Home > Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(5)

Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(5)
Stephenie Meyer

"Nothing," I heard Bella say in that quiet, clear voice. It seemed to ring like a bell over the babble in the cafeteria, but I knew that was just because I was listening for it so intently.

"I'll just get a soda today," she continued as she moved to catch up with the line. I couldn't help flickering one glance in her direction. She was staring at the floor, the blood slowly fading from her face. I looked away quickly, to Emmett, who laughed at the now pained-looking smile on my face.

You look sick, bro.

I rearranged my features so the expression would seem casual and effortless. Jessica was wondering aloud about the girl's lack of appetite. "Aren't you hungry?"

"Actually, I feel a little sick." Her voice was lower, but still very clear. Why did it bother me, the protective concern that suddenly emanated from Mike Newton's thoughts? What did it matter that there was a possessive edge to them? It wasn't my business if Mike Newton felt unnecessarily anxious for her. Perhaps this was the way everyone responded to her. Hadn't I wanted, instinctively, to protect her, too? Before I'd wanted to kill her, that is...

But was the girl ill?

It was hard to judge - she looked so delicate with her translucent skin... Then I realized that I was worrying, too, just like that dimwitted boy, and I forced myself not to think about her health.

Regardless, I didn't like monitoring her through Mike's thoughts. I switched to Jessica's, watching carefully as the three of them chose which table to sit at. Fortunately, they sat with Jessica's usual companions, at one of the first tables in the room. Not downwind, just as Alice had promised.

Alice elbowed me. She's going to look soon, act human.

I clenched my teeth behind my grin.

"Ease up, Edward," Emmett said. "Honestly. So you kill one human. That's hardly the end of the world."

"You would know," I murmured.

Emmett laughed. "You've got to learn to get over things. Like I do. Eternity is a long time to wallow in guilt."

Just then, Alice tossed a smaller handful of ice that she'd been hiding into Emmett's unsuspecting face.

He blinked, surprised, and then grinned in anticipation.

"You asked for it," he said as he leaned across the table and shook his iceencrusted hair in her direction. The snow, melting in the warm room, flew out from his hair in a thick shower of half-liquid, half-ice.

"Ew!" Rose complained, as she and Alice recoiled from the deluge.

Alice laughed, and we all joined in. I could see in Alice's head how she'd orchestrated this perfect moment, and I knew that the girl - I should stop thinking of her that way, as if she were the only girl in the world - that Bella would be watching us laugh and play, looking as happy and human and unrealistically ideal as a Norman Rockwell painting.

Alice kept laughing, and held her tray up as a shield. The girl - Bella must still be staring at us.

...staring at the Cullens again, someone thought, catching my attention.

I looked automatically toward the unintentional call, realizing as my eyes found their destination that I recognized the voice - I'd been listening to it so much today. But my eyes slid right past Jessica, and focused on the girl's penetrating gaze. She looked down quickly, hiding behind her thick hair again.

What was she thinking? The frustration seemed to be getting more acute as time went on, rather than dulling. I tried - uncertain in what I was doing for I'd never tried this before - to probe with my mind at the silence around her. My extra hearing had always come to me naturally, without asking; I'd never had to work at it. But I concentrated now, trying to break through whatever shield surrounded her.

Nothing but silence.

What is it about her? Jessica thought, echoing my own frustration.

"Edward Cullen is staring at you," she whispered in the Swan girl's ear, adding a giggle. There was no hint of her jealous irritation in her tone. Jessica seemed to be skilled at feigning friendship.

I listened, too engrossed, to the girl's response.

"He doesn't look angry, does he?" she whispered back.

So she had noticed my wild reaction last week. Of course she had.

The question confused Jessica. I saw my own face in her thoughts as she checked my expression, but I did not meet her glance. I was still concentrating on the girl, trying to hear something. My intent focus didn't seem to be helping at all.

"No," Jess told her, and I knew that she wished she could say yes - how it rankled inside her, my staring - though there was no trace of that in her voice. "Should he be?" "I don't think he likes me," the girl whispered back, laying her head down on her arm as if she were suddenly tired. I tried to understand the motion, but I could only make guesses. Maybe she was tired.

"The Cullens don't like anybody," Jess reassured her. "Well, they don't notice anybody enough to like them." They never used to. Her thought was a grumble of complaint. "But he's still staring at you."

"Stop looking at him," the girl said anxiously, lifting her head from her arm to make sure Jessica obeyed the order.

Jessica giggled, but did as she was asked.

The girl did not look away from her table for the rest of the hour. I thought - though, of course, I could not be sure - that this was deliberate. It seemed like she wanted to look at me. Her body would shift slightly in my direction, her chin would begin to turn, and then she would catch herself, take a deep breath, and stare fixedly at whoever was speaking.

I ignored the other thoughts around the girl for the most part, as they were not, momentarily, about her. Mike Newton was planning a snow fight in the parking lot after school, not seeming to realize that the snow had already shifted to rain. The flutter of soft flakes against the roof had become the more common patter of raindrops. Could he really not hear the change? It seemed loud to me.

When the lunch period ended, I stayed in my seat. The humans filed out, and I caught myself trying to distinguish the sound of her footsteps from the sound of the rest, as if there was something important or unusual about them. How stupid.

My family made no move to leave, either. They waited to see what I would do.

Would I go to class, sit beside the girl where I could smell the absurdly potent scent of her blood and feel the warmth of her pulse in the air on my skin? Was I strong enough for that? Or had I had enough for one day?

"I...think it's okay," Alice said, hesitant. "Your mind is set. I think you'll make it through the hour."

But Alice knew well how quickly a mind could change.

"Why push it, Edward?" Jasper asked. Though he didn't want to feel smug that I was the one who was weak now, I could hear that he did, just a little. "Go home. Take it slow."

"What's the big deal?" Emmett disagreed. "Either he will or he won't kill her. Might as well get it over with, either way."

"I don't want to move yet," Rosalie complained. "I don't want to start over. We're almost out of high school, Emmett. Finally."

I was evenly torn on the decision. I wanted, wanted badly, to face this head on rather than running away again. But I didn't want to push myself too far, either. It had been a mistake last week for Jasper to go so long without hunting; was this just as pointless a mistake?

I didn't want to uproot my family. None of them would thank me for that.

But I wanted to go to my biology class. I realized that I wanted to see her face again.

That's what decided it for me. That curiosity. I was angry with myself for feeling it. Hadn't I promised myself that I wouldn't let the silence of the girl's mind make me unduly interested in her? And yet, here I was, most unduly interested.

I wanted to know what she was thinking. Her mind was closed, but her eyes were very open. Perhaps I could read them instead.

"No, Rose, I think it really will be okay," Alice said. "It's...firming up. I'm ninety-three percent sure that nothing bad will happen if he goes to class." She looked at me inquisitively, wondering what had changed in my thoughts that made her vision of the future more secure.

Would curiosity be enough to keep Bella Swan alive?

Emmett was right, though - why not get it over with, either way? I would face the temptation head on.

"Go to class," I ordered, pushing away from the table. I turned and strode away from them without looking back. I could hear Alice's worry, Jasper's censure, Emmett's approval, and Rosalie's irritation trailing after me.

I took one last deep breath at the door of the classroom, and then held it in my lungs as I walked into the small, warm space.

I was not late. Mr. Banner was still setting up for today's lab. The girl sat at my - at our table, her face down again, staring at the folder she was doodling on. I examined the sketch as I approached, interested in even this trivial creation of her mind, but it was meaningless. Just a random scribbling of loops within loops. Perhaps she was not concentrating on the pattern, but thinking of something else?

I pulled my chair back with unnecessary roughness, letting it scrape across the linoleum; humans always felt more comfortable when noise announced someone's approach.

I knew she heard the sound; she did not look up, but her hand missed a loop in the design she was drawing, making it unbalanced.

Why didn't she look up? Probably she was frightened. I must be sure to leave her with a different impression this time. Make her think she'd been imagining things before.

"Hello," I said in the quiet voice I used when I wanted to make humans more comfortable, forming a polite smile with my lips that would not show any teeth.

She looked up then, her wide brown eyes startled - almost bewildered - and full of silent questions. It was the same expression that had been obstructing my vision for the last week.

As I stared into those oddly deep brown eyes, I realized that the hate - the hate I'd imagined this girl somehow deserved for simply existing - had evaporated. Not breathing now, not tasting her scent, it was hard to believe that anyone so vulnerable could ever justify hatred.

Her cheeks began to flush, and she said nothing.

I kept my eyes on hers, focusing only on their questioning depths, and tried to ignore the appetizing color of her skin. I had enough breath to speak for a while longer without inhaling.

"My name is Edward Cullen," I said, though I knew she knew that. It was the polite way to begin. "I didn't have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan."

She seemed confused - there was that little pucker between her eyes again. It took her half a second longer than it should have for her to respond. "How do you know my name?" she demanded, and her voice shook just a little.

I must have truly terrified her. This made me feel guilty; she was just so defenseless. I laughed gently - it was a sound that I knew made humans more at ease. Again, I was careful about my teeth.

"Oh, I think everyone knows your name." Surely she must have realized that she'd become the center of attention in this monotonous place. "The whole town's been waiting for you to arrive."

She frowned as if this information was unpleasant. I supposed, being shy as she seemed to be, attention would seem like a bad thing to her. Most humans felt the opposite. Though they didn't want to stand out from the herd, at the same time they craved a spotlight for their individual uniformity.

"No," she said. "I meant, why did you call me Bella?"

"Do you prefer Isabella?" I asked, perplexed by the fact that I couldn't see where this question was leading. I didn't understand. Surely, she'd made her preference clear many times that first day. Were all humans this incomprehensible without the mental context as a guide?

"No, I like Bella," she answered, leaning her head slightly to one side. Her expression - if I was reading it correctly - was torn between embarrassment and confusion. "But I think Charlie - I mean my dad - must call me Isabella behind my back. That's what everyone here seems to know me as." Her skin darkened one shade pinker.

"Oh," I said lamely, and quickly looked away from her face.

I'd just realized what her questions meant: I had slipped up - made an error. If I hadn't been eavesdropping on all the others that first day, then I would have addressed her initially by her full name, just like everyone else. She'd noticed the difference. I felt a pang of unease. It was very quick of her to pick up on my slip. Quite astute, especially for someone who was supposed to be terrified by my nearness.

But I had bigger problems than whatever suspicions about me she might be keeping locked inside her head.

I was out of air. If I were going to speak to her again, I would have to inhale. It would be hard to avoid speaking. Unfortunately for her, sharing this table made her my lab partner, and we would have to work together today. It would seem odd - and incomprehensibly rude - for me to ignore her while we did the lab. It would make her more suspicious, more afraid...

I leaned as far away from her as I could without moving my seat, twisting my head out into the aisle. I braced myself, locking my muscles in place, and then sucked in one quick chest-full of air, breathing through my mouth alone.

Ahh!

It was genuinely painful. Even without smelling her, I could taste her on my tongue. My throat was suddenly in flames again, the craving every bit as strong as that first moment I'd caught her scent last week.

I gritted my teeth together and tried to compose myself.

"Get started," Mr. Banner commanded.

It felt like it took every single ounce of self-control that I'd achieved in seventy years of hard work to turn back to the girl, who was staring down at the table, and smile. "Ladies first, partner?" I offered.

She looked up at my expression and her face went blank, her eyes wide. Was there something off in my expression? Was she frightened again? She didn't speak. "Or, I could start, if you wish," I said quietly.

"No," she said, and her face went from white to red again. "I'll go first."

I stared at the equipment on the table, the battered microscope, the box of slides, rather than watch the blood swirl under her clear skin. I took another quick breath, through my teeth, and winced as the taste made my throat ache.

"Prophase," she said after a quick examination. She started to remove the slide, though she'd barely examined it.

"Do you mind if I look?" Instinctively - stupidly, as if I were one of her kind - I reached out to stop her hand from removing the slide. For one second, the heat of her skin burned into mine. It was like an electric pulse - surely much hotter than a mere ninety-eight point six degrees. The heat shot through my hand and up my arm. She yanked her hand out from under mine.

Recommended
» Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5) read online
» Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) read online
» I Am Legend read online
» The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) read online
» Divergent (Divergent #1) read online
» Eclipse (Twilight #3) read online
» New Moon (Twilight #2) read online
» Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) read online
» The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underwo read online
» Easy (Contours of the Heart #1) read online
» Forever Too Far (Rosemary Beach #3) read online
» Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) read online
» Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) read online
» Twilight (Twilight #1) read online
» Allegiant (Divergent #3) read online
» Never Too Far (Rosemary Beach #2) read online
» Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2) read online
» Fallen Too Far (Rosemary Beach #1) read online
» Rush Too Far (Rosemary Beach #4) read online
» Insurgent (Divergent #2) read online
» Unseen Messages read online