My eyes locked for a small portion of a second with a pair of wide, chocolate brown human eyes set in a pale heart-shaped face. Her scent hit me like wrecking ball, like a battering ram. There was no image violent enough to encapsulate the force of what happened to me in that moment. High School. Purgatory no longer, it was now purely hell. Torment and fire. . . yes, I had both.
It was unbelievable frustrating! I could only sense, could only see, could only imagine. There was nothing but silence from the very unexceptional human girl. I could hear nothing. Why? And yet, though her thoughts had been so clear in her odd eyes – odd, because of the depth to them; brown eyes often seemed flat in their darkness – I could hear nothing but silence from the place she was sitting. Nothing at all. I felt a moment of unease. Nothing at all from the new student with the deceptively communicative eyes. If I’d had time to hope that hearing the sound of her voice would help me pinpoint the tone of her thoughts, lost somewhere where I couldn’t access them, I was instantly disappointed.
I was angry with myself for feeling it. Hadn’t I promise myself that I wouldn’t let the silence of the girl’s mind make me unduly interested in her? And yet, here I was, most unduly interested. Why did she have to come here? Why did she have to exist? Why did she have to ruin the little peace I had in this non-life of mine? Why had this aggravating human ever been born? She would ruin me.
Did I love her? I did not think so. Not yet. Though, I could see how easy it would be to fall into loving Bella. It would be exactly like falling: effortless. Not letting myself love her was the opposite of falling – it was pulling myself up a cliff-face, hand over hand, the task as grueling as if I had no more than mortal strength.
At the time that I had become a vampire, trading my soul and my mortality for immortality in the searing pain of transformation, I had truly been frozen. My body had turned into something more like rock than flesh, enduring and unchanging. My self, also, had frozen as it was – my personality, my likes and my dislikes, my moods and my desires; all were fixed in place. I was a vampire, and she had the sweetest blood I’d smelled in eighty years. I hadn’t imagined such a scent could exist. If I’d known it did, I would have gone searching for it long ago. I would have combed the planet for her. I could imagine the taste. I’d spent seven decades trying to be something other than that – anything other than a killer, those years of effort could never make me worthy of the girl sitting beside me. And yet, I felt that if I turned to that life – the life of a killer – for even night, I would surely put her out of my reach forever.
Could a dead, frozen heart beat again? It felt like mine was about to. . . Bella was good. All the other things added up to that whole – kind and self-effacing and unselfish and loving and brave – she was good through and through. I would not destroy Bella’s future. If I was destined to love her then wasn’t avoiding her the very least I could do? Avoiding her was about the limit of what I could bear, though, I still hung on every breath she took, every word she said.
Could a dead, frozen heart break? It felt like mine would. I loved her, and so I would try to be strong enough to leave her. I knew I wasn’t that strong now. I would work on that one. But perhaps I was strong enough to circumvent the future in another way. She was too vulnerable for this world. She needed a protector. And, though some twisted mismanagement of destiny, I was the closest thing available. I was the last person who would ever stand as a protector for Isabella Swan. Perhaps it was just some long buried protective instinct – the strong for the weak. I would always love this fragile human girl, for the rest of my limitless existence.
Saving her life was the one acceptable thing I’d done since I met her. The one thing that I was not ashamed of. The one and only thing that made me glad I existed at all. I’d been fighting to keep her alive since the first moment I’d caught her scent. I stared at her face and tried to think of some way to make the future bearable. Hurting her was not bearable. Did that mean my only choice was to try to leave again?
“Why won’t you leave me alone?”
Believe me, I wanted to say. I’ve tried.
Oh, and also, I’m wretchedly in love with you.
“But I’m tired of trying to stay away from you Bella.”
The love I felt for Bella had come purely, but now the waters were muddied. I wanted very much to be able to touch her. Did she feel the same way? I was trying to be good enough for her. It was an impossible goal. I would keep trying. If it was impossible – if I could never have nor deserve this girl – No. I wasn’t giving up. Not yet.
I watched her sleeping until the sun rose behind the eastern clouds, plotting and breathing. If I forced her into this empty half-life through my weakness and selfishness, surely she would hate me. What could possibly happened to result in Bella becoming a prisoner to this immortal half-life? Now – devastated by longing for the girl – I could understand how I might, in unforgivable selfishness, ask my father for that favor. Ask him to take away her life and her soul so that I could keep her forever.
It was embarrassing how my world suddenly seemed to be empty of everything but her – my whole existence centered around the girl, rather around myself anymore. I can’t even describe it. All of a sudden, this girl’s the whole world to me. I don’t see the point of the rest of the world without her anymore.
I struggled to find words to name the feelings that flooded through me, but I had no words strong enough to hold them. For a long moment, I drowned in them. When I surfaced, I was not the same man I had been. My life was unending, unchanging midnight. It must, by necessity, always be midnight for me. So how was it possible that the sun was rising now, in the middle of my midnight?
But I gazed at the stars for one more moment, trying to see past the face in my head. Between me and the brilliant lights in the sky, a pair of bewildered chocolate – brown eyes stared back at me , seeming to ask what this decision would mean for her.