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Chapter 11 Complications

Chapter 11 Complications

  Everyone watched us as we walked together to our lab table. I noticedthat he no longer angled the chair to sit as far from me as the deskwould allow. Instead, he sat quite close beside me, our arms almosttouching.

  Mr. Banner backed into the room then — what superb timing the man had —pulling a tall metal frame on wheels that held a heavy-looking, outdatedTV and VCR. A movie day — the lift in the class atmosphere was almosttangible.

  Mr. Banner shoved the tape into the reluctant VCR and walked to the wallto turn off the lights.

  And then, as the room went black, I was suddenly hyperaware that Edwardwas sitting less than an inch from me. I was stunned by the unexpected electricity that flowed through me, amazed that it was possible to bemore aware of him than I already was. A crazy impulse to reach over andtouch him, to stroke his perfect face just once in the darkness, nearlyoverwhelmed me. I crossed my arms tightly across my chest, my handsballing into fists. I was losing my mind.

  The opening credits began, lighting the room by a token amount. My eyes,of their own accord, flickered to him. I smiled sheepishly as I realizedhis posture was identical to mine, fists clenched under his arms, rightdown to the eyes, peering sideways at me. He grinned back, his eyessomehow managing to smolder, even in the dark. I looked away before Icould start hyperventilating. It was absolutely ridiculous that I shouldfeel dizzy.

  The hour seemed very long. I couldn't concentrate on the movie — I didn'teven know what subject it was on. I tried unsuccessfully to relax, butthe electric current that seemed to be originating from somewhere in hisbody never slackened. Occasionally I would permit myself a quick glancein his direction, but he never seemed to relax, either. The overpoweringcraving to touch him also refused to fade, and I crushed my fists safelyagainst my ribs until my fingers were aching with the effort.

  I breathed a sigh of relief when Mr. Banner flicked the lights back on atthe end of class, and stretched my arms out in front of me, flexing mystiff fingers. Edward chuckled beside me.

  "Well, that was interesting," he murmured. His voice was dark and hiseyes were cautious.

  "Umm," was all I was able to respond.

  "Shall we?" he asked, rising fluidly.

  I almost groaned. Time for Gym. I stood with care, worried my balancemight have been affected by the strange new intensity between us.

  He walked me to my next class in silence and paused at the door; I turnedto say goodbye. His face startled me — his expression was torn, almostpained, and so fiercely beautiful that the ache to touch him flared asstrong as before. My goodbye stuck in my throat.

  He raised his hand, hesitant, conflict raging in his eyes, and thenswiftly brushed the length of my cheekbone with his fingertips. His skinwas as icy as ever, but the trail his fingers left on my skin wasalarmingly warm — like I'd been burned, but didn't feel the pain of ityet.

  He turned without a word and strode quickly away from me.

  I walked into the gym, lightheaded and wobbly. I drifted to the lockerroom, changing in a trancelike state, only vaguely aware that there wereother people surrounding me. Reality didn't fully set in until I washanded a racket. It wasn't heavy, yet it felt very unsafe in my hand. Icould see a few of the other kids in class eyeing me furtively. CoachClapp ordered us to pair up into teams.

  Mercifully, some vestiges of Mike's chivalry still survived; he came tostand beside me.

  "Do you want to be a team?""Thanks, Mike — you don't have to do this, you know." I grimacedapologetically.

  "Don't worry, I'll keep out of your way." He grinned. Sometimes it was soeasy to like Mike.

  It didn't go smoothly. I somehow managed to hit myself in the head withmy racket and clip Mike's shoulder on the same swing. I spent the rest ofthe hour in the back corner of the court, the racket held safely behindmy back. Despite being handicapped by me, Mike was pretty good; he wonthree games out of four singlehandedly. He gave me an unearned high five when the coach finally blew the whistle ending class.

  "So," he said as we walked off the court.

  "So what?""You and Cullen, huh?" he asked, his tone rebellious. My previous feelingof affection disappeared.

  "That's none of your business, Mike," I warned, internally cursingJessica straight to the fiery pits of Hades.

  "I don't like it," he muttered anyway.

  "You don't have to," I snapped.

  "He looks at you like… like you're something to eat," he continued,ignoring me.

  I choked back the hysteria that threatened to explode, but a small gigglemanaged to get out despite my efforts. He glowered at me. I waved andfled to the locker room.

  I dressed quickly, something stronger than butterflies batteringrecklessly against the walls of my stomach, my argument with Mike alreadya distant memory. I was wondering if Edward would be waiting, or if Ishould meet him at his car. What if his family was there? I felt a waveof real terror. Did they know that I knew? Was I supposed to know thatthey knew that I knew, or not?

  By the time I walked out of the gym, I had just about decided to walkstraight home without even looking toward the parking lot. But my worrieswere unnecessary. Edward was waiting, leaning casually against the sideof the gym, his breathtaking face untroubled now. As I walked to hisside, I felt a peculiar sense of release.

  "Hi," I breathed, smiling hugely.

  "Hello." His answering smile was brilliant. "How was Gym?"My face fell a tiny bit. "Fine," I lied.

  "Really?" He was unconvinced. His eyes shifted their focus slightly,looking over my shoulder and narrowing. I glanced behind me to see Mike'sback as he walked away.

  "What?" I demanded.

  His eyes slid back to mine, still tight. "Newton's getting on my nerves.""You weren't listening again?" I was horror-struck. All traces of mysudden good humor vanished.

  "How's your head?" he asked innocently.

  "You're unbelievable!" I turned, stomping away in the general directionof the parking lot, though I hadn't ruled out walking at this point.

  He kept up with me easily.

  "You were the one who mentioned how I'd never seen you in Gym — it mademe curious." He didn't sound repentant, so I ignored him.

  We walked in silence — a furious, embarrassed silence on my part — to hiscar. But I had to stop a few steps away — a crowd of people, all boys,were surrounding it.

  Then I realized they weren't surrounding the Volvo, they were actuallycircled around Rosalie's red convertible, unmistakable lust in theireyes. None of them even looked up as Edward slid between them to open hisdoor. I climbed quickly in the passenger side, also unnoticed.

   "Ostentatious," he muttered.

  "What kind of car is that?" I asked.

  "An M3.""I don't speak Car and Driver.""It's a BMW." He rolled his eyes, not looking at me, trying to back outwithout running over the car enthusiasts.

  I nodded — I'd heard of that one.

  "Are you still angry?" he asked as he carefully maneuvered his way out.

  "Definitely."He sighed. "Will you forgive me if I apologize?""Maybe… if you mean it. And if you promise not to do it again," Iinsisted.

  His eyes were suddenly shrewd. "How about if I mean it, and I agree tolet you drive Saturday?" he countered my conditions.

  I considered, and decided it was probably the best offer I would get.

  "Deal," I agreed.

  "Then I'm very sorry I upset you." His eyes burned with sincerity for aprotracted moment — playing havoc with the rhythm of my heart — and thenturned playful. "And I'll be on your doorstep bright and early Saturdaymorning.""Um, it doesn't help with the Charlie situation if an unexplained Volvois left in the driveway."His smile was condescending now. "I wasn't intending to bring a car.""How —"He cut me off. "Don't worry about it. I'll be there, no car."I let it go. I had a more pressing question.

  "Is it later yet?" I asked significantly.

  He frowned. "I supposed it is later."I kept my expression polite as I waited.

  He stopped the car. I looked up, surprised — of course we were already atCharlie's house, parked behind the truck. It was easier to ride with himif I only looked when it was over. When I looked back at him, he wasstaring at me, measuring with his eyes.

  "And you still want to know why you can't see me hunt?" He seemed solemn,but I thought I saw a trace of humor deep in his eyes.

  "Well," I clarified, "I was mostly wondering about your reaction.""Did I frighten you?" Yes, there was definitely humor there.

  "No," I lied. He didn't buy it.

  "I apologize for scaring you," he persisted with a slight smile, but thenall evidence of teasing disappeared. "It was just the very thought of youbeing there… while we hunted." His jaw tightened.

  "That would be bad?"He spoke from between clenched teeth. "Extremely." "Because… ?"He took a deep breath and stared through the windshield at the thick,rolling clouds that seemed to press down, almost within reach.

  "When we hunt," he spoke slowly, unwillingly, "we give ourselves over toour senses… govern less with our minds. Especially our sense of smell. Ifyou were anywhere near me when I lost control that way…" He shook hishead, still gazing morosely at the heavy clouds.

  I kept my expression firmly under control, expecting the swift flash ofhis eyes to judge my reaction that soon followed. My face gave nothingaway.

  But our eyes held, and the silence deepened — and changed. Flickers ofthe electricity I'd felt this afternoon began to charge the atmosphere ashe gazed unrelentingly into my eyes. It wasn't until my head started toswim that I realized I wasn't breathing. When I drew in a jagged breath,breaking the stillness, he closed his eyes.

  "Bella, I think you should go inside now." His low voice was rough, hiseyes on the clouds again.

  I opened the door, and the arctic draft that burst into the car helpedclear my head. Afraid I might stumble in my woozy state, I steppedcarefully out of the car and shut the door behind me without lookingback. The whir of the automatic window unrolling made me turn.

  "Oh, Bella?" he called after me, his voice more even. He leaned towardthe open window with a faint smile on his lips.

  "Yes?""Tomorrow it's my turn.""Your turn to what?"He smiled wider, flashing his gleaming teeth. "Ask the questions."And then he was gone, the car speeding down the street and disappearingaround the corner before I could even collect my thoughts. I smiled as Iwalked to the house. It was clear he was planning to see me tomorrow, ifnothing else.

  That night Edward starred in my dreams, as usual. However, the climate ofmy unconsciousness had changed. It thrilled with the same electricitythat had charged the afternoon, and I tossed and turned restlessly,waking often. It was only in the early hours of the morning that Ifinally sank into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.

  When I woke I was still tired, but edgy as well. I pulled on my brownturtleneck and the inescapable jeans, sighing as I daydreamed ofspaghetti straps and shorts. Breakfast was the usual, quiet event Iexpected. Charlie fried eggs for himself; I had my bowl of cereal. Iwondered if he had forgotten about this Saturday. He answered my unspokenquestion as he stood up to take his plate to the sink.

  "About this Saturday…" he began, walking across the kitchen and turningon the faucet.

  I cringed. "Yes, Dad?""Are you still set on going to Seattle?" he asked.

  "That was the plan." I grimaced, wishing he hadn't brought it up so Iwouldn't have to compose careful half-truths.

  He squeezed some dish soap onto his plate and swirled it around with thebrush. "And you're sure you can't make it back in time for the dance?""I'm not going to the dance, Dad." I glared.

   "Didn't anyone ask you?" he asked, trying to hide his concern by focusingon rinsing the plate.

  I sidestepped the minefield. "It's a girl's choice.""Oh." He frowned as he dried his plate.

  I sympathized with him. It must be a hard thing, to be a father; livingin fear that your daughter would meet a boy she liked, but also having toworry if she didn't. How ghastly it would be, I thought, shuddering, ifCharlie had even the slightest inkling of exactly what I did like.

  Charlie left then, with a goodbye wave, and I went upstairs to brush myteeth and gather my books. When I heard the cruiser pull away, I couldonly wait a few seconds before I had to peek out of my window. The silvercar was already there, waiting in Charlie's spot on the driveway. Ibounded down the stairs and out the front door, wondering how long thisbizarre routine would continue. I never wanted it to end.

  He waited in the car, not appearing to watch as I shut the door behind mewithout bothering to lock the dead-bolt. I walked to the car, pausingshyly before opening the door and stepping in. He was smiling, relaxed —and, as usual, perfect and beautiful to an excruciating degree.

  "Good morning." His voice was silky. "How are you today?" His eyes roamedover my face, as if his question was something more than simple courtesy.

  "Good, thank you." I was always good — much more than good — when I wasnear him.

  His gaze lingered on the circles under my eyes. "You look tired.""I couldn't sleep," I confessed, automatically swinging my hair around myshoulder to provide some measure of cover.

  "Neither could I," he teased as he started the engine. I was becomingused to the quiet purr. I was sure the roar of my truck would scare me,whenever I got to drive it again.

  I laughed. "I guess that's right. I suppose I slept just a little bitmore than you did.""I'd wager you did.""So what did you do last night?" I asked.

  He chuckled. "Not a chance. It's my day to ask questions.""Oh, that's right. What do you want to know?" My forehead creased. Icouldn't imagine anything about me that could be in any way interestingto him.

  "What's your favorite color?" he asked, his face grave.

  I rolled my eyes. "It changes from day to day.""What's your favorite color today?" He was still solemn.

  "Probably brown." I tended to dress according to my mood.

  He snorted, dropping his serious expression. "Brown?" he askedskeptically.

  "Sure. Brown is warm. I miss brown. Everything that's supposed to bebrown — tree trunks, rocks, dirt — is all covered up with squashy greenstuff here," I complained.

  He seemed fascinated by my little rant. He considered for a moment,staring into my eyes.

  "You're right," he decided, serious again. "Brown is warm." He reachedover, swiftly, but somehow still hesitantly, to sweep my hair back behind my shoulder.

  We were at the school by now. He turned back to me as he pulled into aparking space.

  "What music is in your CD player right now?" he asked, his face as somberas if he'd asked for a murder confession.

  I realized I'd never removed the CD Phil had given me. When I said thename of the band, he smiled crookedly, a peculiar expression in his eyes.

  He flipped open a compartment under his car's CD player, pulled out oneof thirty or so CDs that were jammed into the small space, and handed itto me,"Debussy to this?" He raised an eyebrow.

  It was the same CD. I examined the familiar cover art, keeping my eyesdown.

  It continued like that for the rest of the day. While he walked me toEnglish, when he met me after Spanish, all through the lunch hour, hequestioned me relentlessly about every insignificant detail of myexistence. Movies I'd liked and hated, the few places I'd been and themany places I wanted to go, and books — endlessly books.

  I couldn't remember the last time I'd talked so much. More often thannot, I felt self-conscious, certain I must be boring him. But theabsolute absorption of his face, and his never-ending stream ofquestions, compelled me to continue. Mostly his questions were easy, onlya very few triggering my easy blushes. But when I did flush, it broughton a whole new round of questions.

  Such as the time he asked my favorite gemstone, and I blurted out topazbefore thinking. He'd been flinging questions at me with such speed thatI felt like I was taking one of those psychiatric tests where you answerwith the first word that comes to mind. I was sure he would havecontinued down whatever mental list he was following, except for theblush. My face reddened because, until very recently, my favoritegemstone was garnet. It was impossible, while staring back into his topazeyes, not to remember the reason for the switch. And, naturally, hewouldn't rest until I'd admitted why I was embarrassed.

  "Tell me," he finally commanded after persuasion failed — failed onlybecause I kept my eyes safely away from his face.

  "It's the color of your eyes today," I sighed, surrendering, staring downat my hands as I fiddled with a piece of my hair. "I suppose if you askedme in two weeks I'd say onyx." I'd given more information than necessaryin my unwilling honesty, and I worried it would provoke the strange angerthat flared whenever I slipped and revealed too clearly how obsessed Iwas.

  But his pause was very short.

  "What kinds of flowers do you prefer?" he fired off.

  I sighed in relief, and continued with the psychoanalysis.

  Biology was a complication again. Edward had continued with his quizzingup until Mr. Banner entered the room, dragging the audiovisual frameagain. As the teacher approached the light switch, I noticed Edward slidehis chair slightly farther away from mine. It didn't help. As soon as theroom was dark, there was the same electric spark, the same restlesscraving to stretch my hand across the short space and touch his coldskin, as yesterday.

  I leaned forward on the table, resting my chin on my folded arms, myhidden fingers gripping the table's edge as I fought to ignore theirrational longing that unsettled me. I didn't look at him, afraid thatif he was looking at me, it would only make self-control that muchharder. I sincerely tried to watch the movie, but at the end of the hourI had no idea what I'd just seen. I sighed in relief again when Mr.

   Banner turned the lights on, finally glancing at Edward; he was lookingat me, his eyes ambivalent.

  He rose in silence and then stood still, waiting for me. We walked towardthe gym in silence, like yesterday. And, also like yesterday, he touchedmy face wordlessly — this time with the back of his cool hand, strokingonce from my temple to my jaw — before he turned and walked away.

  Gym passed quickly as I watched Mike's one-man badminton show. He didn'tspeak to me today, either in response to my vacant expression or becausehe was still angry about our squabble yesterday. Somewhere, in a cornerof my mind, I felt bad about that. But I couldn't concentrate on him.

  I hurried to change afterward, ill at ease, knowing the faster I moved,the sooner I would be with Edward. The pressure made me more clumsy thanusual, but eventually I made it out the door, feeling the same releasewhen I saw him standing there, a wide smile automatically spreadingacross my face. He smiled in reaction before launching into morecross-examination.

  His questions were different now, though, not as easily answered. Hewanted to know what I missed about home, insisting on descriptions ofanything he wasn't familiar with. We sat in front of Charlie's house forhours, as the sky darkened and rain plummeted around us in a suddendeluge.

  I tried to describe impossible things like the scent of creosote —bitter, slightly resinous, but still pleasant — the high, keening soundof the cicadas in July, the feathery barrenness of the trees, the verysize of the sky, extending white-blue from horizon to horizon, barelyinterrupted by the low mountains covered with purple volcanic rock. Thehardest thing to explain was why it was so beautiful to me — to justify abeauty that didn't depend on the sparse, spiny vegetation that oftenlooked half dead, a beauty that had more to do with the exposed shape ofthe land, with the shallow bowls of valleys between the craggy hills, andthe way they held on to the sun. I found myself using my hands as I triedto describe it to him.

  His quiet, probing questions kept me talking freely, forgetting, in thedim light of the storm, to be embarrassed for monopolizing theconversation. Finally, when I had finished detailing my cluttered room athome, he paused instead of responding with another question.

  "Are you finished?" I asked in relief.

  "Not even close — but your father will be home soon.""Charlie!" I suddenly recalled his existence, and sighed. I looked out atthe rain-darkened sky, but it gave nothing away. "How late is it?" Iwondered out loud as I glanced at the clock. I was surprised by the time— Charlie would be driving home now.

  "It's twilight," Edward murmured, looking at the western horizon,obscured as it was with clouds. His voice was thoughtful, as if his mindwere somewhere far away. I stared at him as he gazed unseeingly out thewindshield.

  I was still staring when his eyes suddenly shifted back to mine.

  "It's the safest time of day for us," he said, answering the unspokenquestion in my eyes. "The easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way…the end of another day, the return of the night. Darkness is sopredictable, don't you think?" He smiled wistfully.

  "I like the night. Without the dark, we'd never see the stars." Ifrowned. "Not that you see them here much."He laughed, and the mood abruptly lightened.

  "Charlie will be here in a few minutes. So, unless you want to tell himthat you'll be with me Saturday…" He raised one eyebrow.

   "Thanks, but no thanks." I gathered my books, realizing I was stiff fromsitting still so long. "So is it my turn tomorrow, then?""Certainly not!" His face was teasingly outraged. "I told you I wasn'tdone, didn't I?""What more is there?""You'll find out tomorrow." He reached across to open my door for me, andhis sudden proximity sent my heart into frenzied palpitations.

  But his hand froze on the handle.

  "Not good," he muttered.

  "What is it?" I was surprised to see that his jaw was clenched, his eyesdisturbed.

  He glanced at me for a brief second. "Another complication," he saidglumly.

  He flung the door open in one swift movement, and then moved, almostcringed, swiftly away from me.

  The flash of headlights through the rain caught my attention as a darkcar pulled up to the curb just a few feet away, facing us.

  "Charlie's around the corner," he warned, staring through the downpour atthe other vehicle.

  I hopped out at once, despite my confusion and curiosity. The rain waslouder as it glanced off my jacket.

  I tried to make out the shapes in the front seat of the other car, but itwas too dark. I could see Edward illuminated in the glare of the newcar's headlights; he was still staring ahead, his gaze locked onsomething or someone I couldn't see. His expression was a strange mix offrustration and defiance.

  Then he revved the engine, and the tires squealed against the wetpavement. The Volvo was out of sight in seconds.

  "Hey, Bella," called a familiar, husky voice from the driver's side ofthe little black car.

  "Jacob?" I asked, squinting through the rain. Just then, Charlie'scruiser swung around the corner, his lights shining on the occupants ofthe car in front of me.

  Jacob was already climbing out, his wide grin visible even through thedarkness. In the passenger seat was a much older man, a heavyset man witha memorable face — a face that overflowed, the cheeks resting against hisshoulders, with creases running through the russet skin like an oldleather jacket. And the surprisingly familiar eyes, black eyes thatseemed at the same time both too young and too ancient for the broad facethey were set in. Jacob's father, Billy Black. I knew him immediately,though in the more than five years since I'd seen him last I'd managed toforget his name when Charlie had spoken of him my first day here. He wasstaring at me, scrutinizing my face, so I smiled tentatively at him. Hiseyes were wide, as if in shock or fear, his nostrils flared. My smilefaded.

  Another complication, Edward had said.

  Billy still stared at me with intense, anxious eyes. I groanedinternally. Had Billy recognized Edward so easily? Could he reallybelieve the impossible legends his son had scoffed at?

  The answer was clear in Billy's eyes. Yes. Yes, he could.