Home > Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(7)

Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(7)
Stephenie Meyer

"You must be a good reader then," she guessed, making her own assumption that was, again, right on target.

"Usually," I agreed.

I smiled at her widely then, letting my lips pull back to expose the rows of gleaming, razor sharp teeth behind them.

It was a stupid thing to do, but I was abruptly, unexpectedly desperate to get some kind of warning through to the girl. Her body was closer to me than before, having shifted unconsciously in the course of our conversation. All the little markers and signs that were sufficient to scare off the rest of humanity did not seem to be working on her. Why did she not cringe away from me in terror? Surely she had seen enough of my darker side to realize the danger, intuitive as she seemed to be.

I didn't get to see if my warning had the intended effect. Mr. Banner called for the class's attention just then, and she turned away from me at once. She seemed a little relieved for the interruption, so maybe she understood unconsciously.

I hoped she did.

I recognized the fascination growing inside me, even as I tried to root it out. I could not afford to find Bella Swan interesting. Or rather, she could not afford that. Already, I was anxious for another chance to talk to her. I wanted to know more about her mother, her life before she came here, her relationship with her father. All the meaningless details that would flesh out her character further. But every second I spent with her was a mistake, a risk she shouldn't have to take.

Absentmindedly, she tossed her thick hair just at the moment that I allowed myself another breath. A particularly concentrated wave of her scent hit the back of my throat.

It was like the first day - like the wrecking ball. The pain of the burning dryness made me dizzy. I had to grasp the table again to keep myself in my seat. This time I had slightly more control. I didn't break anything, at least. The monster growled inside me, but took no pleasure in my pain. He was too tightly bound. For the moment.

I stopped breathing altogether, and leaned as far from the girl as I could.

No, I could not afford to find her fascinating. The more interesting I found her, the more likely it was that I would kill her. I'd already made two minor slips today. Would I make a third, one that was not minor?

As soon as the bell sounded, I fled from the classroom - probably destroying whatever impression of politeness I'd halfway constructed in the course of the hour. Again, I gasped at the clean, wet air outside like it was a healing attar. I hurried to put as much distance between myself and the girl as was possible.

Emmett waited for me outside the door of our Spanish class. He read my wild expression for a moment.

How did it go? he wondered warily.

"Nobody died," I mumbled.

I guess that's something. When I saw Alice ditching there at the end, I thought...

As we walked into the classroom, I saw his memory from just a few moments ago, seen through the open door of his last class: Alice walking briskly and blank-faced across the grounds toward the science building. I felt his remembered urge to get up and join her, and then his decision to stay. If Alice needed his help, she would ask...

I closed my eyes in horror and disgust as I slumped into my seat. "I hadn't realized that it was that close. I didn't think I was going to...I didn't see that it was that bad," I whispered.

It wasn't, he reassured me. Nobody died, right?

"Right," I said through my teeth. "Not this time."

Maybe it will get easier.

"Sure."

Or, maybe you kill her. He shrugged. You wouldn't be the first one to mess up. No one would judge you too harshly. Sometimes a person just smells too good. I'm impressed you've lasted this long.

"Not helping, Emmett."

I was revolted by his acceptance of the idea that I would kill the girl, that this was somehow inevitable. Was it her fault that she smelled so good?

I know when it happened to me..., he reminisced, taking me back with him half a century, to a country lane at dusk, where a middle-aged women was taking her dried sheets down from a line strung between apple trees. The scent of apples hung heavy in the air - the harvest was over and the rejected fruits were scattered on the ground, the bruises in their skin leaking their fragrance out in thick clouds. A fresh-mowed field of hay was a background to that scent, a harmony. He walked up the lane, all.

3. Phenomenon

Truly, I was not thirsty, but I decided to hunt again that night. A small ounce of prevention, inadequate though I knew it to be.

Carlisle came with me; we hadn't been alone together since I'd returned from Denali. As we ran through the black forest, I heard him thinking about that hasty goodbye last week.

In his memory, I saw the way my features had been twisted in fierce despair. I felt his surprise and sudden worry.

"Edward?"

"I have to go, Carlisle. I have to go now."

"What's happened?"

"Nothing. Yet. But it will, if I stay."

He'd reached for my arm. I felt how it had hurt him when I'd cringed away from his hand.

"I don't understand."

"Have you ever...has there ever been a time..."

I watched myself take a deep breath, saw the wild light in my eyes through the filter of his deep concern.

"Has any one person ever smelled better to you than the rest of them? Much better?"

"Oh."

When I'd known that he understood, my face had fallen with shame. He'd reached out to touch me, ignoring it when I'd recoiled again, and left his hand on my shoulder.

"Do what you must to resist, son. I will miss you. Here, take my car. It's faster."

He was wondering now if he'd done the right thing then, sending me away. Wondering if he hadn't hurt me with his lack of trust.

"No," I whispered as I ran. "That was what I needed. I might so easily have betrayed that trust, if you'd told me to stay."

"I'm sorry you're suffering, Edward. But you should do what you can to keep the Swan child alive. Even if it means that you must leave us again."

"I know, I know."

"Why did you come back? You know how happy I am to have you here, but if this is too difficult..."

"I didn't like feeling a coward," I admitted.

We'd slowed - we were barely jogging through the darkness now.

"Better that than to put her in danger. She'll be gone in a year or two." "You're right, I know that." Contrarily, though, his words only made me more anxious to stay. The girl would be gone in a year or two...

Carlisle stopped running and I stopped with him; he turned to examine my expression.

But you're not going to run, are you?

I hung my head.

Is it pride, Edward? There's no shame in -

"No, it isn't pride that keeps me here. Not now."

Nowhere to go?

I laughed shortly. "No. That wouldn't stop me, if I could make myself leave." "We'll come with you, of course, if that's what you need. You only have to ask. You've moved on without complaint for the rest of them. They won't begrudge you this."

I raised one eyebrow.

He laughed. "Yes, Rosalie might, but she owes you. Anyway, it's much better for us to leave now, no damage done, than for us to leave later, after a life has been ended." All humor was gone by the end.

I flinched at his words.

"Yes," I agreed. My voice sounded hoarse.

But you're not leaving?

I sighed. "I should."

"What holds you here, Edward? I'm failing to see..."

"I don't know if I can explain." Even to myself, it made no sense.

He measured my expression for a long moment.

No, I do not see. But I will respect your privacy, if you prefer.

"Thank you. It's generous of you, seeing as how I give privacy to no one." With one exception. And I was doing what I could to deprive her of that, wasn't I? We all have our quirks. He laughed again. Shall we?

He'd just caught the scent of a small herd of deer. It was hard to rally much enthusiasm for what was, even under the best of circumstances, a less than mouthwatering aroma. Right now, with the memory of the girl's blood fresh in my mind, the smell actually turned my stomach.

I sighed. "Let's," I agreed, though I knew that forcing more blood down my throat would help so little.

We both shifted into a hunting crouch and let the unappealing scent pull us silently forward.

It was colder when we returned home. The melted snow had refrozen; it was as if a thin sheet of glass covered everything - each pine needle, each fern frond, each blade of grass was iced over.

While Carlisle went to dress for his early shift at the hospital, I stayed by the river, waiting for the sun to rise. I felt almost swollen from the amount of blood I'd consumed, but I knew the lack of actual thirst would mean little when I sat beside the girl again.

Cool and motionless as the stone I sat on, I stared at the dark water running beside the icy bank, stared right through it.

Carlisle was right. I should leave Forks. They could spread some story to explain my absence. Boarding school in Europe. Visiting distant relatives. Teenage runaway. The story didn't matter. No one would question too intensely.

It was just a year or two, and then the girl would disappear. She would go on with her life - she would have a life to go on with. She'd go to college somewhere, get older, start a career, perhaps marry someone. I could picture that - I could see the girl dressed all in white and walking at a measured pace, her arm through her father's.

It was odd, the pain that image caused me. I couldn't understand it. Was I jealous, because she had a future that I could never have? That made no sense. Every one of the humans around me had that same potential ahead of them - a life - and I rarely stopped to envy them.

I should leave her to her future. Stop risking her life. That was the right thing to do. Carlisle always chose the right way. I should listen to him now. The sun rose behind the clouds, and the faint light glistened off all the frozen glass.

One more day, I decided. I would see her one more time. I could handle that.

Perhaps I would mention my pending disappearance, set the story up.

This was going to be difficult; I could feel that in the heavy reluctance that was already making me think of excuses to stay - to extend the deadline to two days, three, four... But I would do the right thing. I knew I could trust Carlisle's advice. And I also knew that I was too conflicted to make the right decision alone.

Much too conflicted. How much of this reluctance came from my obsessive curiosity, and how much came from my unsatisfied appetite?

I went inside to change into fresh clothes for school. Alice was waiting for me, sitting on the top step at the edge of the third floor.

You're leaving again, she accused me.

I sighed and nodded.

I can't see where you're going this time.

"I don't know where I'm going yet," I whispered.

I want you to stay.

I shook my head.

Maybe Jazz and I could come with you?

"They'll need you all the more, if I'm not here to watch out for them. And think of Esme. Would you take half her family away in one blow?"

You're going to make her so sad.

"I know. That's why you have to stay."

That's not the same as having you here, and you know it.

"Yes. But I have to do what's right." There are many right ways, and many wrong ways, though, aren't there?

For a brief moment she was swept away into one of her strange visions; I watched along with her as the indistinct images flickered and whirled. I saw myself mixed in with strange shadows that I couldn't make out - hazy, imprecise forms. And then, suddenly, my skin was glittering in the bright sunlight of a small open meadow. This was a place I knew. There was a figure in the meadow with me, but, again, it was indistinct, not there enough to recognize. The images shivered and disappeared as a million tiny choices rearranged the future again.

"I didn't catch much of that," I told her when the vision went dark.

Me either. Your future is shifting around so much I can't keep up with any of it. I think, though...

She stopped, and she flipped through a vast collection of other recent visions for me. They were all the same - blurry and vague.

"I think something is changing, though," she said out loud. "Your life seems to be at a crossroads."

I laughed grimly. "You do realize that you sound like a bogus gypsy at a carnival now, right?"

She stuck her tiny tongue out at me.

"Today is all right, though, isn't it?" I asked, my voice abruptly apprehensive. "I don't see you killing anyone today," she assured me.

"Thanks, Alice."

"Go get dressed. I won't say anything - I'll let you tell the others when you're ready."

She stood and darted back down the stairs, her shoulders hunched slightly. Miss you. Really.

Yes, I would really miss her, too.

It was a quiet ride to school. Jasper could tell that Alice was upset about something, but he knew that if she wanted to talk about it she would have done so already. Emmett and Rosalie were oblivious, having another of their moments, gazing into each others' eyes with wonder - it was rather disgusting to watch from the outside. We were all quite aware how desperately in love they were. Or maybe I was just being bitter because I was the only one alone. Some days it was harder than others to live with three sets of perfectly matched lovers. This was one of them.

Maybe they would all be happier without me hanging around, ill-tempered and belligerent as the old man I should be by now.

Of course, the first thing I did when we reached the school was to look for the girl. Just preparing myself again.

Right.

It was embarrassing how my world suddenly seemed to be empty of everything but her - my whole existence centered around the girl, rather than around myself anymore.

It was easy enough to understand, though, really; after eighty years of the same thing every day and every night, any change became a point of absorption.

She had not yet arrived, but could I hear the thunderous chugging of her truck's engine in the distance. I leaned against the side of the car to wait. Alice stayed with me, while the others went straight to class. They were bored with my fixation - it was incomprehensible to them how any human could hold my interest for so long, no matter how delicious she smelled.

The girl drove slowly into view, her eyes intent on the road and her hands tight on the wheel. She seemed anxious about something. It took me a second to figure out what that something was, to realize that every human wore the same expression today. Ah, the road was slick with ice, and they were all trying to drive more carefully. I could see she was taking the added risk seriously.

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