaching assistant at school?”
“Yes, for the science teacher.”
“Right, biology. Well, we were talking the other day, and he was telling me how with his family back in Honduras he wouldn’t be returning to see them as they didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.”
Charlie nods probably already knowing where I’m headed with this line of thought.
“So, I was wondering how you would feel about him joining us for Thanksgiving. I mean Sue and I always make so much food. There will be plenty for one more. What do you think?”
He stops eating to take a moment to scrutinize my face. I try to remain calm and pretend it’s no big deal, but I really want to spend Thanksgiving with Al and give him an opportunity to meet my dad and our friends.
“Your teacher. For Thanksgiving.”
“Well, he’s not technically my teacher, but more a mentor or advisor since I’m his teaching assistant. I help him with his classes, grading papers and preparing labs. Stuff like that. I don’t get a grade.” I offer the information, even though I realize I’m only confirming his thoughts.
“Okay, tell him to come over early if he wants to watch the game with us. We would be happy to have him here.”
“Great. I’ll let him know. Thanks, Dad.”
Thanksgiving is great. Al blends in perfectly with our friends. He and Charlie disappear for a while, but both return happy and at ease.
The only trouble spot is when Jacob insists sitting on the other side of me while eating, then his nonstop compliments about every single dish, bragging what a great cook I am. I’m not sure what to make of his behavior. I know Jacob has had a crush on me for years and this is some version of him trying to prove he knows me better than anyone does, but it’s almost comical.
Al is never threatened by my relationship with Jacob and essentially agrees with every compliment, taking the wind out of Jacob’s sails. I think when the evening concludes, Jacob has a new crush—not on me but Al, as Jacob seems to look up to him like the big brother he’s never had.
For Christmas, I purchase Al a “World’s Best Biology Teacher” mug, which I give to him before school is out for the holiday break. He gives me a couple of books to read: Dan Egan’s, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes and Jim & Jamie Dutcher’s The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons From the Sawtooth Pack.
Unfortunately, we don’t t get to see one another over school break, as he flies home to Honduras, spending Christmas and New Year’s with his family. We exchange texts and photos, but they usually leave me missing him even more than I thought possible.
With a random snowfall here and there, Al makes a point of picking me up at the house to make sure I get to school safely with each storm, as he doesn’t think I should be driving my truck in bad weather. While I’m worried what someone may say when we arrive together, he puts my worries at ease, saying no one will think twice since I’m his teaching assistant.
Today is Valentine’s Day. A single red rose is waiting for me on the table where I normally grade papers and prep lab supplies. When my eyes find his, he gives me a wink. A silly grin takes over my face because I know our plans for later and can hardly wait. I slide a container of his favorite chocolate chip cookies onto his desk and take my seat.
After dropping off my truck, we ride to Port Angeles for a sleepover at his apartment. Dad is gone away on a fishing trip this weekend with Billy and Harry. The good news is they won’t be back until Sunday.
When we arrive, I find his apartment to be neat and tidy, but filled with warm, rich colors and soft, comfortable furniture, making me feel as if I never want to leave.
“This is amazing. If I ever have my own place, I want it to feel and look just like this. It’s so homey.” I plop down on the sofa and pet his cat, Darwin, who seems pleased by my attention.
“Thanks, I’m glad you like it.” He heads for the kitchen.
“Like it? I love it. Do you need any help?”
“No, no, no. I’m cooking for you this evening. Do you want something to drink? I have beer, Coke, and water.”
“I’m not a fan of beer, so I’ll take a Coke.”
“Isabella,” he teases, “how would you know you don’t like beer?” He opens a can of Coke and pours it over ice then hands it to me.
“Well, Mr. Molina, you probably aren’t going to believe this but underage drinking does happen. However, in my case, I’m the one who recycles at our house, and I’m always dealing with Charlie’s smelly beer cans.”
I watch as he pulls containers from the refrigerator; it looks like he’s prepped everything ahead of time.
“What are you making, Chef?” I tease.
“For you, I am making authentic Honduran cuisine. When I was home for Christmas, my mother gave me her favorite recipes and insisted I prepare them for you when I returned. After I mentioned having a girlfriend, I was in her impromptu cooking classes for most of my visit.”
“You told your mother about me?”
“I told all my family about you and showed them your picture. They are excited to meet you.” He shrugs, trying to play it off as not a big deal, but I’m freaking out. “You, know. Some day.”
“Right. Some day.”
“I have met your father and your family friends. You should meet mine.”
I nod and sip my Coke, my mouth suddenly bone dry from this conversation.
“Do you have any allergies?”
“No. I’m ready for whatever food you have for me. I’m starving since I missed lunch today because our AP Psychology test went over on time.”
“How did you do?”
“Okay. So what are in all these containers?” I move around to his side of the countertop and my curiosity piques when he starts removing the lids.
“Nacatamales, my mother’s pride and joy. We always have them at Christmas. You start with dough made of corn then fill with chicken, pork, or beans.”
“Mmmm, I can’t wait.”
“Also, I made pupusas, which are a thick doughy tortilla filled with quesillo, a melty cheese, then topped with pickled onions and a curtido, a spicy coleslaw.”
“That sounds delicious.”
“There’re also things I’m sure you’re familiar with like refried beans, rice, pico de gallo, and avocados. I just need to reheat a few things, then we will be ready to eat.”
It doesn’t take long before Al’s kitchen smells amazing and he’s feeding me tastes of everything always followed by sweet kisses. I think I’ve died and gone to heaven: a man who loves to cook.
He prepares our plates and I can’t help the moan that escapes at my first bite.
“This is fabulous.”
“I’m glad you like it. Happy Valentine’s Day.” He leans in to plant a kiss on my cheek.
“Thank you for dinner and my rose. Did you like the guitar strings? The guy at the store told me nylon strings were used for classical guitar instead of steel. I know it isn’t very romantic, but you said you didn’t use a pick.”
“No, we don’t with classical guitar. The fingers build up calluses after playing for any length of time. The nylon strings are perfect. I will play something for you after we eat.”
“Oh, yes please!”
I don’t quite finish everything on my plate, but make a good attempt, which makes Al happy. He grabs our dishes and cleans them up before I have a chance to help him.
“Now, come sit and I will play for you.” He pulls me by the hand, leading me to his sofa.
I lean back into the comfy cushions and wait while he retrieves his guitar.
“How long have you played?”
“Since I was a little boy. Classical guitar is different in the finger work.”
I nod in agreement, but nothing prepares me for the way his fingers pluck and move over the strings.
I’m entranced by the sounds of such lively and romantic songs, but mostly by the guitar player himself. Everything around Al fades away as he plays from one song to the next. I close my eyes, letting the music take over, getting lost in the sound.
When the song ends, my eyes open and lock with his. “What were the names of those songs?”
“The first was Spanish Romance. The composer is not known, but it is 19th century. The second song was Asturias by Isaac Albéniz. It’s very popular. What did you think?”
“I think… I’m a new fan of classical guitar.” I reach over, grab the back of his head, pulling him to me, and plant a heated kiss on his lips. “Or maybe it’s just you.”
He leans his guitar against the coffee table then follows me as I lean back on the sofa. His body now covering mine as our tongues tangle and our mouths explore each other.
When we finally come up for air, our chests are heaving as we try to catch our breath. “Isabella.” His eyes are filled with want and desire.
“I have something to tell you,” I start out softly. “I’m… I’m a virgin.” The last word is barely audible, and I wonder if he’s heard it at all.
“Novia.” He kisses my forehead. “You aren’t ready.”
“I’m not,” I reluctantly admit. “Other than a few kisses when I was younger and some over fabric fondling, I have no clue what I’m doing.”
“We will go at your pace. You will tell me when you are ready for more?”
“Yes. I mean, I’m ready for more, but not quite everything yet. Do you know what I mean?”
“I do. Would you like to see my bedroom?”
“Sure.” He stands and offers his hand, then leads me down the hallway to his room.
The bedroom is dominated by a large bed with a desk on one side then a wall of bookshelves on the other. I look through the titles and find most of them to be science-related with some classic fiction in the mix.
“Would you like something to sleep in?” He pulls open a drawer and hands me a soft jersey with “Molina” and the number six on the back. “I think this is the smallest one I have.”
“A soccer jersey?”
“Yes, I have played for as long as I have been playing the guitar.”
I reach out and take the top from him. It looks as though it will go to just above my knees.
“Would you like a pair of boxers?
“No, I think, I’m good.”
“The bathroom is right through that door.” He points me in the right direction. “I’ll get ready out here.”
I change out of my clothes, removing my bra and leaving only my panties, then slide his jersey over my body. The material is thin revealing my stiffened nipples, but I’m sure that’s nothing compared to the wetness of my underwear. I run my fingers through my hair fluffing it and take some deep breaths.
“You can do this, Bella. You’re just sleeping and maybe a little more.” My pep talk eases my nerves.
When I open the door, Al is sitting on the edge wearing only his boxers. “Everything okay?”
My eyes appreciate his sculpted arms and long, lean muscles. “Yes.”
“Come here.” He stands and pulls back the covers from one side of the bed then walks around to the other sliding between the sheets.
He opens his arms, inviting me closer.
I settle in next to him as he adjusts the sheets around us.
“Will you touch me?”
“Anywhere you want.”
The next morning, Al surprises me with an intriguing idea over breakfast.
“What are your plans for spring break?”
“Nothing. I guess sticking around the house.”
“What if I invited you to go away for the week?”
“How in the world would we pull that off?”
“Every year, I go to Coachella. It’s been a tradition with some of my friends. The music is great and it’s a relaxed vibe. I love it, but I would like you to join me this year. I normally go the first weekend, which always coincides with our spring break in April.”
“I would meet your friends?”
“As your girlfriend?”
“Yes. It’s in Indio, California near Palm Springs, and we won’t need to worry about holding back when we are out in public together. Not that I have much willpower left when it comes to you. No one will care. We will be two concert goers who love music like everyone else there.”
“We would fly?”
“Yes, since you are my guest, I will buy your ticket.”
“What do I tell Charlie?”
“You could say you are going to fly from Seattle to meet up with friends in Phoenix then you are flying on to Los Angeles and going to Coachella. I think that’s pretty close to the truth.”
“It is. How will we get to the festival?”
“I’ll drive us once we arrive in Los Angeles. It’s about a three-hour drive. I can get us a hotel room, if you’re okay with sharing. Most people camp on site, but we won’t have that option.”
“Are you kidding? Time alone together at the music festival or in the hotel. I’m all in.”
“Okay, I’ll make the arrangements, and you just need to show up.” He places a kiss on my nose.
I count down the days until our spring break departure with great enthusiasm. All my friends are jealous when I tell them I’m going to Coachella. I purposely leave out whom I’m going with, but Angela gives me a knowing grin when I evade anymore of their questions.
When Al and I finally arrive at the hotel after the long drive from the airport, I’m excited by the energy all around us, but there’s also a simmering between the two of us I’m sure is about to boil over.
I’m turning into an addict for Al’s sweet hugs, slow kisses, and tender touches. We’ve been constantly touching one another the entire trip. I can feel the tension in the air between us once the hotel door closes and we’re alone.
I hear Al put our bags on the low dresser while I can’t take my eyes off the king-sized bed in front of me. We’re going to be sharing a bed together, and I hope so much more. He hasn’t pressured me for anything more physically, but I think I’m ready. I’m hopeful we will connect in ways I’ve only imagined.
Valentine’s Day was perfect, but I need more than his touch. My body craves him in ways I don’t understand, but chalk it up to our undeniable attraction.
“Are you hungry?” He whispers in my ear while his hands rub along my bare arms and up to my shoulders.
“Not for food.”
He plays with the thin straps of my tank then one falls away. I feel his lips leave a trail of kisses from my shoulder up to my neck. “Are you tired?”
His hands move to my waist playing with the hem exposing my midriff and pushing it up higher to just under my breasts. “Are you sure, Isabella? I didn’t bring you here to rush you into anything.”
“I know, and I’m positive. I’m ready. I want you.”
I feel him hardening behind me as I rub my ass against the bulge of his jeans.
“Oh, Isabella. I have wanted you forever it seems, but I will wait as long as you need.”
“No more waiting.” I guide his hand lower to the button on my denim cut-off shorts, and he pops the button open then lowers the zipper.
His hand eases inside my shorts then his fingers move beneath the waistband of my underwear. I lean back into his chest and a moan escapes my lips when his fingers tease me between my legs.
“Novia, would you like to move to the bed?”
He removes his hand then turns me around to face him, walking me backward until I feel the edge brush against the back of my knees.
“Isabella, you can ask me to stop at any time.”
He reaches down and guides my tank up and over my head. I hear his quick intake of breath followed by a groan when he sees I’m not wearing a bra. My top is tossed off to the side, then his hands cup my breasts, causing my eyes to close and my head to tilt back at the pleasure of his touch.
“Why don’t you move back on the bed?” he whispers.
I sit on the edge then push myself up farther as he follows my movements. His hands grip each side of my shorts, tugging them and my underwear down until I’m completely naked in front of him.
The urge to cover up is overwhelming.
“Don’t. You are beautiful and a feast for the eyes.” He pulls off his own shirt, dropping it to the floor, then pulls out his wallet, removing a condom and laying it on the bed beside us. “Are you nervous?”
“I do not take this gift you are giving me lightly. Relax. I will make you feel good. I’m here to take care of you.”
His lips find mine briefly, then he moves lower to my chest. When his mouth sucks and nibbles on one breast then the other my pelvis tilts up off the bed searching for more.
His fingers move to between my legs, sliding freely through the wetness he finds there.
“You are ready. Let go, Novia.” His fingers alternate between rubbing my clit and moving in and out of my opening, while his mouth continues its delicious assault on my chest.
I’m not sure how anyone can hold back the feelings rushing through my body, and all too soon, I feel myself falling over the edge into complete bliss.
Al removes his hands from my body, and I crack open my eyes to watch him remove his own shorts and underwear, then open the condom, rolling it down his length.
He pushes my legs open wider and kneels on the bed between them. His cock moves up and down my slit, then pauses at my opening.
At the reality it is finally about to happen, I suck in a quick breath, causing my muscles to fill with tension.
“Relax, Novia. Breathe,” he encourages.
I nod and take a few big breaths, then feel him push forward until our hips are flush against each other, feeling a stinging pinch at his intrusion. My eyes close tightly not wanting him to overreact and stop at my reaction. I take more calming breaths then open my eyes to find his face hovering above mine.
“Are you okay?” His eyes search mine, and I can tell he’s worrying he’s hurt me.
“It stings,” I concede. “Just give me a minute. It’s starting to subside.” I more hope than know.
He nods, peppering my face and neck with kisses until I give him the green light he can try move.
When he pulls back his hips and pushes them forward again, I can tell the pain is starting to fade, but still lingers.
“Yes. Keep going. I’m going to be fine.” My body relaxes and adjusts to his making his movements easier with each stroke.
“Is it okay if I—” He pants.
“Yes.” I tighten my hold, grabbing his shoulders while wrapping my legs around his waist.
I can feel it the moment he pulses inside of me. He lets out a groan of relief and his hips still against mine. “Oh, Isabella,” he gasps.
A proud smile spreads across my face as I watch him sag in relief. “We did it,” I whisper.
He chuckles then leans down to kiss my lips. “We definitely did. It will be better for you next time. The pain will fade and you will find more pleasure in our connection.”
Al pulls back and reaches down between us to hold the condom as he pulls his body from mine.
“Is there blood?” I wonder and lean up on my elbow wanting to satisfy my curiosity.
“Yes. I’ll be right back. I need to clean you up.” He stands, pulling the condom from his cock.
I see some pink on the outside of the condom and fall back onto the bed, feeling relieved I’m no longer a virgin.
Al returns to the bed after disposing of the condom in the bathroom, wiping between my legs with a warm washcloth. When he’s finished, he tosses it toward the bathroom and climbs beside me, pulling me into his arms, pressing our bodies together.
He leaves a kiss on my forehead, brushes the hair away from my face, before planting another kiss on my lips.
“You’re so beautiful. Thank you for trusting me. Would you like me to run you a warm bath? It will help.”
“Not yet. I just want to feel you next to me.” I nuzzle closer while he holds me tight.
I tilt my head back to see his face.
“I can’t contain it any longer. I love you.”
I must be dreaming because I just lost my virginity to this gorgeous man who is now telling me he loves me. I can’t stop the tears that well up in my eyes. I’m so happy I think I may explode.
“Oh, no. I shouldn’t have said that. You’re crying. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
“What? No. I’m just so incredibly happy. I’m overwhelmed with emotion.”
“Ah, good tears?”
“No, great tears. I love you too.”
I sense his relief at knowing we are on the same page. “You make me happy too, Isabella.” He kisses my forehead while his hand caresses my naked back.
We lay there in companionable silence for an hour until he prompts me to take a bath while he steps out to pick up some food.
I stare at my reflection in the mirror wondering if I will look any different to those who know me best. I feel extremely different with all kinds of thoughts and feelings racing through my brain.
A giddy squeak escapes my mouth when I think about what we just did and it sounds like he would like to do it again. I ease into the warm bath water and lean back, letting my head rest on a towel while I soak away my aches and pains.
Our time at Coachella is filled with wonderful new music and plenty of delicious food. I meet many of his friends who accept me gladly. However, my favorite parts are the two of us finding comfort in the affection we are allowed to share freely.
During the days, Al’s hand squeezes into my back pocket or his fingers hook into my belt loops, while other times his arm wraps around my shoulders or waist always keeping me close.
The fire he stokes inside me smolders during the day but blazes when we are alone at night. It’s then he takes his time removing my clothes, languidly exploring me with his mouth, fingers, and cock.
He was right. The pain from our first time together has subsided completely, and now I’m the one initiating our intimate times together, which pleases Al to no end.
The days fly by and all too soon, we find ourselves back at the airport, wishing we were still out in the middle of the desert listening to amazing music by day and getting lost in each other by night.
“Hey, no long face. Everything will be fine.”
“Then why do I feel like returning to Forks is taking steps backward?”
“That’s not the case.”
“But how am I going to make it through the next several months until graduation?”
“Novia, the struggle is on both sides. I’m feeling it as much as you are. We will not stop loving each other just because we are back home.”
I sigh then move between his legs while we wait for our next flight to be called, leading us back to Seattle where Angela agreed to pick me up in Port Angeles. My time alone with him is dwindling, and I’m desperate not to lose the love we’ve built between us.
“I know, but I’m going to hate not sleeping with you—among other things.”
He pulls me closer, wrapping his arms around me, pressing his lips to mine in reassurance.
“It’s only a couple of months.”
“Then what will we do when I graduate? I’m moving to Seattle and you’re still going to be teaching in Forks.”
“It will all work out. Trust me.”
“Isabella Marie Swan.”
The crowd applauds, but I hear Charlie and Jacob yell over everyone from the back. I cross the stage and shake hands with Principal Greene and various members of our school board before being handed my diploma. I shift my tassel to the other side of my cap, brave the stairs, and return to my seat.
Looking back up on stage, my eyes find one particular biology teacher standing and applauding the graduating students. His wink and proud grin make my heart flutter just a little bit faster than it should.
When it’s finally time for us to throw our caps in the air, I toss mine with all my might, happy I have achieved another step toward an uncertain future.
“Bella!” Angela, Lauren, and Jessica all rush in my direction while I try to grab my cap from the row in front of me.
“We did it!” Jessica throws her arms around me while Angela and Lauren turn it into a group hug.
“I know. Can you believe we are finally finished with high school?”
“Yes!” Lauren exclaims. “I’m ready for California.”
“I’m going to miss you all so much.” Angela’s eyes well up with unshed tears, which sets us all off.
A voice from behind me joins our love fest. “I think a round of congratulations are in order for my favorite students.”
“Mr. Molina, thanks for everything.” Jessica is the first to steal a hug.
Lauren can’t help herself and wraps her arms around them. “I’m glad you were our teacher.”
He releases them and they dab their eyes, trying to keep their makeup in check.
“Bella are you and your dad still going to the Newton’s barbecue?” Lauren asks.
“Yes, we’ll be there. I’m going home to change then we will meet you there.”
“Okay, see ya later.” Jessica waves.
“Thanks, Mr. Molina. Yours was my favorite class and the one where I met one of my best friends.” Angela puts her arm around my shoulders and squeezes me tightly.
“Angela, I know you will do great things. Good luck with college and stay in touch.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will. Take care of our girl.” She winks at me.
Angela’s comment stuns Al. “Did you tell her?”
“No, but she knows me and has seen how happy I’ve been this year. If I had to guess, I would say all my friends know on some level.”
“I have a gift for you. It’s in my car.” He waves for me to follow along as we weave through chairs and plenty of heartfelt congratulations of other students with their families and friends.
I follow him out to the parking lot and notice he is parked next to some larger vehicles, which affords us a little privacy.
Al reaches in his car and pulls out a wrapped package then hands it to me. “Open it.”
When I do, I find a gorgeous red and white chess set. During our many conversations in his classroom after school, he uncovered the fact that I don’t know how to play, while he is nearly a chess master. With promises to teach me one day, I’m touched by his gift.
“This is really beautiful. Thank you.” I look over the box.
Al lets out an exasperated sigh. “Novia, this isn’t just about me teaching you to play. This is me trying to tell you it’s your move. In our relationship.”
“What do you mean?”
“Isabella, this isn’t some phase for me. I’m crazy about you. I want to build a life with you, but I understand you need some time to catch up to where I’m at in life. Let’s move in together. We can find an apartment this summer. I’ve found a teaching job in Seattle near the campus, and I can continue to teach while you take classes and earn your degree. Then we will be ready for whatever comes next.”
He wants more. Any insecurities I’ve been harboring about our future together fade away immediately and waves of certainty take over, leaving me with overwhelming happiness.
“Sounds like we are both ready for a new phase in life…” A huge grin spreads across my face. “Together.”