I turned the water on, adjusted the temperature, stripped, and then got in. But I was completely distracted as I washed myself. I couldn't bring myself to care, though. I would take a more thorough shower tomorrow.
The last forty-eight hours had been the absolute weirdest of my life. I knew they would be, but I had imagined them being so in an entirely different way.
Edward aside for a moment…
Alice treated me like we were best friends, or sisters, even though we barely knew each other. And because of that I felt strangely close to her, too. It was like she was privy to information or memories about our lives that I wasn't.
Esme and Dr. Cullen looked at me like I was their daughter. Like Alice, it was as if they knew something I didn't. Like how family and friends act around a loved one with amnesia, anxiously waiting for their memories to click back into place.
Rosalie hated me for no reason.
Emmett and Jasper seemed to like me, though their feelings seemed to be a bit weaker than the others. But again, it was like I was the only one not in the know.
And then there was Edward. I was never one to believe in love at first sight – I usually scoffed when that was the plot of a book or movie – but that seemed to be what was happening between us now. At first, I thought it was just me. I felt drawn to him in a way that didn't even make sense. The idea that he could possibly feel the same way… Well, it seemed surreal, to put it simply.
I honestly didn't know what the future held, if it held anything at all pertaining to Edward, but to snip the thread that was tied to that possibility… It was a little bit frightening. It was like I was standing on a precipice, with two options before me: to jump or not to jump. On one hand, I could take the plunge and be with Edward. That option would be wrought with danger and difficulties. On the other hand, I could turn around. It would be safe, yes, but I'd never have the thrill of knowing what it was like to have Edward in my life the way I wanted.
I was invested now, strange as that seemed. He was under my skin, in my every waking thought. At the end of two weeks, could I honestly just walk away and pretend none of this had happened? Would I be expected to? Okay, yeah, he said he would wait forever, but since forever wasn't a realistic consideration, what were we left with? Until the end of my stay? A few months? Years, maybe? Then what?
If I couldn't figure this out, would we at least remain friends? Could we be that without wanting more?
The only logical course of action was to figure this thing out. Once I was in the know, things would be much clearer. Simpler.
The water was starting to run cold. Okay, for how long was I standing there thinking?
Finally snapping out of my introspective state of semi-consciousness, I got ready for bed as quick as I could and went back to the room. He was still in there, on his bed, on my computer.
I knew he knew I was there, but he didn't look up or acknowledge me.
"Don't you own a computer?" I asked. A slight smile inched onto his face.
"I do," he answered.
"But mine is much more fascinating?"
"At the moment, yes."
"Am I anywhere close to on the right track?"
He finally looked up at me. "That might be giving you too much information."
"You're really going to make me work for this, aren't you?"
His smile grew, then dropped. "May I ask you a hypothetical question?"
He could ask me anything he wanted, as long as he kept talking. "Sure." I joined him on the bed, on the other side of my laptop so that it was between us.
"What if the world wasn't as black and white as you thought it was?"
"I'm open to the possibilities. Aliens, the supernatural…"
His eyes brightened a little.
The supernatural? He already said he wasn't from another planet. I wasn't opposed to any consideration anymore. A logical answer just didn't seem to fit.
Okay, so, what did the supernatural entail? Ghosts? Heavenly beings? Anything outside explanation, really.
"What are you thinking?"
"I'm running a list of supernatural options inside my head," I answered.
"Have you found anything interesting, within your list?"
I shrugged. "It covers a lot of ground, but off the top of my head… Angels?"
He seemed frustrated by that. He scowled a little, then looked away. "You think too much of me."
I scowled, too. "I don't think I do."
"Angels are inherently good."
"And you're not?"
His eyes found mine again, and while he didn't answer verbally, I knew what he was trying to convey.
"You're not bad, Edward. You couldn't be."
I knew he wasn't, but since he seemed to think so… Okay, bad supernatural. What was in that category? I'd never really given much thought to such things before. I would need to do another search.
I reached for my laptop to turn it towards me, set to do just that, but he pulled it away. Inched it, really, just a little. It was a subtle request.
"You'd rather me wait until I'm alone?"
He gave a slight nod, then stared back at me expectantly.
I wasn't ready for our time to be up yet. Every moment seemed precious. Like each second might very well be the last. "It can wait till later." I dropped back onto the bed, my legs dangling off the end, and stared up at the ceiling.
I was vaguely aware that he had closed my laptop and set it on the floor, but then, surprisingly – more than just surprising – he joined me. Like magnets, the kind that both attract and repel, we turned towards each other, but kept a measured distance between us. And then we just stared at each other for what seemed like hours.
My blinks were getting longer, but I fought against them. Each time my eyes would close, I forced them back open. I wasn't ready to lose this strange but wonderful connection to him yet.
He seemed as wide awake as ever. He rarely blinked, and sometimes, it seemed he wasn't even breathing. But every time I tried to concentrate on that, I would hear him inhale or exhale. I chalked it up to my imagination playing tricks on me.
And then I lost the fight. I was only just barely aware of something cool – cold, really – touching my forehead, and then I felt myself being moved. I couldn't wrap my brain around it, though, so I didn't try to. I just snuggled into the bed and allowed sleep to whisk me away to the land of dreams.
The next morning – almost afternoon – when I finally woke up, my first inclination was to grab my laptop and start my search over, to include bad supernatural. But the smells coming from downstairs were just too tempting.
I didn't even bother to change out of my nightclothes. Saturdays were the best day of the week. No school, and still one more day of freedom on the horizon. With Sundays, you just knew Monday was right around the corner – the worst day of the week.
I padded down the stairs, trying to tame my hair as I went, and straight into the kitchen. Half the family was there. Edward, Alice, and Esme. I immediately felt as if I was interrupting.
"Good morning!" Alice chirped.
I glanced at the clock on the wall. "For another forty-three minutes."
"Edward didn't have the heart to wake you. He said you needed your rest."
I looked to him, but he was avoiding eye contact. Had something happened? We couldn't stop looking at each other last night.
"I hope you're hungry," Esme said.
I almost laughed. She hoped for that a lot.
"In a few minutes I will be," I said, smiling back at her. "My stomach is still waking up."
"Here! Start with this!" Alice then proceeded to hand me a glass of orange juice, which was already poured and seated in its usual spot on the island counter.
I took a few sips, then held it in front of me with two hands as I stared at the floor. The vibe Edward was giving off was distant again. His mood swings were starting to give me whiplash.
"Not right now."
Huh? Was he talking to me? Had I missed something?
"Always so serious," Alice said, in a mock-scolding. "She has a few minutes until her breakfast is ready!"
She plucked the orange juice from my hand, set it back on the counter, and took my arm, leading me from the room. Edward followed.
We entered a room I had only seen once before. The main piece of furniture in it was a piano. I assumed it was Edward's, since he was the pianist. We approached it, then she took me by the waist and directed me onto the bench.
Was she expecting me to play? I didn't know how to play the piano, and even if I did, I certainly wouldn't play in front of Edward. He would laugh at me for sure.
But then Edward joined me on the bench seat, at Alice's physical urging.
Oh! He was going to play for me! Okay, yeah. That idea appealed to me.
I was very aware of our close proximity – a little nervous by it, really – but then he started playing, and it just didn't matter anymore. It was a song I hadn't heard yet, but it was just as amazing as all the others I had.
I closed my eyes, anchoring myself to the seat by gripping the edge of it, and let the melody take me to wherever it was going.
I imagined soaring through tree tops, over rivers, across mountains… like a dream, only very real.
When the song ended, I forced my eyes open again. Edward was staring at me.
"Tell her what it's called."
It could have been called 'Eat Dog Crap and Die', and it wouldn't have taken away from the magnificence of it.
Edward didn't answer, and then he looked away from me, that same overly serious expression on his face he was obviously known for.
"Sheesh, Edward, you're an absolute grump!" Alice chided lightheartedly. She then skipped off towards the kitchen.
"It was beautiful, Edward. Truly amazing. Thank you for sharing that with me."
That seemed to help his mood, because he turned to look at me again, a smile tugging at his lips.
God, I wanted to kiss those lips.
"It's called 'Bella's Lullaby'."
My jaw dropped open. I'm sure I looked very attractive like that. But what else could I do? There were no words. He had composed a song for me!
"I hope that's okay."
I nodded stupidly, then forced my mouth to close.
"You close your eyes when you're listening. What do you think about when you do that?"
"Whatever the song inspires me to," I answered.
"And, may I ask, what did your song inspire you to think about?"
My song. I was drunk again. He was inches away from me, looking at me with such… adoration? Yeah, that was the word. As crazy as it was to believe, he adored me.
I forced myself to answer. "Soaring over tree tops, over rivers and mountains, like how one might in a dream, only for real."
This pleased him. His smile grew.
"Bella?" Alice's disembodied voice called to me, but still I stared back at Edward. "Your breakfast is ready!"
How was I supposed to eat with all the butterflies wreaking havoc inside my stomach? I didn't move an inch.
But then Edward stood, and I guessed it was his cue for me to follow. So I did. And then he led the way into the kitchen.
Alice was holding my chair out for me, her pixie face bright, her smile wide. She looked at me like I was her bestest friend in the whole world. Maybe I was. Maybe they didn't have friends outside their own siblings.
I sat, a bit numbly, still shaking off the intoxicating effects of Edward, and grabbed my fork reflexively.
"You'll need all your strength for today," she said.
I did? Why? What was today? "Why's that?" I asked.
"Today is the day you make some interesting discoveries," she answered, and my heart stopped.
The abrupt halt in its insanely fast rhythm felt dangerous. A little bit painful, actually. But then it started up again, and the discomfort eased.
"You know this, how?" I didn't feel any closer to unlocking the mysteries. Was someone planning on just telling me?
"I'm…" She looked over at Edward for a moment, then finished with, "what some might call psychic."
I stared back at her, my eyes growing wider by the second. "Like, actually psychic?"
"One hundred percent accuracy!" she said, almost bragging, then she added, "When the circumstances are right."
Edward growled. Okay, that was the third time he had done that. They seemed to be in warning. He was trying to get her to stop telling me stuff. But I didn't want that. I wanted to know!
"Edward, stop it. Let her talk to me."
The shocked expression he threw at me spoke a thousand words, at least. Of them, he didn't know I could hear him when he growled, and he didn't know I had figured out why he did it.
"What kind of circumstances?" I asked. I was not going to let it drop easily. If she was willing to talk, I was willing to listen. More than just willing. I was hungry for information. Anything to make my research easier.
"Relax, Edward. This isn't breaking the rules." Alice looked to Esme for a moment. Her mother seemed to be giving her permission, but there also seemed to be a warning to be careful. "When people make different decisions, it changes the outcome."
"Okay, so, you can predict the future based off the choices people make? Like, say, if I decide to go to school, you'd see my day at school, but if I changed my mind and decided to stay home, you'd see my day at home?"
Alice beamed. "You're right, Edward, she is amazingly perceptive."
My heart swelled. And, apparently, I was right. But being right just brought up new questions. "Can I ask you something?"
Edward growled again, but this time, it was almost too quiet to hear. Alice and I both ignored him.
"Is everyone who… who has this particular secret… are they all psychic like you?"
"No," she answered. Just that simple. No elaboration.
"So, then Edward's not…"
Alice laughed again. "No. But when you figure stuff out, ask him what he can do!"
Edward made no effort in hiding his growl that time.
"Edward." I whispered his name, but his eyes snapped over to me as if I had shouted it. His expression was hard at first, but it softened almost instantly. "I'm still just as confused as ever, okay? Cut her some slack."
Alice looked grateful, then her smile took over her face again. "He's going to try to distract you today. He's scared. Don't let him."
I glanced at Edward before nodding. Then Alice and Esme excused themselves, leaving him and me alone. The air was tense again.
"Are you going to try and distract me?" I hadn't taken one bite of my breakfast yet. I was too wrapped up in what was going on around me.
"Eat," he said.
He seemed to be waiting for me to do so, like as soon as I did, he would answer my question. I wanted him to, so I pushed my fork through a corner of the eggs and shoveled the piece into my mouth. An omelet with cheese and… bell peppers and onions, and maybe mushrooms.
"I have been asked not to."
"The family. They want me to let… nature take its course, so to speak."
He hesitated again, right before the word 'nature'. "Nature? As in, Alice's vision?"
He exhaled sharply, almost as if scoffing, and then a smirk showed itself. "Yes."
"Will you sit with me while I search?"
"This is something you need to do on your own. I can't help you."
"I'm not asking for help. I'm asking for company."
"I will be nearby, when you're ready to talk. Eat."
I shoveled another forkful into my mouth. "How will I find you, when I'm ready?"
Yeah, talking with your mouth full… not attractive.
"I'm not planning on hiding from you, Bella. You'll find me."
I found myself inhaling my food. I wanted to be done so I could go up to the room and get started. I wanted answers, and if Alice was right, today would be the day I would get them. I was anxious for it. Almost nervous, but excited, too.
I cleared my place, rinsed the dishes, and set them in the sink, all while Edward watched. I could feel his eyes on me. And then I finally turned to face him.
"I guess I should get started."
He nodded, but then countered it by adding, "You don't have to do anything you don't want to."
"I want to."
He nodded again. "Then I will see you later."
There was no attempt to hide it from me. He was gone from the room so fast, I actually couldn't make out how it had happened. It was almost like a blur. Like a skip in editing, when a person is in one location, and then in the very next second, in the very next frame, they're somewhere else.
I nearly ran up the stairs to my computer.
To be continued…
Thanks for the reviews, guys (and gals)! Keep 'em coming, 'kay? I post faster when I think people want to keep reading.
I'm at over ninety thousand words now, and I'm a good chunk of the ways into chapter twenty-five. Chapter twenty-four was great fun to write. It includes one of my favorite scenes thus far.
To answer a question posed to me in one of the reviews: Yes, Jacob will be in this fic, but not to any great degree. Sorry. So far, by chapter twenty-five, he's only been mentioned a few times, and he's in one scene. It's a pretty neat scene, though. (smile)
Don't forget to review! 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.