Contemplating the conundrum of how to stay in one place while I drove around aimlessly wasn’t particularly helpful, yet I didn’t want to go home. I was stalling, waiting as long as I could before walking into the arguments that I was sure to be the center of when I got home.
They all knew now that Bella had found out the truth.
I suppose it could look cowardly of me to postpone my inevitable return home. Perhaps the fact that I didn’t care if Rosalie trashed my favorite car meant that my mental health was in question, but in truth, I was just tired of fighting. I didn’t want to listen to their thoughts, annoyances, accusations, or worry. Ever since I met Bella, I was in a civil war. Almost entirely an internal war, and I was both the enemy and the ally.
This mental exhaustion was beyond anything I’d ever experienced as a vampire. It didn’t seem possible, yet I couldn’t escape the feeling. There was no alternative besides this. The war might never end, and I would have to learn to live with that.
Regardless, I couldn’t stay away all evening.
I turned the car around and drove quickly home to make my nightly appearance, knowing that soon I would leave again, to take solace in Bella's dreams. Although a part of me still felt voyeuristic, I couldn’t find any other moment of rest other than when I watched her sleep. Besides, staying away wasn’t possible.
I was a sick, twisted, infatuated vampire, trying not to annihilate my reason for existing while I watched her sleep and telling myself that I was there to ‘protect’ her.
I shook my head in disgust, and as I got closer to the turn off, I caught the tone of each of my family members' minds, divided all because of me.
“Rose… Babe, she had to figure it out sometime. It won’t help wrecking the car.”
“I’m not wrecking it, Emmett. I’m just taking what is mine.” The jerk would deserve it even if I did wreck his precious car.
I moved my attention to Esme’s mind as she was looking out the back window toward the garage where Rosalie was disassembling my Aston Martin. Poor boy. Going through all that he has and Rose has to do this. “Alice?” Esme said aloud, “Are you sure we shouldn’t… intervene?”
Alice shook her head. “Trust me. Our lives will be easier if we leave her alone right now.” Alice didn’t bring to mind what vision had made her assure everyone that letting Rosalie disassemble my car was the best outlet for her anger, but I did see her newest vision: Rosalie ignoring me. I could live with that. That, in itself, was almost worth losing my car. I could always buy a new sports car, and it wasn’t like I had a chance to use it much.
He deserves better than that. He’s trying so hard, Esme thought, but Rosalie wasn’t ruining it. No, she was just taking it apart piece by piece to get to the tiny oil pressure sending unit that I’d let her replace five years earlier. Parts of not only the engine, but the interior, hood, seats, tires, and anything that could be removed without damage were scattered over the lawn.
It was a depressing sight.
Though Rosalie’s voice was even as she answered Emmett’s questions, she was still angry. Her thoughts were smug through the anger and somewhat victorious as she took back what was hers in the most inconvenient way possible. Self-centered as always, I tried to ignore what was happening outside and listened to the more important discussion indoors.
Jasper’s unsaid thoughts were angry as well. And Edward thought Emmett and I were reckless. How long do we let her stay human when she knows too much as it is? I’d known how upset Jasper and Rosalie would be when they knew that Bella had found out, but it was too late to give them the prepared speech I’d come up with.
I was surprised when I realized that Jasper was preparing his own speech. It wasn’t like him to bring a topic of argument up. I was suddenly apprehensive and sped up as I followed the winding driveway.
“Every moment she spends with him puts us at risk, Carlisle,” Jasper said aloud. “They have been seen together, and if this ends badly there are sure to be questions.” His thoughts were calculating and logical, but he mainly felt protective of Alice, worrying about her sadness if her new best friend died before she even got to be introduced.
“You see!” Rosalie screeched from the backyard as she tossed another screw into the grass. “We should have dealt with her when we had the chance!” She’d heard Jasper, of course, and her mental insults were punctuated with a clank as she tossed the muffler onto the dismantled hood of my car that was only a few feet away from the river bank.
Esme watched Rosalie’s progress in disbelief as I sped up to the house.
“That wouldn’t have helped, Rosalie,” Carlisle assured her evenly, speaking just loud enough so she could hear him. “He’s falling in love with her just as Alice predicted, and Bella would have had to find out the truth at some point.”
“I wasn’t referring to killing her, but you must see, Carlisle,” Jasper went on, “that he is not strong enough to change her. If he tried, he would fail and she must be changed soon. It is the safest way to proceed.” Leave no evidence.
That was why Jasper was arguing with Carlisle. He was trying to convince Carlisle to turn her.
I remembered the vision of Bella, pale with red eyes again. Her expression fathomless, forced into a soulless existence because of my own stupidity.
“NO!” I shouted. He wouldn’t do it; I couldn’t let anyone do that to her. I stopped the car in front of the house, jumped out, and raced inside.
Carlisle heard me coming and knew that I’d caught the last part of their conversation. He held his hand up to me; his face was full of concern. I saw my own panicked expression reflected in his eyes. Let me finish speaking, Edward.
He thought quickly and then said, “Bella’s transformation is between Edward and herself. We have no right to force either him or her to make that decision.”
I felt easier at his words, but the tension did not leave my limbs.
Calm down, Edward, Jasper thought as he sensed the anxiety rolling off of me. You must see that it’s the easiest way.
“Easiest for whom?” I looked at him pointedly. “You can keep your distance. I’m not going to take her life away just for convenience.”
Jasper turned to Alice and asked, “What is the likelihood of Bella surviving Saturday?”
“Hopefully, not much,” Rosalie muttered as she tossed a wrench to Emmett.
“Rosalie…” Esme said sternly, turning back to look through the window, “I don’t want to hear any more from you. You’re getting your part back, and after this you won’t say another word about Edward or Bella.”
Rosalie nodded and didn’t say anything more, but I knew she’d prefer Bella’s death than have her join our family at this moment in time. Her reasoning was utterly ridiculous though, and I brushed her thoughts away like the toothless insults that they were.
Alice glared toward Rosalie for a moment before her eyes glazed over as she concentrated. I saw in her mind again the meadow, with Bella looking at me and sunshine on us both. Rainbows danced across her face, her eyes were deep pools of wonder-then the vision was hazier, more blurry. It was hard to see it clearly, but I was almost sure that in the vision my ear was pressed to Bella’s heart. I gasped; how could I be so close to her? Was that right? The possible futures blurred through Alice’s mind, my reaction affecting them.
But I couldn’t be sure of what I’d seen. Could that really be a possibility? I was suddenly elated and equally devastated because I wasn’t strong enough. The blurry futures so jumbled by my own insecurity showed the possibility of her death as well. One minute I was close to her, and the next she was lifeless, broken in my arms.
No, that wouldn’t happen. I shook my head, the internal war raged on, and I saw the visions again swirling in Alice’s mind, now Bella was leaning against me. Like a bird trapped in the claws of a tiger, I told myself.
I couldn’t speak.
Carlisle and Esme watched me curiously, puzzling over the conflicting expressions that played across my face.
Jasper was weighing Alice’s feelings of growing confidence, as well as sensing my own conflict while the visions played out.
When Alice looked at Jasper again, she said, “There’s still a chance, of course, but Edward is getting surer that he won’t hurt her. The odds are definitely better. Maybe seventy to thirty that she lives.”
I groaned. That wasn’t good enough.
She looked at me and silently apologized. I’m sorry about earlier. I freaked out, but it’s changing all the time. I don’t think you will hurt her. You must be doing something right.
Yes, the thing that I was doing right was attempting to make no mistakes. The only problem is knowing what things are mistakes. I thought of earlier today when I’d touched her face. Even the memory made my hand tingle - that had been a mistake - so how could the visions Alice had just had of my being close to her not be mistakes too?
I was suddenly aware of Esme’s beaming face. Can it be? Esme thought, It will work out… I’m so glad. What a sweet girl she must be… She still wants to spend time with him… of course she would.
Half of myself rejoiced along with Esme, and the other half, as always, tried to explain why it was so wrong. I read my own euphoric and despairing feelings in Jasper’s mind as he thought of his own confidence in Alice, but he knew as well as I did how quickly the future could change from one snap decision. And that’s what the problem was.
“Is her smell less appealing to you then?” Carlisle asked, curious as usual. Or have you simply gained more strength by resisting?
“No,” I admitted feeling ashamed again, “But I have noticed that it’s easier to resist and ignore my instincts when I’m around her often.”
Ah, of course. Carlisle nodded. Just as I learned to resist.
I wanted to roll my eyes but didn’t want to be rude. What he’d learned to endure was far beyond what I was capable of, but it did give me hope.
Emmett entered the room just then since, apparently, Rosalie was finished using him as a tool rack. “Hey, sorry about the car, Edward,” he said quietly. I’ll help you put it back together if you want, he told me in his mind so that Rosalie wouldn’t hear his promise. Or I could get you a new Vanquish. The top speed is one-ninety. He grinned at the thought of an even more powerful sports car. Only, don’t tell Rose it was my idea.
“Don’t worry about it.” I shrugged, answering all his thoughts at once. A disassembled car was the least of my worries at the moment. Perhaps I’d donate the parts to some college or trade school and give the mechanic students something memorable to put together. And a new faster car wouldn’t do me much good when Bella could barely stand it when I drove at a hundred. I wanted to have her with me more than I wanted another toy.
Alice smiled and waved her tiny hand at me. “So if you don’t care about the car and Bella’s safer the more you get used to her, then what are you doing here? You’d better go get used to Bella some more.” The sooner you gain some confidence, the sooner I’ll get to talk to her!
Emmett chuckled. Self-torture… yep… just like a mad-man.
This is wonderful… Perhaps a new car for a wedding gift…
“What?” I said involuntarily, my progress to the door halted immediately. Esme’s forward thinking was a little too much for me.
“Oh, sorry… I’d talked to Alice before, and… it’s a possibility,” she said sheepishly.
“Alice…” I said tentatively, not sure if I should be angry or not, knowing how she couldn’t seem to help herself from getting caught up in visions of the future.
“Hey, don’t worry about it.” Alice waved at me again, guessing what Esme must have thought about. She danced to my side, pushing me back toward the door. “You just go and smell Bella some more for me, and everything will be fine, you’ll see.” Her tinkling laughter mixed in with her words.
Hey, whatever floats your boat. Emmett was chuckling at his interpretation of what our unexplained conversation could have meant and at my expression as Alice shoved me. My shoes were slippery enough on the hard floor that I was sliding slowly backwards; my body was still ridged from the shock of Esme’s thoughts.
I stared into the faces of my family for a moment - all but Rosalie of course, who was very pointedly trying not to think about me as she put her tools away. The doubts and fears and pride and confidence and humor in their varied minds just compounded my own internal struggle. Yet, I knew where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing.
Carlisle smiled at the indecision on my face. His thoughts were only slightly concerned, wanting me to be happy, but he simply said, “Go to her.”
It was the only thing I needed to hear right then. Turning, I raced out the door. Before I’d made it to the bottom of the stairs, however, I heard them making bets for Saturday on if I’d bring Bella back alive or not. I groaned inwardly.
No mistakes, I vowed again.
As I moved through the damp wood, I wondered how it was possible that each night when I ran away from my family and all that was familiar, every step closer to Bella felt more like home. The magnetic pull, growing stronger just as I’d sensed before, was equally frightening as it was wonderful.
She was already asleep when I reached her house, and I quickly moved from the shadows of the forest, climbing up to her window and inside her room noiselessly.
There was something wrong tonight. Though her face remained calm, not a single worried line taking away any of the peace from her face, she was obviously restless. She tossed and turned, and several times she startled herself awake, though her eyes didn't ever stay open long enough to focus on anything around her. Her sleep was so important to her health. It bothered me I couldn’t do anything to help her sleep.
I kept a careful distance, knowing it was wise, but struggling with every thought I had of how to calm her. Each thing that I came up with - stroking her hair, singing to her - all were tainted by who I am. She would recoil at my touch, or anything I did would shock her awake. Finally, after too many hours of tossing, Bella fell into a deeper, dream filled sleep.
Looking again at the stack of books near her bed, I finally felt brave enough to move closer to see them, or perhaps my curiosity was finally too much to handle. I held my breath and forced myself to only look at the books and not at her as I bent to retrieve the stack. I felt an odd relief as I held the tattered books that I’d been eyeing for so long.
Before I was overcome with the desire to move even closer to her, I swiftly carried the books to the rocking chair and then allowed myself to breathe and look at her again. She was still deeply asleep, her tangled hair was the only evidence of how she’d tossed previously.
Her scent hit me again as I let myself breathe, but it was becoming more tolerable. The pain scorched my throat, but I had the stack of books to distract me. Emmett was probably right. It was insanity to put myself in this fire every night, trying to desensitize myself, yet what was the alternative? The more I burned, the safer Bella would be. Many people would have thought the same of Carlisle when he began practicing medicine, and I forced myself to remember that hope.
What was she interested in? Wuthering Heights, Shakespeare, and the complete works of Jane Austin, the same worn copy that I’d seen her reading before. These three were all at the top of the stack and seemed the most used. Under them, I was surprised to see Sophie’s World - A Novel of the History of Philosophy. It looked almost new compared to the other books, and I was surprised that she had a book that I’d never even heard of. I decided I’d have to read it some other night while I watched over her sleep.
What other books were in her head? A poetry collection of Emily Dickinson and Tennyson. These I knew well, and as I gazed at her hair tangled across her pillow and thought of the lullaby that she’d inspired, I remembered a line from Tennyson. There is sweet music here, that softer falls than petals from blown roses on the grass, or night-dews on still waters between walls of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass. I closed my eyes and thought of the meadow I was going to take her to and of Alice’s most recent vision, blurry though it was. I inhaled deeply, willing myself to grow stronger, more accustomed to her scent.
After I finished looking at all the other titles and took note of their variety, I carefully placed the stack back on the floor by her bed exactly as I’d found them. Then I walked around to her nightstand to look at the stack of CDs.
I was closer to her now than I’d ever allowed myself to be during my nightly visits. She was on her side facing toward the nightstand, and the urge to touch her face, as I had done only once before, felt overwhelming. My hand tingled again, and I moved quickly back to the rocking chair before I could read the titles on the CD cases.
I couldn’t touch her now and risk her waking up. I would just have to be patient - and go very, very slowly. Losing control even if it was just wanting to be closer to her wasn’t acceptable, and I knew I needed more practice being near her. If being close to her wasn’t a mistake in itself.
Why did love have to be so complicated?
Knowing what her favorite music is will just have to wait for my questions tomorrow. I smiled at the thought of finally being able to ask her all the questions that had been burning in my mind.
For the rest of the night, I sat in the rocking chair and compiled my list so that I’d be ready when I picked her up for school. The real question that I always had in the back of my mind I wouldn’t be able to just ask her. Knowing how she thought, the tone of the voice in her head, was probably something I could never experience, but perhaps I could somehow ask enough specific questions to piece together what her mind might sound like.
If only I could hear it myself.
How many minds did I wish I could block out forever - and the one person that I would give anything to just get a glimpse into the inner workings of her mind was, apparently, forever barred from me.
Some people thought in linear ways, and other people thought disjointedly or like they were finding their way through a maze. I wondered how her mind worked, trying to imagine the sound. What would her mind’s voice sound like? Her speaking voice? She always said so little in school, yet her expressions said so much more than her mouth. Whenever she did speak, everything she said surprised me. What was her process of thought?
The night passed quickly as I mused and thought of ways to encourage her to speak her mind. I was ecstatic when the morning light filtered through the fog, brightening her room. Once I heard Charlie stir, I knew it was time to leave her side.
I ran home, changed, and quickly drove my Volvo back to Bella’s house, arriving just as Charlie was heading out the front door. I waited where he wouldn’t notice me until he drove out of sight, and parked where the cruiser had been.
I saw Bella sneak a peak out her window and laughed at the surprised look on her face. Hadn't she figured out by now that I was unable to stay away from her? I thought about knocking on her door so I could properly escort her to the car, but also didn't want to rush her if she wasn't ready yet. After all, she'd still been in bed just a short time ago.
Before I had time to wonder what the proper etiquette for our newfound situation was, Bella was shutting the door and making her way to the car while I tried to remind myself to tone down my enthusiasm, and ordered my list of questions with the easiest ones first.
She paused before opening the passenger door. It reminded me of how I’d scared her yesterday when she asked why she couldn’t see me hunt, but today was my turn for questions, and I was going to make her feel as safe as possible.
“Good morning,” I said. My non-scary voice, normally forced, came easily around her. I smiled at her expression as she took her seat. She was staring at me with those wonder-filled eyes again, like she was still waiting for me to disappear. I looked over her face, seeing the tiredness that was inevitable after the way she’d tossed and turned last night. “How are you today?” I added.
“Good, thank you,” she said, and her face brightened as she smiled at me.
I was worried about the circles under her eyes. I wondered again if singing the song that she’d inspired would help her sleep more soundly. But she’d have to know that I was there, and it seemed unlikely that she’d appreciate my nightly vigilance. No matter how often I heard her say my name as she slept, I couldn’t believe she’d actually appreciate the idea of me watching her at night. I stared at the circles under her eyes again and wondered what she had dreamed of that kept her from sleeping deeply. Maybe the dreams of me weren’t exactly peaceful ones.
“You look tired,” I said. I started trying to count the actual number of hours since she'd calmed down. The time I spent with her always flew by in such a blur, it was hard to figure. Not enough for her to feel awake and refreshed.
“I couldn't sleep,” she admitted, shifting her hair over her shoulder as she usually did when she didn’t want me to see her face.
“Neither could I,” I said, unable to resist the joke and trying to make her feel more comfortable. As strange as it was getting used to the idea that Bella wasn't bothered by the realities of my life, in truth, it was nice being able to be so honest with her.
“I guess that's right,” she laughed. “I suppose I slept just a little bit more than you did.”
“I'd wager you did.”
“So what did you do last night?” she asked.
“Not a chance,” I told her with a quiet laugh. “It's my day to ask questions.”
“Oh, that's right,” she said in a tone that made me think she wished I'd forgotten. “What do you want to know?”
What didn't I want to know… So much about her was a mystery to me.
“What's your favorite color?” I asked, starting with the easy questions but intensely interested at every detail that made her unique.
“It changes from day to day,” she shrugged, not taking the question seriously, I guessed.
“What's your favorite color today?”
“Probably brown,” she answered, glancing down at her sweater. Did she only say that because she happened to be wearing that color today?
“Brown?” I snorted, this wasn’t going to work if she didn’t answer my questions seriously.
“Sure. Brown is warm. I miss brown. Everything that's supposed to be brown - tree trunks, rocks, dirt - is all covered up with squashy green stuff here.” Her face had pulled together into an almost scowl with the pucker between her eyebrows appearing again.
I was wrong. She was taking my question seriously, but even the answer to a simple question like what her favorite color was surprised me. Her reactions were always so fascinating. I stared into the pool of her deep brown eyes, filled with sincerity, and agreed with her. Brown was the most beautiful color I’d ever seen. I was struck by how everything about her was warm and trusting, and in that instant ,I understood her answer.
“You're right. Brown is warm,” I said, and without thinking I lifted my hand and brushed her chestnut hair back behind her shoulder. It felt like silk threads between my fingers. I had to force myself to put my hand back on the steering wheel, gripping it tightly. I wasn’t following my “no mistakes rule” as well as I should.
When we pulled up to the school, I quickly thought through the next section of my questions. Still plagued by the mystery of what the stack of CDs by her bed consisted of, I started with that.
“What music is in your CD player right now?” I asked, remembering the empty jewel case at the top of the stack.
“Linkin Park,” she said, smiling in such a way that I knew there must be a story behind it. I grinned at her in return, reaching to pull my own copy out to show her. It was always nice when I learned something else we had in common.
“Debussy to this?” I asked skeptically, hoping she'd explain what the look had meant. Instead, she just stared at the CD and shrugged.
Sensing she still wasn't truly at ease talking about herself with me, I exited the car and walked around to open her door for her. But again, the slow pace I was forced to move at in the crowded parking lot prevented me from reaching her door before she opened it herself. I contented myself with walking close to her but kept my hands in my pockets so I wouldn’t be tempted to take her hand in mine - as I wanted to do.
Before she had time to speak, I started questioning her again. Mainly just going through the questions about her favorite things.
“What's your favorite season?”
“In Phoenix, fall. In Forks, summer.”
I could understand that; she loved the sun and warmth, but apparently not the hottest time in Phoenix.
“Favorite breakfast food?”
“Why?” Perhaps it was a dumb question, but I wanted to know.
“They’re cheap and fill me up more than pop tarts.”
“Do you have them often?”
“Because I’m generally running late.”
“Do you like them scrambled?”
“Not as much as fried, but I’m not very good at making them that way.”
I chuckled quietly. What was it with humans and how their eggs were cooked? And why did this small detail about her fascinate me so much?
“What’s your favorite household chore?”
“Cooking, I guess. I almost always cooked for my Mom.” She made a slight face at that, and I wondered why. “Charlie’s a terrible cook.”
“Why did you cook for your mom?”
“Well, she liked to experiment in the kitchen, and it didn’t always turn out so good.”
“You don’t experiment?”
“I do actually, but I tend to put things together that were actually meant to be together.” Her expression turned bemused, and she smiled up at the ceiling.
“What are you thinking? You looked like you were remembering something just then.” How I wished I could see that memory, too.
“Oh, well… I was just thinking about the time my mother put cumin and cloves in the spaghetti sauce.” She glanced at my blank expression, but I asked the follow-up question before she could say more.
“What are they supposed to go in?”
“Usually cumin goes in chili, or something, and cloves go in pies or cookies.” She looked up at me and smiled. “It was a little weird to say the least.”
I couldn’t remember much about the taste of food and wondered at the skill that she had. Perhaps I could learn to recognize the proper combinations of ingredients by their smell even if it wasn’t appealing to me? I was suddenly sad, only because I could never properly experience anything that she prepared.
“What is your least favorite chore?” I continued quickly, hiding my sudden despondency.
“Well, folding clothes is like torture, so probably that.” She chuckled softly, and I gladly thought of how quickly I could do that job for her, but perhaps she’d think it was too personal a thing for me to help with. I wondered if I could fold clothes without her knowing it. Maybe while she slept? She might just think that Charlie had done it. I didn’t want to offend her though, or give away my uninvited presence in her house at night. I shook my head, picturing myself as not only the guarding vampire but the helpful elf.
I was pathetic.
After a few more random questions, I had to leave her at her first class and walk the opposite direction to my own classroom. I thought about ditching. It wasn’t like I was learning anything in my classes anyway but contented myself to simply being right at her classroom door when she came back out, so I wouldn’t lose any time for my next round of questions.
“What was the last book that you read before moving to Forks?”
She paused briefly before answering. “Gone With the Wind. I finished it on the trip up here.”
“Why did you start reading it?” I wondered if it was some school assignment or if she chose to read it voluntarily.
“My mom always wanted to read it but never got more than half way through. She ended up just watching the movie, but I wondered if the book was any better than the movie was.”
“Did you like the book more than the movie?”
“No, they were pretty similar, but when I read the book, I understood the characters more than just watching the movie.”
“Which part of the story did you appreciate the most?” I asked, thinking of the beginning of the story and how innocent their lives were before the war.
I looked at her in surprise, wondering how she could think that. I’d always thought it was so depressing.
She answered my unspoken question before I could ask it. “When she’s begging Rhett to stay, she’s finally realized what she had all along. She had the pot of gold and coveted the pot of bronze, but didn’t know till the end.”
“But he doesn’t believe that she’s sincere and he leaves. The story ends with her alone.” How could she appreciate an ending like that? She was such an unusual girl. Didn’t most girls adore happy endings above all else?
“It’s a good ending because even though it’s sad and ironic, she doesn’t feel defeated. She cries at first, but then she just knows she can win him back because she‘s Scarlett O’Hara and can just think about it tomorrow, like it’s a challenge to her.”
“Because she can endure anything?” I guessed, wondering what it was about the character that appealed to her.
“Yes… in a way, but at the end she has nothing left to prove to herself because she’s proven over and over again that nothing will stand in her way. She knows that and is stronger by all that she went through. So, it’s not just endurance- she knows she can overcome things.”
At that point, I had to leave her at her next class and go to my own again. I still couldn’t believe that each moment she could surprise me more, and we’d only talked about one book.
I never could understand Scarlett O’Hara’s appeal; she’d always reminded me too much of Rosalie, self-absorbed and grasping for more. Yet, Bella was able to see something else in the character that I’d never considered. Maybe the appeal to Bella was the strength that she perceived in the character. Bella always seemed so frail and so helpless, and she was physically more frail than other humans, but I remembered the look of fierce determination when she was about to be attacked in Port Angeles. I realized suddenly that her strength of spirit was infinitely more substantial than I’d considered before.
In between each of our classes, I continued to ask her questions about the books that she’d read. Each answer seemed to give me more hints into her character, and though it did reveal more about her in some ways, it only made me see just how much I still didn’t understand.
When we got to talking about Sense and Sensibility, for instance, she explained how she disliked Marianne at first because she came across as childish and superficial for most of the book and flung herself into her love for Willoughby, ignoring the quiet pain of her sister. I could completely agree with this admission but noted how she said she’d viewed Marianne at first and how she’d described Scarlett.
“You said you disliked her at first, but what about the end?” I asked, wondering as I always did if there was more to her thought process.
“Well, I still didn’t like her at the end, but she was the character that I remembered the most.” Bella looked down the hall as if she were seeing a different world in her mind than the one around her.
“What did you keep remembering about her?” I couldn’t keep from trying to read her mind, even though it was useless.
“It was sad because she agreed to a half-life in a way. Her marriage with Colonel Brandon was probably a happy marriage, but she left most of herself behind.” Bella’s eyes pooled momentarily with unshed tears, and I was struck by her tenderness. She obviously felt more deeply than she ever let on. “The real Marianne is gone at the end,” Bella went on sadly. “She’s more mature by then, but that carefree passion that was so much a part of who she was burned away through her grief.”
The sadness in Bella’s eyes struck me. I’d always seen Colonel Brandon and Marianne as a beautiful example of the right kind of love, not just the passionate fiery love, but a love that was alive and healing to both of them. I could see Marianne’s sadness, but more than that was the wisdom that she’d gained. I saw the beginning of their love at the end of the book as something that would keep growing, getting better and being better for them rather than just a ‘happy marriage.’ But Bella hadn’t seemed to admire the type of love that Marianne exemplified either. In fact, Bella seemed more reserved and shy, the very opposite of Marianne, yet she obviously felt deeply for her. Even if she said she didn’t like the character really.
What did this mean? Did she wish she were more outgoing?
My speculations about how she’d answered each question plagued me as I sat through my classes. Fortunately, none of the teachers felt inclined to call on me and I was free to speculate until I was with Bella again at lunch.
I wanted to talk further about these things, about the characters and my own opinions of them as well. I could have discussed the plot and character qualities of each part from all the books I asked her about, but there would be time later. Right now, I needed to just get an overview of as much of her life and opinions as possible.
Unable to get away from the topic of books for a while though, I picked another good overview question. “What’s the oldest book that you’ve read?”
“Don Quixote, probably. I didn’t finish it though,” she said in between bites of her lunch. “Does it still count?”
“Sure it counts, but why didn’t you finish it?” Sometimes the act of leaving something undone told just as much about a person as finishing it, and she didn’t seem like the type of person that would normally abandon anything.
“I thought it was interesting enough, but parts of it were… just… vulgar.” She wrinkled her nose. “It got on my nerves.”
I laughed and wondered again if she’d ever stop saying things that would surprise me. My reaction must have surprised her too. She looked up quickly when I laughed and choked on a bite of food, blushing deeply.
“Okay, so Don Quixote can be tossed in the loony bin,” I said, hoping that she would see that I wasn’t laughing at her.
I continued the list of questions each time I walked her to her classes and hardly let her eat as I worked through the list at lunch.
My list didn’t seem to get any shorter though as I kept thinking of new questions to ask. We talked about Mrs. De Winter in Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca. Bella’s combined revulsion in the character and pride that the character had been able to pull off all her deception off was fascinating to me, and this was coming from one who was so bothered by double standards and who had said that she didn’t like to lie. It seemed that the only accomplishment I would get from all of these questions was just a deeper fascinating into her personality and the silent workings of her mind.
She began to respond more quickly with her answers as the day progressed without over thinking, but there was the occasional blush after an answer that always led me to ask more questions. Like when I’d asked her what her favorite gemstone was.
“Topaz,” she blurted out and then blushed deeply.
I was about to ask her favorite flower, but I had to find out why she flushed and turned her head away from me. Such strange reactions she had. Why would she blush at such a thing?
I tried the persuasive “Please?” that seemed to work so well before, but she wouldn’t look at me. Finally, I reminded her that we were past the evasiveness.
“Tell me,” I blurted out, feeling like I’d lose my mind with curiosity, and asking questions was supposed to be helping that!
“It’s the color of your eyes today,” she said quietly, looking down at a strand of her hair that she was fiddling with. “I suppose if you asked me in two weeks I’d say onyx.”
I was speechless for a second and then felt happier than I'd been all day, but I couldn’t let that feeling reign in me or take the time to remind myself why she shouldn’t know me so well. It was too late for remorse regardless, and I couldn’t stop asking her more questions now that I’d started. So when I found my voice again, I just launched into the next round.
I had to stop my quizzing when Mr. Banner came into the Biology lab to set up the boring movie that we’d started the day before. Remembering how hard it had been yesterday, being so close to Bella in the dark, I scooted my chair farther away from her just before Mr. Banner turned out the light.
It didn’t help.
That same electric spark was ignited between us. Bella seemed tense as she leaned forward over our table and rested her chin on her folded arms. Her fingertips gripped the edge of the desk. I wondered again what she was thinking; having the answers to some of my questions only made me want to know her even more deeply. She grew more fascinating to me at each passing moment. Even though I still wished I could just read her mind, I realized in that moment that – in some ways – learning about her in this conventional way was more enjoyable. It was like putting puzzle pieces together instead of just seeing the picture. Or perhaps it was more like exploring a maze or a garden. Perhaps exploring a jungle would be a more appropriate description of her thoughts, filled with surprising exotic rarities around every corner.
… Can’t believe she likes him. Just look at him stare at her… Disgusting, Freak.
Mike interrupted my thoughts as the movie started, brightening the room slightly. He was thinking daggers at me again, but it didn’t matter anymore. I just smiled when I remembered how Bella had chosen me, said “yes” to me, and now I was the one allowed to unlock her secrets. He’d done a pretty poor job of it when he’d had the chance, and his imaginary Bella was not at all like the girl I was getting to know.
It was easy to tune him out when I was watching Bella. I wanted to touch her hair, brush it away from her face again so that I could see her eyes. The electricity between us jolted me as I thought of this, and I forced my hands to stay in their tight fists.
It would never be enough, so don’t start. No mistakes. No more mistakes.
I kept telling myself this, thinking of her delicacy, and the more I thought of her in that way, the more I wanted to feel her soft skin under my fingertips. I thought of Alice’s hazy vision of Bella in the meadow with me so close to her, but I couldn’t be sure that’s really what I saw. Knowing I wanted to be near to her could affect one of Alice’s visions, yet I’ve already decided not to make any mistakes. Could not touching her be the mistake? But what if I was only thinking that now because I was trying to give myself an excuse to allow a mistake?
Either way I shouldn’t touch her now because I’m not sure. It is always better to err on the side of caution, I told myself; yet the more I thought of touching her, the more I really knew I shouldn’t, and the more I wanted to anyway. I breathed in deeply, focusing on the burning that I felt in my throat to clear my head. It helped only marginally.
When the lights were finally turned back on, Bella sighed. I stood up, waiting for her. I couldn’t say anything as I walked her to gym. My list of questions disregarded for the moment as I tried to convince myself why I should not allow myself to touch her face again.
It was a good memory, I told myself, but that’s all you get.
My fingertips tingled again with that same fire I’d felt before, this same time yesterday, when I allowed myself to touch her face. As we approached the door to the gym, I wondered if I’d feel that same fire if her skin touched the back of my hand.
My good sense lost the battle, and I reached slowly up to her temple and stroked down to her jaw. I turned, before I could talk myself into anything more than that, and walked away. My entire hand was now on fire, and the tingle went part way up my arm.
Emmett saw me then as we walked into Spanish class together. Any new experiments with humans on your mind? he thought, chuckling, as he remembered the little performance we put on yesterday.
“Not today,” I said, still thinking about how I should not touch Bella anymore.
Wow, Emmett thought, looking at me closely. He looks different. Again.
I saw myself through Emmett’s eyes and wondered what he was talking about. “What?” I whispered under my breath.
You’ve lost your touch, man. I bet you couldn’t scare anyone now even if you wanted to. He chuckled again. Seriously, you look like Bambi did when he was in love.
I glared at him.
Oooh, like that look can scare me.
I saw my face through his mind and had to agree with his assessment. He’ll be laughing over this for the next decade.
I bet I could beat you in a fight now— even if you did cheat.
Hearing his thoughts wasn’t cheating. “Don’t count on it,” I whispered, smirking at his childish humor.
He just had time to chuckle again before class started, and we both had to feign the usual amount of attention.
When I met Bella outside of her gym class, her smile beamed up at me, and I grinned back before I launched into my cross-examination again. We’d already made it through over half of the questions that I’d compiled, and I began asking her things about her childhood.
“What activities were you interested in when you were younger?”
“I took ballet for awhile, but I was never any good at it. I think Mom was hoping to find something that would help my coordination, but the year I twisted my ankle at the big recital, she decided it was probably a lost cause.”
“I tried ice skating once.”
“And how did that go?”
“She considered putting me back in ballet.”
I laughed loudly and was happy to see her laughing with me. With every question I asked, she grew more and more animated. Perhaps one day I would be able to see a photo album or something from when she was young.
We sat in my car in front of her house while the sudden downpour blurred the scenery outside. I asked about her home in Phoenix and what things she missed. She told me about the scent of creosote, “bitter, slightly resinous, but still pleasant,” she’d said. The sound of cicadas in July, how the trees looked feathery in their barrenness, the expansive sky. Why she thought the barren landscape was so beautiful, how each shape and angle of the rocks and spiny vegetation was held in stark beauty by the sun. I was full of wonder with each passing moment as her eyes seemed to light up, as if the sun that she described was shining from their brown depths. Not even the rain that continued to pour outside the car seemed to dampen her spirits.
When she'd finished describing almost poetically the beauty of the Arizona landscape, I asked her about the house she'd grown up in. She described what her cluttered room looked like, and what books and things she left behind that she wanted to ask her mother to send to her. When she was finished telling me about her mother and how much she missed her, she looked up at me. I was thinking of all that she’d said and the life she’d left behind. She should go back to that.
“Are you finished?” She probably wondered why I didn’t have another question immediately ready, but I didn’t have much more time with her.
“Not even close—but your father will be home soon.”
“Charlie!” she gasped—then looked around bewildered, like she'd forgotten everything else in the world but us. I knew exactly how she felt. “How late is it?” she asked, and I hated to admit that our day was coming to an end.
“It's twilight,” I muttered, realizing that this used to be my favorite time of day. It meant the sun no longer hindered me or my family, and we felt freer somehow. Yet now, with Bella at my side, I found I wanted the day to keep going. She loved the sun and light, and when she was asleep, I wouldn’t be able to talk with her. Talking to her seemed to be the only thing that mattered in my life now. She was truly changing my perspective.
When I turned, seeing her curiosity, I recognized that earnest desire to know every detail of my world.
“It's the safest time of day for us,” I explained. “The easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way... the end of another day, the return of the night. Darkness is so predictable, don't you think?”
“I like the night. Without the dark, we'd never see the stars. Not that you see them here much,” she added, and I laughed at the childlike way she nearly pouted. I'd never admit it to her – I didn't want her to think I was patronizing or belittling her – but I couldn't help but find her petulance endearing. The strangest things seemed to irritate her. She’d surprised me once again by her sudden appreciation for the darkness when so much of what she missed was the warmth and sunshine.
“Charlie will be here in a few minutes. So, unless you want to tell him that you'll be with me Saturday...” I suggested, wishing hopefully the she’d help me protect her in some small way.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” she said stubbornly, grabbing her books. “So is it my turn tomorrow, then?”
“Certainly not!” I said, feigning shock. “I told you I wasn't done, didn't I?”
“What more is there?” she asked, a hint of her earlier nervousness coming back.
“You'll find out tomorrow,” I teased, reaching to open her door for her. I was just beginning to enjoy the sound of her heart racing from my close proximity when something completely unwelcome interrupted it.
This is totally out of line. The treaty should cover this. He shouldn’t be here… and with Charlie’s daughter…
“Not good,” I said under my breath, debating for a moment whether I should whisk Bella away to somewhere she wouldn't have to deal with what was surely coming. Of course, I knew that would only make things worse.
“What is it?” Bella asked worriedly.
I looked toward her and willed myself to remain calm. “Another complication,” I said, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.
Wow, awesome car… nothings stock at all on that thing… man, I wish I had the money for the part I need.
I quickly opened Bella's door and sat back firmly in my seat, determined to hold my ground steadily with Charlie so near and Billy's son beside him. This was not the time or place for a confrontation.
“Charlie's around the corner,” I said to Bella as I heard his muffled thoughts drawing closer. I was actually more concerned with the other people coming and assumed they were the Blacks. Jacob did seem to be smitten remembering Bella’s attempted flirtation to pump him for information, but I didn’t think I needed to worry about him. No, his father was the one wishing that he could interfere in our relationship.
Bella jumped out of the car, and I hated that I had to leave her there. She'd understand soon enough the necessity of it, but it didn't make it any easier to drive away. With a hard pump on the accelerator, I put as much distance between Billy and me as I could. Part of me wanted to stay behind, to make sure Billy didn't do or say anything to upset her, but I knew no good could come of my staying and listening in.
Even after I got home, I was upset with the thoughts that I’d heard in Billy’s head. After all, I hadn’t broken any treaty, even though Billy’s own son did. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I hadn’t even informed my family about how Bella was told about us. They just thought that she’d figured it out on her own. It irked me that Billy would think this was any of his business.
When I got home, I decided to calm my mind at the piano. Much to Esme's delight, I played all of her favorites, as well as the piece Bella had inspired.
Emmett and Jasper were outside wrestling the entire time I was home. Rosalie was with them, watching and giving them pointers— much to their annoyance, I realized with a smile. Alice occasionally thought of her visions of being friends with Bella, but nothing to give me any concern. Thankfully their thoughts and opinions didn’t disturb me much, and I let the music surround me until my mind turned to a more pleasant topic.
While I played, I stared at the bottle cap that I’d placed on the piano again and thought through everything that Bella had said. What was it about her that was so compelling? I realized that it was a certain spark, a passion, hidden from the unobservant, but still there, underneath everything that she loved and believed. In some ways, she was an odd blend of opposites, yet unlike myself, they weren’t warring against each other. The unlikely and unique, seemingly opposite things about her that I’d only gotten a glimpse of today, fascinated me more than anything else. The backwards way in which she seemed to think was baffling. She was utterly dissimilar to any other seventeen-year-old mind that I’d ever known.
Knowing her more fully gave me a small amount of confidence, even through my doubts, to believe that there would not be a time that I would ever hurt her. I’d come to realize that hurting her would be like hurting myself, and that was even more true now the more I grew to love her.
I could hurt her accidentally though…The thought tortured me again, but I wouldn’t do that if I could keep perfectly controlled around her.
I wondered how likely that was, if possible. I’d begun to sense so many strange and unexpected feelings around her that I didn’t know if I could trust myself. If I did allow myself to touch her again or hold her, I’d have to be concentrating the whole time on every side of my nature. Keeping the thirst back and not killing her in that way, and holding her gently enough to not crush her and kill her in that way. Add all that to balancing these new human emotions that I wasn’t used to feeling – let alone controlling.
If Alice’s blurry vision was remotely possible, this was going to take a lot of concentration. I had no way to gauge my reaction to that electricity that always sparked between us when we touched, and I was afraid that it might distract me enough to lose a measure of concentration, and then I could hurt her.
Panic overwhelmed me for an instant as I envisioned her death, that other blurry possible future in the meadow. I couldn’t let that happen above all else.
Maybe I should cancel our plans.
Edward, stop freaking out! Suddenly, Alice was thinking at me. Whatever you keep thinking about is messing up this weekend, and I wanted to say hi to Bella tomorrow! She frowned at me from across the room. Anyway, you promised I could at least meet her when we leave to go hunting after lunch.
I sighed, realizing it wasn’t helping anything to perpetuate these thoughts of indecision. I had decided today that I would ask Alice to go hunting with me tomorrow but hadn’t promised that she could officially meet Bella. She had not only seen the vision of me asking for her to join me but apparently had seen an unsaid promise too, and I let it go, nodding at Alice.
I’ll take her to my meadow on Saturday as we planned, I thought firmly. Alice smiled then and turned back to her computer. I couldn’t help smiling too. She could be extremely irritating, just like any little sister, but the camaraderie we shared always squelched any anger that I felt toward her.
Bella was counting on our time together regardless, and at any other place I wouldn’t be able to stand in the sun with her. If I didn’t keep her with me, she would probably go to Seattle like she’d originally planned, and the inevitable catastrophe waiting for her wherever she went was a given. At least if I kept her with me, I was the one in control of her safety rather than some uncaring fate. I could stand in the sun with her in two days, and she would see me for what I am.
And she would finally run, screaming at my alienness.
How could I delude myself by thinking otherwise? Really, what good was it to be so concerned with being able to hold her or not when she wouldn’t want that after seeing me anyway?
It’s bound to happen at some point.
If it were possible to walk on the edge of this painful blade without falling into either chasm of her death or the death of her soul, she would still be giving up too much by loving me. Our time together was numbered – no matter how I looked at it.
Especially after learning so much about her today, I knew that she deserved far more than anything I could give her. But she needed to know why she shouldn’t love me, and I wondered if seeing me in the sun, seeing how utterly different we are, would convince her why she should run.
I would let her go, but how will I survive if she leaves me?