Chapter Summary: Flowers. Blueberries. Well, not blueberries, but both for me. Well, not for me. Dammit! I'm going to tell her. I have to tell her. Right now. I don't care what she thinks: I have to tell her I love her.

Rosalie returned before lunch time, which was a good thing, because I wasn't really hungry yet (although oatmeal really wasn't all that filling), but I also wasn't relishing the idea of making my own expedition, again, to that elusive outhouse.

I was sitting at the table, the algebra book propped open, and my note book partially covering that tome as I worked on the problems.

As soon as she walked in the door, she didn't greet me. Instead, she walked quickly to the table, put something there, at the center of it, right in front of me, grabbed something from the sink behind me, and was back out the door.

It was a bouquet of flowers: purple ones and red ones.

They looked wild. Flowers, in February, right in front of me.

Rosalie had gotten me flowers?

I didn't have time to puzzle over this, because she was now back in, holding one of the bowls. I guess that's what she got from the sink. She put it beside me. It was nearly full of blueberries.

She grabbed my cup, and was back out the door, tossing over a musical command of "Don't eat them yet" over her shoulder as she left.

They looked wild. But blueberries in February? Didn't they come into season later in the year?

Rosalie had gotten me a bowl of blueberries?

I suppose I should get used to my head spinning whenever Rosalie made herself known. No matter how much I thought about her while she was away, it seemed like her presence never ceased to amaze me.

And speaking of presence ...

Rosalie came back in with the cup, scooped out some water from the pot, and then, after a second, poured it into the bowl of berries. She set the cup down by me — it was about half-full now — and headed to the door, saying, "Let them soak."

"Rosalie, ..." I called out, trying to catch her.

But she was already gone, with a lingering "Be back shortly" her only remnant.

I sighed, looking down at the entirely uninteresting set of problems, and set back to work.

She did return a few minutes later, carrying outdoorsy clothes. Two large bags dangled beneath the pile she carried in her hands. She put everything down in the clothing corner, then came to me, standing over my shoulder, looking down at my work.

I had the urge to hide my notebook when she uttered a noncommittal hum. She pulled up a chair on the other end of the table and sat down, facing me.

"So, ..." she began.

But I interrupted her. "You brought me flowers?" I asked in disbelief.

She gave me the oddest look.

"I felt this place," here she waved airily, "could use a bit of color, and I happened to notice these, so ..." she paused thoughtfully, "I brought them here. Don't they make the table look more, ..." she shrugged, "spritely?"

"So," I looked at her, "you brought the flowers to make the cabin look nicer? You didn't bring them ..." for me. I couldn't finish the statement. I was embarrassed to think that I had thought she was doing something nice for me, and I didn't want to hear her have to tell me that they weren't for me.

"Yes, I brought them for the cabin," she confirmed, looking me dead in the eye. Her eyes piercing mine, not wavering a bit.

I dropped my gaze. Of course, she wouldn't be bringing them for me.

"But," I heard her say, "at least the meaning of the rhododendron blossom are à propos, even if the irises are merely decorative."

"Huh?" I asked, befuddled.

Rosalie didn't respond, so I looked up from my notebook that I was nervously doodling in and into her gaze.

"Do you mean to ask," she asked quietly, "for clarification? for an explanation?"

I quickly dropped my eyes back to my notebook, and started rapidly scribbling in my scrawl as I nodded my response to her. I wrote: Rule number 1: don't say 'um' or 'huh' to vampires.

"Is the notebook talking to you? Or am I?" Rosalie demanded.

Boy, I was just hitting home runs today.

"You are, Rosalie," I whispered.

But I couldn't look at her. I was just so embarrassed now, so I wrote in the notebook instead: Rule number 2: look at vampires when they're lecturing you.

She waited patiently as I wrote, but when my pencil stopped, her calm voice cut right into me.

"Then may I have the pleasure of your eyes and your attention when I'm speaking to you?"

I knew I was getting myself into more trouble, so I sighed, put down my pencil, screwed up my courage and looked at her: Her Majesty, Queen Rosalie.

She surely looked the part: annoyed with me, but bored at the same time, as if I wasn't worth the energy of getting angry over.

"Thank you," she said dismissively, but then, in a more kindly tone, she asked: "Now, what did you need me to explain about what I said?"

Well, I did ask before, so I guess I asked for the lecture before she'd answer? So, this was all my fault? As usual.

I kept my voice calm when I responded with the question the way she wanted me to ask it: "Why are rhododendron flowers, um," and here I grimaced at her grimace, "sorry!" Jeez! "Why are rhododendron flowers appropriate?"

She smiled. "Better," she said and then answered: "Rhododendron means 'beware!' So, not only do they brighten up the room, but they also serve to remind you of what I am. Beautiful and useful, don't you agree?" She seemed so pleased.

"Oh," I responded. I just liked that they were pretty ... I really didn't need to know the warning part. "... and the blueberries? I thought they weren't in season."

I was just talking and talking, wasn't I? Dancing around what I really needed to say. Dancing around what I had determined to say when I stood in front of those mirrors.

"They aren't actually blueberries," she responded. "I don't know actually know what they are, but they aren't noxious for your physiology. They are bit past their prime, so that's why they are soaking in water. Try them."

I looked at the bowl of berries, and carefully picked out one, putting it into my mouth.

"Be careful," she said as she stood up, "they have a pit."

She got the other bowl from the sink and put it by the bowl of berries as I tentatively pealed the fruit from the pit with my teeth. The berry felt sandy in consistency in my mouth, and there was no taste to it at first. I thought she was punishing me for my comment to her earlier by the stove, and I felt ... grateful ... that she was finally taking out her anger on me, because the guilt? It was so heavy, that I was practically ready to beg her to shout at me or something. She wouldn't even let me apologize for what I said, and it was eating me up inside.

But then, in my mouth, the berry went from sandy and tasteless to still sandy but bursting with a very subtle fruity flavor ... like blueberry, I guess, but having its own taste. It was really hard for me to describe, because the taste was just a whisper of sweetness, not at all juicy, but fruity all the same.

"So, did you do your mirror time?" Rosalie asked.

I crunched down on the pit, hard, in my surprise, nearly swallowing it in shock. I spent the next second spitting out the pit into the empty bowl, coughing, tears right on the edge of my eyes cause by a little bit of saliva going down the wrong hole.

"I tried, Rosalie, I tried!" I shouted back quickly in my defense.

Her Majesty did not look amused.

"You 'tried'?" she asked haughtily.

"Yes!" I responded, blushing hard and looking down at the notebook.

Rosalie cleared her throat.

I forced my eyes up, looking into her critical onyx eyes.

Her eyebrow was raised. "What does that mean, you 'tried'? You either did your three seconds, or you didn't. Which one was it?"

"I..." I started breathing heavily. I couldn't look at her anymore, so I looked down at the notebook again as I finished my weak response, "... tried."

Rosalie sighed.

"Li-..." she started, but then quickly whispered a "dammit!" almost too soft for me to hear. Her mistake brought my eyes up right quick, but I saw she was the one looking away, now, grimacing.

She looked back, displeased. I don't know if she was displeased with me or with her or with both.

"Girl," she began again, "did you stand in front of the mirrors at all?"

I nodded.

"Good!" she smiled lightly. Her praise was a surprise to me, even if it was faint praise. "That's a good start. Now, did you stand in front of the mirrors for three seconds?"

"Um," I began, but her narrowed eyes silenced me for a second as I looked away quickly, remember how angry my hesitancy made her.

But then I looked right back and shouted angrily at her. "Look, okay? I can't be Little Miss Perfect like you are just like that, all right? I'm trying, okay? Jeez! Can't you see that I'm trying?"

I crossed my arms petulantly and, I cannot believe this, but my lower lip stuck out as I looked away again.

God damn tears! Sneaking out of my eyes like that when I'm trying to be angry. When I am angry. I'm not a Little Miss Nothing Cry Baby. I went to wipe away those traitorous tears only to have my arm hit something cold and hard.

Rosalie was standing right in front of me ... holding out a hanky.

I took it and looked down at it. It was white, diaphanous, and had a very pretty flower pattern, a light purple and a dark orange-red, much like the flower garland that now graced the table. It was beautiful, ... just like her, just like everything about her.

I murmured a quiet thanks and wiped my eyes and blew my nose. The smell of it was her: so compelling. Rosalie's voice drifted softly from where she was sitting before. I didn't hear her come to me; I didn't hear her go back to her chair. I just had her beautiful, and now wet, hanky in my hands. I just heard her voice from across the table.

"I do see you trying, and you are doing so, so well in such a very short time."

I looked at her blurrily through red eyes: "Really?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes, really, so know that, and don't despair." She was looking at me so intensely.

"Hokay," I breathed out. It was all I could say.

"Okay," she responded quietly.

A second passes where nothing was said, but where I felt she was saying everything to me. And I wish I understood what she meant, but I didn't understand one word of her silence.

"So," she continued lightly, as if this moment didn't exist.

"So?" I asked, still stupid with my anger and confusion.

She waved toward the mirrors.

"Oh," I said meekly.

"Look, Rosalie, okay? I don't know how long I stood in front of the mirrors, okay?" My words started getting faster and faster. "But it was probably three seconds, no, it was probably more than three seconds, like, a lot more, but I probably didn't do it right, because I was thinking about a lot, okay, and I don't think I really, um, looked at the mirrors all that long or all that much or all that often or ... okay, look, okay? Look. I just can't do it, okay? What do you wan-..."

I was stopped suddenly, because Rosalie stood up suddenly.

"What I want you to say," she began very quietly and very forcefully, "is not that."

She held out her hand toward me. I looked at it.

"Well, come on," she commanded.

"Where?" I asked weakly.

She came around the table, and I pressed myself back as far as I could into the chair.

"We are going to go to the mirrors, and we are going to do this, now ..."

"No." I said firmly.

Rosalie blinked. "'No'?" she asked in confusion.

"Look, Rosalie," I responded quickly, "I already said I can't do it. That's it."

She raised her offered hand to her chin, tapping a finger on her perfect marble cheek.

"You can't do it, or you won't do it?" she asked quietly, but I could hear the rage boiling underneath.

"Look, Rosalie, I'm not ..." I didn't get to finish what I wasn't because Rosalie reached into the bag of books right beside her and pulled out the Austen compilation. She rested it on the table.

I swallowed and whispered, "That's not my book anyway; it's yours."

She raised an imperious eyebrow. "So you won't miss it if it's gone, then?" She took it to the stove and opened the vent and the front door.

I could barely breath. "You wouldn't."

Her stony face said otherwise: "Mirror," she commanded coldly.

I started to panic. "There are other books out there in the world, there are ..."

She cut me off with her sardonic reply, "... and will you ever get to see any of them?"

"Rosalie, please," I pleaded, "I just can't do this. I just can't!"

She grimaced again, but then got a thoughtful look.

"How about this," she offered, "I will help you, and ... and ... for each day you do this, you get to read a chapter from any of the books in this volume before bed time. How about that?"

"'Each day'?" I asked in disbelief.

She rolled her eyes. "You are going to do this with or without the book, so, if you go willingly, ..." she waved the thick gray book suggestively.

I looked at the book, then I looked back to her.

"You'll help me?" I asked in a small voice.

"Yes," she responded with conviction, her hard face backing her firm affirmation.

"... And can we do this after an outhouse break?" I asked hopefully.

"No," she responded with as much conviction.

"Please?" I begged, trying to forestall the upcoming torture.

She steady gaze was pitiless.

I sighed, caving in. I murmured an "okay" as I dropped my eyes to my lap. I just knew this wasn't going to end well. Seven seconds that last time during the night was hours and hours, I could just feel doom creeping toward me.

Speaking of doom, I heard the stove door close and the vent dampen. Rosalie was right in front of me again, and I heard a quiet thump from the bag. She held out her empty hand to me. I took it, watching only it, not where it was taking me.

"All right, now," she said quietly, "all you need to do is to look into your eyes in the mirror for three seconds. Let's begin."

Okay. It's simple, right? All I have to do is look up, and ...

I looked away as soon as I saw what was looking back at me.

Well, at least this time the thing in the mirror had washed itself.

"Look at me," came the quiet command.

I couldn't. "Why?" I asked helplessly.

"Did you know," Rosalie asked quietly, "that the eyes are the windows to the soul? I didn't." Her voice was calm and soothing and gentle. "I mean, I had heard that, but I didn't believe it one bit. Of course, I never looked into anybody's eyes, or if I did, it was just a dismissive glance. Maybe it was because that nobody that I had known had a soul that I wanted to see."

"I want to see your beautiful soul, that's why I want you to look at me," she concluded quietly.

I just shook my head and blushed. Now I was embarrassed, too.

She lifted my chin with a cold, patient, irresistible hand. I couldn't but help but look into her eyes that had no end to the depths of them.

"Don't you wish to see the beautiful soul in you, too?" she demanded quietly.

She turned my face to the center mirror before I could answer.

I looked away right then. Because she was lying to me. I didn't have a beautiful soul. I didn't have anything. I was nothing next to her, and she knew it. She was being nice today for some inexplicable reason, but that didn't change facts.

Rosalie sighed.

"So," she began briskly, not moving an inch, "what was it that you were thinking about in front of the mirrors earlier?"

It sounded like she was trying to distract me into looking at the mirrors, but the distraction was worse.

For what I was thinking about was this.

I'm going to tell her.

I'm going to tell her today. I'm going to tell her that I love her. I don't care what she thinks. I'm just going to come out and say it. She knows already, because she's read my mind, and because she heard my voice, too. That's why she came back. So this time I'm going to tell her right to her face. I'm sick to death of dancing around this, so I'm just going to say it, right now.

I clenched my fists at my sides and looked her dead in the eye. I'm going to tell her right now.

"Rosalie, I have to...ooooohhhaaa..." The air escaped my lungs in a whoosh, and I couldn't get any air back in to finish the sentence.

Rosalie's whole demeanor changed from confidence to caution as she crossed her arms in front of her. She looked scared and deadly at the same time.

I concentrated really hard on filling my lungs, but I had to check first.

"Rosalie, I have to ask you something."

Tell her! the voice commanded. I ignored it.

"What is it?" she demanded coldly and cautiously.

"Rosalie, ... why did you come back?"

She looked at me quizzically.

"You know, that night?" I waved at the mirrors. "When I said ... when I said..."

"When you said you hate me," she finished for me, her voice dispassionate.

"Yes, when I said ... that." I finished lamely.

"Why do you ask? You are my responsibility." She said that as if this were the most obvious thing in the world.

"But ... but ... I said ... I ..." I was stuttering with emotion.

"It doesn't matter what you say or what you feel. You are my responsibility; I am a Hale. I take care of what is mine." She said this so seriously.

"Besides," she continued lightly, smiling, "it makes perfect sense for you to hate me. I was actually a bit relieved to hear you come to your senses. I am your kidnapper, after all; I am your destruction. It makes perfect sense for you to hate me."

"But, you came back, Rosalie, because you heard me, you heard me say it. You heard me, and you came back!"

She looked at me. "Heard you? Of course I heard you, you couldn't have been more forceful with your outpouring of hate, but when I came back you were asleep. You were quite cold, too. You weren't saying anything then, even though you do talk in your sleep at times."

"No!" I shouted, "You know what I mean! You heard me say it!"

She looked at me. She was going to make me spell it out.

"You read my mind, Rosalie. You heard me."

She smiled indulgently at me. "I don't read minds, L-...girl."

Liar! I shouted in my mind, and she gave me a cross look, so I knew she was lying. I was just going to have to say it.

"At any rate," Rosalie continued, interjecting her speech before I could open my mouth, "you'd have to be insane not to hate me, so I entirely understand the depth of your feelings. You needn't apologize on that count. Was that what you were going to say? It's quite all right: I understand your hatred. If you had any other feeling, that would be a very serious concern."

"Rosalie, I was going to say that ..."

Then I stopped.

The impact of her words hit me.

She said I would be insane if I said I loved her.

"Aaaah can't breeeaatheeee." I couldn't get air in anymore as the panic of the dawning comprehension hit me. I was waving my hands up and down in front of me in helpless furtive gestures, trying to move the air on the inside with my hands on the outside.

She looked at me with shocked concern. "What do you mean you can't breathe? You are hyperventilating. Calm down, girl. Cal-..."

I didn't hear her finish. I grabbed her arm as darkness covered my eyes.

Chicken! the voice in my mind kicked me as I fell into unconsciousness, adding insult to injury.