Note from eiluned price: Recently, I was introduced (thanks, Shalow!) to a retelling of "Midnight Sun" that was so richly imagined and sweetly rendered that I asked the author if I could take a stab at putting it into English. She graciously agreed (despite my inexperience in translating fiction).
It is, of course, better in the original, so if you can read French, check out "Les Yeux de la Lune," by Elysabeth, which is linked to on my Favorites page and my profile page. If not, well, you're stuck with me. :) But don't let that stop you from reading!
Fun fact: The French title of "Twilight" is "Fascination." Therefore …
Disclaimer: "Twilight" and "Fascination" belong to Stephenie Meyer.
Chapter 1: First Sight
Lunch in the cafeteria was the hour I loathed most. All these minds gathered in one room irritated me. The mixture of insipid thoughts bored me more every day. There was a time when this cacophony was a welcome distraction during the interminable days of high school. As the years passed, though, I learned to close my own mind to the minds of others, partly out of courtesy but mostly because of the tedium of their banal and trivial thoughts. They never changed, year after year, decade after decade. Generations came and went, but they were all the same. It quickly became tiresome to repeatedly hear the same questions, the same doubts, the same thoughts that preoccupied the typical adolescent. Now I blocked them out.
But today the clamor of excited thoughts filling the cafeteria was so deafening, so chaotic, that it was impossible for me for ignore. And it was all because of a new student.
Isabella Marie Swan. The only daughter of the chief of the Forks Police Department and the latest star attraction in the school. I felt sorry for the girl for having to be in the spotlight, but at the same time, I was relieved that for once the Cullens were not the center of attention. Her novelty value would not last, I knew, and inevitably my family would once more be the subject of ignorant but harmless gossip about our legendarily bizarre lifestyle. Harmless, that is, as long as nobody asked himself the right questions about us.
For the moment, though, all the talk was of the new student. If she had come here straight from Mars she couldn't have provoked more curiosity. But then, it didn't take much to capture the interest of the children of Forks High School.
I had encountered the Swan girl only once this morning. Emmett and I were on our way to Spanish. We were late; the bell had rung a few minutes earlier. We knew, though, that the teacher wouldn't reprimand us: we knew the language too well - better than she did, in fact - for her to punish us for missing the start of the lesson.
We were alone, but the lack of interest we had in sitting through Spanish class did not encourage us to hurry, to move at a vampire pace, so we wouldn't be quite so late. And it was a good thing, because, upon turning a corner of a silent hallway, we had been surprised to find a student walking alongside the wall, so near to it that her arm grazed it.
I was amazed that I hadn't detected her presence. I was less astonished that Emmett hadn't: there were too many human odors in the hallways, some recent, some older, for him to perceive that a student was lingering. As for me, I had an early warning system. At least, I was supposed to have one, since usually I could hear someone's mind well before happening upon him or her.
But that wasn't the case this morning. What would have happened if Emmett and I had opted for a normal pace – that is, normal for us? That girl could have seen us and caused trouble.
I reproached myself for my lapse. It was my job to protect my family, and reading others' thoughts was an important tool for avoiding mistakes that could betray our true nature. Alice could have foreseen that this girl would be in the hallway and that we should be careful to act human, but she was too focused on Jasper today. He was testing his limits. It had been more than two weeks since he had hunted and he wanted to see if he could still control himself among all these warm-blooded students -there was nothing more appetizing than hormonally unstable adolescents. Alice concentrated all her psychic energy on seeing if Jasper was going to succumb to his thirst. She had confidence in him, but Jasper was the least resistant member of our family. He was all too aware of that, and he saw it as a weakness. He fought ferociously against his nature, but mistakes were sometimes impossible to avoid. Or rather, they would be impossible to avoid if Alice were not with him to warn him and lead him away from temptation.
I concentrated on the girl who shouldn't have been in the hallway and knew immediately that it was the new student whom everyone was talking and thinking about. I was duty-bound to know all the students at Forks High, and I didn't recognize her. When we moved here two years ago, I had scanned all the faces, scrutinized each mind, to be certain that none of them had a too-active imagination and that the gossip about us didn't extend beyond our unusual looks and peculiar relationships.
Isabella Swan was acting strangely, so strangely that I forgot my unease in discovering that I somehow wasn't hearing her thoughts. She walked slowly, her hand skimming over the lockers, the doors, the water fountains. She touched everything in her path. Emmett said nothing aloud, but I heard his mocking thoughts: That gal's crazy.
My brother quickly classed people as inferior to himself, a habit I disapproved of. That was Emmett: a simple creature with simplistic judgment. But this morning, I had to admit that he wasn't wrong. The Swan girl's behavior was truly odd. It was obvious that she thought she was alone in the hallway. Normally, the members of my family were the cynosure of all eyes. No one was indifferent to us, willingly or not. This morning, however, Isabella Swan was the exception to the rule that all humans were as attracted to us as metal was to a magnet. She had ignored us, continuing on her way, walking through the empty corridor.
Emmett and I had also gone on our way. She hadn't acknowledged us? So be it. We certainly weren't going to criticize her for it. To pass by unnoticed, to melt into the crowd, it was what my family wanted most, after all. It was pointless to think about her further. Her mind was unreadable, but that was probably because it was empty - nothing to see there, nothing to read.
I thought no more of the school's newest attraction, and Spanish, like all the other classes that morning, proceeded as always, dull and boring.
At lunchtime, my family and I were thus at our usual table with our usual prop trays and our usual prop meals. The density of minds overexcited by the new student put me on edge. Still, I didn't bother to figure out why they considered her so special. It didn't interest me. For my brothers and sisters, it was a pleasant break from maintaining our human façade. Since we were always at the center of attention at school, we had to watch our smallest acts to not to reveal what we were.
The arrival of the Swan girl in Forks was a welcome respite from being so careful. A respite that only Rosalie didn't appreciate. She adored being watched, being admired and feared at the same time.
There she is!
There was no need to wonder who the subject of these thoughts was. Isabella stepped hesitantly into the cafeteria. I glanced at her casually to see if I had missed anything this morning. She looked ordinary. Uninteresting. A translucent complexion that revealed the blue veins under the delicate membrane of her skin. She was almost as pale as us, and her chocolate eyes were dull, lifeless. I could tell she was nervous to be in a crowd, because her heartbeat sped up and her breathing stuttered.
In just one morning, though, the Swan girl had already found a male admirer. Mike Newton led her to his table, and Isabella followed him slowly, even clumsily. Mike introduced her to his friends. She smiled. It was intended to be gracious, but her cheerful expression was belied by the sadness of her eyes.
Automatically, in a defense mechanism against suspicions about my family, I tried to read the girl. But once again an invisible wall blocked me. It was very frustrating. Never had I failed to get into someone's head. Never. I tried harder, and opened my mind to its maximum, with the only result being the amplification of the mental cacophony in the cafeteria.
She could have been so pretty.
What a shame. What a waste.
What is she going to do? She won't survive a week in this jungle.
She's so lucky. She won't have to do gym.
All these thoughts were about Isabella Swan, and I wondered what they meant. Their tenor was puzzling. I perceived a collective sentiment of intrigue and ... pity? I was, however, too annoyed that I heard nothing of the mind I wanted to understand to pay more attention to the strange thoughts of the others. I stared at her, studied her, to try to pierce her mental wall. Another failure.
Isabella ate her lunch and answered the anodyne questions of the other students at the table. She corrected everyone on her name: "I prefer Bella." She had a soft voice, barely a murmur. She was polite, friendly, but I didn't need to read her thoughts to see her deep unease at all the notice she was getting. She chewed her lower lip, a sign of shyness. Her fingers trembled as she held her fork, and her frail shoulders were hunched.
I stared at her so intently that my brothers and sisters were astonished.
"What's going on?" thought Emmett.
"What's so interesting about her?" Rosalie added snidely.
I shrugged indifferently in the hopes they would stop paying attention to me. I didn't want to alarm my family. The inaccessible brain of this girl wasn't going to remain that way for long. I was determined to get into her mind, and I would succeed. It was only a matter of time.
Alice immersed herself again in her visions, scrutinizing Jasper, who was still fighting his burning thirst. Emmett returned to thinking about the new wrestling holds he planned to try on me or Jasper this evening. Rosalie, in character, thought about herself.
As for me, I focused more than ever on the Swan girl. And this time I made the mistake of attracting the notice of Mike Newton and Jessica Stanley.
"What do you take her for, Cullen, staring at her like that?" Mike thought indignantly.
"The new girl is getting her share of curiosity," Jessica scoffed. "She's even roused the attention of the untouchable Edward Cullen. It's enough to make you believe that you need to be a permanent cripple to get a guy. Pfft."
Her petty thoughts baffled me.
I had noticed Bella Swan's uncertain, clumsy gait, but I didn't see it as a reason for mockery.
Jessica Stanley had always had an egotistical, hypocritical mind, and she was being exceptionally two-faced today. She was friendly and warm to Bella on the surface but all she really wanted was the attention that came with being near the new student. Jessica put on a good show, and I had a burst of compassion for the poor Swan girl, who knew nothing of her lunch companion's juvenile malice.
I hastily repressed that wayward surge of sympathy. I couldn't let myself be touched by Bella Swan's apparent vulnerability. After all, she might have a mind as twisted as Jessica's.
I was pursuing my incessant assault on Bella's mental wall when someone new showed up at her table.
"Hey, Bella!" Angela Weber said cheerfully. Bella barely raised her eyes toward Angela. That could have been seen as a sign of indifference or boredom if a happy smile hadn't lighted up her face.
"You have a good memory! Did English go okay?"
"Yes. Thanks for helping me find my class this morning."
"It was a good thing I was going to the restroom. How long would she have wandered the halls looking for the right class if I hadn't run into her? Poor thing."
Ah, that's what the girl was doing in the hallway this morning. She was lost. Why, then, hadn't she asked me or Emmett for help in the first place? I knew we were intimidating, but not to the point of making a lost student cling to the wall in terror.
"No problem," Angela answered. "I'll show you to your next class, if you want."
"Thanks, I'd appreciate that. In two days, I won't need help anymore, you'll see. I'll be able to find my way by myself."
I detected a note of annoyance in her soft voice. The Swan girl was touched that someone helped her, but she wanted to manage by herself as quickly as possible, to not to have to depend on anyone, to rely on anyone. Even as I wondered why she was so adamant about being autonomous, I congratulated myself for deciphering something about her without having access to her mind.
"Please sit with us, " Bella continued, recovering her enthusiasm. "That is, if there's room."
Angela joined the little group and exchanged banalities with her classmates. Jessica pouted while I continued to stare at Bella.
"You should count yourself lucky, Bella," Jessica said. "Your first day at Forks High, and you are getting noticed by a Cullen!" Her words were meant to be condescending, but nobody seemed to take them that way.
The girl frowned.
Jessica repeated all the usual blather about my family. Nothing astonishing in that. Each newcomer to the school heard more or less the same nonsense about the strange Cullens. I waited for the inevitable glance of fascination and doubt in our direction. But it never came. Bella Swan contented herself with shrugging and smiling at Jessica.
"It's a rather peculiar family from what you say, but what family isn't a little weird?"
I would have laughed if I hadn't been so irritated that I was unable to read what she truly thought of us. After all, my gift served to protect us, to ferret out those who asked themselves too many questions about us. To not be able to use it on the new girl bothered me beyond measure.
Hearing our family's name, my brothers and sisters started paying attention to the conversation I was spying on. They too waited for the dumbfounded look in our direction. Like me, they were surprised that the Swan girl didn't even turn her head toward us, but perhaps she was merely extremely polite. I already was imagining the hypothetical mother reprimanding her young child: "It's not nice to stare, Bella dear. " Maybe the girl was too well brought up to look at us. That's what my brothers and sisters thought before dismissing her and returning to their previous trains of thought.
I was the only member of my family deeply preoccupied with her, and all because I couldn't read her.
The lunch hour passed without my gaining any purchase on her mind. I left the cafeteria before everyone else, no longer able to tolerate being in the same room as that enigmatic girl. I went to biology and sat at my lab table. I rested my chin in my hand and lost myself in thought as I contemplated the forest through the window. I paid no attention to the other students who trickled into class. As usual, nobody came to sit next to me. So much the better. I felt more asocial than ever today.
Banner arrived with his briefcase and started the fan to chase away the traces of chemical vapors that remained from the previous class. A single sniff was enough for me to identify them: sulfuric acid, carbon nitrate and sodium phosphate. The earlier class must have been studying the different levels of pH in soil. The fan quickly dissipated the odors, which pleased me; I detested strong artificial smells.
Oh, here's Charlie's daughter. Damn. How should I act? C'mon, Banner, pull yourself together. Treat her like every other student. It's probably what she wants.
Despite myself, I turned my head toward the door. Bella Swan entered with what I was beginning to see was her typical gait: tentative and slow. It seemed that I wasn't done with her. I was going to have to endure her in bio. Great. Just great.
Why did she make Banner nervous? Because she was the chief of police's daughter? Did Banner feel guilty about something? Had he broken some law and feared betraying himself before the daughter of a representative of law and order?
My gift was useless on the Swan girl, but with everyone else it was infallible: Banner was an ordinary man, with an unremarkable history. What, then, was his problem?
Instead, it was Bella who should be nervous. She was the new girl, after all.
Angela accompanied Bella as they had agreed on at lunch. Before going to her usual lab table, she introduced Bella to Banner. He gulped and forced himself to greet his new student as any teacher would.
"As you like. So, did you get the proper textbook?"
"Good. If I'm not clear, if you have questions on the material, don't hesitate to come see me at the end of class."
"No problem. Don't worry. I'm used to it. I have everything I need here."
Bella slid off her backpack and tapped it.
Used to it? Used to what? To changing schools in the middle of the year?
"Okay. In that case, all you need is to find a seat."
Find a seat.
I suppressed a grin. There was only one seat available, and it was next to me. I exulted in silence. We were going to see if the Swan girl lost it next to a Cullen. Suddenly, the prospect of having her so near delighted me. I would no doubt be able to defeat her mental defense if she was closer.
"You can sit with Edward. Straight ahead, second row," Banner said, turning back to his desk.
Bella obeyed, her backpack under her arm, and I noticed that she counted her steps under her breath. Another odd habit. She passed in front of the fan as she walked.
I was slapped in the face by her scent.
At that moment, my world shattered.
The Edward that I had built up in the last several decades was banished and replaced by the monster that always slept in me. It was as if the monster had merely bided its time, that it had waited for the perfect scent to emerge and destroy the little bit of humanity that remained in me. I felt certain that I had searched all my life for this aroma, of having lived just in order to find it, taste it, and devour it.
My throat burst into flames, venom flowed in my mouth, ready to spread in the veins of my next victim. All my muscles coiled, ready to spring on my prey. Bella Swan no longer existed. She was only the frame, the container in which circulated a blood that was mouthwatering, intoxicating and unique. From that container wafted a scent that was horribly delicious and tempting. My body fought the last shreds of humanity that nailed me to my seat and prevented me from acting. The monster in me screamed, protested, salivated. "Take her," it ordered me. "Seize her, drain her, satisfy your thirst as never before!"
Why must that scent exist? Why must this girl smell so good? Why had she made the fatal choice of going to the same school as me?
I cursed Fate and I cursed myself for being so weak.
I was not going to allow this human to destroy a century of abstinence and discipline.
I hated her for existing, for upsetting the equilibrium that I had so painfully attained.
My internal conflict endured only two seconds. The most abominable two seconds of my life. I gripped the table and forced myself to face her, to look her in the eyes, to see the human, not the prey; the girl, not the quarry.
She moved closer to me and I thought I would meet her gaze before she sat down, but she didn't look at my murderous face. She took her place next to me, expressionless, unaware of the danger that loomed over her. She pulled out her class materials while I fought with all my might against the desire – no, the need – to bite her. I stared at her, unable to tear my eyes from her throat.
I knew I was a good actor, but my bizarre behavior was surely going to be noticed. My intent gaze, however, had not frightened her in the least, and I asked myself why. I peered at the girl, her and her innocent air, while she set up a laptop on the table. We were in an age of ubiquitous technology, but in this school it was unusual for a student to use a computer to take notes.
She finally seemed to realize that I was scrutinizing her like a predator about to pounce on its prey. But instead of fear and apprehension at the sight of the monster next to her, I saw only a friendly, warm smile. Her gaze turned to me, but did not reach my eyes. Bizarre. She held out her hand.
"Hi, I'm Bella. You're Edward, right?"
Her polite question did not hide any sort of fear. She was sincere. Serene.
Completely bewildered, confused, I managed to forget her appetizing scent for an instant and looked more closely at her face. The monster in me lay in wait, intrigued. It wasn't used to people being indifferent to its presence, and it didn't know how to react. The Edward that I wanted to be, who had long battled his despicable nature, resurfaced long enough to analyze this girl's delicate countenance, her gracious, welcoming expression. An unfeigned kindness, disconcerting to me, emanated from her gentle face. A kindness that I didn't deserve.
Her greeting was not a mere formality. It was genuine. Her entire expression was an invitation, an opening. Her entire expression except in one feature of her face: her eyes. Her gaze was empty and lifeless.
I suddenly realized my stupidity. I understood now why no other new student had excited so much attention in this school before, why the monster in me didn't frighten her.
Isabella Marie Swan was blind.
Translator's note: Elysabeth reads English extremely well, so don't hesitate to post a review or ask a question here. In fact, you should definitely post a review. (It's nice to shill forthrightly for someone else, rather than shyly for oneself.)
Elysabeth has this planned out as a trilogy, and the first book is completed. So you need wait only for me to do the translation, and I'm not sure yet how quick I'll be. But it'll be quicker than I post for my own stories.