CHAPTER 1- Unexpected
I sat with my fingers drumming on the small desktop in front of me. I didn't need the movement. But the humans around me did. They tended to be more relaxed and at ease in the presence of beings that could at least imitate their perpetual motion and constant state of aggravation. If my fidgeting could help them be more at ease while sharing a learning space with a one hundred and eight year old vampire… then I could make myself move from time to time. Besides not making meals of the people in my vicinity… it was the least I could do. Not that they were in any danger. I had given up drinking human blood more than eighty years ago. Now, I just tried to fit in to their world.
For this reason specifically, I tapped out a light rhythm on my desk and allowed my eyes to shift around the room as if I were actually interested in any of its inhabitants.
If I hadn't been looking around the room, my eyes might not have skimmed across the woman who had just entered. But they did. And on reflex, I did a quick second glance.
I wondered if the sight of thick, chestnut hair would ever stop catching my eye. Her hair obscured her face, as her head was turned away from me. She was apparently listening to the girl beside her. The blonde was chattering about a date she had the night before. It was completely uninteresting.
I wished I could control the irrational awareness my body always felt when someone like this brunette crossed my path. It was annoying. Her physical description was entirely too common. Brown hair… brown eyes… medium height. At least twice a day my attention would be captured by similarities.
The other one was thousands of miles away. And the hair on this one… too long. Her figure… more rounded. Not the same.
And yet, when she raised her hand to push her hair behind her ear, I got a glimpse of the same creamy, translucent skin on her wrist. I focused, and could make out the heartbeat pushing her blood through those light veins that were made visible to me above the band of her watch. My body tensed. I gripped the edge of my desk and leaned forward. Something else was different… I couldn't immediately place what had me so uneasy.
She sat no less than fifteen rows in front of me, in the farthest section from my own. Her head was still angled as she listened to the girl beside her. I had yet to see her face.
He actually told me that I remind him of Britney Spears. I couldn't tell if that was a compliment or not! I mean- was he saying I was pretty? Or crazy? Or both….
The blonde was still rattling on and on about her date. It was a boring story at best. I couldn't believe that I was actually listening in. I snorted in derision. Then, to my surprise, the girl with the chestnut hair snorted too. I smiled at the soft sound that was clear to my ears even at this distance, and I wondered at the reason behind it. Did she find a part of the story amusing? Or was she, like me, laughing at herself for having her attention drawn to such trivial nonsense?
And then I froze.
Why was I wondering at the reason? Shouldn't I have already heard the internal thoughts of the girl- that would tell me with no uncertainty exactly what she was thinking? Only one person had ever been beyond the scope of my extra ability to hear thoughts. I focused harder.
I mean… was he referring to the cheeto-eating-star bucks-drinking Britney? Or the flat-abs-hot-Britney? I don't look fat… do I?
The blonde wouldn't shut up. But beside her, there was only silence.
The brunette answered by shaking her head from side to side. The movement pushed her hair further away from her face, and made her profile available to my eyes.
No. No. NO.
I immediately stopped breathing. The girl finally turned then, her hair making a curtain over her face as she dug through her bag on the floor. Then with pen in hand, she slowly raised up. I was motionless as her face was revealed to me.
I would have known that face anywhere. The same, heart-shaped face. The same small chin. The same full lips. And the same deep, chocolate brown eyes met mine now. The same girl. The complete destruction of my entire world all wrapped up innocuously in a pair of jeans and a college sweatshirt.
Though I hadn't picked up her scent in this room yet- I could recall that with perfect clarity. Venom flooded my mouth, just imagining it. My head spun and I stared, helplessly. Her eyes darted away. But then she looked at me again.
I knew what I would see. I had seen it before. She had looked at me with the same nervous embarrassment when she caught me staring at her the day that she enrolled in my high school three years ago.
It had been a day like any other. My family was living in the tiny town of Forks, Washington. And the arrival of a new student mid-way through the year was enough to excite the entire student body. Pathetic. I saw the girl through a dozen minds before my eyes ever laid sight on her. Just an ordinary girl, like any other. Or so I had thought.
I should have known, when I saw her across the crowded lunchroom, that nothing about her would be ordinary for me. . My curious gaze had been met with complete silence from where she sat. I could hear the rush of the hundreds of other minds in the room. But her 'voice' was hidden from me entirely. I couldn't hear her thoughts. I couldn't guess her feelings. It was as if she had a shield around her, keeping me from knowing what was going on behind those expressive eyes. My extra ability had never failed me before… and I was frustrated at my inability to break past this barrier of silence.
When she entered my biology classroom, my first instinct was one of relief. The seat beside me was the only one available. She would have to sit next to me. I was confident that her nearness would allow me to solve the mystery of her silence. It would allow me to break down the wall she had somehow erected to keep me from hearing her thoughts. Once that happened- and it would- she could fall right back into the ranks of ordinary to me, and I would be able to ignore her as easily as the rest of the children I shared classes with.
I was so concentrated on the task, that I was unprepared for the force of what would happen next. She moved down the aisle next to me, and a sudden gust of air from the heater vents swirled her scent in my direction. I was hit by a wave of desire and hunger so strong that I was almost undone. The force was like a freight train, and I pulverized the edge of my desk beneath my hands just to remain seated.
A scent so unique, and so delicious, that I had struggled for an entire hour to keep myself from slaying the room full of innocent children just for the chance to taste this girl on my tongue. Eighty years of unswerving conviction and diligent practice had almost been ruined in the two seconds that it took for her to flip her hair over her shoulder to provide a curtain between my angry stare and her delicately flushed face. The movement had created a new cloud of that intoxicating aroma to settle around me. I gritted my teeth and swallowed back venom… holding my breath and trying not to imagine the way her warm wet pulse would feel spilling into my mouth. The monster within me- usually cloaked so well behind the humanity that I clung to- would have won if not for the sound of the shrill school bell setting me free from that nightmare. I got up quickly and ran from the room.
And I didn't look back.
My father had a theory about what had happened to me. He said that she was my 'singer'. Her blood, so much sweeter to me than any other scent I had encountered in my existence, sang for me. It called to me. A wretched siren's song that would lead me to either the blissful ending of her life by my hand… or my utter discontentment as I denied myself that which I craved more than anything else the world had to offer.
But I knew the right choice to make. The only choice I could make, if I planned to retain any of the humanity I had struggled to hold on to through the years. I would not kill an innocent. I refused.
I knew I had to leave. I had to leave Forks, and I had to leave the horrible temptation of her scent behind me. I went to stay, for a short visit, with another like-practicing coven of vampires in Denali. I attempted to forget her eyes, and her face… her silence and her scent. But not even the distractions offered by a beautiful and willing female vampire were able to tear my mind from the one thing my body was now obsessed with having.
And so I left. And because my family knew that my leaving Forks was largely to do with my desire to protect them and keep their secret from the world, they remained loyal and left with me. We took up residence further north, in a small Canadian province. And we tried our best to blend into society again.
But it never was as easy for me after that. And they knew it. Living on a diet of animal blood was already a sacrifice we made- to survive while not allowing ourselves to become the monstrous predators of innocent humans. But now the thin blood of the creatures we hunted was made even less appetizing to me by the remembrance of her scent and the taste of the air around her that had settled on the back of my tongue and tainted the sustenance I still required. I was surly and withdrawn. It was a testimony of my family's love that they were even able to tolerate being around me at all.
And so, after two years… I decided to give them a break. I left behind the pretense of being a high school student, and I enrolled in Dartmouth. The prestigious Ivy League school offered a full compliment of night courses…and the nearby wilderness held plenty of wildlife to meet my basic nutritional needs. And after two years- I finally felt I had a better grip on my memory of the girl.
Because every single day, her memory had stayed with me. And it strengthened my resolve. I recalled her scent as a reference point for comparisons on a daily basis. I wasn't sure if I would ever encounter anything quite so overwhelming or powerful. But if I did… I would be ready for it. I steeled myself daily for the possibility. The next time, if there was a next time, I would be ready for it. And I would never be forced to run away again.
And now- here she was. Her brown gaze was locked on my own. I expected the rush of blood to her cheeks, and felt my muscles tighten in reflex when it happened.
I knew what would happen next. She would look away quickly, to hide her embarrassment.
That… didn't happen.
Instead, her brows lowered and her mouth turned into a frown. And then- her full top lip pulled back ever so slightly into a sneer. She didn't look nervous, or embarrassed. She looked… annoyed. And she was very deliberately shooting me a dirty look. She turned her head then, and muttered to her friend.
I blinked in surprise. For almost three years, I recalled the sound of her clear voice in my mind. And now- after all this time… the first word I heard from her mouth was "asshole?"
I hurried to catch up with the story that her friend was still sharing… the one I had let drift into the background as I had become lost in my own thoughts. I was curious to figure out what had elicited such a harsh response from Bella.
"Who?" the blonde asked.
"The guy back there…. Over my shoulder. About ten rows back. Reddish hair? He's totally staring like some kind of creeper!"
Wait. She was talking about me?
The blonde glanced over her shoulder and giggled. "He's gorgeous!" she announced. I forced my eyes to my desk and continued to listen attentively.
"Like that gives him a free pass to be rude?" Bella asked heatedly. "Don't look at him!"
My mind was spinning. I stared hard at the desk in front of me.
My own personal demon… summoned from hell to tempt and torture me. The bane of my immortal existence…. Just called me an asshole?
And then, even though there was absolutely nothing funny about my situation, the current air I had been holding in my lungs expelled in a loud laugh. Both girls turned their heads to look at me. I just forced my eyes down to the small wooden desk in front of me and cursed every higher power that had brought this girl back into my life.