Gap in curtains. Daylight. Too bright. Want sleep. Need sleep.
My mind won't clear. This damned tiredness is infuriating.
I'm just going to lie here until someone comes and tells me what's going on. Why am I being confused for Bella? Why do I look like Bella?
Am I Bella?
Is this all a dream – or the vampire equivalent of a dream? Am I going to, for lack of a better word, 'wake up' in our house, with my family and my husband, and my brother's fiancée in her own bed?
My stomach feels strangely... painful. I think the feeling might be hunger, but I don't feel like I'm going to have to kill someone to fulfil it. I think I've got to... eat some cereal; that's what Bella tends to do.
A knock comes at the door, and Charlie's voice: "Bells, it's time to get up. Didn't you hear your alarm go off?"
Damn. Damn. Damn. It's a Friday. It's a school day. And I've got to concentrate all day, feeling like this. How do humans do it?
"I'm up, Char-Dad. Give me a second." I'm finding it difficult to remember that, for all intents and purposes, I am Bella this morning. I've just got to get to school; we can talk and figure it all out. I don't know how the hell this happened, and I'm sure she doesn't either, but maybe we can – what do they always do on cop shows, again? – retrace our steps or something.
I get out of bed reluctantly, cross to the window and wrench open the curtains. It's cloudy outside, for a change. My hair feels oddly dirty, like when Jasper decided that he had to honour the dare that Emmett had set him. The dare in question included pouring oil on my head. So I guess I've got to shower.
I do so as quickly as possible, dry off and contemplate dressing as nicely as I can. I end up in jeans, a tank top, some bangles and a really cute pair of runners that I've never seen on her, green with flowers. I've got the feeling that they were a gift. But, as they say, in for a penny, in for a pound. If I'm going to pretend I'm Bella, I may as well do it properly!
A voice comes up the stairs: "Bella, I'm off. There's oatmeal on the table."
"Alright, Dad. Have a good day."
Hopefully that's what I was supposed to say.
I shove what I think I'll need for school into Bella's bag, sling it over one shoulder and head downstairs to the kitchen.
OK. Food. Thank God Charlie made breakfast - I don't even want to know what his reaction would have been if he'd forgotten something, and found his daughter rummaging through the broom closet, looking for something to eat.
I've seen Bella eat oatmeal before. I think I know what to do. Put some into the bowl. Pour milk and sugar on top. Take a bite. Swallow.
It tastes... odd. Sweet; almost too sweet, I think. I'm not sure if I like it. But I eat a dozen spoonfuls of it, and feel my stomach cease its growling.
A quick glance at the clock tells me it's time to go if I want to get to school on time, so I grab the backpack and Bella's keys – thank God they were where they belong, on the hook next to the door – and head out the door.
I do my best to creep in to the house quietly. For anyone with human hearing, it wouldn't have been audible, but you know what they say about vampires...
"Alice, honey, are you alright?" Esme's face is worried as she looks out from the sitting room.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
What am I supposed to say? No, actually, I'm not alright. I'm not even Alice! There's been a temporary recasting of roles: Alice Cullen, played by Bella Swan. Hopefully I'm just on today.
For all I know, the real Alice is sitting at Bella's house – my house - eating breakfast and wondering what the hell's going on.
Actually, I'd love to say that, but the explanation may well take too much time, and I really need to get to school. Hopefully Alice will be there, and we can try and figure out what's happened. Sitting by that river for hours has sort of cleared my mind. There's a lot less internal screaming going on.
I head up to Alice's room, running through her clothes in my head. I'd better keep up the ruse of being Alice. I'll wear that purple dress that she was showing me the other day. I'm not risking heels, though.
I find the dress in question, pull it on absent-mindedly and locate some flats in the closet. While doing so, I can hear the conversation going on downstairs. How does she stand it? It's so irritating, hearing everything everyone's saying, all the time.
And these visions. It's sort of like remembering things. Sometimes, you concentrate on a memory, and it's clear as crystal. And sometimes, you tie a shoelace or smell a perfume and memories come flooding back to you, whether you want them there or not. This morning, I've seen Esme throwing an apple at Jasper's head, Charlie eating a sandwich and Angela Webber failing her Math test. I look into Edward's future, but all I can make out is a lot of confusion and worry.
Alice's backpack is sitting where Jasper put it when he brought it in from the car last night. I rifle through, trying to find her planner and which classes I've got to sit through today.
Today, I've got an oral presentation. And an essay due. Brilliant.
There's a knock at the door, and Edward pokes his head around the doorframe. He looks uncomfortable.
"Alice, are you alright?"
It's all I can do to not fling myself at him, but I don't know what to do. Until I've spoken to Alice, wherever she may be, I'm not telling anyone anything. So, I respond nonchalantly: "Yeah, I guess so. Why?"
"Jasper says you're scared and worried, but most of all, you're confused. All I know is that your thoughts are more mangled than I've ever seen them. Metaphorically speaking, that is."
Oh my God. He can read my thoughts. Does he know I'm not Alice? Does he know I'm Bella?
Oh shit. He can read my mind.
"Bella? Is it really you? What's going on?"
"I'm... not sure. I woke up in this bed, and I look like Alice, and everyone's confusing me for Alice, and I can see things in my head that aren't real, and I feel about half a foot shorter, and I can run at superspeed, and when I was in your garden I threw a rock, and, I swear to God, it must have flown half a mile." The words are flooding out now.
"Alice... Bella... I don't understand."
"Oh, and you think I do?" I let out a sob and flew into his arms. He hugged me awkwardly – after all, he wasn't sure if he was holding his fiancée or his sister having a nervous breakdown.
"I really need to get to school. I'll find Alice and we can try to sort this out."
"Uh... OK." This is far from Edward's usual eloquence, but I think the extremity of the situation allowed him to be inarticulate. "And, just so you know, Jasper drives you to school. And at school, you're going to have to pretend you're Alice."
I'm not sure if he believes me or not. But he will soon enough!
He gives me a self-conscious hug. "I'm off. See you at school... Bella."
Jasper voice floats up the stairwell and into the room. "Alice, honey, we've got to get moving."
I walk gingerly down the hall, before flying down the stairs. My God, that was fun. I could get used to this! If only he'd change me...
"Are you feeling better?" Jasper's eyes are anxious as he takes my hand and we walk to the car.
"Jasper, I've got something I need to tell you."
A voice calls across the car park.
"Morning, Bella. Bella?"
Oh crap. That's me, isn't it? I turn and smile at the speaker.
"Morning. Sorry, I was zoning out."
"No probs. Where's Edward?"
"He couldn't give me a lift this morning; I think he had to help his dad out with something."
Angela surveyed me for a minute, before smiling with a gentle excitement. "I can't believe that you're getting married in a few days. It's so amazing. I'm sure you'll be happy for a very long time."
Oh my God. What if I have to marry Edward? How long is this change going to last for?
I push the worry to the back of my mind and smile. "I certainly hope so."
We walk in companionable silence into the main school building. Angela heads for her locker, and I realise that I don't know the combination to Bella's. Mine.
I wander down the hallway, trying to look like I'm supposed to have Jasper's arm around my shoulders. There have been few circumstances in my life when I've felt this uncomfortable.
Jasper's speaking to me at superspeed, which, of course, I can now understand. I told him about my dilemma, and he seems to have fewer difficulties comprehending it than Edward. He's therefore decided that, while I 'am' Alice, I needed to be convincing, so I'm currently being educated on being a Cullen.
"... and your schedule is in your planner, and I'll be sitting next to you in all of your classes but English; if you get asked any questions, I'll help you out as much as I can. You shouldn't be, though; Alice tends to know the answer to everything. Your locker combination is 28-19-43, your homeroom teacher's name is Mr Brown. You're studying Hamlet in English: you don't really like it, you find Polonius fascinating and, for you, the most interesting aspect of the technique is the cosmic diction."
Thank God I temporarily have perfect recall. I know that if I'd been in my body –where I'm supposed to be – this would all have gone in one ear and out the other.
"You need to make sure you fidget, and don't forget to breathe. Don't try to eat or drink; it's really not pleasant. Oh, also... you chat to the girl who sits next to you in English; her name's Michelle and last class she didn't finish telling the story of the time her little brother fed their pet dog a slug."
"Schedule in planner; you're with me in my classes; 28-19-43; Mr Brown; Hamlet; Polonius; fidget; little brother with slug."
"Sounds like you've got it." He looked at me with kind eyes. "Bella, I realise that this is incredibly difficult for you. I don't really understand it myself, but please understand this: I'll do anything to make sure that my wife is alright. So if you pretending to be her for a couple of days is what it takes, I'm going to help you do that."
My heart rose in my chest. "Thanks, Jasper."
"No problems, kid. I'm loving the dress, by the way."
I grinned at him. "You're too kind."
"Hey, Alice!" a voice called out behind me.
"Who was that?"
"Jonas Fisher. Lives three streets away from your place, plays the guitar, talks to you occasionally in Math."
"Oh God, Jasper... who am I kidding? I can't pretend to be Alice. This isn't going to work: something bad's going to happen... she'll fail one of her classes, or... lose a friend. And it'll all be my fault!"
I'm getting a few weird looks.
"Alice, honey, relax. Please."
Now that I've thought about it, how am I supposed to relax? He knows that my name isn't Alice, but what about everyone else? People who are going to be expecting to see and hear and talk to my wonderful soon-to-be-sister-in-law.
And then someone taps my shoulder, and I hear a voice behind me. A very familiar voice.