Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(11)


by Stephenie Meyer

"What's the big deal?" Emmett disagreed. "Either he will or he won't kill her. Might as well get it over with, either way."

"I don't want to move yet," Rosalie complained. "I don't want to start over. We're almost out of high school, Emmett. Finally."

I was evenly torn on the decision. I wanted, wanted badly, to face this head on rather than running away again. But I didn't want to push myself too far, either. It had been a mistake last week for Jasper to go so long without hunting; was this just as pointless a mistake?

I didn't want to uproot my family. None of them would thank me for that.

But I wanted to go to my biology class. I realized that I wanted to see her face again.

That's what decided it for me. That curiosity. I was angry with myself for feeling it. Hadn't I promised myself that I wouldn't let the silence of the girl's mind make me unduly interested in her? And yet, here I was, most unduly interested.

I wanted to know what she was thinking. Her mind was closed, but her eyes were very open. Perhaps I could read them instead.

"No, Rose, I think it really will be okay," Alice said. "It's...firming up. I'm ninety-three percent sure that nothing bad will happen if he goes to class." She looked at me inquisitively, wondering what had changed in my thoughts that made her vision of the future more secure.

Would curiosity be enough to keep Bella Swan alive?

Emmett was right, though - why not get it over with, either way? I would face the temptation head on.

"Go to class," I ordered, pushing away from the table. I turned and strode away from them without looking back. I could hear Alice's worry, Jasper's censure, Emmett's approval, and Rosalie's irritation trailing after me.

I took one last deep breath at the door of the classroom, and then held it in my lungs as I walked into the small, warm space.

I was not late. Mr. Banner was still setting up for today's lab. The girl sat at my - at our table, her face down again, staring at the folder she was doodling on. I examined the sketch as I approached, interested in even this trivial creation of her mind, but it was meaningless. Just a random scribbling of loops within loops. Perhaps she was not concentrating on the pattern, but thinking of something else?

I pulled my chair back with unnecessary roughness, letting it scrape across the linoleum; humans always felt more comfortable when noise announced someone's approach.

I knew she heard the sound; she did not look up, but her hand missed a loop in the design she was drawing, making it unbalanced.

Why didn't she look up? Probably she was frightened. I must be sure to leave her with a different impression this time. Make her think she'd been imagining things before.

"Hello," I said in the quiet voice I used when I wanted to make humans more comfortable, forming a polite smile with my lips that would not show any teeth.

She looked up then, her wide brown eyes startled - almost bewildered - and full of silent questions. It was the same expression that had been obstructing my vision for the last week.

As I stared into those oddly deep brown eyes, I realized that the hate - the hate I'd imagined this girl somehow deserved for simply existing - had evaporated. Not breathing now, not tasting her scent, it was hard to believe that anyone so vulnerable could ever justify hatred.

Her cheeks began to flush, and she said nothing.

I kept my eyes on hers, focusing only on their questioning depths, and tried to ignore the appetizing color of her skin. I had enough breath to speak for a while longer without inhaling.

"My name is Edward Cullen," I said, though I knew she knew that. It was the polite way to begin. "I didn't have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan."

She seemed confused - there was that little pucker between her eyes again. It took her half a second longer than it should have for her to respond. "How do you know my name?" she demanded, and her voice shook just a little.

I must have truly terrified her. This made me feel guilty; she was just so defenseless. I laughed gently - it was a sound that I knew made humans more at ease. Again, I was careful about my teeth.

"Oh, I think everyone knows your name." Surely she must have realized that she'd become the center of attention in this monotonous place. "The whole town's been waiting for you to arrive."

She frowned as if this information was unpleasant. I supposed, being shy as she seemed to be, attention would seem like a bad thing to her. Most humans felt the opposite. Though they didn't want to stand out from the herd, at the same time they craved a spotlight for their individual uniformity.

"No," she said. "I meant, why did you call me Bella?"

"Do you prefer Isabella?" I asked, perplexed by the fact that I couldn't see where this question was leading. I didn't understand. Surely, she'd made her preference clear many times that first day. Were all humans this incomprehensible without the mental context as a guide?

"No, I like Bella," she answered, leaning her head slightly to one side. Her expression - if I was reading it correctly - was torn between embarrassment and confusion. "But I think Charlie - I mean my dad - must call me Isabella behind my back. That's what everyone here seems to know me as." Her skin darkened one shade pinker.

"Oh," I said lamely, and quickly looked away from her face.

I'd just realized what her questions meant: I had slipped up - made an error. If I hadn't been eavesdropping on all the others that first day, then I would have addressed her initially by her full name, just like everyone else. She'd noticed the difference. I felt a pang of unease. It was very quick of her to pick up on my slip. Quite astute, especially for someone who was supposed to be terrified by my nearness.

But I had bigger problems than whatever suspicions about me she might be keeping locked inside her head.

I was out of air. If I were going to speak to her again, I would have to inhale. It would be hard to avoid speaking. Unfortunately for her, sharing this table made her my lab partner, and we would have to work together today. It would seem odd - and incomprehensibly rude - for me to ignore her while we did the lab. It would make her more suspicious, more afraid...

I leaned as far away from her as I could without moving my seat, twisting my head out into the aisle. I braced myself, locking my muscles in place, and then sucked in one quick chest-full of air, breathing through my mouth alone.