Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(10)


by Stephenie Meyer

"I'll just get a soda today," she continued as she moved to catch up with the line. I couldn't help flickering one glance in her direction. She was staring at the floor, the blood slowly fading from her face. I looked away quickly, to Emmett, who laughed at the now pained-looking smile on my face.

You look sick, bro.

I rearranged my features so the expression would seem casual and effortless. Jessica was wondering aloud about the girl's lack of appetite. "Aren't you hungry?"

"Actually, I feel a little sick." Her voice was lower, but still very clear. Why did it bother me, the protective concern that suddenly emanated from Mike Newton's thoughts? What did it matter that there was a possessive edge to them? It wasn't my business if Mike Newton felt unnecessarily anxious for her. Perhaps this was the way everyone responded to her. Hadn't I wanted, instinctively, to protect her, too? Before I'd wanted to kill her, that is...

But was the girl ill?

It was hard to judge - she looked so delicate with her translucent skin... Then I realized that I was worrying, too, just like that dimwitted boy, and I forced myself not to think about her health.

Regardless, I didn't like monitoring her through Mike's thoughts. I switched to Jessica's, watching carefully as the three of them chose which table to sit at. Fortunately, they sat with Jessica's usual companions, at one of the first tables in the room. Not downwind, just as Alice had promised.

Alice elbowed me. She's going to look soon, act human.

I clenched my teeth behind my grin.

"Ease up, Edward," Emmett said. "Honestly. So you kill one human. That's hardly the end of the world."

"You would know," I murmured.

Emmett laughed. "You've got to learn to get over things. Like I do. Eternity is a long time to wallow in guilt."

Just then, Alice tossed a smaller handful of ice that she'd been hiding into Emmett's unsuspecting face.

He blinked, surprised, and then grinned in anticipation.

"You asked for it," he said as he leaned across the table and shook his iceencrusted hair in her direction. The snow, melting in the warm room, flew out from his hair in a thick shower of half-liquid, half-ice.

"Ew!" Rose complained, as she and Alice recoiled from the deluge.

Alice laughed, and we all joined in. I could see in Alice's head how she'd orchestrated this perfect moment, and I knew that the girl - I should stop thinking of her that way, as if she were the only girl in the world - that Bella would be watching us laugh and play, looking as happy and human and unrealistically ideal as a Norman Rockwell painting.

Alice kept laughing, and held her tray up as a shield. The girl - Bella must still be staring at us.

...staring at the Cullens again, someone thought, catching my attention.

I looked automatically toward the unintentional call, realizing as my eyes found their destination that I recognized the voice - I'd been listening to it so much today. But my eyes slid right past Jessica, and focused on the girl's penetrating gaze. She looked down quickly, hiding behind her thick hair again.

What was she thinking? The frustration seemed to be getting more acute as time went on, rather than dulling. I tried - uncertain in what I was doing for I'd never tried this before - to probe with my mind at the silence around her. My extra hearing had always come to me naturally, without asking; I'd never had to work at it. But I concentrated now, trying to break through whatever shield surrounded her.

Nothing but silence.

What is it about her? Jessica thought, echoing my own frustration.

"Edward Cullen is staring at you," she whispered in the Swan girl's ear, adding a giggle. There was no hint of her jealous irritation in her tone. Jessica seemed to be skilled at feigning friendship.

I listened, too engrossed, to the girl's response.

"He doesn't look angry, does he?" she whispered back.

So she had noticed my wild reaction last week. Of course she had.

The question confused Jessica. I saw my own face in her thoughts as she checked my expression, but I did not meet her glance. I was still concentrating on the girl, trying to hear something. My intent focus didn't seem to be helping at all.

"No," Jess told her, and I knew that she wished she could say yes - how it rankled inside her, my staring - though there was no trace of that in her voice. "Should he be?" "I don't think he likes me," the girl whispered back, laying her head down on her arm as if she were suddenly tired. I tried to understand the motion, but I could only make guesses. Maybe she was tired.

"The Cullens don't like anybody," Jess reassured her. "Well, they don't notice anybody enough to like them." They never used to. Her thought was a grumble of complaint. "But he's still staring at you."

"Stop looking at him," the girl said anxiously, lifting her head from her arm to make sure Jessica obeyed the order.

Jessica giggled, but did as she was asked.

The girl did not look away from her table for the rest of the hour. I thought - though, of course, I could not be sure - that this was deliberate. It seemed like she wanted to look at me. Her body would shift slightly in my direction, her chin would begin to turn, and then she would catch herself, take a deep breath, and stare fixedly at whoever was speaking.

I ignored the other thoughts around the girl for the most part, as they were not, momentarily, about her. Mike Newton was planning a snow fight in the parking lot after school, not seeming to realize that the snow had already shifted to rain. The flutter of soft flakes against the roof had become the more common patter of raindrops. Could he really not hear the change? It seemed loud to me.

When the lunch period ended, I stayed in my seat. The humans filed out, and I caught myself trying to distinguish the sound of her footsteps from the sound of the rest, as if there was something important or unusual about them. How stupid.

My family made no move to leave, either. They waited to see what I would do.

Would I go to class, sit beside the girl where I could smell the absurdly potent scent of her blood and feel the warmth of her pulse in the air on my skin? Was I strong enough for that? Or had I had enough for one day?

"I...think it's okay," Alice said, hesitant. "Your mind is set. I think you'll make it through the hour."

But Alice knew well how quickly a mind could change.

"Why push it, Edward?" Jasper asked. Though he didn't want to feel smug that I was the one who was weak now, I could hear that he did, just a little. "Go home. Take it slow."