Home > Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(9)

Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(9)
Stephenie Meyer

Hmm. Charlie Swan was not as silent as his daughter, but I could see where she got it from. Interesting.

I'd never spent much time around the town's police chief. I'd always taken him for a man of slow thought - now I realized that I was the one who was slow. His thoughts were partially concealed, not absent. I could only make out the tenor, the tone of them...

I wanted to listen harder, to see if I could find in this new, lesser puzzle the key to the girl's secrets. But Bella was loaded into the back by then, and the ambulance was on its way.

It was hard to tear myself away from this possible solution to the mystery that had come to obsess me. But I had to think now - to look at what had been done today from every angle. I had to listen, to make sure that I had not put us all in so much danger that we would have to leave immediately. I had to concentrate.

There was nothing in the thoughts of the EMTs to worry me. As far as they could tell, there was nothing seriously wrong with the girl. And Bella was sticking to the story I'd provided, thus far.

The first priority, when we reached the hospital, was to see Carlisle. I hurried through the automatic doors, but I was unable to totally forgo watching after Bella; I kept an eye on her through the paramedics' thoughts.

It was easy to find my father's familiar mind. He was in his small office, all alone - the second stroke of luck in this luckless day.

"Carlisle."

He'd heard my approach, and he was alarmed as soon as he saw my face. He jumped to his feet, his face paling to bone white. He leaned forward across the neatly organized walnut desk.

Edward - you didn't -

"No, no, it's not that."

He took deep breath. Of course not. I'm sorry I entertained the thought. Your eyes, of course, I should have known... He noted my still-golden eyes with relief. "She's hurt, though, Carlisle, probably not seriously, but - "

"What happened?"

"A stupid car accident. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I couldn't just stand there - let it crush her - "

Start over, I don't understand. How were you involved?

"A van skidded across the ice," I whispered. I stared at the wall behind him while I spoke. Instead of a throng of framed diplomas, he had one simple oil painting - a favorite of his, an undiscovered Hassam. "She was in the way. Alice saw it coming, but there wasn't time to do anything but really run across the lot and shove her out of the way. No one noticed...except for her. I had to stop the van, too, but again, nobody saw that...besides her. I'm...I'm sorry Carlisle. I didn't mean to put us in danger." He circled the desk and put his hand on my shoulder.

You did the right thing. And it couldn't have been easy for you. I'm proud of you, Edward.

I could look him in the eye then. "She knows there's something...wrong with me."

"That doesn't matter. If we have to leave, we leave. What has she said?" I shook my head, a little frustrated. "Nothing yet."

Yet?

"She agreed to my version of events - but she's expecting an explanation." He frowned, pondering this.

"She hit her head - well, I did that," I continued quickly. "I knocked her to the ground fairly hard. She seems fine, but... I don't think it will take much to discredit her account."

I felt like a cad just saying the words.

Carlisle heard the distaste in my voice. Perhaps that won't be necessary. Let's see what happens, shall we? It sounds like I have a patient to check on.

"Please," I said. "I'm so worried that I hurt her."

Carlisle's expression brightened. He smoothed his fair hair - just a few shades lighter than his golden eyes - and he laughed.

It's been an interesting day for you, hasn't it? In his mind, I could see the irony, and it was humorous, at least to him. Quite the reversal of roles. Somewhere during that short thoughtless second when I'd sprinted across the icy lot, I had transformed from killer to protector.

I laughed with him, remembering how sure I'd been that Bella would never need protecting from anything more than myself. There was an edge to my laugh because, van notwithstanding, that was still entirely true.

I waited alone in Carlisle's office - one of the longer hours I had ever lived - listening to the hospital full of thoughts.

Tyler Crowley, the van's driver, looked to be hurt worse than Bella, and the attention shifted to him while she waited her turn to be X-rayed. Carlisle kept in the background, trusting the PA's diagnosis that the girl was only slightly injured. This made me anxious, but I knew he was right. One glance at his face and she would be immediately reminded of me, of the fact that there was something not right about my family, and that might set her talking.

She certainly had a willing enough partner to converse with. Tyler was consumed with guilt over the fact that he had almost killed her, and he couldn't seem to shut up about it. I could see her expression through his eyes, and it was clear that she wished he would stop. How did he not see that?

There was a tense moment for me when Tyler asked her how she'd gotten out of the way.

I waited, not breathing, as she hesitated.

"Um..." he heard her say. Then she paused for so long that Tyler wondered if his question had confused her. Finally, she went on. "Edward pulled me out of the way." I exhaled. And then my breathing accelerated. I'd never heard her speak my name before. I like the way it sounded - even just hearing it through Tyler's thoughts. I wanted to hear it for myself...

"Edward Cullen," she said, when Tyler didn't realize who she meant. I found myself at the door, my hand on the knob. The desire to see her was growing stronger. I had to remind myself of the need for caution.

"He was standing next to me."

"Cullen?" Huh. That's weird. "I didn't see him." I could have sworn... "Wow, it was all so fast, I guess. Is he okay?"

"I think so. He's here somewhere, but they didn't make him use a stretcher." I saw the thoughtful look on her face, the suspicious tightening of her eyes, but these little changes in her expression were lost on Tyler.

She's pretty, he was thinking, almost in surprise. Even all messed up. Not my usual type, still... I should take her out. Make up for today...

I was out in the hall, then, halfway to the emergency room, without thinking for one second about what I was doing. Luckily, the nurse entered the room before I could - it was Bella's turn for X-rays. I leaned against the wall in a dark nook just around the corner, and tried to get a grip on myself while she was wheeled away.

It didn't matter that Tyler thought she was pretty. Anyone would notice that.

There was no reason for me to feel...how did I feel? Annoyed? Or was angry closer to the truth? That made no sense at all.

I stayed where I was for as long as I could, but impatience got the best of me and I took a back way around to the radiology room. She'd already been moved back to the ER, but I was able to take a peek at her x-rays while the nurse's back was turned. I felt calmer when I had. Her head was fine. I hadn't hurt her, not really.

Carlisle caught me there.

You look better, he commented.

I just looked straight ahead. We weren't alone, the halls full of orderlies and visitors.

Ah, yes. He stuck her x-rays to the lightboard, but I didn't need a second look. I see. She's absolutely fine. Well done, Edward.

The sound of my father's approval created a mixed reaction in me. I would have been pleased, except that I knew that he would not approve of what I was going to do now. At least, he would not approve if he knew my real motivations...

"I think I'm going to go talk to her - before she sees you," I murmured under my breath. "Act natural, like nothing happened. Smooth it over." All acceptable reasons. Carlisle nodded absently, still looking over the x-rays. "Good idea. Hmm." I looked to see what had his interest.

Look at all the healed contusions! How many times did her mother drop her? Carlisle laughed to himself at his joke.

"I'm beginning to think the girl just has really bad luck. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Forks is certainly the wrong place for her, with you here.

I flinched.

Go ahead. Smooth things over. I'll join you momentarily.

I walked away quickly, feeling guilty. Perhaps I was too good a liar, if I could fool Carlisle.

When I got to the ER, Tyler was mumbling under his breath, still apologizing. The girl was trying to escape his remorse by pretending to sleep. Her eyes were closed, but her breathing was not even, and now and then her fingers would twitch impatiently. I stared at her face for a long moment. This was the last time I would see her. That fact triggered an acute aching in my chest. Was it because I hated to leave any puzzle unsolved? That did not seem like enough of an explanation.

Finally, I took a deep breath and moved into view.

When Tyler saw me, he started to speak, but I put one finger to my lips.

"Is she sleeping?" I murmured.

Bella's eyes snapped open and focused on my face. They widened momentarily, and then narrowed in anger or suspicion. I remembered that I had a role to play, so I smiled at her as if nothing unusual had happened this morning - besides a blow to her head and a bit of imagination run wild.

"Hey, Edward," Tyler said. "I'm really sorry - "

I raised one hand to halt his apology. "No blood, no foul," I said wryly. Without thinking, I smiled too widely at my private joke.

It was amazingly easy to ignore Tyler, lying no more than four feet from me, covered in fresh blood. I'd never understood how Carlisle was able to do that - ignore the blood of his patients in order to treat them. Wouldn't the constant temptation be so distracting, so dangerous...? But, now... I could see how, if you were focusing on something else hard enough, the temptation was be nothing at all.

Even fresh and exposed, Tyler's blood had nothing on Bella's.

I kept my distance from her, seating myself on the foot of Tyler's mattress.

"So, what's the verdict?" I asked her.

Her lower lip pushed out a little. "There's nothing wrong with me at all, but they won't let me go. How come you aren't strapped to a gurney like the rest of us?" Her impatience made me smile again.

I could hear Carlisle in the hall now.

"It's all about who you know," I said lightly. "But don't worry, I came to spring you."

I watched her reaction carefully as my father entered the room. Her eyes widened and her mouth actually fell open in surprise. I groaned internally. Yes, she'd certainly noticed the resemblance.

"So, Miss Swan, how are you feeling?" Carlisle asked. He had a wonderfully soothing beside manner that put most patients at ease within moments. I couldn't tell how it affected Bella.

"I'm fine," she said quietly.

Carlisle clipped her X-rays to the lightboard by the bed. "Your X-rays look good. Does your head hurt? Edward said you hit it pretty hard."

She sighed, and said, "I'm fine," again, but this time impatience leaked into her voice. Then she glowered once in my direction.

Carlisle stepped closer to her and ran his fingers gently over her scalp until he found the bump under her hair.

I was caught off guard by the wave of emotion that crashed over me.

I had seen Carlisle work with humans a thousand times. Years ago, I had even assisted him informally - though only in situations where blood was not involved. So it wasn't a new thing to me, to watch him interact with the girl as if he were as human as she was. I'd envied his control many times, but that was not the same as this emotion. I envied him more than his control. I ached for the difference between Carlisle and me - that he could touch her so gently, without fear, knowing he would never harm her... She winced, and I twitched in my seat. I had to concentrate for a moment to keep my relaxed posture.

"Tender?" Carlisle asked.

Her chin jerked up a fraction. "Not really," she said.

Another small piece of her character fell into place: she was brave. She didn't like to show weakness.

Possibly the most vulnerable creature I'd ever seen, and she didn't want to seem weak. A chuckle slid through my lips.

She shot another glare at me.

"Well," Carlisle said. "Your father is in the waiting room - you can go home with him now. But come back if you feel dizzy or have trouble with your eyesight at all." Her father was here? I swept through the thoughts in the crowded waiting room, but I couldn't pick his subtle mental voice out of the group before she was speaking again, her face anxious.

"Can't I go back to school?"

"Maybe you should take it easy today," Carlisle suggested.

Her eyes flickered back to me. "Does he get to go to school?"

Act normal, smooth things over...ignore the way it feels when she looks me in the eye...

"Someone has to spread the good news that we survived," I said.

"Actually," Carlisle corrected, "most of the school seems to be in the waiting room."

I anticipated her reaction this time - her aversion to attention. She didn't disappoint.

"Oh no," she moaned, and she put her hands over her face.

I liked that I'd finally guessed right. I was beginning to understand her... "Do you want to stay?" Carlisle asked.

"No, no!" she said quickly, swinging her legs over the side of the mattress and sliding down till her feet were on the floor. She stumbled forward, off-balance, into Carlisle's arms. He caught and steadied her.

Again, the envy flooded through me.

"I'm fine," she said before he could comment, faint pink in her cheeks.

Of course, that wouldn't bother Carlisle. He made sure she was balanced, and then dropped his hands.

"Take some Tylenol for the pain," he instructed.

"It doesn't hurt that bad."

Carlisle smiled as he signed her chart. "It sounds like you were extremely lucky." She turned her face slightly, to stare at me with hard eyes. "Lucky Edward happened to be standing next to me."

"Oh, well, yes," Carlisle agreed quickly, hearing the same thing in her voice that I heard. She hadn't written her suspicions off as imagination. Not yet.

All yours, Carlisle thought. Handle it as you think best.

"Thanks so much," I whispered, quick and quiet. Neither human heard me.

Carlisle's lips turned up a tiny bit at my sarcasm as he turned to Tyler. "I'm afraid that you'll have to stay with us just a little bit longer," he said as he began examining the slashes left by the shattered windshield.

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