Home > Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(6)

Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(6)
Stephenie Meyer

"I'm sorry," I muttered through my clenched teeth. Needing somewhere to look, I grasped the microscope and stared briefly into the eyepiece. She was right.

"Prophase," I agreed.

I was still too unsettled to look at her. Breathing as quietly as I could through my gritted teeth and trying to ignore the fiery thirst, I concentrated on the simple assignment, writing the word on the appropriate line on the lab sheet, and then switching out the first slide for the next.

What was she thinking now? What had that felt like to her, when I had touched her hand? My skin must have been ice cold - repulsive. No wonder she was so quiet. I glanced at the slide.

"Anaphase," I said to myself as I wrote it on the second line.

"May I?" she asked.

I looked up at her, surprised to see that she was waiting expectantly, one hand half-stretched toward the microscope. She didn't look afraid. Did she really think I'd gotten the answer wrong?

I couldn't help but smile at the hopeful look on her face as I slid the microscope toward her.

She stared into the eyepiece with an eagerness that quickly faded. The corners of her mouth turned down.

"Slide three?" she asked, not looking up from the microscope, but holding out her hand. I dropped the next slide into her hand, not letting my skin come anywhere close to hers this time. Sitting beside her was like sitting next to a heat lamp. I could feel myself warming slightly to the higher temperature.

She did not look at the slide for long. "Interphase," she said nonchalantly - perhaps trying a little too hard to sound that way - and pushed the microscope to me. She did not touch the paper, but waited for me to write the answer. I checked - she was correct again.

We finished this way, speaking one word at a time and never meeting each other's eyes. We were the only ones done - the others in the class were having a harder time with the lab. Mike Newton seemed to be having trouble concentrating - he was trying to watch Bella and me.

Wish he'd stayed wherever he went, Mike thought, eyeing me sulfurously. Hmm, interesting. I hadn't realized the boy harbored any ill will towards me. This was a new development, about as recent as the girl's arrival it seemed. Even more interesting, I found - to my surprise - that the feeling was mutual.

I looked down at the girl again, bemused by the wide range of havoc and upheaval that, despite her ordinary, unthreatening appearance, she was wreaking on my life. It wasn't that I couldn't see what Mike was going on about. She was actually rather pretty...in an unusual way. Better than being beautiful, her face was interesting. Not quite symmetrical - her narrow chin out of balance with her wide cheekbones; extreme in the coloring - the light and dark contrast of her skin and her hair; and then there were the eyes, brimming over with silent secrets...

Eyes that were suddenly boring into mine.

I stared back at her, trying to guess even one of those secrets.

"Did you get contacts?" she asked abruptly.

What a strange question. "No." I almost smiled at the idea of improving my eyesight.

"Oh," she mumbled. "I thought there was something different about your eyes." I felt suddenly colder again as I realized that I was apparently not the only one attempting to ferret out secrets today.

I shrugged, my shoulders stiff, and glared straight ahead to where the teacher was making his rounds.

Of course there was something different about my eyes since the last time she'd stared into them. To prepare myself for today's ordeal, today's temptation, I'd spent the entire weekend hunting, satiating my thirst as much as possible, overdoing it really. I'd glutted myself on the blood of animals, not that it made much difference in the face of the outrageous flavor floating on the air around her. When I'd glared at her last, my eyes had been black with thirst. Now, my body swimming with blood, my eyes were a warmer gold. Light amber from my excessive attempt at thirst-quenching.

Another slip. If I'd seen what she'd meant with her question, I could have just told her yes.

I'd sat beside humans for two years now at this school, and she was the first to examine me closely enough to note the change in my eye color. The others, while admiring the beauty of my family, tended to look down quickly when we returned their stares. They shied away, blocking the details of our appearances in an instinctive endeavor to keep themselves from understanding. Ignorance was bliss to the human mind.

Why did it have to be this girl who would see too much?

Mr. Banner approached our table. I gratefully inhaled the gush of clean air he brought with him before it could mix with her scent.

"So, Edward," he said, looking over our answers, "didn't you think Isabella should get a chance with the microscope?"

"Bella," I corrected him reflexively. "Actually, she identified three of the five." Mr. Banner's thoughts were skeptical as he turned to look at the girl. "Have you done this lab before?"

I watched, engrossed, as she smiled, looking slightly embarrassed.

"Not with onion root."

"Whitefish blastula?" Mr. Banner probed.

"Yeah."

This surprised him. Today's lab was something he'd pulled from a more advanced course. He nodded thoughtfully at the girl. "Were you in an advanced placement program in Phoenix?"

"Yes."

She was advanced then, intelligent for a human. This did not surprise me.

"Well," Mr. Banner said, pursing his lips. "I guess it's good you two are lab partners." He turned and walked away mumbling, "So the other kids can get a chance to learn something for themselves," under his breath. I doubted the girl could hear that. She began scrawling loops across her folder again.

Two slips so far in one half hour. A very poor showing on my part. Though I had no idea at all what the girl thought of me - how much did she fear, how much did she suspect? - I knew I needed to put forth a better effort to leave her with a new impression of me. Something to better drown her memories of our ferocious last encounter. "It's too bad about the snow, isn't it?" I said, repeating the small talk that I'd heard a dozen students discuss already. A boring, standard topic of conversation. The weather - always safe.

She stared at me with obvious doubt in her eyes - an abnormal reaction to my very normal words. "Not really," she said, surprising me again.

I tried to steer the conversation back to trite paths. She was from a much brighter, warmer place - her skin seemed to reflect that somehow, despite its fairness - and the cold must make her uncomfortable. My icy touch certainly had...

"You don't like the cold," I guessed.

"Or the wet," she agreed.

"Forks must be a difficult place for you to live." Perhaps you should not have come here, I wanted to add. Perhaps you should go back where you belong.

I wasn't sure I wanted that, though. I would always remember the scent of her blood - was there any guarantee that I wouldn't eventually follow after her? Besides, if she left, her mind would forever remain a mystery. A constant, nagging puzzle. "You have no idea," she said in a low voice, glowering past me for a moment.

Her answers were never what I expected. They made me want to ask more questions.

"Why did you come here, then?" I demanded, realizing instantly that my tone was too accusatory, not casual enough for the conversation. The question sounded rude, prying.

"It's...complicated."

She blinked her wide eyes, leaving it at that, and I nearly imploded out of curiosity - the curiosity burned as hot as the thirst in my throat. Actually, I found that it was getting slightly easier to breathe; the agony was becoming more bearable through familiarity.

"I think I can keep up," I insisted. Perhaps common courtesy would keep her answering my questions as long as I was rude enough to ask them.

She stared down silently at her hands. This made me impatient; I wanted to put my hand under her chin and tilt her head up so that I could read her eyes. But it would be foolish of me - dangerous - to touch her skin again.

She looked up suddenly. It was a relief to be able to see the emotions in her eyes again. She spoke in a rush, hurrying through the words.

"My mother got remarried."

Ah, this was human enough, easy to understand. Sadness passed through her clear eyes and brought the pucker back between them.

"That doesn't sound so complex," I said. My voice was gentle without my working to make it that way. Her sadness left me feeling oddly helpless, wishing there was something I could do to make her feel better. A strange impulse. "When did that happen?"

"Last September." She exhaled heavily - not quite a sigh. I held my breath as her warm breath brushed my face.

"And you don't like him," I guessed, fishing for more information.

"No, Phil is fine," she said, correcting my assumption. There was a hint of a smile now around the corners of her full lips. "Too young, maybe, but nice enough." This didn't fit with the scenario I'd been constructing in my head.

"Why didn't you stay with them?" I asked, my voice a little too curious. It sounded like I was being nosy. Which I was, admittedly.

"Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living." The little smile grew more pronounced; this career choice amused her.

I smiled, too, without choosing to. I wasn't trying to make her feel at ease. Her smile just made me want to smile in response - to be in on the secret.

"Have I heard of him?" I ran through the rosters of professional ball players in my head, wondering which Phil was hers...

"Probably not. He doesn't play well." Another smile. "Strictly minor league. He moves around a lot."

The rosters in my head shifted instantly, and I'd tabulated a list of possibilities in less than a second. At the same time, I was imagining the new scenario.

"And your mother sent you here so that she could travel with him," I said.

Making assumptions seemed to get more information out of her than questions did. It worked again. Her chin jutted out, and her expression was suddenly stubborn.

"No, she did not send me here," she said, and her voice had a new, hard edge to it. My assumption had upset her, though I couldn't quite see how. "I sent myself."

I could not guess at her meaning, or the source behind her pique. I was entirely lost.

So I gave up. There was just no making sense of the girl. She wasn't like other humans. Maybe the silence of her thoughts and the perfume of her scent were not the only unusual things about her.

"I don't understand," I admitted, hating to concede.

She sighed, and stared into my eyes for longer than most normal humans were able to stand.

"She stayed with me at first, but she missed him," she explained slowly, her tone growing more forlorn with each word. "It made her unhappy...so I decided it was time to spend some quality time with Charlie."

The tiny pucker between her eyes deepened.

"But now you're unhappy," I murmured. I couldn't seem to stop speaking my hypotheses aloud, hoping to learn from her reactions. This one, however, did not seem as far off the mark.

"And?" she said, as if this was not even an aspect to be considered.

I continued to stare into her eyes, feeling that I'd finally gotten my first real glimpse into her soul. I saw in that one word where she ranked herself among her own priorities. Unlike most humans, her own needs were far down the list. She was selfless.

As I saw this, the mystery of the person hiding inside this quiet mind began to thin a little.

"That doesn't seem fair," I said. I shrugged, trying to seem casual, trying to conceal the intensity of my curiosity.

She laughed, but there was no amusement the sound. "Hasn't anyone ever told you? Life isn't fair."

I wanted to laugh at her words, though I, too, felt no real amusement. I knew a little something about the unfairness of life. "I believe I have heard that somewhere before."

She stared back at me, seeming confused again. Her eyes flickered away, and then came back to mine.

"So that's all," she told me.

But I was not ready to let this conversation end. The little V between her eyes, a remnant of her sorrow, bothered me. I wanted to smooth it away with my fingertip. But, of course, I could not touch her. It was unsafe in so many ways.

"You put on a good show." I spoke slowly, still considering this next hypothesis.

"But I'd be willing to bet that you're suffering more than you let anyone see." She made a face, her eyes narrowing and her mouth twisting into a lopsided pout, and she looked back towards the front of the class. She didn't like it when I guessed right. She wasn't the average martyr - she didn't want an audience to her pain.

"Am I wrong?"

She flinched slightly, but otherwise pretended not to hear me.

That made me smile. "I didn't think so."

"Why does it matter to you?" she demanded, still staring away.

"That's a very good question," I admitted, more to myself than to answer her.

Her discernment was better than mine - she saw right to the core of things while I floundered around the edges, sifting blindly through clues. The details of her very human life should not matter to me. It was wrong for me to care what she thought. Beyond protecting my family from suspicion, human thoughts were not significant.

I was not used to being the less intuitive of any pairing. I relied on my extra hearing too much - I clearly was not as perceptive as I gave myself credit for.

The girl sighed and glowered toward the front of the classroom. Something about her frustrated expression was humorous. The whole situation, the whole conversation was humorous. No one had ever been in more danger from me than this little girl - at any moment I might, distracted by my ridiculous absorption in the conversation, inhale through my nose and attack her before I could stop myself - and she was irritated because I hadn't answered her question.

"Am I annoying you?" I asked, smiling at the absurdity of it all.

She glanced at me quickly, and then her eyes seemed to get trapped by my gaze.

"Not exactly," she told me. "I'm more annoyed at myself. My face is so easy to read - my mother always calls me her open book."

She frowned, disgruntled.

I stared at her in amazement. The reason she was upset was because she thought I saw through her too easily. How bizarre. I'd never expended so much effort to understand someone in all my life - or rather existence, as life was hardly the right word.

I did not truly have a life.

"On the contrary," I disagreed, feeling strangely...wary, as if there were some hidden danger here that I was failing to see. I was suddenly on edge, the premonition making me anxious. "I find you very difficult to read."

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