Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight!
My feet feel light and disconnected as I plant one in front of the other and Edward walks beside me. We're headed for Chemistry, and I pray we don't have a lab today because my head is floating somewhere in the clouds and all I can think about is Alice.
"Are you alright?"
I bite my lip, knowing I have to lie but also very aware of how easily he can see the way I'm blushing. "Yeah… Just…"
"What is it?"
"I'm worried about Renee." I finish lamely, "She seems even more out of it than usual lately, but she swears nothing's wrong, and even if that's true, I'm afraid she'll hurt herself not paying attention to what's going on around her."
He draws me close, and I feel relieved but a tiny bit ashamed as I wonder when I learned to lie convincingly. "She'll be fine, Bella. She's an adult and she can take care of herself."
"I don't know if I'd go that far…"
Edward kisses my forehead, and my stomach flips with guilt. "You worry too much."
I shrug. "Maybe you're right."
Class drags on forever, and unease blossoms inside me when Edward leads me into the woods instead of taking me home after school. He has a mystical, ethereal look in the spotted green light that dances between the shadows stretched over his skin like lace. I can't help but think of Alice, even now, but I try to focus on Edward.
"So why the random detour?" I ask, trying to keep my voice calm and nonchalant.
"I think you know what this is about, Bella." His face is unreadable as he turns to me and takes my hands in his, and for a moment my heart stops. "Prom is coming up. I know how you feel about these things, but I'd really like it if you come with me."
I try to hide my relief, nodding and letting him take me in his arms, unaware of the weight resting on my shoulders, the words waiting to push through my lips. I want to get away so I can call Alice, but Edward is always close, always with me. I wish he needed to hunt tonight, just so I could be alone and have a chance to talk to her. I don't know if I can do this anymore.
I toss and turn all night. I can see Edward's face in the moonlight falling through my window, and he looks concerned. I try to pretend I'm asleep, but he probably knows I'm faking it. I'm glad Charlie is gone when I wake up, because my stomach is so knotted, there's no way I could eat breakfast. From the moment I get to school, Alice shoots me searching looks whenever Edward is distracted, and somehow it bothers me that she can tell something is wrong when he can't. My classes take forever, because for most of the day I'm next to Edward, and I know he's watching me. Third hour, I feel so overwhelmed I take a trip to the bathroom that I don't necessarily need, and somehow Alice is there already, waiting for me. Even though my eyes sting with unshed tears, I don't realize how much I want to cry until she pulls me into her arms and my breath is coming so fast and hard my head spins and I sag against her.
"Oh, Bella…" she murmurs into my hair, and I feel so lost right now.
"Alice?" she holds me closer. Maybe she can hear the raw need in my voice.
"Are you sure this isn't wrong?"
"Edward asked you to prom yesterday."
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you. A lot of the time I can see the future, but I didn't think to wonder whether that would upset you. I didn't think it would the way it did."
"Alice, does he love me?"
She sighs. "In his way, yes, he loves you Bella. But he doesn't love you in the way you wanted to love him, and maybe that's why you can't feel that way about him."
I look at her, feeling more than a little puzzled. "How do you know?"
She rolls her eyes. "Jasper."
It bothers me a little that he knows, and that he probably knew before I did that what I have with Edward can't be the everlasting romantic love we both envisioned. Still, Alice knows how I feel, and she's here to comfort me, and that means more than anything else that's going on. I'm not even sure I could survive this realization without her by my side, holding me and promising things will eventually be ok.
"I don't want to go to prom with him, Alice." I'm on the verge of sobbing again, but I fight it. I know she loves me, but I don't want her to see me as completely weak.
"Bella," she says softly, "it's okay. You can go to prom with Edward if you want to, and if you don't, you can back out any time. I promise you he wouldn't ask someone else."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"Either way, you know it's true. It will hurt his pride, but you're not his one and only love. Honestly, I don't think he's ready to love someone that way. Men mature more slowly than women, and he was just on the cusp of emotional maturity when his life started to slip away and Carlisle decided to turn him. I think some day, he might be ready, but now, he only seems like he is at first."
"I want to believe you, but wouldn't you lie to take away my pain?"
She kisses away the teardrops on my face before replying. "Bella, I would do anything to make you feel safe and whole, but I think in the end, lying to you would only hurt you more, so I would never do that."
I press closer to Alice, and even though I know I should keep my distance, her scent does something to me and my body presses closer until her back is against the cold tiled wall and my tongue is dancing against hers, her taste making every nerve in my body tingle with anticipation.
I turn, and the blood in my veins turns to ice as I see Jessica standing in the doorway with wide eyes and flushed cheeks.