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New Moon (Twilight #2)(8)
Stephenie Meyer

The rain bothered me a little. It was cold. I unwrapped my arms from around my legs to cover my face.

It was then that I heard the calling again. It was farther away this time, and sometimes it sounded like several voices were calling at once. I tried to breathe deeply. I remembered that I should answer, but I didn't think they would be able to hear me. Would I be able to shout loud enough?

Suddenly, there was another sound, startlingly close. A kind of snuffling, an animal sound. It sounded big. I wondered if I should feel afraid. I didn't - just numb. It didn't matter. The snuffling went away.

The rain continued, and I could feel the water pooling up against my cheek. I was trying to gather the strength to turn my head when I saw the light.

At first it was just a dim glow reflecting off the bushes in the distance. It grew brighter and brighter, illuminating a large space unlike the focused beam of a flashlight. The light broke through the closest brush, and I could see that it was a propane lantern, but that was all I could see - the brightness blinded me for a moment.


The voice was deep and unfamiliar, but full of recognition. He wasn't calling my name to search, he was acknowledging that I was found.

I stared up - impossibly high it seemed - at the dark face that I could now see above me. I was vaguely aware that the stranger probably only looked so tall because my head was still on the ground.

"Have you been hurt?"

I knew the words meant something, but I could only stare, bewildered. How could the meaning matter at this point?

"Bella, my name is Sam Uley."

There was nothing familiar about his name.

"Charlie sent me to look for you."

Charlie? That struck a chord, and I tried to pay more attention to what he was saying. Charlie mattered, if nothing else did.

The tall man held out a hand. I gazed at it, not sure what I was supposed to do.

His black eyes appraised me for a second, and then he shrugged. In a quick and supple notion, he pulled me up from the ground and into his arms.

I hung there, limp, as he loped swiftly through the wet forest. Some part of me knew this should upset me - being carried away by a stranger. But there was nothing left in me to upset.

It didn't seem like too much time passed before there were lights and the deep babble of many male voices. Sam Uley slowed as he approached the commotion.

"I've got her!" he called in a booming voice.

The babble ceased, and then picked up again with more intensity. A confusing swirl of faces moved over me. Sam's voice was the only one that made sense in the chaos, perhaps because my ear was against his chest.

"No, I don't think she's hurt," he told someone. "She just keeps saying 'He's gone.' "

Was I saying that out loud? I bit down on my lip.

"Bella, honey, are you all right?"

That was one voice I would know anywhere - even distorted, as it was now, with worry.

"Charlie?" My voice sounded strange and small.

"I'm right here, baby."

There was a shifting under me, followed by the leathery smell of my dad's sheriff jacket. Charlie staggered under my weight.

"Maybe I should hold on to her," Sam Uley suggested.

"I've got her," Charlie said, a little breathless.

He walked slowly, struggling. I wished I could tell him to put me down and let me walk, but I couldn't find my voice.

There were lights everywhere, held by the crowd walking with him. It felt like a parade. Or a funeral procession. I closed my eyes.

"We're almost home now, honey," Charlie mumbled now and then.

I opened my eyes again when I heard the door unlock. We were on the porch of our house, and the tall dark man named Sam was holding the door for Charlie, one arm extended toward us, as if he was preparing to catch me when Charlie's arms failed.

But Charlie managed to get me through the door and to the couch in the living room.

"Dad, I'm all wet," I objected feebly.

"That doesn't matter." His voice was gruff. And then he was talking to someone else. "Blankets are in the cupboard at the top of the stairs."

"Bella?" a new voice asked. I looked at the gray-haired man leaning over me, and recognition came after a few slow seconds.

"Dr. Gerandy?" I mumbled.

"That's right, dear," he said. "Are you hurt, Bella?"

It took me a minute to think that through. I was confused by the memory of Sam Uley's similar question in the woods. Only Sam had asked something else: Have you been hurt? he'd said. The difference seemed significant somehow.

Dr. Gerandy was waiting. One grizzled eyebrow rose, and the wrinkles on his forehead deepened.

"I'm not hurt," I lied. The words, were true enough for what he'd asked.

His warm hand touched my forehead, and his fingers pressed against the inside of my wrist. I watched his lips as he counted to himself, his eyes on his watch.

"What happened to you?" he asked casually.

I froze under his hand, tasting panic in the back of my throat.

"Did you get lost in the woods?" he prodded. I was aware of several other people listening. Three tall men with dark faces - from La Push, the Quileute Indian reservation down on the coastline, I guessed - Sam Uley among them, were standing very close together and staring at me. Mr. Newton was there with Mike and Mr. Weber, Angela's father; they all were watching me more surreptitiously than the strangers. Other deep voices rumbled from the kitchen and outside the front door. Half the town must have been looking for me.

Charlie was the closest. He leaned in to hear my answer.

"Yes," I whispered. "I got lost."

The doctor nodded, thoughtful, his fingers probing gently against the glands under my jaw. Charlie's face hardened.

"Do you feel tired?" Dr. Gerandy asked.

I nodded and closed my eyes obediently.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with her," I heard the doctor mutter to Charlie after a moment. "Just exhaustion. Let her sleep it off, and I'll come check on her tomorrow," he paused. He must have looked at his watch, because he added, "Well, later today actually."

There was a creaking sound as they both pushed off from the couch to get to their feet.

"Is it true?" Charlie whispered. Their voices were farther away now. I strained to hear. "Did they leave?"

"Dr. Cullen asked us not to say anything," Dr. Gerandy answered. "The offer was very sudden; they had to choose immediately. Carlisle didn't want to make a big production out of leaving."

"A little warning might have been nice," Charlie grumbled.

Dr. Gerandy sounded uncomfortable when he replied. "Yes, well, in this situation, some warning might have been called for."

I didn't want to listen anymore. I felt around for the edge of the quilt someone had laid on top of me, and pulled it over my ear.

I drifted in and out of alertness. I heard Charlie whisper thanks to the volunteers as, one by one, they left. I felt his fingers on my forehead, and then the weight of another blanket. The phone rang a few times, and he hurried to catch it before it could wake me. He muttered reassurances in a low voice to the callers.

"Yeah, we found her. She's okay. She got lost. She's fine now," he said again and again.

I heard the springs in the armchair groan when he settled himself in for the night.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again.

Charlie moaned as he struggled to his feet, and then he rushed, stumbling, to the kitchen I pulled my head deeper under the blankets, not wanting to listen to the same conversation again.

"Yeah," Charlie said, and yawned.

His voice changed, it was much more alert when he spoke again. "Where?'" There was a pause. "You're sure it's outside the reservation?" Another short pause. "But what could be burning out there?" He sounded both worried and mystified. "Look, I'll call down there and check it out."

I listened with more interest as he punched in a number.

"Hey, Billy, it's Charlie - sorry I'm calling so early... no, she's fine. She's sleeping... Thanks, but that's not why I called. I just got a call from Mrs. Stanley, and she says that from her second-story window she can see fires out on the sea cliffs, but I didn't really... Oh!" Suddenly there was an edge in his voice - irritation... or anger. "And why are they doing that? Uh huh. Really?" He said it sarcastically. "Well, don't apologize to me. Yeah, yeah. Just make sure the flames don't spread... I know, I know, I'm surprised they got them lit at all in this weather."

Charlie hesitated, and then added grudgingly. "Thanks for sending Sam and the other boys up. You were right - they do know the forest better than we do. It was Sam who found her, so I owe you one... Yeah, I'll talk to you later," he agreed, still sour, before hanging up.

Charlie muttered something incoherent as he shuffled back to the living room.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

He hurried to my side.

"I'm sorry I woke you, honey."

"Is something burning?"

"It's nothing," he assured me. "Just some bonfires out on the cliffs."

"Bonfires?" I asked. My voice didn't sound curious. It sounded dead.

Charlie frowned. "Some of the kids from the reservation being rowdy," he explained.

"Why?" I wondered dully.

I could tell he didn't want to answer. He looked at the floor under his knees. "They're celebrating the news." His tone was bitter.

There was only one piece of news I could think of, try as I might not to. And then the pieces snapped together. "Because the Cullens left," I whispered. "They don't like the Cullens in La Push - I'd forgotten about that."

The Quileutes had their superstitions about the "cold ones," the blood-drinkers that were enemies to their tribe, just like they had their legends of the great flood and wolf-men ancestors. Just stories, folklore, to most of them. Then there were the few that believed. Charlie's good friend Billy Black believed, though even Jacob, his own son, thought he was full of stupid superstitions. Billy had warned me to stay away from the Cullens...

The name stirred something inside me, something that began to claw its way toward the surface, something I knew I didn't want to face.

"It's ridiculous," Charlie spluttered.

We sat in silence for a moment. The sky was no longer black outside the window. Somewhere behind the rain, the sun was beginning to rise.

"Bella?" Charlie asked.

I looked at him uneasily.

"He left you alone in the woods?" Charlie guessed.

I deflected his question. "How did you know where to find me?" My mind shied away from the inevitable awareness that was coming, coming quickly now.

"Your note," Charlie answered. surprised. He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out a much-abused piece of paper. It was dirty and damp, with multiple creases from being opened and refolded many times. He unfolded it again, and held it up as evidence. The messy handwriting was remarkably close to my own.

Going for a walk with Edward, up the path, it said. Back soon, B.

"When you didn't come back, I called the Cullens, and no one answered," Charlie said in a low voice. "Then I called the hospital, and Dr. Gerandy told me that Carlisle was gone."

"Where did they go?" I mumbled.

He stared at me. "Didn't Edward tell you?"

I shook my head, recoiling. The sound of his name unleashed the thing that was clawing inside of me - a

pain that knocked me breathless, astonished me with its force.

Charlie eyed me doubtfully as he answered. "Carlisle took a job with a big hospital in Los Angeles. I guess they threw a lot of money at him."

Sunny L.A. The last place they would really go. I remembered my nightmare with the mirror... the bright sunlight shimmering off of his skin -

Agony ripped through me with the memory of his face.

"I want to know if Edward left you alone out there in the middle of the woods," Charlie insisted.

His name sent another wave of torture through me. I shook my head, frantic, desperate to escape the pain. "It was my fault. He left me right here on the trail, in sight of the house... but I tried to follow him."

Charlie started to say something; childishly, I covered my ears. "I can't talk about this anymore, Dad. I want to go to my room."

Before he could answer, I scrambled up from the couch and lurched my way up the stairs.

Someone had been in the house to leave a note for Charlie, a note that would lead him to find me. From the minute that I'd realized this, a horrible suspicion began to grow in my head. I rushed to my room, shutting and locking the door behind me before I ran to the CD player by my bed.

Everything looked exactly the same as I'd left it. I pressed down on the top of the CD player. The latch unhooked, and the lid slowly swung open.

It was empty.

The album Renee had given me sat on the floor beside the bed, just where I'd put it last. I lifted the cover with a shaking hand.

I didn't have to flip any farther than the first page. The little metal corners no longer held a picture in place. The page was blank except for my own handwriting scrawled across the bottom: Edward Cullen, Charlie's kitchen, Sept. 13th.

I stopped there. I was sure that he would have been very thorough.

It will be as if I'd never existed, he'd promised me.

I felt the smooth wooden floor beneath my knees, and then the palms of my hands, and then it was pressed against the skin of my cheek. I hoped that I was fainting, but, to my disappointment, I didn't lose consciousness. The waves of pain that had only lapped at me before now reared high up and washed over my head, pulling me under.

I did not resurface.

Chapter 4 WAKING UP

TIME PASSES. EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE. EVEN when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise. It passes unevenly, in strange lurches and dragging lulls, but pass it does. Even for me.

CHARLIE'S FIST CAME DOWN ON THE TABLE. "THAT'S IT, Bella! I'm sending you home."

I looked up from my cereal, which I was pondering rather than eating, and stared at Charlie in shock. I hadn't been following the conversation - actually, I hadn't been aware that we were having a conversation - and I wasn't sure what he meant.

"I am home," I mumbled, confused.

"I'm sending you to Renee, to Jacksonville," he clarified.

Charlie watched with exasperation as I slowly grasped the meaning of his words.

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