Chapter 16

‘I look ridiculous,’ I concluded. I had spent over two hours on getting ready, which was one hour and some fifty minutes longer than usual. Since Mom, Dad and Veronica had already left to LA, I’d had all the bathroom time that a girl could wish for. And God knew I’d used every single minute of it.

I had blow-dried my hair, then curled it, painted my nails, put on makeup, painted my toes, added another bit of makeup and at last, had squeezed myself into the dress and shoes Alice had bought me. I had gone for the easy way out at that moment, not wanting to earn Alice’s scorn by refusing the dress, but now I wish I had.

I didn’t know how chic this thing at the Cullen house was, but I was dressed to sit down and drink tea with the queen of England. So I’d better not be the only one.

As the doorbell rang, I looked up in surprise. Alice said she wouldn’t pick me up until six.. Trudging down the stairs, I had to put all my effort in not falling due to the horrible heels my pixy friend had picked out for me. Granted, it did make me slightly taller – which was good – but I was incapable of walking on them. Accidents were bound to happen.

After what seemed like an eternity, I arrived at the front door and, after catching my breath, I opened with a smile.
Which faltered right away. ‘Hey Dalia!’

‘Derek, I..’ I stammered, not sure what to say. ‘Why are you here?’

He didn’t answer right away, instead looked me up and down, his eyes filled with a glimmer that I didn’t like. ‘You look amazing! Anyways, I came here to give you my Christmas card. I wanted to just send it, but thought this was better.’

Taking the card, I frowned. ‘Thanks.. Wait, how did you even know where I live?’

Derek scratched his neck, uncomfortably. ‘I eh.. it’s a small town, remember.’

‘Alright, well, thank you once again for the card, I appreciate it.’ Couldn’t he understand that I was done talking?

‘Hey, are you home alone? I mean, since there’s no car on the drive way and all..’ he trailed off, growing red. ‘Maybe we could spend Christmas together, like you know, get to know each other a little better.’

It was at this very moment that a silver Volvo stopped in front of the house, my favorite Cullen getting out.

Although Derek’s face clearly showed his annoyance, mine must have been pure, undisguised joy. My savior. ‘Edward!’ I greeted him, perhaps a bit too enthusiastic.

Then, Edward did something that I had not expected. ‘Good day, love,’ he said in his velvet tone, casually putting an arm around my shoulder.

Derek just gaped for a few, good seconds – and I guess so did I. ‘So ehm, I’ll be going, bye Dalia. Merry Christmas.’ And he was gone.

As the blonde disappeared from sight, Edward let his arm fall from my shoulders and took a step back, out of my private space. ‘Are you ready to go?’

My mind was racing, but it wasn’t in the usual way when someone touched me – it was actually kind of a pleasant excitement. Almost as if I hadn’t want him to let me go. I quickly locked that thought away, not wanting to think about any of that today. Therefore, I simply nodded, not trusting myself to speak. Following him to the Volvo silently, I pulled the front door behind me. I was not sure what to say. Taking my seat next to him, my mind finally seemed to start working again. ‘Where’s Alice?’

‘She was still getting ready, so she asked me to pick you up.’ He paused, his fingers flexing and relaxing on the wheel. ‘I am sorry for touching you unannounced, I know you don’t like it.’

‘It’s okay.’ Out of the corner of my eyes, I examined him in all his glory. His bronze hair was ruffled as always and had that out-of-bed look to it that I liked so much. His eyes, that I’d learned were green once upon a time, were a honey color. Clad in a simple, but fitting black tuxedo – complete with tie – he looked as dashing as I’d ever seen him. I sighed. ‘I was afraid I’d be overdressed,’ I joked ‘but now I see I had nothing to worry about.’

‘You look pretty.’

‘You’re tolerable, as well, I suppose.’

A crooked smile played on his lips and I could see he had to keep himself from looking at me – if only to not stress me out when he’d take his eyes of the road. ‘Why, thank you,’ he chuckled ‘You’re going to regret spending Christmas at our house.’

I cocked an eyebrow, not sure about the meaning behind his words. Sometimes I wished I was the mind reader.

‘Alice has…’ he chose his words carefully ‘outdone herself.’

I didn’t ask more, since I really didn’t want to know more, and he didn’t elaborate. It was alright though, because the nerves began creeping up at me. I mean, Christmas was kind of a big, family thing – or it had been at our house, at least. I was only allowed to spend my Christmas somewhere else because they happened to be the Cullens. Rich and influential, exactly the kind of people my mother liked. ‘Thanks for saving me back there.’

‘I didn’t need to read your thoughts to see you were uncomfortable,’ he shrugged ‘Besides, the satisfaction his reaction gave me was enormous.’

Chuckling, I found the nerves dying down. Somehow just being around Edward, just talking to him made all else go away. Although it was even for a second, I could forget about the world when he was with me. I could feel good enough.

We drove up the Cullen driveway at that moment and the nerves resurfaced, trice as strong. I considered jumping out of the moving car in James Bond style, but realized that the bronze haired vampire next to me would probably tie me to my chair if I did as much as look at the door handle. Perhaps I could try escaping when he parked the car..

‘Alice will kill you,’ Edward informed me casually while waiting for the garage door to open.

‘I’m willing to take my chances.’

He didn’t answer anymore. From his facial expression, though, I could guess that if Alice wouldn’t kill me, he would. Like I said earlier, our friendship was based on fantasies of killing each other and a strange, coincidental shared love for Pride and Prejudice.

My breath got caught in my throat as we walked into the living room. I’d always thought the Cullen mansion was beautiful – enough so to still be amazed at it every time I visited – but Edward had not lied: Alice had outdone herself. There was a big Christmas tree in the middle of the living room, dressed up with silver and purple ornaments and a whole pile of presents underneath it. There was a large dinner table set up, complete with silver plates, cutlery and a purple tablecloth and napkins. On each plate a small nameplate and I soon found my own at the far end of the table, next to Alice’s and across the table from Edward’s.

The artist herself soon popped up in front of me, the excitement radiating off of her. She wore a small, deep purple cocktail dress and some black flats with bows on them. ‘I am so glad you’ve come!’ She stepped forward, hugging me. ‘Merry Christmas!’

I was shocked by her sudden display of affection, as well as the feeling of panic that overwhelmed me with her touch, but managed to screw on a smile and hug her back curtly. ‘Thanks, Alice. You, too.’

‘I knew the dress would look wonderful on you!’

‘Hello, Dalia!’ Mrs. Cullen came down the stairs, dressed in a stunning black dress and with her hair tied up in an elegant bun.

‘Good day, Mrs. Cullen. Thank you for letting me spend Christmas here,’ I smiled politely, waiting for the family matriarch to meet us at the bottom of the stairs.

Her smile was friendly – as always. ‘We wouldn’t have wanted it any different.’

As the others filed into the room I felt both relieved and slightly.. uncertain. One the one hand, I was glad to note that I wasn’t at all overdressed. In fact, the Cullens themselves looked ready to walk the red carpet of some big block buster, so I really didn’t mind my own attire anymore. One the other, though, that same fact made my self-esteem drop down to the freezing point. They were all looking immaculate, beautiful, inhumanly perfect. Rosalie looked like a runway model in her floor-length, black dress with silver gems – of which I had no doubt that they were real. Alice herself was the epitome of a small fairy, with her small, delicate limbs and short hair bouncing as she walked. Esme, though looking a bit older than the others, was looking both mature and young and I knew that my mother would have sold her soul – or mine – to look like her.

‘Let us take to the table,’ Carlisle suggested, taking a seat at the head.

As I followed the others, only now the question occurred to me of what dinner would consist of. Salad for me and some juicy humans for the others? I smirked at the mental image, knowing that the Cullens would never eat in front of me. So was still whole show just about seeing me eat?

Edward smiled at me, taking his seat. ‘I warned you.’

Stuffed with an amazing homemade tomato soup, pasta salad and ice cream for dessert, I was positive that I would not be able to move even if my life depended on it. Although at first I had been awkward to eat while the others were just sitting, staring, I had enjoyed it more than any dinner with my own family. We had just migrated from the table to the couches in the living room – after Esme and Alice had done the dishes at a speed that I had not thought possible – and were currently talking about fashion trends through the many years. Or well, Alice was. The others were either sipping their drinks or were simply listening contently, reminiscing on the years that had passed. It was nice to see them all like that, cuddled close to their better halves, so normal, yet at the same time so very abnormal. So very supernatural. To me, though, they were just friends.

They were family.

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