Chapter 1: Complications
Continued from Stephanie Meyer's Midnight Sun
No more mistakes. I hit the gas, and then sighed as she disappeared behind me. It seemed like I was always running toward Bella or running away from her, never staying in place. I would have to find some way to hold my ground if we were ever going to have any peace.
Cutting the car's headlights, I depressed the accelerator further into the floor. The tail of exhaust spiraled away from me just as my home was in acoustic radar.
Even before rounding the corner to our drive, Rosalie's mental ravings flew at me in a clear trajectory. She and the others, of course, recognized the Volvo. Everyone's plans had abruptly changed when Rose decided to confront me. Without hesitation she launched her verbal assault.
"Of all the idiotic things! If your goal was to expose us… mission accomplished!" My sister's words were injected with that premium venom reserved for special occasions such as this. And although she spoke in pluralities she was really thinking of herself.
Rose's voice lowered. "Wait until you get in here."
Emmett attempted to tranquilize the anger she nursed since lunch — when Alice confirmed Bella knew the truth about us. "Rose, Rose, listen to me," he coaxed. "You have to calm down baby."
Via Emmett's perspective, he restrained Rose like a vise at her side. His mouth was near her ear as she held her frame rigid.
"Attacking Edward isn't going to help anything," he cooed. "What's done is done. Anyways, it all fits in the bigger picture, right? Like Alice said. Right?" He glanced at Alice to join in. "Ah, come on Rose. Rose?"
I had just entered the brightly lit room that could have been a gladiator's arena. Rose was seething.
I held my stance.
Lividness glazed over Rose's eyes and flared from her nostrils. She locked on me as if I were prey.
If it was a confrontation she wanted, she would get no objection from me. Rosalie's contempt was intolerable. I hardly noticed Esme until I felt her hand on my shoulder.
"There is nothing to be concerned about," Alice twittered. "Our secrets will remain secrets as far as Bella is concerned. If anything, Bella has much more to fear than we do..." Alice then matched Rose's glower and pointed it at me.
When Alice heard me invite Bella to the very place she envisioned, the wheels that were in motion were now on a fast track to deciding Bella's mortality. Visions flickered past Alice's mind. I avoided her eyes. Mercifully, the disturbing footage was interrupted by Rosalie.
Aurgh! She cried in interior frustration.
"Rose," Carlisle interjected with his usual monastic patience. "I can imagine this new development may be difficult to contend with..." His eyes traveled from Rose to Emmett then lingered on Jasper who was now at Alice's side.
Occupied with Alice, Jasper ignored Carlisle's quiet request to spend his talents on Rose. Jasper locked on Alice's face as she negotiated the scenes plaguing her thoughts. Thoughts I fought against.
Carlisle continued, returning his gaze to Rose who was trying to shimmy out of Emmett's grasp. "But Bella has proven her trustworthiness. I do not regard her knowing the truth as a threat to us. I hope," he paused, "no, I insist that we conduct ourselves accordingly."
I had benefited from an afternoon of arbitration from Emmett and Alice on my behalf. But it was Carlisle who defused Rosalie's fury. It was like having my own peacekeeping task force.
"Edward and Bella will not be interfered with. Agreed?" The way Carlisle coupled our names together, Edward and Bella, sent a ripple of gratification through me.
He addressed the entire room, though his focus remained on Rose.
"Fine!" she hissed allowing Emmett to relax his hold.
My brother loved a good fight but hated it when it came from a real hostility — especially within the family. "Sounds good to me!"
Rosalie cut in on him.
"However, I will not have anything to do with the human." My sister spat out the last word. "I will not interfere, but I believe she remains a liability. I do not condone this, whatever it is Edward's doing. I want that to be clear."
It was then I identified the jealously exposed days ago coiled around her every word, and my feelings of pity resurfaced.
Despite her threats, she had given in. For someone accustomed to getting her way, this was a sacrifice for Rosalie. Her eyes narrowed as she emptied all of her visual artillery at my head. Then she slinked past Esme and me through the front door.
My mother spoke next. "Edward, you know where I stand." Her arm was around my shoulders. "I've never seen you so ha—"
"Hormonal!" Emmett spliced in with a snigger.
Ignoring my brother, I peered down towards Esme's delighted face and saw my reflection in the amber of her eyes. It was me held portrait in her eyes; however, I wasn't recognizable. I looked happy? And even my altercation with Rosalie could not dampen the thrill of the prospects before me.
Esme pulled me into a generous hug. She recognized what Emmett saw earlier this afternoon, what I saw now. Happy wasn't an attribute given to me in the past. I've been called amused in the best of circumstances, indifferent by default, and sullen more often than most descriptors. But happy? Never.
Decades ago when Emmett, Carlisle, and I posed as brothers, Emmett would distinguish me to others as the sullen one. He would say, "Edward, yeah, he's the sullen one over there with the freaky hair." I was known as the "Sullen Cullen" until Jasper's arrival to our family.
With a flash of nostalgia, I looked to Emmett who gave me a hangdog smile and two thumbs up before bolting after Rosalie.
Carlisle turned to Jasper. "Jasper?"
He was surprised to hear his name. "Agreed." Jasper nodded without removing his eyes from Alice. His thoughts supported his answer. I felt somewhat reassured.
Carlisle and I joined him in staring at Alice as Carlisle called on her, "Alice?"
"Of course! You know how I feel about Bella." The pitch of Alice's soprano voice only amplified her anxiety. Her head was bowed.
Then she slipped her hand in Jasper's and tugged him up the stairs to her room. She was hiding something else from me. That was obvious. From what I attempted to block this afternoon, I was unsure if it was something I wanted to know.
When Esme let go of me, Carlisle spoke the words my mother communicated internally.
"This is something!" He studied my face before releasing me. They understood, as the rest of my family to some degree, what transpired.
Not only did Bella know our secret and that she would keep it, despite knowing the truth, she hadn't rejected me — yet. Rather incredibly, she seemed to reciprocate my feelings. That there were feelings from me to reciprocate was unprecedented in itself.
This whole thing was nonsensical and plain unnatural. This, I accepted, but I could not help reliving the memories that tied me to Bella.
Eager to make more, I offered my thanks and made my goodbyes to Carlisle and Esme then bounded out the door towards Bella's home.
Halfway there it was clear I would arrive too early. A part me knew this constant supervision had to be scaled back. Leaving Bella to enjoy a few hours of privacy wasn't easy, but it was becoming ritual just like my bedside vigils while she slept. I reasoned that watching Bella was to guarantee her safety, and sure, yes, okay, it had escalated into a favorite hobby of mine. And I was one to never neglect a hobby.
I wasn't fooling anyone.
Watching Bella had evolved into a studied discipline like trying not to kill her had become. Although she was safe, for the moment, a restlessness to be with her threatened to break my resolve.
Unthinkingly, I sprinted east until I found myself at the banks of the Puget Sound. Short waves lapped over an isolated shore. Instead of losing myself to its rhythm, a conversation jolted through my mind recalling my pitiful effort to dissuade Bella from ever joining me on a hunt. I clashed at the images that echoed Alice's vision: two figures in a meadow, calamitous consequences… I shut my eyes against it, but it was all I could do not to think about it.
In my quest for humanity, I was committing mistakes that made humans weak. When I asked Bella to change her plans, I hadn't thought it through despite my ceaseless self psycho-analysis and in complete disregard of Alice's warnings.
As a precautionary measure, I decided to hunt Friday afternoon just before our "excursion." But I knew very well there were no safeguards, no assurances.
There wasn't a switch to shut off the gruesome motion picture that starred in my head. I thought of hunting. This time I forced myself to shift from the catastrophic to a better outcome — Bella surviving Saturday.
The sun eventually drooped behind me. While in the opposite horizon, the city lights winked me on to my original course. With light speed, I rocketed towards the dying sun, to my very living human girl.
When I reached Bella's house, I heard her padding down the stairs to say goodnight to her father then with equal commotion climb the stairs to her room. I watched Bella's bedroom window for an hour. It gave up soundlessly again when I slipped through it. Quietly, I flowed into the rocking chair.
I took a breath.
Faster and meaner than a fist to the face, her scent punched with a force that had me against the chair. It immediately began clawing at my throat. In retaliation, my thirst bullied me to reach out for her. It was punishing to resist. Another razing inhalation, then another…
I shrunk into myself. Endure it!
Just a few hours separation and my thirst brewed anew. Aggravation drilled through me that it was always going to be like this. A long hour elapsed before my bunched muscles relaxed from a tight bundle.
I hated losing any amount of control. There had to be some way to reduce the ferocity of my craving. My jacket, I remembered, held the bouquet of her blood, but that alternative was frustratingly inadequate. The only option was to never leave Bella's side.
I could live with that.
My eyes rolled at the inner dialog that grew in complexity over these last days. I was really growing sick of my own company.
Sitting back in the rocking chair, my vision settled then thinned across Bella's body vined by twisted sheets. Her face was half hidden under an arm. Her hair streamed across her pillow. Her t-shirt had ridden up, exposing a swatch of milky white skin.
Of course I had noticed Bella's lovely figure before. A flashback of the way the blue blouse formed to her body came to mind. But maybe because I couldn't focus on her expressions and maybe because she had been enshrouded in that formless baggy sweater all day where now she had nothing on than threadbare pajamas, my focus was drawn to the alluring curves and swells before me. The thin material clung, hugged, and emphasized her shape in places a true gentleman had no business gazing. Bella was ravishing.
I quickly killed the thought of easing myself beside her.
I was taken aback at how my imagination took an explicit turn. I was no better than the glandular vermin at school.
Then from an anonymous source, without a hint of warning, the electrical charge from this afternoon resurged. The voltage could have powered the skyline I visited earlier.
Bella stirred. She moved from lying on her side — to her back — to her side again.
I sprung from the rocking chair and fetched up against the darkest corner of her room.
Just in time.
After tussling with her sheets, Bella groggily propped herself up on an elbow.
Awake! I cursed.
Bella's features compressed as she adjusted her pillow and her head fell heavily onto it.
I could taste her scent condense in the static air.
She couldn't have seen me, but could she sense me here? The danger? And my ever-expanding desire that went well beyond my thirst to draw closer to her?
I held my breath.
Bella inhaled elaborately and closed her eyes.
Following what seemed like an expanse of time, her breathing slowed and turned shallow.
Bella spoke so clearly, like the first night I held my watch. And like that first night, my lifeless heart threatened to pulsate at the utterance of my name.
Then to my delight and shock, she said it again.
It was lucid as if she were resuming a conversation. I froze fearing she might have awoken for a second time.
Electricity throbbed between us.
I would have forfeited an entire century to know what she was thinking, dreaming right now! She flopped to her side and sighed saying my name, silkily this time.
Every hair on my body rose on end. Every pore opened. I caught myself before I flew to her. Fighting the irrepressible yearning to scoop her up in my arms and… and… and then what?
My impulses stuttered. What are you doing?! Get a hold of yourself!
The night persevered like this until only a few hours before daybreak. Bella ultimately succumb to sleep. It was a tonic to my frenetic state. However, the current between us did not diminish. It was a welcomed guest to my one-sided party.
Bella was dreaming of me. Again! And the hint of scandal in her voice when she said my name resounded smugly within me.
I perched myself on her rocking chair pleased beyond description as she repeated my name again and again.
At first light, I made my exit. My feet grew wings as I ran home. Now that was interesting.
Alice greeted me a few hundred yards from the house challenging me to a race. I gave her a decent lead, but despite her fleetness, she was no match for me in my euphoric state. She joined me on the porch in seconds. "Of course you know I'll go with you."
Before I read Alice's mind, I guessed correctly that she just included herself to my hunting plans. In her vision, I recognized the Olympic Park, our short-notice go-to place. Then the light of her perceptions strobed off and on… off and on… and her sight cast blurred portentous shadows.
It will be okay. Saturday is going to be fine. Alice wordlessly shared. Though, her predictions did not parallel her sentiments.
"I can't see it…" Alice hedged, "but I know it."
Next I witnessed another clearer visualization. I was introducing Bella to Alice. The episode looped over and over in her mind.
"Augh, alright!" I caved. "I suppose now is a good time as any."
"Yay!" Her voice tolled like bells.
"Friday, after lunch." I specified.
Alice clapped her hands. "I'm going to meet Bella. I'm going to meet Bella!"
I shook my head as I sidestepped my way past her into the house. Carlisle intercepted me on the second floor landing.
Son, he silently called. Then spoke aloud, "I overheard you're going to introduce Alice to Bella tomorrow. Forgive me for eavesdropping."
Before I could reply Carlisle continued. "Perhaps, when you feel it's appropriate, you might introduce Bella to the rest of the family. She is very much welcomed here. Of course I had the pleasure of meeting her, but I know Esme would be pleased to make her acquaintance as would I, more formally." A light so kindly gleamed from my father's eyes that made it wrong to refuse him.
As apprehensive as I was at the possibility of Bella meeting my family, by meeting my family, she would know more about me. It was inexplicable, but I willfully sought that.
"Carlisle, thank you. I will definitely consider your invitation," I said returning his grin as I made for my room.
In no time, I was changed and in my car zooming towards Bella's house. When I retrieved the Volvo, it was relief to see the Austin Martin had remained unmolested. I was certain Rosalie would follow through on her threats. Pity gave way to sympathy, as I weighed Rosalie's harsh opinions against her evident restraint. Or perhaps I had Emmett to thank for this. That made three kindnesses I owed him. That was one thing about my brother. He only kept score on the athletic field, not in favors.
Nearing the Swan residence, I patched into Bella's conversation with Charlie.
"It's a girl's choice." She responded coolly when Charlie pressed her if anyone had asked her to the dance. Bella may lack theatrical skills, but she was a masterful debater. My ego could personally attest to that.
When Charlie's cruiser drove away, I claimed his spot. Bella's pale face peeked out from her bedroom window before she capered down the stairs. An unexpected nervousness snuck up on me. Be cool. I told myself. Being dead, that shouldn't be difficult.
From the corner of my eye, I tracked her lock the front door and tramp towards my car. I didn't turn to her right away. There was enough time for me to organize my face before she opened the door.
When Bella slid into the passenger seat, her eyes caught mine. She was smiling. I knew my efforts to hold down my excitement were doomed.
Then remembering how she said my name last night, I said warmly, "Good morning," and looked her over, "How are you today?"
Signs of fatigue disturbed her perfect face. "Good, thank you."
"You look tired." I knew very well the cause.
She shifted a wall of hair between us. "I couldn't sleep."
The fragrance resulting from her movement almost unseated me. I thought of last night. "Neither could I."
"I guess that's right," Bella laughed as I turned the motor over. "I suppose I slept just little more than you did."
"I wager you did," I said reveling in my secret.
"So what did you do last night?"
Had she suspected something? I laughed anxiously. "Not a chance. It's my day to ask questions."
"Oh, that's right. What do you want to know?"
Bella's quick compliance surprised me. As the space between her eyes pleated, I thought I'd better begin with something easy. Yet, every new piece of information was vitally important to me.
"What's your favorite color?"
Her eyes rolled at the seriousness in my tone. "It changes from day to day."
"What's your favorite color today?"
"Probably brown," she said.
"Brown?" I laughed in surprise.
I expected something like scarlet, the pigment that often warmed her cheeks. Or cobalt blue, the hue I favored against her skin. Or bright white, imagining the candelas that linked us the other night. If I could blush, I would have done so now.
"Sure. Brown is warm. I miss brown. Everything that's supposed to be brown — tree trunks, rocks, dirt — is all covered up with squashy green stuff here," she reasoned.
"Your right." I peered toward her. "Brown is warm." Brown is warm. Brown is soft. Brown is fragrant with — strawberries? Admiring her tumble of hair, my fingers were itching for an excuse to run through it. But I reined them back and simply tucked the silk barrier behind Bella's shoulder revealing her ivory satin profile. I allowed myself this one infraction.
On the brown theme, I noted Bella wore a russet turtleneck today that much more complimented her slender figure, but I hastily trained my thoughts to the road ahead.
At the first available space, I parked the Volvo, eager for the answers to my compiled questions.
First category — music. "What music is in your CD player right now?"
When she mentioned the band, I grinned and pulled out a copy, carefully placing it in her hands.
We did not touch.
Bella examined the CD.
"Debussy to this?" I remarked curiously and said to myself — This is going well!
Throughout the day the interview progressed. During those precious few minutes as I walked her to class and during lunch, I volleyed my questions to Bella. Unguardedly, she shared details about herself — her favorite films, the places she wished to visit, her beloved books.
Too many weeks I was denied access to Bella's thoughts. Though this was an inferior alternative — for now — it wonderfully sufficed. It was a performance worthy of a standing ovation that I hid my enthusiasm.
At the end of lunch, I reached question #68: "What is your favorite gemstone?"
She replied, "Topaz," immediately pursing her lips to take it back.
I prodded further, but she said nothing.
"Tell me." I pestered with greater insistence.
"It's the color of your eyes today." Her fingers twiddled a ringlet of her hair when she added, "I suppose if you asked me in two weeks I'd say onyx."
It was supreme compliment Bella noticed anything about me. That my eyes changed from a defect of a crude diet, all at once underscored our differences. Sadness pinged inside my chest. I jumped to my next question.
"What kind of flowers do you prefer?"
Bella exhaled, equally as glad that I moved on.
It was Mr. Banner who interrupted my cross-examination when he wheeled the aged TV and VCR back into the Biology room. Remembering my indiscretion in the parking lot, I placed a respectable distance between me and Bella before the lights were extinguished.
It was a vain effort. In the dim room, I could see her perfectly well. Knowing she couldn't see me, had me thinking of the other night. And the electricity that coursed between us threatened to combust.
My hands were hurting to stretch out in the darkness. I allowed myself one look. But do not touch. I ordered.
Bella rested her head on her arms in a display of relaxation, but her body was conspicuously stiff. My eyes scrutinized her silhouette. Could she? But it was irrational to think she may be fighting the same compulsion.
The hour passed swiftly. I hadn't looked away. When the fluorescents blinked on, she turned to me. My desire to touch her peaked under the exposing lights. Again, I found myself flirting with the forbidden.
As I escorted Bella to the gym's entrance, my body bucked against all my rules that only made me want to do all the wrong things. Before she spoke and before I could restrain myself, the back of my fingers traipsed the soft curve of her face. My hand stung with luscious familiarity. Following a wordless second, I made a hasty exit before my misplaced liberty turned lethal.
Spanish class was uneventful. "Hey, Alice tells me you're going hunting before…" Emmett attempted a conversation. I tuned him out answering him in monosyllables while I searched for Bella in Gym.
Mike Newton wasn't difficult to trace. Disappointingly, and yet approvingly, he hardly looked at Bella. This was contrary to his thoughts, which featured bitterness toward Bella for their disagreement the other day and his standard scorn for me.
I once believed it impossible, but my disdain for the boy magnified.
Ditching my position in Newton's head, I infiltrated one mind after the next only catching glimpses of Bella. When class ended, I was at the gym's doors primed with my next set of questions. A jab of suspense went through me as I waited for her.
Then Bella appeared. A smile bloomed across her face when she found me. While I desired very much to enfold her in my arms, I only returned her smile.
Realizing our time together ticked away, I continued my inquiry. In the school lot, during the drive to her home, and in my parked car, Bella painted for me her life in Arizona. I grew lost in the rhythm of her words and the accompanying dance her slim delicate fingers made in the air.
She spoke about the things she missed of her former home — the fragrance creosote emitted when it burned and the song of the cicadas in the summer. When she described the limitless skies of that arid landscape, a faraway note came over her voice and touched her eyes. Everything I committed to memory. There in my car with the rain accompanying the cadence of our conversation, the hours fell away.
I envisioned her room when she remembered it. The room she could have been sleeping in this very night if she had never decided to call Forks her home.
"Are you finished?" Bella brows raised in a hopeful arch.
Just then I heard Chief Swan's faint thoughts. "Not even close — but your father will be home soon."
"Charlie!" Bella's sightline bounced around the car's interior. "How late is it?"
"It's twilight." I examined the deepening sky. "It's the safest time of day for us."
She settled in her seat and regarded me with a curiosity that could break a frozen heart.
"The easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way… the end of another day, the return of night. Darkness is so predictable, don't you think?" I smiled cheerlessly.
"I like the night. Without the dark, we'd never see the stars." Bella gazed upward, "Not that you see them here much."
I laughed at that observation. "Charlie will be here in a few minutes. So, unless you want to tell him that you'll be with me Saturday…"
She spoke over me, "Thanks, but no thanks," and caught up her things. "So, it's my turn tomorrow, then?"
"Certainly not!" I shook my head. "I told you I wasn't done, didn't I?"
"What more is there?"
"You'll find out tomorrow." I leaned over Bella to open the door and was met with tendrils of heat. Her heart reacted in an erratic start. I was more than pleased.
But in the next moment, I nearly amputated the handle.
"Not good." I heaved. Stashed away memories rushed forward as a disturbing yet recognizable presence approached.
"What is it?"
"Another complication." The felicity from our close contact evaporated.
The thoughts of Billy Black lurched closer. I threw open the car door and stared down the sedan that held the descendants of an ancient enemy.
Billy Black was not alone. Though, the youngster with him was of no concern. I moved away from Bella.
"Charlie's around the corner," I cautioned. But my vigilance focused on that black car.
With a parting look to me, Bella dashed out into the rain. I disappeared into the darkness. The darkness that proved not as predictable as I had earlier proclaimed.