Bella did not sleep well that night. As soon as I slipped through her window, I could feel the electric charge in the air, flickering faintly in the tiny room. Perhaps it was that atmosphere that kept her tossing and turning- perhaps she could sense my presence. Every time she roused, I flattened myself on the floor but she never came fully awake.
I might have even left- if she had not mumbled my name several times over- I was not proof against that.
Knowing what she knew of me- and I did not let myself think of Saturday when she would be unable to see me as anything but inhuman- she still wanted me near her. As long as that was the case, I would be- as Alice had said, I simply wasn’t strong enough to stay away.
In the early morning, when Bella finally slept well, I ran home to change and pick up my car. I avoided my family mostly- Rose’s disgust was still very loud and Alice’s recent vision… was wrong. I would not let it be anything other than wrong. I could hear Esme’s concern- and Carlisle’s although his was quieter. Even his faith in me was upsetting- I had no such great faith in myself.
I blocked them out as best I could and did not linger.
I was back at Bella’s house before Charlie Swan’s car rounded the corner but I waited until he was gone to pull up to the house. Bella was not ready to explain me to her father and it was her choice when that would change. I tried not to stare as Bella got in the car- she was wearing brown in the same shade as her eyes- and they did not need added enhancement in the first place.
“Good morning. How are you today?” Keep it simple, keep it light. Although I did truly want to know, very much, if she was suffering any ill effects from her nearly sleepless night.
“Good, thank you.” Once more it was a source of absolute frustration not to be able to hear her thoughts- was she really good or was that just a polite answer to a polite greeting, the substance of which was rarely sincere.
“You look tired”
“I couldn’t sleep” she confessed. She let her hair fall across her face- a gesture of shyness. I didn’t want her to be shy with me. To provoke her to be more open… and satisfy my all encompassing curiosity… I was uncharacteristically open with her.
“Neither could I.”
She laughed… a delighted sound that I was pleased to have coaxed from her. “I guess that’s right. I suppose I slept just a bit more than you did.”
“I’d wager you did.” Although not nearly enough and not as well as I wanted her to.
“So what did you do last night?”
I almost answered… it was far too easy to be open with her. Instead, I laughed mildly. “Not a chance. It’s my day to ask questions.”
“Oh, that’s right. What do you want to know?”
Only everything. I’d been trying to puzzle out from her expressions all those things that were usually perfectly transparent to me and I was looking forward to lifting some of the veil of mystery in which she was unwittingly cloaked. I started small.. the simple questions first so that by the time I was asking the probing questions, the ones that would give me the keys to her thoughts… she would already be used to answering me.
“What’s your favorite color?” Simple, but not unimportant- I did want to know everything.
She rolled her eyes at me- perhaps guessing that I was starting small. “It changes from day to day.”
How like Bella- even simple things were complex- no easy answer. “What’s your favorite color today?”
“Probably brown.” That was- unexpected.
“Brown?” I wanted more than that!
“Sure. Brown is warm. I miss brown. Everything that’s supposed to be brown- tree trunks, rocks, dirt- is all covered up with squishy green stuff here.” Ah! This was what I wanted- not just the answer but the mental processes, the reasoning, behind it. In watching her eyes as she defended her choice- oh yes- I suddenly loved brown very much.
“You’re right. Brown is warm.”
We were at the school now so I asked another simple question- and a point of curiosity I had not yet been able to satisfy. “What music is in your CD player right now?”
She named a band that I liked- one I even had with me- and I pulled it out of the console and handed it to her. It was not a band I would have guessed would appeal to a girl- but when had Bella been anything other than a surprise?
“Debussy to this?” I asked- not pointing out that I obviously had tastes that were as wide ranging myself. She examined the CD- to keep her eyes hidden although why I could not understand.
Everything I had ever wondered about, I asked, thinking of questions by the hundred as I marked time in classes away from her. I kept to simple questions- ones that could be answered in a word or two- although she treated me to more than one surprise. I knew she liked Austin- her favorite author as it turned out- so the Brontë sisters were almost a given but I was delighted to discover that she also liked Oscar Wilde and GBS. She tended to lean to the classics- choosing good writing over popular topics… but she seemed to have nothing against modern novels- as long as they were well written.
When I asked about travel, her responses were more of where she would like to visit than places she had already been. I spent several minutes planning- wondering if I suggested a short trip, would she like to visit a few of those places with me? Perhaps not, the restriction on sunlight could be distinctly problematic. Not to mention it would be very very bad for me to be alone with her so far from home… She blushed when I mentioned Venice- and intensified the ever present burning she engendered- but would not tell me why.
It was such a relief to be able to ask the cause for those easy flushes of color! I found that I was so interested in watching her face intently as she answered- reading her expression as well as her verbal answer- that my automatic response her scent was easier to control.
I confess I had ulterior motives when asking some questions- like her favorite gem stone. That was not random or innocent- I was thinking of jewelry.
“Topaz” she said and colored scarlet- as if she had not meant to say so much. It took much persuasion to discover the reason for that blush. “It’s the color of your eyes today” she finally whispered. “I suppose if you asked me in two weeks, I’d say onyx.”
That took me by surprise- although remembering my sudden love of the color brown- I should have almost expected it. Was it possible that she cared for me that much? She should not and yet it made me unreasonably happy that she did.
I asked something else quickly. I wanted to learn about her today- not give her a chance to reverse those roles.
Biology was the same as day before. I put a little more space between us for all the good it did. The temptation to move closer, to touch her was at least as bad as the day before. Her absorption in the film appeared complete- until I noticed that she was holding onto the tabletop. I wasn’t the only one feeling that unaccountable pull.
As she turned to face me at the Gym, my resolve crumbled and I stroked her face once again very lightly. I knew it was a mistake- even the same mistake- and it was quite possibly harder to walk away today than it had been yesterday.
I had to stop making mistakes if I wanted to be anywhere near her- I had to make myself safe for her to be with.
Between thinking about all that Bella had told me so far- and following her through her hazardous gym class- Emmet found me a bit abstracted. In the back of my mind- what tiny portion was not busy being completely obsessed- I was grateful to Emmet for being himself. Other than a wisp of wordless amusement, he left me to my thoughts.
Bella smiled when she saw me waiting for her after her fortunately uneventful gym class and I couldn’t help but smile in return.
Now I could ask questions that would have more detailed answers- the essay questions instead of fill-in-the-blank.
For once, Bella was not hesitant to talk about herself. She described her home, her family- all the things she loved. She detailed for me things I did not know and, when asked, gave the reasons for the preferences she expressed. She did not love mindlessly even though she loved greatly.
Just one more detail of her character that set her apart- and made me love her all the more.
I was keeping watch on the time and when I paused, she asked “Are you finished?”
Never- I would never be done discovering with her. “Not even close- but your father will be home soon.” I did not know if she wanted me to meet him and that was her choice- always her choice.
“Charlie!” she exclaimed. I could hear the sudden staccato of her pulse- not yet, then. She glanced at the clock. “How late is it?”
“It’s twilight” I said quietly, thinking of other twilights. Twilight has always seemed a bit sad to me… and it is when the monsters come out, after all. I looked back at Bella and there was a question in her eyes.
“It’s the safest time of day for us, the easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way… the end of another day, the return of night.” I shook myself- next I would be telling her why… I always revealed too much when I talked to her. “Darkness is so predictable, don’t you think?”
“I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.” The crease appeared between her eyes. “Not that you see them here much.” I laughed at this- the words as well as her expression- and my laughter chased away my sudden gloom as quickly as it had come.
“Charlie will be here in a few minutes. So, unless you want to tell him that you’ll be with me Saturday…” I reminded her.
“Thanks but no thanks.” She began to gather up her things. “So is it my turn tomorrow?” Her voice was a tiny bit plaintive.
“Certainly not!” I feigned shock at the suggestion. “I told you I wasn’t done, didn’t I?”
“What more is there?”
Years more- really. But that did not have to be said. “You’ll find out tomorrow” I leaned across her to open her door for her- drinking in her nearness- and then I stopped. I could hear the thoughts of someone approaching in a car- Billy Black… and Jacob.
They hadn’t seen us yet but still- they would in seconds. “Not good.” I muttered
“What is is?” Bella hadn’t noticed their approach yet.
“Another complication.” I said without elaborating. There was no chance that I could be gone before they saw me and while Jacob was too young to believe the old tales about my family, Billy certainly did. Not only did we not hunt on the reservation, we kept out of the way of the members of the tribe as much as it was possible without being obvious.
Jacob’s thoughts were mostly of Bella- she must have truly dazzled him in her attempt to find out what he knew- and harmless enough though they sent a wash of jealousy burning through me. Billy was another matter.
… Cullen? Here? With Bella? She’ll have to be warned- he’s not safe- dangerous to her. Charlie should forbid… he’ll just have to trust me…
I opened the door and moved away, not wanting to give him more reason to talk to Charlie about the bad company his daughter was keeping. Bella would not listen to Billy himself- but he might persuade Charlie.
“Charlie is around the corner” I reminded her. I could hear him- though his thoughts were indistinct. She got out into the rain- and I drove away as swiftly as was legal. I didn’t like leaving her here with them all evening but there was not much choice. They may have considered me bad company for her but I considered them no better- and she did not know their secret. I would simply have to trust Charlie to protect her, should the need arise, at least until I could get back.
I also found the perfect cover for Midnight Sun: