I felt like I was waking up from a coma as the fire coursing through me slowly ebbed.
"Bella?" Edward's voice called from far away.
"Yes?" I answered, sighing. With the sigh, the pain ended. I tried to force my eyelids apart, but it wasn't working.
"How do you feel?"
As he spoke, a sensation washed over me. It was a strange combination of hunger and thirst, like if I drank water or something like it the hunger would go away as well.
"Like I've spent the past three days stranded in the desert."
I heard a low chuckle. "Good, her transformation went well, then," Carlisle murmured.
My eyes chose that moment to spring open. When they focused I found Edward's black eyes staring into mine. Dark purple rings underlined their fierce beauty.
"'And so, the red wine of life ceased to flow within her. Ay, the agony of youth, lost!'" he murmured, taking my hand. I knew he was quoting somebody-in my muddled state, I didn't know who. He raised our hands to press my wrist to his nose, inhaling deeply before letting my hand fall.
"You smell like your old self, still," he said. "But who knows how much longer that will last?" His voice was agonized. I felt a need to comfort him.
"Please," I begged, touching his face with my free hand. "Don't be sad." He smiled a melancholy smile, but I could see the misery lurking in his eyes.
There was a silence. Alice broke it after a while, to ease the tension.
"Let's take her hunting," she suggested brightly. "She needs to learn the tools of the trade."
Edward pulled me hesitantly to my feet after I'd sat up. He had told me that I would be strong, stronger than Emmett, when I became newborn, but he was still so careful. I let go of his hand and walked forward a few steps. Then I was flying around the room, giddy.
"I feel like I'm gliding," I said, my voice high with exhiliration. "And for once, I'm not falling on my face!"
"Dang it!" Emmett said loudly. Jasper and Rosalie snickered. I stopped my leaping for a few moments, to raise an eyebrow at Emmett, which made Jasper and Rosalie laugh harder.
"Sorry, Bella," Jasper managed to gasp out after he'd mostly composed himself. "We bet on which aspect of you would be enhanced with the transformation, and Emmett bet it would be your clumsiness..."
"And I lost, darn it!" Emmett fumed. "To you and Rose, of all people!" After he'd lessened his anger, he turned to grin at me. "Edward told us it was 'despicable to insult you like this' and blah, blah, blah."
"Stop that!" Esme scolded, coming out of the corner. She strode to where I stood in the center of the room. She stared into my face before she wrapped her arms around me and crushed me into a hug. My new durable body didn't feel like it was going to snap in half, however, so it was a pleasant hug.
"I'm so glad, Bella," she whispered. "You're finally one of my daughters." I felt a rush of emotions at her words and I hugged her back.
"I'm happy you're my mom," I whispered back. If I could've cried then, I would have.
"I do wonder," Edward said when Esme had let me go, "what part of you it was that was enhanced." He brushed a piece of stray hair out of my eyes. My skin tingled at his touch.
I wondered, too. I was very happy that it wasn't my clumsiness, and that I had after all developed the vampire agility and grace.
"Maybe..." he trailed off, looking intently into my eyes. I understood what he was trying to do immediately.
Crap, it still doesn't work, someone said. It sounded remarkably like Edward, though his lips hadn't moved. I remembered that his whole family had an uncanny ability to
mimic each others' voices. I suppose it came from listening to each other talk for decades.
"Who said that?" I asked, looking around.
"Who said what?" Edward asked in return.
"'Crap, it still doesn't work'?" I quoted. "It sounded a lot like you."
He looked at me oddly, then shook his head. "Are you sure you heard someone say that?"
The look he was giving me made me slightly nervous.
"Yes, I'm sure," I said. "I promise, I'm not crazy. Really."
He continued to give me the same Maybe-she's-gone-off-the-deep-end look for awhile before speaking again.
"Bella, nobody said anything. I was thinking that just a few moments ago."
Comprehnsion dawned on me. "So," I snorted. "Don't act so surprised, you can do it too! I just got the same ability you did. Big deal."
An idea suddenly came to light. "I'd love to know what you're thinking, Alice," I said, grinning mischeiviously. She grinned back, spreading her arms as if to say I'm all yours. I stared into her eyes. And got...nothing. I frowned, perplexed.
"It didn't work on you," I said. "Why?"
She shrugged. "Maybe my thoughts are too complex. The thought I was just thinking, however, was the ever-irritating song "It's A Small World."
I turned to Jasper, hoping it might work on him, but got the same result. Rosalie, Emmett, Carlisle, Esme...nothing.
"Why will it only work on you?" I asked Edward, turning around to face him.
He looked deep in thought, a crease appearing in his marble forehead. I tried to penetrate his thoughts, hoping to hear some of his insight. But even that didn't work. Maybe I really was crazy.
"Now it won't even work on you," I groaned, discouraged. "What's the point in being able to read minds if the only mind you can read is your own?"
"Maybe because you can't read minds," Carlisle suggested quietly.
Everybody turned to stare at him.
"I have a theory," he continued. "Bella was immune to abilities concerning the mind. Perhaps that immunity was enchanced, to where if the person attempts to use their ability on her, she can reflect it back to the person."
"Perhaps..." Edward echoed.
I'm glad it doesn't affect you, Edward thought. Your mystery is so much more exciting than being able to read your mind would be.
"I heard that," I said. He smiled that crooked smile I love so much.
"Can we go hunting now?" Emmett complained. "I'm thirsty, and-" Rosalie shot him a look that silenced him quickly.
"Yes, let's," Alice said. "Enough of the chatter!" She sent a smile in my direction.
The mountains whizzed by as Edward raced down the dark, narrow highway.
"There's a mountain lion excess in northern Oregon," he explained as a twisted tree appeared and then was gone within a second. "We're heading down there to fix the problem." His smile was grim.
I glanced at the speedometer to amuse myself. We were going over a hundred and twenty miles an hour. After almost two years of driving with Edward and the rest of the Cullens, the incredibly dangerous speeds they drove at no longer bothered me.
I was excited about the hunting. Minus killing the animals, which I was going to have to get over, it sounded like fun. According to what Edward had been telling me on the half-hour drive that should have taken 2 hours. I was curious to see what the Cullens were like when they acted like...vampires. It was the side of their nature Edward had never let me see, the part that I didn't need to be afraid of anymore. When we reached the rendezvous point, we found the rest of our family waiting.
"Ok, we're all here now, Carlisle," Emmett called. I could dimly see his sillhouette in the last cast by the full moon. Alice bounded over to where I stood and grabbed my hand.
"Ready, Bella?" she whispered, excited.
"I think so," I answered, squeezing her hand.
Edward chuckled behind me and took my other hand.
"You'll do fine," he assured me. "Just stay close." I nodded.
"Is everyone ready?" Carlisle asked, emerging from the shadows of the trees.
"Yes," Emmett answered, impatient. "Can we go?"
"All right. Follow me," Carlisle said. Then he disappeared into the forest.
Somewhere in the wilderness, a wolf howled.