This chapter takes place during Bella's first day at Forks High, and contains major spoilers from the first chapter Midnight Sun, including a fair bit of dialogue...however, if you haven't read the Midnight Sun draft (are there any of you still out there?), all you really need to know is that Jasper is having a particularly bad day as a result of testing his endurance and trying to see how long he can go without hunting.

This chapter ended up being quite a bit longer than I intended, and part of that is down to the fact that I kind of allowed myself to run away a little with some background stuff...Jasper just would not shut up! But nevertheless here it is, and I hope you enjoy. As always, feedback is greatly appreciated.

I was in my own personal hell. And on top of that, my shin was throbbing.

"Sorry," I muttered, even though I wasn't the one going around kicking people. It was possible Edward had intended to hit my chair and somehow missed...although, with that much force, he would undoubtedly have broken it, so maybe he had been aiming for me after all. I couldn't really blame him.

With my uttering of that one word, my family couldn't even pretend to ignore my plight anymore. I heard Alice's attempts to assure me that I would have been able to keep myself in check, without help, while little Whitney Stevenson's scent permeated my senses, the sight of her exposed throat invading my black eyes. Alice hardly ever kept the truth for me, but I had the distinct impression that this was one of those rare times.

She continued describing the human girl in detail, and I could not help my sullen response. My throat was burning with thirst and it made me grumpy.

"I know who she is."

I instantly regretted my tone, turning quickly to stare out the nearby window. I loved Alice beyond description, but her attempts to paint the picture of Whitney as a "person" were not helpful in the slightest, they only made things worse. Like I needed reminding of that fact, of her fragile humanness...of the beating heart she possessed, of the pumping of rich, warm, viscous blood through her veins, of how it would be so easy just to stand up and walk over....

Alice stood up then, her delicate hand grazing the back of my arm as she did so, and proceeded to exit the cafeteria. I latched on to the distraction the brief contact provided and willed myself to reign in my baser instincts. I was stronger than this, I could handle it.

My love's sudden departure worried me slightly, but I knew she would forgive me, she always did. No doubt the next time I saw her, all would be forgotten. But still, I would attempt to make up for it – Alice deserved so much better than me and my weak self-control, and I wasted no opportunity to try and even the score a little.

Vaguely I was aware of Edward and Emmett discussing something regarding the new student and her reaction to the gossip surrounding our family, but my mind was preoccupied with ways in which I could appease my wife – at the very least, it gave me something safe to focus on. She would know immediately when I settled on a particular possibility, but I was used to that – at the very least, she could warn me ahead of time if she would appreciate it or not, and she certainly had no qualms about doing so. But I prided myself on very rarely getting it wrong, I knew her too well for that.

The creeping of confusion that came over Edward was so slow in building that I paid it no heed until it strengthened to the point where I could not consciously ignore it. I broke my eyes away from the window and stared at him across the table; his gaze was locked on some object behind where I was sitting. I watched, feeling my own confusion, as his eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched as if in concentration, and a new emotion engulfed him and overpowered all others – frustration.

What's wrong? I asked him silently.

There was no way he could not have heard me, but he apparently chose to ignore me, still concentrating hard on whatever was behind me. I resisted the urge to look back and make Edward's blatant staring even more obvious – we didn't need any more attention than we already got – but I did flick my eyes over to Rosalie and Emmett, who were in a better position to see what had so caught our brother's attention. They both, however, seemed oblivious to his behaviour.

It was only moments later, however, when Rosalie sighed and pulled her eyes away from Emmett. "Shall we?" she asked, indicating the time.

The words, spoken aloud, appeared to have succeeded where my silent query had failed, and Edward snapped back to the present, looking around the table at the three of us. I felt his frustration turn to relief and just the slightest bit of determination as he relaxed his tense body.

"So, is the new one afraid of us yet?" Emmett asked, and I was momentarily confused until my immaculate, multitasking vampire mind connected his question to the exchange he and Edward had shared regarding the new girl while my mind had been preoccupied with not massacring the adolescent population of Forks.

A spike of that earlier mix of confusion and frustration coursed through Edward, albeit with much less intensity than it had before. It dissipated quickly, and he shrugged in response.

I realized this must have been what had had him so preoccupied moments before, but instead of restoring confidence, this revelation had me more on edge. How could a mere human girl cause such a reaction in the normally stoic Edward Cullen?

We stood up from the table, intending to make our way out of the cafeteria and towards our next class. As I stood and turned I took the opportunity to survey the room behind me, my eyes instantly recognizing the new Swan girl for the simple reason that I could not recognize her. In a school as small as this, one didn't need to have a superior memory to single her out. In the fraction of a second I allowed my eyes to linger, I took in the details of the short brown-haired, fair-skinned human sitting across the room.

It was only much later that I recalled the blood pooling in her cheeks as she blushed, so perplexed was I at my brother's reaction that it didn't register in that moment – now that was saying something, considering my fragile state of control.

There really was nothing particularly remarkable about her, this Isabella Swan. What about her had captured his attention with such intensity? He had been staring at her with such concentration, in such frustration...the only times I could ever recall seeing Edward in that state occurred when he tried to pry information out of the mind of someone – usually one of us, purposefully trying to block him out – who was studiously avoiding thinking about whatever it was he wanted to know.

But what could possibly be of such monumental significance as to prompt such scrutiny? Aside from the occasional bit of entertainment, the only things in the minds of these high school kids that ever concerned Edward involved someone noticing something they weren't supposed to, something related to our family. Even then, a simple slip-up by one of us was not unheard of, and had never resulted in such a reaction as I had just witnessed – we were fairly efficient at covering those up.

No, this had to be something much bigger than that.

Was that it? Had this little human girl somehow stumbled upon the truth of our secret? It was the only possible explanation I had at that point in time. But if so, why had Edward not said anything? Why had he shrugged off Emmett's question as if he knew nothing of importance? I must have read him wrong, confused some emotion with something else.

Except...that just didn't happen. Not to me.

It must be something else, some other reason for his reaction that I could not anticipate. Still, he would have said something if it concerned us....

Perhaps I was overreacting. It was probably nothing, he probably just overheard something particularly affronting to his primmed countenance, and I was making a big deal out of nothing. I was exhausted mentally, my throat in a constant state of torment, my self-control at an all-time low. I would need to hunt, and soon. Tonight.

Edward was around the corner and off in the opposite direction before I had a chance to ask him anything. Sure he could hear my thoughts, but that didn't really help me get any answers out of him. But I was willing to let it go for now – I trusted him, we all did, and if whatever had occurred back in the cafeteria was any kind of threat to us, he would have warned us.

I broke off from Rosalie and Emmett to head to my own class, willing myself to relax and forget about Edward for the next little while. I stepped through the threshold into the classroom and made my way to my usual seat against the far wall. Unlike my siblings, I preferred to sit in the front row. True, I was more visually obvious that way, but it was near impossible to stare at my fellow students from this position without them noticing, and therefore helped to tame the temptation I had to bore my eyes hungrily into the backs of their necks...a temptation that inevitably led to an even greater temptation.

As I passed the teacher's desk on the way to my seat, Mr. Kassen greeted me, "Good afternoon, Mr. Hale."

"Sir," I nodded back politely, smiling. Alfred Kassen, an elderly man approaching retirement but retaining a sharp mind, was one of the few teachers I could tolerate at this school – indeed, one of the few I had been able to tolerate over the past few decades. It helped that he taught the one class that held even the slightest bit of interest for me: American History.

Normally I detested how the subject was slaughtered in secondary schools, but Mr. Kassen was different. His knowledge on the subject was impressive, even for a teacher, and he seemed to have almost perfect recall of it, too. And he was much more open to alternative views than most teachers I had run across. I had been through this charade countless times, but rarely did I come across a teacher who was so willing to challenge the claims made by Board-approved textbooks, who deliberately assigned his students to read opposing accounts and try to weasel out the truth for ourselves.

Despite the thirst clawing at my body, I relaxed a little as I slid gracefully into my seat. Last week we had begun the unit on the Civil War, and I was anxious to start the lesson. Mr. Kassen's was the only class where I actually volunteered anything to the discussion of my own accord, and much of the last several days the discussions had devolved into a good-natured debate between myself and the teacher. Luckily, the few times it had come up, I managed to catch myself just in time to prevent accidentally revealing details that were simply unknowable to a 21st century high school student.

After the first day last week I had been concerned about monopolizing the class and drawing more attention than usual. Edward had assured me, however, that most of the students had enjoyed the class, if for no other reason that my occupying Mr. Kassen had left them with a period of relative freedom in which to let their minds wander. I had been so engrossed in the discussion that, while I had noticed a number of my classmates relax more than was normal during that period, I had apparently been oblivious as to the reason behind it.

And ironically, it seemed that my overzealous treatment of the subject helped to ease the minds of my classmates regarding my rather strange behaviour and personality – I was well aware that I fit in even less than my wife and siblings. But after the past week those students who were in my history class, at the very least, thought they had finally figured me out – I was a loner history geek. It seemed that label had softened my "freak" image just a little, supposedly helping to explain my weirdness, and put the rest of the class a little more at ease in my presence.

I shrugged mentally – whatever worked.

Mr. Kassen wasted no time in getting the lesson started, and within minutes had brought up a rather controversial issue – at least, according to the wholly inadequate class textbook – and I noticed his eyes flicking repeatedly in my direction. I grinned ever so slightly, knowing my teacher had enjoyed the past week of debates as much as I had, and decided to put an end to the foolish argument he was trying to put forth. I could tell from the mild irritation emanating from him that he knew quite well how stupid the point he was trying to make was, and he was hoping desperately that his students would call him on it. I didn't need Edward's ability to realize that Mr. Kassen truly cared for his students' education, and he wanted them to learn when to question what they were being told...especially when it was so obviously illogical.

I raised my hand, and was rewarded with a wave of relief expelling from the elderly teacher. There was a hint of annoyance in there as well – he had clearly been hoping that someone else in the class would have either the insight or nerves to challenge his claims. I didn't take it personally.

Our debate began again, picking up from the previous class as if no time had passed, and now that I was consciously aware of it, I felt the familiar floods of relaxation and lethargy steal across a number of the students in the room as they realized my bizarre but acceptable enthusiasm would spare them from another hour of tedium. I had sensed a few of the more interested students gradually working up their nerve over the few days to jump in between myself and Mr. Kassen, and when Josh Brenning finally offered his opinion, it seemed to open the gates for a couple of others, and for once the debate expanded beyond myself and the teacher.

I found myself reluctantly enjoying a discussion with these children, and felt a very odd twinge of acceptance in that moment. Best of all, having something to focus on allowed my self-control to reassert itself.

Perhaps this day just might not end in a bloodbath after all.

It was impossible for me to block out the emotions of those around me completely, but I managed to keep it all in the back of my mind, like background chatter, and it was easily ignored. I did note right near the beginning of the period, however, a slight stab of emotion, seemingly a mix of anger and hate, anguish and torment – and perhaps even the smallest bit of fear – all rolled into one. It was strong enough to catch my attention, but still incredibly weak, so I doubted it belonged to anyone in my classroom – probably someone in the room closest to this one.

Those types of emotions weren't necessarily uncommon; I tended to intercept similar combinations when some dramatic romance met its inevitable doom. This was a usual time of the day for it, too – from my empathic experience it seemed that most emotionally-charged high school breakups tended to occur during or just after lunch.

Why that was, I didn't particularly care, just as this latest knowledge of yet another failed adolescent relationship really meant nothing to me at all – it actually surprised me that I wasted even a fraction of my mental capacity in its acknowledgment. Grateful that whoever was projecting those emotions was far enough away that I could easily ignore them, I pushed them to the back of my mind where the emotional climates of the rest of the nearby student population resided.

Naturally the only class I enjoyed was the only class that did not drag on for an excruciating eternity, and all too soon I found myself wading through the mass of warm-blooded bodies, grateful for the superior reflexes that enabled me to navigate the hallway without coming into contact with anyone. I had recovered from my lapse during the lunch period, and was fairly confident in my self-control, but was best not to tempt fate.

That one emotional awareness, the one that for reasons unknown had momentarily caught my interest right after lunch, grew just slightly in intensity, suggesting that I was now in closer proximity to the owner of those emotions. I still did not understand how or why that particular awareness seemed to seep into my conscious thoughts so easily, but when it did I noted the absence of the rage that had been there before, replaced by even more torment and fear. The fear perplexed me, but I gave it no more than a cursory acknowledgement – it wasn't my business. Within a few moments the emotional climate weakened more so than before, indicating a distance between myself and the individual once again.

I entered Mrs. Taylor's English classroom and shook my head imperceptibly to clear my thoughts. I could only deduce my lack of concentration in keeping the elevated emotions in check was down to my weakened state of mind. I vowed never to go this long without hunting again, not if I planned to keep up the human charade – I was reasonably certain that I wasn't about to make any mistakes, but the effort was mentally fatiguing.

I nodded to Rosalie when she entered the room and took the seat behind me. She wasn't particularly enamoured with sitting so close to the front of the classroom, but she recognized my plight and was supportive. We had an easy relationship – simple, but we understood each other.

Class started, and Mrs. Taylor began the most tedious lecture of all time...although I suppose that couldn't be right, since all of her lectures were as tedious as the next. She was the polar opposite of Mr. Kassen, and as I had anticipated, the time crept at a snail's pace.

Considering I was already facing eternity, the ability to slow time down even further was actually quite remarkable.

The final bell rang and the class as a whole went to stand up in their bid to freedom, but Rosalie and I remained unmoved, having been forewarned by Alice. Sure enough, not two seconds had passed before the rest of the students reluctantly sat back down, grumbling, as they were ordered, and Mrs. Taylor kept us all for a few extra minutes while outlining her expectations for an upcoming assignment. When we were finally granted our freedom, Rose and I hurried to the parking lot, knowing the others would be waiting for us.

Which was why, when we arrived at the car and Edward was nowhere in sight, I was confused. Alice wrapped her arms around me and while I revelled in her embrace, her nature of her proud smile – which I immediately understood to be the result of my restraint holding throughout the day – made me a little uncomfortable. I turned to look at Emmett.

"Where's Edward?" I asked.

"Dunno," he replied, distracted, as he pulled Rose tightly against his body. "Jerk skipped Spanish, not that I blame him. Just wish he took me with him." I had to fight to close myself off from the lust that assaulted me from their direction.

I looked down at the goddess in my arms to ask if she knew what was going on, but before I could get the words out she leaned up and captured my lips in a kiss. It was rather chaste – at least by the standards currently being set by Rosalie and Emmett – but it seared throughout my body, making me forget that I even had a brother.

We pulled away and smiled at each other while Rose and Em kept at it, making quite the display. It wasn't until the offhand yet disgusted "Get a room!" was uttered that Rosalie broke away and turned to the small group of passing students from whence the comment originated. Had we been human we could not possibly have been able to hear it, and clearly freshman Jordan Henley was under that same impression. We watched as his smug grin faded and his eyes went wide when he caught Rosalie's icy glare, and I felt the astonishment and fear roll off of him in waves. He ducked his head to look at the ground and began walking faster; his friends, who realized they had also come under the scrutiny of the school freaks, quickly followed his lead.

The four of us burst out with laughter.

We were all still shaking with mirth a minute later, when suddenly it was back. That strange mix of anger and torment and fear – and now accompanied by a strong feeling of desperation – bloomed up again and took priority within me. I had been at a loss to figure out why it had so captured my attention throughout the afternoon, but it was easy for me to realize why this particular emotional climate was so obvious in this moment – the intensity was staggering, even to me. And it was growing stronger by the second.

Emmett was asking me about some sort of game and punched my shoulder when I didn't reply, but I ignored him. Instead I clamped my jaw against the influx of raw emotion and quickly turned to scan the parking lot, trying to decipher who was being so affected. I felt Alice squeeze my hand in concern and I squeezed back to reassure her, but continued to search the area. The feelings were so powerful that I could not seem to isolate the point of origin.

"Finally," Rosalie muttered, and then...

"What the hell is he doing?!" she hissed out at the same time that I caught sight of our wayward brother emerging from the direction of the school's main office. I felt multiple waves of apprehension and anger hit me from my surrounding family as we watched Edward all but fly across the parking lot towards us. It was astonishing, really, that no one else seemed to notice him or the inhuman speed with which he moved – we were lucky that many of the students had already fled the premises.

This careless action – by Edward, of all people – was enough to snap me out of my search for the individual behind the overwhelming emotional bombardment my senses. When I focused on him, however, it felt as if those radiating sensations were intensified to a narrowed precision, like a magnifying glass focusing a beam of light.

And then it clicked. It was him. The rage, the anguish, the pure, unadulterated was all coming from Edward.

My eyes widened in surprise, my mind's ability to multitask once again taking over. If that were true, if I had been him all along that I had experienced...the sheer magnitude of his emotions was almost too much to grasp. My ability had a much more limited range than Edward's in regards to proximity – I had to be fairly close to someone in order to intuit their emotional being, usually within a few dozen yards. The element of depth, however, played a role and stronger feelings could natural be felt over larger distances.

If he had been in the vicinity of his appropriate classroom at the time – and I had no reason to doubt that, as I had seen him heading in that very direction just minutes beforehand – then the weight of undiluted emotion bottled within him was simply mind-blowing. Mr. Kassen's classroom was clear across the school from Edward's biology lab.

He approached us with determination in his eyes – the charged climate of emotions that struck me at the proximity was nothing less than agony in its severity – and did not stop until he had slammed the driver's side door of the Volvo behind him. We all quickly climbed in, the bewildered tension thick in the air...air that Edward was violently sucking into his lungs as if he actually needed it. His hands were balled up into fists against the steering wheel.

I had to grip onto Alice's hand so tightly in order to calm myself – such was his effect on me – that I was actually concerned that I might do damage.

"Edward?" she asked him in alarm, concerned for the both of us.

His only answer was a shake of his head, and I had to struggle through another wave of staggering sensation.

"What the hell happened to you?" Emmett all but yelled; it took a lot to upset him.

I was now breathing almost as heavily as Edward, trying my best to calm my mind down with the soothing repetition. There was too much raw emotion in the car – Edward alone was overwhelming, but on top of that I had to deal with anger and anxiousness of the others, not to mention my own delayed reaction to my brother.

My system was overloaded, trying to process too much too quickly. It was enough to cause me excruciating mental and physical pain.

My eyes were screwed up tightly, and I had to pry my fingers from Alice's for fear of harming her. Sensing my plight as only she could, she grabbed my wrist and guided my hand to her leg, and I gripped onto her small but much more durable thigh. My other hand was wound tightly through my hair as I leaned as far forward as the passenger seat in front of me would allow, trying desperately to deal with everything and failing.

It was a few long moments later that I was capable of registering the smooth movement of the car speeding away from the school. My unnecessary breathing began to slow as I started to regain some control over my senses, and I realized that Edward, too, was beginning to calm down ever so slightly. I allowed my claw-like grip on Alice's leg to relax, and sat up slowly, my eyes gradually relaxing and opening once more.

Emmett and Rosalie were already staring at Alice questioningly when I managed to drag my eyes to her face. She looked at all of us in turn and shrugged, then stared forward blankly in an attempt to find some answers. I allowed my fingers to intertwine with hers again, having regained enough control – she was strong enough that I could never actually crush her hand, but I didn't dare dream of causing her any sort of discomfort.

Suddenly, her eyes refocused and a wave of confusion coursed through her as she stared at Edward's rigid form behind the wheel. "You're leaving?" It was barely a whisper, and I felt her sorrow at the idea.

"Am I?" he hissed. While his tone alone would have been enough to tell me, the painful spike of hopeful desperation I felt in that instant made it clear that he wasn't sure exactly what he was planning on doing.

"Oh," was Alice's small reply, and then she repeated the monosyllable with greater realization. The three of us were as confused as ever as we listened to them, at a loss as to what was going on.

The rage and torment suddenly flared again, and I had to fight to keep from doubling over. My free hand flew to my neck as a visceral agony that was not my own ghosted down my throat, causing a sudden excretion of venom to pool in my mouth.

"Stop!" I heard Edward's strangled voice choke out, and I would have echoed his plea had I been able.

The guilty concern washed off of Alice as she whispered in apology. It mixed with just the slightest hint of horror.

What the hell was going on here?!

Alice still held the glazed look that crossed her features when she was looking to the future, and I felt her begin to relax emotionally as well as physically as she sat beside me, as some more agreeable vision of the future evidently came to her. Edward followed almost immediately, having the advantage to see what she did. Finally it was my turn – the intense bombardment of emotions never ceased, the physical pain never left completely, but both dropped off to a level where I could at least attempt to exercise some control.

Never in my century and a half could I remember ever feeling so powerless when it came to my empathic abilities.

Having regained some semblance of control, I resisted the intense urge to shrink away from what remained of Edward's emotional barrage and instead forced my mind to hover around the edges, probing for some sort of information. It was then I remembered the venom that now coated my mouth and throat, and the memory of the pain – a mere pinprick compared to what it had been only moments before – brought me crashing down on the realization that I had been intuiting from my brother such an intense, lustful hunger the likes of which I could never recall experiencing myself.

Then the gears in my head locked into place, and at least one mystery of the day was solved. The anger, the anguish, the desperation, the hint of fear...those feelings that had called out to me after lunch despite their faint presence? It was the same composition – if on a much grander scale – as what I myself would experience in my more profound moments of weakness, when I could barely hold on to my resolve or – as had unfortunately happened a few times over the last fifty years – when I lost the battle and succumbed to the purely instinctual creature inside of me that yearned for human blood.

The familiarity was what had captured my attention. And as I experienced the intensity with which Edward currently felt those emotions, even after having calmed down significantly from only a few minutes before, I realized something quite unsettling....

Throughout my immortal life I had always known what I was capable of, but never once had that knowledge produced the tiny thrill of fear that now coursed through my body. Ever the poster boy of impeccable restraint, if Edward was capable of such animalistic abandon...I didn't even want to think about it.

I heard Alice speak again, but I was too caught up in my own thoughts to pay her words much heed...something about Edward leaving once again. It wasn't until the car jolted to a stop, the autonomic response of my muscles reacting to the inertial shock catching my attention, that I brought myself back to the present and noted our proximity to home.

Emmett and Rosalie both exited the car, and I looked to Alice for an explanation. She merely squeezed my hand and nodded, turning back to stare at Edward. I got the hint and opened the car door beside me. As I stepped out and away from the car, I stumbled suddenly, still not in complete control of my body. Rosalie noticed and was quickly at my side, an arm around my back to steady me as my stone legs fought to keep from buckling.

I had not felt this physically vulnerable since the Southern wars.

I was attempting to regain my equilibrium when I heard Alice, still in the car, trying to reassure our brother.

"She's Charlie Swan's only family. It would kill him, too."

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place as I absorbed those words. Swan...Isabella Swan. The object of Edward's inexplicable fixation at lunch.

I was incredulous. All of this was because of her?! The indescribable weight of emotion, the staggering pain I was being forced by proxy to deal with, was being brought about by that unremarkable girl?!

That realization alone was almost enough to send my already wavering form crashing to the ground.

Alice joined us then, her delicate features contorted in worry. Without a word she moved into the trees bordering our long driveway, lost in thought and most likely searching for a vision. We followed after her, noting the screech of tires as Edward spun his car around and sped back down the highway.

Rosalie kept an arm around my shoulders as I recovered, finally free of Edward's crushing presence. The sudden absence of the tortured emotions left my body in a state of confusion, almost as if suffering the effects of sensory deprivation. I gave her a weak but grateful smile, and she rubbed my shoulder affectionately...right before tugging me a few inches to the left so that I would avoid bulldozing the tree in my path. I redoubled my efforts to organize my mind and body, and to get them back in synch with one another.

Even at my unusually slow pace we arrived at the house in less than a minute. Alice and Emmett arrived first, Emmett's unanswered demands for information growing louder and enticing Esme out of the house. She was on the front porch as we approached, and immediately I felt her concern grow as she took in my appearance.

"Jasper!" she called and rushed forward. I was still slightly hunched over, head hanging, as I concentrated on walking in a straight line – I could only imagine how I must look to her. We walked inside and I grudgingly allowed her to fuss over me in the maternal role she so loved, conceding when she all but pushed me down onto the couch in the living room.

Once the five of us were all seated, questions were flung in Alice's direction. She was beside me, having snapped out of her trance-like state upon entering the house. I could still feel the concern within her, but it was tempered now by a calm feeling of acceptance. Whatever vision had most recently passed through her mind, it had helped to put her at ease. I embraced those waves of calm and used them to help myself refocus; I could feel my mind and body slowly returning to normal.

One thing was for sure, though – if I had thought earlier today that hunting would be necessary should I care to entertain any notions of being in proximity to humans tomorrow, then right now it was just downright necessary, period. I was utterly drained.

Surprisingly though, hunting was only second on my list of priorities. I needed to know what was going on – I would be damned even more than I already was if I allowed myself to be left in the dark much longer about what I had just unwillingly experienced.

Either she sensed my need for information or she was simply becoming irritated by the increasingly demanding questions – I sensed it was a bit of both – Alice finally launched into the story, telling us as much as she knew. I added a few insights, but otherwise remained quiet, not wanting to dredge too far into the recent memories of overwhelming empathy.

Carlisle returned home in record time, surprising us initially because it was the Volvo's engine, and not the Mercedes', that we heard racing up the drive. By the time Alice finished the story and Carlisle had added his own knowledge, having spoken with a frantic Edward shortly after we were dropped off, I had pretty much recovered physically from the strain of the short but monumental ordeal.

But mentally? Emotionally?

That was going to take a little longer.