And with Thee Fade Away

"The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n." Satan to Beelzebub, Line 254 Paradise Lost—John Milton —

If there was one thing Bella Swan knew with certainty, it was that sooner or later everybody dies. The mystery lies in the uncertain speed by which fate makes its final judgment. At times death stirs with the light turn of a feather floating on the air. At others it snaps and snarls like a hungry beast in anticipation of the final bite. For Bella, death was both extremes. It moved with a tremendous force, but spoke with the soft glow of twilight. There was nothing glorious about Bella Swan's death. There was only the cold seizure of sensation from her limbs as Edward Cullen drained the remains of life from her body. There was no burst of light, no memories flashing before her eyes. Angels didn't reach out and grasp her fragile hand at the end. She held fast to Edward, her murderer, as he took her life, prying from her still-seeing eyes the most precious gift she had ever given. —

1. Swan Song
Bella Swan didn't like "goodbye" parties. She found the idea of celebrating the long-term departure of a friend perverse, like laughing at a funeral. Such parties are supposed to have something to do with rejoicing in all the good times spent in the past, in the company of close friends. These parties are, in reality, breeding grounds for excessive nostalgia, sentimental stories, and embarrassing photographs. But Bella's own goodbye party involved none of those things—except for the embarrassing photographs, which had been discovered in the pages of a very-old photo album. To make matters worse, they had been printed on all of the plates and napkins, by order of some unethical soul, so that guests could wipe their faces on three-year-old Bella. In honor of Bella's 17 years as a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, Sophie Ellingsdale's basement had been decked out in obnoxiously bright streamers, a giant glittery "Goodbye Bella" sign, and plenty of other extravagant decorations, all of which were coupled with the poignant symphonies of T-Pain and 50 Cent. It was all very excessive, considering the fact that she would only be gone for the summer. By the scale

of the revelry, one would have supposed that Bella was permanently relocating to a faraway place, and that her friends might actually be happy about this fact. Bella drummed her fingers against the red plastic cup in her hand. She dared not drink its contents, which, judging by the growing impairment of the other guests, was most likely vodka-flavored punch. She wished life were a big romantic comedy and that there would be a convenient houseplant nearby to dump it on. Since there was no such plant, she turned to Hana Mochizuki and covertly emptied her cup into her friend's. "What do I look like, Bella, a dumpster?" mumbled Hana, her words running together slightly. "I have a liver too, you know. And I'll bet he's not too happy tonight." She patted her stomach. "What was I supposed to do? I couldn't refuse it" replied Bella, tossing her cup into an overflowing garbage can. She had to shout to compete with both the music and Hana's drunkenness. "You know Sophie. She doesn't want anyone to be sober enough to gossip about how ridiculous she gets when she's drunk." "Why does she care? She's always ridiculous," exclaimed Hana. Her head was swaying around as though her neck wasn't quite strong enough to hold it in one direction for any length of time. Bella instantly regretted augmenting her BAC. "Maybe we should leave, Hana," yelled Bella at the same time T-Pain yelled "bitch!" Still, Sophie Ellingsdale managed to hear Bella's suggestion from all the way across the dark room, and through TPain's expletives. Her head snapped in their direction. "I didn't know booze gave people super-human hearing," Bella mumbled to herself. "Bells!" called Sophie, bounding across the room like a giant pink bouncing ball. "You can't leave! This is your party! Aren't you having a good time?" Sophie Ellingsdale was a bit of a flake, and possibly a budding alcoholic, but Bella knew she was too wellmeaning a person to purposely offend. She had, after all, gone to a lot of effort to make this party happen. And alcohol suppliers for the underaged were hard to come by these days. "Oh, totally!" Bella exclaimed, putting on her best lazy-eyed drunk face and giving her shoulders an earnest shimmy. "This rocks, Sophe, seriously." She hugged the inebriated hostess, and released a sigh that was lost beneath the loud beat of the music. Sophie giggled, gave her trademark wrinkled-nose smile, and bounced off in another direction. Sophie Ellingsdale was ridiculous with or without vodka in her bloodstream, but Bella would miss her even more for it. Bella had to actually shake her head to remind herself that at the end of the summer she'd be right back to standing in the corner at Sophie Ellingsdale's drunken bashes. But there was a strange permanence to the atmosphere, as if somehow these people expected to never see Bella again. If it were up to her, there wouldn't be any kind of extravagant goodbye for her departure. A simple "see you in while" would have sufficed.

But here she was, standing in a dark basement full of sauced teenagers, looking at her only friends with a foreboding feeling growing in her gut. Her insides recoiled at the moment like a frightened cat; it was the kind of feeling discussed on Lifetime network shows by people recounting prophetic feelings before major disasters. She sincerely hoped that she wasn't going to crash and die on her way out of town the following morning. Bella's mood combined with her friends' insobriety certainly wasn't the kind of farewell she would have asked for, but at least everyone was having a good time. Everyone but her. And maybe Hana, whose face was starting to look green even in the dark. "All right, Hana," yelled Bella, directly into her friend's ear. "At this point everyone's so wasted they probably won't notice we're gone. Let's get out of here before you spill your guts on Sophie's decorations." "Right-o," replied Hana, just before producing a very ladylike burp. Bella grabbed Hana's arm and led her through the throngs of people, many of whom she didn't actually know, and out into the fresh night air. She didn't have to take the time to thank Sophie's parents for the festivities, because they were both vacationing in Florida for the week, and therefore had no idea that their daughter was contributing to the illegal intoxication of Phoenix's young people. As much as Bella would have liked to spend the entire night with her friends and acquaintances in any capacity, she preferred them for their sober qualities. And Hana wasn't famous for her high ethanol tolerance. So they both sat on the curb for a few minutes, watching cars fly by as Hana's unhappy liver worked its magic. At times like these, Bella wished she had a car. At least then she'd have some kind of special value as a designated driver. But without the luxury of easy transportation, Bella was forced to call her mother to pick them up. Disturbing her mother late at night would lead to unpleasant conversations later, but it was a necessary evil that must be endured to escape the party. However, before she could dial the number, she heard someone calling her name from behind her. "Bella," said the voice again. She twisted her body around and met the smiling face of Taro, Hana's college student brother, who was emerging from the front door of Sophie's house. Bella jumped a little at the sight of him, a reaction she had come to expect in herself every time she encountered him. It was like she had been born with a special Taro reflex, something like the twitch in a leg when the doctor taps it, only with Taro it was less of a twitch and more of an embarrassing blushinghopping thing. He was, after all, everything a girl could want: tidy black hair, Mensa-worthy IQ, formidable battleship opponent. And here he was, at Bella's own goodbye party. He was probably only there to retrieve his sister, but that didn't stop Bella's overactive imagination from inventing romantic impossibilities.

"Oh, hi, Taro," she said lamely as he took a seat on the curb next to her. She watched as his gaze traveled over to Hana, who was yawning continuously in a very suspicious kind of way. "Sorry. I let Han go overboard a bit." He laughed a little. "Oh, don't worry about it. This way she'll get it out of her system before she goes to college. A few more mornings like the one she'll have tomorrow, and being drunk'll lose some of its glamour." Bella loved it when a man talked logically. "Thanks for coming to get your sister, Taro," she said, in a softer voice this time because Hana seemed to have fallen asleep. "Not having to escort a drunk girl home saves me from answering a lot of my mom's questions about my late night activities." "Actually," said Taro, scooting a little closer to her, "I came here to see you." Bella's brain shut down for a split second. "Huh?" she replied, like the intelligent young woman she was. "Oh, come on Bella. You're leaving tomorrow. Do you really think I'd just let you disappear for the whole summer without any kind of goodbye?" "Well, since you're here, I guess not," she said to the ground, trying to keep her wits about her. "I wish I'd had the chance to get to know you better this year." He was leaning forward and had his head tilted upward in an effort to make eye contact with her, even though she was pretending to be completely focused on the pavement. "Hana loves you to pieces, you know," he whispered. "She'll miss you a lot. And, well, I'll miss you a lot too." Bella looked up at him, straight into his bespectacled brown eyes. Something about the way he was looking at her made her uncomfortable, but she held his gaze anyway. "Yeah, Taro. I'll miss both of you too. But I'll be back in—" Suddenly, his face was inches away from hers. His fingers were resting on her cheek very lightly. She realized, with a surprisingly unpleasant shock, that he was going to kiss her. She clumsily avoided his advance by simultaneously pulling her head away to the right and pushing back on his shoulder to stop him. The action, however, was poorly planned because, having turned her head away from him, she wasn't able to see that her arm was headed toward his face, rather than his shoulder. Her palm collided with Taro's left eye, causing his glasses to crash onto the grimy asphalt. Taro himself rocked backward unsteadily, only just stopping his fall by extending his arms behind him. The resulting sound of knuckles scraping against the rough curb was enough to make Bella squirm. The whole scene was pretty spectacular. It was made even worse by the loud chuckles emanating from a cluster of vague acquaintances positioned nearby outside Sophie's house. One of the girls flicked a halfsmoked cigarette in Bella's direction with a wink.

Taro was fumbling around the asphalt, awkwardly trying to cradle his scraped hand and locate his glasses at the same time. Bella leapt to her feet, with one hand clapped involuntarily over her own mouth. "Oh, Taro. I'm so sorry. Let me help you. I'll go get a Band-Aid or something." He had found his glasses, which looked a little scuffed, and hurriedly placed them back on his face in a way that left them noticeably cockeyed. "No," he said, a little too urgently to sound nice. Upon noticing the red blooming even more deeply in Bella's cheeks, he quickly amended, "I mean, don't worry about it, Bella. It's just a little scrape." It looked worse than that to Bella, but she didn't make any comment. Bella wished that an earthquake at the upper end of the Richter Scale would suddenly occur and rip open the ground beneath her feet. She could really use a deep chasm to fall into at that moment. "I'm so sorry, Taro. I really's just—" "No, Bella. I'm the one who should be sorry," said Taro, looking everywhere, it seemed, except at her. "Let me drive you home." "You really don't have to—" "I'm already here. It makes no sense to disturb your mom. It's fine, really." His tone was even, but Bella noticed a stiffness in his normally mobile face. She couldn't tell if it was a sign of anger, embarrassment, or something else entirely. Reading people was something she usually did well, but she had already been wrong about Taro once. She had never expected him to be attracted to her, not realistically. And she had responded to his real affection by punching him in the face. The earthquake Bella was wishing for never appeared; the solid ground beneath her feet stubbornly refused to swallow her up. In the time Bella had spent staring blankly at headlights streaming past through the darkness, Taro had managed to wake Hana and lead her to his black Chevy Impala parked across the street. Having secured his sister in some fashion, he was standing by the driver's side door, passing his keys from one hand to the other impatiently. Bella briefly considered running in the opposite direction. Braving miles of unsavory city neighborhoods in the dead of night almost sounded more appealing than sitting in the car with Taro and his drunk sister for fifteen whole minutes. But sense won in the end and Bella hurried across the street between speeding cars, thanking her judgment earlier that evening for not having to dodge automotives while drunk. Taro didn't say anything when she arrived at his car, instead sliding rigidly behind the wheel and turning his key in the ignition. Bella had hoped to sit in the back seat with Hana under the pretense of looking after her in her drunken stupor, but the adjacent seat was occupied by the obligatory college-boy pound of trash. Bella almost considered attempting to transfer the garbage to the floor of the Impala to make room for herself, but Taro's eyes were glaring at her in the reflection of the rearview mirror in a way that made wasting any more time seem like a bad idea. She took three deep breaths, opened the passenger door, and dropped into the seat with an uncomfortable creak of springs and cracked vinyl. As Taro pulled

away from the curb, Bella fastened her seatbelt with a slow intricacy—an activity she pretended required her full concentration to complete. Taro remained resolutely silent. He turned on the heat, which was entirely unnecessary because it was already hot outside. To augment the stuffiness growing inside the vehicle, he also turned up the volume on the local oldies radio station, which was playing a particularly atonal Bob Dylan song. Bella spent the following fifteen minutes staring out the car window, which in and of itself was a difficult task, because the layers of dust and grime caked onto the glass made it hard to see anything except for the passing streetlights. She had a feeling that if she died and went to Hell, it would feel something like the inside of Taro's Chevy Impala at that moment. The heat blowing through the vent straight into her face made the atmosphere feel so thick that the difficulty of moving air in and out of her lungs was about the same as trying to do so underwater. She would've asked Taro to turn the heat off, or even done it herself, but that would require looking at him at the very least, and exponentially increase the possibility of having to speak to him. And of course the conversation was absolutely scintillating. Bob Dylan was the only one doing any talking, which was mostly incoherent wailing through the car's scratchy speakers. Hana was snoring. Taro was making his scraped knuckles white by wringing his hands against the plastic steering wheel. Bella was trying very hard to keep breathing in an environment that was similar to the inside of a greenhouse that grew filth instead of plants. Overall, it was a miserable ride. And, Bella reminded herself, the last time she'd see her best friend until school started again. Maybe if the drive had been prefaced by a long-awaited kiss rather than scuffed glasses and bloody knuckles, she would have at least parted with Taro on bittersweet terms instead of plain bitter ones. But Bella had to make a mess of everything, as usual, by planting her fist into her potential boyfriend's face. Just before Bella was sure she'd die a slow death with Bob Dylan's voice ringing in her ears for all of eternity, Taro pulled up to her house. She was about to hop out of the car and run to the safety of her bedroom, where she could promptly fall asleep and pretend nothing had happened, but she wasn't rude enough to just leave without saying anything. "Thanks for the ride, Taro," she said to the dashboard. "Yeah. No problem." "Look, about earlier...I'm really sorry, I jus—" "Goodbye, Bella," he said, looking into her eyes at last. What she saw in his wasn't the look of anger or embarrassment at all, but instead one of defeat. He wasn't saying goodbye to her for the night, or even for the summer. He had given up on her completely; he was saying goodbye forever.

She stopped after she had stepped out of the car and looked back at Hana, who was slumped against the vinyl door panel. "Just...tell Hana I'll send her e-mails all the time." He nodded very slightly. That's the way Taro decided to leave Bella—with nothing but a vague tilt of his head. Bella ended up rushing into her house and straight to her bedroom after all, where she didn't sleep so much as struggle to shut her brain off. As it usually turned out when Bella had too much on her mind, she didn't genuinely fall asleep until just before she was supposed to wake up. Yet Bella did drift off with some peace of mind. She knew that when the morning came, the previous night wouldn't disappear, but she would leave Phoenix behind for the entire summer. Forks, Washington would be her escape. Forks, Washington where she could run away from Phoenix's heat, from its Taros and Impalas and Sophie Ellingsdales.

2. Departed
It was the hottest day of the year in Hawthorne, Nevada. The heat boiled off the pavement in massive waves, distorting Bella's view of the shabby gas station in front of her. She leaned against her mother's car delicately, the fabric of her shorts barely buffering her skin against the searing heat of the metal fender. Bella's father was late, of course. His tardiness was not surprising, but the oppressive temperature was making the wait unbearable. Hawthorne was halfway to Forks, relatively speaking, and therefore the agreed upon spot to meet her father for the second half of the drive. The thought of sitting in her dad's police cruiser for fifteen more hours was only slightly less unpleasant than the heat. The cooling system in her mother's car was shot. Bella was sweating enough that her clothes had adhered uncomfortably to her skin. Being un-air-conditioned, the gas station offered no form of refuge, not to mention the fact that it was mostly populated by disagreeable-looking truckers. Bella turned her head to her mother, whose elbow was propped against the car's back window; she had been running her thumb along the pages of an unopened paperback for the past fifteen minutes. Her dark eyes were staring idly at the unoccupied gas pumps, eyelids half-closed beneath a far away mind. Bella pulled at the front of her own shirt in an attempt to let the air dry some of the moisture from the fabric. "Dad'll come soon, Mom," she said against the backdrop of millions of cicadas. Her mother made a vague noise of comprehension which sounded more like a sigh than an affirmative. Bella looked away. She had gotten used to the empty distance between herself and her mother over the past few months. The growing detachment was easily explained. Her mother was seeing someone. Her mom had kept quiet about the relationship, but she couldn't hide it altogether. She came home late from her

secretarial job every Tuesday, late enough to get coffee with the mystery man. Specifically, late enough to get coffee at Common Ground Café, from which Bella had covertly witnessed her mother emerge with a mysterious man. She hadn't gotten a good look at the man's face, but Bella had seen the phrase "meet with D.M." written in her mother's personal calendar one Tuesday. That was enough evidence for her to conclude that her mother was dating some guy with the initials D.M. It didn't bother Bella that her mom had moved on. She had divorced Bella's father nearly fifteen years prior and hadn't dated since. What did bother Bella, however, was the secrecy. Why couldn't her mother just tell her? She would've liked to meet the guy, or at least known his name. What did D.M. stand for? David Martin? Daniel Mason? But her mother's silence made Bella wonder if she had even told this man she had a daughter. It made sense, after all, that she wouldn't. Who would want to be in the dating scene with the burden of a teenage daughter? If she told Bella about her secret boyfriend, then Bella would probably insist on meeting him, which would ruin the charade. But this mysterious love interest had stolen Bella's mother from her. Where she was once as close to Bella as any daughter could desire, full of vibrancy and energy, she was now cold and even. The woman Bella had known as her mother had been pulled away and reserved for D.M., whoever he was. Spending most days at school or doing homework, Bella had survived the aloneness of the past few months. But with the summer just beginning, she simply couldn't bear the rift between her and her mother without the distraction of academics. That was the reason behind her decision to move to Forks for the summer. She had told her mom it was to get closer to her father. If her mother could lie outright, then so could she. A mangy dog chained to the bumper of an old pickup truck barked. The mutt was panting excessively, hiding in the shade of the truck's underside. The sound made Bella shiver, despite the heat. Sweat, silence, suffering animals. If her father didn't come soon, she decided she would begin walking to Forks rather than enduring the cruelty of the gas station parking lot. It was twenty-five minutes before her father finally pulled into the gravel lot. His police cruiser was covered with dust collected by miles of speeding down rural southwestern highways. "Sorry," he said gruffly as he climbed out of the vehicle, still dressed in his police uniform. "There was an emergency at the station. Took a while to sort through." Bella could care less about lateness or emergencies at the station. She was just happy to see the arrival of an air-conditioned car, small and embarrassing though it was. "Hi, Dad," she said, already heading toward the cruiser's passenger door. "It's fine. Let's get going, yeah?" But in the side mirror of the car, she saw her mother step away from her own sedan and hold her arms open in a gesture asking for a hug. In Bella's mind, the motion was so unexpected, she almost didn't oblige. But, after blinking a few

times to make sure her mom's sudden affection wasn't some kind of mirage, she ran to her mother and embraced her with a warmth felt even through the sweltering heat. "Bella, I love you. You must know that," she whispered into her daughter's hair. "Yeah. I do." A few months ago, Bella could've uttered that line without uncertainty, but at that moment, she wasn't sure how much she really believed it. She wondered if her mother sensed her doubt. "I'll come home, Mom. I'll come back to you. When the summer's over." Bella wasn't sure why she said it, but she suspected it had something to do with the feeling of guilt unexpectedly threading its icy fingers through her chest. Her mother released her, making no reply. — What Bella hadn't known when she had left her mother was that she would return to Phoenix much sooner than the end of August. Bella would go back to Phoenix, but not to her home, and not to her mother. Bella's mother was dead. Death is an ugly thing, suicide even uglier. It had been three days before one of her mother's coworkers had gone looking for her and discovered her body floating in the cold water of her bathtub, tinted crimson from slit wrists. There was, after all, no one home to have known before then. The words "she's dead," had traveled from a Phoenix policeman's mouth, through the plastic earpiece of the telephone in Bella's father's kitchen in Forks, then through her father's own lips with a crack and quiver of his voice. The words had slipped into Bella's ears like a parasite and lodged themselves in her brain. The words wouldn't come out. Not when Bella's lips parted to utter, "No." Not when she vomited on the floor. The words stayed with her, and so did the guilt. — The funeral was held in a cemetery just outside of Phoenix. It was brief, and the weather hot, just as it had been when Bella had seen her mother for the last time. The ground was dry and barren, which was only to be expected in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Her mother's grave had been dug out of rocks and dust in a small graveyard which was mostly decorated by cacti and wilted flowers. Her mother had ascribed to no religion, so there wasn't any priest standing by the tombstone, reading from the scriptures or making encouraging comments about the afterlife. In any case, suicide was mixed up in shades of gray when it came to religion. Instead, a small cluster of friends and relatives had gathered around the gravesite, some of whom said a few sentimental words about Renée Swan's life.

Bella's aunt had given a short eulogy. It was mostly about their childhood; references to her mother's adult life were vague and impersonal, because she hadn't visited her sister in nearly ten years. Bella, herself, had rejected the opportunity to speak at the service. Were she even able to form a sentence through her throat's constriction, she felt that she barely had a right to speak at her mother's burial. She had left her mother alone, with a scarcely passable goodbye. She hadn't been home to stop her mother, or even find her body. She looked up and noticed a cluster of vultures circling the sky above the graveyard. They were probably interested in road kill, but their appearance at her mother's burial made her feel sick. She already felt cold, despite the high temperature; now she felt like someone had splashed ice water into her stomach. For some reason she couldn't cry. Maybe she was too shocked or exhausted, or confused. She felt eyes on her and wondered if the audience thought her unfeeling. She didn't really care what they thought of her; she would be childish yet again and escape to Forks to stay there permanently. Bella turned from her mother's grave as the crowd began to disperse. She let her eyes travel over the attendees, all clad in dark dress and dark expressions. She spotted her mother's relatives, coworkers; she recognized everyone, but familiar faces provided no comfort. She felt like being alone, and sleeping for the following ten days. However, as much as she wanted it, aloneness was not what Bella was going to get. She caught the sheen of Hana's black hair out of the corner of her eye, moving toward her. Taro, imposing in a dark suit, followed just behind, with his eyes trained on the dry, yellowish grass. Bella wondered why Taro had come; he hadn't been too pleased with her when they had last parted, and he certainly didn't look comfortable at present. "Hi, Bella," said Hana, in a voice that was almost a whisper. "Hi." "I'm so sorry for your loss," continued Hana, without allowing her brother to speak. "I can't… I can't even imagine… I never thought your mother would…" she let her voice trail off, then tipped her head to the ground to conceal the color flushing her cheeks. Taro picked up where his sister left off. "I guess it's goodbye for good, then. You'll be staying in Forks." "Yeah," replied Bella. She was too tired to think about Taro, or their previous encounter, let alone why he seemed to be concerned about where she would be living. "Bella, if you ever want to come back, you know you can stay with us for as long as you want," whispered Hana, whose cheeks were still excessively pink. "Thanks, Hana." Ideally, Bella would have said something more meaningful, or at least made some kind effort to show gratitude for her friend's concern, but she was too weary to perform for an audience.

"Bella…" began Taro, who was shifting his weight back and forth nervously. "I…" He seemed at a loss for words. Bella earnestly hoped he wasn't insensitive enough to try to renew his affection for her in the middle of her mother's funeral. If that was his intent, she thought she might punch him in the face deliberately this time. Her expression must have betrayed her thoughts, because Taro shut his mouth and then opened it again, only to cough unconvincingly and remain silent. "Yes?" said Bella, more impatient than usual with Taro's hesitation. "N… nothing, uh, never mind," he stuttered. His sister gave him a look that Bella could only describe as disgusted. Normally, Bella would have pressed them both about what Taro seemed unable to articulate. She was the kind of person who, given a piece of a puzzle, couldn't rest easy until she had put together the whole thing. Unfortunately, given the circumstances, Bella had no desire to listen to whatever trivial thing Taro had to say. Faced with Bella's lack of a reply, Taro mumbled something that somewhat respectfully allowed them to leave her. Bella watched stoically as they turned away to join their father in the knot of attendees. Hana appeared to be berating Taro for some reason, but Bella couldn't hear her words over the loud buzz of insects. She then crossed the graveyard toward her father's car in the opposite direction, folding her arms over the cheap fabric of the black dress she had purchased in a hurry. She wrapped her fingers around her ribs and hugged herself, letting her brown hair conceal the emptiness in her expression. And then a thought occurred to her. She stopped and turned around, lifting her gaze to the crowd of people one more time. She walked back toward the group, squinting to get a look at each of their faces, one at a time. They were all recognizable, just as she had thought, people she had seen at one point or another. There were no strangers. There was no unfamiliar man at the funeral to label as her mother's secret lover. There was no D.M. Bella's mind, practically empty moments before, was suddenly itching with questions. Surely this man, whoever he was, knew her mother was dead. Her obituary had been run in all the papers. So why hadn't he shown? Did they break up? Did he know she was thinking of killing herself? Bella hurriedly strode back in among the party of mourners, weaving in and out of people, gently shoving through adjacent bodies where necessary. If people hadn't thought her unfeeling earlier, they probably did now, but the last thing on her mind at that moment was her appearance. At last, she reached her father, who was engaged in a somber conversation with an old neighbor. "Dad," exclaimed Bella, partially out of breath, "Dad, I need to talk to you." The neighbor looked highly disconcerted, and hastily retreated, probably frightened by the range of hormonal fits possible in a griefstricken teen. Her father, most likely, was experiencing a similar reaction, but wasn't blessed with the option of running away from his suddenly vocal daughter. That, and his thick mustache and eyebrows did a handy job when it came to obscuring facial expressions. "What is it, Bella?"

"I think mom was seeing someone before she died," Bella was tempted to grimace at her own bluntness. Her father's facial hair couldn't disguise his stunned reaction to her words. "Um, Bella, I don't see your point… and," he lowered his voice to a harsh whisper, "frankly, is now the best time?" Bella wasn't discouraged by him; he was right about her mother's funeral being the wrong place for this discussion, but in her mind the news couldn't wait; they would be back in Forks the next day, far removed from the Phoenix Police Department. She did, at least, follow suit and lower her voice. "I mean, I think the police should know about it. I came to Forks in the first place because she was acting weird. And she kept this guy a secret. D.M.—do you know anyone with those initials? I saw them in her calendar, and, well, you're a police officer and I thought—" The thoughts spilled out of her mouth without control. Her father's face suddenly contorted with a aspect bordering between pain and anger. "Bella. The police have done a thorough job investigating her death. You know that. What is this really about? For once, be respectful." The words hit Bella hard enough to completely silence her. At that point, she should have heeded her father's words, cried for her mother like everyone else, and forgotten all about D.M. But she wasn't that kind of person. Once there, the idea wouldn't go away. She wanted to track down D.M, and she wanted to begin at that very moment. Nevertheless, she followed her father in silence as he retreated to the black rental car. She felt like the dog tied to a truck in the heat of the gas station. She had to go back to Forks with her father. She was helplessly weary and stuck chained to a tiny piece of shade.

3. Fray
It was raining in forks, which was no surprise because it was always raining in Forks. Bella had visited her father often enough over the years to be familiar with the cold dampness of the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, it was considered a rainforest, but unfortunately not the kind with tropical plants and exotic birds. The house was heated, but Bella had wrapped herself in a fleece blanket anyway. She was watching the rain dribble down the leaded glass window in the small family room, trying to shut her brain off. She was perched on a ragged couch which had a large, conspicuous stain on one side, but despite the lumpiness of the cushions, it was comfortable enough. Her father had promised to replace it when she had moved in permanently, but he still hadn't gotten around to it. Her father, Charlie, had never really had to embrace the role of father until now, and Bella knew he wasn't ready. He had always been a sports-watching, beer-drinking man's man, not the kind of guy who would be good at dealing with a teen girl. She didn't let it worry her; she hadn't been a handful in Phoenix, and she wouldn't be one now.

Bella had ventured downstairs with the intention of reading a trashy paperback, but had found herself unable to concentrate. Over the past few months, she had grown used to the quiet pitter pat of the rain against the roof tiles of her father's house, but the noise somehow kept her mind from settling down. Tomorrow was the first day of school Bella would have to endure at Forks High. It was a small town, with about as much excitement as its pronged namesake, so, no doubt, news of her arrival had already reached the students in her class. Not to mention, the tender subject of her mother's death was probably already old information to the people of Forks. Gossip travels like radio waves when the population is only 3,000. Bella had no idea whether her fellow students would ask her difficult questions, treat her like their new best friend, or just ignore her altogether. It had been a little less than two months since her mother's funeral, and she had done her best to bury the situation and associated emotions in the recesses of her mind. She couldn't really tell if she had been entirely successful in that effort, but at least she could function. For the time being, she decided to blame her sleepless nights on the sound of the rain. She gave the paperback another try. It was a trashy romance called "The Duke in Her Dining Room," but judging by the way it was turning out, it would've been more aptly named "The Duke in Her Pants." After wading her way through three chapters of bad prose and easily ripped bodices, Bella sighed and closed the book. It was nine at night, earlier than she was used to sleeping, but late enough, at least, that the sun had set. When she flopped down on top of her bed in the upstairs room of Charlie's small house, she still didn't feel at home. It was as though she were on vacation, that tomorrow she'd see her mother and everything would be right again. Still, through and through, she knew that Forks had claimed her. When she woke in the morning, it would still be the unfamiliar room; it would still be Forks and it would still be raining. — There were certain advantages that came with being the daughter of the local police chief. Unfortunately, arriving for the first day of school in a cool, swanky car wasn't one of them. As Bella's father pulled his decidedly un-fashionable police cruiser into the Forks High School parking lot, students were already shooting Bella odd looks, the best of which were expressions of hesitation. In the world of teenage tomfoolery, a police car was not the most welcome of vehicles. Bella sat rigidly in the seat for a few moments, staring at nothing in particular, before finally looking up at the school itself. It was nothing more than a few old brick buildings—hardly the cement and plastic monstrosity that was her school in Phoenix. The dated quaintness of the whole establishment calmed her slightly. In a class of only 75 students, it wouldn't be difficult for her find the nearest fellow nerd and cling to him or her for the rest of the day. "You gonna be alright, Bells?" asked her father, who had been staring at her for who-knows-how-long.

"Yeah. I think so." She gave him the best smile she could muster, given the situation. She didn't let herself forget how taxing the whole experience of suddenly having a full-time daughter must be on him. In reply, he hastily took a long swig of coffee from his plastic travel mug, as if unsure of what one says to his grieving daughter on her first day of school in an unfamiliar, overly rainy town. Bella wasn't sure that she, herself, knew what the parenting handbook would have to say about that one. In lieu of standing in the parking lot for hours while her father acted awkwardly, Bella decided to make the parting comment herself. "Hey, go be a good cop and get some donuts to go with that coffee." She gave him a playful punch on the shoulder, which seemed to do the trick. "Have a good day, Bella. I'll see you tonight." When Bella pecked his cheek and slid out of the car, she landed directly in the center of a large puddle, which soaked the hems of her jeans with muddy rain water. She laughed it off, quickly deciding that she was destined to be constantly wet for as long as she lived in Forks, regardless of all countermeasures. In obvious appreciation of Bella's chuckling, her father smiled just enough to make his mustache twitch before driving away. Bella sighed as the cruiser disappeared down the road. She knew that people were looking at her, probably just because she was new, and hopefully not because she had arrived in a police car. She sincerely hoped that Forks was indeed small enough that everyone already knew her father was Chief Swan, rather than suspecting she was some kind of coked up juvie hitching a ride from her parole officer. The expressions on the students' faces didn't seem to be in the realm of disgust, so Bella assumed that it was the former, rather than the latter, reason that she was attracting looks. She stepped to the side of the parking lot to withdraw her school map from her backpack. Until she tracked down her friendly nerd, she would be forced to find her own way around. After retrieving the crumpled diagram of the buildings, she unfolded it and located the structure labeled "administration." Holding the map open in front of her, Bella walked across the parking lot, while at the same time trying to memorize the locations of the other important buildings. She felt a light drizzle begin to fall, promising to turn her soft brown waves into scary brown frizz. She had never been obsessive about her appearance, but she cared even less about the condition of her hair at that moment. She ran with the principle that when it came to first impressions, not looking starched and pressed to perfection simply weeded out troublesome shallow people. Bella continued walking toward the administration office as the rain grew heavier. With her attention entirely focused on memorizing the route to the main academic building, she was completely unprepared for the sudden appearance of a young man stumbling backward in front of her. His body, with a pronounced thud, collided directly with the back fender of the silver Volvo parked just to Bella's left. The flurry of motion caused Bella to drop her map into another muddy puddle, but she didn't stoop to retrieve it. Instead, she stood gaping, flabbergasted, at the scene before her. The boy who had fallen against the parked car hadn't lost his balance; he had been thrown into the vehicle by another student, who was striding toward his fallen prey, his dark eyes glowing with fury.

The poor guy who had been hurled at the Volvo was just struggling to his feet when the aggressor, tall with a head of unkempt copper hair, crouched in front of him. The victim made to stand and hurry away, but the redhead seized a handful of fabric at the boy's shirt collar and yanked him to a standing position. He hissed at the kid in his grasp through gritted teeth. "Dazhe ne dumay ob etom, sukin syn!" The words that passed through his lips were not English; Bella assumed that very few, if any, of the other students understood a word of what the ginger-haired bully was growling, but she suspected that was the point. Bella recognized the speech as Russian, which was lucky, because she knew enough of the language to clearly understand the student's remarks. She was fascinated by languages—all languages—and studied them as much as she could, because she knew that words alone disclosed an infinity of details about a culture. Russian, of all the languages on earth, was arguably the angriest. Don't even think it, you son of a bitch, snarled the antagonist, once again, in the world's angriest language. His opponent said nothing, probably because he was scared out of his wits, and gazed silently into his assailant's eyes. For a moment, they were both perfectly still. Bella thought the fight might be over, but then, a mere instant later, the boy with the wild copper hair slammed his fist into the right side of his victim's jaw, sending him hurtling to the pavement. None of the other students had gathered around the scuffle; no one had intervened, or even stopped to gawk. Bella noticed a few sideways glances from passersby, but everyone just kept walking. The whole scene shocked Bella. She may be a new student, but she wasn't about to let some guy beat a poor kid to smithereens, just because, for some reason, everyone seemed to be too afraid to do anything. The bully bent over and grasped the collapsed student's shoulder for the purpose of dragging him to his feet again. Bella couldn't stand it any longer. "Perestan!" Stop! she yelled, stepping toward the fray, while mentally preparing herself to kick the redhead where it hurt the most, if the situation called for it. His head snapped in her direction, and, instantly, his dark gaze settled on her with an unblinking intensity. Again, he froze, for just a second, with a too-perfect, completely inhuman stillness. The world around them seemed to be suddenly sucked of vitality, forced into an unwilling inertia. For that brief moment, Bella thought she would become lost in his gaze—trapped—herself frozen eternally like a cadaver. But then she blinked and was released from the spell. Also released was the beaten student, who had struggled free from his captor's grip. Bella instantly ran to him to see if he was all right. Being thrown into a car, then punched in the face couldn't be good for one's health. But before she could reach him, the copper-haired villain had appeared between them, only inches away from her. He had moved very quickly...too quickly. "Don't go near him," he said in a low, threatening voice. He didn't have a Russian accent, but his voice didn't sound entirely American either. His dark eyes sought hers, and she obliged, looking straight into

his. The shade of his irises was so deep that the pupils were barely visible, but this time she felt no terrifying compulsion to immobility. She knew she should have been more afraid of this strange young man with haunting eyes, but it was her nature to stand her ground, and she didn't fight the impulse. The victim of the fray had long since run away, so maybe this asshole would calm down. "So you beat up the poor guy, then refuse him any help? He's probably hurt. What the hell is wrong with you?" Bella's voice was filled with loathing. She'd met plenty of violent bullies before, having lived in an urban area all her life, and she hated them. She hadn't expected to encounter one in such a small town, and especially not the first student she met. "What's wrong with me?" he replied, his lips twitching into a crooked smile. "Well, for starters, there's a bratty girl standing in front of me who, unfortunately for her, thinks it's a great idea to involve herself in my business." "If your business entails throwing other students around like they're your playthings, then, yeah, consider me involved." Short of delivering a nasty blow to his sensitive region, Bella wasn't exactly sure what she was going to do in terms of stopping a six-foot tall, lithe, obviously unashamedly violent man, but she was banking on the somewhat unlikely possibility that he had principles against hitting women. He took a step toward her. Involuntarily, she took a step back. "You sure about that, darling?" He sounded on the verge of laughter. Bella began to wonder if she would've been much wiser to do what everyone else was doing and avoid this gentleman. "So, what did that guy do to deserve getting his head bashed against a fender, anyway? Dazhe ne dumay ob etom?' Don't even think it? What is that supposed to mean?" "Oh, so the new kid speaks Russian, does she? Khoroshenka." Cute. "Well, I have another phrase for you to translate, Isabella Swan: Uydi s dorogi." Get out of my way. There was a silent 'or else' attached to that statement, and Bella was fairly sure she didn't want to find out what 'or else' meant to this guy. Just before she was about to gratify the bastard's wishes, another student appeared at her side. "Leave her alone, Cullen," the new guy barked, lifting a fisted hand. He was shorter than the jack-ass 'Cullen' by several inches, but he looked like he meant business. In her first five minutes at Forks High School, Bella seemed to have encountered both the villain and the noble protector. "Allow me to go quake in fear," replied the redhead, just before yawning. "Must you be so dramatic?" He raised his fist, shaking it back and forth, and adopted a ridiculous expression meant to mock his challenger. The parody was more effective than Bella would have admitted. She almost had to stifle a laugh. "Really, Mr. Newton, your heroics would be more impressive if you chose to protect someone with whom I'd even bother." Without allowing 'Mr. Newton' to reply, 'Cullen' turned on his heel with a perfect grace, and disappeared behind the rows of parked cars.

Bella considered the fact that the bastard seemed pretty threatening when it came to 'bothering with' her just moments before. Apparently, either she wasn't yet on his blacklist, or he really did have something against hitting women. Either way, she realized that the preceding five minutes had left her pretty shaken. "So, Hi," came the voice of her protector, sunny and comforting. "I'm Mike Newton." Bella turned to him and shook his hand. "Bella Swan. Thanks, by the way. That guy's obviously a creep." "That's one of the nicer words I've heard used to describe Edward Cullen," said Mike, laughing a little. "I'm sorry he's responsible for your first impression of this place. We're not all insane." "Edward Cullen, huh?" said Bella. "Who was he roughing up?" "Ah. That'd be Jasper—his brother." "His brother?" exclaimed Bella incredulously. "He beats his own brother?" "Edward and Jasper have a… tumultuous relationship," muttered Mike, running a hand through his floppy blond hair. "This happens frequently? Why doesn't anyone try to break them up?" "I… I don't know. Just doesn't seem like a good idea," said Mike. He seemed to be at a loss for a better reason. "Jasper always seems okay afterward, I guess." Bella just shook her head. She decided she best not cause a stir by getting preachy about justice. Changing the subject seemed like a much better idea. "So, Mike, seeing as I dropped my map into a murky puddle, could you possibly show me to the administration building?" Mike was far too attractive and jock-like to constitute her normal choice in friends, namely nerds, but he seemed to be nice, confident, and overall well-adjusted, which meant he would be a perfect buddy to guide her through her first day. "That and more, milady," he said, chivalrously offering her his arm. Bella already liked Mike Newton. She laughed and looped her arm through his, allowing him to lead her to the small brick building ahead while he chattered to her about the local sports rivalry and the excellent surfing conditions on the coast. — Mike Newton wasn't exactly a scholarly sort, but his light banter put Bella at ease for most of the morning. When she had picked up her schedule in the administration office, she was relieved to find that she shared her first class, Biology, with Mike. The teacher, a grizzled man with a long white ponytail trailing down his back, took the liberty of standing Bella in front of the class and introducing her to her 'fellow scientists.' She received a relatively unenthusiastic collective 'hey' from the students, many of whom looked to be on the verge of falling asleep on their desks.

"Now, now, class," called the teacher, after directing Bella to a lab table near the front. "Rise and shine! Today is DNA replication day! Everyone say 'Helicase'!" No one made a sound, except for a student in the back who was snoring loudly. The rest of the session consisted of the teacher struggling to make the best of a first-period class far more interested in sleep than in nitrogenous bases. Bella, herself, had a difficult time staying awake, despite the teacher's obvious enthusiasm, because she had studied most of the material the previous year. Occasionally, Bella turned her head and glanced back at Mike Newton, who in return gave her a succession of wide smiles. His cheery grins combined with the familiarity of the class's subject matter made her feel more confident than she had expected to feel for the entirety of her first month in Forks. When the bell rang, signaling the end of the period, Mike appeared at her side. The academic building was easily navigable, and he had already described the entire structure to her, but Mike kindly insisted on showing her to her next class. Normally, Bella would have rejected such excessive chivalry, but she found it difficult to turn down the offer when it came from such an attractive young man; accordingly, she nodded dumbly in agreement. English was her next destination, which, though being a scientist at heart, seemed like a nice change of pace. It took only about a minute to reach the classroom, but Mike stepped in front of Bella before she could walk through the door. "Hey," he began, "I'll see you at lunch. Look out for me; I'll introduce you to the whole gang. Plus, I'll clue you in on which of the lunch ladies' mystery meats border on edible." He winked and hurried off, his sneakers squeaking down the over-waxed hallway. Bella sighed, pleased with the general course of the morning, and decided to forget about her offputting encounter with Edward Cullen. That effort, however, would prove to be impossible, because as soon as Bella entered the English classroom, she was met by the smirking face of Edward, in all his wildhaired glory.

4. Converse
Edward Cullen had the aspect of a man who spent most of his life underneath a rock, yet still managed to display a joie de vivre. He had a complexion that would rival an iceberg's in its paleness, which was strikingly contrasted with his hair, each russet-colored strand springing in its own distinct direction. But intermingled with his unkempt pallor was a peculiar type of handsomeness. His appearance wasn't anything Bella would have described as perfection, if there even is such a thing, but there was a strange dignity in his posture, an elegant tilt to his eyes that Bella wasn't sure was by virtue of his genes or by perpetual amusement. His uneven smile betrayed a sense of wisdom heavily blanketed by something between fear and hatred. There was a symmetry to Edward Cullen's unbalance, a rightness to the wrongness.

All of this, Bella had learned by the end of the English class. She had also verified that Edward Cullen was, without a doubt, the biggest asshole she had ever met. — When Bella first stepped into the English classroom, most of the students were filing past her through the door and taking their seats at the tables lining the room. Already seated was Edward, who was smirking at her with a particular relish, as if he were celebrating some private joke. It took Bella only a moment to decipher the cause of his amusement. Each table had room for two students. Her classmates not only seemed determined to sit in any chair other than the one next to Edward's, but as they walked past him, they allowed him a berth wide enough to border on ludicrous. Having stood in the doorway being new, awkward, and accosted by the smirking face of a psychopath, Bella had lost big-time in the game of musical chairs. The only seat left was the one right next to Edward, and he appeared to find that fact especially entertaining. "You must be Isabella Swan," announced a crackly voice from across the classroom. Pleased by the excuse to look away from Edward's face, Bella turned and saw a woman who must have been the teacher approaching her. The teacher, a tiny Indian lady with a pair of gold-rimmed reading glasses resting low on her nose, brusquely flopped a battered copy of Hamlet onto the pile of books already resting in Bella's arms. "I hope you have a fondness for the written word, my dear. We do an impressive amount of reading in Advanced English." Bella glanced down at the newest addition to her stack of reading. "No worries, ma'am. I'm a word warrior. I've read Hamlet enough times to know a 'hawk from a handsaw'." "In that case, Miss Swan, Welcome. I'm Mrs. Malhotra." Glancing around the classroom briefly, she added, with an edge of somewhat ominous apprehension, "I suppose you'll have to sit with Mr. Cullen." The way that Mrs. Malhotra practically whispered the name 'Cullen' was no comfort to Bella as she nodded and moved sluggishly toward Edward's table. Before sinking into the seat beside him, she scooted the metal chair to the extreme corner of the table, as far away from Edward as possible. In doing so she produced a loud scraping sound against the floor tiles; none of the other students, however, seemed the least bit surprised by her actions. Edward was reclined casually in his chair, his fingers threaded together at the back of his neck as a makeshift headrest. "None of the other children ever want to be my partner," he sighed, shaking his head and smiling wildly at the same time, "but now here you are. Lucky me." Bella said nothing. She had no patience for jackasses, especially ones who were even frightening to adults. She tipped her head toward the laminate tabletop and let her wavy brown hair fall past her ears to shield her face from Edward's eerie black eyes. "Why so frightened?" he said. "I don't bite hard." Bella's only mental reaction was fucking psycho.

"Seriously, dearest, if I really had the desire to kill you, your hair would hardly stop me." Bella looked up at him, brainstorming ways to shut him up. "I'm not afraid of you." Unlike everybody else, apparently. "Interesting," he drawled. She propped her elbow against the table between them, turning her head away and resting her chin on her hand. Mrs. Malhotra was busy writing something on the chalkboard—something Bella made sure to demonstrate was more important than Edward's off-color humor. "So, you call yourself Bella, I hear," he continued, apparently unconcerned by her efforts to ignore him. "Bella Swan. How very suitable. Not every day does one meet a girl named after the ugly duckling." With that comment, she'd had enough. She snapped her head back to him, staring directly into his eyes. "Not every day does one meet a self-satisfied jackass who apparently isn't gifted enough to maneuver a comb through his hair, let alone his own fat yap through an actual conversation." "You're so genteel, Ducky. Charming." He said the last word very slowly, allowing the corners of his mouth to curve upward ever so slightly. It was a provoking gesture, and it took a great deal of restraint for Bella to resist jabbing her pen into his eye. She gritted her teeth and stared at the chalkboard. "And so easy to anger. I like you, Bella. I find you remarkably entertaining." He pulled his chair toward hers with a seamless ease and leaned forward so that his lips were just a few millimeters above her ear. His cold breath stirred the hairs on the back of her neck. "Let's be friends." He whispered the phrase so that it was barely audible. Bella could feel the smile in his voice. "In your dreams, Eddie," she hissed, and then attempted to push away his arm, which was resting on the table in front of her like a barrier fencing her in. But when she hit his forearm, it felt like she had rammed the heel of her hand into a lead brick. Cold and stationary, Edward's arm remained completely unaffected by Bella's strike. Her own hand throbbed with pain. Edward's eyes peered down at her, without his head changing position at all. He didn't move his arm, or any other part of his body—a perfect image of serenity. "Do… not… touch… me," he said, his voice as cold as his skin. Each word was punctuated by a threatening silence that made the hairs on her arms prickle. Something about Edward Cullen was dreadfully wrong. About that Bella was absolutely certain. "All right, class," called Mrs. Malhotra, before either Edward or Bella could say anything more. "To begin today's lesson, I'd like you to write a short journal response to each of the questions I have written on the board." Mrs. Malhotra turned and walked to her desk where she began grading a stack of papers. Bella wished the teacher would keep her attention on the class so that Edward wouldn't be able to harass her as easily.

Edward had retreated slightly, giving Bella enough space that she could almost breathe normally. He continued, however, to glare at her unnervingly through narrowed eyes. She was still rubbing her injured hand, but he appeared unconcerned. The first question read "Does Hamlet love Ophelia?" Bella concentrated on writing the prompt in her open composition book in an effort to avoid Edward's gaze. She irritably applied too much pressure to her pen, which caused blobs of ink to smear all over the top margin. She grumbled aloud in frustration. "My thoughts exactly," replied Edward, his voice low. He was staring down at the incoherent mess on her page. "Bastard." "Yes, well, I can't help that my mother was a bawd, now can I? But she's dead now… We have so much in common, you and I." "You have no right to talk about my mother," growled Bella. She dug her fingernails into the surface of the table. "I don't remember specifically mentioning your mother, sweetness, unless you think we're siblings. I'll admit mummy dearest got around, but not far enough to pop out someone like you." "Concentrate on your work," hissed Bella, keeping her voice quiet. She suspected Mrs. Malhotra wouldn't dare shush Edward Cullen, so she took the liberty of doing so herself. Edward grinned and then scribbled something in the lines of his notebook. Bella curiously glanced over to his open page and quickly realized that what sounded like a scribble was actually a fascinatingly neat line of elegant script. She must have held her gaze there too long, because when she looked up, Edward was watching her again. "You find my viewpoint objectionable, Miss Swan?" he purred, glancing from her eyes to his neatlywritten sentence and back again. He had written 'Hamlet clearly does not love Ophelia.' Bella decided that he was probably only trying to provoke her and returned to her own journal entry. Before she could compose three sentences, Edward had snatched up her notebook with an astonishing nimbleness. He read the first sentence aloud. "Hamlet genuinely cares for Ophelia. I beg to differ, Bella. Whether Shakespeare means a convent or a brothel, any man who'd order a woman to a 'nunnery' obviously doesn't love her." Bella bit her lower lip and considered trying to retrieve her journal. After observing his dexterity, though, she imagined the effort would result in her swatting at the air like an idiot. "No, I think Hamlet feels betrayed by Ophelia," she said, clenching and relaxing her fists repeatedly. "She's allowed Polonius to use her against him; She's whored herself out to get information. Hamlet loved her greatly, and he's grieved by her infidelity," declared Bella, keeping her tone scholarly and even.

Edward smiled at Bella in the way a preschool teacher smiles at a three-year-old holding up a fingerpainting. "A romantic notion, for sure," he said. "It's more likely, however, that Hamlet is playing games with her. He has no faith in women, having seen his own mother's weakness. In the same way Polonius easily takes advantage of his own daughter, Hamlet uses Ophelia to prove his act of madness. She is lame and pathetic; he cares nothing for her." "You're saying it's impossible that Hamlet is reacting to Ophelia's role in Polonius's scheme?" "To think otherwise would be to assume Hamlet overheard Polonius's commands to Ophelia—an assumption which is not supported by the stage directions. Is that something you like to do, Bella— assume?" His elbows were resting on the table and his fingers on both hands were touching one another to form a sort of pyramid. "Some assumptions are logical and healthy," she replied, preparing to defend herself further from whatever sardonic remark Edward was going to make. "You'll find that logical and healthy do not always work together so gracefully," he said, gently sliding her notebook back toward her. "Is that so? I'm sure you know all about that," she murmured, ignoring the reappearance of her journal. "You look to be the very picture of good health. Skin cancer will never be a problem for you, asshole. Head lice on the other hand…" "I'm sure parasites would find my head a most inhospitable environment," he replied, drumming his long fingers against the tabletop. "I agree. Any living thing would find the psychotic machinations of your head a most inhospitable environment." "You are one bitter bird, Ducky," he sighed. For a moment they were both silent, but in that short space of time, a thought suddenly entered Bella's mind. "England," she blurted, without thinking. "Mozambique," replied Edward, raising his eyebrows. "Any reason why we're naming countries now?" "Your accent. It's got hints of English in it. Where were you born?" "In a hospital. Unlike you, though, I wasn't dropped on my head after birth. Tragic, that. Early cranial damage is known to cause chronic annoyingness in teenagers." "You're a bastard." "I think we've covered that topic at this point."

— Bella was relieved beyond belief when the class period was over. As soon as the bell rang, she was out of her seat and striding through the door, not bothering to look back at Edward Cullen as she hurried away. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she escaped the classroom, as though she were running for her life. Her mind was blank as she navigated the dim, locker-lined hallways of the building, until, at last, she emerged into the late morning drizzle of the outdoors. The cool moisture actually felt good against her skin, and she stopped briefly to let the light rain tickle her cheeks. The feeling was fresh and calming, enough to relax the tension in her shoulders before she found her way to the building which housed the cafeteria. Almost immediately after entering, Mike Newton was by her side. "Bella," he said, laying the back of his hand against her forehead as if trying to determine whether or not she had a fever "you look miserable. English was pretty awful, huh?" "Not English, per se," mumbled Bella, trying to decide whether or not to make a case out of Edward's behavior. Most of the students already seemed pretty accustomed to his aggressive manner without having to listen to her personal issues with him. She had almost decided to drop the subject, but then remembered the strange feeling of Edward's arm when she had touched him. It was likely that Mike knew things about Edward Cullen she didn't, and she craved answers. "Not English? Then, someone in English?" offered Mike, apparently eager to hear her story. "Edward Cullen," she said simply, believing his name alone would be suffice as an explanation. "Cullen?" cried Mike, somewhat aghast. "What did he do? Did he hurt you?" Bella involuntarily furrowed her brow. She had said nothing more than Edward's name and Mike was immediately under the impression that he had hurt the middle of English class of all places. "No…" began Bella, a little hesitantly. "He was just having a conversation with me, if you could even call it that." Mike had led her to the lunch line and was standing with his back to the flow of people, staring at her incredulously. "You're saying he talked to you?" "Is that not normal?" Bella asked, feeling a sense of panic rising unexpectedly in her throat. "Well, generally people… just stay away from him… and he stays away from people. And when someone actually does try to talk to him, he usually just stares at them until they back away like he's going to murder them or something." "He seems pretty happy for a sociopath," suggested Bella. She shrugged and tried to pay attention to the selection of fruit on the rack beside her.

"Well that's just it," said Mike, leaning in close to her, his voice now a whisper, as if they were discussing conspiracy theories, "he's always got this smile on, like he knows something the rest of us don't." "Yeah, I guess that's true," said Bella, "but there's something more there—anger, revulsion… I don't know. He was pretty damn sarcastic when he was talking to me." Mike looked around the cafeteria quickly, as if he expected the FBI to be running surveillance on him. "But when you're near him, aren't you… well… you know…" Mike looked at her expectantly, as though he thought the end of his sentence were obvious. "Aren't I what?" replied Bella, confused. "…freaked out," he whispered. "Going near him's like coming across a snake, all recoiled, ready to strike. Makes you just want to get away fast. You know what I mean." Bella wasn't precisely sure she did know what he meant. Edward Cullen seemed like a bully with some cheek, but nothing like a recoiled snake. She saw that everyone was afraid of him, but she thought it was from experience, like they had seen him throw one too many of his enemies against solid objects to feel comfortable around him. But from what Mike had said, it seemed like their reaction was instinctual… a reaction she didn't seem to be having. "Doesn't that bother you?" asked Bella. "I mean, haven't you ever thought there's something weird about him… different?" Mike's face had gone pale. "I think there's something weird about him all right. He's a scary son of a bitch. Lives with foster parents. I think he got pulled out of his real parents' house when he was really young. I heard he tried to kill his own mom and dad; no one around here really knows if he succeeded." Suddenly the panic that had been rising in Bella's throat had burst upward into her brain, front and center. She abruptly recalled Edward referring to his dead 'bawd' mother with a strange satisfaction. She had thought he had been joking, but now she wasn't so sure. Then, he had even mentioned killing her. "Your hair would hardly stop me," he had said. Oh God in heaven, she thought, I've pissed off a psychotic murderer. Her face must have turned an alarming shade of green, because Mike Newton had his hand against her forehead again. "Are you sure you're okay, Bella?" he asked. "What did Cullen say to you, anyway?" "I don't suppose you've ever touched him," said Bella, ignoring his question and working really hard to avoid throwing up. "No!" gasped Mike Newton, obviously taking the inquiry the wrong way. "I'm not gay. Do I seem gay?" He had forgotten about Edward Cullen in the space of thirty seconds and was now terrified of the possibility that the new girl might think he would dare touch another man. "No, Mike," sighed Bella. "I have not the slightest suspicion that you are gay." She rolled her eyes.

Mike smiled widely, obviously relieved, and guided her through the lunch line. Out of the three soursmelling options for entrées, Bella chose the brownish iceberg salad, deciding it would be the least likely to make her toss her cookies after the disturbing revelation regarding Edward Cullen. Mike insisted she try the soggy cheese pizza, which he claimed was a rare delicacy of the Forks High cafeteria, but she respectfully declined the suggestion, asserting she wasn't hungry—a statement which was not at all a lie.

5. Back Down
Bella stared, nauseated, at the wilted pieces of lettuce decorating her plastic lunch tray. She poked distractedly at the bits of shredded carrot mixed in, fully aware of the fact that Mike Newton was watching her, and that she was being incredibly rude by ignoring him. "Cullen's really thrown you for a loop, eh?" he said, before Bella had worked up the strength to mention something normal, like the weather. "He talked to me about killing people, killing me, Mike, which is all well and dandy except for the fact that he's an actual murderer." "Maybe not," offered Mike through a mouthful of pizza. "No one knows the whole story." Bella was not reassured by the fact that Edward Cullen was only maybe a murderer, but before she had much time to mull over the likelihood that she'd have to carry a taser in her purse for the rest of her life, two girls appeared at the lunch table. The taller of the pair, a round-faced girl with curly dark hair, introduced herself as Jessica Stanley before taking a seat on the other side of Mike. The other girl seemed shy and stayed close by her companion, but kept glancing up at Bella as though expecting her to say something. "Hi, uh, I'm Bella," she announced, "but you probably already know that because… you know… new kid." She smiled awkwardly and contemplated returning to the exercise of poking at her lunch. Jessica smiled back in a perfunctory sort of fashion, but didn't go out of her way to say anything. "I'm Angela," said the quiet girl at last. Her voice was breathy, and she kept her shoulders hunched in a way that made her look like she was constantly expecting things to be thrown at her. "Don't worry about being a newbie; we Forksians get more new students than you'd think. We're almost used to it now." She smiled warmly and pulled a bottle of water out of her brown paper lunch bag. "Really?" said Bella, eying the least-brown piece of lettuce, "who else here is new?" Maybe she'd find a fellow lost soul with whom to go umbrella and taser shopping. "Well, there's me," declared Mike, beaming. "I just moved here in the middle of last year, you know."

Bella was surprised. Mike seemed to be the big man on campus; in just the first few minutes of the lunch period, at least a dozen students had said 'hi' to him as they strolled past. But then, he was quite an extrovert. "You should've said! Now I've missed my opportunity to cling to you in mutually understood trepidation. Whatever shall I do?" She laughed, pleased with herself for ignoring thoughts of Edward for thirty whole seconds. "Don't worry, Bella," he said, winking. "I'm sure we can invent opportunities for you to cling to me." From the other side of Mike, Jessica bristled so noticeably that it caught Bella's attention. It seemed Mike already had an admirer; one who obviously didn't appreciate suggestive statements directed at the new girl. Bella wasn't a fan of suggestive statements being directed at her either, especially from a guy she had only just met. For a moment, the table was silent. Angela tried to laugh. Jessica tapped a lacquered fingernail against the table. Eventually, Mike coughed and said, lamely, "It was a joke, get it? Ha… ha…" "The Cullens are also new," mumbled Jessica, who was now shredding a piece of bread crust. "Edward and Jasper." "Well, if you consider two years ago new," breathed Angela. "It might as well be two minutes ago," replied Jessica. "I'll never get used to them. They seriously give me the creeps." She made a shivering motion and put on an ugly gagging face. Bella grimaced at the stubborn reappearance of the Cullen topic, but used the opportunity to expand her knowledge of the situation. "So Jasper's a troglodyte too, then," she said. "If by that you mean he's a weirdo, then yeah," answered Mike. "He's not quite as bad as Edward, though. He's still got the Cullen spookiness and all, but he doesn't really do anything freaky. Just kind of sits around and looks like he has a headache." "That's probably from having his skull used to make dents in parked cars by his brother," muttered Bella, noticing the gradual return of her queasiness. "You could go ask him," replied Jessica, with a vague hint of a sneer in her voice. "You two can enjoy not-eating your food together." Bella dropped her plastic fork in response to Jessica's jab and twisted in her seat to get a view of Jasper, who was sitting alone across the cafeteria with a plate of untouched food before him, stock-still, staring at the back wall. He shared his brother's height, but not his ginger hair, in favor of smooth golden curls. Bella squinted her eyes to get a better look at Jasper's face; from what she could see, the brothers actually looked very little alike, apart from a similar pale complexion. Bella spun back around in her seat. "Thanks for the suggestion, Jess, but I think I'll pass."

Jessica looked like she was about to say something distasteful, but Mike cut in. "If you think the Cullen kids are messed up, wait until you get a load of the foster parents. I think Social Services must like to put all the freaky ones together." "Do I really want to know?" sighed Bella, forcing a piece of lettuce into her mouth. She told herself she didn't want to hear another word about the Cullen family, but something more subtle and still more powerful than curiosity was clawing at the back of her mind. "You'll find out on your own soon enough, I'm sure," said Angela. "They're kind of… infamous." "Find out what?" called a new voice, belonging to a gangly dark-haired boy who was walking toward them, juggling a pair of apples. "Bella here is just learning about the unspeakable strangeness that is the Cullens," said Mike. "Bella, this is Eric: resident super-nerd slash pain-in-the-ass." Eric slammed a friendly fist into Mike's shoulder and perched himself on the backrest of a chair. "I prefer the title 'math whisperer'," he said as he took a large bite out of one of his apples. "So Bella Swan, huh? Chief Swan's little girl. Don't suppose you could get him to drop a speeding ticket I got, could you?" "Unlikely," said Bella. "He's pretty tough." "Don't we all know it," replied Eric, "and speaking of Forks' own Adams Family, I've seen your dad making small talk with Dr. Cullen. Takes some real balls to carry on that friendship." "Really? My dad is friends with the infamous foster father?" asked Bella, astonished. "I wouldn't say BFF," said Mike, "but they get along." Bella tried to stop the mental onslaught of questions she could ask her father. Get a taser, maybe some pepper spray and a Kevlar bodysuit, and forget about Edward Cullen, she told herself, while gripping the edge of the table as if in fear of falling off her chair. After repeating the absurd phrase in her mind several times, Bella resurfaced to reality and discovered, pleasantly, that her new acquaintances had moved on to a discussion of an action movie that was about to come out. For the rest of the period, Bella alternated between trying to eat her salad and reminding herself that Edward Cullen hadn't killed anyone in Forks… yet. — Charlie Swan liked his job. Going to work every morning was sort of like going out to the bar, even if he was surrounded by filing cabinets and ringing phones instead of beer and sports games. The station was populated by his best friends—the upstanding deputies of the Forks police department, most of whom played a good hand of poker if the situation called for it. The majority of days at the station were spent

sipping coffee, chatting with Joan—the new, and awfully cute secretary—and responding to occasional reports of things like cats stuck in trees. Unfortunately, in recent days, the station had begun to feel much less like a bar and more like an episode of Law & Order. It was rare that a police matter of note occurred in Forks, and completely unimaginable that two such incidents should happen back-to-back. The fact that the unimaginable was actually the case had the entire station in a frenzy. Two locals had been mauled by some kind of animal. It was a grotesque situation—gooey enough that the local newspaper had to print pictures of flashing lights and police uniforms because anything more detailed would be too sickening. The circumstance was nothing as terrifying as having a serial killer take up residence if Forks, but people liked to run around like chickens with their heads cut off when people died, regardless of how it happened. If it were up to him, he'd skip all the coroner's inquest bureaucratic crap and get his deputies together up in the woods with a nice set of slug-loaded shotguns. The bite marks were clear as day; the cause of death was obvious, and the sooner they tracked down the rabid brute, the sooner he could get back to his job as he knew it. While watching people running around fretting and shaking their heads, Charlie clutched the "World's Greatest Dad" coffee mug Officer Tim had given to him as a half-joke when news got out that Bella had decided to spend the summer with him. He knew he was far from the world's greatest dad, but it depressed him that the gift was meant to be humorous. Some little part of him had brightened when Bella arrived. He had discovered how it felt to have something to come home to every day, someone to look after, someone to be proud of, to worry about. It was a strange feeling, almost intoxicating, and it had crashed to the ground like a pile of bricks when his ex-wife died. The reason for Bella's sudden interest in Forks had been unclear to Charlie at the start of the summer. He hadn't seen Bella much throughout her life, but he still knew his own daughter well enough to recognize that she wouldn't leave Phoenix without a good reason. Bella was very like her mother; she lived encased in the people and the motion, the heat and the friction of the city. The cold intimacy of Forks had terrified his wife, as he knew it did his daughter. What he hadn't known was that Bella's decision was a reaction to her mother's new beau, whoever he was. Bella had run away from Reneé's changing life. Indeed, Charlie felt his daughter was still running, and yet she hadn't gotten any nearer to him. He could sense his Bella's guilt about her mother's death, and he couldn't help but think that she was now embracing her time in Forks as some kind of atonement by way of suffering. Charlie sighed and did what he always did when things were weighing on him—he took a big gulp of black coffee and let the bitterness overwhelm his senses. He had the feeling he would never understand why the important people in his life were always running away. —

"I must be cruel, only to be kind: thus bad begins and worse remains behind," said Hamlet. "Quit it with thy madness, Hammy," replied Bella, snapping shut the tattered copy of Shakespeare's play. Little bits of dust floated upward from the musty pages. Sitting cross-legged on her bed, she ran a hand through her long hair, still damp from the shower. Hamlet was one of her favorite pieces of literature; it was so complex that every line could be interpreted at least ten different ways, but rereading the play that evening was proving especially difficult. Everything Hamlet said seemed a like riddle, and where she used to be so certain of his character, she no longer could make any sense of the Dane's words. Bella had no idea how she was going to write a paper about a play that apparently didn't want to be understood. She hoped her mind had gone to mush due to the stress of her first day of school and not because living in Forks had somehow given her brain damage. She decided to give up on rereading Hamlet for the moment and padded down the hardwood stairs, barefoot, to find her father. She had expected him to be reclined on the old couch, a beer in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Instead, he was at the kitchen table with both his shotgun and his handgun dismantled in front of him. He was pensively cleaning some part or another with what used to be the house's only clean dishtowel. "Expecting a war?" she said, picking the tea kettle off the crusty gas range and filling it with tap water. "Zombie apocalypse?" "Hardly," he replied. "Some mountain lion or bear's decided to snack on humans. As soon as I've got the go-ahead through all the red tape, Tim, Joe and I are gonna go hunting." "Sounds… delightful. Do animals often go around Forks looking for a Happy Meal in the middle of town?" "No, but we're right near a big stretch of forest. Predators usually stay up in there, but rabies'll make them wander where they wouldn't normally go and act aggressively enough to chow down on the nearest piece of meat. The only way to stop 'em is to point the barrel of a gun at its head and pull the trigger." Bella shuddered. "Please, Dad, I've seen Old Yeller." "Just promise me you'll stay out of the woods… and here," he handed her a small can of pepper spray. "This won't do a whole lot, but in the event that a rabid animal attacks you, it's better than nothing." She looked the tiny container over and stuffed it into her purse, which was sitting on the peeling veneered countertop. "That's very encouraging, Dad. Thanks." "Mhm." He moved on to wiping another oily part of the shotgun as Bella poured hot water over a teabag. Bella's mind was briefly beset by images of her aiming the can of pepper spray at Edward Cullen's face. In her fantasy, however, Edward didn't yell or curse or grasp at his eyes in pain. He just

stood there looking annoyed. Luckily, before her mind could get to the part of the hallucination where Edward probably killed her mercilessly, her father interrupted. "Earth to Bella," he said. "Are you worrying about that animal? It's not worth getting your knickers in a knot, Bells." It took Bella a moment to realize that her dad was referring to the bear-slash-mountain lion, and not Edward. Then, as if responding to the scene that had played out in her mind, he added, "Doctor Cullen's all stocked up on the rabies vaccine just in case. I talked to him earlier. Hopefully with people on the watch and Carlisle standing by, no one else will be hurt." "What's Doctor Cullen like?" asked Bella, taking a seat across the table from her father. She took a big sip of tea. Her father eyed her dubiously. "Have you been listening to rumors?" Bella's mouth dropped opened automatically. Yes, she had been listening to rumors, but her dad's tone made doing so seem very foolish. "Well…" she began. "Goddamn," he father grumbled. "This town. I'll tell ya, someone a little different than everyone else shows up and they invent all kinds of vilifying crap." "Well, what are the Cullens really like then?" "Carlisle is a great doctor, and a great man to boot. He splits his time between here and an influential hospital in Seattle; he conducts some kind of big-time medical research there. That's a long commute, but he really cares about the people in Forks. He'll treat people for free if they can't pay. He even paid for all of old Mrs. Clark's chemotherapy." Bella was beyond surprised. "Wow. I just don't get it… the kids at school—they acted like they were… I dunno, grossed out by Doctor Cullen." Charlie slammed the metal gun part against the table, adding another dent to a hundred others in the wood surface. "Why do they insist on judging such a good-hearted, charitable man by his lifestyle choices? You'll find, Bella, that the people in Forks are much more closed-minded than you're used to in the city." "Wait… lifestyle choices? What does that mean?" "Carlisle's wife is… much older than he is. He's, I don't know, in his late thirties, early forties. She's got to be pushing seventy." He paused. "But Esme is a lovely woman, still very attractive for her age, and every bit as kind as her husband. I think he's lucky to be with a woman like her. No one else in this town can get over the age difference; it must be hard on both of them—being judged all the time." Bella wasn't sure what to make of the information. She had expected his infamy to be based on something worse. She had been prepared for her father to announce that Carlisle Cullen was a cult leader or a drug dealer or an ax-murderer… or a drug-dealing, ax-wielding cult leader. But, no, he was

just a nice guy married to an older woman. That fact, however, didn't explain the oddness of his foster kids. It didn't seem likely that the entire family picked up women at nursing homes. "What about Edward and Jasper?" she asked. "They're both persona non grata at school." Charlie stopped reassembling his handgun and set the parts back on the tabletop. He looked across the table at Bella for an awkwardly long moment and then said, "I know that Carlisle has a fierce need to help people, all people who require help. If he can help, he will...I know it. He tries to aid even the worst cases—people far, far gone from what's good, even people who don't want his help at all. He does his best for everyone." Bella swallowed hard and gripped her teacup tightly, even though the heat of the porcelain was searing her fingers. "Edward is…" she trailed off, expecting her father to say "a murderer." Instead, he said, "Troubled. From what little I do know about him, Edward came from a very abusive family. He lived with his real family for more years than most people think; I believe it was only recently that Carlisle took him in. Needless to say, Edward has a history of physical violence. Carlisle says he has a hard time controlling his anger, even now. It must be tough for Edward, I imagine. I'll be the first to admit there issomething off-putting about him, and that alone scares away the kids who would otherwise provide him the normalcy he needs to get better." Bella stared into the swirling amber surface of the tea. A history of physical violence... was that supposed to be a euphemism? She had to know for sure. "Edward… has he… did he… kill someone?" "Is that what the kids at school are saying?" exclaimed Charlie. Before allowing Bella to confirm his suspicions, he continued, "The truth, I hate to say, is that I don't know. There's been talk, of course, but Carlisle won't discuss Edward's past in detail, for the boy's own good. Even if Edward has taken a life, it would have been when he was very young, since he isn't in prison, and we might never know the circumstances that would lead a child to kill. I don't think you need to fear Edward Cullen, Bella. Too many of your classmates already do." Bella's mind wasn't ready to determine whether or not the logical reaction to Edward Cullen was fear. She wasn't even sure if it was fear she was experiencing at that moment, or something closer to fascination—fascination in the sense of someone being interested in a corpse or a hideous medical deformity. Was that pity, then, that she was feeling? "As for Jasper," continued her father, guessing what her next question would be, "Carlisle says he's very shy, and isn't used to being near people yet. I'm not sure if he and Edward are biologically related, but Carlisle treats them as his own children, as brothers. I think Edward and Jasper also care for each other, but they're known to disagree." "You could say that…" murmured Bella, still vividly recalling the terrible crunching sound of Jasper colliding with the Volvo.

"Look, Bella," began her father once again, "I'm a cop, so I know very well that there are worse things out there than those Cullen boys. You shouldn't be sitting here worrying about all their dirty little secrets… you have enough on your mind without that." Bella was startled by the fact that her father knew what was going on inside her head. Since when was he perceptive? She knew her father had a point, though, that she shouldn't be looking for things to add to the swaying stack of concerns piling up inside her mind, but how was she going to explain to her father that she had interfered in Edward's personal 'business' and insulted him in the middle of class. Her dad had just said that Edward had a hard time controlling his anger, and she found it very hard to believe that she hadn't angered him. Whether or not Edward Cullen was sympathetic behind his exterior of brutality, Bella could not erase the warning signs peppering her mind. "Yeah, dad, I'll do my best to forget about him," said Bella, noticing that she had unknowingly reduced her concerns about the Cullen family to a singular 'him.' She stood up and dumped the remainder of her tea into the kitchen sink. "I think I'm gonna go to bed." "Do you want me to drive you to school tomorrow?" called Charlie as Bella stepped through the doorway. "No, it's okay," she replied. "I'll take the bus. With that mess going on down at the station, you should get to work early." "That's very nice of you, Bella, but if you really want to show your concern for the 'mess down at the station,' then pray for some productive hunting." He snapped the reassembled shotgun into a firing position and pointed the barrel at the stuffed deer head mounted on the wall. "I don't think Forks can take any more bloodshed."

6. Bear Arms
Soft golden light, cast through the prism of the chandelier's crystals, flickered and danced across Bella's eyelids. Slowly, both brown eyes fluttered open, her vision still blurred by sleep. She turned slightly, seeking reentry to slumber, and felt the velvet skin of the Victorian sofa prickle gently against the backs of her bare legs. Stretched out on the cushions, she curled her toes, and breathed the cool night air blowing inward through the open shutters. Footsteps echoed through the room, audible not by nature, but as a signal, like a knock on the door. Across the checkered marble floor approached Edward Cullen, dressed stiffly in coat and cravat. He knelt before Bella and brought his pallid hand to the slight recess at her collar bone, lightly trailing his fingers up the side of her neck and letting them linger beneath the blanket of her hair. As he placed a faint kiss on her forehead, she felt a smile turn his lips. Lifting his free hand, he grasped the other side of her pale neck. She sighed, her entire body humming with contentment beneath his cold touch.

His fingers moved upward to cradle her jaw, pressing firmly against her skin. Her eyes closed. He twisted her head. The snapping of cracked bone echoed across the marble floor as he let her lifeless form slouch back against the dark velvet of the couch. Bella woke from the dream with the pleasant sensation of being alive, and the bones in her neck intact. But when her eyes focused, she was not in her bedroom where she had expected to find herself, but rather in a different place entirely, wrapped up in a robe that wasn't hers. How it happened that Bella Swan ended up asleep on the couch in Edward Cullen's living room was, at first, a complete mystery to her. It was several minutes before the events of the day came rushing back into her memory. — 84 Hours Earlier, Tuesday Morning Edward Cullen was staring at her. It wasn't even a stealthy, glancing-over-an-open-newspaper stare; it was the full-on, unashamed kind. She had stepped off the school bus, taken all of two strides through the parking lot, and then looked up to see him leaning casually against his car, arms crossed, watching her intently. Bella decided to follow the standard rules that apply to encountering a sketchy-looking stranger on the street. Don't make eye contact; don't do anything to provoke him. She fought the urge to lift her math book into the air to create a barrier between her face and his gaze. Instead, she pretended to not notice him, but failed completely when she got a clear view of his car. It was a dark green sports car, exotic looking, with the round headlights and curved fenders typical of the 1960s. Bella would have wondered where it was from, for it was too small to be an American classic, but that question was answered by the location of the steering wheel; it was right-hand drive, probably from the United Kingdom. The car was somehow familiar to her, even though she didn't recognize the make or model, as if she'd seen it somewhere before. It was an undeniably classy automotive, even if it was driven by a psychotic killer. Fortunately, she caught herself ogling before she had inadvertently stopped in her tracks, and forced her attention back to the lines on the pavement. Even still, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Edward Cullen react to her fascination with his vehicle. He extended his arm out across the rounded fender and patted it with the look of a cowboy stroking his horse. His combined smirk and eyebrow raise was unsubtle enough to stand out even in her peripheral vision. In Bella's mind, a cowboy hat-wearing Edward raised a six shooter to her head. Thankfully, before the image of Edward could pull the trigger, Mike Newton appeared in front of her and began waving his hand up and down in front of her face.

"Hey Bella. I'm standing in the middle of the parking lot. Where're you?" "Oh, um… I'm just tired. Not a morning person," she mumbled, making a point to turn her back to Edward and walk with Mike toward the school. "So, you survived your first day of Forks High," began Mike, "I believe some celebration is in order." "Don't people usually celebrate the end of dreariness, as opposed to the beginning?" "Well, yeah, but an excuse to have a good time shouldn't be passed up," he said, and then added, "Plus, Joey's Steak & Seafood is the best snow crab joint in a hundred miles. What d'ya say? Next Friday night, Port Angeles, you and me, seafood and tinkly music." Bella smiled and lifted an eyebrow. "Sounds suspicious." Mike chuckled. "Strictly casual, of course." Bella thought she saw him wink, but it was too quick a movement for her to be sure it had even occurred. "Yeah, okay, I'll go," she said. Her initial reaction had been to turn Mike down, but logic told her otherwise. Mike would be a valuable friend to keep. After all, like her, he was new to the area, also friendly, attractive, and on top of it all, one of the most popular kids in school. In any case, he didn't seem serious enough to be considering this night out an actual date. Mike brightened instantly. He produced a toothy smile that bent his entire face into a dimpled grin. Snatching up Bella's hand, he spun her around like a ballerina, and then said, "See you in Bio, Bells. I told Eric we'd cram for Algebra before class starts. Oh, and I'd watch out if I were you." He glanced past her shoulder across the parking lot. "It looks like Cullen got up on the wrong side of the bed." And just like that, Mike scampered away, leaving Bella slightly disoriented. While trying to correct her balance after being unexpectedly twirled, she found herself facing Edward once again. He remained reclined against his car. Astonishingly, his eyes were still trained on her, though now they sat above an expression so intense it elicited a shudder. She inhaled sharply and turned from him, seeking the safety of the academic building. Biology passed in sluggish agitation while Bella stared listlessly at a diagram she had already memorized. Her mind darted nervously between Edward's bipolar expressions and the subject of Mike's rushed interest in her. She felt Mike's eyes on her back, from where he sat behind her, and began second guessing her decision to go to Port Angeles with him. To her, it seemed ludicrous that he could really want to date her after knowing her for one day, but, considering her most recent interactions with young men, she was beginning to doubt her social instincts. She left the classroom in somewhat of a hurry when the bell rang, if not to avoid further conversation with Mike, then with the hope of winning a seat in English far from Edward. But, despite having beat most of her classmates to Mrs. Malhotra's room, according to the instructions written on the board, yesterday's table would be her assigned seat for the remainder of the year.

Bella felt her stomach lurch as she lingered anxiously in the doorway. Students began pushing past her to take their seats, but she felt completely paralyzed. For a moment, she thought she might end up standing awkwardly in the doorway until the teacher forced her to sit down. Then, without warning, icy fingers threaded through hers. She jumped at the sensation and then nearly screamed when she saw that the cold hand holding hers belonged to Edward Cullen. His smile had returned, and he was using it on her, in the most sarcastic manner he could muster. "I see you're having trouble remembering where you sat last class, Miss Swan. Allow me to show you." Then, he pulled her forward, gently at least, and led her to the table they had shared the previous day. She briefly attempted to pull away from him, but her arm didn't respond, as if the chill of his hand had numbed her muscles. Bella saw her classmates, all seated, watch her with mystified expressions as Edward released her, pulled out her chair in an exaggeratedly polite manner, then fell casually into his own seat. Bella tried to stare at the board and breathe normally. Phrases like "killed his parents" and "a history of physical violence" kept replaying in her mind. Her hand was still tingling from his touch, as though she had just been holding a pile of ice cubes. "Do you practice those nauseated looks in the mirror every morning, Bella?" said Edward, disinterestedly tapping his fingers against the tabletop. "They really are most becoming, but you may want to consider occasionally changing your expression." Her first instinct was to deliver a solid kick to his shins, but that impulse was trumped by the recollection that he was a murderous psychopath. Instead, she shrank away from him, hunching her shoulders and looking elsewhere. Her pulse rushed with something like panic, almost as if she expected him to strike her at any moment. For a time Edward was silent. He studied her with narrowed eyes, as though expecting to discover fine print written on her cheek if he squinted hard enough. Then, at last, he murmured, "I see you've decided to fear me after all, Isabella Swan." There was a heavy element to his voice, a type of humorless disappointment which was so distinct from his normal cadence, that Bella could not resist turning back to him. But he wasn't looking at her; he had directed his gaze toward the pages of his Hamlet text, which was perhaps even more worn than her own copy. Though Bella was now attentive to him again, he showed no signs of returning to the conversation. He acted as though she had disappeared, and remained as such for not only the entire duration of the class period, but for the rest of the week. Edward Cullen was an incredibly perplexing individual. At times, he seemed threatening, at others witty and almost approachable, and for the following three days, he was distant and guarded. Bella knew that during her first week in a new school she should be focusing on making friends, getting used to the school and teachers, and trying to settle in to this new life. Instead, she reflected that she had spent most of her first few days at Forks High being alternately terrified and fascinated by Edward Cullen.

— Although Edward seemed to have claimed a lasting spot in Bella's consciousness, the following days passed without too many disagreeable mental intrusions. As disquieting as Edward's sudden change in behavior was, without his incessant harassment in the middle of English class, Bella eased into a sort of reticent comfort around him. Lunch periods were generally uneventful, and despite some distasteful looks from Jessica, Bella had no trouble conversing with her new friends. Mike, thankfully, didn't return to the subject of their upcoming supposedly-not-a-date. The final period of Friday afternoon was spent in the gymnasium, in which Bella was required to participate in a game of dodge ball. Her usual tactic in such ill-fated situations was to quickly allow herself to be hit, feign unhappy defeat, and then sit out of harm's way. Unfortunately, she found that the small group of participants in the Forks High gym class were reluctant to slam a ball into the easilyhit new girl. Instead, the gym teacher, who was wearing a sleeveless shirt that exposed the intimidating bulges of his biceps, continually yelled at Bella for not trying hard enough to hit members of the opposing team. When the period was finally over, the gruff mound-of-muscle teacher accosted Bella before she could escape through the locker room. "Isabella Swan, I presume. I don't give a rat's ass that you're a new kid. I expect you to show some effort next time or your grade will suffer." Bella opened her mouth to respond, but he cut in before she could say anything. "That said, you need a uniform. I've got one in your size in the back room. Follow me." Bella followed closely as he sauntered to the small office behind the gym. It took him much longer than she had expected to dig out the standard Forks shorts and t-shirt. He spent what seemed like twenty minutes lackadaisically rifling through an enormous pile of gym attire before finally producing her uniform. He shoved the wadded clothes into her hand and then, without a word, gestured for her to leave. The brusqueness of the encounter had distracted Bella so much that she had forgotten the time. It was well after three o'clock; her bus was long gone. To make matters worse, as she approached the front door of the gymnasium, she saw that the rain was falling hard enough to create a nearly opaque sheet of water against the glass doors. With all the commotion at the police station, Bella felt it would be too selfish to insist her dad leave his job to fetch her from school. Her house was within walking distance, and she would survive getting wet. Bracing herself, she stepped outside and felt the heavy drops instantly flatten her hair against her neck and face. The rain was dense to such a degree that it felt like glass marbles, rather than raindrops, were falling out of the sky. It was even hard to keep her eyes open against the downpour, but she trudged forward anyway.

After managing to walk about a block, the sky flashed brightly against the dark storm clouds; the ensuing thunder clap rumbled with a volume so intense it seemed to originate from within her ear canal. Her clothes had grown heavy with mud and water, and she still had more than a mile to go before reaching her home. Her only hope was that the storm would pass quickly. Still, Bella dragged herself onward, shivering against the chill of her soaked clothing. The storm, however, showed no signs of dissipation. She began considering the prudence of seeking shelter in a stranger's house, but her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a car horn reverberating through the whooshing of the storm. Excitedly, Bella turned to identify the kind-hearted driver who had taken pity upon her. Unfortunately, even through the thick rainfall, she recognized the vehicle immediately. It was a little green British sports car, with Edward Cullen positioned behind the wheel. He had rolled down the window and was leaning out of it, getting wet himself. "I know ducks are supposed to like the rain, but honestly, Bella, there are more efficient methods of taking a shower." She ignored him and kept walking, looking straight ahead. It was a wonder that he had taken the effort to stop his car in the middle of a thunderstorm simply to torment her with sarcasm, especially after having completely ignored her for the past few days. He moved his car forward very slowly in order to keep stride with her. He ran a hand through his wet hair, and in doing so restored its usual spring. "Okay. Apparently you can't be wet and have a sense of humor at the same time. I mean only to offer you a ride. You're far too drenched, and, believe me, there are better ways to die than drowning." Bella cringed as he mentioned death yet again. As she continued walking, she glanced furtively in every direction. She had taken a small side road, the fastest route home, and consequently, there were no other cars or pedestrians in sight. She was alone with Edward and his car; if she stayed on the road, she would have no chance of escape, should he decide to demonstrate those "better ways to die." The car was still advancing slowly, its driver awaiting her reply. There was no way Bella was going to get into his car and subject herself to whatever oddities were inside his head. Instead, all the possible options for a getaway coursed through her mind. For a moment, she felt utterly caged in, but then she vaguely recalled a walking path she and her father frequently traversed when she was little. It edged just into the perimeter of the forest and was a good deal off the street. The distance to her house by this route was only a hair's-breadth further than the journey along the road. Spotting the narrow dirt pathway ahead, splitting two properties, Bella quickened her pace. In her peripheral vision, she saw Edward frown and run a hand down his face. As hastily as she could manage, she rounded the slight bend in the road and darted up the trail. She thought she heard Edward calling after her, but ignored the distant noise. As Bella continued on the path and lost sight of the road, she slowed a little, feeling safe from her pursuer. The rain was still falling in oppressive sheets, which had turned the little trail into a thick cascade of mud. Her sneakers sunk into the sludge with each step, making her progress slow and

tedious. Yet further, the trail seemed much narrower and less maintained than she had remembered it from dry summer days so many years ago. Another flash lighted the sky and was accompanied by an even louder growl of thunder. The wind was rushing fiercely through the trees, causing them to sway violently and release masses of tattered leaves. The sounds of broken limbs crashing to the ground heightened Bella's fear. She knew then, though she would not have liked to admit it, that she should have stayed on the road. As Bella pressed onward, she realized that she had somehow meandered further into the woods than the correct trail should have taken her, and, with incredible panic, she wondered whether she had taken a wrong turn. Stopping, she rotated in place, realizing, to her horror, that she could no longer see any houses or signs of civilization. Her fingers and toes were already growing numb, and she feared hypothermia. At last, common sense made its appearance alongside the influx of adrenaline. Bella pulled out her cell phone and, with shaking hands, dialed her father's number. She brought the phone to her ear and listened anxiously to the ringing on the other end, while desperately trying to shield the little device from the rain. Then, abruptly, her eyes were blinded by an intense burst of light just a few yards ahead. She felt the vestiges of static charge left by the dangerously close lightening strike, and clutched her ears instinctively in defense against the painful volume of the cracking thunder. Bella couldn't hear the sound of her father's answering machine against the noise, but that fact was irrelevant; faced with the horrifying reality of what was rushing out of the forest toward her, she had dropped her phone to the muddy earth. The bear, enormous and spooked, had appeared out of nowhere, and was now galloping in her direction, roaring through an open mouth lined with sharp white teeth. Screaming instinctively, Bella tottered backwards, too stunned to turn her back and run. At that moment, she was certain of both her death and her own foolishness. Two people had already died from bear attacks; her father had explicitly told her to stay out of the woods. She hadn't enough control over her movements in that instant to reach for the can of pepper spray. In those meager seconds, all she could manage to do was stumble backward in terror. In doing so, she retreated to the edge of a tiny ravine, carved out of by an otherwise tranquil stream that was now rushing water ferociously along its rocky bed. Bella, in her fright, was blind to her position, and by the time she felt the collapse of the soil beneath her feet, she was already falling, irreversibly, into the racing water. Her breath was stolen from her as she was enveloped by the frigid cascade. The current pulled her this way and that, and she tumbled over and over, unable to fight her way to the surface. Then, she felt the pressure of falling rocks stay the hem of her pant leg. Stuck as such beneath the surface of the water, she felt her lungs burn with longing for oxygen and her vision prickle and blur.

With all her remaining strength, minimal though it was, she pulled against the weight of the boulder holding her down, but the rock was too heavy; not even the coursing water had the power to dislodge it. Through the surface of the rushing stream, she thought she could see the faint outline of the bear on the bank above her, alive still when she would soon be dead. She yearned to fight against the rocks and the current, but without oxygen and devoid of any warmth, her muscles remained limp. Resigned to her fate, she considered closing her eyes and letting the coldness overtake her, but then, she noticed another shape appear beside the bear, an impossible apparition. The figure was that of a man, and briefly, his shadow mingled with the bear's. Then, both were gone. Bella's sight faded to black. She thought she felt the pressure of the boulder relieved from her leg, though she wasn't certain of it, for she couldn't distinctly feel much of anything. But, abruptly, arms were looped around her waist, and she was being lifted from the water. Gasping, oxygen flowed painfully into her lungs, causing her to choke and cough as the icy water worked its way free of her airways. She could scarcely feel the grip of her rescuer, limp and numb as she was, and her eyelids likewise remained insensitive to her brain's commands. She felt movement, though there was a foreign quickness to it, like she would imagine a bird feels in flight, and almost as abruptly as the motion had begun, all was still. Her eyes found the fortitude to open then, delivering her a vision of Edward Cullen, in whose arms she was cradled. The expression on his face was unreadable, particularly in her condition, but his eyes were focused on hers. "You are phenomenally stupid," he mumbled, and then placed her on a leather car seat. She was still coughing weakly, which was a difficult maneuver, considering the fact that her entire body was numb. Edward had begun wrapping a felt tartan blanket around her shoulders, which provided a pleasing sensation of warmth, though minimal in comparison to the chill of her skin and muscles. In the ensuing minutes, Bella darted in and out of consciousness. She felt the motion of Edward's car. She saw him glancing down at her as he drove. She heard the click of the gearshift. And then everything dissolved to silence. — Bella's next memory was waking up in what she presumed was a room in the Cullen house. She was sprawled out on a soft couch, modern, but with the shape of more classic furniture. Surprisingly, she was also in front of a sizable fireplace, in which tall flames were hissing and crackling as they ate away at a pile of logs. She had the sensation of being in a modern art gallery, a Victorian drawing room, and a log cabin all at once. She was acutely aware of the fact that her wet clothes had been removed and replaced with a terry bathrobe, and that she had no memory of how that switch had happened. That possible nightmare aside, the fact that she had woken up alone in an unfamiliar house, owned by infamously deranged

people, was enough to ignite panic. Were she only slightly less drained of strength and energy, Bella might have been successful in fueling her sense of dread. In lieu of trying to run away from the house in terror, she decided to focus on the generally more realistic task of attempting to stand up. With a pronounced stiffness, Bella managed to swing both legs around and test the feeling of the carpet against the soles of her feet. The slight prickling told her that sensation had returned to her limbs, and that gave her the courage to try lifting her weight off the couch cushions. Her movement was sluggish and ungraceful, but she was able to rise. Cautiously, she paced around the room in small circles, rubbing at the pangs in her joints and muscles. Somehow calmed by the smooth dancing of the firelight, Bella shuffled to the edge of the red Persian carpet covering the hardwood floorboards. The room seemed to be some vague amalgamation of a library and living room, housing, along with the furniture and fireplace, a television and a circumference of full bookcases. Enticed as always by the presence of books, especially the elegant leather-bound variety, Bella gently ran her finger along the spines of the volumes on the shelves nearest the fireplace. They were all neatly organized; classics lining one shelf, history on another, scientific journals below that. Some authors and titles Bella recognized; others were new to her. But no cluster of books intrigued her more than those hidden away in a lower corner. These seemed older than the others, less sleek than they were antiquated. No authors were listed, but the titles were all variations of the word Upyr. It was an oddsounding word, and one that Bella had never heard, pronounced or otherwise. She pulled out a volume that appeared to be written in Middle English and opened it to a random page. A line near the top read, "…wicht of cold skyn, slaughterer of man to drink of his blude…" Bella was not blessed with the time to make sense of the curious statement, for a voice spoke from behind her. "What are you doing?" asked Edward Cullen in a low tone, while hovering in the doorway. Startled, Bella hastily made to return the book to its spot on the shelf, only managing to slide it in crookedly before Edward was at her side. "Just… looking at your books." She pointed to a random title. "Gotta loveUlysses." "I see," he said, his eyes fixed on the cockeyed copy of Upyr. Still looking at the book, he added, "Your father is here. He's quite worried, but we didn't want to disturb your rest. You should see to him." His manner was formal and collected, archaic in its presentation, and he offered no reference to his role in rescuing her. As much as Edward seemed like a killer, he had saved her life. For that she was grateful, whether or not he was a psychopath. "You saved my life," she breathed. "Thank you." It was a lame expression of gratitude, but she hadn't ever been rescued before, and therefore wasn't accustomed to articulating her thankfulness for being alive. "Yes, well, heroic feats would not have been necessary, had you decided to avoid an impromptu trek into the wilderness during a thunderstorm." The crooked smile she recognized twitched faintly in his

expression. "Although now I've probably upset the balance of the universe by stalling the natural selection of people who lack judgment." "What did you do to the bear?" she asked, remembering the twisting of shapes she had seen from beneath the turbulent water. "And how did you lift the boulder off my leg without falling into the current? It was ridiculously heavy, and the water was crazy…" He sighed then, turning away from her. "It was nothing unusual, Bella. Mine were ordinary efforts taken to save you from your own extraordinary foolishness. You have sustained a pretty serious concussion, and your brain was deprived of oxygen for an extensive time. For all you know, Snow White and all Seven Dwarves plucked you out of the water. Your father is waiting." With that, he turned smoothly and strode through the doorway, Bella in tow.