Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5)(13)


by Stephenie Meyer

I watched, engrossed, as she smiled, looking slightly embarrassed.

"Not with onion root."

"Whitefish blastula?" Mr. Banner probed.

"Yeah."

This surprised him. Today's lab was something he'd pulled from a more advanced course. He nodded thoughtfully at the girl. "Were you in an advanced placement program in Phoenix?"

"Yes."

She was advanced then, intelligent for a human. This did not surprise me.

"Well," Mr. Banner said, pursing his lips. "I guess it's good you two are lab partners." He turned and walked away mumbling, "So the other kids can get a chance to learn something for themselves," under his breath. I doubted the girl could hear that. She began scrawling loops across her folder again.

Two slips so far in one half hour. A very poor showing on my part. Though I had no idea at all what the girl thought of me - how much did she fear, how much did she suspect? - I knew I needed to put forth a better effort to leave her with a new impression of me. Something to better drown her memories of our ferocious last encounter. "It's too bad about the snow, isn't it?" I said, repeating the small talk that I'd heard a dozen students discuss already. A boring, standard topic of conversation. The weather - always safe.

She stared at me with obvious doubt in her eyes - an abnormal reaction to my very normal words. "Not really," she said, surprising me again.

I tried to steer the conversation back to trite paths. She was from a much brighter, warmer place - her skin seemed to reflect that somehow, despite its fairness - and the cold must make her uncomfortable. My icy touch certainly had...

"You don't like the cold," I guessed.

"Or the wet," she agreed.

"Forks must be a difficult place for you to live." Perhaps you should not have come here, I wanted to add. Perhaps you should go back where you belong.

I wasn't sure I wanted that, though. I would always remember the scent of her blood - was there any guarantee that I wouldn't eventually follow after her? Besides, if she left, her mind would forever remain a mystery. A constant, nagging puzzle. "You have no idea," she said in a low voice, glowering past me for a moment.

Her answers were never what I expected. They made me want to ask more questions.

"Why did you come here, then?" I demanded, realizing instantly that my tone was too accusatory, not casual enough for the conversation. The question sounded rude, prying.

"It's...complicated."

She blinked her wide eyes, leaving it at that, and I nearly imploded out of curiosity - the curiosity burned as hot as the thirst in my throat. Actually, I found that it was getting slightly easier to breathe; the agony was becoming more bearable through familiarity.

"I think I can keep up," I insisted. Perhaps common courtesy would keep her answering my questions as long as I was rude enough to ask them.

She stared down silently at her hands. This made me impatient; I wanted to put my hand under her chin and tilt her head up so that I could read her eyes. But it would be foolish of me - dangerous - to touch her skin again.

She looked up suddenly. It was a relief to be able to see the emotions in her eyes again. She spoke in a rush, hurrying through the words.

"My mother got remarried."

Ah, this was human enough, easy to understand. Sadness passed through her clear eyes and brought the pucker back between them.

"That doesn't sound so complex," I said. My voice was gentle without my working to make it that way. Her sadness left me feeling oddly helpless, wishing there was something I could do to make her feel better. A strange impulse. "When did that happen?"

"Last September." She exhaled heavily - not quite a sigh. I held my breath as her warm breath brushed my face.

"And you don't like him," I guessed, fishing for more information.

"No, Phil is fine," she said, correcting my assumption. There was a hint of a smile now around the corners of her full lips. "Too young, maybe, but nice enough." This didn't fit with the scenario I'd been constructing in my head.

"Why didn't you stay with them?" I asked, my voice a little too curious. It sounded like I was being nosy. Which I was, admittedly.

"Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living." The little smile grew more pronounced; this career choice amused her.

I smiled, too, without choosing to. I wasn't trying to make her feel at ease. Her smile just made me want to smile in response - to be in on the secret.

"Have I heard of him?" I ran through the rosters of professional ball players in my head, wondering which Phil was hers...

"Probably not. He doesn't play well." Another smile. "Strictly minor league. He moves around a lot."

The rosters in my head shifted instantly, and I'd tabulated a list of possibilities in less than a second. At the same time, I was imagining the new scenario.

"And your mother sent you here so that she could travel with him," I said.

Making assumptions seemed to get more information out of her than questions did. It worked again. Her chin jutted out, and her expression was suddenly stubborn.

"No, she did not send me here," she said, and her voice had a new, hard edge to it. My assumption had upset her, though I couldn't quite see how. "I sent myself."

I could not guess at her meaning, or the source behind her pique. I was entirely lost.

So I gave up. There was just no making sense of the girl. She wasn't like other humans. Maybe the silence of her thoughts and the perfume of her scent were not the only unusual things about her.

"I don't understand," I admitted, hating to concede.

She sighed, and stared into my eyes for longer than most normal humans were able to stand.

"She stayed with me at first, but she missed him," she explained slowly, her tone growing more forlorn with each word. "It made her unhappy...so I decided it was time to spend some quality time with Charlie."

The tiny pucker between her eyes deepened.

"But now you're unhappy," I murmured. I couldn't seem to stop speaking my hypotheses aloud, hoping to learn from her reactions. This one, however, did not seem as far off the mark.

"And?" she said, as if this was not even an aspect to be considered.

I continued to stare into her eyes, feeling that I'd finally gotten my first real glimpse into her soul. I saw in that one word where she ranked herself among her own priorities. Unlike most humans, her own needs were far down the list. She was selfless.