As soon as I opened the Cullen's front door a white blur went streaking past me, then came back inside as a clearly visible Alice dragging Gazzy behind her.
"No, NO! Please don't, please! I beg of you, have mercy! NOOOoooooo…." Gazzy was pulled out of sight and his scream reverberated around the room. I turned to Bella, who was sitting on the couch with Nudge and watching the whole scene with bemusement.
"What was that all about?" I asked, and Bella chuckled.
"Alice is giving him a haircut. Vampire hair doesn't grow very fast, and she loves working with scissors."
Nudge tapped Bella on the shoulder.
"How about George?" She asked impatiently. Bella shook her head.
"Not even close." Bella smirked and Nudge let out an exasperated sigh.
"My power doesn't work on her." The almost birthday girl complained to me. "I can't see her past, and she is making me guess things about her piece by piece." She turned back to Bella.
"Please give me a hint. What letter does your dad's name begin with?"
Angel and I watched the two progress for a little while. Fang had snuck upstairs, and Angel had forwarded his thoughts to me, which explained that he had some work to do on Nudge's present. We were trying to keep the fact that we knew about her birthday a secret. She hadn't told us it yet, and her party was tomorrow.
Iggy had taken Renesme outside with him, and after a minute Angel and I headed to the kitchen to make the chocolate chip cookies I had promised her. By the time we had finished eating the entire batch Alice had trimmed Gazzy's hair so that it no longer covered his eyes. I had been beginning to think that he might start believing the top half of the world was always yellow.
Alice tried to persuade me to let her fish tail braid my hair. Why anyone would want fish tails – or any other part of a fish, for that matter – in their hair was beyond me. I managed to get out of it by volunteering Angel to take my place.
Gazzy had abandoned the kitchen when he learned about the lack of uneaten cookies, so I went into the living room in search of him. Nudge and Bella were still talking, and Edward and Jasper were now occupying two arm chairs by the wall of windows. Jasper was reading, and Edward was staring at him as if he was wearing a dress. According to the mind reader's expression, something wasn't right.
And the "wasn't right" was sitting behind Jasper's chair with his fist shoved in his mouth to keep from laughing aloud. I noticed Edward's eyes bug out and his mouth harden into a line in surprise. At the same time Gazzy let a barely audible giggle escape. It was enough for the vampire to hear.
"You!" Edward shouted, causing Jasper and Gazzy to do their person-who-sat-on-a-porcupine impression. I won't bore you with the cartoonish chase scene that followed, but from the shouting I was able to sort of piece together what happened.
Angel hears thoughts by directing her conciseness at a person. Edward bases his on recognizing the different sounds of people's thought voices. Like Gazzy can mimic a voice, he can also imitate a thought voice. He claimed he had always been able to do it, but it hadn't been much use until now.
I didn't completely catch what Gazzy tricked Edward into thinking Jasper thought, but I heard the words "fluffy pink boa", "miniature schnauzer", and "Rommel" repeated over and over.
I roughly grabbed The Gasman by the arm and led him upstairs, away from the dispute. Just to add to the illusion that I didn't find his prank hilarious I gave him the "don't you know you shouldn't fake an empathetic's thoughts to trick a mind reading vampire" lecture. I am sure you have all heard that one before.
When we reached Edward's old bedroom I was surprised not to see Fang there. His present to Nudge currently appeared to be a mound of dirt, a plexi glass sheet, some solder, and a large bucket, so I assumed he hadn't finished. I retrieved my present to Nudge out of a plastic bag and showed it to Gazzy. He apparently couldn't wrap his so he helped me with mine.
I reached into another bag from the mall in search of wrapping paper. Instead I found what appeared to be… a Mickey Mouse alarm clock? It was just like the one I had had back in Colorado.
I held it up so Gazzy could see it.
"Did you and Ig buy this?" I asked, and he shook his head. "It must have been Fang then", I mumbled under my breath. I raised my voice so Gazzy could hear. "Do you think Fang got this for Nudge?" I caught a hint of jealousy in my voice and stifled it.
Gazzy rolled his eyes. "Of course he got it for you."
I cocked an eyebrow. "Why would he do that? It's not my birthday."
Gazzy let out an exasperated sigh. "Hmm. Let me think. How many girls has Fang had a total crush on for, like, five years?" He dramatically swiveled his blue eyes around to stare at me. I gawked.
"Fang does not have a crush on me! He gave up after that time he tried to kiss me at the dock."
It was Gazzy's turn to raise an eyebrow.
"Right?" I asked pleadingly.
"Right?" I said again, though I already knew the answer. It didn't seem to surprise me; I guess I always knew he still liked me. He had just stopped trying. I hit my forehead with my palm, then ran my fingers through my hair. "I am such a moron." I muttered to myself. Trough the hair that had fallen in front of my face I saw Gazzy's eyebrows raise and his grin broaden.
"You like him too, don't you?" He said, his voice somewhere between curiosity and smugness.
To my complete dismay my heart started to do a little pitter patter thing that could not be healthy, and I felt my face burn as if I had been in the sun too long. Gazzy started singing "Max and Fang, sittin' in a tree" under his breath, which sent me over the edge.
I tackled Gazzy and pinned his shoulders to the ground with my forearm. I put on an expression that could only be described as "terrifying" and leaned close to him, growling, "I do NOT like fang." He started snickering.
"Suuuure," he said in a patronizing tone, and I did a sort of girly shriek thing. For those of you who have younger brothers, you have my sympathy. But at least yours can't mimic voices.
"Oh Max," Gazzy mocked in Fang's voice, "I love you sooooo much!"
He switched to my voice "Fang, I am totally in love with you, but I like playing with your emotions so much more."
I sighed in defeat, and raised a hand to stop him from continuing. "Fine. I like Fang. But it doesn't change anything. We can't like date," I said the word like it was all the profanities combined, "it would just be weird, we have been like siblings for so long."
Gazzy grinned. "You liiiiiiiiiike Fang!"
With one hand I grabbed him by the neck, and he made a satisfying choking sound. "Tell anyone and the next thing you will be saying is 'Max, I didn't know you could hang someone by a noose made from their own leg.'"
He spluttered something unintelligible and nodded. I let him up and he backed slowly out of the room.
I sighed and picked up Nudge's finished present and set it down on Edward's sofa. We wouldn't need it until tomorrow.
I dropped the present and it hovered in mid air. I tried to shove it down, but it wouldn't move. It was suspended about a foot above the couch. I carefully touched the air beneath it and it was stiff. I brought my arm back and jabbed the space below the present. Fang suddenly appeared, rubbing his knee where I had poked him.
I opened my mouth, but he cut me off.
"Yes, I was there the whole time." He let out a lopsided grin.
I tried to speak, and was again interrupted.
"Yes, I heard everything you said."
I sat down next to him and pinched the bridge of my nose in annoyance at myself.
"Gazzy was right." He slouched down so he would be at my eye level. Despite my better judgment I looked up at him and smiled a little. Then I picked up the golden pillow next to me and socked him over the head with it.
Of course he picked up another pillow and clocked my upside the chin.
Four Hours Later
Something strange was going on….
Rosalie was being nice to me.
"Want more popcorn?" The Barbie with fangs asked politely. Of course we couldn't eat the stuff, but we liked the smell.
"I'm fine," I replied, leaning back into the lumpy sofa in Bella and Edward's house, and glancing back at the TV. Bella, Alice, and Rose had found out that being on the run from evil scientists for most my life had left me with a poor education of classic movies.
In the last three hours we had watched all of The Lord of The Rings, and we had just moved onto The Princess Bride. Of course we watched on super, super, super fast forward mode.
I heard footsteps in the distance, and a second later Bella was in the doorway.
"Hey Rosalie, um, Alice would like your help with, uh, um, cleaning. Yeah, she is cleaning the house and would like your opinion on her cleaning." Bella said with much stuttering.
For a minute Rosalie just glared at her, one eyebrow cocked, and then a light bulb seemed to go on. "Ah, yes. The cleaning, I'll go help."
"Could I help too?" I asked with uncharacteristic politeness and briefness. Honestly, Rosalie tended to scare courtesy into me. Bella quickly claimed that it was much more mandatory for me to be watching TV. What was going on? I tried to follow Bella's past, but her book had unbreakable chains wrapped around it. Instead I tried Alice's.
It took me a second to see everything she had done in the past three hours. Another second passed before I realized that the entire flock's activities had also followed the same general theme: they were preparing for a party. One more second left me wondering how they had known about my birthday.
Four seconds was all it took for the entire secret to be blown.
"Alice is what!?" I shrieked. Bella closed her eyes and groaned in defeat.
"Well, we tried." Rosalie said lazily, throwing herself onto the couch, and focusing on The Princess Bride.
"Please don't focus on what they are doing. It was meant to be a surprise, just wait till morning; your friends need to sleep." Bella looked at me in earnest, and I stared back in horror. Waiting?!?!?! But, they were birthday decorating for me! How could I stay away? Certainly Alice would understand THAT!
"How could you?!?!?!?" I shouted at Bella. Didn't she know I had the patience of kumquat? Bella looked affronted at my sudden outburst.
"Nudge, Nudge, Nudge! Calm down! Here, Lets…play some board games. Yeah, we've got board games coming out of our ears," she rushed to stop my mini vampire panic attack. I say mini only because I didn't have to breathe into a paper bag. I raised my eyebrow at her. "Emmett," she said in explanation.
And so that is where the board game competition of a century began.
We each had a set of chess pieces, and you began with moving a pawn around a monopoly board. If someone landed on the space you were on they took your piece, and you would have to replace it with another one in your pile. If your king is taken you lose.
When you pass go you get 200 dollars (apparently Emmett had made the monopoly money into a suit for Halloween, so we played with real bills) and you get two scrabble chips. You earn a property when you have the scrabble pieces to spell out its name.
If you land on community chest or chance you draw from a pile of Uno and normal cards. If you draw a normal card, you draw that many chips from the bag; if you got an Uno card, you put that many chips into the bag. In honor of my birthday we started with sixteen chips.
If you land on someone's property not only do you have to pay them the money, but if it was a monopoly you had to also pay a chip for each house. It was against the rules to feel the scrabble pieces to tell what letter they are.
You win when everyone else runs out of money or loses all their chess pieces. Would you believe that Alice had three monopolies within five minutes? Yeah, so did I.
The game lasted until around 7:00 AM, in the end Rosalie, who had been the banker, won. Don't ask. After another hour of painstaking waiting, Bella led me into the big house blindfolded. I could hear breathing all around me, the pulsing of blood. I was still a newborn, and I was glad Bella had a restraining hand on my shoulder.
"Go ahead!" Angel said excitedly, and I heard a faint sound, hair hitting skin. Someone was nodding.
"Here we go." Alice said from surprisingly close, and I heard a footstep before I felt the blindfold coming off. I was practically bouncing up and down with excitement.
The cloth fell away, and the first thing I saw was Iggy holding a ginormo cake. My eyes focused quickly, and I saw the rest of the flock standing with the vampires. Max was front and center, Renesme on her shoulders. Gazzy was next to Iggy, in position to catch the cake in case Iggy dropped it. Edward was next to Bella, both standing by Max incase she dropped Nessie.
Rose and Emmett were to my left, Jasper by them and Alice next to me. Fang, Angel, Esme, and Carlisle were off to the right. They were all wearing those tacky party hats, and watching my expression expectantly. And then I noticed the house.
The place was covered with balloons. Surprisingly, it didn't look tacky. They varied from a light cream to a rich silver, and were as small a marble, to as big as a watermelon. They were taped to the walls to make spirals and loops, arcs and waves. Silver embroidery strung lightly around the top of the walls, and was spun over the surface of the ceiling.
The cake was obviously using the same theme, covered in finely rolled fondant lines and blown spheres of sugar.I didn't have to pretend to be surprised.
The next hour was filled with much off key singing, cake eating (for the flock and Nessie), and Alice chasing Gazzy around the house after she discovered he had been throwing darts at the balloons. Then it was finally time for presents.
First was the gift from Max and Angel. They instructed me to rip off the paper, but wait before opening the box. I obediently closed my eyes and held out my hand and something rough and hard dropped into my palm. It felt so heavy, but in reality if hardly weighed a thing, especially with vampire strength. There was just so much past around it.
"It's an ammonite fossil." Angel told me happily. I opened my eyes, and sure enough, I was holding what looked like a spiral shaped rock. I pressed it between my palms, and felt its story sitting there, like a huge encyclopedia.
"Thank you!" I hugged Max and Angel, Alice placing a warning hand on my arm. It was almost painful to let them go, the smell of blood, although dulled by the bird DNA was still so tempting.
"Open ours next!" Gazzy shouted. Iggy glared at him, and then whispered something in his ear. I could have heard every word they were saying, but I chose to tune them out.
"Fine," Gazzy pouted, "Open the other's first." As if on cue Fang handed me a huge awkwardly wrapped present. I pulled the silver paper off, and was still confused. It appeared to be a large, shallow plastic box with a plexi glass sheet covering the top. In the bottom was a layer of fine, black dirt, and upon closer inspection of the plexi glass sheet, I realized there were small silver dots covering the bottom.
I pressed my hand to the top, and my fingers tingled, the way they did when I picked up something metal. I flexed my mind, not sure what it would do, and a layer of dirt rose off the bottom of the bucket and stuck to the underside of the plexi glass sheet.
When I pulled my arm back, the dirt continued to stick there, still in the shape of a hand. I traced my finger along the box's lid, writing out the words Thank You. Everywhere I touched, a bit of dirt would rise off the bottom and stick to the top.
"It's solder," Fang explained. "The silver dots are solder. You magnetize them, and iron sand sticks to them." I smiled, and put my hand back where I had it at first. Instead of pushing my power out, I brought it back in, and the black sand fell back down.
I walked over a few steps to hug Fang, and then thought better of it.
The Cullens handed me their small present, and I opened it to find a stack of cards. I had a driver's license for each age, starting at sixteen, and going up to thirty. There were other things too, an FBI card, a few ID cards with different names, and a membership to the local gardening club.
"NOW can she open ours?" Gazzy looked pleadingly up at Iggy.
"Ok." He replied, tossing me a wrapped present that fit in the palm of my hand. Eagerly, I ripped it open, and inside was the sweetest looking key anyone has ever seen. The metal went straight out from base in a burst of a silvery blue color. The foundation itself looked as if it had been made by stuffing liquid silver into a frosting bag and squeezing it out into squiggles.
"Whoa. Holy smokes! What does it go to? If it is half as cool as this key……. omg omg omg omg ahhhhh! Whatsitgoto? Do you think I could wear this key as a necklace without looking like a weirdo? Heck, I'm a VAMPIRE, that can FLY! Let them call me a weirdo!"
I suddenly realized I had been being led outside the entire time I was talking. In front of the house was a shiny motorcycle with a huge red bow on it. It was silvery blue like the key, and had the same drizzled silver affect. It looked very uncomfortable, but I didn't care anymore. The key fit perfectly.
I looked at Max, and noticed that her eyes were blazing.
"You got her a motorcycle?" She seethed at Iggy.
"Yeah those things are dangerous." Bella said, wearily.
Without hesitation, I jumped on, turned the key, and was off. I had read about these in Jeb's magazines way back when. They weren't exaggerating about how fast these went. I was almost halfway down the driveway before I heard Max shouting at me that I should wear a helmet.
I drove back without any hands, still a little scared of Max's horrified look, despite that I knew I could take her with one hand behind my back.
"Fine." Max said. "No one who isn't over sixteen is allowed to ride." She looked at the devastated Gazzy and indifferent Angel. "And I better not see anyone with a heartbeat not wearing a helmet."
Of course after the rules were established Max claimed she needed a turn, and Iggy magically pulled a helmet that matched the bike out from behind his back.
An hour later I was sitting on the front stoop, watching Max letting Gazzy have the turn on the bike he had been begging for for the past hour. Max drove in circles, and I swear there were tectonic plates movin' faster than her. Nessie, who was sitting on Alice's lap was laughing and cheering.
Iggy sat down next to me, and tapped me on the shoulder.
"Can I show you something?" He asked and I nodded. The motorcycle would be there tomorrow, and I was enjoying letting other people drive it.
He led me back through the house and out the door towards the woods. We both jumped into the air, and I followed him, not sure where he was going.
I have no idea how he did it, but he managed to land relatively gracefully on the branch of a large oak tree, and motion for me to join him.
I sat down and leaned my back against the trunk of the tree, not that it was more comfortable, it just seemed natural. Looking closer at my back rest; I noticed some odd dents. I focused, and reached back mentally, sifting through this tree's past for something unnatural. Huh, Iggy had been here before. And judging by the way he had been punching the tree, he hadn't been happy. I then carefully followed him back until I had found the cause of his tree abuse. It didn't take me long to detect the reason. So that's why the flock had been avoiding Jacob for a while.
Iggy tapped my shoulder, pulling me out of thought.
"I had made you something else for your birthday," he said in his usual quiet way. So is that why he had brought me out here? What could he be giving me that he wouldn't in front of the Cullens? Or was it the flock?
He took a copper colored chain from his pocket and handed it to me. I took it; eager, and looked closer at it. There was a little wooden charm hanging from it. On one side it was a fang and on the other it was a wing, the tip of the feathers meeting up with the point of the tooth. I could feel his past all around it; he must have carved it himself.
"I made it myself. Renesme helped me see what I was doing. The fang is supposed to represent you being a vampire, and the wing is for you being a part of the flock."
And suddenly everything clicked into place – why he had reacted so strongly when the flock thought I was going to die, why it was he who had never left me while I was changing, and why he had carved me a necklace. He loved me. And I guess I loved him.
I noticed then that we had inadvertently been leaning towards each other, but neither of us really minded. He put his hand on the back of my head and my heart swelled. And we leaned closer.
Then a new, different passion overtook me. The Nudge I had been a second ago disappeared, as the monster in me that had saved my life surfaced. The intoxicating smell coming off Iggy was too much, I couldn't resist. Pulled by an un-fightable force, I leaned even closer to him, my teeth biting down where the blood pulsed loudest in his neck.