Chapter 13 Balancing
I raced home in a frenzy only to find the house empty apart from Alice. She was waiting on the porch, looking very smug as I parked the car in the garage. A fraction of a second later, she was there, leaning on the hood of my car. I stared at her through the windshield.
Have a nice afternoon?
She twirled over to my door and went to open it for me. But my hand was already on the handle. I was just about to swing it open full force to knock her out of the way… but of course she was too quick- always a step ahead of me, and I saw in her thoughts, my own intentions. She hopped out of the way just in time.
Nice try, Edward
. I got out of the car and Alice turned to walk back towards the house. I followed her. With her back still to me, I crouched down, feigning readiness to pounce at her. Don’t even think about it
. We both laughed.
“Where is everybody?” I asked.
“Hunting,’ she said matter-of-factly.
That didn’t make sense. I knew the others had just hunted last Thursday. It was too soon for any of them to have the need to hunt. And Emmett and I spent the entire weekend at Goat Rocks. “Hunting?” I asked skeptically.
. “In preparation for Sunday.” I frowned at her in confusion. Instead of explaining, she ‘showed’ me what she meant.
“Oh, “was all I could say.
I figured they should be ready, you know, just in case… Especially Jasper
“So, why didn’t you go with them?”
“I thought you might want some company tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” I was even more confused.
To answer my question, she once again showed me the same vision she had during lunch. Bella and I in the field. It’s the same place, Edward
. “If you think I am going to let you take Bella there without taking proper precautions…”
“Fine then, we’ll go tomorrow.” It actually wasn’t a bad idea. But then I had a second thought. “After
“I know,” she sang. And she skipped the rest of the way to the front door.
While we waited for the others to return, Alice challenged me to a game of chess. We were fairly evenly matched. But I have to admit Alice did have the advantage. I could read in her mind what she was planning for her next move, but Alice had perfected the art of thinking about one thing, and actually performing another. Sometimes when she was especially trying to hide something from me, she’d intentionally concentrate on something else, such as reciting prime numbers, or translating War and Peace
into Greek. So I never actually knew if the move I heard her plan, was the move she’d actually make. Sometimes she would trip me up and actually use that move…. It was difficult to tell when she was bluffing. I, on the other hand, had a few of my own tricks up my sleeves. Alice’s visions only show her what move I’d make based on my current decision. So I could decide on one move, and then change my mind quickly and make a different one. So it made the game very complex. Often our matches became so involved, that I would eventually give up and just ask her who wins. Usually she
did. But on rare occasions when she was particularly distracted by something else, I could catch her off guard. This was just one of those occasions.
“Checkmate!” I proclaimed jubilantly.
“Aww, dang!” Nice game. I’ll get you next time
By the time I made it over to Bella’s later that night, she was already in a deep sleep. She was probably very tired from speaking so much that afternoon. She looked so peaceful; like an angel. I wanted to get closer. I braved forward and knelt on the floor next to her bed. I was tempted to climb in and lay beside her, but I thought the movement may wake her. I also thought she would become cold being in such proximity to my body. So I settled for resting my head next to hers. I repositioned myself so that we were face to face. If she were to wake up, I would give her quite a shock. But her breath was so even, so deep, I knew she would be out until morning. So I just watched as her chest rose and fell with each breath. I inhaled her scent in deeply. It was wonderful. If I could dream, I would dream of this moment.
The next morning, I pulled into the driveway seconds after Charlie left for work. I heard Bella running through the house towards the front door. She looked positively radiant as she climbed in the passenger seat. I smiled and noted the flutter of her heart with relish.
“How did you sleep?” I asked.
fine? Well I knew that she had had a much better night sleep than the last two nights anyway. “How was your night?”
“Pleasant,” I smiled. If I could only tell her how pleasant my night was, resting my head beside hers.
“Can I ask you what you did?”
Not a chance
. I could only imagination how that
conversation would go. “Well, Bella, I broke into your house, snuck in your room, and breathed in your face all night while I watched you sleep
.” Um, yeah… no
“No.” I said forcefully. And I forced a huge grin. “Today is still mine
I asked her a lot about her family today. She talked a lot about her mother, Renée, who seems to be a habitual hobby junkie- someone who tries one activity after another, but never sticks with one. Bella was almost nostalgic explaining how her mother once came home with a trunk full of scrapbooking supplies, eager to catalog Bella’s childhood in artful albums. She finished a few pages of one, but by the next week, she had bought a bicycle and joined a bike-riding group, instead. A month later, all of it was collecting dust in their garage, she having moved onto her next interest. Some of Renée’s hobbies were quite costly, while others were fairly inexpensive. Bella was always tolerant when her mother was particularly insistent she participate in an activity. But she never got attached to anything, because she learned her mother would move on to something else eventually. Renée also encouraged Bella to try new things. She had enrolled her in various classes, groups, music lessons, but nothing ever took.
I started to understand why Bella was the way she was. Her mother was very loving, yes, but rather eccentric. Bella definitely got her risk taking from Renée. I had a feeling Bella had to grow up quickly. Renée as a mother was more like having a big sister that was always causing ruckus. “Let’s just say that my mother got bored with men as often as she did her hobbies, Bella had said. But then she met Phil, he is much younger than my mom – but she is young for her age, too. In many ways they are perfect for each other
Our conversation moved to her friends. She said she had a few school friends she was close to in Phoenix. She was in an accelerated studies program in school and most of her friends shared many of her classes. I carefully broached the topic of boys, but she didn’t have anything interesting to say about it. When I asked her why, she shrugged and only replied, “Nobody was ever interested, I guess
.” How skewed her view was of herself. I recollected how the male population had assessed her on her first day of school here. Sure, some were interested because she was new and exciting, but others genuinely found her appealing… and in the normal way… not in the dangerous way I found her appealing. It boggled my mind that she was so oblivious to the way men responded to her.
“So you never met anyone you wanted
?” I asked very seriously.
“Not in Phoenix.” She answered, with slight rouge in her cheeks.
I pursed my lips. Of course she would only find what she was looking for in the form of a monster. I pondered that while Bella and I walked through the lunch line and she chose a bagel for herself. As we walked towards our usual spot, my attention was summoned from my family’s table.
We should leave soon, Edward. Are you nearly ready?
“Alice, I told you, after lunch!” I spoke too low and too fast for any human to hear.
“I should have let you drive yourself today.”
“Why?” she asked harshly.
“I’m leaving with Alice after lunch.”
“Oh,” her shoulders slumped in disappointment. “That’s okay, it’s not that far of a walk.”
Did she honestly think I would just leave her to her own devices? It’s true it wouldn’t be a long walk for any normal person. But for a magnet for trouble, like Bella, there could be a thousand deaths traps lurking along the way, just waiting to swallow her whole on her walk home. “I’m not going to make you walk home. We’ll go get your truck and leave it here for you.”
She sighed, “I don’t have my key with me.” She must seriously underestimate me if she thinks that would cause the slightest delay on my part. “I really don’t mind walking.”
Was she not listening? There was no way I would let her loose on the highway. Magnet for trouble doesn’t cover it for Bella. She seemed to dive head first right into it. I shook my head. “Your truck will be here, and the key will be in the ignition.” She eyed my doubtfully. “Unless you’re afraid someone might steal it,” I chuckled.
“All right,” she finally agreed. But her tone was skeptical. She probably didn’t think I would be able to pull it off. She definitely underestimated me.
“So where are you going?” she asked while taking another bite of her bagel.
“Hunting.” I tried to put some menace in my voice, always trying to warn her, try to get a normal reaction. “If I’m going to be alone with you tomorrow, I’m going to take whatever precautions I can.” If she could only see how dangerous it is for her to be alone with me, miles from any witnesses. “You can always cancel, you know.” Her choice. Always her choice
. I looked her directly in the eye, trying to portray the risk.
It took her a moment to answer. It pained me to know she was considering it. But also gave me hope that she would finally be rational. I was not strong enough to be away from her. But if that’s what she wanted, I could do that for her. I think.
“No. I can’t,” she finally whispered.
So I was defeated. “Perhaps you’re right.”
I was very pleased she graciously directed the conversation elsewhere. “What time will I see you tomorrow?”
“That depends.” The earlier I picked her up, the longer we could spend together… but also the longer I would be so close to her with nobody else around for miles if she were to scream. The echo of Alice’s vision was pounding at my retinas. “It’s Saturday, don’t you want to sleep in?
“No,” she said bluntly. I bit my lip to keep from grinning.
“The same time as usual, then.” But still, it might be prudent to make sure her father knows who she’ll be with. Rather, better for me knowing someone else besides Jessica and her strainer mind could account for Bella’s whereabouts tomorrow. Jessica was mentally bouncing up and down in Bella’s Trigonometry class earlier, excited for Bella, planning on extrapolating every detail of our Seattle date, come Monday. I would be less likely to put my family at risk with the implications that would follow if things end badly tomorrow if someone a bit more reliable knew of our plans than Jessica. “Will Charlie be home?
“No, he’s fishing tomorrow.” She smiled wildly as she said this, as if she was getting away with a bank heist.
“And if you don’t come home, what will he think?” I snapped.
She rolled her eyes. “I have no idea. He knows I’ve been meaning to do the laundry…. Maybe he’ll think I fell in the washer.”
I just scowled. I just wish she would take this seriously. Was she trying
to get herself killed?
“What are you hunting tonight?” she probed.
It was amazing she could be so nonchalant when it came to my diet, as if she were asking what I were choosing from a restaurant menu, rather than killing a living creature for my own sustenance. “Whatever we find in the park.” The Olympic National Park was about 1400 square miles. Deer and elk were prevalent. But there were also cougars and bears. The carnivorous animals would be the best preparation for tomorrow, but I wasn’t going to be picky. I was mostly humoring Alice. I just hunted on Monday. I was fairly certain I would be able to control my appetite for another few days, but I understood the pretense. “We aren’t going far.”
“Why are you going with Alice?” she wondered.
“Alice is the most…” How should I put it
? “… supportive.” I finished. And yet I still deny her Bella
“And the others?” She recoiled. “What are they?”
Questioning my sanity, no doubt
. “Incredulous, for the most part.”
Bella glanced toward my old table looking sorrowful. “They don’t like me.”
“That’s not it,” I tried to convince her. “They don’t understand why I can’t leave you alone.”
“Neither do I, for that matter.”
Again, she underestimates herself. “I told you- you don’t see yourself clearly at all.” I have never met anyone so unselfish before
. “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. You fascinate me.”
It was evident from her expression that she didn’t believe me. “Having the advantages I do…” I tapped my forehead for emphasis, “I have a better than average grasp of human nature. People are predictable. But you… you never do what I expect. You always take me by surprise.”
Her eyes wandered off again toward my family and I remembered she had been disappointed when she thought her perhaps her mind didn’t work the same as the rest of the world’s. Calling attention to that now… hardly seemed appropriate.
“That part is easy enough to explain,” I offered. I wanted her to look at me so I knew she understood, but she hid eyes face. “But there’s more… and it’s not easy to put into words…“ I paused because just then Rosalie interrupted my thoughts. She was glaring at Bella.
Look at her sitting over there. She looks over here like she thinks she’s one of us. I don’t understand what Edward sees in her. She is so plain. So ordinary. What good can possibly come of this? I hate you. Leave my brother alone so he can snap out of it already. I wish Edward would just get it over with. Go off with your petty little friends where you belong and leave my family alone!
“Leave it be, Rosalie! Mind your own business and if you even dare try anything I will make sure you spend the next century regretting it!” Only my family could have understood my rant.
She finally looked away guiltily, but her thoughts were relentless. Bella looked, well, terrified. Finally a somewhat appropriate reaction
. This is how normal people usually felt when they looked us in the eye. A deeper instinct tells them to stay away, even if their mind doesn’t register it rationally. But still, Rosalie has no right.
“I’m sorry about that. She’s just worried. You see… it’s dangerous for more than just me if, after spending so much time with you so publicly…” I couldn’t finish. I had to look away.
“If?” she urged.
“If… this ends… badly.” The shame was overwhelming and I put my face in my hands. Her heartbeat slowed fractionally.
After a moment she broke the silence. “And you have to leave now?” There was concern in her voice.
“Yes.” I finally recovered, looking up to reassure her. I stressed a smile of encouragement. “It’s probably for the best. We still have fifteen minutes of that wretched movie left to endure in Biology – I don’t think I could take any more.”
And then Alice was there, standing behind me, feeling very self-satisifed. “Alice,” I greeted.
“Edward,” she sang. Introduce me already, you oaf!
Sigh. “Alice, Bella – Bella, Alice.”
“Hello, Bella.” It’s about freaking time!
“It’s nice to finally meet you.” Because Edward has kept you all to himself. He is SO selfish! Poor guy… never learned to share
I just gave her an evil look.
I know, I know. I will wait… even though there is no sense in it anymore, is there? I’m going to see her Sunday, anyway. You might as well, get used to it
“Hi Alice,” Bella replied sheepishly.
“Are you ready?” Alice was anxious to get moving.
“Nearly. I’ll meet you at the car.” And then she was gone.
“Should I say ‘have fun,’ or is that the wrong sentiment?”
I grinned, “No. ‘Have fun’ works as well as anything.”
“Have fun, then” she tried to sound like she meant it.
“I’ll try,” I rolled my eyes. “And you try to be safe, please.”
“Safe in Forks – what a challenge.”
a challenge.” I set my jaw. “Promise.”
“I promise to try to be safe,” she pouted. “I’ll do the laundry tonight – that ought to be fraught with peril.”
“Don’t fall in,” I teased.
“I’ll do my best.” I stood up, unwilling to leave her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” There was forlorn in her voice, which I found slightly amusing.
“It seems like a long time to you, doesn’t it?” I kidded. She nodded. “I’ll be there in the morning.” I reached over and caressed her face, wishing I could do more.
Chapter 13 Balancing
Alice was waiting in the car when I reached the parking lot. We didn’t speak the whole ride to Bella’s house. As we pulled into the driveway, Alice could not control her excitement. She was very anxious to see inside Bella’s house. She had already seen it in a vision, of course, but you can’t touch and feel… or smell visions.
“It’s locked,” she declared, before we even approached the door.
“That’s okay. I’ll just climb through her bedroom window the way I normally do, and go around. Wait here.”
“Or…” she sang as she pirouetted onto the porch. ‘We could use a key.” She grinned and grabbed a spare key from under the eave. She flashed to the front door before I could grab it from her.
We both went in different directions when we entered the house. Alice was off to Bella’s bedroom, which annoyed me. She was just as curious as I had been, but more so of her wardrobe. I looked for her car keys in the living room and kitchen. I hadn’t seen much of the downstairs of her house yet- apart from what Alice had already foreseen and what little I could see through Charlie.
The little kitchen was tidy, with a table for two facing the same window where I’d watched Bella do the dishes two evenings ago. The appliances were in good shape, but original to the house. One of the doors of the yellow painted cupboards was ajar and I noticed a ceramic jar inside labeled FOOD MONEY. I approached and curiously peeked inside before emptying the entire contents of my wallet into it. Below on the counter was a white pad of paper on which was written a grocery list. Items had been checked off, so I knew it was no longer important. The list was in Bella’s handwriting, but even if I did not recognize her messy scrawl, it still had traces of her scent on it. I pocketed the entire notebook. Another souvenir to accompany the bottlecap. Innocuous little items. She’d never notice.
I heard Alice rifling through Bella’s closet and giving a disgruntled sigh. “Alice! Quit playing around! We have to find her keys!”
In an instant she was back by my side. “I already checked her closet,” She smiled innocently. But when I didn’t play along she continued. “She didn’t tell you where they were.” It wasn’t a question.
“I didn’t ask. I think she’s under the impression I’d be unable to locate them.” We both shared a quick laugh.
“They must be in her room.” I said as an excuse. “I’ll go check.”
“This could be much simpler.” Alice complained.
“Well Alice, it’s not like I can just sniff
“True, but you’ve decided to locate her keys. I could just save you some time and tell you where you would have found them.”
I grunted. “Just tell me where they are, Alice.”
“I’ll get them,” she sang, and disappeared from the room. A fraction of a second later she was back by my side, dangling the keys in front of me. “Meet you at the house?”
Alice made a start for the truck. “Wait.” I held my hand out for the keys she was holding. “I
will drive it back to the school. Besides, I can run back faster than you.”
Alice pouted but grudgingly traded keys with me. She took off in my car and Bella’s truck roared to life at my touch. It was a shame Rosalie was cross with Bella. She had a knack for fixing up older model cars. She refurbished a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible before she bought her BMW. Of course, she’d probably put her nose up to tinkering with this beast. No glamour in old Chevy trucks. But she could have this thing purring like a kitten.
When I pulled into the school I automatically searched for Bella. I knew she would be in Gym by now and so Mike was the obvious choice to look. As luck would have it, he had decided to speak to her again. He was talking to her about the dance, hopeful she had changed her mind about going. Her reply sounded exasperated. I was relieved she had turned him down, but I couldn’t help but think. Surely the dance would be safer than spending an entire day alone with me, even for Bella. She’d likely trip all over herself and split her head open perhaps, with her luck, but in the end, she’d heal. But there is no going back from the injuries of which I could inflict, simply by accident.
I pondered that briefly but decided Alice was waiting for me and that I should go. I left the keys in the ignition, but before I shut the door, I took out the pad of paper I’d filched from her house. I ripped out a sheet and I scrawled two words on the paper before folding it and placing it on her driver’s seat. Be Safe
. How those two words could never possibly be enough, but for the moment, appropriate enough for Bella.
Hunting with Alice was rather uneventful. We found a gang of elk fairly quickly. I was satisfied after one cow, but Alice insisted we weren’t done until I had some predator blood in me. She anticipated a pride of cougars coming along. By the time we got back to Forks late Friday night, my thirst was satiated and I was utterly bloated from my feast.
I watched Bella sleep another dreamless night. I was pleased she was getting another good night’s sleep, but I missed the mumble of unintelligible insight into her mind that she revealed in her dream state. When I was confident there was nothing I would miss, I resolved to spend the rest of the early hours back at home until I could pick her up at a reasonable time. I decided to bathe to rinse off the grit from the hunt. Then I carefully decided what I would wear for the day. After that, there was nothing to do but just wait. I returned to staring at the clock and watching the minutes tick by until a little past sunrise before I departed.
I arrived to Bella’s with a sense of thrill as I knocked on the door. Why is this so exhilarating for me?
She took a little time unlocking the door for me. When she opened it, the first thing I noticed was the pounding of her heart and the shortness of her breath. Not the usual way when she was around me, but like was had been running around all morning. The next thing I noticed was the waft of breeze that flowed through her hair from the abrupt opening of the door. Finally, I noticed she looked absolutely breathtaking, if that word had any meaning to me. And her outfit, even more comical, was very similar to my own. I had to laugh at the symmetry.
“Good morning,” I manage mid-chuckle.
“We match.” She looked down at herself and then at me and her face remodeled into a sort of half-smile that I couldn’t quite place or comprehend. She turned around to secure the house. Just as I heard the lock click, my thrill immediately metamorphosed into anxiety. I had to be good today. Stay in control. Be a gentleman. No, actually I had to be gentle man
Bella had insisted she drive today; I did not forget her ‘one favor’. I waited outside the passenger door, proving to her that I respected her wishes. She gave me a smug look and said, “We made a deal.” She climbed into the truck, and reached across to unlock my door. “Where to?” she asked once I’d taken my seat.
First things first
. “Put your seatbelt on.” Bella needed all the protection she could get. “I’m nervous already.
She rolled her eyes, but put her belt on anyways. I thought I saw her take note that I’d not bothered to wear my own. ‘Where to?” she repeated.
“Take the 101 North,” I instructed.
She pulled out of the driveway cautiously and kept her eyes on the road. She was driving very attentively, which I found endearing… but also very annoying. If she would have only let me drive, we would be halfway there by now. “Were you planning to make it out of Forks, before nightfall?” I gibed.
“This car is old enough to be your car’s grandfather,” she scoffed. “Have some respect.”
I smiled to myself, but decided to let her be. I figured I shouldn’t be in such a hurry. After all, the idea was to spend time with her, and this was time with her. I was just anxious to get to our destination. Anxious, excited, nervous, terrified… I couldn’t quite exact the emotion I experienced.
Bella drove out of town without further direction from me, but as we approached our intersection, I spoke up. “Turn right on the 110.” She did so without question. So trusting. I could probably lead her to her own death right now, without objection. The thought was somewhat amusing to me, I had to smile. But I wanted her to trust me. “Now we drive until the pavement ends.”
“And what’s there, at the pavement’s end?”
“We’re hiking?” she shrieked.
. “Is that a problem?”
‘No,” she lied. I could feel the worry in her voice.
“Don’t worry, it’s only five miles or so, and we’re in no hurry.”
She didn’t respond in words, but her heart thudded at a rapid pace and her cheeks went just slightly pinker than before. She looked around into the trees passing us by and then down at her own hands on the wheel. I just wanted her to talk to me, tell me what was causing this sudden anxiety. Was she changing her mind about spending time with me? If she was, it would be the first sensible decision she’s made in recent days. But she just kept on driving in silence. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
“What are you thinking?”
She hesitated. “Just wondering where we’re going.”
Normal enough question. “It’s a place I like to go when the weather is nice.” It was a place I came to visit often, always by myself. I’d found it hunting once. The canopy of the tall trees left a constant shadow on the forest floor, but there was a small clearing that the sun reached the ground. The light breaking through in that one area beckoned to me one day and I found myself there, laying in the sun’s rays. It was the first time I had felt peace in countless years. It was a place I was free from the constant hum in my head from other people’s babbling minds. Over the years of going there, I had expanded the clearing. It was my own little private oasis. And for the first time, I wanted to share it with somebody else. With my Bella.
“Charlie said it would be warm today.” Bella interrupted my reverie.
“And did you tell Charlie what you were up to?
“Nope.” I figured as much
“But Jessica thinks we’re going to Seattle together?”
“No, I told her you cancelled on me – which is true.”
… anxiety… The words were barely appropriate for what I was feeling now. “No one knows you’re with me?” I spat.
“That depends… I assume you told Alice?
“That is very helpful Bella,” I snapped. How could she take this so lightly? How could she seriously be this careless? Did I not specifically announce to her that it would be safer for both of us if someone knew she was with me? That me just knowing the fact that nobody could place her with me at this very moment could be her own death sentence? And mine soon afterwards? For surely, I could not live with myself if I did anything to harm her. To have her blood on my hands. On my conscience. To know she will no longer be
…. No. I couldn’t exist like that. I wouldn’t
. I would soon join her, though our paths might go in very different directions. I would find a way.
Bella ignored my remark and just kept on driving. That made me even more furious. “Are you so depressed by Forks that it’s made you suicidal?”
She looked at me with a hurt expression. “You said it might cause trouble for you… us being together publicly.”
. She took my words and completely twisted them. I thought it was excruciatingly obvious that my words were for her
protection, not my own. “So you’re worried about the trouble it might cause me
…? If you
don’t come home?”
She nodded but kept her eyes on the road.
“Bella, I swear, how you’ve even survived to this day, is beyond me. Why do you insist on making it so much harder for me to control myself? And so much easier for me to get away with it? I wish I could knock some sense into you, in the non-literal sense of the word, of course.” I spoke very quickly, knowing she’d not comprehend a word of it, speaking too low and too fast for human ears. It was mostly for my own sanity… trying to let off a little steam, so to speak, without causing alarm to her. Not that a little alarm wasn’t called for at this moment
The rest of the car trip went by in absolute silence. She refused to look at me, but I could tell she was doing so consciously. Her eyes looked guilty, as they should. I was still completely irked and balanced the options in favor of turning back now and bringing her to the safety of her own home. But then a part of me was being selfish of wanting to keep her for myself today. And another small part of my conscience was trying to convince myself that I was strong enough to carry on the day as planned and resist my yearning for her.
As we reached the end of the pavement, Bella slowed and parked on the shoulder. She got out of the truck and still did not give me the favor of her glance. I wanted to comfort her, but I was still very upset also. She tied her sweater around her waist and waited by the sign marking the trail. I got out and pushed the door shut with excessive force, trying to startle her into looking at me. No luck. She continued to ignore me. Fine, two can play at that game
I walked to the edge of the woods with my back to her. I glanced back at her confused expression. “This way.”
“The trail?” She was clearly paying attention now… and panic was written all over her face. And I thought I could place her trepidation. I didn’t take Bella for much of an outdoorsy-type of girl. She hurried around the truck and stumbled along the way. Yes, surely hiking was neither a normal, nor practical pastime for Bella. But as usual, I found her clumsiness oddly endearing. I instantly warmed to her.
“I said there was a trail at the end of the road- not that we were taking it.” I let that settle with her.
“No trail?” she gulped.
“I won’t get you lost.” I teased. I smiled at her and then turned towards the forest, ready to lead her. But she didn’t move. I turned back to her and she was just staring towards me, but didn’t meet my gaze. Her eyes were shifting awkwardly like she was making a tortured decision and I wanted to help her might the right one. Anything to make this easier. “Do you want to go home?”
“No.” she took a few tentative steps towards me. I wanted her to look at me. So I could read what I could in those revealing pupils.
“What’s wrong?” I asked softly.
She took a slow breath before answering, “I’m not a good hiker. You’ll have to be very patient.”
. I am a vampire with all the time in the world! If I had one thing more than any… it was patience. After all… how long had I waited for her? “I can be patient.” I smiled and added, “if I make a great deal of effort.” She was finally returning eye contact so I didn’t waste the moment. I didn’t break the connection. She tried to smile back, but it looked more like a grimace. Perhaps this was a bad idea. She was afraid, but she would feel compelled to come along. But I couldn’t be sure where her reasoning was coming from. I would leave it up to her.
“I’ll take you home.” I let the offer stand.
At my words, Bella’s stance changed perceivably. She stood straighter, her shoulders went back and she whipped her hair over her shoulder. She was trying to be brave for me. “If you want me to hack five miles through the jungle before sundown, you’d better start leading the way,” she asserted.
I hesitated, trying to gauge whether it was a good idea to let her fake bravura for me. But she remained adamant and I understood that her decision had already been made. So… I led her into the forest.
The hiking went really slow, mostly because Bella was unsure of her footing most of the time. I tried to make the path as easy as possible for her. Whenever there were tree branches in the way, I pulled them aside for her. I remembered her scraped hands when she said she fell at the beach. I didn’t need such extra temptation as the scent of her blood to worry about. I pointed out the mossy ground covering so she’d take care not to slip. But she did anyway, often. I assisted her over downed trees and boulders when they blocked our path, enjoying the excuse to touch her. Each time her heart would race and I found it easier and easier to bare.
But I was patient with our progress. I was in no hurry. I was nervous to step into the sunlight in front of her and I needed time to work up the courage. I’d given her no indication of what to expect and I was terrified to show her what a freak show I was. Would she think of me differently? Would she finally be afraid? Would she scream? No, I was in no hurry to find out.
I tried not to think about it. To pass the time, I distracted myself by asking her more about her childhood. When I asked about pets that she’d kept, she admitted to killing fish in triplicate. I guffawed at that remark. Fish are rather resilient animals. I once said it was laughable to think Bella was a danger to anyone but herself. Of course I didn’t take into account goldfish.
By mid-morning, the sun was shining overhead and backlit the canopy to a fluorescent green. Her spirit was instantly lifted. And as she became more relaxed, so did I. We’d been traveling nearly four hours and our trek through the woods was nearing its end. Only then did Bella wonder of our progress.
“Are we there yet?” she whined.
“Nearly,” I smiled. “Do you see the brightness ahead?”
She squinted, patrolling the landscape. “Um, should I?”
“Maybe it’s a bit soon for your eyes.” I teased.
“Time to visit the optometrist, she said sarcastically rolling her eyes. I simpered as we continued forward.
Her eyes were still squinting and I thought I noticed the moment when she finally recognized the lighting up ahead. Her eyes opened wider and her heart sped in what I hoped was excitement, rather than fear. But she ambled forward more quickly, so I knew it was the former. As we approached the clearing, I let Bella pass me and lead the way. I held myself back. I was still apprehensive about stepping into the direct sunlight.
I watched her absorb her surroundings. I wanted her to enjoy the beauty of the meadow, the colors of the wildflowers, the scent of the floral breeze… before ruining the moment by showing her the monster I truly was. She ventured further into the clearing and looked back, startled when she noticed that I was not right next to her. And then, her expression changed as she realized the reason for my reluctance. She looked towards the sun, and then back at me, understanding the significance.
She waited, expectantly. There was no sign of fear or revulsion. She was… eager, curious. This moment was why I was in no haste during our journey. This could be the defining moment which could solidify our fate. Either she would reject what I was, or accept it unreservedly. My hesitation was all but unacknowledged. She took a step towards me. She smiled warmly and waved me forward. She took another step. I wasn’t ready. I put a hand up motioning for her to be patient just a while longer. She waited.
I just had to get it over with. The moment of truth
. I watched her carefully. I took a deep breath, and finally stepped into the sunlight.