I drove around idly once again after pulling away from Bella's house, or at least what was "idly" to me; to a human, it would probably have constituted a dangerous thrill ride, at over a hundred miles an hour on the highways outside of Forks. I didn't feel like going home to deal with either the curiosity or the judgment of my family, as each questioned in his or her own way the sanity of what I was doing.
Instead, I drove, killing time until it would be dark and I could slip back into Bella's room to see what I could make of her dreams on this night.
The hours passed slowly for me, something that was starting to grate on my nerves. Time was usually rather meaningless and I liked it that way, never noticing if the minutes seemed longer or slower than they should. Now, however, that had changed: either time passed far too quickly, during the moments I spent with Bella, or far too slowly, during the moments we were apart. It bothered me that it bothered me.
Finally it was late enough that I headed back into Forks, lessening my speed when I eventually turned the Volvo onto a road a few streets north of Bella's and then parked. Within moments, I was outside her house, scanning for Charlie to see if he were asleep.
Unable to restrain my eagerness, in a flash I had scaled the wall and was quietly lifting Bella's window to slip inside. I wasn't ready to hear her speak aloud immediately, however, and almost fell back through the still-open window when she murmured my name before I had even set a foot on her floor. I froze, waiting to see if she would sit up and turn on a light, catching me in the act.
True to form, however – and to my relief – she was indeed fast asleep, and tossed heavily onto her side as she once again said my name. She seemed to dream of me most nights now, and I couldn't help smiling to myself at that fact. There was no way that I permeated her thoughts the way she now permeated mine, but at least I appeared to be solidly on her mind.
It frustrated me that I could not discern more about her dreams than what was revealed by her occasional vocalizations, especially this night. She seemed more restless than usual, frequently tossing and turning. She almost seemed to waken a few times, and I tensed, prepared to vault for the window in less than the fraction of an instant it would take her to flutter her eyelids open. What I would have given to have been able to see her thoughts. Of all people, anywhere, for me to be unable to read! The one person I would have traded my soul for – if I had had one, that is.
I snarled at myself for the thought, and pushed it out of my mind. I knew it was unconscionably selfish for me to be here, even to speak to her or know her at all, ever. But these night time moments were my own, and I tried to enjoy them without guilt – at least insofar as I could.
The sky started to lighten far too soon – the vagaries of time yet again. Bella had finally settled down some hours before, which had been nice to see, but it had also left her silent, giving me no clues at all as to what was going through her mind. It was time to leave, though, and I stood up with a silent sigh. It would have to hold me over to know that I would see her again – conscious, this time – in a few more hours, when I picked her up for school.
With that, I took one last glance at her sleeping form, curled into a ball under her blankets, and left the way I had come.
When I returned in the Volvo, I waited around the corner from the house until I knew Bella's father had left for work. I watched his cruiser pass a block away, and managed to catch his thoughts just as I restarted my car and headed for the Swan driveway. He was concerned about his daughter, wondering whether she was fitting in at school, perplexed about her refusal to attend the spring dance. Part of him was glad that she didn't seem to be particularly interested in any of the boys, but the other part was simply concerned.
If only he had known what she did seem to be interested in, I thought to myself a tad bitterly as I waited for her to come outside. Then there would be cause for concern.
The bitterness faded quickly when Bella stepped out of the front door. I couldn't help but feel elated at the sight of her, making her way to my car without hesitation.
"Good morning." I greeted her when she slid inside. "How are you today?" She looked tired, like she had not had a restful sleep. I knew, of course, that that was exactly the problem.
"Good, thank you." Despite the dark circles under her eyes, she looked pleased to be there, and I couldn't help feeling even more pleased myself.
"You look tired," I commented.
"I couldn't sleep," she replied, tossing her hair over her shoulder.
That caused an extra strong burst of her scent to course through the vehicle, but I was impressed with myself to find that it did not bowl me over as it once had. I was almost starting to…simply appreciate it.
"Neither could I," I joked, starting the car and pulling out to head for the school.
She laughed easily. "I guess that's right. I suppose I slept just a little bit more than you did."
"I'd wager you did." She had actually slept more than she seemed to think. Or at least as far as I had been able to tell, sitting across the room from her.
"So what did you do last night?" she asked.
As if I would tell her. "Not a chance. It's my day to ask questions." While watching her sleep, I had thought of many. There were so many things about her I didn't know and wanted desperately to know. And, frustratingly, asking her was the only way I would find them out.
"Oh, that's right. What do you want to know?" She looked at me seriously, clearly wondering what on earth she could possibly have to tell me that I would be interested in. Ha.
I started with the first thing that popped into my mind, but it was something I truly wanted to know. It was something so basic, so easy for me to pluck from the mind of absolutely anyone else on earth without asking that it frustrated me to have to ask it. "What's your favourite color?"
"It changes from day to day."
Leave it to her to come up with anything but a simple answer to a simple question. "What's your favourite color today?" Again, annoying that I had to ask.
"Brown?" I repeated incredulously. Of all the minds that I'd ever scanned in the last ninety years, I'm not sure I'd ever found one that held brown as a favourite.
"Sure. Brown is warm. I miss brown. Everything that's supposed to be brown – tree trunks, rocks, dirt – is all covered up with squashy green stuff here." She stated flatly.
I considered that for a moment, looking at her. Her long hair was brown. Her beautiful eyes were the warmest brown. The snug turtleneck she wore today, fitting closely to the curves of her arms, torso and abdomen was brown. Brown indeed.
This time I could make myself hesitate for only a second before impulsively reaching over to push her brown hair back away from her face, over her shoulder. "You're right…" I managed to say, caught up in the feel of her soft tresses against my sensitive skin. "Brown is warm."
We had reached the school far too quickly. It meant that time had sped up for me again. The pressure of elapsing time made me fire questions at her for the rest of the day, every time we had an opportunity to be together again. The periods that we were apart, taken to different classes, I spent thinking of more questions, and still more questions. I had so many that even my mind could not seem to organize them into any kind of a priority sequence.
They must have seemed incredibly random to her, and perhaps they were. Perhaps no question was of importance in and of itself, but they were all of importance to me. I had to know her. I had to know all of her.
I had hardly gone through a small percentage of my questions by the time we headed for Biology class, and realized with a pang of disappointment that we'd be watching part two of Lorenzo's Oil today, and it would not be possible to carry on a conversation.
A pang of anticipation immediately followed, however, when I realized as well that we would once again find ourselves sitting in the dark together. I wondered a little if the strange electricity would be there between us again, but I was pretty sure that it would be. Although I had no previous personal experience with any of this, I'd read ninety years worth of books and seen ninety years worth of films.
Today I doubted my ability to resist that electricity again, and subtly pulled my chair a few inches further away from hers, hoping she wouldn't notice and feel hurt.
It didn't help anyway. Once the lights were down, it was there again, as powerfully as the day before.
Instead of clenching at my side, Bella leaned forward on the table with a slight sigh, folding her arms and resting her chin on her hands. This put her a further few inches away from me, but it still didn't abate the electricity, the almost irresistible pull of her skin, as if it were a magnet for my own, drawing my touch to her.
It did put her slightly in front of me, however, and made it easy for me to look at her without it being too obvious that my eyes were not trained on the video screen at the front of the classroom. I was rather free to stare at her all I wanted. I could see that her fingers were gripping the edge of the table and smiled a little morbidly to myself. If she were sitting about a foot to her left and did that, she'd feel the gouges in the wood I'd dug with my own fingers that first day she'd sat with me here.
The ironic thing was that even if she did, and even if she figured out that I was the one who had caused the damage, I had a very strong feeling that it would not change a thing.
It still wouldn't cause her to run away from me screaming as it should. Even if I crumbled the entire table to dust with my bare hands before her very eyes, she still wouldn't be afraid of me.
As the movie droned on, I debated in my head whether fate had sent her to me as a reward, or sent me to her as a punishment. I couldn't believe she could ever have done anything to merit such a punishment, but nor could I believe that I had ever done anything to deserve such a reward. In fact, I knew that I had not. Just the opposite, in fact.
What cruel joke was this that the world was playing on us both?
The torment of that thought took my attention from the electric current running between our bodies in the dark, and I barely noticed at first when the film ended and the lights went back on in the classroom.
Bella turned to look at me but I had nothing to say for the moment.
We walked silently together toward the gym, where I would leave her to risk her safety and that of her classmates for another hour. I knew that risk was of only minor injuries, however, which was all that let me leave her there at all. Besides, I could get lucky and she'd nail Newton with a racket again. I almost chuckled out loud at the thought.
I'd been good in Biology and hadn't let myself reach out to her in the dark. So, selfishly, and still filled with some of the melancholy brought on by my thoughts during the film, I rewarded myself by reaching out now, and carefully stroking the side of her face with the back of my hand. Just like stroking a soap bubble, but this one living, breathing, looking back at me curiously, perhaps expectantly.
It was all I could do to turn and walk away without doing anything further.
I endured my next class through a fog of inattention, and was grateful yet again that the teachers had for the most part long since given up asking me questions. I was still back in Biology, back at lunch, back in the car this morning, tossing over the answers Bella had given me so far to my questions, analyzing them and thinking of even more questions I wanted to ask. When the final bell of the day rang, I almost had to give my head a shake to clear it enough that I could focus on not sprinting out of the classroom and scaring the daylights out of the other students. With effort, I made my way back to the gym at a human pace.
I had beaten Bella to the gym door and took the opportunity to gather myself enough to conceal my eagerness to see her, given that only an hour had passed since we'd last been together. My slowly resurrecting human instincts told me I had to keep it light, and not overwhelm her.
I smelled her before I saw her, shoving the swinging door open in a rather ungraceful manner, almost falling through it rather than stepping through. Her conflagration with the door made her eyebrows crease together momentarily in a frown, but then she glanced up, saw me, and instantly broke into a beatific smile.
If my heart had still been beating, it would have sped up and out of control at that moment. My return smile was automatic, but didn't do justice to the way that her reaction to seeing me had made me feel. Glorious.
Keep it light…I reminded myself yet again, to keep from saying something injudicious, or from simply standing there and grinning like an idiot.
So I launched into my next set of questions.
Time, once more, flew past. I was vaguely aware of the sky starting to darken as we sat in my car in front of her house, me asking, she answering, telling me more and more about herself but still not satisfying even one percent of my desire to know her. It was no fault of her own, of course; it was simply reflective of the depth of my curiosity about her. Every word she spoke fascinated me and made me want more, like an addict seeking a fix. In the past fifty years I probably hadn't had this much conversation with every human I'd met combined. But it still did not seem enough.
Eventually, however, I could sense Charlie Swan approaching in his police cruiser. I hated to stop the flow of information, but I knew she'd want to know he was coming.
"Are you finished?" she asked, noticing the interruption in my river of interrogations.
"Not even close – but your father will be home soon," I replied reluctantly.
"Charlie!" she exclaimed. It appeared that she, too, had lost track of time. "How late is it?"
"It's twilight," I told her, glancing out the front windshield toward the horizon, where the sun was setting through the rain clouds. In many ways, this was my favourite part of the day, firmly signalling the end of another day in the purgatory known as Forks High School, the time of day when I could stop pretending to be what I was not, and turn my mind to matters of my own choosing. In other ways, it was my least favourite part of the day, as it had always meant yet another evening and long night on my own. While the rest of my family, each entrenched in deep love with a partner, could spend those precious night time hours focused on that love, I was almost always by myself and left to my own devices. I had endured it for decades. Now it was even worse, for it meant the end of my time with Bella. I was almost overcome by sadness.
She was looking at me, trying to figure out what I was seeing out the window and why I had suddenly become so quiet. I didn't need to be a mind reader to determine that from her probing expression.
"It's the safest time of day for us," I told her. "The easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way…the end of another day, the return of the night. Darkness is so predictable, don't you think?" Unlike the welcome unpredictability of my time with her.
"I like the night. Without the dark, we'd never see the stars," she replied. "Not that you see them here much."
I laughed. That fit in so well with everything she had just been telling me about Arizona, and all the reasons she loved it – not the least of which were its wide-open, clear skies.
"Charlie will be here in a few minutes. So, unless you want to tell him that you'll be with me Saturday…" I raised an eyebrow at her, wondering when – or if – she would tell him about me. I hoped that she would, but I could certainly understand why she wouldn't.
"Thanks, but no thanks." She gathered her things and then looked up at me. "So is it my turn tomorrow, then?"
"Certainly not!" As if I didn't have eight or nine million more questions for her. "I told you I wasn't done, didn't I?"
"What more is there?"
"You'll find out tomorrow." I reached across her to grab the door handle and open the door for her, acutely conscious for a moment of both the increase in the electrical charge between us, and of her suddenly accelerating heart rate. Before I could enjoy either, however, I sensed something else.
Someone else. Not a friend.
"Not good," I muttered, suddenly irritated. This wasn't the same irritation I felt with a Mike Newton or a Tyler Crowley, however. This was rather more serious. Quileutes. Our truce with them was an uneasy one, a grudging one. And their leader was on his way.
"What is it?"
I couldn't explain. Not now, anyway. It was better if I simply left. "Another complication," I told her simply. I had forgotten about this particular obstacle to any future I might hope for with Bella. Was there no end to the difficulties we faced? My lack of humanity wasn't enough?
I opened the door quickly and pulled myself back into my own seat just as quickly. With both Charlie and the Quileutes moments away, I couldn't afford to get caught up in her scent, or another urge to touch her that I could not suppress.
The Quileute vehicle pulled up first and stopped facing mine. It was definitely time to go. I certainly was not afraid of them, but I was afraid of the impact on Bella's impression of me any kind of confrontation with them might have.
"Charlie's around the corner." I glared through the windshield at the Quileute vehicle, able with my eyesight to see well enough through the rain that I could tell the leader was glaring back at me. He knew exactly who I was and who was in my vehicle with me. Although he was clearly surprised to see us together, his focus was on a warning.
We won't let you hurt her. You know we're watching you.
The message being telegraphed to me from his mind was abundantly clear. I couldn't necessarily blame him for it, but I felt insulted nevertheless. It's not like his kind was much safer around humans. Unfortunately, I knew that this man was Charlie Swan's friend, which put him in a position of influence that I did not enjoy.
Fighting the impulse to get out of my vehicle, march over and tell the Quileute what I thought of his warnings, once Bella was safely out, I threw the engine into gear and pulled away as quickly as the wet pavement would allow.