Twilight 14. MIND OVER MATTER
14. MIND OVER MATTER
He could drive well, when he kept the speed reasonable, I had to admit. Like so many things, it seemed to be effortless to him. He barely looked at the road, yet the tires never deviated so much as a centimeter from the center of the lane. He drove one-handed, holding my hand on the seat. Sometimes he gazed into the setting sun, sometimes he glanced at me – my face, my hair blowing out the open window, our hands twined together.
He had turned the radio to an oldies station, and he sang along with a song I’d never heard. He knew every line.
“You like fifties music?” I asked.
“Music in the fifties was good. Much better than the sixties, or the seventies, ugh!” He shuddered. “The eighties were bearable.”
“Are you ever going to tell me how old you are?” I asked, tentative, not wanting to upset his buoyant humor.
“Does it matter much?” His smile, to my relief, remained unclouded.
“No, but I still wonder…” I grimaced. “There’s nothing like an unsolved mystery to keep you up at night.”
“I wonder if it will upset you,” he reflected to himself. He gazed into the sun; the minutes passed.
“Try me,” I finally said.
He sighed, and then looked into my eyes, seeming to forget the road completely for a time. Whatever he saw there must have encouraged him. He looked into the sun – the light of the setting orb glittered off his skin in ruby-tinged sparkles – and spoke.
“I was born in Chicago in 1901.” He paused and glanced at me from the corner of his eyes. My face was carefully unsurprised, patient for the rest. He smiled a tiny smile and continued. “Carlisle found me in a hospital in the summer of 1918. I was seventeen, and dying of the Spanish influenza.”
He heard my intake of breath, though it was barely audible to my own ears. He looked down into my eyes again.
“I don’t remember it well – it was a very long time ago, and human memories fade.” He was lost in his thoughts for a short time before he went on. “I do remember how it felt, when Carlisle saved me. It’s not an easy thing, not something you could forget.”
“They had already died from the disease. I was alone. That was why he chose me. In all the chaos of the epidemic, no one would ever realize I was gone.”
“How did he… save you?”
A few seconds passed before he answered. He seemed to choose his words carefully.
“It was difficult. Not many of us have the restraint necessary to accomplish it. But Carlisle has always been the most humane, the most compassionate of us… I don’t think you could find his equal throughout all of history.” He paused. “For me, it was merely very, very painful.”
I could tell from the set of his lips, he would say no more on this subject. I suppressed my curiosity, though it was far from idle. There were many things I needed to think through on this particular issue, things that were only beginning to occur to me. No doubt his quick mind
had already comprehended every aspect that eluded me.
His soft voice interrupted my thoughts. “He acted from loneliness. That’s usually the reason behind the choice. I was the first in Carlisle’s family, though he found Esme soon after. She fell from a cliff. They brought her straight to the hospital morgue, though, somehow, her heart was still beating.”
“So you must be dying, then, to become…” We never said the word, and I couldn’t frame it now.
“No, that’s just Carlisle. He would never do that to someone who had another choice.” The respect in his voice was profound whenever he spoke of his father figure. “It is easier he says, though,” he continued, “if the blood is weak.” He looked at the now-dark road, and I could feel the subject closing again.
“And Emmett and Rosalie?”
“Carlisle brought Rosalie to our family next. I didn’t realize till much later that he was hoping she would be to me what Esme was to him – he was careful with his thoughts around me.” He rolled his eyes. “But she was never more than a sister. It was only two years later that she found Emmett. She was hunting – we were in Appalachia at the time – and found a bear about to finish him off. She carried him back to Carlisle, more than a hundred miles, afraid she wouldn’t be able to do it herself. I’m only beginning to guess how difficult that journey was for her.” He threw a pointed glance in my direction, and raised our hands, still folded together, to brush my cheek with the back of his hand.
“But she made it,” I encouraged, looking away from the unbearable beauty of his eyes.
“Yes,” he murmured. “She saw something in his face that made her strong enough. And they’ve been together ever since. Sometimes they live separately from us, as a married couple. But the younger we pretend to be, the longer we can stay in any given place. Forks seemed perfect, so we all enrolled in high school.” He laughed. “I suppose we’ll have to go to their wedding in a few years, again.”
“Alice and Jasper?”
“Alice and Jasper are two very rare creatures. They both developed a conscience, as we refer to it, with no outside guidance. Jasper belonged to another… family, a very different kind of family. He became depressed, and he wandered on his own. Alice found him. Like me, she has certain gifts above and beyond the norm for our kind.”
“Really?” I interrupted, fascinated. “But you said you were the only one who could hear people’s thoughts.”
“That’s true. She knows other things. She sees things – things that might happen, things that are coming. But it’s very subjective. The future isn’t set in stone. Things change.”
His jaw set when he said that, and his eyes darted to my face and away so quickly that I wasn’t sure if I only imagined it.
“What kinds of things does she see?”
“She saw Jasper and knew that he was looking for her before he knew it himself. She saw Carlisle and our family, and they came together to find us. She’s most sensitive to non-humans. She always sees, for example, when another group of our kind is coming near. And any threat they may pose.”
“Are there a lot of… your kind?” I was surprised. How many of them could walk among us undetected?
“No, not many. But most won’t settle in any one place. Only those like us, who’ve given up hunting you people” – a sly glance in my direction – “can live together with humans for any length of time. We’ve only found
one other family like ours, in a small village in Alaska. We lived together for a time, but there were so many of us that we became too noticeable. Those of us who live… differently tend to band together.”
“And the others?”
“Nomads, for the most part. We’ve all lived that way at times. It gets tedious, like anything else. But we run across the others now and then, because most of us prefer the North.”
“Why is that?”
We were parked in front of my house now, and he’d turned off the truck. It was very quiet and dark; there was no moon. The porch light was off so I knew my father wasn’t home yet.
“Did you have your eyes open this afternoon?” he teased. “Do you think I could walk down the street in the sunlight without causing traffic accidents? There’s a reason why we chose the Olympic Peninsula, one of the most sunless places in the world. It’s nice to be able to go outside in the day. You wouldn’t believe how tired you can get of nighttime in eighty-odd years.”
“So that’s where the legends came from?”
“And Alice came from another family, like Jasper?”
“No, and that is a mystery. Alice doesn’t remember her human life at all. And she doesn’t know who created her. She awoke alone. Whoever made her walked away, and none of us understand why, or how, he could. If she hadn’t had that other sense, if she hadn’t seen Jasper and Carlisle and known that she would someday become one of us, she probably would have turned into a total savage.”
There was so much to think through, so much I still wanted to ask. But, to my great embarrassment, my stomach growled. I’d been so intrigued, I hadn’t even noticed I was hungry. I realized now that I was ravenous.
“I’m sorry, I’m keeping you from dinner.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“I’ve never spent much time around anyone who eats food. I forget.”
“I want to stay with you.” It was easier to say in the darkness, knowing as I spoke how my voice would betray me, my hopeless addiction to him.
“Can’t I come in?” he asked.
“Would you like to?” I couldn’t picture it, this godlike creature sitting in my father’s shabby kitchen chair.
“Yes, if it’s all right.” I heard the door close quietly, and almost simultaneously he was outside my door, opening it for me.
“Very human,” I complimented him.
“It’s definitely resurfacing.”
He walked beside me in the night, so quietly I had to peek at him constantly to be sure he was still there. In the darkness he looked much more normal. Still pale, still dreamlike in his beauty, but no longer the fantastic sparkling creature of our sunlit afternoon.
He reached the door ahead of me and opened it for me. I paused halfway through the frame.
“The door was unlocked?”
“No, I used the key from under the eave.”
I stepped inside, flicked on the porch light, and turned to look at him with my eyebrows raised. I was sure I’d never used that key in front of him.
“I was curious about you.”
“You spied on me?” But somehow I couldn’t infuse my voice with the proper outrage. I was flattered.
He was unrepentant. “What else is there to do at night?”
I let it go for the moment and went down the hall to the kitchen. He was there before me, needing no guide. He sat in the very chair I’d tried to picture him in. His beauty lit up the kitchen. It was a moment before I could look away.
I concentrated on getting my dinner, taking last night’s lasagna from the fridge, placing a square on a plate, heating it in the microwave. It revolved, filling the kitchen with the smell of tomatoes and oregano. I didn’t take my eyes from the plate of food as I spoke.
“How often?” I asked casually.
“Hmmm?” He sounded as if I had pulled him from some other train of thought.
I still didn’t turn around. “How often did you come here?”
“I come here almost every night.”
I whirled, stunned. “Why?”
“You’re interesting when you sleep.” He spoke matter-of-factly. “You talk.”
“No!” I gasped, heat flooding my face all the way to my hairline. I gripped the kitchen counter for support. I knew I talked in my sleep, of course; my mother teased me about it. I hadn’t thought it was something I needed to worry about here, though.
His expression shifted instantly to chagrin. “Are you very angry with me?”
“That depends!” I felt and sounded like I’d had the breath knocked out of me.
“On?” he urged.
“What you heard!” I wailed.
Instantly, silently, he was at my side, taking my hands carefully in his.
“Don’t be upset!” he pleaded. He dropped his face to the level of my eyes, holding my gaze. I was embarrassed. I tried to look away.
“You miss your mother,” he whispered. “You worry about her. And when it rains, the sound makes you restless. You used to talk about home a lot, but it’s less often now. Once you said, ‘It’s too green.'” He laughed softly, hoping, I could see, not to offend me further.
“Anything else?” I demanded.
He knew what I was getting at. “You did say my name,” he admitted.
I sighed in defeat. “A lot?”
“How much do you mean by ‘a lot,’ exactly?”
“Oh no!” I hung my head.
He pulled me against his chest, softly, naturally.
“Don’t be self-conscious,” he whispered in my ear. “If I could dream at all, it would be about you. And I’m not ashamed of it.”
Then we both heard the sound of tires on the brick driveway, saw the headlights flash through the front windows, down the hall to us. I stiffened in his arms.
“Should your father know I’m here?” he asked.
“I’m not sure…” I tried to think it through quickly.
“Another time then…”
And I was alone.
“Edward!” I hissed.
I heard a ghostly chuckle, then nothing else.
My father’s key turned in the door.
“Bella?” he called. It had bothered me before; who else would it be? Suddenly he didn’t seem so far off base.
“In here.” I hoped he couldn’t hear the hysterical edge to my voice. I grabbed my dinner from the microwave and sat at the table as he walked in. His footsteps sounded so noisy after my day with Edward.
“Can you get me some of that? I’m bushed.” He stepped on the heels of his boots to take them off, holding the back of Edward’s chair for support.
I took my food with me, scarfing it down as I got his dinner. It burned my tongue. I filled two glasses with milk while his lasagna was heating, and gulped mine to put out the fire. As I set the glass down, I noticed the milk trembling and realized my hand was shaking. Charlie sat in the chair, and the contrast between him and its former occupant was comical.
“Thanks,” he said as I placed his food on the table.
“How was your day?” I asked. The words were rushed; I was dying to escape to my room.
“Good. The fish were biting… how about you? Did you get everything done that you wanted to?”
“Not really – it was too nice out to stay indoors.” I took another big bite.
“It was a nice day,” he agreed. What an understatement, I thought to myself.
Finished with the last bite of lasagna, I lifted my glass and chugged the remains of my milk.
Charlie surprised me by being observant. “In a hurry?”
“Yeah, I’m tired. I’m going to bed early.”
“You look kinda keyed up,” he noted. Why, oh why, did this have to be his night to pay attention?
“Do I?” was all I could manage in response. I quickly scrubbed my dishes clean in the sink, and placed them upside down on a dish towel to dry.
“It’s Saturday,” he mused.
I didn’t respond.
“No plans tonight?” he asked suddenly.
“No, Dad, I just want to get some sleep.”
“None of the boys in town your type, eh?” He was suspicious, but trying to play it cool.
“No, none of the boys have caught my eye yet.” I was careful not to over-emphasize the word boys in my quest to be truthful with Charlie.
“I thought maybe that Mike Newton… you said he was friendly.”
“He’s Just a friend, Dad.”
“Well, you’re too good for them all, anyway. Wait till you get to college to start looking.” Every father’s dream, that his daughter will be out of the house before the hormones kick in.
“Sounds like a good idea to me,” I agreed as I headed up the stairs.
“‘Night, honey,” he called after me. No doubt he would be listening carefully all evening, waiting for me to try to sneak out.
“See you in the morning, Dad.” See you creeping into my room tonight at midnight to check on me.
I worked to make my tread sound slow and tired as I walked up the stairs to my room. I shut the door loud enough for him to hear, and then sprinted on my tiptoes to the window. I threw it open and leaned out into the night. My eyes scanned the darkness, the impenetrable shadows of the trees.
“Edward?” I whispered, feeling completely idiotic.
The quiet, laughing response came from behind me. “Yes?”
I whirled, one hand flying to my throat in surprise.
He lay, smiling hugely, across my bed, his hands behind his head, his feet dangling off the end, the picture of ease.
“Oh!” I breathed, sinking unsteadily to the floor.
“I’m sorry.” He pressed his lips together, trying to hide his amusement.
“Just give me a minute to restart my heart.”
He sat up slowly, so as not to startle me again. Then he leaned forward and reached out with his long arms to pick me up, gripping the tops of my arms like I was a toddler. He sat me on the bed beside him.
“Why don’t you sit with me,” he suggested, putting a cold hand on mine. “How’s the heart?”
“You tell me – I’m sure you hear it better than I do.”
I felt his quiet laughter shake the bed.
We sat there for a moment in silence, both listening to my heartbeat slow. I thought about having Edward in my room, with my father in the house.
“Can I have a minute to be human?” I asked.
“Certainly.” He gestured with one hand that I should proceed.
“Stay,” I said, trying to look severe.
“Yes, ma’am.” And he made a show of becoming a statue on the edge of my bed.
I hopped up, grabbing my pajamas from off the floor, my bag of toiletries off the desk. I left the light off and slipped out, closing the door.
I could hear the sound from the TV rising up the stairs. I banged the bathroom door loudly, so Charlie wouldn’t come up to bother me.
I meant to hurry. I brushed my teeth fiercely, trying to be thorough and speedy, removing all traces of lasagna. But the hot water of the shower couldn’t be rushed. It unknotted the muscles in my back, calmed my pulse. The familiar smell of my shampoo made me feel like I might be the same person I had been this morning. I tried not to think of Edward, sitting in my room, waiting, because then I had to start all over with the calming process. Finally, I couldn’t delay anymore. I shut off the water, toweling hastily, rushing again. I pulled on my holey t-shirt and gray sweatpants. Too late to regret not packing the Victoria’s Secret silk pajamas my mother got me two birthdays ago, which still had the tags on them in a drawer somewhere back home.
I rubbed the towel through my hair again, and then yanked the brush through it quickly. I threw the towel in the hamper, flung my brush and toothpaste into my bag. Then I dashed down the stairs so Charlie could see that I was in my pajamas, with wet hair.
“‘Night, Bella.” He did look startled by my appearance. Maybe that would keep him from checking on me tonight.
I took the stairs two at a time, trying to be quiet, and flew into my room, closing the door tightly behind me.
Edward hadn’t moved a fraction of an inch, a carving of Adonis perched on my faded quilt. I smiled, and his lips twitched, the statue coming to life.
His eyes appraised me, taking in the damp hair, the tattered shirt. He raised one eyebrow. “Nice.”
“No, it looks good on you.”
“Thanks,” I whispered. I went back to his side, sitting cross-legged beside him. I looked at the lines in the wooden floor.
“What was all that for?”
“Charlie thinks I’m sneaking out.”
“Oh.” He contemplated that. “Why?” As if he couldn’t know Charlie’s mind much more clearly than I could guess.
“Apparently, I look a little overexcited.”
He lifted my chin, examining my face.
“You look very warm, actually.”
He bent his face slowly to mine, laying his cool cheek against my skin. I held perfectly still.
“Mmmmmm…” he breathed.
It was very difficult, while he was touching me, to frame a coherent question. It took me a minute of scattered concentration to begin.
“It seems to be… much easier for you, now, to be close to me.”
“Does it seem that way to you?” he murmured, his nose gliding to the corner of my jaw. I felt his hand, lighter than a moth’s wing, brushing my damp hair back, so that his lips could touch the hollow beneath my ear.
“Much, much easier,” I said, trying to exhale.
“So I was wondering…” I began again, but his fingers were slowly tracing my collarbone, and I lost my train of thought.
“Yes?” he breathed.
“Why is that,” my voice shook, embarrassing me, “do you think?”
I felt the tremor of his breath on my neck as he laughed. “Mind over matter.”
I pulled back; as I moved, he froze – and I could no longer hear the sound of his breathing.
We stared cautiously at each other for a moment, and then, as his clenched jaw gradually relaxed, his expression became puzzled.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“No – the opposite. You’re driving me crazy,” I explained.
He considered that briefly, and when he spoke, he sounded pleased. “Really?” A triumphant smile slowly lit his face.
“Would you like a round of applause?” I asked sarcastically.
“I’m just pleasantly surprised,” he clarified. “In the last hundred years or so,” his voice was teasing, “I never imagined anything like this. I didn’t believe I would ever find someone I wanted to be with… in another way than my brothers and sisters. And then to find, even though it’s all new to me, that I’m good at it… at being with you…”
“You’re good at everything,” I pointed out.
He shrugged, allowing that, and we both laughed in whispers.
“But how can it be so easy now?” I pressed. “This afternoon…”
“It’s not easy,” he sighed. “But this afternoon, I was still… undecided. I am sorry about that, it was unforgivable for me to behave so.”
“Not unforgivable,” I disagreed.
“Thank you.” He smiled. “You see,” he continued, looking down now, “I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough…” He picked up one of my hands and pressed it lightly to his face. “And while there was still that possibility that I might be… overcome” – he breathed in the scent at my wrist – “I was… susceptible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would… that I ever could…”
I’d never seen him struggle so hard for words. It was so… human.
“So there’s no possibility now?”
“Mind over matter,” he repeated, smiling, his teeth bright even in the darkness.
“Wow, that was easy,” I said.
He threw back his head and laughed, quietly as a whisper, but still exuberantly.
“Easy for you!” he amended, touching my nose with his fingertip.
And then his face was abruptly serious.
“I’m trying,” he whispered, his voice pained. “If it gets to be… too much, I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to leave.”
I scowled. I didn’t like the talk of leaving.
“And it will be harder tomorrow,” he continued. “I’ve had the scent of you in my head all day, and I’ve grown amazingly desensitized. If I’m away from you for any length of time, I’ll have to start over again. Not quite from scratch, though, I think.”
“Don’t go away, then,” I responded, unable to hide the longing in my voice.
“That suits me,” he replied, his face relaxing into a gentle smile. “Bring on the shackles – I’m your prisoner.” But his long hands formed manacles around my wrists as he spoke. He laughed his quiet, musical laugh. He’d laughed more tonight than I’d ever heard in all the time I’d spent with him.
“You seem more… optimistic than usual,” I observed. “I haven’t seen you like this before.”
“Isn’t it supposed to be like this?” He smiled. “The glory of first love, and all that. It’s incredible, isn’t it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in the pictures, and experiencing it?”
“Very different,” I agreed. “More forceful than I’d imagined.”
“For example” – his words flowed swiftly now, I had to concentrate to catch it all – “the emotion of jealousy. I’ve read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand different plays and movies. I believed I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked me…” He grimaced. “Do you remember the day that Mike asked you to the dance?”
I nodded, though I remembered that day for a different reason. “The day you started talking to me again.”
“I was surprised by the flare of resentment, almost fury, that I felt – I didn’t recognize what it was at first. I was even more aggravated than usual that I couldn’t know what you were thinking, why you refused him. Was it simply for your friend’s sake? Was there someone else? I knew I had no right to care either way. I tried not to care.
“And then the line started forming,” he chuckled. I scowled in the darkness.
“I waited, unreasonably anxious to hear what you would say to them, to watch your expressions. I couldn’t deny the relief I felt, watching the annoyance on your face. But I couldn’t be sure.
“That was the first night I came here. I wrestled all night, while watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew was right, moral, ethical, and what I wanted. I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.
“And then,” he whispered, “as you were sleeping, you said my name. You spoke so clearly, at first I thought you’d woken. But you rolled over restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The feeling that coursed through me then was unnerving, staggering. And I knew I couldn’t ignore you any longer.” He was silent for a moment, probably listening to the suddenly uneven pounding of my heart.
“But jealousy… it’s a strange thing. So much more powerful than I would have thought. And irrational! Just now, when Charlie asked you about that vile Mike Newton…” He shook his head angrily.
“I should have known you’d be listening,” I groaned.
“That made you feel jealous, though, really?”
“I’m new at this; you’re resurrecting the human in me, and everything
feels stronger because it’s fresh.”
“But honestly,” I teased, “for that to bother you, after I have to hear that Rosalie – Rosalie, the incarnation of pure beauty, Rosalie – was meant for you. Emmett or no Emmett, how can I compete with that?”
“There’s no competition.” His teeth gleamed. He drew my trapped hands around his back, holding me to his chest. I kept as still as I could, even breathing with caution.
“I know there’s no competition,” I mumbled into his cold skin. “That’s the problem.”
“Of course Rosalie is beautiful in her way, but even if she wasn’t like a sister to me, even if Emmett didn’t belong with her, she could never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me.” He was serious now, thoughtful. “For almost ninety years I’ve walked among my kind, and yours… all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren’t alive yet.”
“It hardly seems fair,” I whispered, my face still resting on his chest, listening to his breath come and go. “I haven’t had to wait at all. Why should I get off so easily?”
“You’re right,” he agreed with amusement. “I should make this harder for you, definitely.” He freed one of his hands, released my wrist, only to gather it carefully into his other hand. He stroked my wet hair softly, from the top of my head to my waist. “You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that’s surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity… what’s that worth?”
“Very little – I don’t feel deprived of anything.”
“Not yet.” And his voice was abruptly full of ancient grief.
I tried to pull back, to look in his face, but his hand locked my wrists in an unbreakable hold.
“What -” I started to ask, when his body became alert. I froze, but he suddenly released my hands, and disappeared. I narrowly avoided falling on my face.
“Lie down!” he hissed. I couldn’t tell where he spoke from in the darkness.
I rolled under my quilt, balling up on my side, the way I usually slept. I heard the door crack open, as Charlie peeked in to make sure I was where I was supposed to be. I breathed evenly, exaggerating the movement.
A long minute passed. I listened, not sure if I’d heard the door close. Then Edward’s cool arm was around me, under the covers, his lips at my ear.
“You are a terrible actress – I’d say that career path is out for you.”
“Darn it,” I muttered. My heart was crashing in my chest.
He hummed a melody I didn’t recognize; it sounded like a lullaby.
He paused. “Should I sing you to sleep?”
“Right,” I laughed. “Like I could sleep with you here!”
“You do it all the time,” he reminded me.
“But I didn’t know you were here,” I replied icily.
“So if you don’t want to sleep…” he suggested, ignoring my tone. My breath caught.
“If I don’t want to sleep… ?”
He chuckled. “What do you want to do then?”
I couldn’t answer at first.
“I’m not sure,” I finally said.
“Tell me when you decide.”
I could feel his cool breath on my neck, feel his nose sliding along my jaw, inhaling.
“I thought you were desensitized.”
“Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,” he whispered. “You have a very floral smell, like lavender… or freesia,” he noted. “It’s mouthwatering.”
“Yeah, it’s an off day when I don’t get somebody telling me how edible I smell.”
He chuckled, and then sighed.
“I’ve decided what I want to do,” I told him. “I want to hear more about you.”
“Ask me anything.”
I sifted through my questions for the most vital. “Why do you do it?” I said. “I still don’t understand how you can work so hard to resist what you… are. Please don’t misunderstand, of course I’m glad that you do. I just don’t see why you would bother in the first place.”
He hesitated before answering. “That’s a good question, and you are not the first one to ask it. The others – the majority of our kind who are quite content with our lot – they, too, wonder at how we live. But you see, just because we’ve been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above – to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can.”
I lay unmoving, locked in awed silence.
“Did you fall asleep?” he whispered after a few minutes.
“Is that all you were curious about?”
I rolled my eyes. “Not quite.”
“What else do you want to know?”
“Why can you read minds – why only you? And Alice, seeing the future… why does that happen?”
I felt him shrug in the darkness. “We don’t really know. Carlisle has a theory… he believes that we all bring something of our strongest human traits with us into the next life, where they are intensified – like our minds, and our senses. He thinks that I must have already been very sensitive to the thoughts of those around me. And that Alice had some precognition, wherever she was.”
“What did he bring into the next life, and the others?”
“Carlisle brought his compassion. Esme brought her ability to love passionately. Emmett brought his strength, Rosalie her… tenacity. Or you could call it pigheadedness.” he chuckled. “Jasper is very interesting. He was quite charismatic in his first life, able to influence those around him to see things his way. Now he is able to manipulate the emotions of those around him – calm down a room of angry people, for example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It’s a very subtle
I considered the impossibilities he described, trying to take it in. He waited patiently while I thought.
“So where did it all start? I mean, Carlisle changed you, and then someone must have changed him, and so on…”
“Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation? Couldn’t we have evolved in the same way as other species, predator and prey? Or, if you don’t believe that all this world could have just happened on its own, which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby seal and the killer whale, could create both our kinds together?”
“Let me get this straight – I’m the baby seal, right?”
“Right.” He laughed, and something touched my hair – his lips?
I wanted to turn toward him, to see if it was really his lips against my hair. But I had to be good; I didn’t want to make this any harder for him than it already was.
“Are you ready to sleep?” he asked, interrupting the short silence. “Or do you have any more questions?”
“Only a million or two.”
“We have tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…” he reminded me. I smiled, euphoric at the thought.
“Are you sure you won’t vanish in the morning?” I wanted this to be certain. “You are mythical, after all.”
“I won’t leave you.” His voice had the seal of a promise in it.
“One more, then, tonight…” And I blushed. The darkness was no help – I’m sure he could feel the sudden warmth under my skin.
“What is it?”
“No, forget it. I changed my mind.”
“Bella, you can ask me anything.”
I didn’t answer, and he groaned.
“I keep thinking it will get less frustrating, not hearing your thoughts. But it just gets worse and worse.”
“I’m glad you can’t read my thoughts. It’s bad enough that you eavesdrop on my sleep-talking.”
“Please?” His voice was so persuasive, so impossible to resist.
I shook my head.
“If you don’t tell me, I’ll just assume it’s something much worse than it is,” he threatened darkly. “Please?” Again, that pleading voice.
“Well,” I began, glad that he couldn’t see my face.
“You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon… Is that… marriage… the same as it is for humans?”
He laughed in earnest now, understanding. “Is that what you’re getting at?”
I fidgeted, unable to answer.
“Yes, I suppose it is much the same,” he said. “I told you, most of those human desires are there, just hidden behind more powerful desires.”
“Oh,” was all I could say.
“Was there a purpose behind your curiosity?”
“Well, I did wonder… about you and me… someday…”
He was instantly serious, I could tell by the sudden stillness of his body. I froze, too, reacting automatically.
“I don’t think that… that… would be possible for us.”
“Because it would be too hard for you, if I were that… close?”
“That’s certainly a problem. But that’s not what I was thinking of. It’s just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to mind my actions every moment that we’re together so that I don’t hurt you. I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident.” His voice had become just a soft murmur. He moved his icy palm to rest it against my cheek. “If I was too hasty… if for one second I wasn’t paying enough attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake. You don’t realize how incredibly breakable you are. I can never, never afford to lose any kind of control when I’m with you.”
He waited for me to respond, growing anxious when I didn’t. “Are you scared?” he asked.
I waited for a minute to answer, so the words would be true. “No. I’m fine.”
He seemed to deliberate for a moment. “I’m curious now, though,” he said, his voice light again. “Have you ever… ?” He trailed off suggestively.
“Of course not.” I flushed. “I told you I’ve never felt like this about anyone before, not even close.”
“I know. It’s just that I know other people’s thoughts. I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.”
“They do for me. Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all,” I sighed.
“That’s nice. We have that one thing in common, at least.” He sounded satisfied.
“Your human instincts…” I began. He waited. “Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?”
He laughed and lightly rumpled my nearly dry hair.
“I may not be a human, but I am a man,” he assured me.
I yawned involuntarily.
“I’ve answered your questions, now you should sleep,” he insisted.
“I’m not sure if I can.”
“Do you want me to leave?”
“No!” I said too loudly.
He laughed, and then began to hum that same, unfamiliar lullaby; the voice of an archangel, soft in my ear.
More tired than I realized, exhausted from the long day of mental and emotional stress like I’d never felt before, I drifted to sleep in his cold arms.