I WAS NINETY-NINE POINT NINE PERCENT SURE I WAS dreaming.
The reasons I was so certain were that, first, I was standing in a bright shaft of sunlight–the
kind of blinding clear sun that never shone on my drizzly new hometown in Forks,
Washington–and second, I was looking at my Grandma Marie. Gran had been dead for six
years now, so that was solid evidence toward the dream theory.
Gran hadn't changed much; her face looked just the same as I remembered it. The skin was
soft and withered, bent into a thousand tiny creases that clung gently to the bone underneath.
Like a dried apricot, but with a puff of thick white hair standing out in a cloud around it.
Our mouths–hers a wizened picker–spread into the same surprised half-smile at just the same
time. Apparently, she hadn't been expecting to see me, either.
I was about to ask her a question; I had so many–What was she doing here in my cream?
What had she been up to in the past six years? Was Pop okay, and had they found each other,
wherever they were?–but she opened her mouth when I did, so I stopped to let her go first.
She paused, too, and then we Goth smiled at the little awkwardness.
It wasn't Gran who called my name, and we both turned to see the addition to our small
reunion. I didn't have to look to know who it was; this was a voice I would know
anywhere–know, and respond to, whether I was awake or asleep… or even dead, I'd bet. The
voice I'd walk through fire for–or, less dramatically, slosh every day through the cold and
endless rain for.
Even though I was always thrilled to see him–conscious or otherwise–and even though I was
almost positive that I was dreaming, I panicked as Edward walked toward us through the
I panicked because Gran didn't know that I was in love with a vampire–nobody knew
that–so how was I supposed to explain the fact that the brilliant sunbeams were shattering
off his skin into a thousand rainbow shards like he was made of crystal or diamond?
Well, Gran, yon might have noticed that my boyfriend glitters. It's just something he does in
the sun. Don't worry about it…
What was he doing? The whole reason he lived in Forks, the rainiest place in the world, was
so that he could be outside in the daytime without exposing his family's secret. Yet here he
was, strolling gracefully toward me–with the most beautiful smile on his angel's face–as if I were the only one here.
In that second, I wished that I was not the one exception to his mysterious talent; I usually
felt grateful that I was the only person whose thoughts he couldn't hear just as clearly as if
they were spoken aloud. But now I wished he could hear me, too, so that he could hear the
warning I was screaming in my head.
I shot a panicked glance back at Gran, and saw that it was too late. She was just turning to
stare back at me, her eyes as alarmed as mine.
Edward–still smiling so beautifully that my heart felt like it was going to swell up and burst
through my chest–put his arm around my shoulder and turned to face my grandmother.
Gran's expression surprised me. Instead of looking horrified, she was staring at me
sheepishly, as if waiting for a scolding. And she was standing in such a strange position–one
arm held awkwardly away from her body, stretched out and then curled around the air. Like
she had her arm around someone I couldn't see, someone invisible…
Only then, as I looked at the bigger picture, did I notice the huge gilt frame that enclosed my
grandmother's form. Uncomprehending, I raised the hand that wasn't wrapped around
Edward's waist and reached out to touch her. She mimicked the movement exactly, mirrored
it. But where our fingers should have met, there was nothing but cold glass…
With a dizzying jolt, my dream abruptly became a nightmare.
There was no Gran.
That was me. Me in a mirror. Me–ancient, creased, and withered.
Edward stood beside me, casting no reflection, excruciatingly lovely and forever seventeen.
He pressed his icy, perfect lips against my wasted cheek.
"Happy birthday," he whispered.
I woke with a start–my eyelids popping open wide–and gasped. Dull gray light, the familiar
light of an overcast morning, took the place of the blinding sun in my dream.
Just a dream, I told myself. It was only a dream. I took a deep breath, and then jumped again
when my alarm went off. The little calendar in the corner of the clock's display informed me
that today was September thirteenth.
Only a dream, but prophetic enough in one way, at least. Today was my birthday. I was
officially eighteen years old.
I'd been dreading this day for months.
All through the perfect summer–the happiest summer I had ever had, the happiest summer
anyone anywhere had ever had, and the rainiest summer in the history of the Olympic
Peninsula–this bleak date had lurked in ambush, waiting to spring.
And now that it had hit, it was even worse than I'd feared it would be. I could feel it–I was
older. Every day I got older, but this was different, worse, quantifiable. I was eighteen.
And Edward never would be.
When I went to brush my teeth, I was almost surprised that the face in the mirror hadn't
changed. I stared at myself, looking for some sign of impending wrinkles in my ivory skin.
The only creases were the ones on my forehead, though, and I knew that if I could manage to
relax, they would disappear. I couldn't. My eyebrows stayed lodged in a worried line over my
anxious brown eyes.
It was just a dream, I reminded myself again. Just a dream… but also my worst nightmare.
I skipped breakfast, in a hurry to get out of the house as quickly as possible. I wasn't entirely
able to avoid my dad, and so I had to spend a few minutes acting cheerful. I honestly tried to
be excited about the gifts I'd asked him not to get me, but every time I had to smile, it felt
like I might start crying.
I struggled to get a grip on myself as I drove to school. The vision of Gran–I would not think
of it as me–was hard to get out of my head. I couldn't feel anything but despair until I pulled
into the familiar parking lot behind Forks High School and spotted Edward leaning
motionlessly against his polished silver Volvo, like a marble tribute to some forgotten pagan
god of beauty. The dream had not done him justice. And he was waiting there for me, just
the same as every other day.
Despair momentarily vanished; wonder took its place. Even after half a year with him, I still
couldn't believe that I deserved this degree of good fortune.
His sister Alice was standing by his side, waiting for me, too.
Of course Edward and Alice weren't really related (in Forks the story was that all the Cullen
siblings were adopted by Dr. Carlisle Culler and his wife, Esme, both plainly too young to
have teenage children), but their skin was precisely the same pale shade, their eyes had the
same strange golden tint, with the same deep, bruise-like shadows beneath them. Her face,
like his, was also startlingly beautiful. To someone in the know–someone like me–these
similarities marked them for what they were.
The sight of Alice waiting there–her tawny eyes brilliant with excitement, and a small
silver-wrapped square in her hands–made me frown. I'd told Alice I didn't want anything,
anything, not gifts or even attention, for my birthday. Obviously, my wishes were being
I slammed the door of my '53 Chevy truck–a shower of rust specks fluttered down to the wet
blacktop–and walked slowly toward where they waited. Alice skipped forward to meet me,
her pixie face glowing under her spiky black hair.
"Happy birthday, Bella!"
"Shh!" I hissed, glancing around the lot to make sure no one had heard her. The last thing I
wanted was some kind of celebration of the black event.
She ignored me. "Do you want to open your present now or later?" she asked eagerly as we
made our way to where Edward still waited.
"No presents," I protested in a mumble
She finally seemed to process my mood. "Okay… later, then. Did you like the scrapbook your
mom sent you? And the camera from Charlie?"
I sighed. Of course she would know what my birthday presents were. Edward wasn't the
only member of his family with unusual skills. Alice would have "seen" what my parents
were planning as soon as they'd decided that themselves.
"Yeah. They're great."
"I think it's a nice idea. You're only a senior once. Might as well document the experience."
"How many times have you been a senior?"
We reached Edward then, and he held out his hand for mine. I took it eagerly, forgetting, for
a moment, my glum mood. His skin was, as always, smooth, hard, and very cold. He gave my
fingers a gentle squeeze. I looked into his liquid topa2 eyes, and my heart gave a
not-quite-so-gentle squeeze of its own. Hearing the stutter in my heartbeats, he smiled again.
He lifted his free hand and traced one cool fingertip around the outside of my lips as he
spoke. "So, as discussed, I am not allowed to wish you a happy birthday, is that correct?"
"Yes. That is correct." I could never quite mimic the flow of his perfect, formal articulation.
It was something that could only be picked up in an earlier century.
"Just checking." He ran his hand through his tousled bronze hair. "You might have changed
your mind. Most people seem to enjoy things like birthdays and gifts."
Alice laughed, and the sound was all silver, a wind chime. "Of course you'll enjoy it.
Everyone is supposed to be nice to you today and give you your way, Bella. What's the worst
that could happen?" She meant it as a rhetorical question.