By the time Carlisle and I returned to Forks, the day was growing long. Our drive back had been silent. I was in no mood to chatter, and Carlisle took the hint not to try. We listened to the classical station until it played a morose piano piece. The arrangement was altered, but it was the same melody which had played in Edward’s car the day I had first kissed him. I turned the radio off, leaving us in silence.
I got home to discover the party in my home had changed. Emmet and Alice were gone, now replaced by two young women. The first, a pretty, curvy brunette, smiled brightly upon seeing Carlisle, and Carlisle in turn beamed and gathered her up in his arms. They shared a deep kiss. I glanced to the other, this one broad and tall, like an Amazon warrior. She had thick blond hair which cascaded down her back in waves and framed her gorgeous face. She met my gaze, but gave me no greeting.
Carlisle pulled away from the brunette, although he did not release her. “Bella,” he called to me, “let me introduce you my lovely wife, Esme.”
Esme smiled at me warmly. Pulling away from her husband, who was reluctant to let her go, she approached me to grasp both of my hands in hers. “I’ve heard so much about you from Ana. I’m glad to meet you at last.”
“Ana hasn’t told me about any of you,” I said honestly, and Esme laughed.
“I expect as much,” she said. She turned to the other woman. “Please, Bella, meet my daughter, Rosalie.” Rosalie’s expression didn’t change, but she did nod to me once.
“Daughter?” I asked.
“Adopted,” Rosalie said coldly. She turned to Carlisle. “I’m only here to for an update. Jasper saw a few more mutts move into Forks, but they’re avoiding us.”
“That’s a good sign,” Carlisle said. He walked over to Rosalie and placed a kiss on her forehead. The corners of her lips turned up subtly, then she turned away and walked out the front door.
I distantly felt a pang at this paternal display of affection. I hadn’t thought much of my father in the last century, as any time I did, I would feel overwhelmed with the sadness of his loss. I wasn’t left to meditate on this for long, however, as Carlisle was quick to fill Esme in on our meeting with the werewolves.
Esme looked to me as Carlisle told her of the agreement. “Where would you go?” she asked. I shrugged without a word. She gave my shoulder an affectionate squeeze, much like Carlisle had done earlier. “If you like, you can come with us.”
“Join your coven?” I asked. She nodded with a hopeful smile. “I have Ana.”
“We would welcome her as well,” Esme said. “I feel terrible that it’s come to the point that you feel you must leave your home.”
I attempted a smile, although it didn’t feel very convincing. As was apparent by their golden-colored eyes, the Cullens were vegetarians—they subsisted off animal blood entirely. Although it got the job done, animal blood was in no way as satisfying as human blood. “I can’t give you an answer right now.”
“Of course,” Carlisle said. “One thing at a time. We have a feral to catch, after all.”
Carlisle discussed his general approach to the situation: he and his coven mates would continue to patrol Forks as well as the area around Christo Rey, taking care not to venture into the wolf pack’s territory too much. I was told to continue my life as normal: attend the high school, act naturally, and keep watch my classmates and teachers while I was there. My task was more than simply socializing; I was now responsible for the safety of the school, and I had to keep my senses on alert in case James should return.
“A hunt such as the one James has taken on requires a lot of energy,” Carlisle explained. “When he returns, he will need to feed frequently. And, as Alice has seen, he’s bringing his mate with him, we can expect the possibility of several casualties. They will take victims amongst the people of Forks and Christo Rey. We must try to mitigate that as much as possible.”
My heart was heavy and my thoughts were turbulent that following school day. I forced myself to smile as I met Mike and Jessica outside the school’s orange doors, and they inquired as to where I had been the past couple of days. I rattled off an excuse about a fever, as it had worked before, and it worked again. Jessica expressed she was glad I was better and able to come back to school, and Mike made a quip about how I could have called him to bring over chicken soup, which earned him an elbow jab from Jessica.
In my peripheral vision, I saw the movement of a tall figure, and I glanced over to see Edward walking up toward the school. He caught my gaze, and my stomach knotted up at his cold demeanor. I didn’t attempt a greeting, but Jessica did; he neither acknowledged it nor paused to speak to either of us. Rather, he walked into the school as if we did not exist.
Jessica opened her mouth, no doubt to inquire about this iciness from Edward, but mercifully the bell rang. I hurried into the building and to my first class before Jessica could get three words out. This only gave me a temporary reprieve, as Jessica caught up with me at lunch, and there I had no choice but face her questions.
“Hey, what’s going on with you and Edward?” she asked as we walked into the cafeteria together. “I saw him in third period, and he looked really tense.”
I took the time to sit down in my usual spot at our usual table. Angela and Eric were already seated, and Mike and Lauren were approaching. Angela saw the expressions on my and Jessica’s faces, and immediately silenced whatever conversation she was having with Eric.
I let out a sigh and said, “We’ve had a disagreement.” I saw Angela glance to Jessica who nodded; evidently they had been talking about me.
“What’d you fight about?” Jessica asked as Lauren and Mike sat down. Lauren glanced between Jessica and me but said nothing.
“It’s a little complicated,” I said, trying to be as honest I could get with my friends. “He’s upset with me, and he has a right to be. I really did him wrong.”
Lauren’s eyes widened. “Did you cheat?” she asked, and beside her, Mike looked shocked at the question.
“No,” I said, “nothing like that.”
The table fell silent for a few awkward moments. Then, Angela spoke up. “Are you sorry?”
“Of course,” I responded.
“You should apologize,” she said. “Maybe that’ll help you guys move on.”
I recalled how Edward had received me the previous day and how he had coldly ignored m that morning. “I would like to, but I don’t know if he wants to speak to me.”
“Try anyway,” Angela insisted. “If he doesn’t want to hear it, then you can’t do anymore, but it’s better than the both of you seething over this situation forever.” She paused, then added, “Whatever it is.”
Lauren moved the conversation on then, and I was grateful to her for it. I mulled over Angela’s words for a while until Mike asked Eric, “Hey, how’s your dad doing?”
“Recovering,” Eric responded.
I glanced between them, then asked Eric, “What happened to your father?”
“He got attacked by some coyote over the weekend,” Eric said. My stomach knotted up again at his words. “My dad was out hiking. He had his gun with him, so he shot at the coyote and it ran off. Got him hard in the leg, though.”
“That’s awful,” I commented. “It was definitely a coyote?”
Eric shrugged. “He said it looked like a coyote, but he didn’t get the clearest look at it. The thing came out of nowhere.”
My mind was oscillating between the possibility that this was either James or the werewolves. I was certain that if it was one of the pack, they couldn’t be mistaken for a coyote. Having lived through an attack myself, I knew them to be the size of cars. Yet if it had been James, a gun wouldn’t have scared him off; he would have simply ripped Eric’s poor father open and drained him.
I told myself this had to just be a regular animal attack, yet it didn’t set my mind at ease.
The bell rang, startling me. Mechanically, I made my way to my biology class, but my feet felt heavy beneath me. As I walked, I pulled my cell phone out of my backpack and wrote a text message to Ana about what I had learned of Eric’s father. It could be nothing, but it could be something.
Having sent the message, I closed my phone and slipped it in my pocket. I saw Edward outside the biology room, and I increased my paced to catch him.
I called his name, and although I expected him to ignore me, he did pause and glance over his shoulder at me. He looked just as ragged as the previous day. His acne had worsened, his skin looked sallow, and his eyes were bleary. Those eyes narrowed. “What is it?” he asked irritably.
I wondered at his state and how he was coping with all he had learned. I wondered if Jacob had spoken to him again, and I could probably guess with accuracy that he had not. Edward was isolated, as he couldn’t turn to any friends who knew about vampires and werewolves as I could. I realized I couldn’t let this go on any longer.
I reached out and grasped Edward’s hands. He was surprised, but he didn’t pull away, and I led him down the hall away from the biology lab to the exit door at the end. This door opened out into a covered hallway which naturally flowed toward the gymnasium; it was the way I went between my last two classes of the day. The bell was about to ring any second, so the hallway was quickly deserting.
“We’re going to be late to class,” Edward complained as I led him down the covered hallway toward the back of the school. I wanted privacy.
I released his hand. “Go on, then,” I said, but Edward continued to follow me. I led him out from under the hallway into the faculty parking lot, which was entirely empty, and turned to him. In the distance, the bell rang, marking the two of us as delinquent from our class. He met my eyes, his brow furrowed, his arms crossed over his chest defensively. I tried to think of some preamble to explain myself, but I couldn’t. I opened my mouth, and all I could say was, “I’m sorry.”
“Are you?” he said coldly.
“Yes,” I breathed. “Edward, I—I can’t excuse what I did. I violated your trust. I tried to justify it by thinking I was protecting you, but that doesn’t excuse it.”
“And how do I know you won’t do it again?” he asked.
I shook my head slowly. “I can assure you over and over, but I can’t ask you to believe me. I can prove it to you in time, but only if you’ll give me a chance.”
He was silent for a moment, his face carefully stoic as if my words had little effect, but his arms dropped to his sides. He closed his eyes and let out a long sigh, the air steaming with his living breath. “Bella, I think I’m going crazy.” I chanced a step forward and grasped his hands, almost hot against my cold flesh. He opened his eyes and gazed down at our hands. “Didn’t think my first relationship would be this tense.”
“I’m your first relationship?” I asked.
His face reddened with a blush. “Said that out loud, did I?”
There was a pause, and then the two of us both broke out into laughter. Edward pulled me into him, wrapping his long arms around my shoulders, and I embraced him in turn. I closed my eyes and took in that scent which I had missed and ached for, and I almost felt like my heart could beat.
I opened my eyes as we pulled away; the parking lot around us seemed brighter. I gazed up into Edward’s face, but his expression had morphed into astonishment. I saw a glitter of light dance across his face, like light reflecting off of a pond, and, gazing down at my hands, realized they were glittering in sunlight.
I wordlessly glanced up in the sky; the cloud cover had thinned enough to let a diffused beam of light shine down on the school.
“Bella,” Edward breathed. “You…” Whatever he was going to say, the words died on his lips as we both heard approaching footsteps. I was ready to duck under the covered hallway, but I was surprised when Edward put an arm around my shoulders and shepherded me under the cover himself. A janitor appeared in the hallway, and he saw us immediately.
“Hey, what are you two up to?” he asked, approaching us. “You should be in class.”
“Yes, sir,” Edward said, taking hold of my arm protectively. “We were just on our way.”
The janitor gave us an incredulous look and shook his head as we rushed past him and back toward the main building. Edward released me, walking at a quick pace, which I matched. He paused at the entrance door, however, and turned back to me.
He looked like he wanted to say something, but whatever it was, he clearly decided to save it for later. Instead, he planted a kiss on my lips, then pulled the door open for me. We walked into biology together, neither of us particularly caring for the look of irritation our teacher gave us as we took our seats.