Through the rest of the night, Ana and I discussed how I could go to school without starving myself. I knew that being around all those mortals wouldn't be so bad if I wasn't constantly on the verge of devouring one. All I had to do was hide the crimson color human blood made my eyes turn.
There wasn't any easy fix. I couldn't wear contacts, as they would just burn out of my eyes. The vampire venom that had turned me permeated every tissue of my body and would just destroy the contacts within a few hours. It would hardly be painless. I couldn't simply wear sunglasses all the day long, as the school's dress code strictly forbade wearing sunglasses indoors, and it was too late for me to claim to be blind.
“I've got it!” Ana said at last with a click of her tongue. “We'll give you bangs!”
“What?” My eyes widened and my mind reeled at the thought. I didn't have bangs – I haven't since I was a very little girl. My hair reached down to my mid-back, where it had lain ever since my turning. When vampires are turned, I learned over the decades, their bodies die. This means nails and hair never grow again. Once cut, the hair would stay cut forever. “You are not giving me bangs,” I protested to Ana, and I could hear the snarl in my voice.
Ana just grinned. “Calm down, Belle!” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “I won't cut your precious hair!” I calmed at her words, but I wondered what she had planned. I didn't need to ask, however, because she volunteered the information eagerly. “Instead, I'll just put some extensions in your hair and cut them so you have bangs. I'll make 'em really cute, too! You'll look absolutely irresistible!”
I narrowed my eyes at Ana. “Irresistible?” I echoed. I raised my eyebrows at her innocent smile, waiting for an explanation, but I could already figure out what she was up to.
“Don't worry about it,” Ana said quickly, getting to her feet. “Come on! Let's get your hair fixed up for the morning!” I sighed as I watched her bound upstairs excitedly and followed, trying not to drag my feet. I was not looking forward to this.
And I didn't want or need to be irresistible to anyone at school.
I really needed to learn to trust Ana's judgment more, because the next morning was so much easier.
I had a fulfilling breakfast of two bags of blood. Ana and I fed very differently from other vampires, besides the bagged blood bit. Most vampires fed only a few times a month, and older ones could go even longer without blood. This is because most vampires would find their living prey and drink all the blood in one meal. A full-grown human generally had about twelve pints of blood coursing through his veins, and that was plenty of blood to keep a vampire fed for a while. “Vegetarians” could go even longer, because they hunted animals which were often much larger than humans.
The two of us, however, ate comparatively small meals. I usually drank two pints of blood at a time, and Ana drank only one. This kept us filled for only a day or so, so we had to feed more often. Of course, we could simply drink a lot of blood at a time and feel sated for a week if we wanted, but Ana and I enjoyed having a meal together every day.
With my body fed, I found myself in a far better mood and gazing at the school didn't incite irritation and frustration within my very being. Though each human did, of course, smell delicious and every vein brought a little inkling of temptation, I was able to ignore it, and my mood that day was much improved. I'd even go so far as to say that I felt cheerful.
My fake bangs managed to obscure my eyes very well while managing to look flattering. They weren't straight-down bangs, but rather swept across my forehead and over my brow. A few checks in the mirror assured me that, unless someone peered directly at my face, they wouldn't really see the crimson in my eyes.
Without being distracted and crabby, it was easier for me to interact with the humans. I came upon Mike again as I walked up the school's icy steps. He was talking to one of the girls I met yesterday, as well as a girl I had not yet met.
I eased into their conversation, receiving compliments on my new bangs. They were talking about a dance that was coming up in a few weeks. I found little interest in the actual subject, but I was intrigued by the behavior of my companions. The blond girl, the one I hadn't met, seemed to be adamant at letting the three of us know that she and a boy named Tyler were going together. It almost seemed like she was making sure we knew that Tyler was hers, and that I and the other girl could not have him. It reminded me of how vampire mates act around threats, only a little more civil.
The other girl, who Mike called Jessica, quite obviously wanted the boy in question to ask her to the dance. At least, it was obvious to me, but at the same time, I had had the chance to observe humans for a far longer time than these children. I could recognize all the signs that Jessica was flirting with Mike, but he seemed oblivious to her. Rather his focus was on me.
I could tell he found me very attractive. Every time his powder-blue eyes skipped from Jessica to me, his pupils dilated, and his heart rate sped up. His pale cheeks colored just ever so slightly. They were minute details, perhaps details even Jessica was missing, but I couldn't help but notice. This was troubling.
After my turning, I found that many humans found me attractive, physically-speaking. It was strange, because when I looked in the mirror, I still saw the same plain-looking girl that had always looked back at me. Sure, there were some changes – the eyes, mainly. My skin was pale, hardened, and it gave me a statuesque look. After some years, I had come to realize that this look was intriguing, even desirable amongst humans.
I ducked out of the conversation quickly, making the excuse that I had to grab some books from my locker before the bell rang. I walked away with perhaps too much haste, but I didn't want to stay around Mike too long. I did not want to encourage his infatuation.
I walked down a covered hallway, a breeze blowing through it and rustling my hair. I took in a breath of the crisp air, not feeling the chill it would bring to mortals. I love the scent of the wind, and in Forks, it smelled strongly of the pine forests that surrounded the town. In my long lifetime, as my interest in books, music, food and even speaking to other people had dwindled to nothing, I still could stop and appreciate the simple scent of a fresh breeze.
Of course, I smelled the humans surrounding me, but I focused on the freshness of the breeze. I inhaled deeply once more, feeling my lips upturn. There was the damp smell of rain on pine trees, the warm, living scent of animals that I could identify even miles away: elk, deer, black bear. I took in another breath, meaning to leave after this because the bell rang, but I was suddenly hit with a new scent.
It was distinctly human, specifically male, and indescribably divine. It made my muscles tense, my teeth shift, as if I were about to pounce on prey. I focused my gaze down the hall, where the scent originated, in time to catch a boy walk into one of the rooms down this hall. I recognized him to be the boy I sat by in biology class. I was intrigued, so I hurried after him to catch a glance before the door closed.
He was tall, and the thick padding of his winter clothes made him look broader than I remember from the previous day. His skin was almost as pale as that of a vampire's and the redness of his hair did little to alleviate that paleness. I took this all in in the half-second I saw him before the door slammed shut, and then I hurried away before my fangs popped out.
I was distracted again that day. Of course, a simple fly buzzing through the room would be enough to distract me from the classes that I took. The teachers varied in their teaching styles, but they all just seemed to drone to me. Besides, I had other things on my mind.
No human scent had ever made me react in the way that boy's scent had. Sure, my fangs threaten to pop out around humans when I'm hungry, but I was well-fed that day. But there was also a lasting effect: through each class, I my mind kept wandering back to him. In my head, I saw his pale flesh, no doubt warm to the touch, and I wondered how much his blood would contrast on that skin. I imagined my sharp nails scratching his neck, leaving a little nick, and watching a single red drop leave a crimson trail as it traveled down the contours of his muscles. The thought was nearly arousing, and that was something I had not felt in more than a lifetime.
And it stuck with me until lunch.
It was then that I was approached by Jessica. She invited me to sit with her, Mike and her other friends in the cafeteria. I briefly considered turning her down, as I wanted to avoid Mike and I'd have to force myself to eat food. I didn't, however, even get a chance to give Jessica an answer either way. She excitedly slipped her arm through mine and led me to the cafeteria.
Within minutes, I found myself between Jessica and the other girl from the previous day. She politely re-introduced herself to me as Angela. I was also introduced to Eric, a kind young man who seemed a little too introverted compared to the chatty Jessica, the forward Mike, and that blond girl who seemed a little too wary of my presence. I found out quickly her name was Lauren, and she and Jessica were close friends.
“So tell us about yourself, Bella,” Jessica invited with a friendly smile. “What do you do in your spare time?”
I bit into an apple which Ana had put in my backpack as Jessica asked this question. I took the time to chew before I responded, giving myself a few seconds to come up with some answer that wouldn’t sound entirely pathetic. “This and that, you know. Watch television, read books.”
Jessica’s friendly smile faltered, and I worried my answer sounded insincere.
“How do you like Forks?” Eric broke in, leaning forward a little.
“It's not so bad,” I said honestly, glancing between him and Mike, who seemed to be hanging off my every word. “Not much to do, though.” I didn't mention that I had lived in Forks for several months already. No one knew that, because I almost never left my cozy little home. In a tiny town such as this, my presence had been entirely unknown.
No wonder Ana wanted me to get out.
“You need to get out and get hiking,” Mike piped up. “There's tons of trails, and it's all super exhilarating. Maybe I could take you out some time.” He grinned, but my gaze fell to Jessica. I registered the look of shock in her clear, blue eyes, then, for a split second, jealousy as she glanced to me. Before I knew it, though, the look was gone and she had plastered a smile on her face again. This one was convincing, but still fake.
I smiled politely at Mike and said, “I'm not really an outdoor girl. Pine just irritated my allergies and I'm sure I'd twist an ankle out there. But thanks for the offer.” They were outright lies, of course, but Mike wasn't to know that.
Mike seemed put out, and a few moments of awkward silence passed. I could feel Jessica's eyes on me, but I looked down and concentrated on my apple. I felt absolutely grateful that I had something to occupy my hands and my mouth while this tense moment passed.
Lauren managed to break the silence by bringing up the dance again. She, Angela and Eric seemed perfectly content discussing that while Jessica spoke quietly to Mike. I could hear what they were saying, but chose not to pay attention. I didn't need to get involved in their relationship.
My eyes traveled around the cafeteria. The school boasted a whopping three hundred-and-some-odd students, but only about half were present in this room. That was because the school was gracious enough to allow students to leave the campus for lunch. It seemed many kids preferred to look for food that was actually fit for human consumption, I thought as I glanced at Jessica's bought lunch.
I think it was supposed to be a meatloaf, but it looked more like a gray brick sitting in a runny pool of still grayer liquid. Pale green and orange spots dotted the sides of the loaf, making it appear diseased, and the layer of “ketchup” on top looked more akin to something a baby would spit up. It was served with a side of out-of-the-can green beans that seemed to sag with depression and some instant mashed potatoes that looked closer to soup. There was no wonder Jessica wasn't eating a bite of it.
I glanced away from the tragedy that was school cuisine as I heard the cafeteria door open. I looked to see who had arrived rather late to lunch. I felt myself tense up and my stomach do a flip when that good-smelling boy walked in. I could smell him from where I sat, and was tempted to get up and move closer to him. In fact, I'm pretty sure my being hemmed in by Jessica and Lauren was the only thing keeping me in my chair.
My mind swirled with questions. Why did this boy attract me so? Why did he smell so different from everyone else? Or, perhaps a better question, was why did his scent affect me in such a radical way?
I watched him as he turned and moved over to a set of vending machines set in a corner. He bought a soda and some packet of something and left. My eyes never strayed from him until the doors closed behind him, and only then did I realize someone was talking to me.
“Earth to Bella!” Jessica said, waving a hand in front of my face. I blinked several times in confusion and looked at her, then Lauren beside me when she laughed.
“What were you staring at?” Angela asked, her dark eyes searching the area where the boy had been.
“She was watching Edward Masen,” Jessica said with a roll of her eyes. “Not a great choice. He's completely undateable.”
“He most certainly is,” Lauren agreed. There was a darkness to her tone that surprised me. It was subtle, so subtle that I doubt even her own friends noticed it. When she spoke again, however, the tone was gone. “I mean, look at him,” she said, more lightly now. “He's a mountain of total nerd. Who would want that?”
“He's also really creepy,” Jessica said, putting the smack-talk in stereo. “He'll just sit and stare at people, like he's got some kind of problem with everyone.”
“I know, right?” Lauren said with a shake of her head. I glanced to Angela and Eric, to find them sitting quiet. Angela looked uncomfortable while Eric seemed like he wanted to say something, but probably couldn't muster up the courage. Mike, too, seemed uncomfortable with this talk, and he quickly broke into a conversation with Eric about hiking.
I fell silent in the midst of this chatter. Sitting there and listening to these humans rip on this young man named Edward Masen irritated me, almost enraged me. I felt the urge to stand up for him, someone I hadn't spoken more than ten words to, but I bit down on my bottom lip to keep the angry words from coming up. It was an entirely irrational response.
I waited a few minutes. Jessica and Lauren seemed to have exhausted everything they wanted to say about Edward Masen, and Angela managed to sneak into the conversation and bring up the dance, which got Lauren talking. I caught Angela's eye and gave her a small grateful smile when no one was looking, and her rosy lips turned up as well.
“Oh, man!” I said suddenly, hurrying to gather my things as if I were in a great hurry. “I just forgot I need to check out some textbooks at the library!” I sighed with frustration, although that frustration had nothing to do with textbooks.
Jessica gave me a sympathetic smile. “You better go get them,” she said, glancing at her cell phone. “You've only got ten minutes.”
“I know,” I groaned, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. “See you guys later.”
“I can show you where the library is,” Mike said, standing as I did and getting in the way of my chosen escape path.
I think my bangs covered the glare in my eyes, but I know he saw my frown. “No thanks, Mike,” I told him firmly and pushed passed him. I gave one last, small wave to the table as I walked away, then hurried out of the cafeteria as fast as a human could.
I was unsure of where to go. I only had ten minutes, so I couldn't just dodge off-campus. I could have walked over to my car and sat in there for a few minutes, but I'd have to pass by the cafeteria's big bay windows to reach it. The library was in the opposite direction, and my lunchroom companions would see that I wasn't being truthful.
I could have gone around the cafeteria, but, because some of the area behind the building was blocked off by fencing and such, it would take me a good chunk of the time to walk that way. I also didn't particularly want to pass by the three Dumpsters back there. I couldn't head towards my next classroom, either, as that path would take me in front of the cafeteria windows as well.
I let out a long sigh. I had told my companions I was going to the library, and so that was where I went. There really was no other choice.
There were less students in the library than the previous day. There was a large cluster of children towards the back on the computers, but many of the tables towards the front were empty. I glanced at the empty tables, but passed them up to browse the bookshelves.
My gaze passed over the rainbow of book spines, hardly seeing the titles. I hadn't read a full book in many years. Once upon a time, I had been an avid reader, eating up pages and words as if I were starved of them. Over the long decades, my passion had slowly trickled down to nothing, much like every other pleasure I had enjoyed in my old life.
I exhaled and inhaled again, and I stiffened. That scent came to me once more. I looked around urgently for a few minutes, but shook my head. It would be more efficient to follow my nose.
I found Edward Masen once more. He was in one of the aisles, leaning against one bookshelf while he flipped through a particularly old book. It wasn't as old as me, of course, but it looked like it had been knocking about this library for quite some time.
It was probably due to my urgent approach, but Edward looked up at me at once. Before I knew what I was doing, I brushed my bangs out of my eyes. I only registered my mistake when the boy met my gaze with surprise.
I quickly looked away, kicking myself for such a dumb mistake. He saw my eyes, my crimson eyes. He saw, and he'd wonder, and I would have a problem on my hands. He might start asking questions, poking around, trying to see what I was--
“Cool contacts,” Edward said, interrupting my panicky thoughts. I turned my gaze to him once more, and I saw his thin lips had turned up into a crooked smile. “You don't see realistic ones very often.”
I couldn't help but smile, relieved. Of course he would think I was wearing contacts! Most humans would try to find a logical reason for something they couldn't understand. I almost wanted to laugh. “Thanks,” I said to him. “They were pretty expensive.” I paused, glancing down at the book in his hands. “What are you reading?” I asked him, wanting to keep this conversation going, though I was hyper-aware of the quickly-depleting time.
“The Great Gatsby,” he answered, glancing down at pages the color of aged cheese.
He didn't say anything else, so I said the first thing that came to my head: “I've never read it.” That was true. By the time that book was published, I had lost interest in reading.
“You should,” he said, gently closing the book. The spine crinkled softly with the movement. “It's a good read.” He smiled again, and I had the odd urge to touch him. I just wanted to place my hand on his chest, feel the heat of his large living body. I was not put off by the thought of his soft flesh beneath my hand, but rather intrigued by the idea.
I didn't realize I was just staring at him until the bell rang, snapping me out of my trance. He looked uncomfortable, and no doubt he would be. I was probably staring at him like he was a piece of meat. “I guess it's time for biology,” I said awkwardly.
“Well, shall we?” he asked. He looked reluctant to ask the question.
I gave him a reprieve. “Go on,” I told him. “I wanted to check out a book.” I gently picked up The Great Gatsby, opening the book and glancing at the first page while Edward walked away.
Even after Edward left, his scent still lingered in the air to tease my senses. I didn't know what it was about that boy, that awkward teenager that attracted me so thoroughly. It certainly wasn't the usual attraction I'd feel towards humans – that dealt mainly with my wanting to drain them of their blood. There was something else about Edward, something more.
I'd have to ask Ana about it. But first, I had a book I needed to check out