隐藏 显示工具栏

Chapter 2 Open Book

Chapter 2 Open Book

The next day was better… and worse.

  It was better because it wasn't raining yet, though the clouds were denseand opaque. It was easier because I knew what to expect of my day. Mikecame to sit by me in English, and walked me to my next class, with ChessClub Eric glaring at him all the while; that was nattering. People didn'tlook at me quite as much as they had yesterday. I sat with a big group atlunch that included Mike, Eric, Jessica, and several other people whosenames and faces I now remembered. I began to feel like I was treadingwater, instead of drowning in it.

  It was worse because I was tired; I still couldn't sleep with the windechoing around the house. It was worse because Mr. Varner called on me inTrig when my hand wasn't raised and I had the wrong answer. It wasmiserable because I had to play volleyball, and the one time I didn'tcringe out of the way of the ball, I hit my teammate in the head with it.

  And it was worse because Edward Cullen wasn't in school at all.

  All morning I was dreading lunch, fearing his bizarre glares. Part of mewanted to confront him and demand to know what his problem was. While Iwas lying sleepless in my bed, I even imagined what I would say. But Iknew myself too well to think I would really have the guts to do it. Imade the Cowardly Lion look like the terminator.

  But when I walked into the cafeteria with Jessica — trying to keep myeyes from sweeping the place for him, and failing entirely — I saw thathis four siblings of sorts were sitting together at the same table, andhe was not with them.

  Mike intercepted us and steered us to his table. Jessica seemed elated bythe attention, and her friends quickly joined us. But as I tried tolisten to their easy chatter, I was terribly uncomfortable, waitingnervously for the moment he would arrive. I hoped that he would simplyignore me when he came, and prove my suspicions false.

  He didn't come, and as time passed I grew more and more tense.

  I walked to Biology with more confidence when, by the end of lunch, hestill hadn't showed. Mike, who was taking on the qualities of a goldenretriever, walked faithfully by my side to class. I held my breath at thedoor, but Edward Cullen wasn't there, either. I exhaled and went to myseat. Mike followed, talking about an upcoming trip to the beach. Helingered by my desk till the bell rang. Then he smiled at me wistfullyand went to sit by a girl with braces and a bad perm. It looked like Iwas going to have to do something about Mike, and it wouldn't be easy. Ina town like this, where everyone lived on top of everyone else, diplomacywas essential. I had never been enormously tactful; I had no practicedealing with overly friendly boys.

  I was relieved that I had the desk to myself, that Edward was absent. Itold myself that repeatedly. But I couldn't get rid of the naggingsuspicion that I was the reason he wasn't there. It was ridiculous, andegotistical, to think that I could affect anyone that strongly. It wasimpossible. And yet I couldn't stop worrying that it was true.

  When the school day was finally done, and the blush was fading out of mycheeks from the volleyball incident, I changed quickly back into my jeansand navy blue sweater. I hurried from the girls' locker room, pleased tofind that I had successfully evaded my retriever friend for the moment. Iwalked swiftly out to the parking lot. It was crowded now with fleeingstudents. I got in my truck and dug through my bag to make sure I hadwhat I needed.

  Last night I'd discovered that Charlie couldn't cook much besides friedeggs and bacon. So I requested that I be assigned kitchen detail for theduration of my stay. He was willing enough to hand over the keys to thebanquet hall. I also found out that he had no food in the house. So I hadmy shopping list and the cash from the jar in the cupboard labeled FOOD MONEY, and I was on my way to the Thriftway.

  I gunned my deafening engine to life, ignoring the heads that turned inmy direction, and backed carefully into a place in the line of cars thatwere waiting to exit the parking lot. As I waited, trying to pretend thatthe earsplitting rumble was coming from someone else's car, I saw the twoCullens and the Hale twins getting into their car. It was the shiny newVolvo. Of course. I hadn't noticed their clothes before — I'd been toomesmerized by their faces. Now that I looked, it was obvious that theywere all dressed exceptionally well; simply, but in clothes that subtlyhinted at designer origins. With their remarkable good looks, the stylewith which they carried themselves, they could have worn dishrags andpulled it off. It seemed excessive for them to have both looks and money.

  But as far as I could tell, life worked that way most of the time. Itdidn't look as if it bought them any acceptance here.

  No, I didn't fully believe that. The isolation must be their desire; Icouldn't imagine any door that wouldn't be opened by that degree ofbeauty.

  They looked at my noisy truck as I passed them, just like everyone else.

  I kept my eyes straight forward and was relieved when I finally was freeof the school grounds.

  The Thriftway was not far from the school, just a few streets south, offthe highway. It was nice to be inside the supermarket; it felt normal. Idid the shopping at home, and I fell into the pattern of the familiartask gladly. The store was big enough inside that I couldn't hear thetapping of the rain on the roof to remind me where I was.

  When I got home, I unloaded all the groceries, stuffing them in whereverI could find an open space. I hoped Charlie wouldn't mind. I wrappedpotatoes in foil and stuck them in the oven to bake, covered a steak inmarinade and balanced it on top of a carton of eggs in the fridge.

  When I was finished with that, I took my book bag upstairs. Beforestarting my homework, I changed into a pair of dry sweats, pulled my damphair up into a pony-tail, and checked my e-mail for the first time. I hadthree messages.

  "Bella," my mom wrote…Write me as soon as you get in. Tell me how your flight was. Is itraining? I miss you already. I'm almost finished packing for Florida, butI can't find my pink blouse. Do you know where I put it? Phil says hi.


  I sighed and went to the next. It was sent eight hours after the first.

  "Bella," she wrote…Why haven't you e-mailed me yet? What are you waiting for? Mom.

  The last was from this morning.

  Isabella,If I haven't heard from you by 5:30 p.m. today I'm calling Charlie.

  I checked the clock. I still had an hour, but my mom was well known for jumping the gun.

  Mom,Calm down. I'm writing right now. Don't do anything rash.


  I sent that, and began again.

  Mom,Everything is great. Of course it's raining. I was waiting for somethingto write about. School isn't bad, just a little repetitive. I met somenice kids who sit by me at lunch.

  Your blouse is at the dry cleaners - you were supposed to pick it upFriday.

  Charlie bought me a truck, can you believe it? I love it. It's old, butreally sturdy, which is good, you know, for me.

  I miss you, too. I'll write again soon, but I'm not going to check mye-mail every five minutes. Relax, breathe. I love you.


  I had decided to read Wuthering Heights — the novel we were currentlystudying in English — yet again for the fun of it, and that's what I wasdoing when Charlie came home. I'd lost track of the time, and I hurrieddownstairs to take the potatoes out and put the steak in to broil.

  "Bella?" my father called out when he heard me on the stairs.

  Who else? I thought to myself.

  "Hey, Dad, welcome home.""Thanks." He hung up his gun belt and stepped out of his boots as Ibustled about the kitchen. As far as I was aware, he'd never shot the gunon the job. But he kept it ready. When I came here as a child, he wouldalways remove the bullets as soon as he walked in the door. I guess heconsidered me old enough now not to shoot myself by accident, and notdepressed enough to shoot myself on purpose.

  "What's for dinner?" he asked warily. My mother was an imaginative cook,and her experiments weren't always edible. I was surprised, and sad, thathe seemed to remember that far back.

  "Steak and potatoes," I answered, and he looked relieved.

  He seemed to feel awkward standing in the kitchen doing nothing; helumbered into the living room to watch TV while I worked. We were bothmore comfortable that way. I made a salad while the steaks cooked, andset the table.

  I called him in when dinner was ready, and he sniffed appreciatively ashe walked into the room.

  "Smells good, Bell.""Thanks."We ate in silence for a few minutes. It wasn't uncomfortable. Neither of us was bothered by the quiet. In some ways, we were well suited forliving together.

  "So, how did you like school? Have you made any friends?" he asked as hewas taking seconds.

  "Well, I have a few classes with a girl named Jessica. I sit with herfriends at lunch. And there's this boy, Mike, who's very friendly.

  Everybody seems pretty nice." With one outstanding exception.

  "That must be Mike Newton. Nice kid — nice family. His dad owns thesporting goods store just outside of town. He makes a good living off allthe backpackers who come through here.""Do you know the Cullen family?" I asked hesitantly.

  "Dr. Cullen's family? Sure. Dr. Cullen's a great man.""They… the kids… are a little different. They don't seem to fit in verywell at school."Charlie surprised me by looking angry.

  "People in this town," he muttered. "Dr. Cullen is a brilliant surgeonwho could probably work in any hospital in the world, make ten times thesalary he gets here," he continued, getting louder. "We're lucky to havehim — lucky that his wife wanted to live in a small town. He's an assetto the community, and all of those kids are well behaved and polite. Ihad my doubts, when they first moved in, with all those adoptedteenagers. I thought we might have some problems with them. But they'reall very mature — I haven't had one speck of trouble from any of them.

  That's more than I can say for the children of some folks who have livedin this town for generations. And they stick together the way a familyshould — camping trips every other weekend… Just because they'renewcomers, people have to talk."It was the longest speech I'd ever heard Charlie make. He must feelstrongly about whatever people were saying.

  I backpedaled. "They seemed nice enough to me. I just noticed they keptto themselves. They're all very attractive," I added, trying to be morecomplimentary.

  "You should see the doctor," Charlie said, laughing. "It's a good thinghe's happily married. A lot of the nurses at the hospital have a hardtime concentrating on their work with him around."We lapsed back into silence as we finished eating. He cleared the tablewhile I started on the dishes. He went back to the TV, and after Ifinished washing the dishes by hand — no dishwasher — I went upstairsunwillingly to work on my math homework. I could feel a tradition in themaking.

  That night it was finally quiet. I fell asleep quickly, exhausted.

  The rest of the week was uneventful. I got used to the routine of myclasses. By Friday I was able to recognize, if not name, almost all thestudents at school. In Gym, the kids on my team learned not to pass methe ball and to step quickly in front of me if the other team tried totake advantage of my weakness. I happily stayed out of their way.

  Edward Cullen didn't come back to school.

  Every day, I watched anxiously until the rest of the Cullens entered thecafeteria without him. Then I could relax and join in the lunchtimeconversation. Mostly it centered around a trip to the La Push Ocean Parkin two weeks that Mike was putting together. I was invited, and I hadagreed to go, more out of politeness than desire. Beaches should be hotand dry.

  By Friday I was perfectly comfortable entering my Biology class, nolonger worried that Edward would be there. For all I knew, he had dropped out of school. I tried not to think about him, but I couldn't totallysuppress the worry that I was responsible for his continued absence,ridiculous as it seemed.

  My first weekend in Forks passed without incident. Charlie, unused tospending time in the usually empty house, worked most of the weekend. Icleaned the house, got ahead on my homework, and wrote my mom morebogusly cheerful e-mail. I did drive to the library Saturday, but it wasso poorly stocked that I didn't bother to get a card; I would have tomake a date to visit Olympia or Seattle soon and find a good bookstore. Iwondered idly what kind of gas mileage the truck got… and shuddered atthe thought.

  The rain stayed soft over the weekend, quiet, so I was able to sleep well.

  People greeted me in the parking lot Monday morning. I didn't know alltheir names, but I waved back and smiled at everyone. It was colder thismorning, but happily not raining. In English, Mike took his accustomedseat by my side. We had a pop quiz on Wuthering Heights. It wasstraightforward, very easy.

  All in all, I was feeling a lot more comfortable than I had thought Iwould feel by this point. More comfortable than I had ever expected tofeel here.

  When we walked out of class, the air was full of swirling bits of white.

  I could hear people shouting excitedly to each other. The wind bit at mycheeks, my nose.

  "Wow," Mike said. "It's snowing."I looked at the little cotton fluffs that were building up along thesidewalk and swirling erratically past my face.

  "Ew." Snow. There went my good day.

  He looked surprised. "Don't you like snow?""No. That means it's too cold for rain." Obviously. "Besides, I thoughtit was supposed to come down in flakes — you know, each one unique andall that. These just look like the ends of Q-tips.""Haven't you ever seen snow fall before?" he asked incredulously.

  "Sure I have." I paused. "On TV."Mike laughed. And then a big, squishy ball of dripping snow smacked intothe back of his head. We both turned to see where it came from. I had mysuspicions about Eric, who was walking away, his back toward us — in thewrong direction for his next class. Mike appatently had the same notion.

  He bent over and began scraping together a pile of the white mush.

  "I'll see you at lunch, okay?" I kept walking as I spoke. "Once peoplestart throwing wet stuff, I go inside."He just nodded, his eyes on Eric's retreating figure.

  Throughout the morning, everyone chattered excitedly about the snow;apparently it was the first snowfall of the new year. I kept my mouthshut. Sure, it was drier than rain — until it melted in your socks.

  I walked alertly to the cafeteria with Jessica after Spanish. Mush ballswere flying everywhere. I kept a binder in my hands, ready to use it as ashield if necessary. Jessica thought I was hilarious, but something in myexpression kept her from lobbing a snowball at me herself.

  Mike caught up to us as we walked in the doors, laughing, with icemelting the spikes in his hair. He and Jessica were talking animatedlyabout the snow fight as we got in line to buy food. I glanced toward thattable in the corner out of habit. And then I froze where I stood. Therewere five people at the table.

   Jessica pulled on my arm.

  "Hello? Bella? What do you want?"I looked down; my ears were hot. I had no reason to feel self-conscious,I reminded myself. I hadn't done anything wrong.

  "What's with Bella?" Mike asked Jessica.

  "Nothing," I answered. "I'll just get a soda today." I caught up to theend of the line.

  "Aren't you hungry?" Jessica asked.

  "Actually, I feel a little sick," I said, my eyes still on the floor.

  I waited for them to get their food, and then followed them to a table,my eyes on my feet.

  I sipped my soda slowly, my stomach churning. Twice Mike asked, withunnecessary concern, how I was feeling.

  I told him it was nothing, but I was wondering if I should play it up andescape to the nurse's office for the next hour.

  Ridiculous. I shouldn't have to run away.

  I decided to permit myself one glance at the Cullen family's table. If hewas glaring at me, I would skip Biology, like the coward I was.

  I kept my head down and glanced up under my lashes. None of them werelooking this way. I lifted my head a little.

  They were laughing. Edward, Jasper, and Emmett all had their hairentirely saturated with melting snow. Alice and Rosalie were leaning awayas Emmett shook his dripping hair toward them. They were enjoying thesnowy day, just like everyone else — only they looked more like a scenefrom a movie than the rest of us.

  But, aside from the laughter and playfulness, there was somethingdifferent, and I couldn't quite pinpoint what that difference was. Iexamined Edward the most carefully. His skin was less pale, I decided —flushed from the snow fight maybe — the circles under his eyes much lessnoticeable. But there was something more. I pondered, staring, trying toisolate the change.

  "Bella, what are you staring at?" Jessica intruded, her eyes following mystare.

  At that precise moment, his eyes flashed over to meet mine.

  I dropped my head, letting my hair fall to conceal my face. I was sure,though, in the instant our eyes met, that he didn't look harsh orunfriendly as he had the last time I'd seen him. He looked merely curiousagain, unsatisfied in some way.

  "Edward Cullen is staring at you," Jessica giggled in my ear.

  "He doesn't look angry, does he?" I couldn't help asking.

  "No," she said, sounding confused by my question. "Should he be?""I don't think he likes me," I confided. I still felt queasy. I put myhead down on my arm.

  "The Cullens don't like anybody… well, they don't notice anybody enoughto like them. But he's still staring at you.""Stop looking at him," I hissed.

  She snickered, but she looked away. I raised my head enough to make surethat she did, contemplating violence if she resisted.

   Mike interrupted us then — he was planning an epic battle of the blizzardin the parking lot after school and wanted us to join. Jessica agreedenthusiastically. The way she looked at Mike left little doubt that shewould be up for anything he suggested. I kept silent. I would have tohide in the gym until the parking lot cleared.

  For the rest of the lunch hour I very carefully kept my eyes at my owntable. I decided to honor the bargain I'd made with myself. Since hedidn't look angry, I would go to Biology. My stomach did frightenedlittle flips at the thought of sitting next to him again.

  I didn't really want to walk to class with Mike as usual — he seemed tobe a popular target for the snowball snipers — but when we went to thedoor, everyone besides me groaned in unison. It was raining, washing alltraces of the snow away in clear, icy ribbons down the side of thewalkway. I pulled my hood up, secretly pleased. I would be free to gostraight home after Gym.

  Mike kept up a string of complaints on the way to building four.

  Once inside the classroom, I saw with relief that my table was stillempty. Mr. Banner was walking around the room, distributing onemicroscope and box of slides to each table. Class didn't start for a fewminutes, and the room buzzed with conversation. I kept my eyes away fromthe door, doodling idly on the cover of my notebook.

  I heard very clearly when the chair next to me moved, but my eyes stayedcarefully focused on the pattern I was drawing.

  "Hello," said a quiet, musical voice.

  I looked up, stunned that he was speaking to me. He was sitting as faraway from me as the desk allowed, but his chair was angled toward me. Hishair was dripping wet, disheveled — even so, he looked like he'd justfinished shooting a commercial for hair gel. His dazzling face wasfriendly, open, a slight smile on his flawless lips. But his eyes werecareful.

  "My name is Edward Cullen," he continued. "I didn't have a chance tointroduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan."My mind was spinning with confusion. Had I made up the whole thing? Hewas perfectly polite now. I had to speak; he was waiting. But I couldn'tthink of anything conventional to say.

  "H-how do you know my name?" I stammered.

  He laughed a soft, enchanting laugh.

  "Oh, I think everyone knows your name. The whole town's been waiting foryou to arrive."I grimaced. I knew it was something like that.

  "No," I persisted stupidly. "I meant, why did you call me Bella?"He seemed confused. "Do you prefer Isabella?""No, I like Bella," I said. "But I think Charlie — I mean my dad — mustcall me Isabella behind my back — that's what everyone here seems to knowme as," I tried to explain, feeling like an utter moron.

  "Oh." He let it drop. I looked away awkwardly.

  Thankfully, Mr. Banner started class at that moment. I tried toconcentrate as he explained the lab we would be doing today. The slidesin the box were out of order. Working as lab partners, we had to separatethe slides of onion root tip cells into the phases of mitosis theyrepresented and label them accordingly. We weren't supposed to use ourbooks. In twenty minutes, he would be coming around to see who had itright.

   "Get started," he commanded.

  "Ladies first, partner?" Edward asked. I looked up to see him smiling acrooked smile so beautiful that I could only stare at him like an idiot.

  "Or I could start, if you wish." The smile faded; he was obviouslywondering if I was mentally competent.

  "No," I said, flushing. "I'll go ahead."I was showing off, just a little. I'd already done this lab, and I knewwhat I was looking for. It should be easy. I snapped the first slide intoplace under the microscope and adjusted it quickly to the 40X objective.

  I studied the slide briefly.

  My assessment was confident. "Prophase.""Do you mind if I look?" he asked as I began to remove the slide. Hishand caught mine, to stop me, as he asked. His fingers were ice-cold,like he'd been holding them in a snowdrift before class. But that wasn'twhy I jerked my hand away so quickly. When he touched me, it stung myhand as if an electric current had passed through us.

  "I'm sorry," he muttered, pulling his hand back immediately. However, hecontinued to reach for the microscope. I watched him, still staggered, ashe examined the slide for an even shorter time than I had.

  "Prophase," he agreed, writing it neatly in the first space on ourworksheet. He swiftly switched out the first slide for the second, andthen glanced at it cursorily.

  "Anaphase," he murmured, writing it down as he spoke.

  I kept my voice indifferent. "May I?"He smirked and pushed the microscope to me.

  I looked through the eyepiece eagerly, only to be disappointed. Dang it,he was right.

  "Slide three?" I held out my hand without looking at him.

  He handed it to me; it seemed like he was being careful not to touch myskin again.

  I took the most fleeting look I could manage.

  "Interphase." I passed him the microscope before he could ask for it. Hetook a swift peek, and then wrote it down. I would have written it whilehe looked, but his clear, elegant script intimidated me. I didn't want tospoil the page with my clumsy scrawl.

  We were finished before anyone else was close. I could see Mike and hispartner comparing two slides again and again, and another group had theirbook open under the table.

  Which left me with nothing to do but try to not look at him…unsuccessfully. I glanced up, and he was staring at me, that sameinexplicable look of frustration in his eyes. Suddenly I identified thatsubtle difference in his face.

  "Did you get contacts?" I blurted out unthinkingly.

  He seemed puzzled by my unexpected question. "No.""Oh," I mumbled. "I thought there was something different about youreyes."He shrugged, and looked away.

  In fact, I was sure there was something different. I vividly remembered the flat black color of his eyes the last time he'd glared at me — thecolor was striking against the background of his pale skin and his auburnhair. Today, his eyes were a completely different color: a strange ocher,darker than butterscotch, but with the same golden tone. I didn'tunderstand how that could be, unless he was lying for some reason aboutthe contacts. Or maybe Forks was making me crazy in the literal sense ofthe word.

  I looked down. His hands were clenched into hard fists again.

  Mr. Banner came to our table then, to see why we weren't working. Helooked over our shoulders to glance at the completed lab, and then staredmore intently to check the answers.

  "So, Edward, didn't you think Isabella should get a chance with themicroscope?" Mr. Banner asked.

  "Bella," Edward corrected automatically. "Actually, she identified threeof the five."Mr. Banner looked at me now; his expression was skeptical.

  "Have you done this lab before?" he asked.

  I smiled sheepishly. "Not with onion root.""Whitefish blastula?""Yeah."Mr. Banner nodded. "Were you in an advanced placement program in Phoenix?""Yes.""Well," he said after a moment, "I guess it's good you two are labpartners." He mumbled something else as he walked away. After he left, Ibegan doodling on my notebook again.

  "It's too bad about the snow, isn't it?" Edward asked. I had the feelingthat he was forcing himself to make small talk with me. Paranoia sweptover me again. It was like he had heard my conversation with Jessica atlunch and was trying to prove me wrong.

  "Not really," I answered honestly, instead of pretending to be normallike everyone else. I was still trying to dislodge the stupid feeling ofsuspicion, and I couldn't concentrate.

  "You don't like the cold." It wasn't a question.

  "Or the wet.""Forks must be a difficult place for you to live," he mused.

  "You have no idea," I muttered darkly.

  He looked fascinated by what I said, for some reason I couldn't imagine.

  His face was such a distraction that I tried not to look at it any morethan courtesy absolutely demanded.

  "Why did you come here, then?"No one had asked me that — not straight out like he did, demanding.

  "It's… complicated.""I think I can keep up," he pressed.

  I paused for a long moment, and then made the mistake of meeting hisgaze. His dark gold eyes confused me, and I answered without thinking.

  "My mother got remarried," I said.

   "That doesn't sound so complex," he disagreed, but he was suddenlysympathetic. "When did that happen?""Last September." My voice sounded sad, even to me.

  "And you don't like him," Edward surmised, his tone still kind.

  "No, Phil is fine. Too young, maybe, but nice enough.""Why didn't you stay with them?"I couldn't fathom his interest, but he continued to stare at me withpenetrating eyes, as if my dull life's story was somehow vitallyimportant.

  "Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living." I half-smiled.

  "Have I heard of him?" he asked, smiling in response.

  "Probably not. He doesn't play well. Strictly minor league. He movesaround a lot.""And your mother sent you here so that she could travel with him." Hesaid it as an assumption again, not a question.

  My chin raised a fraction. "No, she did not send me here. I sent myself."His eyebrows knit together. "I don't understand," he admitted, and heseemed unnecessarily frustrated by that fact.

  I sighed. Why was I explaining this to him? He continued to stare at mewith obvious curiosity.

  "She stayed with me at first, but she missed him. It made her unhappy… soI decided it was time to spend some quality time with Charlie." My voicewas glum by the time I finished.

  "But now you're unhappy," he pointed out.

  "And?" I challenged.

  "That doesn't seem fair." He shrugged, but his eyes were still intense.

  I laughed without humor. "Hasn't anyone ever told you? Life isn't fair.""I believe I have heard that somewhere before," he agreed dryly.

  "So that's all," I insisted, wondering why he was still staring at methat way.

  His gaze became appraising. "You put on a good show," he said slowly.

  "But I'd be willing to bet that you're suffering more than you let anyonesee."I grimaced at him, resisting the impulse to stick out my tongue like afive-year-old, and looked away.

  "Am I wrong?"I tried to ignore him.

  "I didn't think so," he murmured smugly.

  "Why does it matter to you?" I asked, irritated. I kept my eyes away,watching the teacher make his rounds.

  "That's a very good question," he muttered, so quietly that I wondered ifhe was talking to himself. However, after a few seconds of silence, Idecided that was the only answer I was going to get.

  I sighed, scowling at the blackboard.

   "Am I annoying you?" he asked. He sounded amused.

  I glanced at him without thinking… and told the truth again. "Notexactly. I'm more annoyed at myself. My face is so easy to read — mymother always calls me her open book." I frowned.

  "On the contrary, I find you very difficult to read." Despite everythingthat I'd said and he'd guessed, he sounded like he meant it.

  "You must be a good reader then," I replied.

  "Usually." He smiled widely, flashing a set of perfect, ultrawhite teeth.

  Mr. Banner called the class to order then, and I turned with relief tolisten. I was in disbelief that I'd just explained my dreary life to thisbizarre, beautiful boy who may or may not despise me. He'd seemedengrossed in our conversation, but now I could see, from the corner of myeye, that he was leaning away from me again, his hands gripping the edgeof the table with unmistakable tension.

  I tried to appear attentive as Mr. Banner illustrated, withtransparencies on the overhead projector, what I had seen withoutdifficulty through the microscope. But my thoughts were unmanageable.

  When the bell finally rang, Edward rushed as swiftly and as gracefullyfrom the room as he had last Monday. And, like last Monday, I staredafter him in amazement.

  Mike skipped quickly to my side and picked up my books for me. I imaginedhim with a wagging tail.

  "That was awful," he groaned. "They all looked exactly the same. You'relucky you had Cullen for a partner.""I didn't have any trouble with it," I said, stung by his assumption. Iregretted the snub instantly. "I've done the lab before, though," I addedbefore he could get his feelings hurt.

  "Cullen seemed friendly enough today," he commented as we shrugged intoour raincoats. He didn't seem pleased about it.

  I tried to sound indifferent. "I wonder what was with him last Monday."I couldn't concentrate on Mike's chatter as we walked to Gym, and RE.

  didn't do much to hold my attention, either. Mike was on my team today.

  He chivalrously covered my position as well as his own, so mywoolgathering was only interrupted when it was my turn to serve; my teamducked warily out of the way every time I was up.

  The rain was just a mist as I walked to the parking lot, but I washappier when I was in the dry cab. I got the heater running, for once notcaring about the mind-numbing roar of the engine. I unzipped my jacket,put the hood down, and fluffed my damp hair out so the heater could dryit on the way home.

  I looked around me to make sure it was clear. That's when I noticed thestill, white figure. Edward Cullen was leaning against the front door ofthe Volvo, three cars down from me, and staring intently in my direction.

  I swiftly looked away and threw the truck into reverse, almost hitting arusty Toyota Corolla in my haste. Lucky for the Toyota, I stomped on thebrake in time. It was just the sort of car that my truck would make scrapmetal of. I took a deep breath, still looking out the other side of mycar, and cautiously pulled out again, with greater success. I staredstraight ahead as I passed the Volvo, but from a peripheral peek, I wouldswear I saw him laughing.