The dawn began to signify the passing of yet another sleepless night. I lay in Edward's arms on the bed in our room, watching through the glass wall as the sun eased out of hiding. It broke through the hills, casting rays of beaming sunshine across the horizon, only to settle behind the soft, white blanket of clouds.
"Mmm," I sighed, perfectly at ease, when its show was finished. I looked around at the room. The walls and carpeting of the big room sported the usual white-on-white coloring. My eyes stopped on the mirror atop the vanity in front of us, reflecting the scene back to us.
Edward seemed just as peaceful as I was. He leaned his head down to whisper in my ear. His cool breath tingled against my skin. "My love, we need to get up."
I moaned stubbornly and settled deeper into his chest. I inhaled deeply. After all these years, that scent still sends me spiraling.
He chuckled. "Believe me, love, I don't want to move either. I could hold you like this-" he tightened his arms around my waist, "- for eternity and more." He paused, deciding how to phrase something. He kept it simple. "Alice…"
My eyes snapped open reluctantly. "Alice!" I muttered, frustrated, through gritted teeth.
I loved my peppy, smart, adorable sister/best friend dearly, but her morning persistence was horribly irritating. Once, she even dumped a bucket of water on Emmett because he'd worn the outfit he was wearing twice before. "There. Now you have to change!" She'd said proudly in her tinkling soprano while shoving against the biggest vampire in the house. I giggled darkly to myself and swung my legs off the side of the bed.
I twisted my torso around and leaned me head to give Edward a good morning peck. He surprised me by taking my face in his hands and kissing me passionately for a few moments. Or was it years? I couldn't tell. I really didn't care.
Finally my head solidified a bit and I murmured around his lips, "Not helping." He chuckled and pulled away, sliding off the bed in a swift movement. I hopped down with a faint thud.
We sauntered over to our walk-in closet to get dressed for the day. He pulled on a pair of loose jeans and a casual, dark blue polo. I wore tight-fitting jeans, a blue camisole, and a ruby-red leather half-jacket with lots of zippers. I smiled ruefully to myself as I slipped into a pair f matching red high heel flip-flops, thinking of how proud of me Rose and Alice had become over the years as my fashion sense progressed.
I pulled my hair back into a thick blue headband, letting it fall against my back, and glanced over myself in the full-length mirror. I wanted to look relatively nice today.
Today was the first day of yet another junior year for Edward, Alice, and I. Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper were pretending to be a year older than us, as usual. The whole pattern was getting old, but still oddly comforting.
I did particularly like this school, however. Maybe because it reminded me of my first school back in Forks. Like Forks High, this school was made up of several red brick buildings. It had a small population, and was nearly constantly covered by clouds and rainfall. It felt comfortable. Like…home, despite the cloudiness of my human memories.
Each new school provided the same, familiar pattern. The over-friendly boy, the gossiping girls, the jealous, pubescent, easily distracted guys, the awed gazes, the whispered remarks, the easily dazzled secretaries…
I frowned. I didn't particularly like this part of being a vampire. Whenever I wanted to remember something from my human life, I was always sucked back into vampire memories.
I sighed. Edward glanced down at me from his place at my side as we walked down the driveway to my Ferrari. I just shook my head at him as he opened the driver's seat for me.
As I sped down the road towards the school, with Alice, Rosalie, Jasper, and Emmett on my tail in Rosalie's BMW, I once again took in everything around me.
Carlisle had really chosen a wonderful area this time. We were somewhere in southern Canada I think; I didn't really keep track anymore. I didn't matter much. But it sure was gorgeous. Rather than the forestial areas we usually settled in, this place was mostly meadow until you hit the mountains. The clouds were typically white and pure, completely covering the skies on a day-to-day basis, until it rained, of course. As soon as you got away from the houses and buildings, all you saw was light green grass far and wide, speckled with splashes of colorful wildflowers. Despite its sunless state, it still managed to be bright and beautiful.
I slowed down to savor the wonderful, fresh scent of the air. Lovely. Emmett honked, irritated but teasingly, from behind us. Edward laughed. I sped back up again.
Finally we pulled into the parking lot outside of the front building. We all filed out of our cars, Edward coming around to open my door for me. We were a little early, so we leaned against the BMW and waited for time to pass.
I took in the faces of my family one by one. Rosalie, with her brilliant blonde hair and depressingly perfect face, holding hands with Emmett, with his huge muscles and a grin to match. Alice, her delicate pixie face and spiky brown hair as she stared lovingly at Jasper, who wore his best calm face as the wind blew his blonde hair around it. I let my eyes fall on Edward last, who was still so devastatingly beautiful that it made my heart physically grow in size. He tousled his bronze hair as he gazed back.
Finally 7:50 rolled around, and we each held the hands of our mates as we walked towards the building. Of course, the inescapable whispered conversations of curious freshman and new kids swirled around us, oblivious to the fact that we could hear.
"Who are they?"
"They're the Cullens. 's foster kids. They moved here a year ago from, like, some obsolete town in…"
"Oh my gawd! Look at that blonde!
"The guy with the bronze hair! Yuh-mmy!"
I growled quietly next to Edward. I never really got used to those remarks. No matter how long it had been, I still wanted to put a huge flashing sign over his head that said "PROPERTY OF BELLA CULLEN DO NOT TOUCH." I glanced up at him. He seemed to want to do the same, but with a bigger sign. I squeezed his hand. Poor Edward. At least I didn't have to hear their thoughts.
The day dragged; there seemed to be a lot more gossip than usual today. At first I figured it was just the reaction to us, and blocked it out. Then, around hour three, when I began to hear familiar voices hissing at each other just as much as the unfamiliar, I began to pay attention to what they were saying.
"Think her name's Ree-oll-eeh-ah…"
"-heard she came here from somewhere in South America-"
"Saw her in the hall. Total hottie. Probably not as hot as that Bella chick. Definitely not that blonde. But still…"
"Thought about talkin' to her in the hall. Totally chickened out."
"She really is very pretty. I'll bet she's having a tough time adjusting. Maybe I should say 'Hi' or something…"
Huh. So a new girl.
As I listened, I kept hearing about how beautiful she was. I panicked a little. What if she was like us? I silently fretted at the idea of a regular vampire around us. What would she –and her coven, if she had one- think of our 'vegetarian' lifestyle? Then I heard Mallory Jenkins whisper-
"She has the prettiest tan skin. She looks almost like and Indian. I wonder what I would look like with a nice tan…"
Vampire out. Werewolf, maybe? No. Leah was the only girl werewolf in the world, right? Wasn't she? Huh. Maybe not. By the time the bell rang, I was pretty worked up by the whole idea of the girl, fascinated, dreading and fearing the meeting at the same time.
It could just be a pretty girl, Bella. I thought to myself. Not everyone has to be a mythical creature.
I sighed and pushed my shield away from me so that I could talk to Edward. I felt it shove past my skull and lift away, leaving my mind light and exposed.
I've heard a lot about this Ryallia girl. Apparently, she's gorgeous. Do you think she's one of…? I couldn't finish.
He thought about that for a minute. I don't think so.
It still always came as a shock to hear his lovely voice in my head. We had just been discovering the possibilities of my little skill. Apparently, I could sort of use someone else's gift on them. We had been experimenting with Jasper one day and all of a sudden he felt someone imposing focus and frustration on his mind. I pulled back in shock and it went away. Edward and Carlisle were thrilled. Nothing really cool happened with Alice; all I saw was what she was going to wear the next day. But with Edward, I could have private little conversations with him in our heads. It was very convenient, but it took a lot of work.
Hmm. I don't think so either… I paused. But why do you?
I um… Caught a glimpse of her mind earlier. It was the oddest thing... He shook his head slowly, without being noticed by anyone but me. I crinkled my forehead in confusion to urge him on. Well, he stopped again, deciding how to phrase something. It was sort of like… I don't know… It's difficult to describe. It was as if she was thinking about something, but her mind was on a completely different track simultaneously, then she would be thinking about thinking about something… It made my head hurt. But what was really strange, was that all of her thoughts seemed to move together. It was completely fascinating. His face was one of frustration and curiosity.
I frowned. I didn't like him being fascinated by beautiful, mysterious women.
I was about to say something, but the bell rang and my shield smacked back into my head.
We stood up and walked at a leisurely pace towards the door. I wasn't sure what expression was on my face. I felt an irrational flood of worry rush through me, but I hoped it wasn't evident on my face.
It was. He stopped, turned, and cupped my face in his hand, an incredulous look of love in his eyes. I leaned into his palm unconsciously.
"Just promise me you won't…won't…fall for the pretty, fascinating new girl." I bit my lip, searching his eyes.
He chuckled once and his other hand joined in lightly caressing my face. He looked intently into my eyes, still smiling. I breathed heavily, very nearly shaking as his eyes pored into mine. "I do have a knack for that." He leaned down and gently pressed his lips to mine.
I closed my eyes, forgetting why I was worried in the first place. I melted into his hands as the rest of the world's importance slowly withered away. Where was I again?
He chuckled and pulled away, still keeping my hand in his. We walked out the door together, towards the English building. "Nevertheless, you don't have to worry. I could never even look at another woman without thinking about you. No even infinitesimal piece of my mind or heart could ever direct towards anyone but you. I am yours completely." He grinned down at me.
"Promise?" I mumbled.
He smiled wider. "Swear."
His words reassured me as we walked through the doors to hour four. I spent the class time holding hands under the table with Edward as he whispered the lines of the Frost poem in my ear with his velvety-rose-and-sunshine voice as Mr. Melvin read them.
Eventually lunchtime rolled around. I shuffled through the line with my family, grabbing and apple and a bottle of water as I walked.
I had just finished paying and was about to walk around the last empty round table and sit down at our usual spot, when I saw her.
The first thing I noticed was her skin. It sent an unconscious sense of relief through me as I took in her glowing, tan skin. It really was very pretty. It seemed to set off its own peach-russet aura as it naturally shined, like the radiant luminosity inside a burning fire. Totally different from the bright white of a vampire. I huffed out a breath.
Then I took in the rest of her face. Her full, pink lips. Her blonde hair (werewolf out. All of the wolves had black hair), which had a lovely deep brown undertone, making a similar glowing effect as her skin. The gold necklace she wore, which only further imposed the effect.
The shape of her face really grabbed my attention. Her cheekbones were cut sharply, giving off the stunning look of a woman, yet her jaw still held some roundness. Not really of adolescence, so much simply as of beauty. Her nose was long and thin, adding a fierce edge to the shape of her face.
I saved her eyes for last. Icy blue, a surprising contrast to her lovely golden skin. They smoldered with horror and fascination as she scrutinized the Cullens. Finally her eyes bored into mine with infuriated curiosity.
She was wild. She was dangerous. She was ferocious.
She was absolutely gorgeous.
And in that instant, with each and every small, insignificant fiber of my being, above everything else; above the sun the stars and the moon, I knew one thing. It hit me like a truck going 120 mph. Like being electrocuted. Like a dam bursting ten feet from me. Like running head-first into a mountain that had never been there before.
Ryallia could not be human.