The Changeling – Chapter 3

Disclaimer: Twilight and characters are owned by Stephenie Meyer.

No matter how many times I walk up the white steps and pass through the wonderfully restored wooden doors, I will never get used to how gigantic the Cullen's house is, so unlike anything else found in Forks.

It was not as though I could turn down the invitation for an 18th birthday party. No matter how much I wanted to.

I felt Edward looking at me.

"What?" I asked him.

"You aren't entering a torture chamber. You should try to smile. Esme has been preparing for this all day." I smiled for his benefit. "That's better."

I stepped inside the large entrance hall, and the entire Cullen clan was there. Esme was in the front, standing proudly next to a small chocolate cake. Rosalie lingered in the back with Emmett's arm around her, and she smiled at me briefly. She was not quite the ice queen she was back in the beginning of the summer. I think she was starting to realize that this thing with Edward is not just a phase and that unlike her, I want to be one of them.

"Thanks," I whispered. This was part of the reason I hated these celebrations so much. I never knew the right thing to say.

"Of course, dear," Esme said understandably. I realized how tense I was – Edward's arm had not let go of my waist the entire time.

"Look at the time," he whispered in my ear. I looked at the flashing digital clock next to the velvet couch blinking 8:29. One more minute and I would be officially 18.

"It still isn't too late," I hissed back. The time on the clock now read 8:30. This was it. No going back now – I am officially 18 years old. A full year older than Edward. Well, physically speaking.

That was when it began. A weird tingly sensation started running through my hands. The time on the clock blurred, and I was afraid to look at anything else for fear that a sudden movement would cause me to collapse.

"Bella?" The voice of an angel floated towards me. "Are you alright?"

I forced my eyes open and saw seven pairs of light butterscotch eyes looking down on me. Apparently, they had prepared for the occasion.

"What happened?" I tried to sit up, but my head started swirling again so I decided to lean against the soft arm of the sofa. My whole body tingled the way my hands had earlier, almost as if something cold was running through my veins. It felt very pleasant, similar to ice.

"You got this funny look on your face, and collapsed," Edward said. "Lucky you were already in my arms so you did not fall very far."

"Why didn't I see this coming?" Alice looked extremely confused. Jasper wrapped his arms around her and whispered in her ear. I imagine he was telling her that it was not her fault. But still – why did Alice not see that I was going to pass out?

"Don't worry about it," I reassured her, "It is not as if you could have prevented this."

"Your blood sugar levels are fine, so clearly that is not the problem." Edward looked perplexed. "Maybe you were just so overwhelmed by the situation."

"Maybe," I repeated. "I feel really cold." The ice still had not stopped. Esme covered me with a warm red fleece blanket.

"Is that better?" she asked.

"Sort of." The coldness was coming from inside my body, so the blanket really made no difference.

"Bella?" Edward repeated my name. "I think I'm going to take you home. The human way. You've had enough excitement for one night."

Before I could protest, Edward's cold arms were around me and he gently plopped me into the passenger seat of his Volvo. I wrapped my arms around my chest, but it did nothing to prevent the cold. Edward looked concerned.

"Are you sick?" he asked.

"I don't think so. I feel fine, except slightly light-headed and cold. But I don't feel sick or anything like that."

"Right." He didn't look convinced.

The rest of the short drive to my house was spent in silence. I could tell by Edward's far-off gaze that he was trying to figure out what happened. I was too cold to try and get answers.

Due to Edward's NASCAR-like driving techniques, we made it back to my house in record time. He began to get out of the car.

"Edward?" I asked. "Can you stay with me tonight? I don't know what's going on and I'm really cold and …"

"I wasn't planning on leaving you," he interrupted. "Let's get in the house, Charlie is looking out the window and is wondering what we are doing in the car together at this time of night."

"Okay." He went to pick me up. "I can walk. I don't think Charlie would be very happy if you carried me inside." I was still shivering, and the shaking was making walking even more difficult for me than it is normally. Edward's cold hand grabbed mine.

"Are you sure you're alright?" he asked softly. His eyes looked into mine, as if he were trying to peer into my soul.


"I meant alright to walk, obviously you are currently not alright in general."

"Oh, okay."

"Try to go to sleep," Edward's cold breath brushed softly against my ear.

I wasn't tired. Normally when I cannot fall asleep, I am tired, but thinking about so many things that I get too distracted to fall asleep. Tonight was different. It was one of those rare times when I felt like I could go to sleep the minute my head touched the pillow. Instead I was lying there, totally awake, covered in the warm blankets Edward piled on top of me. Even under the layers of wool, my body did not feel any warmer.

"I'm not tired," I told him.

"Bella, it is natural for you to sleep." He started humming a tune in my ear, the lullaby he wrote for me last spring. "Is this helping?"

I never got a chance to answer. The sound of his voice sent me into a world of unconsciousness. The next thing I was aware of was a feeling of soaring through the sky. I looked to my right, and saw that I was in a horse-drawn chariot. And a beautiful woman was driving.