I wasn't sure what that meant. Maybe it was his way of insinuating my feelings for Edward. I followed him to the doorway, feeling a thousand eyes on me all at once as the room fell deftly quiet for first time since we arrived.
Every cough, twitch and drop of utensils was clearly audible over the sound of Billy Holiday playing from the jukebox. When I turned back to glance from the doorway, it was the dirty blonde I hadn't noticed earlier that monitored me with a hate filled scowl. Rosalie. Her eyes shone with a surmountable jealousy that wasn't called for, since Edward hated my guts.
Jake walked me back to the Manor at a physical distance. I thumbed my tongue, thinking of something useful to say, scanning my brain for something intelligible to break the ice. But it seemed made of something indestructible and between us. I could even imagine it as a glade shutting down and causing a wedge that perforated the asphalt. We had both changed in the short hours we'd been together. Once we were bonding, and now neither of us could say a word about the evening.
He didn't try to speak and I didn't try to make him. I kept my mouth zipped as I kept down every "sorry".
He wrote down his cell number for me though, on a napkin with a rodeo riding a bucking horse. It was something I planned on keeping as a souvenir.
Although it was obvious he resented my reaction at the diner, it was comforting to know he might have still wanted to see me. But he must've taken my lack of a response as a different kind of hint that wasn't intended, and walked away from me before I could explain or leave him with a better judgement to my sudden change.
I was a puzzle to even myself. I couldn't figure out what was happening to me and why my feelings were opposing my thoughts, or why I was drawn so steadily to….something inexplicably wrong.
Edward was bad news and a glorified egomaniac, but it didn't keep me from thinking about every minimal thing he'd ever said to me, or the way he looked at me for too long at the diner. If my mind had been any clearer I would've dismissed the look in his eyes for something more platonic. Deceivable. Yet something in his eyes had been far from dishonest. They were vulnerable and open for me to receive some sort of signal. I just couldn't bring myself to see it. I feared the danger that was strictly attached, which was what he was probably trying to make me see as well anyway.
I tried not to let it bug me as I busied myself putting away the rest of my luggage. I made a quick call to Jared and updated him on my stay—minus the boy trouble, then stepped onto the balcony to admire the starry night sky. A knock at my door minutes later disrupted my much-needed alone time. I opened it to find Bree standing in the hallway in just her nightie, holding a bowl of cheesy puffs and a box of unopened chocolates.
"Thought I would see if you wanted to share these with me." She grinned, showing me the tops of her pinky-white gums.
She gave the cheesy puffs a mild shake. I wasn't in the mood for talking, not even to myself, but I couldn't turn down a face that was so happy to see me. Especially when there were so few of them around to make amends for how I was feeling.
I let her in my room—the room that had become my prettier hole to harbour my downbeat optimism. I closed the door as she skipped inside and leaped onto my bed, opened the bag of cheesy puffs and crammed a handful into her mouth, leaving orange crumbs on my bed that Esme would have to needlessly vacuum. I chose not to complain.
"My favorite." Orange powder poofed from between her lips. She handed me the bag. I did the same and slipped my shoes off. Maybe Bree could answer the questions still giving me a headache.
"Did you find out anything about the chest we found in the attic? Who it belongs to?"
She nodded while picking at a front tooth. "It's my Aunt Tanya's. She owns the chest."
"Why's it here?" The chest was no piece of furniture.
"I think she's moving home," she said as she munched on. "Mother's keeping it till she gets settled."
I guess it was a reasonable answer, but still arguable.
"There seems to be a book on witchcraft in the study?" I hurried out. She wasn't listening. "Witchcraft," I said much louder.
She looked at me perplexed, licking at her orange encrusted fingers.
"It was within the bookshelf?"
She shrugged. "Beats me. It's probably my aunts too. She's Wiccan."
"Wiccan?" Didn't that mean a witch? "Why?"
"She says it's a self-healing belief system...yadayadyda..."
"So she casts spells?" I was afraid to say it.
"Nothing bad. It's all positive with good intentions. Although mother says she's deluded and lonely."
If it was to do good, why did she have a book on ritualistic summoning? Images of beasts and goblin like creatures placing a child into a smoulder of fire?
"What do you think?" I asked, getting edgy with the topic.
"I think she's whacko, but she pays well when she visits."
"Is she planning to visit anytime soon?" I somehow managed to control the nerves in my voice.
"She likes to surprise you."
Great, surprise witch gatherings.
"Are you liking it here," Bree asked, changing the subject and looking at me like an interested pupil. She added another handful of orange puffs into her small, but loud mouth.
"It's been ok so far," I admitted. "I haven't really had the chance to do all that much." I lied. "I'm hoping to try a little more in the next few days." I licked my orange crusted fingers clean, only to coat them again.
"Don't worry. I'll take you into Old Town tomorrow. And The Apple Blossom Festival's here next week. You're going to love it." She clapped her hands. "They have a street parade and everything! They'll be crowning the new Apple Blossom Queen. I'm too young to qualify as an entry. But who cares?" She shrugged like she did.
"You have to come," she screeched. "Everyone will be there. It's celebrated every year, and began in…" She thought about it for some time. "1924," she finished with googly-eyed amazement. "The place goes nuts!"
Much like that I guessed.
"The festival is really important," she added without pausing for breath and licking the crumbs from her lips.
I remained silent. I was having detail overload, too much of it was ramming into by brain with loud Bree as the narrative.
She began to tear at the clear film from around the box of chocolates like a mad woman.
"Sounds cool," I said in my most enthusiastic voice. "I never knew the place held so much history. It would be great to learn more about it."
"The land was almost destroyed during the Civic War," Bree said. Maybe she meant Civil War. "But it's managed to stay alive. Barely." She giggled. "They don't call this place sleepy town for nothing."
They didn't call me sleepy head for nothing either, I thought with a yawn.
Standing on the edge of a cliff top, I look down at the distant turmoil of waves crashing against the rocks. The wind blew with a fierce, disrupting my balance.
"Don't!" cried a voice behind me "You don't have to do this!" "I have to stop it from happening again!"
"But I need you here, with me."
"What if fail at this? What if I lose you and everything else?"
"I'll save you from them. Even from myself."
I turned. "Should I be afraid of you Edward?"
"I'll never hurt you. I'll keep you protected, both of you." He held out his hand. "You have to trust me."
I reached out, but he faded and flickered. No sound escaped his mouth.
The sky bled crimson, heating until it boiled into ripples of spewing liquid that dripped like acid to my skin, burning my flesh and revealing the white of my bones. I screamed and convulsed. The ground separated.
I slipped through the gap, but managed to grip a hold of the edge, fighting to keep myself above a river of black. It coiled around me as I screamed for help. Edward appeared. He held out his hand again and I grabbed it. I held on as tightly as I could, waiting for him to catapult me back onto even ground. But he smirked and let go, watching me fall into the pit of nothing but darkness and delirious screams.
I woke in a hot sweat, trembling as I tried to erase the images of the dream running through my head like a slideshow in slow-motion, making me relive each moment, each feeling, the guilt, the sorrow, confusion, emptiness too hollow.
I ran to the bathroom to vomit and lay limp on the cold tiles, yearning for arms to hold me and rock me back to sleep.
I recalled how Edward had watched me plunge to what seemed like my death. He looked so happy and sad in the same instance. I found it hard to believe he could be so heartless and potentially harmful. Somewhere behind his hardened exterior, I sensed there was a heart as lonely and broken as mine.
Somehow, I'd managed to get to sleep after what I'd seen and learned today. But ever since I got back from the cemetery, I felt watched. I even wondered if the cold draft really was a sign that the Manor was haunted.
Could Arina be roaming the halls at night in search of Alistair?
I'd read cold drafts were a sign of wandering spirits. I'd read some of them lingered on the Earth plane if they had something unfinished.
What could Arina want? Why couldn't she just be with Alistair and rest in peace?
I shook my head. I was getting carried away again. The manor wasn't haunted. It was most likely Bree in the attic, wearing a blonde wig she'd found among the Cullen's belongings.
I wasn't going to ask and risk them finding out I had issues long before I arrived. And maybe my anxiety at being in a new place was making me imagine what I wanted. Maybe I was searching for an excuse to leave. Yet it still didn't explain why only I felt the draft.
It wasn't that cold in the bathroom, but the same clinging presence from last night began to crowd me, making my skin feel stretched.
I had to get away. I couldn't face seeing Arina up close.
I couldn't go back to bed yet, so I tiptoed down the creaky stairs and slipped into the kitchen to open the refrigerator and pull out a jug of Esme's homemade lemonade. I was pouring myself a glass when I noticed smoke billowing outside the window. It was three in the morning. I hadn't expected anyone else to be awake.
On closer inspection, someone was stood in the middle of the garden, throwing scraps of paper from a book into a metal cylinder that was alive with flames. It was difficult to make out who it was. I also failed to see it was a bad idea to pay the fire starter a visit. I was already in the garden and a few inches away, when I realized it was the last person I needed to see.
Now that I was behind him, and he could perhaps sense me, I stepped closer to see what he was burning. There were words jumbled and scarcely readable as letters, more like shapes and twisted numbers.
On one page, I thought I caught a glimpse of a face similar to mine, elaborately drawn with a dark mass of hair. There was also a crown of symbols with silver vines and swirls. A single tear had been drawn on the girl's cheek.
I stepped closer and watched her hair crumple and disappear into a wrinkle of ash. It floated into my eyes. A tear trickled down my own cheek.
"What are you doing here?" he muttered.
Did he know it was me? Did he mean at the house or in the garden? I had a feeling he meant both.
"I came downstairs to get a drink and saw the fire." I shivered from the cool night air and wiped the tear from my cheek.
Edward glanced to the side of him, moving until he was standing opposite me on the other side of the cylinder. The flames hissed with the howl of the wind as he continued burning the pages from his book. From the minimal interactions we'd shared, it was clear he was going to be good at making me feel invisible.
"No one forced you to come here," he said.
Again, it seemed as if he was referring to my actual visit. I kept to the present. "I came because I wanted to."
"Are you always so reckless?" he asked after what seemed like a time.
His eyes met mine. The hood of his jacket overshadowed their color, but I could just about see the intensity of gold from the reflection of light bouncing from the fire. It didn't warm the surrounding shape of his dark, penetrating eyes. They seemed just as driven to dislike me.
The memory of his laughter in my dream after watching me plummet made me shudder. But it was just a dream. This Edward was craggy, emotionally detached, in a way I could understand since I was often like that myself, but he wasn't heartless. Not even close. I could tell. It was what I could read about him.
I hugged myself and he looked down at the ring on my finger, the way the small rubies glistened under the moonlight. He then turned away, ending any interest that might have seeped into his mind for a few seconds by mistake.
"What are you burning?" I dared ask.
"Mine to burn."
I gave up on trying to be civil. "Maybe next time you could try recycling."
He turned his head to the side. Hiding a smirk?
"So, are you always so...enigmatic?"
"Do I irritate you or something?"
"Have I offended you?"
"You should go," he said, not in a mean way. It was more like a soft command.
With another glance my way, he continued to burn the remaining chapters of the book, words untold, but possibly memorized. I left him to it, recalling the tortured look in his eyes that had become imprinted to my memory, mirroring my hidden pain.