Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5) by Stephenie Meyer

1. First Sight

This was the time of day when I wished I were able to sleep.

High school.

Or was purgatory the right word? If there was any way to atone for my sins, this ought to count toward the tally in some measure. The tedium was not something I grew used to; every day seemed more impossibly monotonous than the last.

I suppose this was my form of sleep - if sleep was defined as the inert state between active periods.

I stared at the cracks running through the plaster in the far corner of the cafeteria, imagining patterns into them that were not there. It was one way to tune out the voices that babbled like the gush of a river inside my head.

Several hundred of these voices I ignored out of boredom.

When it came to the human mind, I'd heard it all before and then some. Today, all thoughts were consumed with the trivial drama of a new addition to the small student body here. It took so little to work them all up. I'd seen the new face repeated in thought after thought from every angle. Just an ordinary human girl. The excitement over her arrival was tiresomely predictable - like flashing a shiny object at a child. Half the sheep-like males were already imagining themselves in love with her, just because she was something new to look at. I tried harder to tune them out.

Only four voices did I block out of courtesy rather than distaste: my family, my two brothers and two sisters, who were so used to the lack of privacy in my presence that they rarely gave it a thought. I gave them what privacy I could. I tried not to listen if I could help it.

Try as I may, still...I knew. Rosalie was thinking, as usual, about herself. She'd caught sight of her profile in the reflection off someone's glasses, and she was mulling over her own perfection. Rosalie's mind was a shallow pool with few surprises.

Emmett was fuming over a wrestling match he'd lost to Jasper during the night. It would take all his limited patience to make it to the end of the school day to orchestrate a rematch. I never really felt intrusive hearing Emmett's thoughts, because he never thought one thing that he would not say aloud or put into action. Perhaps I only felt guilty reading the others' minds because I knew there were things there that they wouldn't want me to know. If Rosalie's mind was a shallow pool, then Emmett's was a lake with no shadows, glass clear.

And Jasper was...suffering. I suppressed a sigh.

Edward. Alice called my name in her head, and had my attention at once.

It was just the same as having my name called aloud. I was glad my given name had fallen out of style lately - it had been annoying; anytime anyone thought of any Edward, my head would turn automatically...

My head didn't turn now. Alice and I were good at these private conversations. It was rare that anyone caught us. I kept my eyes on the lines in the plaster. How is he holding up? she asked me.

I frowned, just a small change in the set of my mouth. Nothing that would tip the others off. I could easily be frowning out of boredom.

Alice's mental tone was alarmed now, and I saw in her mind that she was watching Jasper in her peripheral vision. Is there any danger? She searched ahead, into the immediate future, skimming through visions of monotony for the source behind my frown.

I turned my head slowly to the left, as if looking at the bricks of the wall, sighed, and then to the right, back to the cracks in the ceiling. Only Alice knew I was shaking my head.

She relaxed. Let me know if it gets too bad.

I moved only my eyes, up to the ceiling above, and back down.

Thanks for doing this.

I was glad I couldn't answer her aloud. What would I say? 'My pleasure'? It was hardly that. I didn't enjoy listening to Jasper's struggles. Was it really necessary to experiment like this? Wouldn't the safer path be to just admit that he might never be able to handle the thirst the way the rest of us could, and not push his limits? Why flirt with disaster?

It had been two weeks since our last hunting trip. That was not an immensely difficult time span for the rest of us. A little uncomfortable occasionally - if a human walked too close, if the wind blew the wrong way. But humans rarely walked too close. Their instincts told them what their conscious minds would never understand: we were dangerous.

Jasper was very dangerous right now.

At that moment, a small girl paused at the end of the closest table to ours,stopping to talk to a friend. She tossed her short, sandy hair, running her fingers throughit. The heaters blew her scent in our direction. I was used to the way that scent made mefeel - the dry ache in my throat, the hollow yearn in my stomach, the automatictightening of my muscles, the excess flow of venom in my mouth...

This was all quite normal, usually easy to ignore. It was harder just now, with thefeelings stronger, doubled, as I monitored Jasper's reaction. Twin thirsts, rather than justmine.

Jasper was letting his imagination get away from him. He was picturing it - picturing himself getting up from his seat next to Alice and going to stand beside the littlegirl. Thinking of leaning down and in, as if he were going to whisper in her ear, andletting his lips touch the arch of her throat. Imagining how the hot flow of her pulsebeneath the fine skin would feel under his mouth...

I kicked his chair.

He met my gaze for a minute, and then looked down. I could hear shame andrebellion war in his head.

"Sorry," Jasper muttered.

I shrugged.

"You weren't going to do anything," Alice murmured to him, soothing hischagrin. "I could see that."

I fought back the grimace that would give her lie away. We had to stick together,Alice and I. It wasn't easy, hearing voices or seeing visions of the future. Both freaksamong those who were already freaks. We protected each other's secrets.

"It helps a little if you think of them as people," Alice suggested, her high,musical voice too fast for human ears to understand, if any had been close enough tohear. "Her name is Whitney. She has a baby sister she adores. Her mother invited Esmeto that garden party, do you remember?"

"I know who she is," Jasper said curtly. He turned away to stare out one of thesmall windows that were spaced just under the eaves around the long room. His toneended the conversation.

He would have to hunt tonight. It was ridiculous to take risks like this, trying totest his strength, to build his endurance. Jasper should just accept his limitations andwork within them. His former habits were not conducive to our chosen lifestyle; heshouldn't push himself in this way.

Alice sighed silently and stood, taking her tray of food - her prop, as it were - with her and leaving him alone. She knew when he'd had enough of her encouragement.Though Rosalie and Emmett were more flagrant about their relationship, it was Alice andJasper who knew each other's every mood as well as their own. As if they could readminds, too - only just each other's.

Edward Cullen.

Reflex reaction. I turned to the sound of my name being called, though it wasn'tbeing called, just thought.

My eyes locked for a small portion of a second with a pair of wide, chocolatebrownhuman eyes set in a pale, heart-shaped face. I knew the face, though I'd neverseen it myself before this moment. It had been foremost in every human head today. Thenew student, Isabella Swan. Daughter of the town's chief of police, brought to live hereby some new custody situation. Bella. She'd corrected everyone who'd used her fullname...

I looked away, bored. It took me a second to realize that she had not been the oneto think my name.

Of course she's already crushing on the Cullens, I heard the first thoughtcontinue.

Now I recognized the 'voice.' Jessica Stanley - it had been a while since she'dbothered me with her internal chatter. What a relief it had been when she'd gotten overher misplaced infatuation. It used to be nearly impossible to escape her constant,ridiculous daydreams. I'd wished, at the time, that I could explain to her exactly whatwould have happened if my lips, and the teeth behind them, had gotten anywhere nearher. That would have silenced those annoying fantasies. The thought of her reactionalmost made me smile.

Fat lot of good it will do her, Jessica went on. She's really not even pretty. Idon't know why Eric is staring so much...or Mike.

She winced mentally on the last name. Her new infatuation, the genericallypopular Mike Newton, was completely oblivious to her. Apparently, he was not asoblivious to the new girl. Like the child with the shiny object again. This put a meanedge to Jessica's thoughts, though she was outwardly cordial to the newcomer as sheexplained to her the commonly held knowledge about my family. The new student musthave asked about us.

Everyone's looking at me today, too, Jessica thought smugly in an aside. Isn't itlucky Bella had two classes with me...I'll bet Mike will want to ask me what she's - I tried to block the inane chatter out of my head before the petty and the trivialcould drive me mad.

"Jessica Stanley is giving the new Swan girl all the dirty laundry on the Cullenclan," I murmured to Emmett as a distraction.

He chuckled under his breath. I hope she's making it good, he thought.

"Rather unimaginative, actually. Just the barest hint of scandal. Not an ounce ofhorror. I'm a little disappointed."

And the new girl? Is she disappointed in the gossip as well?

I listened to hear what this new girl, Bella, thought of Jessica's story. What didshe see when she looked at the strange, chalky-skinned family that was universallyavoided?

It was sort of my responsibility to know her reaction. I acted as a lookout, forlack of a better word, for my family. To protect us. If anyone ever grew suspicious, Icould give us early warning and an easy retreat. It happened occasionally - some humanwith an active imagination would see in us the characters of a book or a movie. Usuallythey got it wrong, but it was better to move on somewhere new than to risk scrutiny.

Very, very rarely, someone would guess right. We didn't give them a chance to test theirhypothesis. We simply disappeared, to become no more than a frightening memory...I heard nothing, though I listened close beside where Jessica's frivolous internalmonologue continued to gush. It was as if there was no one sitting beside her. Howpeculiar, had the girl moved? That didn't seem likely, as Jessica was still babbling to her.I looked up to check, feeling off-balance. Checking on what my extra 'hearing' could tellme - it wasn't something I ever had to do.

Again, my gaze locked on those same wide brown eyes. She was sitting rightwhere she had been before, and looking at us, a natural thing to be doing, I supposed, asJessica was still regaling her with the local gossip about the Cullens.Thinking about us, too, would be natural.

But I couldn't hear a whisper.

Inviting warm red stained her cheeks as she looked down, away from theembarrassing gaffe of getting caught staring at a stranger. It was good that Jasper wasstill gazing out the window. I didn't like to imagine what that easy pooling of bloodwould do to his control.

The emotions had been as clear on her face as if they were spelled out in wordsacross her forehead: surprise, as she unknowingly absorbed the signs of the subtledifferences between her kind and mine, curiosity, as she listened to Jessica's tale, andsomething more...fascination? It wouldn't be the first time. We were beautiful to them,our intended prey. Then, finally, embarrassment as I caught her staring at me.

And yet, though her thoughts had been so clear in her odd eyes - odd, because ofthe depth to them; brown eyes often seemed flat in their darkness - I could hear nothingbut silence from the place she was sitting. Nothing at all.

I felt a moment of unease.

This was nothing I'd ever encountered before. Was there something wrong withme? I felt exactly the same as I always did. Worried, I listened harder.All the voices I'd been blocking were suddenly shouting in my head....wonder what music she likes...maybe I could mention that new CD... MikeNewton was thinking, two tables away - fixated on Bella Swan.

Look at him staring at her. Isn't it enough that he has half the girls in schoolwaiting for him to... Eric Yorkie was thinking sulfurous thoughts, also revolving aroundthe girl.

...so disgusting. You'd think she was famous or something... Even Edward Cullen, staring... Lauren Mallory was so jealous that her face, by all rights, should be dark jade in color. And Jessica, flaunting her new best friend. What a joke... Vitriol continued to spew from the girl's thoughts.

...I bet everyone has asked her that. But I'd like to talk to her. I'll think of a more original question... Ashley Dowling mused.

...maybe she'll be in my Spanish... June Richardson hoped.

...tons left to do tonight! Trig, and the English test. I hope my mom... Angela Weber, a quiet girl, whose thoughts were unusually kind, was the only one at the table who wasn't obsessed with this Bella.

I could hear them all, hear every insignificant thing they were thinking as it passed through their minds. But nothing at all from the new student with the deceptively communicative eyes.

And, of course, I could hear what the girl said when she spoke to Jessica. I didn't have to read minds to be able to hear her low, clear voice on the far side of the long room. "Which one is the boy with the reddish brown hair?" I heard her ask, sneaking a look at me from the corner of her eye, only to look quickly away when she saw that I was still staring.

If I'd had time to hope that hearing the sound of her voice would help me pinpoint the tone of her thoughts, lost somewhere where I couldn't access them, I was instantly disappointed. Usually, people's thoughts came to them in a similar pitch as their physical voices. But this quiet, shy voice was unfamiliar, not one of the hundreds of thoughts bouncing around the room, I was sure of that. Entirely new.

Oh, good luck, idiot! Jessica thought before answering the girl's question. "That's Edward. He's gorgeous, of course, but don't waste your time. He doesn't date. Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him." She sniffed. I turned my head away to hide my smile. Jessica and her classmates had no idea how lucky they were that none of them particularly appealed to me.

Beneath the transient humor, I felt a strange impulse, one I did not clearly understand. It had something to do with the vicious edge to Jessica's thoughts that the new girl was unaware of... I felt the strangest urge to step in between them, to shield this Bella Swan from the darker workings of Jessica's mind. What an odd thing to feel. Trying to ferret out the motivations behind the impulse, I examined the new girl one more time.

Perhaps it was just some long buried protective instinct - the strong for the weak. This girl looked more fragile than her new classmates. Her skin was so translucent it was hard to believe it offered her much defense from the outside world. I could see the rhythmic pulse of blood through her veins under the clear, pale membrane... But I should not concentrate on that. I was good at this life I'd chosen, but I was just as thirsty as Jasper and there was no point in inviting temptation.