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Chapter no 8 – GHOST

Midnight Sun (The Twilight Saga, Book 5)

DID NOT SEE MUCH OF JASPER’S GUESTS FOR THE TWO SUNNY DAYS THAT they

were in Forks. I only went home at all so that Esme wouldn’t worry. Otherwise, my existence seemed like that of a specter rather than a vampire. I hovered, invisible in the shadows, where I could follow the object of my love and obsession—where I could see her and hear her in the minds of the lucky humans who could walk through the sunlight beside her, sometimes accidentally brushing the back of her hand with their own. She never reacted to such contact; their hands were just as warm as hers.

The enforced absence from school had never been a trial like this before.

But the sun seemed to make her happy, so I could not resent it too much.

Monday morning, I eavesdropped on a conversation that had the potential to destroy my confidence and make the time spent away from her truly torturous. As it ended up, though, it rather made my day.

I had to feel some little respect for Mike Newton. He had more courage than I’d given him credit for. He had not simply given up and slunk away to nurse his wounds—he was going to try again.

Bella got to school quite early and, seeming intent on enjoying the sun while it lasted, sat at one of the seldom-used picnic benches while she waited for the first bell to ring. Her hair caught the sun in unexpected ways, giving off a reddish shine that I had not anticipated.

Mike found her there, doodling again, and was thrilled at his good luck.

It was agonizing only to be able to watch, powerless, bound to the forest’s shadows by the bright sunlight.

She greeted him with enough enthusiasm to make him ecstatic, and me the opposite.

See, she likes me. She wouldn’t smile like that if she didn’t. I bet she wanted to go to the dance with me. Wonder what’s so important in Seattle.… He perceived the change in her hair. “I never noticed before—your hair

has red in it.”

I accidentally uprooted the young spruce tree my hand was resting on when he pinched a strand of her hair between his fingers.

“Only in the sun,” she said. To my deep satisfaction, she cringed away from him slightly when he tucked the strand behind her ear.

It took Mike a minute to build up his courage, wasting some time on small talk.

She reminded him of the essay we all had due on Wednesday. From the faintly smug expression on her face, hers was already done. He’d forgotten altogether, and that severely diminished his free time.

Finally he got to the point—my teeth were clenched so hard they could have pulverized granite—and even then, he couldn’t make himself ask the question outright.

“I was going to ask if you wanted to go out.” “Oh,” she said.

There was a brief silence.

“Oh”? What does that mean? Is she going to say yes? Wait—I guess I didn’t really ask.

He swallowed hard.

“Well, we could go to dinner or something… and I could work on it later.”

Stupid—that wasn’t a question either.

“Mike…”

The agony and fury of my jealousy was every whit as powerful as it had been last week. I wanted so badly to race across the campus, too fast for human eyes, and snatch her up—to steal her away from the boy I hated so much in this moment I could have killed him for no reason but to enjoy it.

Would she say yes to him?

“I don’t think that would be the best idea.” I breathed again. My rigid body relaxed.

Seattle was just an excuse, after all. Shouldn’t have asked. What was I thinking? Bet it’s that freak, Cullen.

“Why?” he asked sullenly.

“I think…” She hesitated. “And if you ever repeat what I’m saying right now, I will cheerfully beat you to death—”

I laughed out loud at the sound of a death threat coming through her lips.

A jay shrieked, startled, and launched itself away from me. “But I think that would hurt Jessica’s feelings.” “Jessica?” What? But… oh. Okay. I guess… huh.

His thoughts were no longer coherent. “Really, Mike, are you blind?”

I echoed her sentiment. She shouldn’t expect everyone to be as perceptive as she was, but really this instance was beyond obvious. With as much trouble as Mike had had working himself up to ask Bella out, did he imagine it wasn’t just as difficult for Jessica? It must be selfishness that made him blind to others. And Bella was so unselfish, she saw everything.

Jessica. Huh. Wow. Huh. “Oh,” he managed to say. Bella used his confusion to make her exit.

“It’s time for class, and I can’t be late again.”

Mike became an unreliable viewpoint from then on. He found, as he turned the idea of Jessica around in his head, that he rather liked the thought of her finding him attractive. It was second place, not as good as if Bella had felt that way.

She’s cute, though, I guess. Decent body—bigger boobs than Bella’s. A bird in the hand…

He was off then, on to new fantasies that were just as vulgar as the ones about Bella, but now they only irritated rather than infuriated. How little he deserved either girl; they were almost interchangeable to him. I stayed clear of his head after that.

When Bella was out of sight, I curled up against the cool trunk of an enormous madrone tree and danced from mind to mind, keeping her in view, always glad when Angela Weber was available to look through. I wished there were some way to thank the Weber girl for simply being a nice person. It made me feel better to think that Bella had one friend worth having.

I watched Bella’s face from whichever angle I was given, and I could see that she was upset about something. This surprised me—I thought the sun would be enough to keep her smiling. At lunch, I saw her glance time and time again toward the empty Cullen table, and that thrilled me. Perhaps she missed me, too.

After school, she had plans to go out with the other girls—I automatically planned my own surveillance—but these were postponed

when Mike invited Jessica out on the date he’d designed for Bella.

So I went straight to her home instead, doing a quick sweep of the woods to make sure no one dangerous had wandered too close. I knew Jasper had warned his one-time brother to avoid the town—citing my insanity as both explanation and danger—but I wasn’t taking any chances. Peter and Charlotte had no intention of causing animosity with my family, but intentions were changeable things.

All right, I was overdoing it. I knew that.

As if she was aware I was watching, as if she took pity on the agony I felt when I couldn’t see her, Bella came out to the backyard after a long hour indoors. She had a book in her hand and a blanket under her arm.

Silently, I climbed into the higher branches of the closest tree overlooking the yard.

She spread the blanket on the damp grass and then lay on her stomach and started flipping through the worn, obviously often-read book, trying to find her place. I read over her shoulder.

Ah—more classics. Sense and Sensibility. She was an Austen fan.

I tasted the way the sunshine and open air affected her scent. The heat seemed to sweeten the smell. My throat flamed with desire, the pain fresh and fierce again because I had been away from her for so long. I spent a moment controlling that, forcing myself to breathe through my nose.

She read quickly, crossing and recrossing her ankles in the air. I knew the book, so I did not read along with her. Instead, I was watching the sunlight and wind playing in her hair when her body suddenly stiffened, and her hand froze on the page. She’d reached the last page of chapter two. The page began midsentence: “perhaps, in spite of every consideration of politeness or maternal affection on the side of the former, the two ladies might have found it impossible to have lived together so long—”

She grabbed a thick section of the book and shoved it roughly over, almost as if something on the page had angered her. But what? It was early in the story, just setting up the first conflict between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. The main hero, Edward Ferrars, was introduced. Elinor Dashwood’s merits were extolled. I thought through the previous chapter, searching for something potentially offensive in Austen’s overly polite prose. What could have upset her?

She stopped on the title page for Mansfield Park. Beginning a new story

—the book was a compilation of novels.

But she’d only made it to page seven—I was following along this time; Mrs. Norris was detailing the danger of Tom and Edmund Bertram not encountering their cousin Fanny Price until they were all adults—when Bella’s teeth ground together and she slammed the book shut.

Taking a deep breath as if to calm herself, she tossed the book aside and rolled onto her back. She pushed her sleeves up her forearms, exposing more of her skin to the sun.

Why would she have reacted thus to what was obviously a familiar story? Another mystery. I sighed.

She lay very still now, moving just once to yank her hair away from her face. It fanned out over her head, a river of chestnut. And then she was motionless again.

She made a very serene picture, there in the sunlight. Whatever peace had evaded her before seemed to find her now. Her breathing slowed. After several long minutes her lips began to tremble. Mumbling in her sleep.

I felt an uncomfortable spasm of guilt. Because what I was doing now was not precisely good, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as my nightly pursuits. I wasn’t technically even trespassing now—the base of this tree grew from the next lot over—let alone doing something more felonious. But I knew that when night came, I would continue to do wrong.

Even now, part of me wanted to trespass. To jump to the ground, landing silently on my toes, and ease into her circle of sunshine. Just to be closer to her. To hear her murmured words as though she was whispering them to me.

It wasn’t my unreliable morality that held me back—it was the thought of myself in the sun’s glare. Bad enough that my skin was stone and inhuman in shadow; I didn’t want to look at Bella and myself side by side in the sunlight. The difference between us was already insurmountable, painful enough without that image also in my head. Could I be any more grotesque? I imagined her terror if she opened her eyes and saw me there beside her.

“Mmm…,” she moaned.

I leaned back against the tree trunk, deeper into shadow. She sighed. “Mmm.”

I did not fear that she had woken. Her voice was just a low, wistful

murmur.

“Edmund. Ahh.”

Edmund? I thought again of where she’d quit reading. Just as Edmund Bertram had been named for the first time.

Ha! She wasn’t dreaming of me at all, I realized blackly. The self- loathing returned in force. She was dreaming of fictional characters. Perhaps that had always been the case, and all along her dreams had been filled with Hugh Grant in a cravat. So much for my conceit.

She said nothing more that was intelligible. The afternoon passed and I watched, feeling helpless again, as the sun slowly sank in the sky and the shadows crawled across the lawn toward her. I wanted to push them back, but of course the darkness was inevitable; the shadows took her. When the light was gone, her skin looked too pale—ghostly. Her hair was dark again, almost black against her face.

It was a frightening thing to watch—like witnessing Alice’s visions come to fruition. Bella’s steady, strong heartbeat was the only reassurance, the sound that kept this moment from feeling like a nightmare.

I was relieved when her father arrived home.

I could hear little from him as he drove down the street toward the house. Some vague annoyance… in the past, something from his day at work. Expectation mixed with hunger—I guessed that he was looking forward to dinner. But his thoughts were so quiet and contained that I could not be sure I was right. I only got the gist of them.

I wondered what her mother sounded like—what the genetic combination had been that had formed her so uniquely.

Bella started awake, jerking up to a sitting position when the tires of her father’s car hit the brick driveway. She stared around herself, seeming confused by the unexpected darkness. For one brief moment, her eyes touched the shadows where I hid, but then flickered quickly away.

“Charlie?” she asked in a low voice, still peering into the trees surrounding the small yard.

The door of his car slammed shut, and she looked to the sound. She got to her feet quickly and gathered her things, casting one more look back toward the woods.

I moved into a tree closer to the back window near the small kitchen, and listened to their evening. It was interesting to compare Charlie’s words

to his muffled thoughts. His love and concern for his only child were nearly overwhelming, and yet his words were always terse and casual. Most of the time, they sat in companionable silence.

I heard her discuss her plans to go shopping the following evening in Port Angeles with Jessica and Angela, and I refined my own plans as I listened. Jasper had not warned Peter and Charlotte to stay clear of Port Angeles. Though I knew that they had fed recently and had no intention of hunting anywhere in the vicinity of our home, I would watch her, just in case. After all, there were always others of my kind out there. And, of course, all those human dangers that I had never much considered before now.

I heard her worry aloud about leaving her father to prepare dinner alone, and smiled at this proof to my theory—yes, she was the caretaker here, too.

And then I left, knowing I would return while she was asleep, ignoring every ethical and moral argument against my behavior.

But I certainly would not trespass on her privacy the way the peeping tom would have. I was here for her protection, not to leer at her in the way Mike Newton no doubt would, were he agile enough to move through the treetops. I would not treat her so crassly.

My house was empty when I returned, which was fine by me. I didn’t miss the confused or disparaging thoughts, questioning my sanity. Emmett had left a note stuck to the newel post.

Football at the Rainier field—c’mon! Please?

I found a pen and scrawled the word sorry beneath his plea. The teams were even without me, in any case.

I went for the shortest of hunting trips, contenting myself with the smaller, gentler creatures that did not taste as good as the other predators, and then changed into fresh clothes before I ran back to Forks.

Bella did not sleep as well tonight. She thrashed in her blankets, her face sometimes worried, sometimes forlorn. I wondered what nightmare haunted her… and then realized that perhaps I didn’t really want to know.

When she spoke, she mostly muttered derogatory things about Forks in a glum voice. Only once, when she sighed out the words “Come back” and her hand twitched open—a wordless plea—did I have a chance to hope she might be dreaming of me.

The next day of school, the last day the sun would hold me prisoner, was

much the same as the day before. Bella seemed even gloomier than yesterday, and I wondered if she would bow out of her plans—she didn’t seem in the mood. But, being Bella, she would probably put her friends’ enjoyment above her own.

She wore a deep blue blouse today, and the color set her skin off perfectly, making it look like fresh cream.

School ended, and Jessica agreed to pick the other girls up.

I went home to get my car. When I found that Peter and Charlotte were there, I decided I could afford to give the girls an hour or so as a head start. It would have been a struggle to follow them, driving at the speed limit— hideous thought.

Everyone was gathered in the bright great room. Peter and Charlotte both noticed my abstraction as I belatedly welcomed them, apologizing halfheartedly for my absence, kissing her cheek and shaking his hand. I was unable to concentrate enough to join the group conversation. As soon I as could politely extricate myself, I drifted to the piano and began playing quietly.

What a strange creature, the Alice-sized, white-blond Charlotte was thinking. And he was so normal and pleasant the last time we met.

Peter’s thoughts were in sync with hers, as was usually the case.

It must be the animals. The lack of human blood drives them mad eventually, he was concluding. His hair was just as fair as hers, and almost as long. They were very similar—except for size, as he was nearly as tall as Emmett. A well-matched pair, I’d always thought.

Why even bother coming home? Rosalie sneered.

Ah, Edward. I hate to see him suffering so. Esme’s joy was becoming corrupted by her concern. She should be concerned. This love story she envisioned for me was careening toward tragedy more perceptibly every moment.

Have fun in Port Angeles tonight, Alice thought cheerfully. Let me know when I’m allowed to talk to Bella.

You’re pathetic. I can’t believe you missed the game last night just to watch somebody sleep, Emmett grumbled.

Everyone but Esme stopped thinking about me after a moment, and I kept my playing subdued so that I would not attract notice.

I did not pay attention to them for a long while, just letting the music

distract me from my unease. It was never not distressing to have the girl out of sight. I only returned my focus to their conversation when the goodbyes grew more final.

“If you see Maria again,” Jasper was saying, a little warily, “tell her I wish her well.”

Maria was the vampire who had created both Jasper and Peter—Jasper in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Peter more recently, in the nineteen forties. She’d looked Jasper up once when we were in Calgary. It had been an eventful visit—we’d had to move immediately. Jasper had politely asked her to keep her distance in the future.

“I don’t imagine we’ll cross paths soon,” Peter said with a laugh—Maria was undeniably dangerous and there was not much love lost between her and Peter. Peter had, after all, been instrumental in Jasper’s defection. Jasper had always been Maria’s favorite; she considered it a minor detail that she had once planned to kill him. “But, should it happen, I certainly will.”

They were shaking hands then, preparing to depart. I let the song I was playing trail off to an unsatisfying end and got hastily to my feet.

“Charlotte, Peter,” I said, nodding.

“It was nice to see you again, Edward,” Charlotte said doubtfully. Peter just nodded in return.

Madman, Emmett threw after me. Idiot, Rosalie thought at the same time. Poor boy. Esme.

And Alice, in a chiding tone. They’re going straight east, to Seattle.

Nowhere near Port Angeles. She showed me the proof in her visions.

I pretended I hadn’t heard that. My excuses were already flimsy enough. Once in my car, I felt more relaxed. The robust purr of the engine Rosalie had boosted for me—last year, when she was in a better mood— was soothing. It was a relief to be in motion, to know that I was getting

closer to Bella with every mile that flew away under my tires.

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