*by Stephenie Meyer*


I worked to make my tread sound slow and tired as I walked up the stairs to my room. I shut the door loud enough for him to hear, and then sprinted on my tiptoes to the window. I drew it open and leaned out into the night. My eyes scanned the darkness, the impenetrable shadows of the trees.
"Edward?" I whispered, feeling completely idiotic.
The quiet, laughing response came from behind me. "Yes?"
I whirled, one and flying to my throat in surprise.
He lay, smiling hugely, across my bed, his hands behind his head, his feet dangling off the end, the picture of ease.
"Oh!" I breathed, sinking unsteadily to the floor.
"I'm sorry." He pressed his lips together, trying to hide his amusement.
"Just give me a minute to restart my heart."
He sat up slowly, so as not to startle me again. Then he leaned forward and reached out with his long arms to pick me up, gripping the tops of my arms like I was a toddler. He sat me on the bed beside him.
"Why don't you sit with me," he suggested, putting a cold hand on mine. "How's the heart?"
"You tell me - I'm sure you hear it beter than I do."
I felt his quiet laughter shake the bed.
We sat there for a moment in silence, both listening to my heartbeat slow. I thought about having Edward in my room, with my father in the house.
"Can I have a minute to be human?" I asked.
"Certainly." He gestured with one hand that I should proceed.
"Stay," I said, trying to look severe.
"Yes, ma'am." And he made a show of becoming a statue on the edge of my bed.
I hopped up, grabbing my pajamas from off the floor, my bag of toiletries off the desk. I left the light off and slipped out, closing the door.
I could hear the sound from the TV rising up the stairs. I banged the bathroom door loudly, so Charlie wouldn't come up to bother me.
I meant to hurry. I brushed my teeth fiercely, trying to be thorough and speedy, removing all traces of lasagna. But the hot water of the shower couldn't be rushed. It unknoted the muscles in my back, calmed my pulse. The familiar smell of my shampoo made me feel like I might be the same person I had been this morning. I tried not to think of Edward, sitting in my room, waiting, because then I had to start all over with the calming process. Finally, I couldn't delay anymore. I shut off the water, toweling hastily, rushing again. I pulled on my holey t-shirt and gray sweatpants. Too late to regret not packing the Victoria's Secret silk pajamas my mother got me two birthdays ago, which still had the tags on them in a drawer somewhere back home.
I rubbed the towel through my hair again, and then yanked the brush through it quickly. I threw the towel in the hamper, flung my brush and toothpaste into my bag. Then I dashed down the stairs so Charlie could see that I was in my pajamas, with wet hair.
"'Night, Dad."
"'Night, Bella." He did look startled by my appearance. Maybe that would keep him from checking on me tonight.
I took the stairs two at a time, trying to be quiet, and flew into my room, closing the door tightly behind me.
Edward hadn't moved a fraction of an inch, a carving of Adonis perched on my faded quilt. I smiled, and his lips twitched, a statue coming to life.
His eyes appraised me, taking in the damp hair, the tattered shirt. He raised one eyebrow. "Nice."
I grimaced.
"No, it looks good on you."
"Thanks," I whispered. I went back to his side, sitting cross-legged beside him. I looked at the lines in the wooden floor.
"What was all that for?"
"Charlie thinks I'm sneaking out."
"Oh." He contemplated that. "Why?" As if he couldn't know Carlie's mind much more clearly than I could guess.
"Apparently, I look a little overexcited."
He lifted my chin, examining my face.
"You look very warm, actually."
He bent his face slowly to mine, laying his cool cheek against my skin. I held perfectly still.
"Mmmmmm...," he breathed.
It was very difficult, while he was touching me, to frame a coherent question. It took me a minute of scattered concentration to begin.
"It seems to be... much easier for you, to be close to me."
"Does it seem that way to you?" he murmured, his mose gliding to the corner of my jaw. I felt his hand, lighter than a moth's wing, brishing ym damp hair back, so that his lips could touch the hollow beneath me ear.
"Much, much easier," I said, trying to exhale.
"So I was wondering...," I began again, but his fingers were slowly tracing my collarbone, and I lost my train of thought.
"Yes?" he breathed.
"Why is that," my voice shook, embarrassing me, "do you think?"
I felt the tremor of his breath on my neck as he laughed. "Mind over matter."
I pulled back; as I moved, he froze - and I could no long hear the sound of his breathing.
We stared cautiously at each other for another moment, and then, as his clenched jaw gradually relaxed, his expression became puzzled.
"Did I do something wrong?"
"No - the opposite. You're driving me crazy," I explained.
He considered that briefly, and when he spoke, he sounded pleased. "Really?" A triumphant smile slowly lit his face.
"Would you like a round of applause?" I asked sarcastically.
He grinned.
"I'm just pleasantly surprised," he clarified. "In the last hundred years or so," his voice was teasing, "I never imagined anything like this. I didn't believe I would ever find someone I wanted to be with... in another way than my brothers and sisters. And then to find, even though it's all new to me, that I'm good at it... at being with you..."
"You're good at everything," I pointed out.
He shrugged, allowing that, and we both laughed in whispers.
"But how can it be so easy now?" I pressed. "This afternoon..."
"It's not easy," he sighed. "But this afternoon, I was still... undecided. I am sorry about that, it was unforgivable for me to behave so."
"Not unforgivable," I disagreed.
"Thank you." He smiled. "You see," he comtinued, looking down now, "I wasn't sure if I was strong enough...." He picked up one of my hands and pressed it lightly to his face. "And while there was still that possibility that I might be... overcome" - he breathed in the scent at my wrist - "I was... suspectible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would... that I ever could..."
I'd never seen him struggle so hard for words. It was so... human.
"So there's no possibility now?"
"Mind over matter," he repeated, smiling, his teeth bright even in the darkness.
"Wow, that was easy," I said.
He threw back his head and laughed, quietly as a whisper, but still exuberantly.
"Easy for you!" he amended, touching my nose with his fingertip.
And then his face was abruptly serious.
"I'm trying," he whispered, his voice pained. "If it gets to be... to much, I'm fairly sure I'll be able to leave."
I scowled. I didn't like the talk of leaving. "And it will be harder tomorrow," he continued. "I've had the scent of you in my head all day, and I've grown amazingly desensitized. If I'm away from you for any length of time, I'll have to start over again. Not quite from scratch, though, I think."
"Don't go away, then," I responded, unable to hide the longing in my voice.
"That suits me," he replied, his face relaxing into a gentle smile. "Bring on the shackles - I'm your prisoner." But his long hands formed manacles around my wrists as he spoke. He laughed his quiet, musical laugh. He'd laughed more tonight than I'd ever heard in all the time I'd spent with him.
"You seem more... optimistic than usual," I observed. "I haven't seen you like this before."
"Isn't it supposed to be like this?" He smiled. "The glory of first love, and all that. It's incredible, isn't it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in the pictures, and experiencing it?"
"Very different," I agreed. "More forceful than I'd imagined."
"For example" - his words flowed swiftly now, I had to concemtrate to catch it all - "the emotion of jealousy. I've read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand different plays and movies. I believed I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked me...." He grimaced. "Do you remember the day that Mike asked you to the dance?"
I nodded, though I remembered that day for a different reason. "The day you started talking to me again."
"I was surprised by the flare of resentment, almost fury, that I felt - I didn't recognize what it was at first. I was even more aggrivated than usual that I couldn't know what you were thinking, why you refused him. Was it simply for your friend's sake? Was there someone else? I knew I had no right to care either way. I tried not to care.
"And then the line started forming," he chuckled. I scowled in the darkness.
"I waited, unreasonably anxious to hear what you would say to them, to watch your expressions. I couldn't deny the relief I felt, watching the annoyance on your face. But I couldn't be sure.
"That was the first night I came here. I wrestled all night, while watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew was right, moral, ethical, and what I wanted. I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.
"And then," he whispered, "as you were sleeping, you said my name. You spoke so clearly, at first I thought you'd woken. But you rolled over restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The feeling that coursed through me then was unnerving, staggering. And I knew I couldn't ignore you any longer." He was silent for a moment, probably listening to the suddenly uneven pounding of my heart.
"But jealousy... it's a strange thing. So much more powerful than I would have thought. And irritational! Just now, when Charlie asked you about that vile Mike Newton..." He shook his head angrily.
"I should have known you'd be listening," I groaned.
"Of course."
"That made you jealous, though, really?"
"I'm new at this; you're resurrecting the human in me, and everything feels stronger because it's fresh."
"But honestly," I teased. "for that to bother you, after I have to hear that Rosalie - Rosalie, the incarnation of pure beauty Rosalie - was meant for you. Emmett or no Emmett, how can I compete with that?"
"There's no competition." His teeth gleamed. He drew my trapped hands around his back, holding me to his chest. I kept as still as I could, even breathing with caution.
"I know there's no competition," I mumbled into his cold skin. "That's the problem."
"Of course Rosalie is beautiful in her way, but even if she wasn't like a sister to me, even if Emmett didn't belong with her, she could never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me." He was serious now, thoughtful. "For almost ninety years I've walked among my kind, and yours... all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren't alive yet."
"It hardly seems fair," I whispered, my face still resting on his chest, listening to his breath come and go. "I haven't had to wait at all. Why should I get off so easily?"
"You're right," he agreed with amusement. "I should make this harder for you, definitely." He freed one of his hands, released my wrist, only to gether it carefully into his other hand. He stroked my wet hair softly, from the top of my head to my waist. "You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that's surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity... what's that worth?"
"Very little - I don't feel deprived of anything."
"Not yet." And his voice was abruptly full of ancient grief.
I tried to pull back, to look at his face, but his hand locked my wrists in an unbreakable hold.
"What - " I started to ask, when his body became alert. I froze, but he suddenly released my hands, and disappeared. I narrowly avoided falling on my face.
"Lie down!" he hissed. I couldn't tell where he spoke from in the darkness.
I rolled under my quilt, balling up on my side, te way I usually slept. I heard the door crazk open, as Charlie peeked in to make sure I was where I was supposed to be. I breathed evenly, exaggerating the movement.