"Esme is making Italiano for you tonight. She hopes you're hungry."
Hopes. Present tense. But he hadn't been in contact with his mom since I got into the car back at school. He was never out of my sight after that.
"When did you speak with your mom?"
It wasn't an apology, it was a question, like he was confused over mine.
"You said 'hopes', like she's currently having that thought."
He tensed. "She mentioned it before I left today."
It was little things like that, that caught my attention. Maybe I was being stupid for dwelling on them, but they seemed noteworthy somehow.
"I am. Hungry."
"She will be pleased."
I didn't doubt that. The woman obviously loved to cook, but since her family was apparently on a special diet, she probably didn't get to do it often.
"What kind of special diet are you on?" I asked.
He tensed again. "It's… complicated."
How complicated could it possibly be? I wasn't an idiot. "I'm sure I can keep up," I told him, not allowing him to dodge it that easily.
It took twenty-two years for him to answer. "It's a sort of… liquid diet."
Sort of. The mysteries just kept on coming.
We turned onto the long winding road that led to his house then, so I dropped it.
We pulled up in front, and like a flash, he was at my door, opening it. Then, when we got inside, he helped me take my jacket off. This guy was certainly gentlemanly. It was refreshing, really. All the guys at school thought they were doing you a favor just by breathing. Ah, the ego of the male teenager.
The house smelled like a restaurant. An Italian restaurant. My stomach growled in anticipation of what Esme was preparing.
"Dinner will be ready shortly," he said.
What, was he a mind reader? Could he hear my growling hunger? It certainly didn't seem that loud to me. I didn't hear it so much as feel it, and I was clearly closer to it.
"I will go get your suitcase now, and bring it to your room."
Right. The suitcase. I nodded, then watched him leave before heading for the stairs. I was barely through the door, and there he was, entering with my lone piece of luggage.
Okay, this time, I knew it wasn't my imagination playing tricks on me.
"How did you get up here so fast?"
His eyes widened, and then they just sort of… dropped. He almost closed them. It was as if he was berating himself for something.
"I didn't want to make you wait."
Okay, but that didn't really answer my question. "Time doesn't seem to make sense when I'm around you. Little things, like just now, with the suitcase. It's as if you can move faster than what would be considered normal."
Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say, because he huffed and stormed off. I was starting to think that this guy really did hate me, deep down, and was only being nice to me because his parents had asked him to be.
But, no, that couldn't be true. There were other moments… When he laughed. When he looked at me with so much compassion it was almost frightening. It was only when I asked certain questions that he seemed to hate me. Okay, so, maybe he was just a really private guy. Or, maybe, he had secrets. People tended to get all paranoid and weird when they were keeping secrets.
Making mental notes, I thought back to the few conversations we'd had. All the moments he tensed or flinched, or seemed angry or panicked.
I puzzled over it for a while, analyzing every one of his reactions, but they still didn't make any sense. I was so busy with this mental task, that I didn't realize he was standing in the doorway watching me… until he cleared his throat.
"Dinner is ready."
Oh, fantastic. Now I was blushing because dinner was ready? Or maybe it was because he had just caught me in deep contemplation. Well, at least he couldn't know what was going on inside my head. Unless he really was a mind reader.
No, his return expression didn't support that theory. If he knew what I was thinking, he would either be annoyed or amused. Or both. He seemed capable of many different emotions at once.
I gave a nod, then stood and followed him to the dining room.
Okay, did they think I was royalty or something? This was much too elaborate for just me.
And, again, it was just me. They all just sat there, watching. All except Dr. Cullen. He was on shift at the hospital.
Unnerved by the weird attention, I announced with all the respect I could muster, "You know, you don't have to sit here. I'm sure you all have better things to do than watch me eat."
Rosalie left first, followed quickly by Emmett. Then Jasper stood, but he waited for Alice before walking away. They seemed like a couple, actually. Alice and Jasper. Rosalie and Emmett, too, kind of. Weird, but if they weren't related, there wasn't anything illegal about it.
The only one in this family not with someone, was Edward. Or maybe he was. Maybe his girlfriend just didn't live with them.
Esme got up next. She smiled warmly at me before walking away. I expected Edward would follow, but he just remained seated where he was.
"You can go too, if you want," I told him.
"I know," he said, but he stayed.
So maybe he didn't hate me after all.
"Sorry about before," I said, after I swallowed the bite I had been currently chewing. Man, I was going to miss eating like this. My mom was an okay cook, but mac-n-cheese compared to this? Sorry, there was just no comparison. "I didn't mean anything bad by it," I continued. "I just found it interesting."
"I'm sorry for leaving you with the impression that I was angry."
That seemed to be a lie. I didn't call him on it, though. I had lied to him earlier, and if he knew I had, he had extended me that same courtesy.
"So, still friends?" I asked. Were we that? I wasn't sure what we were.
He smiled. Okay, maybe we were friends.
I hurriedly finished my meal then. I wanted to get my math homework out of the way so that I could maybe – maybe – have another conversation with Edward. I wanted answers. I wasn't so sure I'd get them, but I had to try.
Maybe he would help me if I asked him to. Not that I needed help. Math was the easiest subject of them all. But I could play stupid for a bit. Let him teach me, and then while he was, I could slip in a few questions. Maybe he would feel a sense of obligation to stay if he was helping me, even if I annoyed him. This was a good plan.
"Are you any good at math?" I asked.
He smirked. Okay, he definitely wasn't a mind reader. Or maybe he was, and was amused by my obvious attempt to trap him. Just when I thought I had a piece of the puzzle solved, it turned out it wasn't solved at all.
Maybe that should have seemed arrogant, answering 'yes' so absolutely, but from him, it didn't.
"I have some math homework tonight…"
Would he take the bait and offer his assistance? If he didn't, I would ask him.
"I can help."
Excellent. I shoveled my food.
I plopped down on his bed and quickly pulled my folder out of my backpack. He stood over me for a moment, then dropped to his knees nearby, gracefully. This man had the grace of a dancer.
I located the pathetic worksheet and handed it over to him. Okay, I really didn't think this through. Clearly, anyone with half a brain cell could figure this stuff out.
He looked it over for a moment, then leaned in as he set it on the bed in front of me.
Okay, screw thinking things through. His nearness was intoxicating. Well, since I'd never been intoxicated, I could only guess what that might feel like. But if it was even close to this dizzying sensation, I could see why people became alcoholics.
And for the next twenty minutes, he was my teacher. He went through every question with me, asked what I should do next in each step of each equation. And he did all this without condescension.
I was so wrapped up in it all, I had forgotten to ask one single question. Well, so much for that. But I couldn't regret it. It was time well spent.
When we were finished, I considered asking for his help on my English essay, just so that he wouldn't leave, but it proved unnecessary. There was no indication that he was planning on it. He settled back onto his legs, still on his knees, and stared at me.
So, I braved forward. If he truly wasn't mad about my earlier question, maybe he would answer if I asked it again.
"I would love to know how you can move that fast. It wasn't just with the suitcase. I've noticed it a few times."
He hummed. A sweet melodic sound that instantly put me at ease.
"I'm more interested in your theories."
"I don't have any theories," I answered honestly.
"It never occurred to you that you might just be imagining this… abnormal speed I supposedly possess?"
"At first. I even thought I might be blinking strangely. But, nope. I'm not. It's you, I'm sure of it."
He smirked. "Are you now?"
Okay, he was playing with me.
"Yes. Pretty sure," I added.
"Pretty sure? There's room for doubt."
"You're really not going to tell me?" I asked.
His smirk dropped just a little. "You must really enjoy disappointment."
What the hell was that supposed to mean? Scowling, I muttered, "Not as a general rule, no."
"Then why create fantastical nonsense? The truth will certainly be disappointing."
"Yeah, see, you're trying to convince me that there's nothing to this, but I know there is."
He stood then, and at first I thought I had crossed a line – made him angry again – but if he was upset with me, it didn't reach his eyes. They crinkled with amusement.
"Come up with a theory, and we'll have this conversation again."
Then he left. Very slowly. It was almost like he was mocking me by doing so.
If he wanted to play, I was game. He was messing with the wrong girl now. I wasn't the type to back down from a challenge.
Determined, I yanked my laptop onto the bed, opened it and pulled it out of standby, then a few clicks later, and I was on the internet. Sweet. WI-FI.
Okay, what did I know? What were the facts? Anything, even if it was insignificant. Speed. Cold hands. Pale complexion. Liquid diet. Accomplished pianist. Highly intelligent. Abnormal eye color. Weird mood swings. Intense empathy. The ability to read minds? Maybe not, but it wouldn't hurt to throw that in there.
I searched for hours. I searched all the facts. I searched them all at the same time and separately. I searched them in combinations. The best I could come up with was superhero crap. The stuff of legends found in comic books. Oh, and vampire crap. But nothing that logically explained things.
And now it was late, and I still hadn't taken a shower. I wasn't going to school dirty two days in a row. I gave up, grabbed my nightclothes and toiletry bag, and headed for the hall.
Maybe I should ask if I could take a shower first? Maybe the running water would interrupt someone's sleep? It wasn't that late, but my instilled manners demanded I not just jump in without being sure.
I descended the stairs, crap in hand, intent on asking the first person I came across.
Esme. Okay, good. Esme was very sweet.
"Um, excuse me, Mrs. Cullen? I was wondering if it would be okay if I took a shower?"
"Of course, dear. You don't even need to ask. We want you to feel at home here."
I smiled, a bit sheepishly, then headed back up the stairs.
The shower felt amazing, in part because I sorely needed one, but also because their bathroom was as grand as the rest of their house. The showerhead had eight different settings, from a mere trickle like rain to a pounding massage. I tried each one of them, just to say I did.
I dried off, combed out my wet hair, brushed my teeth, got dressed for bed, then headed that way. I was set to close my laptop and relocate it to the floor when something hit me. Something was wrong. Okay, maybe not wrong, but, just, not right. Looking around the room, I tried to decide what it was, but nothing seemed out of place. The window wall thing was closed. No one was in there with me.
Then, finally, it occurred to me. My laptop hadn't gone into automatic standby. I was in the shower way too long for it not to have done so. The only way it wouldn't have, was if someone was using it.
And I had a pretty good guess who that someone was.
I flipped the laptop closed, set it on the floor, then climbed into bed and under the covers. But I didn't even try to go to sleep. Not yet. I just stared at the ceiling, contemplating my next course of action.
He obviously saw that I was hitting dead ends. I'd had several different windows opened, all with the gibberish I had found. He was probably feeling so smug right then, wherever he was.
Again, it didn't even dawn on me that I should feel somehow violated that he'd used my property without permission. I was just annoyed that I was losing our game.
With how I was feeling, I wouldn't be able to nod off for a year. And I did need sleep. Friday was usually test day, though not the state testing. That would start on Tuesday.
I knew what would relax me. It seemed weird that I would use his music to calm me down, when it was him who had me all worked up in the first place. Whatever. If I used my iPod, he would never know. I wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of knowing.
I grabbed my iPod, then made sure my alarm was set on my cell phone. Oh! Right. I needed to charge that. After I set that up, I shoved my earbuds in place and located the first numbered track he had added to my list of songs.
I guess I was really tired, because the next thing I knew, I was waking up in a dark room, my iPod no longer playing, in the dead of the night.
To be continued…
Okay, this chapter is a bit smaller than I thought. It's also being posted without a safety net. My beta reader went MIA again, and my daughter didn't want the job this time.
I wanted to post this chapter today, since tomorrow I will be mega busy with the 'Twilight Experience', and I will be recovering from it on Wednesday.
So, it was either post without a beta edit, or wait until Thursday. I opted for the former. I apologize if there were any mistakes I missed. In a few days, when my beta comes back online, I'll ask her to proof it, and if there are any mistakes, I'll fix them at that time.
I received a few reviews for chapter three… thank you. I will go ahead and continue posting, as long as there are people interested in me doing so. I am up past seventy-seven thousand words now, and have just started chapter twenty-two. And I'm only on day eight of Bella's stay!
Just FYI, but the more reviews I receive, the faster I post.
Thanks for reading, 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.