*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 12 - BALANCING
I was sorely tempted to ditch the rest of the day, at the very least Gym, but a warning instinct stopped me. I knew that if I disappeared now, Mike and others would assume I was with Edward. And Edward was worried about the time we'd spent together publicly... if things went wrong. I refused to dwell on the last thought, concentrating instead on making things safer for him.
I intuitively knew - and sensed he did, too - that tomorrow would be pivotal. Our relationship couldn't continue to balance, as it did, on the point of a knife. We would fall off one edge or the other, depending entirely upon his decision, or his instincts. My decision was made, made before I'd ever consciously chosen, and I was committed to seeing it through. Because there was nothing more terrifying to me, more excruciating, than the thought of turning away from him. It was an impossibility.
I went to class, feeling dutiful. I couldn't honestly say what happened in Biology; my mind was too preoccupied with thoughts of tomorrow. In Gym, Mike was speaking to me again; he wished me a good time in Seattle. I carefully explained that I'd canceled my trip, worried about my truck.
"Are you going to the dance with Cullen?" he asked, suddenly sulky.
"No, I'm not going to the dance at all."
"What are you doing, then?" he asked, too interested.
My natural urge was to tell him to butt out. Instead, I lied brightly.
"Laundry, and then I have to study for the Trig test or I'm going to fail."
"Is Cullen helping you study?"
"Edward," I emphasized," is not going to help me study. He's gon away somewhere for the weekend." The lies came more naturally than usual, I noted with surprise.
"Oh." He perked up. "You know, you could come to the dance with our group anyway - that would be cool. We'd all dance with you," he promised.
The mental image of Jessica's face made my tone sharper than necessary.
"I'm not going to the dance, Mike, okay?"
"Fine." He sulked again. "I was just offering."
When the school day had finally ended, I walked to the parking lot without enthusiasm. I did not especially want to walk home, but I couldn't see how he would have retrieved my truck. Then again, I was starting to believe that nothing was impossible for him. The latter instinct proved correct - my truck sat in the same space he'd parked his Volvo in this morning. I shook my head, incredulous, as I opened the unlocked door and saw the key in the ignition.
There was a piece of white paper folded on my seat. I got in and closed the door before I unfolded it. Two words were written in his elegant script.
The sound of the truck roaring to life frightened me. I laughed at myself.
When I got home, the handle of the door was locked, the dead bolt unlocked, just as I'd left it this morning. Inside, I went straight to the laundry room. It looked just the same as I'd left it, too. I dug for my jeans and, after finding them, checked the pockets. Empty. Maybe I'd hung my key up after all, I thought, shaking my head.
Following the same instinct that had prompted me to lie to Mike, I called Jessica on the pretense of wishing her luck at the dance. When she offered the same wish for my day with Edward, I told her about the cancellation. She was more disappointed than really necessary for a third-party observer to be. I said goodbye quickly after that.
Charlie was absentminded at dinner, worried over something at work, I guessed, or maybe a basketball game, or maybe he was just really onjoying the lasagna - it was hard to tell with Charlie.
"You know, Dad...," I began, breaking into his reverie.
"What's that, Bell?"
"I think you're right about Seattle. I think I'll wait until Jessica or someone else can go with me."
"Oh," he said, suprised. "Oh, okay. So, do you want me to stay home?"
"No, Dad, don't change your plans. I've got a million things to do... homework, laundry... I need to go to the library and the grocery store. I'll be in and out all day... you go and have fun."
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely, Dad. Besides, the freezer is getting dangerously low on fish - we're down to a two, maybe three years' supply."
"You're sure easy to live with, Bella." He smiled.
"I could say the same thing about you," I said, laughing. The sound of my laughter was off, but he didn't seem to notice. I felt so guitly for deceiving him that I almost took Edward's advice and told him where I would be. Almost.
After dinner, I folded clothes and moved another load through the dryer. Unfortunately it was the kind of job that only keeps hands busy. My mind definitely had too much free time, and it was getting out of control. I fluctuated between anticipation so intense that it was very nearly pain, and an insidious fear that picked at my resolve. I had to keep reminding myself that I'd made my choice, and I wasn't going back on it. I pulled his note out of my pocket much more often than necessary to absorb the two small words he'd written. He wants me to be safe, I told myself again and again. I would just hold on to the faith that, in the end, that desire would win out over the others. And what my other choice - to but him out of my life? Intolerable. Besides, since I'd come to Forks, it really seemed like my life was about him.
But a tiny voice in the back of my mind worried, wondering if it would hurt very much... if it ended badly.
I was relieved when it was late enough to be acceptable for bedtime. I knew I was far too stressed to sleep, so I did something I'd never done before. I deliberately took unnecessary cold medicine - the kind that knocked me out for a good eight hours. I normally wouldn't condone that type of behavior in myself, but tomorrow would be complicated enough without me being loopy from sleep deprivation on top of everything else. While I waited for the drugs to kick in, I dried my clean hair till it was impeccably straight, and fussed over what I would wear tomorrow.
With everything ready for the morning, I finally lay in my bed. I felt hyper; I couldn't stop twitching. I got up and rifled through my shoebox of CDs until I found a collection of Chopin's nocturnes. I put that on very quietly and then lay down again, concentrating on relazing individual parts of my body. Somewhere in the middle of that exercise, the cold pills took effect, and I gladly sank into unconsciousness.