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Quiet Out Loud by jemappellejolie

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[Reviews - 6]
Table of Contents
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Story Notes:

Twilighted Validation Beta: Totoro

Author's Chapter Notes:

Hi! I've been on a long hiatus from writing fanfiction, but I've been drawn back in. Since it’s the summertime, hopefully I’ll be able to update quickly. I’d love to know what you think, so welcome to my world.

Disclaimer: I disclaim all rights to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. No copyright infringement is intended, as the lovely author and her characters are in no way affiliated with me. We’re not in cohorts, I swear.


Gustav Klimt’s Stoclet Frieze greeted her as she poured her cereal in the morning. The three stages of life – Expectation, the Tree of Life, and Fulfillment – were a tad heavy for the morning time, but it was her only calendar.  She completed another X in the prescribed square; it was March 18th.

The ides of March, her brain said, wistfully remembering that sophomore year of high school, when her English teacher at Forks had bombarded them with Shakespeare.

That was a good year, she mused, munching happily on her oats. Bella recalled her impression of Julius Caesar. Despite Brutus’ mistake, she had always thought that he was a good man. A great, but confused, character. Shakespeare’s description of his guilt had grieved Bella at the time, and she imagined now that if it had been possible, she would have told Brutus not to beat himself up. She wouldn’t have let him spear himself on that sword…

Man, Shakespeare knew how to write a tragedy, she thought idly.

An alarm went off in the apartment next door, and through the thin walls she could hear Felix stirring. That was her cue to hop in the shower, or she’d never make it to her morning class. They had a system of sorts going. His alarm helped her to organize her morning – something she’d not yet mastered. And she’d gotten into the habit of bringing him some sort of sandwich when she stopped by after class. Felix, despite his namesake, was a moody recluse as well as a computer whiz; he spent his hours clacking away at his keys. He often looked a little gaunt, as though he was too busy programming to remember to eat. So Bella began leaving the sandwich on the step with a curt knock on the door.

Some days, Bella supposed this made them friends. She was accustomed to him; he was a fixture in her life, kind of like the bread shop on the corner. But a bread shop is different than a confidante. No, they weren’t friends.

Bella turned on the tap in her bathroom and held in a gulp and a jerk when it sputtered out a coppery liquid before thankfully stuttering and running clear. An old, wizened pipe, it did this every time. Despite such plumbing inconveniences and the lack of privacy (courteously provided by the thin walls), the rustic apartment complex was not without its perks. One such perk was the vintage furniture left behind by past tenants, which included but was not limited to the deep purple, deeply squashy recliner in her living room.  It also included this spacious shower that, if one could withstand the jarring copper beginnings, was quite nice.

She let the butterflies overwhelm her as she stood under the stilted stream of the showerhead. She was in England, spending a semester abroad. Back in Seattle, she was enrolled at UDub. But the proximity to her unfulfilling life in Forks and the chafing familiarity of the country had made her itch. There was a tugging at her heart that told her something had to change. That feeling of waiting for something followed her around all of freshman year. She studied French and English, and was minoring in Education, in case she ever became a teacher. Teachers were always needed, she figured, and this way she could study whatever she wanted, if only to teach it to other people, whose only use for it in life would be to teach it to others, just like her.

She wouldn’t retire early or sail a yacht, but a free summer meant more to her. Nonetheless, all that year, when she went to bed at night, the recurring thought was that something’s gotta give.

Either the city was going to magically become where she wanted to be, or she was going to have to go where she wanted. Obviously the latter won, hence the antiquated apartment in Kingston upon Thames, a town on the borders of London and Surrey. UDub in Seattle had a partner college with Kingston University of London, and things fell into place from there.

She had considered going abroad to France, to perfect the language, but as it would be her first time truly far away from her home, she wanted to start small. As in, a place where she could speak the native tongue, even if she did have a foreign accent. Luckily, one could take more than one semester abroad and still graduate with a UDub diploma, so her application to the program in France was waiting in the wings.

Her first class, at 8:00 in the morning, was Botany, and as the semester went on, so her garden grew too: flourishing with lavender, basil, coriander, aloe, and daisies – all swiped from the greenhouse after class. It gave her something to do while she was busy not going out at night. Despite her good intentions, the devil-may-care attitude she had hoped going abroad might bring about did not in fact come with the package.

She reckoned that making friends was hindered by the lack of commonality – certainly not by any shyness on my part, she thought sarcastically. In truth though, it seemed as though everyone was cut from a different block here. The boys wore blazers with the cuffs rolled up, their lined shirts unbuttoned at the top with a loose tie slung around their necks. It was straight out of a movie; classic British college kids. Her palms sweated at the thought of approaching them. The girls were just as casually chic, and Bella didn’t appreciate their appraising looks.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; a few people had mercifully approached her. The most persistent was a fellow American student, Mike Newton. He was nice enough – too much like home though. She couldn’t bring herself to really push him away, since she conveniently had but one class with him: “Exploring Emotive Shakespeare”. Because what better place to study the bard than on his home turf?

It was 7:45 AM – if she left now, she would get to there with time to spare. Pulling her hair high up on her head, she hopped on her bike, heading for the steamy, fragrant greenhouse. While the city around her gathered momentum for the day, she saw herself reflected in the tinted glass windows of the sparkling cars that passed her on the street, which shone from the mere proximity of wealth and power hidden inside their lead walls. Her reflection looked every bit how she felt: a nameless college girl on her way to class.

She pedaled lazily, grateful that not many people were on the sidewalk this morning. She loathed having to actually ride on the street. Be it cobblestone, brick, or even paved road, the pressure of such close traffic made her nervous, and she had taken a fair number of spills due to plain clumsiness. They were made worse by the audience that one garnered when one crashed and burned on a busy street.

But today, the beat of the street was a slow swing, like the kind you might hear at a wedding when the DJ wants to let the older couples dance. At least that’s what Bella pictured. The bread shop was selling its first batch of the day, and the sweet smell of croissants, scones, and fresh loaves made her feel oddly at home. Following her nose, she almost ran into the line of people looking to get fresh pastries, but luckily they stepped to the side and let her pass. If only poles would do that.

The early spring, early morning wind teased her playfully, sneaking into her sweater and nipping at her skin, tousling her hair and stealing a couple tears from her eyes and she streaked down a hill. The clouds were a shade that defies a name, an inscrutable mix of blue, grey, and white, and the sky was a quickly dissipating purple—the color of hope.

There, the greenhouse peeked into view around the left corner. It was rather modern-looking, especially compared to the somber stone buildings that flanked it. Bella tugged off her sweater and quickly stepped inside.

Botany was an elective as well as first thing in the morning, but that didn’t stop Professor Eltten from taking it very seriously. Punctuality was demanded, earliness expected. Luckily, however, she had a soft spot for Earl Grey tea, which she offered as a perk-up to her other soft spot: her students.

She was a middle-aged woman who had spent her life amongst flowers, working everywhere from flower shops to funeral homes to pay for her schooling, with an odd job here and there at a synagogue. The kinky-haired woman felt that it was a moral detriment not to understand the beauty of flowers, and hence the beauty of life. Not to appreciate the nuances of color, fragrance, and the brisk step of the bloom was a tragic flaw that would lead to a discontented life, plagued by a vague hatred of the quotidian but without the direction to improve anything.

Bella had been intrigued by her radical philosophy, and by the fact that she wore a different pair of eyeglasses for every day of the week. The final pro was that it was unlike anything she’d ever learned before, and that was exactly what she wanted.

Profesor Eltten was regaling the five people already gathered about The Watering Hole – the name for where the teapot as well s the watering canisters were placed – with stories of her spit-fire cat, Caius. Evidently it had sunk its claws into yet another of her botany books, irritated as only a cat could be that the book was getting more attention than he was.

“He’s just such a vivacious tyke,” she said with a dab at her eye.

“Those books were bit dated anyway. One must be at the cutting edge of all that goes on in the world of plants, you know. There’s just so much to learn; don’t get cocky on me now, just because you’re passing this class. Oh, no. If it’s important enough to cut down hundreds of trees to be printed on paper, it’s worth a read.” She finished with a dramatic swig of her tea.

That must have been scalding, Bella thought as she saw Professor Eltten balk.

“Good morning to you, Bella dear!” she called, and the other students gave her a wave as well.

There was Angela, Ben, Emily, Sam, and Rachel. She realized she was actually the last person to arrive. It was a very small class—Professor Eltten’s reputation must have preceded her.

Angela was an endearingly sweet Asian girl with square-framed glasses. She had her boyfriend Ben sign up for the class as well, a boy with styled hair and tight jeans, who had surprised them all by his aptitude with plants. Emily was another sweet girl, with glimmering coppery skin that Bella admired. She had a curious scar marring the left side of her face, but Bella thought that the rest of her beauty—including her friendly personality—far outshone the mark. Emily had brought her boyfriend Sam as well, a serious-looking guy who was clearly there just to be with Emily. Rachel also had copper skin that shone from the humidity in the greenhouse, but she exuded an aura that frightened off Bella.

Secretly, Bella wondered if Rachel hadn’t taken the class simply to meet a man who would already know all about what flowers to buy, only to find herself disappointed with the ratio.

They had each grabbed a stool and gathered around Professor Eltten. She liked to give a little speech at the beginning of class, a discourse on the theme for that day’s work. A wall of budding plants was her backdrop and she looked ready to begin a nice long lecture.

She didn’t disappoint. Bella had scarcely pulled out the leather-bound notebook that Charlie had given her as a going-away present, when Professor Eltten started speaking.

“So, Class, yet another Wednesday. That’s “Hump Day”, right? We’re going over the hump. We’ve made it through the first half of the week, and are waiting for the rest of the week to unfold. But if you imagine it like this,” and she help up her hands, palms down, forming a mountain peak, “we’ve gone uphill already. Now we’re going downhill, and that’s a whole different story.” She paused.

Bella sketched a mountain peak and scribbled “Hump Day” beneath it.

“Things are about to change. No, not because it’s just a Wednesday—because this is no ordinary Wednesday. We’re in the middle of March, class. Spring is upon us. The flowers you have been getting to know, the bulbs you have planted…”

Bella used her pinky to pick a pressed bit of lavender out of the crease in her notebook.

“…it will all come into good use soon. Springtime moves quickly, like the ER room in a hospital.”

She placed the lavender back a dozen pages or so, where it could bunk with a pressed rose petal she’d forgotten she’d tucked in there.

“I know we’ve talked about this before, but as a botanist, springtime is of course my favorite time of the year. The wildflowers, the ones in touch with nature, are rising.”

Bella settled herself on her stool for another round of Professor Eltten’s peculiar branch of ideology.

“Soon, the bees with be aloft, and the drone of their work in the bushes and meadows will be so consistent that you shan’t hear it after a few days. Then, the flowers will change. Green will yield to rainbow. It will be subtle, but swift, you’ll see…”

Chapter End Notes:

There you have it, Chapter One. Well, reviews would be great…A note on tone, plot, imagery, whatever thoughts you have twirling around in your head. I’m super curious! Au revoir!

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