Home > Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(4)

Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(4)
Stephenie Meyer

Would have been, if I'd been able to really see it.

It wasn't getting any better. Six days had passed, six days I'd hidden here in the empty Denali wilderness, but I was no closer to freedom than I had been since the first moment that I'd caught her scent.

When I stared up at the jeweled sky, it was as if there were an obstruction between my eyes and their beauty. The obstruction was a face, just an unremarkable human face, but I couldn't quite seem to banish it from my mind.

I heard the approaching thoughts before I heard the footsteps that accompanied them. The sound of movement was only a faint whisper against the powder.

I was not surprised that Tanya had followed me here. I knew she'd been mulling over this coming conversation for the last few days, putting it off until she was sure of exactly what she wanted to say.

She sprang into sight about sixty yards away, leaping onto the tip of an outcropping of black rock and balancing there on the balls of her bare feet.

Tanya's skin was silver in the starlight, and her long blond curls shone pale, almost pink with their strawberry tint. Her amber eyes glinted as she spied me, halfburied in the snow, and her full lips stretched slowly into a smile.

Exquisite. If I'd really been able to see her. I sighed.

She crouched down on the point of the stone, her fingertips touching the rock, her body coiled.

Cannonball, she thought.

She launched herself into the air; her shape became a dark, twisting shadow as she spun gracefully between me and the stars. She curled herself into a ball just as she struck the piled snow bank beside me.

A blizzard of snow flew up around me. The stars went black and I was buried deep in the feathery ice crystals.

I sighed again, but didn't move to unearth myself. The blackness under the snow neither hurt nor improved the view. I still saw the same face.

"Edward?"

Then snow was flying again as Tanya swiftly disinterred me. She brushed the powder from my unmoving face, not quite meeting my eyes.

"Sorry," she murmured. "It was a joke."

"I know. It was funny."

Her mouth twisted down.

"Irina and Kate said I should leave you alone. They think I'm annoying you." "Not at all," I assured her. "On the contrary, I'm the one who's being rude - abominably rude. I'm very sorry."

You're going home, aren't you? she thought.

"I haven't...entirely...decided that yet."

But you're not staying here. Her thought was wistful now, sad.

"No. It doesn't seem to be...helping."

She grimaced. "That's my fault, isn't it?"

"Of course not," I lied smoothly.

Don't be a gentleman.

I smiled.

I make you uncomfortable, she accused.

"No."

She raised one eyebrow, her expression so disbelieving that I had to laugh. One short laugh, followed by another sigh.

"All right," I admitted. "A little bit."

She sighed, too, and put her chin in her hands. Her thoughts were chagrined.

"You're a thousand times lovelier than the stars, Tanya. Of course, you're already well aware of that. Don't let my stubbornness undermine your confidence." I chuckled at the unlikeliness of that.

"I'm not used to rejection," she grumbled, her lower lip pushing out into an attractive pout.

"Certainly not," I agreed, trying with little success to block out her thoughts as she fleetingly sifted through memories of her thousands of successful conquests. Mostly Tanya preferred human men - they were much more populous for one thing, with the added advantage of being soft and warm. And always eager, definitely.

"Succubus," I teased, hoping to interrupt the images flickering in her head. She grinned, flashing her teeth. "The original."

Unlike Carlisle, Tanya and her sisters had discovered their consciences slowly. In the end, it was their fondness for human men that turned the sisters against the slaughter. Now the men they loved...lived.

"When you showed up here," Tanya said slowly. "I thought that..." I'd known what she'd thought. And I should have guessed that she would have felt that way. But I hadn't been at my best for analytical thinking in that moment.

"You thought that I'd changed my mind."

"Yes." She scowled.

"I feel horrible for toying with your expectations, Tanya. I didn't mean to - I wasn't thinking. It's just that I left in...quite a hurry."

"I don't suppose you'd tell me why...?"

I sat up and wrapped my arms around my legs, curling defensively. "I don't want to talk about it."

Tanya, Irina and Kate were very good at this life they'd committed to. Better, in some ways, than even Carlisle. Despite the insanely close proximity they allowed themselves with those who should be - and once were - their prey, they did not make mistakes. I was too ashamed to admit my weakness to Tanya.

"Woman troubles?" she guessed, ignoring my reluctance.

I laughed a bleak laugh. "Not the way you mean it."

She was quiet then. I listened to her thoughts as she ran through different guesses, tried to decipher the meaning of my words.

"You're not even close," I told her.

"One hint?" she asked.

"Please let it go, Tanya."

She was quiet again, still speculating. I ignored her, trying in vain to appreciate the stars.

She gave up after a silent moment, and her thoughts pursued a new direction.

Where will you go, Edward, if you leave? Back to Carlisle?

"I don't think so," I whispered.

Where would I go? I could not think of one place on the entire planet that held any interest for me. There was nothing I wanted to see or do. Because, no matter where I went, I would not be going to anywhere - I would only be running from.

I hated that. When had I become such a coward?

Tanya threw her slender arm around my shoulders. I stiffened, but did not flinch out from under her touch. She meant it as nothing more than friendly comfort. Mostly. "I think that you will go back," she said, her voice taking on just a hint of her long lost Russian accent. "No matter what it is...or who it is...that is haunting you. You'll face it head on. You're the type."

Her thoughts were as certain as her words. I tried to embrace the vision of myself that she carried in her head. The one who faced things head on. It was pleasant to think of myself that way again. I'd never doubted my courage, my ability to face difficulty, before that horrible hour in a high school biology class such a short time ago.

I kissed her cheek, pulling back swiftly when she twisted her face toward mine, her lips already puckered. She smiled ruefully at my quickness.

"Thank you, Tanya. I needed to hear that."

Her thoughts turned petulant. "You're welcome, I guess. I wish you would be more reasonable about things, Edward."

"I'm sorry, Tanya. You know you're too good for me. I just...haven't found what I'm looking for yet."

"Well, if you leave before I see you again...goodbye, Edward."

"Goodbye, Tanya." As I said the words, I could see it. I could see myself leaving. Being strong enough to go back to the one place where I wanted to be. "Thanks again."

She was on her feet in one nimble move, and then she was running away, ghosting across the snow so quickly that her feet had no time to sink into the snow; she left no prints behind her. She didn't look back. My rejection bothered her more than she'd let on before, even in her thoughts. She wouldn't want to see me again before I left.

My mouth twisted with chagrin. I didn't like hurting Tanya, though her feelings were not deep, hardly pure, and, in any case, not something I could return. It still made me feel less than a gentleman.

I put my chin on my knees and stared up at the stars again, though I was suddenly anxious to be on my way. I knew that Alice would see me coming home, that she would tell the others. This would make them happy - Carlisle and Esme especially. But I gazed at the stars for one more moment, trying to see past the face in my head. Between me and the brilliant lights in the sky, a pair of bewildered chocolate-brown eyes stared back at me, seeming to ask what this decision would mean for her. Of course, I couldn't be sure if that was really the information her curious eyes sought. Even in my imagination, I couldn't hear her thoughts. Bella Swan's eyes continued to question, and an unobstructed view of the stars continued to elude me. With a heavy sigh, I gave up, and got to my feet. If I ran, I would be back to Carlisle's car in less than an hour...

In a hurry to see my family - and wanting very much to be the Edward that faced things head on - I raced across the starlit snowfield, leaving no footprints.

"It's going to be okay," Alice breathed. Her eyes were unfocused, and Jasper had one hand lightly under her elbow, guiding her forward as we walked into the rundown cafeteria in a close group. Rosalie and Emmett led the way, Emmett looking ridiculously like a bodyguard in the middle of hostile territory. Rose looked wary, too, but much more irritated than protective.

"Of course it is," I grumbled. Their behavior was ludicrous. If I wasn't positive that I could handle this moment, I would have stayed home.

The sudden shift from our normal, even playful morning - it had snowed in the night, and Emmett and Jasper were not above taking advantage of my distraction to bombard me with slushballs; when they got bored with my lack of response, they'd turned on each other - to this overdone vigilance would have been comical if it weren't so irritating.

"She's not here yet, but the way she's going to come in...she won't be downwind if we sit in our regular spot."

"Of course we'll sit in our regular spot. Stop it, Alice. You're getting on my nerves. I'll be absolutely fine."

She blinked once as Jasper helped her into her seat, and her eyes finally focused on my face.

"Hmm," she said, sounding surprised. "I think you're right."

"Of course I am," I muttered.

I hated being the focus of their concern. I felt a sudden sympathy for Jasper, remembering all the times we'd hovered protectively over him. He met my glance briefly, and grinned.

Annoying, isn't it?

I grimaced at him.

Was it just last week that this long, drab room had seemed so killingly dull to me? That it had seemed almost like sleep, like a coma, to be here?

Today my nerves were stretched tight - piano wires, tensed to sing at the lightest pressure. My senses were hyper-alert; I scanned every sound, every sight, every movement of the air that touched my skin, every thought. Especially the thoughts. There was only one sense that I kept locked down, refused to use. Smell, of course. I didn't breathe.

I was expecting to hear more about the Cullens in the thoughts that I sifted through. All day I'd been waiting, searching for whichever new acquaintance Bella Swan might have confided in, trying to see the direction the new gossip would take. But there was nothing. No one noticed the five vampires in the cafeteria, just the same as before the new girl had come. Several of the humans here were still thinking of that girl, still thinking the same thoughts from last week. Instead of finding this unutterably boring, I was now fascinated.

Had she said nothing to anyone about me?

There was no way that she had not noticed my black, murderous glare. I had seen her react to it. Surely, I'd scared her silly. I had been convinced that she would have mentioned it to someone, maybe even exaggerated the story a bit to make it better. Given me a few menacing lines.

And then, she'd also heard me trying to get out of our shared biology class. She must have wondered, after seeing my expression, whether she were the cause. A normal girl would have asked around, compared her experience to others, looked for common ground that would explain my behavior so she didn't feel singled out. Humans were constantly desperate to feel normal, to fit in. To blend in with everyone else around them, like a featureless flock of sheep. The need was particularly strong during the insecure adolescent years. This girl would be no exception to that rule.

But no one at all took any notice of us sitting here, at our normal table. Bella must be exceptionally shy, if she'd confided in no one. Perhaps she had spoken to her father, maybe that was the strongest relationship...though that seemed unlikely, given the fact that she had spent so little time with him throughout her life. She would be closer to her mother. Still, I would have to pass by Chief Swan sometime soon and listen to what he was thinking.

"Anything new?" Jasper asked.

"Nothing. She...must not have said anything."

All of them raised an eyebrow at this news.

"Maybe you're not as scary as you think you are," Emmett said, chuckling. "I bet I could have frightened her better than that."

I rolled my eyes at him.

"Wonder why...?" He puzzled again over my revelation about the girl's unique silence.

"We've been over that. I don't know."

"She's coming in," Alice murmured then. I felt my body go rigid. "Try to look human."

"Human, you say?" Emmett asked.

He held up his right fist, twisting his fingers to reveal the snowball he'd saved in his palm. Of course it had not melted there. He'd squeezed it into a lumpy block of ice. He had his eyes on Jasper, but I saw the direction of his thoughts. So did Alice, of course. When he abruptly hurled the ice chunk at her, she flicked it away with a casual flutter of her fingers. The ice ricocheted across the length of the cafeteria, too fast to be visible to human eyes, and shattered with a sharp crack against the brick wall. The brick cracked, too.

The heads in that corner of the room all turned to stare at the pile of broken ice on the floor, and then swiveled to find the culprit. They didn't look further than a few tables away. No one looked at us.

"Very human, Emmett," Rosalie said scathingly. "Why don't you punch through the wall while you're at it?"

"It would look more impressive if you did it, baby."

I tried to pay attention to them, keeping a grin fixed on my face like I was part of their banter. I did not allow myself to look toward the line where I knew she was standing. But that was all that I was listening to.

I could hear Jessica's impatience with the new girl, who seemed to be distracted, too, standing motionless in the moving line. I saw, in Jessica's thoughts, that Bella Swan's cheeks were once more colored bright pink with blood.

I pulled in short, shallow breaths, ready to quit breathing if any hint of her scent touched the air near me.

Mike Newton was with the two girls. I heard both his voices, mental and verbal, when he asked Jessica what was wrong with the Swan girl. I didn't like the way his thoughts wrapped around her, the flicker of already established fantasies that clouded his mind while he watched her start and look up from her reverie like she'd forgotten he was there.

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