Home > Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(8)

Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(8)
Stephenie Meyer

That seemed in line with what little I had learned of her character. I added this to my small list: she was a serious person, a responsible person.

She parked not too far from me, but she hadn't noticed me standing here yet, staring at her. I wondered what she would do when she did? Blush and walk away?

That was my first guess. But maybe she would stare back. Maybe she would come to talk to me.

I took a deep breath, filling my lungs hopefully, just in case.

She got out of the truck with care, testing the slick ground before she put her weight on it. She didn't look up, and that frustrated me. Maybe I would go talk to her... No, that would be wrong.

Instead of turning toward the school, she made her way to the rear of her truck, clinging to the side of the truck bed in a droll way, not trusting her footing. It made me smile, and I felt Alice's eyes on my face. I didn't listen to whatever this made her think - I was having too much fun watching the girl check her snow chains. She actually looked in some danger of falling, the way her feet were sliding around. No one else was having trouble - had she parked in the worst of the ice?

She paused there, staring down with a strange expression on her face. It was...tender? As if something about the tire was making her...emotional? Again, the curiosity ached like a thirst. It was as if I had to know what she was thinking - as if nothing else mattered.

I would go talk to her. She looked like she could use a hand anyway, at least until she was off the slick pavement. Of course, I couldn't offer her that, could I? I hesitated, torn. As adverse as she seemed to be to snow, she would hardly welcome the touch of my cold white hand. I should have worn gloves -

"NO!" Alice gasped aloud.

Instantly, I scanned her thoughts, guessing at first that I had made a poor choice and she saw me doing something inexcusable. But it had nothing to do with me at all. Tyler Crowley had chosen to take the turn into the parking lot at an injudicious speed. This choice would send him skidding across a patch of ice...

The vision came just half a second before the reality. Tyler's van rounded the corner as I was still watching the conclusion that had pulled the horrified gasp through Alice's lips.

No, this vision had nothing to do with me, and yet it had everything to do with me, because Tyler's van - the tires right now hitting the ice at the worst possible angle - was going to spin across the lot and crush the girl who had become the uninvited focal point of my world.

Even without Alice's foresight it would have been simple enough to read the trajectory of the vehicle, flying out of Tyler's control.

The girl, standing in the exactly wrong place at the back of her truck, looked up, bewildered by the sound of the screeching tires. She looked straight into my horrorstruck eyes, and then turned to watch her approaching death.

Not her! The words shouted in my head as if they belonged to someone else.

Still locked into Alice's thoughts, I saw the vision suddenly shift, but I had no time to see what the outcome would be.

I launched myself across the lot, throwing myself between the skidding van and the frozen girl. I moved so fast that everything was a streaky blur except for the object of my focus. She didn't see me - no human eyes could have followed my flight - still staring at the hulking shape that was about to grind her body into the metal frame of her truck.

I caught her around the waist, moving with too much urgency to be as gentle as she would need me to be. In the hundredth of a second between the time that I yanked her slight form out of the path of death and the time that I crashed into to the ground with her in my arms, I was vividly aware of her fragile, breakable body.

When I heard her head crack against the ice, it felt like I had turned to ice, too.

But I didn't even have a full second to ascertain her condition. I heard the van behind us, grating and squealing as it twisted around the sturdy iron body of the girl's truck. It was changing course, arcing, coming for her again - like she was a magnet, pulling it toward us.

A word I'd never said before in the presence of a lady slid between my clenched teeth.

I had already done too much. As I'd nearly flown through the air to push her out of the way, I'd been fully aware of the mistake I was making. Knowing that it was a mistake did not stop me, but I was not oblivious to the risk I was taking - taking, not just for myself, but for my entire family.

Exposure.

And this certainly wasn't going to help, but there was no way I was going to allow the van to succeed in its second attempt to take her life.

I dropped her and threw my hands out, catching the van before it could touch the girl. The force of it hurled me back into the car parked beside her truck, and I could feel its frame buckle behind my shoulders. The van shuddered and shivered against the unyielding obstacle of my arms, and then swayed, balancing unstably on the two far tires. If I moved my hands, the back tire of the van was going fall onto her legs.

Oh, for the love of all that was holy, would the catastrophes never end? Was there anything else that could go wrong? I could hardly sit here, holding the van in the air, and wait for rescue. Nor could I throw the van away - there was the driver to consider, his thoughts incoherent with panic.

With an internal groan, I shoved the van so that it rocked away from us for an instant. As it fell back toward me, I caught it under the frame with my right hand while I wrapped my left arm around the girl's waist again and drug her out from under the van, pulling her tight up against my side. Her body moved limply as I swung her around so that her legs would be in the clear - was she conscious? How much damage had I done to her in my impromptu rescue attempt?

I let the van drop, now that it could not hurt her. It crashed to the pavement, all the windows shattering in unison.

I knew that I was in the middle of a crisis. How much had she seen? Had any other witnesses watched me materialize at her side and then juggle the van while I tried to keep her out from under it? These questions should be my biggest concern.

But I was too anxious to really care about the threat of exposure as much as I should. Too panic-stricken that I might have injured her myself in my effort to protect her. Too frightened to have her this close to me, knowing what I would smell if I allowed myself to inhale. Too aware of the heat of her soft body, pressed against mine - even through the double obstacle of our jackets, I could feel that heat...

The first fear was the greatest fear. As the screaming of the witnesses erupted around us, I leaned down to examine her face, to see if she was conscious - hoping fiercely that she was not bleeding anywhere.

Her eyes were open, staring in shock.

"Bella?" I asked urgently. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." She said the words automatically in a dazed voice.

Relief, so exquisite it was nearly pain, washed through me at the sound of her voice. I sucked in a breath through my teeth, and did not mind the accompanying burn in my throat. I almost welcomed it.

She struggled to sit up, but I was not ready to release her. It felt somehow...safer? Better, at least, having her tucked into my side.

"Be careful," I warned her. "I think you hit your head pretty hard."

There had been no smell of fresh blood - a mercy, that - but this did not rule out internal damage. I was abruptly anxious to get her to Carlisle and a full compliment of radiology equipment.

"Ow," she said, her tone comically shocked as she realized I was right about her head.

"That's what I thought." Relief made it funny to me, made me almost giddy. "How in the..." Her voice trailed off, and her eyelids fluttered. "How did you get over here so fast?"

The relief turned sour, the humor vanished. She had noticed too much.

Now that it appeared that the girl was in decent shape, the anxiety for my family became severe.

"I was standing right next to you, Bella." I knew from experience that if I was very confident as I lied, it made any questioner less sure of the truth.

She struggled to move again, and this time I allowed it. I needed to breathe so that I could play my role correctly. I needed space from her warm-blooded heat so that it would not combine with her scent to overwhelm me. I slid away from her, as far as was possible in the small space between the wrecked vehicles.

She stared up at me, and I stared back. To look away first was a mistake only an incompetent liar would make, and I was not an incompetent liar. My expression was smooth, benign... It seemed to confuse her. That was good.

The accident scene was surrounded now. Mostly students, children, peering and pushing through the cracks to see if any mangled bodies were visible. There was a babble of shouting and a gush of shocked thought. I scanned the thoughts once to make sure there were no suspicions yet, and then tuned it out and concentrated only on the girl. She was distracted by the bedlam. She glanced around, her expression still stunned, and tried to get to her feet.

I put my hand lightly on her shoulder to hold her down.

"Just stay put for now." She seemed alright, but should she really be moving her neck? Again, I wished for Carlisle. My years of theoretical medical study were no match for his centuries of hands-on medical practice.

"But it's cold," she objected.

She had almost been crushed to death two distinct times and crippled one more, and it was the cold that worried her. A chuckle slid through my teeth before I could remember that the situation was not funny.

Bella blinked, and then her eyes focused on my face. "You were over there."

That sobered me again.

She glanced toward the south, though there was nothing to see now but the crumpled side of the van. "You were by your car."

"No, I wasn't."

"I saw you," she insisted; her voice was childlike when she was being stubborn. Her chin jutted out.

"Bella, I was standing with you, and I pulled you out of the way."

I stared deeply into her wide eyes, trying to will her into accepting my version - the only rational version on the table.

Her jaw set. "No."

I tried to stay calm, to not panic. If only I could keep her quiet for a few moments, to give me a chance to destroy the evidence....and undermine her story by disclosing her head injury.

Shouldn't it be easy to keep this silent, secretive girl quiet? If only she would trust me, just for a few moments...

"Please, Bella," I said, and my voice was too intense, because I suddenly wanted her to trust me. Wanted it badly, and not just in regards to this accident. A stupid desire. What sense would it make for her to trust me?

"Why?" she asked, still defensive.

"Trust me," I pleaded.

"Will you promise to explain everything to me later?"

It made me angry to have to lie to her again, when I so much wished that I could somehow deserve her trust. So, when I answered her, it was a retort.

"Fine."

"Fine," she echoed in the same tone.

While the rescue attempt began around us - adults arriving, authorities called, sirens in the distance - I tried to ignore the girl and get my priorities in the right order. I searched through every mind in the lot, the witnesses and the latecomers both, but I could find nothing dangerous. Many were surprised to see me here beside Bella, but all concluded - as there was no other possible conclusion - that they had just not noticed me standing by the girl before the accident.

She was the only one who didn't accept the easy explanation, but she would be considered the least reliable witness. She had been frightened, traumatized, not to mention sustaining the blow to the head. Possibly in shock. It would be acceptable for her story to be confused, wouldn't it? No one would give it much credence above so many other spectators...

I winced when I caught the thoughts of Rosalie, Jasper and Emmett, just arriving on the scene. There would be hell to pay for this tonight.

I wanted to iron out the indention my shoulders had made against the tan car, but the girl was too close. I'd have to wait till she was distracted.

It was frustrating to wait - so many eyes on me - as the humans struggled with the van, trying to pull it away from us. I might have helped them, just to speed the process, but I was already in enough trouble and the girl had sharp eyes. Finally, they were able to shift it far enough away for the EMTs to get to us with their stretchers. A familiar, grizzled face appraised me.

"Hey, Edward," Brett Warner said. He was also a registered nurse, and I knew him well from the hospital. It was a stroke of luck - the only luck today - that he was the first through to us. In his thoughts, he was noting that I looked alert and calm. "You okay, kid?"

"Perfect, Brett. Nothing touched me. But I'm afraid Bella here might have a concussion. She really hit her head when I yanked her out of the way..."

Brett turned his attention to the girl, who shot me a fierce look of betrayal. Oh, that was right. She was the quiet martyr - she'd prefer to suffer in silence. She did not contradict my story immediately, though, and this made me feel easier.

The next EMT tried to insist that I allow myself to be treated, but it wasn't too difficult to dissuade him. I promised I would let my father examine me, and he let it go. With most humans, speaking with cool assurance was all that was needed. Most humans, just not the girl, of course. Did she fit into any of the normal patterns? As they put a neck brace on her - and her face flushed scarlet with embarrassment - I used the moment of distraction to quietly rearrange the shape of the dent in the tan car with the back of my foot. Only my siblings noticed what I was doing, and I heard Emmett's mental promise to catch anything I missed.

Grateful for his help - and more grateful that Emmett, at least, had already forgiven my dangerous choice - I was more relaxed as I climbed into the front seat of the ambulance next to Brett.

The chief of police arrived before they had gotten Bella into the back of the ambulance.

Though Bella's father's thoughts were past words, the panic and concern emanating out of the man's mind drown out just about every other thought in the vicinity. Wordless anxiety and guilt, a great swell of them, washed out of him as he saw his only daughter on the gurney.

Washed out of him and through me, echoing and growing stronger. When Alice had warned me that killing Charlie Swan's daughter would kill him, too, she had not been exaggerating.

My head bowed with that guilt as I listened to his panicked voice.

"Bella!" he shouted.

"I'm completely fine, Char - Dad." She sighed. "There's nothing wrong with me."

Her assurance barely soothed his dread. He turned at once to the closest EMT and demanded more information.

I wasn't until I heard him speaking, forming perfectly coherent sentences despite his panic, that I realized that his anxiety and concern were not wordless. I just...could not hear the exact words.

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