Chapter 4: Matchmaking

Edward gave me a vaguely meaningful look, catching my eye as I left the biology room to go to gym. I wasn't sure what the meaning was supposed to be - perhaps if it was important he'd find me after school. As Mike and I walked towards our final class, it looked like his brain was chewing on itself - I didn't envy him a bit - but he still didn't say anything. I decided that it was a priority to politely deflect him. I wasn't actually sure how reliable the vampires were about not eating people, especially since Alice had been worried, and goodness only knew how Edward would react to whatever he caught of ongoing teenage boy thoughts from Mike about a mutual crush.

Maybe I could set Mike up with someone else. If he liked me, that was some clue about his type - slender but without any visible athleticism, brown-haired, brown-eyed, symmetrical-ish but not particularly striking, that was me. I thought about the girls who sat with the group at lunch. Jessica seemed plausible; she was dark like me, little and cute and fairly popular. I didn't see them settling down and having five kids, but it wasn't hard to picture them going to watch a movie. I'd try to suggest him to her discreetly while we studied trig.

Eric was less obvious. While I started my yoga, I paired him in my head with others. There was Angela, but she'd made vague murmurs about liking some unidentified boy, and I didn't think from how she described him that it was anyone I'd met (even after I corrected for the fact that he was being described by a girl who liked him). I supposed Lauren might work, although I wasn't sure Eric deserved her - he was fairly nice, and Lauren was the least pleasant individual I'd yet encountered in Forks unless I made very broad inferences from what I'd seen of Rosalie. But she was pretty - had a sort of haughty class to her bearing and well-proportioned features. Her coloring wasn't like mine, at the moment, but she dyed her hair different colors from time to time and with any luck I could time my attempt for a week when she went dark. I wasn't sure if she'd have him, but she complained enough about being single.

I felt a little guilty about planning all this matchmaking more for my covenience than for the happiness of its objects. Upon noticing this guilt, I also noted that my brain was trying to rearrange its estimations of the couple quality to justify it: Jessica and Mike would be cute together, said my brain, it's not like they couldn't work out, they're already friends, aren't they? Jessica didn't mention him in her list of top ten boys she wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole... And maybe Lauren is only girl-mean, and would be nice to a boy like Eric...

I entered my next pose too fast, yanked something in my leg that wasn't meant to be yanked, and promptly moved to a more comfortable sitting posture to massage the discomfort away. Mike jogged over after perfunctorily soliciting teacher permission. "Are you okay, Bella?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "Nothing broken, nothing dislocated, just an unhappy leg."

"You're sure? Do you want me to help you to the nurse?"

"If you could tell the teacher I'm going to just sit for the rest of class, that would be great," I told him, "but I don't think I need medical help - it'll be okay by the bell."

Mike nodded obediently and trotted off. He reminded me a little of a golden retriever.

He'll only be less happy if you let him simmer in his crush like this, said my brain. It's in his own best interest for you to send him away, and as long as he hasn't said anything yet, it would only be needlessly hurtful to address it directly. Set him up with Jessica for his own good.

I shook my head to myself, just a little, to put my next thought out into the world where it couldn't reshape itself like fog. (Taking out a notebook during gym might have made the teacher suspicious about my leg.) That wasn't why I wanted to put Jessica and Mike together. Even if it was true, it wasn't why I wanted to do it. Even if it contributed, and made me want to do it more than I would have, it wasn't necessary or sufficient. I had no doubt that if I'd wanted Mike for myself, I'd never have dreamed about sending Jessica after him because they'd be cute. I was sure that if Mike hadn't liked me, but had instead been pining after someone else implausible like Rosalie, I wouldn't have bothered with juggling his love life to make sure he wasn't marinating in unrequited attraction. I just didn't want his attention, and so I was trying to send it somewhere else. I refused to lie to myself about the nobility of the decision, even as it firmed up on my list of plans.

What sort of person am I? It didn't matter if I could make up flattering reasons for my choices. They had to be the actual reasons I made those choices, or they simply didn't answer that question. If I'd let myself believe the pretty justifications for it all, went along with the self-aggrandizing delusion, I'd be mistaken about the one topic I most adamantly refused to be mistaken about:

Inside Bella Swan's skull, who's driving this thing?

Edward caught up with me on my way to my truck. I limped only a little, and he didn't comment on it - I speculated that he'd seen the event through Mike's eyes and didn't want to let any evidence of that slip. "Jessica's forgotten that she's supposed to call you," he told me. That put a ding in my speculation. Maybe he'd seen the event and noticed that I didn't want help.

"I guess I'd better call her, then," I said. "Trig is so important for later life."

Edward chuckled, then grew more serious. "Why did you switch lab partners?" he asked softly.

"Because the one I was assigned looked at me like I'd recently killed his puppy, and then wasn't even in school the next day while I was still getting used to things, and Angela and her previous lab partner didn't mind the switch," I replied.

"I'm very sorry I looked at you that way," he said sincerely.

"I don't understand why your wanting to have me for dessert would make you look angry," I said. "Help me figure that one out?"

He grimaced - he seemed to do that a lot, and it didn't do much to help his attractiveness, not that he needed help there. "I was angry that you were... straining my control. That you were making me less the person I try to be."

"The kind of person who doesn't poke straws into people during school."

"Right. No straws." He laughed ruefully. "It didn't make any sense to blame you. You didn't do anything. But it felt like you did."

I nodded. "That explains the anger. But before that you were looking at me weirdly too - like I was confusing. What was up with that?"

We'd reached my car by this point, and Edward looked pleased - maybe that I'd asked another question instead of hopping right in and rumbling away? "The fact that I can't read your mind," he said. "It's never happened before - that I noticed. It actually did take me a while to pick up on it with you, simply because I wasn't trying until I noticed that everyone in school was thinking about you. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about, and... couldn't tell."

I wasn't sure if Alice had told Edward - or thought near Edward - that she'd told me that he liked me. I elected not to bring it up on this occasion. "I guess mindreading is something you get used to after a while?"

"I couldn't do it, before," he said. "Carlisle realized what was going on before I did; I kept replying to his thoughts as though he'd spoken them aloud."

"Why do some of you have extra powers and some not?" I asked.

"We aren't entirely sure. In my case and Jasper's, at least - we can only guess about Alice - it's similar to strengths we had as humans. I was very good at reading people. Ironically, now that I have my abilities to rely on, I think I've deteriorated at reading faces," he said wryly. "Jasper was a leader, very charismatic - he could calm a crowd or rile them up even before he turned."

I nodded. "I'm having a little trouble guessing what would produce Alice's ability, if your trend isn't just a coincidence. Good pattern recognition? Extensive physics knowledge?"

Edward shrugged. "I don't know. At any rate, just because Jasper and Alice and I are the flashiest talents doesn't mean the others don't have unique abilities. Rosalie kept her beauty. Emmett's the strongest. Carlisle has an amazing ability to resist blood - he can practice as a physician without a trace of discomfort. Esme brought with her the ability to love passionately."

"When I'm a vampire, will I be able to turn invisible?" I suggested. "Since I'm mentally invisible now?"

Edward growled a little in the back of his throat. "You don't have to be a vampire," he said. "Alice's visions are never certain. There has to be a way for you to stay human."

"Two things," I said. "First, there doesn't have to be such a way. The universe is allowed to be the way it is, even if the way it is, is a way that winds up with me being a vampire. Second, I kind of like the idea. I'm not sure when a good time will be, but it sure sounds like it comes with a lot of perks."

"No," said Edward. "Bella, any of us would rather be human -"

I started at him incredulously, and he cut off midsentence. "What? Okay, Alice said that the three day initiation process or whatever it is is "not fun". I could buy that it is sufficiently not fun that you wish it hadn't happened to you, don't think it was worth it. It'd be a little hard to believe, but not impossible. But why in the world would you want to go back once you've already been through that part? I don't know how old the rest of you are, but you realize Alice would be dead by now, right? Humans generally don't live to be a hundred years old. Whatever it is she misses about being human, she wouldn't have it anymore anyway. And there's nothing to love about being dead."

"Ask Rosalie what she misses," said Edward darkly.

"What will she tell me?" I asked.

"Her answer," he muttered.

I opened my truck door.

"Bella," said Edward coaxingly. I supposed he wanted me to stay.

"Nope," I said. "I don't want to have cryptic conversations. If that's the only kind you can have right now, I'm going to go home and call Jessica. See you tomorrow!" I said. I hoped I'd managed to inject enough cheer into my voice that I didn't sound vengeful. That wasn't the point; I didn't want to get back at Edward for being mysterious, I just didn't want to put up with the mystery because it was unpleasant. It would be nice if eventually he decided to stop being vague and unhelpful around me, but even if he didn't, I would still get more of what I wanted by leaving when his remarks took a turn for the uninformative.

Edward didn't try to follow my truck. I parked in the driveway, let myself into the house, and phoned Jessica. She admitted that the plans had completely slipped her mind, but agreed that I should come over after dinner to study. I whipped up a sauce and started marinating the night's salmon in it. Fish cooked fast enough that it made more sense to start it after Charlie got home. I set a timer to remind myself to preheat the oven sufficiently far in advance, then did my homework for the day.

When I'd finished that, I took out my notebook and preserved my important insights for the day, notably the bit where I wasn't noble or generous for trying to set up my friends with each other. My timer rang while I was in the middle of wondering why Edward wouldn't want me to be a vampire. There wasn't an obvious motive. If he liked me, he ought to want me around; even if he thought he'd get sick of me, it wasn't a given that I had to stick with the Cullens for the rest of my eternal life. If I was turned, as an added bonus, I would no longer smell like food and he wouldn't have to constantly fight temptation in order to have me nearby safely. Perhaps there were some consequences to sanity that Alice hadn't mentioned, which I hadn't picked up on yet. (Although in retrospect I thought I had adequate explanations for their behavior, it didn't escape me that I'd considered Alice and Edward to be possibly crazy.) It did seem unlikely on the face of it that three solid days of "not fun", or a sudden inability to recharge with sleep, would have no ill effects. I'd have to inquire a little more carefully. But I shut my notebook and went to turn the oven on.

Charlie's timing was good: he arrived just as the beep indicating correct fish-baking temperature sounded. I put tinfoil on a baking sheet and fish on the tinfoil and the entire thing in the oven while asking him about his day. Forks did not have much in the way of crime. Charlie mostly caught speeders, and the occasional out-of-towner hiking buff who thought it'd be fun to cause trouble while away from home. Accordingly, his day had been uneventful. When he was done describing it in all its uneventfulness, I told him that I'd sat with the Cullens and Hales at lunch - he seemed happy about that. The ritual exchange of daily activity information complete, I started to sauté spinach; it went fast, and I wanted to time it to finish when the salmon did. Charlie turned on the TV to watch a few minutes of some sporting event until the oven timer rang.

After we'd finished eating, I called Jessica again to let her know I was on my way and confirm the best route to her address. It was only five minutes away, in the next neighborhood over. We studied, and after we'd reviewed most of the material, I said, "Jessica, thanks so much for helping me with this. Math's my worst subject apart from gym."

"Thanks," Jessica preened.

"You're a really great person, you know." The compliments sounded weird in my head. But I knew that was only a fact about my head. Compliments did not sound weird to the people who received them unless they already suspected ulterior motives. At any rate, I wasn't lying. Whatever Edward said, Jessica had reached out to me and provided very valuable companionship - and trig help. "I'm lucky to have you as my friend."

Jessica almost purred. "You're a sweetheart, Bella."

"How come you don't have a boyfriend?" I asked innocently.

Jessica pouted. "Nobody's asked me out in... oh, a couple of months."

Bullseye. "Who asked you then?"

"Daniel White," she told me. I didn't know him by name, although I probably would have recognized the face. "But I turned him down."

"Why's that?"

"I dunno, he's too... I don't like his voice," she said. I was pretty sure that whyever she'd rejected Daniel, she had no idea and was making this up on the spot.

"Maybe you should ask Mike out," I said. "He's got a pretty nice voice."

"What?" Jessica seemed startled. "Well... I guess he does." Mike sounded sort of soulful and low when he spoke, like a country singer or something. Now that Jessica had gone and identified "voice" as a relevant criterion, this was very likely to work in his favor. "But I don't ask guys out except when it's the girls' choice dance."

"Huh? Why not?" I asked, feigning confusion. "It's the twenty-first century."

"Well, yeah, but..." She trailed off, considering. I didn't say anything for fear of spoiling what I guessed was a useful train of thought. "He does sound nice, doesn't he?"

I nodded, smiling encouragingly.

"Well, I might, I don't know," she said, tossing her curls. That was probably the best I was going to get this soon. I nodded again and pretended sudden distraction by a cosine.

I sat with my human friends at lunch on Thursday, after Alice caught me at the door and promised to call later about "hanging out". Jessica didn't ask Mike out, but she did sit next to him and keep up a conversation that was more with him than the rest of the table.

Angela asked me if I'd seen the rainbow earlier. I had. I was starting to think that the demos of the vampires' powers planned for after school were pointless; I already had an awfully strong expectation that they'd be exactly as Alice had described them, and so I didn't anticipate that the tests would teach me anything the way tests ought. It almost reminded me of the "experiments" science classes did - the book would tell you a procedure to follow, and if you got a different result than the book said, what that meant was you set it up wrong, not that you'd learned something revolutionary about physics or whatever. I actually liked science, but not repetition - the things they gave students didn't even approach the possibility of surprise afforded official replication studies.

What I was looking forward to was getting to the edge of what the vampires knew about themselves, and joining them in learning more fine details. Maybe they had a combined age of many centuries, but there was a vast hypothesis-space, and I didn't have reason to guess that any of them had unusually experimental dispositions. For example, I would have been willing to bet money that they'd never checked whether Edward's range was affected by magnets or whether Alice could be thrown off by someone who kept being distracted while trying to make a decision.

I wondered, briefly, if Jasper's power would work on me even if he tried it. I was uncommonly good at moderating my own emotions. If he tried to calm me when I chose to be angry - or, more likely given the circumstances such a trial would take place in, when I chose to be really creeped out - how well would it function? If he really only affected non-mental things, I might be just as susceptible as anyone. But I was skeptical that purely physical intervention could exert as much fine control as the vampires had hinted he had. Also, I had the impression that his power worked on vampires too. They didn't have heartbeats to change - what was he messing with, when he adjusted vampire moods?

Why couldn't Edward read me? How far ahead could Alice see? In what ways, if any, were her visions useful even when they depicted futures that wouldn't be? What powers would I have as a vampire? Did vampires ever have duplicate special powers? What others were there in the world? Did their standard-issue abilities like strength and speed vary much? (Edward had said Emmett was the strongest of the family, but not by how much or how common variations like that were.) How did eating humans as opposed to not affect their psychology, their physiology, their powers? How did turning work? Why did their eyes change color? What made them all so pretty? How did they manage to be flexible without shedding rock dust everywhere, with their skin the way it was? Did their hair grow? What were the social customs of vampires in general, and how did the family I knew differ? How had the Volturi come to be in charge and who worked with them? Why would humans smell more appealing than other species - what was it about our blood?

There was so much to wonder about. Sitting in Biology instead of racing out with a truckload of notebooks and investigating vampires for a sleepless week straight was like forcing myself not to scratch a terrible itch when I had perfectly good fingernails. I took the risk of pulling out the notebook I had on me and writing down my questions, which helped a little; at least none of them would get lost, and when I had the chance, I could follow up on them. Angela didn't seem curious, but Edward must have heard my pencil scratching and been able to tell it was me, because he swiveled around to look. He took in the picture of me and my notebook in a swift glance, then turned around again.

Biology came to a merciful end. I tried not to think of more questions about vampires during gym, given the increased suspiciousness and physical awkardness of notebook use from Child Pose. I was partially successful: I dreamed up only variations and extrapolations of the questions I'd already written down, which I expected to reconstruct when I next looked at my notes even if they slipped my mind first. When gym ended, I paused to scribble down useful keywords like "koinophilia??" and "evolution?!" and "(& fingernails)", then proceeded out the door to head for my truck.

Edward caught up with me again; I sensed a pattern in the making. "Hello, Bella," he said.

"Hello, Edward," I replied.

"What do you write in your notebooks?" he asked.

"I make a habit of not sharing that information," I said.

"Hmm," he said. "Why shouldn't I walk away because you're being cryptic?"

"Go ahead, if you like," I said, shrugging. "I want not to tell you about my notebooks more than I want to talk to you. I'm going to see you again in like an hour for the are-you-guys-kidding-me check, unless Alice was mistaken."

He didn't seem to like this answer, so I continued, "Besides, I didn't say, "Hey, Edward, you should make a decision based on something I wrote in my notebook," and then refuse to tell you what I'd written. Whereas you apparently think I should find something about Rosalie informative to what I choose to do with my life, but won't tell me what it is - and you didn't justify this with something like Rosalie preferring you not share her personal information with me."

"She probably would," he said.

"Then you shouldn't tell me her personal information. It might even be why you didn't tell me, for all I know. But you didn't say so then. And if you knew you weren't going to tell me, there was no reason to bring it up. There might have been a reason to talk to Rosalie, and ask her to talk to me, or for permission to tell me yourself. But no reason to mention that the information exists if you won't give it to me and aren't even sure I can get it from the right source."

He looked a little nonplussed. "I'm sorry."

"I accept your apology." We arrived at my truck. I opened the door.

"Leaving again?" he said.

"I don't know how long to expect to be doing science to you guys, so I want to get home and make sure my dad will come home to a sandwich. I suppose if you want to you could join me, since we're headed to the same place later." I shrugged again. I was trying to look nonchalant, but I was starting to be a bit uncomfortable with the fact that Edward had a crush on me. It would be so complicated, at least until I was a vampire. In no small part, this was because he craved my blood: he could apparently keep the craving under control in normal social circumstances, but I didn't know how his restraint would hold up with significant physical contact.

And if - after I did a lot more thinking - I decided I wasn't interested, I wasn't sure if I would be able to get rid of him.

He got into the passenger seat while I tried to conceal the alarm this notion yielded. I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway, trying to postpone further consideration until I wasn't in control of a moving vehicle. It would be much safer to wonder if I was free to make a choice while holding a jar of mustard instead.

I did not get us - well, myself - killed on the way to my house. Edward complained about my obedience to the speed limit; I didn't talk. He followed me into my house and took a chair while I busied myself with sandwich ingredients.

I had no ability whatsoever to act in self-defense if Edward, or any vampire, decided physical confrontation was in order. It would be a less even fight than me versus a housefly: those things were hard to catch. The vampires were all so much faster than me that I'd be about as hard to hit as the side of a barn. This would be true even if I were not the reigning champion of the World Clumsiness Cup. It did not only apply to situations in which a vampire decided to kill me: I was just as vulnerable to any scenario in which one decided to restrict my movement, injure me, take my belongings, or otherwise help him or herself to anything whatever.

Assembling Charlie's sandwich was calming, and I started making a second one when I was done with the first, half for that reason and half because I knew he could probably eat two. With a slightly cleared head, I reasoned to myself that I was actually in more or less this position with most humans, too. I was World Clumsiness Champ, not particularly strong, or fast, or able to walk across flat and stable surfaces. I did not have any reason to expect to walk away triumphant if, say, Mike or Eric decided that they wanted to fight me.

I started making a third sandwich, to wrap up and take with me for dinner, on the assumption that the vampires wouldn't have any normal food. I was vampire food. If a "regular" vampire saw me hanging out with Edward, they'd assume he wanted his supper kept warm for later and that was the only reason I had a pulse. And this fact made Edward more dangerous than Mike or Eric.

Other facts that made Edward more dangerous were his unaccountability, his undeflectability, and - ironically - the fact that I wasn't sure I didn't want him back. He was unaccountable because, if something went pear-shaped and I went home, telling Charlie would accomplish nothing: my father was as vulnerable as I - this wasn't true of any human, at least not predictably. He was undeflectable because he could read minds: if I'd tried to send Jessica after him (ignoring for thought experiment purposes that I was pretty sure she'd tried herself and been turned away) he'd see that in her thoughts as soon as she made her first insinuation, and realize what was going on.

And because I couldn't say for sure that I wasn't interested and wanted him gone, I didn't want to do something drastic like skip town in the middle of the night and move to Thailand. That might protect me from all the nasty dangers associated with being a vampire's object of affection; I suspected it would at least make me hard to follow, albeit perhaps not impossible with enough money and magic. It might make me not worth pursuit, if I did a good enough job of it. But I couldn't avoid those dangers while keeping the perks.

"Think you've made enough sandwiches?" he said wryly from his chair in that honeyed voice. I looked at my hands and noticed that I'd absently taken a fourth pair of bread slices.

"Oops," I said, putting the bread back. "Yes, I've made enough." I put Charlie's two sandwiches on a plate under plastic wrap in the fridge, then bagged the third and put it in my knapsack. "I suppose we can go to your place now and meet up with your family."

"Not yet," he said. "Carlisle will be at work for a bit longer, and wanted to meet you before we started. We'll be there in plenty of time if we leave in half an hour, even obeying the speed limit." He made a scoffing noise with the last phrase.

"You do know my father's a cop," I pointed out, sitting down.

"Yes, I know. I seem to recall that you wear a seatbelt, too," he said.

"I'm beginning to think that I wouldn't be very happy about it if I let you drive me anywhere," I said.

"I'm probably a safer driver than you," he challenged. "More experience, better reflexes."

"And a worse collision if you do crash," I said, "if you go at a hundred and fifty miles an hour. This is beginning to be the sort of argument that can only be settled with math, though, and I'm saving my tolerance for math up for trig homework later."

"I should probably take us to my family's home, though," he said.

"Are you going to go a hundred and fifty miles an hour? Given that Alice sees me not-dead, I think I'd rather accept whatever additional risks are associated with me driving than experience the terror."

"If you think you're immortal already, why would you be terrified?" he asked, sounding unhappy - still about the fact that I expected to be a vampire, or about the shallower present issue? I couldn't tell.

"I'm not entirely perfect about only having emotions that make sense," I said. "Anyway, I prefer not to travel at a hundred and fifty miles an hour in a car whether it is actually dangerous to me or not. I prefer not to do things that would scandalize Charlie; I prefer not to do things that would make onlookers believe themselves to be in danger; and I kind of like the scenery around here. The fact that I would be terrified to travel at a hundred and fifty miles an hour makes me more effective at arranging not to so travel by automatically reminding me to slow down if the speedometer drifts too far right, which means that keeping the fear makes me better at getting what I want."

This speech appeared to leave Edward nonplussed again. "You're an extraordinary person, Bella," he said after a silence.

"Thank you." Renée was always insistent that compliments were gifts to be accepted and that it was rude to turn them down, however silly they were; I agreed and made a consistent effort to put the theory into practice. I'd gotten over the fact that I had a lot in common with my parents when I was fifteen. There were well-established and robust mechanisms ensuring that I'd resemble them, and when I wasn't in the middle of a fit of teenage angst, I loved my parents and knew there were lots of worse people to take after in the world. This didn't mean I didn't work on excising their worse qualities - Renée had a flightiness that I consciously opposed in myself, for example, although I had so little trouble doing so that I thought perhaps I just took after Charlie in that department. (He was a steady, responsible sort.)

"You're welcome." There was another silence. I wondered if it was challenging to talk to Edward just because I knew that he liked me and he didn't know that I knew (I thought). It was good for other reasons that he hadn't spit it out, though, for the same reason that it was good that Mike and Eric were silent on their analogous issues; it gave me more time to think.

He was too gorgeous. That was the word Jessica had chosen when I'd first asked her about the Cullens, and that was precisely the right one, although it had many equally serviceable relatives such as beautiful and yummy. I'd noticed that much even back when I thought he hated me; it would have been hard to miss. He had a voice to match. I'd only be deluding myself if I tried to pretend that it didn't make my eyebrows jump a little when I'd noticed he was rich.

Yes, yes, shallowness ahoy, but it mattered more to be correct than to pretend myself deep. If I tried to convince myself that I found Edward interesting for deep reasons, it would lead down a path of feedback loops and foolish reasoning that could literally kill me. I would be more likely to take stupid risks with Edward if I fancied myself up to my eyebrows in transcendent romantic adoration. I would be less likely to behave like an idiot around him if I recognized that he was a hot (well, cold), rich guy who sounded like an angel and had sexy superpowers and that these things were not irrelevant to me.

Taking a step back from all of these admittedly relevant facts, I turned to more practical thoughts: none of the qualities on that list were unique to Edward. The combination wasn't unique to Edward. The combination wasn't even unique to Edward among people I knew, although his brothers were both taken and neither similarly approximated what I considered my "type" except for the fact that I'd never dated. Edward was not the only person interested in me, even as of the previous week and a half. If he had other, rarer personal traits that would also appeal to me, I didn't know about them yet.

At any rate, there was simply no call to rush anything. We were both going to live forever. And once I was a vampire, too, I'd be better able to separate the part where maybe I wanted Edward from the part where maybe I didn't have any other choice.

"Time to go," Edward said after a very, very long conversational lull.

"Alice said she'd call," I pointed out.

Edward grinned. "I'm the phone," he said.

Oh. "I see. You can drive if you promise not to speed."

"I actually thought we'd go on foot. It would be hard to get your truck to the spot Alice sees us at, so we couldn't drive all the way there anyway."

"I don't actually know how far away your house is -" I began, thinking to protest on behalf of my knees and feet and other parts easily made sore and inspired to rebellion.

"Too far for you to walk," cut in Edward, and I made a small huffing noise, but he was telling me something I wanted to know, and I could always inform him later that he shouldn't interrupt me. "At least if you wanted to get there today. I'll take you."

"You propose to carry me a distance of several miles," I said skeptically. Of course he could physically lift something of my size and run that far. But could he carry me like that - picking me up and hauling me around, putting me awfully near his nose - without wanting to take a bite just a bit too much? It didn't sound very comfortable, either.

"I'm faster than your truck, Charlie would be as scandalized as could be if he knew that you're associating with vampires anyway and it won't get any worse if you let me cart you around, I can avoid any easily frightened onlookers, running very fast is not illegal, and the scenery at our destination is nicer than anything you'd see from the highway," he said, smiling patiently. "Besides, then we can skip the part of the tests where you have to find a good vantage point to watch us run an interesting distance."

These things were likely all true. "Are you sure that this won't make me extra likely to arrive needing a visit to the Red Cross's juice and cookies table?"

It took him a moment to piece that together, and then he looked solemn. "I won't hurt you, Bella," he said softly.

I closed my eyes, screening off some distracting and irrelevant input about the color of his eyes (gold, still). "I am aware that you do not prefer to hurt me, that you know it would be wrong to hurt me, and that you will try not to hurt me. I'm also aware that when I was seven I did not prefer to steal, and knew it was wrong, and tried not to, and still wound up with Renée's bake sale contribution half on my face and half in my stomach, because chocolate is very delicious. And I'm aware that you find me very delicious."

I opened my eyes again. Edward was looking at me sadly, hurt by my mistrust. "Alice doesn't see you dead," he reminded me.

I frowned to myself, retrieved Alice's weather predictions from my pocket, and confirmed that it was misting just like she'd said to expect for this thirty-four minute period of Thursday afternoon. I folded up the paper again and put it away. "So I'm given to understand."

"Is there anything else I can do to help you feel safe?" he asked.

This was a fair question. And the obvious answer, don't eat me, was silly: if he ate me, I would not be afraid anymore. "Let me think," I requested, and he nodded.

I thought. Edward already knew about the notebooks, so I supposed I could write without giving up information I wanted to keep to myself, but decided against it. First, it would be a poor choice to needlessly tease him with the fact that the notebooks were for my eyes only. Second, I'd heard of a trick where even a human could guess what was being written: one gave someone a big squeaky marker, looked away, and told them to write a number from one to ten, and listened for duration and number of strokes of the pen. It was a lot better than chance, and I guessed that vampire hearing could probably distinguish all the letters of the alphabet if the vampire in question cared to try. One trait I did not ascribe to Edward was the tendency to scrupulously avoid picking up on information that was available to him.

"How often do humans smell extra tasty to vampires in general?" I asked.

"Not often. You're the only one, for me - I've been a vampire since 1918," he supplied as I opened my mouth to ask. "Emmett says it's... happened... to him twice, since turning in 1935. One stronger than the other. No one else I know. But," he added reluctantly, "neither of Emmett's were as strong as you."

"Did Emmett eat his two?" I asked baldly, and Edward nodded slightly, frowning and not looking at me. "And have you, Edward, personally ever eaten a human?" I was actually not sure what the answer to this would be. If Emmett belonged to the family and had eaten at least two people, Edward could too; clearly they did not eject relatives for small lapses like murder.

He hesitated. Just a little too long.

"I'm going to drive," I said. "Alice or someone else can meet us and carry me over the tricky section." And I got up and stalked towards my car.