Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(12)


by Stephenie Meyer

Ahh!

It was genuinely painful. Even without smelling her, I could taste her on my tongue. My throat was suddenly in flames again, the craving every bit as strong as that first moment I'd caught her scent last week.

I gritted my teeth together and tried to compose myself.

"Get started," Mr. Banner commanded.

It felt like it took every single ounce of self-control that I'd achieved in seventy years of hard work to turn back to the girl, who was staring down at the table, and smile. "Ladies first, partner?" I offered.

She looked up at my expression and her face went blank, her eyes wide. Was there something off in my expression? Was she frightened again? She didn't speak. "Or, I could start, if you wish," I said quietly.

"No," she said, and her face went from white to red again. "I'll go first."

I stared at the equipment on the table, the battered microscope, the box of slides, rather than watch the blood swirl under her clear skin. I took another quick breath, through my teeth, and winced as the taste made my throat ache.

"Prophase," she said after a quick examination. She started to remove the slide, though she'd barely examined it.

"Do you mind if I look?" Instinctively - stupidly, as if I were one of her kind - I reached out to stop her hand from removing the slide. For one second, the heat of her skin burned into mine. It was like an electric pulse - surely much hotter than a mere ninety-eight point six degrees. The heat shot through my hand and up my arm. She yanked her hand out from under mine.

"I'm sorry," I muttered through my clenched teeth. Needing somewhere to look, I grasped the microscope and stared briefly into the eyepiece. She was right.

"Prophase," I agreed.

I was still too unsettled to look at her. Breathing as quietly as I could through my gritted teeth and trying to ignore the fiery thirst, I concentrated on the simple assignment, writing the word on the appropriate line on the lab sheet, and then switching out the first slide for the next.

What was she thinking now? What had that felt like to her, when I had touched her hand? My skin must have been ice cold - repulsive. No wonder she was so quiet. I glanced at the slide.

"Anaphase," I said to myself as I wrote it on the second line.

"May I?" she asked.

I looked up at her, surprised to see that she was waiting expectantly, one hand half-stretched toward the microscope. She didn't look afraid. Did she really think I'd gotten the answer wrong?

I couldn't help but smile at the hopeful look on her face as I slid the microscope toward her.

She stared into the eyepiece with an eagerness that quickly faded. The corners of her mouth turned down.

"Slide three?" she asked, not looking up from the microscope, but holding out her hand. I dropped the next slide into her hand, not letting my skin come anywhere close to hers this time. Sitting beside her was like sitting next to a heat lamp. I could feel myself warming slightly to the higher temperature.

She did not look at the slide for long. "Interphase," she said nonchalantly - perhaps trying a little too hard to sound that way - and pushed the microscope to me. She did not touch the paper, but waited for me to write the answer. I checked - she was correct again.

We finished this way, speaking one word at a time and never meeting each other's eyes. We were the only ones done - the others in the class were having a harder time with the lab. Mike Newton seemed to be having trouble concentrating - he was trying to watch Bella and me.

Wish he'd stayed wherever he went, Mike thought, eyeing me sulfurously. Hmm, interesting. I hadn't realized the boy harbored any ill will towards me. This was a new development, about as recent as the girl's arrival it seemed. Even more interesting, I found - to my surprise - that the feeling was mutual.

I looked down at the girl again, bemused by the wide range of havoc and upheaval that, despite her ordinary, unthreatening appearance, she was wreaking on my life. It wasn't that I couldn't see what Mike was going on about. She was actually rather pretty...in an unusual way. Better than being beautiful, her face was interesting. Not quite symmetrical - her narrow chin out of balance with her wide cheekbones; extreme in the coloring - the light and dark contrast of her skin and her hair; and then there were the eyes, brimming over with silent secrets...

Eyes that were suddenly boring into mine.

I stared back at her, trying to guess even one of those secrets.

"Did you get contacts?" she asked abruptly.

What a strange question. "No." I almost smiled at the idea of improving my eyesight.

"Oh," she mumbled. "I thought there was something different about your eyes." I felt suddenly colder again as I realized that I was apparently not the only one attempting to ferret out secrets today.

I shrugged, my shoulders stiff, and glared straight ahead to where the teacher was making his rounds.

Of course there was something different about my eyes since the last time she'd stared into them. To prepare myself for today's ordeal, today's temptation, I'd spent the entire weekend hunting, satiating my thirst as much as possible, overdoing it really. I'd glutted myself on the blood of animals, not that it made much difference in the face of the outrageous flavor floating on the air around her. When I'd glared at her last, my eyes had been black with thirst. Now, my body swimming with blood, my eyes were a warmer gold. Light amber from my excessive attempt at thirst-quenching.

Another slip. If I'd seen what she'd meant with her question, I could have just told her yes.

I'd sat beside humans for two years now at this school, and she was the first to examine me closely enough to note the change in my eye color. The others, while admiring the beauty of my family, tended to look down quickly when we returned their stares. They shied away, blocking the details of our appearances in an instinctive endeavor to keep themselves from understanding. Ignorance was bliss to the human mind.

Why did it have to be this girl who would see too much?

Mr. Banner approached our table. I gratefully inhaled the gush of clean air he brought with him before it could mix with her scent.

"So, Edward," he said, looking over our answers, "didn't you think Isabella should get a chance with the microscope?"

"Bella," I corrected him reflexively. "Actually, she identified three of the five." Mr. Banner's thoughts were skeptical as he turned to look at the girl. "Have you done this lab before?"