"Tell me about the day you changed?"
We had hours to kill – days – and we needed to find some way to fill in the time. Talking about my life wouldn't do that. I would run out of things to say within a few hours, if I shared slowly and left no day unmentioned.
"What did you want to know?"
"You were dying of Spanish Influenza?"
"Was it painful?"
"At times. Mostly, I was delirious."
"Did you know what was happening? Did you know you were dying?"
"In moments that I was lucid, yes."
"And then Carlisle found you?"
"He was the treating doctor of the ward."
"Did you know what he was doing? What he was going to do?"
"Only seconds before."
"He didn't give you a choice?"
"I was unresponsive."
"What was it like?"
"The venom was excruciating, but what Carlisle did was much worse."
It took him a while to answer. I wasn't so sure he wanted to. He seemed conflicted, struggling between wanting to tell me and sparing me from the details. Eventually, the former won the battle.
"When we taste human blood, a sort of frenzy begins. It's almost impossible to stop."
Taste human blood. "So, that myth is true? You change a person by biting them?"
"Have you ever changed anyone?"
He didn't like that question. He scowled.
"Does a person have to be dying? To be changed?"
"No. That's just Carlisle. He would never do this to someone who had another choice."
"Is this subject making you uncomfortable?"
It seemed to me that it was. He seemed to grow tenser with every question I posed.
"I understand that you're curious."
Translated: I am uncomfortable, but I'll answer your questions anyway.
He was hurting enough with the physical pain he was enduring for me, because of me. I couldn't add emotional pain to that.
"What do you want the sleeping arrangements to be?"
The randomness of the subject change caused him to raise an eyebrow at me.
"You sleep, I watch."
I couldn't help but smirk. "You have to sleep sometime."
"No, I don't."
Well, now he was just being ridiculous. "Edward, I won't have you losing sleep because of me. What do you think is going to happen, if we're both unconscious?"
There was the slightest twitch of his mouth. He was finding me amusing again.
"Bella, I don't sleep."
Wait. What? "Ever?"
"No, not at all."
"Don't you get tired? Don't you get bored?"
In that order. He never got tired, and yes, he got bored.
"What do you do to pass the time?" It dawned on me as soon as I asked the question. "The piano."
"Among other things, yes."
"Like?" Maybe there would be a clue in his answer, so that I would know how to entertain him.
"Hunt, read, swim, run, chess, drive, learn…"
He trailed off, letting me know by doing so that the list was endless. And it wasn't exactly helpful to me, either. Running would require me to be on his back. In my current… condition… that would obviously be painful for him. We couldn't go swimming – I didn't have a pool and I was sure the river would kill me with its frigidness. There was nothing I could teach him. No book I had that he probably hadn't already read.
I would pose no challenge to him in chess. Driving – an enclosed space. No. Hunting…
"What do you hunt?"
He stiffened. Was that a bad question?
His inflection told me to drop it. Something about that was very upsetting to him. I honored his unspoken wish and changed the subject again.
"Do you like watching TV?"
Okay, it was a lame question, but he relaxed considerably when I asked it, so I felt it was a successful detour.
"Occasionally. It seldom holds my interest, though."
I couldn't argue with him there. I would almost always rather read. Or listen to music.
But his answer did tell me one thing. I couldn't use the idiot box, as my mom liked to call it, as a way of killing time. We had a few board games, but really, they might just as well have been called 'bored games'. Roll dice, move piece, read card, repeat. Not very stimulating for most people, let alone a vampire. Video games at least offered some hand to eye coordination, but I didn't even own a system.
Playing cards didn't seem a viable option, either. What were we supposed to do for the next three to five days? If we couldn't be near each other… if I couldn't ask him questions for fear of upsetting him… if sharing more of my life story would likely put him to sleep – which I guess would be a feat since vampires don't sleep… What was left?
"What are you thinking?"
"That you're going to be bored to tears here for the next however many days."
"I can't shed tears."
Okay, so the 'super' list had competition from the 'can't' list. "What else can't you do?"
His eyes narrowed a little, but he didn't seem angry. No, he wasn't angry. He was something else. It was like concern mixed with… frustration?
"I can't bear how uncomfortable you are in my presence."
Oh. Yeah. I had guessed right, apparently. "I'm not… exactly."
His eyes narrowed a little more.
"I'm just… not sure how to entertain you. I don't have much to offer."
Okay, there was a double meaning there. The entertainment value of my world was far from stimulating, but I was also referring to myself. Next to him I was a nothing. A nobody. How could I possibly hold his interest for long?
And then, once again, he made me question whether or not he could actually read my mind after all.
"Bella, you offer me everything just by breathing."
I was so strongly drawn to him then – like he was the most powerful magnet and I was but a flimsy piece of metal – that I almost went to him. I actually twitched to move, but then I remembered I couldn't and stopped myself. He noticed it, though. Of course he did. He noticed everything.
He took in a breath, held it, and then nodded. I didn't even think about it. I just launched off the bed and into his lap.
We were a perfect fit, like two puzzle pieces that were created decades apart, but meant to be together. Or maybe he was even older than that. I would ask him at some point, but not just then. I was too content to start another question and answer session.
I snuggled into him, my forehead against his neck, and just breathed him in. It was calming and exciting, both at the same time, like his scent was a perfume created for me and me alone.
We didn't speak after that. Not for hours. We didn't need to.
I would struggle for the rest of my life to understand what he saw in me – I knew I would – but I didn't care. Whatever it was that he saw, I was grateful for it.
We spent the rest of the day in that position. We read my favorite book together like that, in the chair by the window, me in his lap. I held the book, and he read it over my shoulder. When he would finish reading the pages – he was always done before I was – he would just stare at me until I turned them.
At night, he sat with me on the bed until I fell asleep. In the morning, he woke me up, gently, by brushing my hair from my face.
I so didn't want to go to school. But when I suggested ditching, Edward shot me a stern look and shook his head.
Resigned, I took my shower and got ready. Breakfast, courtesy of Esme, brought to me by Alice, was waiting for me on the table when I stumbled downstairs and into the kitchen.
Edward was standing in the corner again, waiting. He looked pensive. He seemed burdened.
I took my seat, lifted my fork, but then I just stared at the food. Something was wrong, I could just sense it.
"You should eat, Bella."
Maybe it was low of me to do so, but I did it anyway. I used his own game – a game he had played against me before – and turned it around on him.
"I'll eat if you talk."
He looked up at me then, but I only knew he had because I saw the movement out of my peripheral vision. I was still staring at my plate, fork poised at the ready but unmoving.
"What did you want to talk about?"
"Whatever it is that's bothering you. Don't try to deny it," I added quickly. "I can tell something's wrong."
There was a long moment of silence before he spoke again.
"Alice had a vision."
I took a bite of my waffle, that was topped with some sort of raspberry sauce, then stared back at him, waiting.
"I won't be able to drive you to school on Wednesday."
"Why?" I asked, then I stabbed another piece of waffle and shoved it into my mouth.
"The sun will be out."
Was that all? That didn't seem like such a big deal. Not one enough to explain his current demeanor.
"What aren't you telling me?"
When I didn't take another bite, he shifted his pointed gaze down at my plate, then brought his eyes back up to mine again. I complied.
"Your truck is in poor condition."
I knew that. I struggled with it on a near daily basis. It didn't usually stop me from driving it, though.
Then it hit me. What he was implying.
"Alice saw something happening to me?"
"If you drive your truck, yes."
I could see him wince, like he was reliving whatever Alice had seen. He didn't seem to care about my breakfast anymore. I didn't care about it, either. But there was an obvious, simple solution. I just wouldn't go to school on Wednesday.
"Then I'll just stay home," I told him. "I'm sure I can get a makeup day for the test."
"That won't be necessary."
It wouldn't be? I was becoming more than just a little confused. "Why's that?"
"You will drive my car."
Okay, sure. I could do that. So, why did he still look anguished? "Did Alice see everything being okay if I do?"
"Did you think I'd say no to driving your car?"
"So, if the problem is solved – if nothing's going to happen to me – then why are you still upset?"
He dropped his attention to the linoleum tile, his expression even more pained than previously.
"You're such a frail little human, Bella."
Oh. He wasn't worried about this problem. He was worried about future problems. Alice's vision had apparently rattled him badly.
I moved to stand, my chair scraping the floor, which called his attention back to me.
"Brace yourself. I'm going to hug you now." And by 'brace yourself', I meant 'hold your breath'.
He did, and then we were in each other's arms. He held me desperately, almost to the point of hurting, but I didn't care. It felt good to be able to comfort him. To reassure him for once.
And it did seem to. He was more relaxed when I sat back down to finish my breakfast. He even laughed when, as I stood to leave the table, I caught my foot on the leg of my chair and almost did a face-plant right in front of him. The fridge stopped my fall, but I almost ripped the handle right off the door due to the momentum.
I should have been embarrassed – under normal circumstances I would have been – but it was just so great to see the lighthearted side of Edward again, I couldn't bring myself to feel anything but happy.
He let me drive to school. He wanted to be sure I could handle a car that wasn't held together by wire and electrical tape. Wanting to minimize his pain, I rolled all the windows down from the master controls on the driver's side door. Even though it was obviously helping him, he complained.
Not for any other reason than because he didn't want me to catch a cold. I didn't care if I did, but just to appease him, I turned the heater on full blast. He eased up after that, but he kept touching my cheek periodically to be sure I was warm enough. I guessed I was, because he didn't insist I roll the windows back up, and because his hand felt especially cold against me.
His car was fun to drive. I could see why he liked to go fast. My truck would always rattle if you tried to push it past forty miles per hour. His car took to forty like we were standing still. I could almost hear her taunting me: is that all you got? She was obviously used to Edward's way of driving. I gave her a little more, just to shut her up.
I don't know, his car seemed like a 'she' to me.
And through it all, Edward was amused.
When we pulled into the parking lot, there was Jessica, by the curb, watching for us. I was successful in stopping myself from rolling my eyes, but I wasn't at all so in stopping the groan that escaped me.
I slowed to a crawl as we approached the unloading zone.
"The forest. Lunchtime," I reminded him.
He smirked as he nodded.
Jessica's face was priceless when she saw it was me who was driving. She looked like she had just seen a celebrity dance naked across the campus.
I was aware that Edward was exiting the vehicle at the same time I did – made sense, since he would have to move to the driver's seat – but I wasn't expecting him to be waiting for me, on the sidewalk, mere feet from where Jessica stood.
His smile was so alluring, I couldn't help but gravitate to him.
"I will see you again at three, Bella," he whispered, but loud enough to be heard. Then he took my hand and kissed the knuckles.
Remember how I said they should bring that very old-fashioned gesture back into style? Yeah. They should pass a law, bringing it back.
I stared back at him stupidly, locked into his gaze, oblivious to the world around me. Jessica could have been flashing me, for all I cared.
I remained stuck on stupid as I watched him round the car, slip into the driver's seat, and speed off out of the parking lot. It wasn't until Jessica started screeching, that I was pulled from my trance. Somewhat.
"Oh! My! God! What was that?"
She had taken the words right out of my mouth.
"He's just… old-fashioned," I answered, still a little dazed. I just knew I wouldn't be able to keep up pretenses with her. Oh, not that I planned on telling her one thing that wasn't her business, but I knew I wouldn't be able to dodge her questions gracefully.
"He was looking at you like he's in love with you!"
He was, wasn't he? I knew he was – though why I had yet to determine – but to see it so clearly like that…
"You're in love with him too! I can tell! How long have you known him really?"
"Four and a half days." I shook my head, trying to clear it, then started off towards my first period class. She was like a shadow beside me.
"You are so lying! No one falls in love that quickly, except in movies!"
"I think you might be seeing what you want to see," I told her.
"You seriously expect me to believe that that was nothing?"
Oh my God, shut up. Leave me alone! I just wanted to think. Remember every last detail of that entire moment.
Luckily, Angela came to my rescue. She had no way of knowing it, but she had just saved me from a week's worth of detention.
"Finished up the editorial for Friday's run. Can you take a look at it for me?"
I glanced at Jessica before nodding, then eagerly took the neatly typed paper from Angela. I didn't even read it. I knew it would be perfect anyway. I just used it as an excuse to ignore Jessica.
"Jess, don't you have to get to class?"
God, I love Angela. I would buy her a present for that.
Jessica huffed and stormed off. Clearly, she wasn't ready to give up her interrogation of me.
"She's a little hard to be friends with sometimes, isn't she?"
I pulled my eyes from the article and smiled back at her.
"She is who she is. This is perfect, by the way," I added. She beamed in gratitude. "Did you get the pic of the swim team to go with it?"
"Yeah, they agreed. Today, after school."
"Excellent." We started off towards our class then, and, typical for Angela, she didn't even attempt to pry. She only offered to lend me her ear.
"If you ever need to talk, you know I'm there for you, right?"
I nodded. "I know."
"Eric and I were thinking about getting a group together for Friday night, to go to the show. A kind of celebration for surviving state testing. Jessica might be there, but I'm sure if we sic Mike on her, she'll leave us in peace. You up for it? You could… bring Edward along, if you wanted to."
It was a genuine offer. I knew it was. But… was Edward ready for a step like that? A giant leap, really, into my world?
"I honestly don't know what I'm doing Friday," I said, "but if there's any way I can… sure."
We entered the classroom then, and automatically moved towards our adjoining desks.
"He seems very sweet. You deserve a sweet guy, Bella."
Had she seen what had happened in the parking lot? Probably. My cheeks flushed.
"Thanks. He is."
"I'm dreading testing tomorrow. You?" she asked.
I could feel the color ease a little from my face. I needed to be off the subject of Edward. Even though I knew Angela would never purposefully embarrass me, just talking about him did. My nerves, when it came to him, were just too raw and exposed.
"A little, but mostly because it's tedious."
A thought occurred to me, as we discussed just how tedious the state testing was. Well, she discussed, I nodded or shook my head at all the right moments. Maybe Angela would be willing to help me.
Well, yeah, I knew she would. She was a people-pleaser. It often netted her nothing but trouble, from those who would exploit such a giving trait. I rarely asked anything of her, because I knew she would agree to whatever, even if she didn't want to. I didn't like putting her in that position.
"Hey, Angela, could I maybe ask a favor?"
"You can say no, okay? Don't agree just for the sake of it."
She grinned at me, and I found myself smiling back. We knew each other too well.
"Could you maybe run interference for me today?" She seemed confused, so I explained. "Jessica will not leave me alone. She thinks she smells gossip, when what she's really smelling is her own overly-used perfume." Angela laughed at that. She was good for my ego. "I don't want to sit with her at lunch, but I can't avoid her if she tracks me down, which she will."
"Consider it done. I have her in my class, period before lunch. I'll stall her."
That was the second time today that Angela had saved me.
"Thanks. I'll owe you one."
"Come with us on Friday, and we'll call it even."
It was the least I could do. If Edward didn't feel comfortable, I could always make up an excuse for why he couldn't show.
To be continued…
The last chapter received some very encouraging reviews. Thank you! And one from a familiar 'face'! (waves at GoldenBeliever)
I thought I was done writing this fic, but some new ideas hit me, so… well, it now seems that it will be thirty-four chapters, instead of thirty-three. And I'm also considering writing an epilogue chapter. Not sure, though. I'll keep you posted on that.
Please review! And MTLBYAKY