Home > Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(11)

Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(11)
Stephenie Meyer

I didn't answer her, I just kept watching.

She began searching farther ahead, into the misty, unsure realm of distant possibilities. Everything was shadowy and vague.

The entire way home, the charged silence did not lift. I parked in the big garage off the house; Carlisle's Mercedes was there, next to Emmett's big jeep, Rose's M3 and my Vanquish. I was glad Carlisle was already home - this silence would end explosively, and I wanted him there when that happened.

We went straight to the dining room.

The room was, of course, never used for its intended purpose. But it was furnished with a long oval mahogany table surrounded by chairs - we were scrupulous about having all the correct props in place. Carlisle liked to use it as a conference room. In a group with such strong and disparate personalities, sometimes it was necessary to discuss things in a calm, seated manner.

I had a feeling that the setting was not going to help much today.

Carlisle sat in his usual seat at the eastern head of the room. Esme was beside him - they held hands on top of the table.

Esme's eyes were on me, their golden depths full of concern.

Stay. It was her only thought.

I wished I could smile at the woman who was truly a mother to me, but I had no reassurances for her now.

I sat on Carlisle's other side. Esme reached around him to put her free hand on my shoulder. She had no idea of what was about to start; she was just worrying about me.

Carlisle had a better sense of what was coming. His lips were pressed tightly together and his forehead was creased. The expression looked too old for his young face. As everyone else sat, I could see the lines being drawn.

Rosalie sat directly across from Carlisle, on the other end of the long table. She glared at me, never looking away.

Emmett sat beside her, his face and thoughts both wry.

Jasper hesitated, and then went to stand against the wall behind Rosalie. He was decided, regardless of the outcome of this discussion. My teeth locked together.

Alice was the last to come in, and her eyes were focused on something far away - the future, still too indistinct for her to make use of it. Without seeming to think about it, she sat next to Esme. She rubbed her forehead as if she had a headache. Jasper twitched uneasily and considered joining her, but he kept his place.

I took a deep breath. I had started this - I should speak first.

"I'm sorry," I said, looking first at Rose, then Jasper and then Emmett. "I didn't mean to put any of you at risk. It was thoughtless, and I take full responsibility for my hasty action."

Rosalie glared at me balefully. "What do you mean, 'take full responsibility'? Are you going to fix it?"

"Not the way you mean," I said, working to keep my voice even and quiet. "I'm willing to leave now, if that makes things better." If I believe that the girl will be safe, if I believe that none of you will touch her, I amended in my head.

"No," Esme murmured. "No, Edward."

I patted her hand. "It's just a few years."

"Esme's right, though," Emmett said. "You can't go anywhere now. That would be the opposite of helpful. We have to know what people are thinking, now more than ever."

"Alice will catch anything major," I disagreed. Carlisle shook his head. "I think Emmett is right, Edward. The girl will be more likely to talk if you disappear. It's all of us leave, or none of us."

"She won't say anything," I insisted quickly. Rose was building up to the explosion, and I wanted this fact out there first.

"You don't know her mind," Carlisle reminded me.

"I know this much. Alice, back me up."

Alice stared up at me wearily. "I can't see what will happen if we just ignore this." She glanced at Rose and Jasper.

No, she couldn't see that future - not when Rosalie and Jasper were so decided against ignoring the incident.

Rosalie's palm smacked down on the table with a loud bang. "We can't allow the human a chance to say anything. Carlisle, you must see that. Even if we decided to all disappear, it's not safe to leave stories behind us. We live so differently from the rest of our kind - you know there are those who would love an excuse to point fingers. We have to be more careful than anyone else!"

"We've left rumors behind us before," I reminded her.

"Just rumors and suspicions, Edward. Not eyewitnesses and evidence!"

"Evidence!" I scoffed.

But Jasper was nodding, his eyes hard.

"Rose - " Carlisle began.

"Let me finish, Carlisle. It doesn't have to be any big production. The girl hit her head today. So maybe that injury turns out to be more serious that it looked." Rosalie shrugged. "Every mortal goes to sleep with the chance of never waking up. The others would expect us to clean up after ourselves. Technically, that would make it Edward's job, but this is obviously beyond him. You know I'm capable of control. I would leave no evidence behind me."

"Yes, Rosalie, we all know how proficient an assassin you are," I snarled.

She hissed at me, furious.

"Edward, please," Carlisle said. Then he turned to Rosalie. "Rosalie, I looked the other way in Rochester because I felt that you were owed your justice. The men you killed had wronged you monstrously. This is not the same situation. The Swan girl is an innocent."

"It's not personal, Carlisle," Rosalie said through her teeth. "It's to protect us all."

There was a brief moment of silence while Carlisle thought through his answer. When he nodded, Rosalie's eyes lit up. She should have known better. Even if I hadn't been able to read his thoughts, I could have anticipated his next words. Carlisle never compromised.

"I know you mean well, Rosalie, but...I'd like very much for our family to be worth protecting. The occasional...accident or lapse in control is a regrettable part of who we are." It was very like him to include himself in the plural, though he had never had such a lapse himself. "To murder a blameless child in cold blood is another thing entirely. I believe the risk she presents, whether she speaks her suspicions or not, is nothing to the greater risk. If we make exceptions to protect ourselves, we risk something much more important. We risk losing the essence of who we are."

I controlled my expression very carefully. It wouldn't do at all to grin. Or to applaud, as I wished I could.

Rosalie scowled. "It's just being responsible."

"It's being callous," Carlisle corrected gently. "Every life is precious." Rosalie sighed heavily and her lower lip pouted out. Emmett patted her shoulder. "It'll be fine, Rose," he encouraged in a low voice.

"The question," Carlisle continued, "is whether we should move on?"

"No," Rosalie moaned. "We just got settled. I don't want to start on my sophomore year in high school again!"

"You could keep your present age, of course," Carlisle said.

"And have to move again that much sooner?" she countered.

Carlisle shrugged.

"I like it here! There's so little sun, we get to be almost normal."

"Well, we certainly don't have to decide now. We can wait and see if it becomes necessary. Edward seems certain of the Swan girl's silence."

Rosalie snorted.

But I was no longer worried about Rose. I could see that she would go along with Carlisle's decision, not matter how infuriated she was with me. Their conversation had moved on to unimportant details.

Jasper remained unmoved.

I understood why. Before he and Alice had met, he'd lived in a combat zone, a relentless theater of war. He knew the consequences of flouting the rules - he'd seen the grisly aftermath with his own eyes.

It said much that he had not tried to calm Rosalie down with his extra faculties, nor did he now try to rile her up. He was holding himself aloof from this discussion - above it.

"Jasper," I said.

He met my gaze, his face expressionless.

"She won't pay for my mistake. I won't allow that."

"She benefits from it, then? She should have died today, Edward. I would only set that right."

I repeated myself, emphasizing each word. "I will not allow it."

His eyebrows shot up. He wasn't expecting this - he hadn't imagined that I would act to stop him.

He shook his head once. "I won't let Alice live in danger, even a slight danger. You don't feel about anyone the way I feel about her, Edward, and you haven't lived through what I've lived through, whether you've seen my memories or not. You don't understand."

"I'm not disputing that, Jasper. But I'm telling you now, I won't allow you to hurt Isabella Swan."

We stared at each other - not glaring, but measuring the opposition. I felt him sample the mood around me, testing my determination.

"Jazz," Alice said, interrupting us.

He held my gaze for a moment more, and then looked at her. "Don't bother telling me you can protect yourself, Alice. I already know that. I've still got to - " "That's not what I'm going say," Alice interrupted. "I was going to ask you for a favor."

I saw what was on her mind, and my mouth fell open with an audible gasp. I stared at her, shocked, only vaguely aware that everyone besides Alice and Jasper was now eyeing me warily.

"I know you love me. Thanks. But I would really appreciate it if you didn't try to kill Bella. First of all, Edward's serious and I don't want you two fighting. Secondly, she's my friend. At least, she's going to be."

It was clear as glass in her head: Alice, smiling, with her icy white arm around the girl's warm, fragile shoulders. And Bella was smiling, too, her arm around Alice's waist. The vision was rock solid; only the timing of it was unsure.

"But...Alice..." Jasper gasped. I couldn't manage to turn my head to see his expression. I couldn't tear myself away from the image in Alice's head in order to hear his.

"I'm going to love her someday, Jazz. I'll be very put out with you if you don't let her be."

I was still locked into Alice's thoughts. I saw the future shimmer as Jasper's resolve floundered in the face of her unexpected request.

"Ah," she sighed - his indecision had cleared a new future. "See? Bella's not going to say anything. There's nothing to worry about."

The way she said the girl's name...like they were already close confidants... "Alice," I choked. "What...does this...?"

"I told you there was a change coming. I don't know, Edward." But she locked her jaw, and I could see that there was more. She was trying not to think about it; she was focusing very hard on Jasper suddenly, though he was too stunned to have progressed much in his decision making.

She did this sometimes when she was trying to keep something from me. "What, Alice? What are you hiding?"

I heard Emmett grumble. He always got frustrated when Alice and I had these kinds of conversations.

She shook her head, trying to not let me in.

"Is it about the girl?" I demanded. "Is it about Bella?"

She had her teeth gritted in concentration, but when I spoke Bella's name, she slipped. Her slip only lasted the tiniest portion of a second, but that was long enough. "NO!" I shouted. I heard my chair hit the floor, and only then realized I was on my feet.

"Edward!" Carlisle was on his feet, too, his arm on my shoulder. I was barely aware of him.

"It's solidifying," Alice whispered. "Every minute you're more decided.

There're really only two ways left for her. It's one or the other, Edward." I could see what she saw...but I could not accept it.

"No," I said again; there was no volume to my denial. My legs felt hollow, and I had to brace myself against the table.

"Will somebody please let the rest of us in on the mystery?" Emmett complained. "I have to leave," I whispered to Alice, ignoring him.

"Edward, we've already been over that," Emmett said loudly. "That's the best way to start the girl talking. Besides, if you take off, we won't know for sure if she's talking or not. You have to stay and deal with this."

"I don't see you going anywhere, Edward," Alice told me. "I don't know if you can leave anymore." Think about it, she added silently. Think about leaving.

I saw what she meant. Yes, the idea of never seeing the girl again was...painful.

But it was also necessary. I couldn't sanction either future I'd apparently condemned her to.

I'm not entirely sure of Jasper, Edward, Alice went on. If you leave, if he thinks she's a danger to us...

"I don't hear that," I contradicted her, still only halfway aware of our audience. Jasper was wavering. He would not do something that would hurt Alice.

Not right this moment. Will you risk her life, leave her undefended? "Why are you doing this to me?" I groaned. My head fell into my hands. I was not Bella's protector. I could not be that. Wasn't Alice's divided future enough proof of that?

I love her, too. Or I will. It's not the same, but I want her around for that. "Love her, too?" I whispered, incredulous.

She sighed. You are so blind, Edward. Can't you see where you're headed?

Can't you see where you already are? It's more inevitable than the sun rising in the east. See what I see...

I shook my head, horrified. "No." I tried to shut out the visions she revealed to me. "I don't have to follow that course. I'll leave. I will change the future." "You can try," she said, her voice skeptical.

"Oh, come on!" Emmett bellowed.

"Pay attention," Rose hissed at him. "Alice sees him falling for a human! How classically Edward!" She made a gagging sound.

I scarcely heard her.

"What?" Emmett said, startled. Then his booming laugh echoed through the room. "Is that what's been going on?" He laughed again. "Tough break, Edward."

I felt his hand on my shoulder, and I shook it off absently. I couldn't pay attention to him.

"Fall for a human?" Esme repeated in a stunned voice. "For the girl he saved today? Fall in love with her?"

"What do you see, Alice? Exactly," Jasper demanded.

She turned toward him; I continued to stare numbly at the side of her face.

"It all depends on whether he is strong enough or not. Either he'll kill her himself" - she turned to meet my gaze again, glaring - "which would really irritate me, Edward, not to mention what it would do to you - " she faced Jasper again, "or she'll be one of us someday."

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