I tweaked an eye open… Sunlight! It was morning! I bolted upright, pushed the ignore button to stop the annoying sound of my alarm, then grabbed for my duffle. Did I have enough time to take a shower? I had meant to take one the night before! I mentally shrugged as I hurriedly pulled my clothes from the bag. One 'dirty day' wouldn't kill me.
With my change of clothes and my toiletry bag in hand, I stepped into the hall. But then I stopped cold. I had no idea where the bathroom was, and opening doors until I found it didn't seem like a very good idea.
How had I not used the bathroom since arriving here?
I spun around. Alice! She was on the stairs, a few steps from the landing. "Alice, hi, um, where's the bathroom?"
"Second door on the left. Hungry? Esme was planning to make you breakfast."
Esme? I mean, yeah, that was her name, but her kids called her that instead of 'Mom'? I tried that on my parents once and they grounded me for a week. They said it was disrespectful. I couldn't understand why. It wasn't like I was trying to call them something derogatory. Charlie and Renee were their names.
"Um, sure, thanks. But don't go to any trouble or anything. Just toast, or Poptarts or something."
"Oh, that's far too simple for Esme! She loves to cook! And breakfast is the most important meal of the day!"
This girl was far too chipper, especially first thing in the morning. With her slight build and pixie face, she almost seemed like a twelve-year-old, but somehow, I knew she was much older. At least sixteen.
"Come on down when you're ready!"
Poof and she was gone. I checked my blinking again. Status quo. Weird.
I made quick work of getting ready. Luckily, I've never been a girly-girl when it comes to clothes or makeup, or hair for that matter. Simple headband, a little eye shadow, my love-worn jeans and cream colored top, long-sleeved with the holes for my thumbs to slip through, and I was ready. I would brush my teeth after breakfast.
I left my toothbrush and toothpaste on the counter, then I gathered up the rest of my crap and threw it back in the bag. But I left it there. I would return it to the duffle once everything was said and done.
I near about ran down the stairs. Thankfully, I only stumbled once, and I caught my balance before I could inflict injury upon myself.
I couldn't believe my eyes as I stepped into the kitchen. There, on the island counter, was a complete meal only seen in commercials. French toast, syrup in a cute little glass bottle, butter on a plate designed to hold that particular condiment, powdered sugar in a bowl with a spoon beside it… cubed melon… glass of milk… glass of orange juice… linen napkin with a fork, spoon, and knife sitting atop it.
Wow. And once again, it appeared that I would be the only one eating. Yeah, Dr. Cullen said they were all on a special diet, but presumably they would have to consume something at some point.
At least I didn't have an audience. The only person in the room was Esme, but she left almost as soon as I sat down.
I ate a little bit of everything, mostly to avoid being rude, but there was no way I could eat all that. And I was in a hurry. I wondered where Edward was. Maybe he was waiting in the car? I needed to hurry, then.
I rinsed my plate, set it in the sink, then ran back up the stairs to brush my teeth.
Having tucked all my belongings back into the duffle, I bolted for the stairs, backpack slung over one shoulder, iPod in hand.
Three steps down and, sure enough, my feet decided to be mutinous. This was going to be bad, I realized, in the flash of a second. But then, out of nowhere, I was being held.
Edward. He had caught me before I killed myself. Had he been on the stairs? I didn't see him there when I started down them.
"Um, thanks," I muttered, embarrassed. "Your dad was about to make a house call in his own home."
I looked up at him then. His expression shocked me. He looked stern.
"You should be more careful."
Was he mad at me for tripping over my own feet? It was then that something occurred to me. I was in his arms.
Blushing, I looked away. "Yeah, so I've been told."
He released me then, and I suddenly felt very hollow inside. I didn't have time to ponder the reason why, though. I was running late now, and Edward was heading for the door. I followed, grabbing my jacket off the bench in the foyer before I stepped out into the cold morning.
More steps. Excellent. I didn't trip this time, thankfully. I looked up once I was on solid ground, to see Edward standing by his car, holding the passenger door open for me. Now he was smiling. This guy had mood swings like a PMSing woman.
I thanked him as I slipped inside, then with the quickness that I knew I would never become accustomed to, he was beside me in the driver's seat. It almost felt as if I moved in slow motion in comparison.
He said nothing as he drove. He didn't even acknowledge me when I told him I was cold. He just reached over and flipped on the heater.
Minutes later, and my teeth had finally stopped chattering. "Okay, I think I'm warm enough." I moved to flip the heater off, but so did he, at the exact same moment. Our hands brushed, and I gasped.
My God, his hand was cold! I mean, so were mine, but next to his temperature, mine felt like I'd had it resting on a heating pad for the past three hours.
Then he seemed in pain again. He stared ahead at the road, almost looking like a statue, and his grip of the steering wheel tightened. So much so that it almost seemed to bend a little in his grasp.
It was the most uncomfortable I had ever been in his presence. Luckily, five minutes later, we were at Forks High. I thanked him for the ride, but he just stared through the windshield.
"When should I return to pick you up?"
He sounded like he was in pain.
"Um, school lets out at three."
"Do you have after school activities?"
"No," I answered.
"Oh my God, there you are!"
"I'll be here at three," he said. Then he finally looked at me.
Don't ask me how I knew, but he wanted me to close my door. So I did. He sped off instantly, way faster than is technically allowed within the school's parking lot.
"Did you hear about Mr. Forge? Of course you did! He was your dad's best friend!"
I could tell she was walking briskly to get to me, almost to me, but I just watched the silver Volvo as it left the property.
"Who was that?"
I answered without even thinking. "Edward Cullen."
"Oh my God, no way!"
Shit. I had just provided the school's biggest gossip with the juiciest news of the century.
"Um, yeah…" I started for the stairs that led to the building my first class was in. She followed. "My parents left town for Waylon's funeral, so I'm staying with the Cullens."
That was all she was getting out of me, so I hope she enjoyed it.
"You've got to tell me everything!"
Yeah, no I didn't. "There's not much to tell. Nice family. You've met Dr. Cullen before, right? When you got your stitches last year?"
"Well, yeah, but what are his kids like?"
Keep fishing, Jess. See how far it gets you. "They're nice, too."
"Are the rumors true? Do they really have a weird, gross skin condition?"
Nice. Very tasteful. I fought to not roll my eyes. "It would have been rude of me to ask such a question."
"Well, yeah, sure, but, did you see a skin condition?"
The building was warm, as per usual, so I stripped off my jacket as I shifted my backpack from one hand to the other. "Medical conditions aren't always visible, Jess. Aren't you going to be late for class?"
She checked her watch, a horrified look coming over her as she realized the time. "Okay, but I'm sitting with you at lunch!"
Yay. Lucky me. I rolled my eyes and entered my classroom. Maybe I could find a place to hide during lunch. If it wasn't raining, I could slip away to just inside the forest's edge. Students weren't technically supposed to do that, but I didn't care. I sometimes went there just to have some alone time, anyway. Escape seemed like just as good a reason.
Angela looked at me with a sympathetic expression as I approached our adjoined desks.
"I heard about Mr. Forge. How's your dad doing?"
At least the pity wasn't directed at me. "He's… okay, I guess. He and Mom went to Virginia for the funeral."
"You're all alone in the house?"
She sounded concerned. "Um, no, I'm staying with the Cullens."
That was one thing I liked about Angela. She wasn't a gossip. She didn't pry or badger.
"That's nice of them."
"Yeah, it is," I said. Then I remembered that I was going to ask her if I could stay with her. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I had a mystery to crack, anyway, and the Cullens were being very gracious and hospitable hosts.
The bell rang, the teacher called the class to order, and that was the end of the discussion.
Lunchtime. Not that I would be eating. If I stepped into the cafeteria, Jessica would assault me, and there was just no way I could put up with her for an entire forty-five minutes. Three minutes before first period had been more than enough time spent with her for one day.
It wasn't exactly raining. More like drizzling. Still, I was bound to get wet. I didn't care. The trees usually provided a little cover from the elements, anyway.
I made my way to the forest edge, then snuck in a little ways. My favorite tree sat waiting for me. Pulling my iPod from my backpack, I scrolled through the menu to find a song in specific. It usually calmed me, and I needed a good sense of calm.
Wait. What songs were these? They weren't even titled, just numbered. All my songs had titles. Names.
I clicked on the first one and stuffed my earbuds into my ears. I recognized it instantly. It was one of Edward's compositions. But how did it get onto my iPod?
I rolled my eyes as it dawned on me. I could be so slow sometimes. He put them on it, probably when I was asleep. That was… nice of him. Maybe I should have been appalled that he had taken my property and done what he wished with it, but I wasn't.
Closing my eyes, I settled my head back against the trunk and let his music soothe me. Two songs in, and my eyes flew open. It felt like I was being watched. But when I looked around me, nothing seemed amiss at all.
It should have creeped me out, this feeling of being watched, but actually, it was almost comforting. I closed my eyes again.
My cell phone started vibrating a few minutes later. An incoming text message. I fished it out of my pocket, then rolled my eyes when I saw who it was from.
"Where R U? Get 2 the cafeteria! We have 2 talk!"
God, Jessica loved exclamation marks. She used them in her voice when she spoke, in text messages, even in notes she passed me during class.
"There are other forms of punctuation, Jess." I said this to no one, obviously, but I could have sworn I heard a chuckle in response. I looked around again. And again, nothing.
I responded to her message with a simple, "Last second homework," then clicked 'send' and pushed my phone back into my pocket. If she texted again, I would just say I didn't get it. Forks was notorious for iffy cell phone service.
The thirty-three minutes – I deducted six minutes for walk time, both ways – flew by. That was, I'm sure, because of his music. It wasn't just pretty to listen to. It was complex. I found myself trying to determine what mood he must have been in when he composed each song. No easy task. Not only because I didn't know him very well, but because he seemed deep in a way that was puzzling.
Disappointed that I would have to endure the next three periods before I could see him again, I sighed as I clicked off my iPod. I shoved it in my backpack, pushed to standing, and headed out of the forest.
I made it just as the bell rang. Luckily, Mr. Molina wasn't a hard-ass about such things. He always turned the other way if one of his students was a few minutes late.
And then the rest of the day dragged on. Another wink of praise from Mr. Molina for my obviously accurate homework assignment, no injuries or deaths in Gym, another boring essay due Monday in English. At least I would have the weekend to complete it. I would have to schedule my play date with Alice around it. I smirked at that.
I could really come to like Alice, even though she was far too happy to be considered normal. There was just something infectious about her.
I pulled my jacket on before leaving the building, anxious to get outside and see Edward again. But, of course, things are never quite that simple.
"Was it the biology homework you had to do during lunch?"
Oh joy. Jessica had tracked me down. "No. I finished that up last night."
"English, then? I'm assuming you didn't have homework from Gym."
Okay, so that narrowed my choices down. English it is. "Yeah, English. Just a few questions, but I knew I would get distracted at lunch, and then wouldn't get to it."
"Okay, so, dish!"
Right for it. Figures. "Plate, spoon, knife." I was being a smart-ass, but it might buy me some time. If I could get to Edward's car before she asked too much, I might just be able to avoid her inanity for another day. I pushed out the door, but of course she followed right behind.
"Ha, ha. I'm being serious!"
"There's nothing to dish," I stated flatly. There, right where he had dropped me off that morning, was his silver Volvo. Salvation was just a few steps away.
"Oh, come on! You're on the inside! There has to be something juicy to share!"
Still with the exclamation marks, but at least she lowered her voice the closer we got to his car. I didn't want him to think me rude for talking about him and his family behind their backs.
"There really isn't." God, why couldn't I move any faster? Of course, if I tried to… the image of my inevitable face-plant almost made me shudder.
"Bells! Come on! Just one little thing!"
I hated it when she called me that. I barely tolerated it from my dad, and he was responsible for my existence.
"Fine," I said, now within reaching distance of the door. He hadn't stepped out to open it for me. Weird. "Mrs. Cullen is an excellent cook."
With that I yanked the door open, slipped inside, and slammed it shut, all while she just glared at me. Apparently, dish about Mrs. Cullen's cooking abilities wasn't what she was hoping to learn.
"Did you have a good day at school?"
What a fatherly thing to ask. "Typical," I replied. I clicked my seatbelt, then looked over at him. He was smiling again. Oh, that felt good. I found myself smiling along with him.
Then we were off. Way too fast. God, he was going to hit a kid if he wasn't careful. But, of course, he didn't. Which was good for the obvious reasons, and for one other unobvious one. I was hoping to spend the day with him, not at the hospital or police station.
"Jessica seems… nice."
"Yeah, seems," I muttered. Then something hit me. How did he know her name? "Do you know her or something?" I asked.
"Then, how did you know her name?"
He tensed again. Great. Everything I asked him seemed to set him off.
"My father treated her last year… six stitches… after she was hit in the head with a badminton racket."
Oh, great. Yeah, I guess the whole town would know about that. Maybe he didn't know it was me who accidentally inflicted that particular injury upon her.
The road in front of us became as important to me as it seemed to be to him. But we weren't heading for his house.
"Where are we going?"
"Your house, so you can retrieve more of your personal effects. I'm assuming you don't want to wear the same two outfits for the next two weeks."
Oh, right. I knew that. "Not so much," I said.
And then we both fell silent. It wasn't until we were minutes from my house, that my iPod came to mind.
"Thanks for the music. It was a lifesaver today. Jessica was on my last nerve."
He laughed. Oh, yeah, that was a good sound. It almost made me feel euphoric.
"You're welcome. The forest is a great place to enjoy soothing music."
Whoa. Wait a sec. How did he know…? Or, maybe it was just a statement of fact. It was hard to tell by the inflection he had used. How would I even ask him, though? 'Oh, hey, by the way, were you spying on me? Is that how you knew I was in the forest today?'
Then I visibly startled. It felt like I was being watched while in the forest.
"Is something wrong?"
But how was that even possible? When I had looked around, I saw no sign of anyone. Not him, not anyone.
Oh. He was talking to me. "Hmm?"
"Are you all right? You startled just now."
Okay, I needed to get a grip. This was just my overactive imagination working overtime. He wasn't in the forest today. It didn't make sense that he would be. Besides, I would have seen him.
"Shivered," I lied. It wasn't particularly cold, so I wasn't sure if he'd buy that. If he didn't, he didn't call me on it.
"Would you like me to wait in the car?"
Oh. We were in front of my house. "You can come in," I answered.
I watched him closely that time. I stared at him, unblinking, as he left the car, walked around to my side, and then opened my door for me. Okay, definitely my overactive imagination. He moved at a completely normal speed.
The house seemed almost eerie. I'd been at home alone a million times before, but this was different. My parents weren't just at work or running errands. They were gone.
I shook the thought from my head and started up the stairs. Then I realized Edward wasn't following. He was standing by the door, watching me.
"You can come," I told him. He immediately moved to join me.
I was tense as I entered my room, but it took me a few seconds to determine why. I had never had a man in my room before. But then my mood shifted to something that more closely resembled excitement. Edward was in my room!
Suddenly, I felt like a young child, having a friend over for the first time. I had to stop myself from sharing my boring life with him, one insignificant item at a time.
Instead, I pulled my suitcase out from under my bed and started throwing clothes into it.
"You like purple."
It wasn't a question, but it wouldn't have confused me any less if it had been. I blinked up at him. His eyes drifted away from mine, and I followed the line of sight.
Oh. He was referring to my purple bed sheets. "Um, yeah, it's my favorite color." There was an opening, so I took it. "You have a favorite color?"
Okay, that covered about a million options. "Sky? Royal? Cerulean?"
He smirked. "Colonial."
"Hmm." That's it. I hummed. Then I went back to packing.
Why was it so hard to get a conversation moving with this guy?
I flitted about, grabbing this and that. My journal. My digital camera. A few extra headbands. My cell phone charger. My battery was already running low. I would have to charge it tonight.
I threw these miscellaneous items into my suitcase, on top of my haphazardly flung in clothes, and slammed the lid shut. As soon as I clicked the locks, he reached past me to grab it.
I followed him down the stairs and out the door, but paused before closing and locking it. Looking back inside, I felt a sense of longing come over me.
"Two weeks isn't so long."
I shook my head as I turned to face him. Compassionate eyes met mine. Not just compassion, but intense empathy, like he was feeling my pain right along with me.
I couldn't hold his gaze. It was too much, like it magnified my own feelings.
"I know. And thanks."
Again, he put my suitcase in the trunk. Again, he held my door open for me. And again, he was in the driver's seat much too quickly.
We were halfway to his house before either of us spoke again.
To be continued…
Hmmm. No reviews at all for chapter two. Perhaps this is an indication that the story sucks?
Well, I'll post a few more chapters. See if things pick up.
Everyone excited about Eclipse coming out next week? I'm just about ready to explode, I'm that excited! I'm doing The Twilight Experience. All three released movies in a row! Does it get any better than that?
Don't forget to review, please. I won't know to continue if you don't.
Thanks, and MTLBYAKY
I have written my first novel! 'The Mengliad' is available on Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle versions, and the sequel, 'The Registry's Secrets', will be available soon!
"There are a lot of beliefs out there. Some people think we got here by spacecraft. Some think we evolved, like Humans, but in a slightly different direction. Some think we were created by God, after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. However we came to be, the truth of the matter is, there are two species that are near-identical in every way that inhabit the Earth. One is Human, one is Mengliad."
What would you do if you learned that there was a separate Human-like species on the planet? Jessica Mitchell is about to be faced with that very question. The strange flu bug she seems to have caught quickly becomes the least of her worries. While on her way home from work, she passes out in Central Park, only to regain consciousness hours later, under the gaze of a kind but odd stranger. This Good Samaritan offers his assistance, and subsequently opens the gate to a world she knows nothing about.
Initially, Jessica is reluctant to believe what Craddock Daniels tells her, but after the unsettling reality sinks in, she feels she has no choice but to follow him and his friends. Changes are taking place, and she is now in danger because of them. Will Craddock be able to protect her? Does Jessica possess the strength to endure all that is happening to her? Can love really blossom under the direst of circumstances?
THE MENGLIAD is a romance adventure novel with a sci-fi flavor. At over 112,000 words, this story evokes a sense of how horrible it would be to have everything you knew pulled from under you.