Edward lifted the discarded application and laid it gently in front of me again. "I think you'd like New Hampshire," he said. "There's a full complement of night courses for me, and the forests are very conveniently located for the avid hiker. Plentiful wildlife." He pulled out the crooked smile he knew I couldn't resist.
I took a deep breath through my nose.
"I'll let you pay me back, if that makes you happy," he promised. "If you want, I can charge you interest."
"Like I could even get in without some enormous bribe. Or was that part of the loan? The new Cullen wing of the library? Ugh. Why are we having this discussion again?"
"Will you just fill out the application, please, Bella? It won't hurt you to apply."
My jaw flexed. "You know what? I don't think I will."
I reached for the papers, planning to crumple them into a suitable shape for lobbing at the trashcan, but they were already gone. I stared at the empty table for a moment, and then at Edward. He didn't appear to have moved, but the application was probably already tucked away in his jacket.
"What are you doing?" I demanded.
"I sign your name better than you do yourself. You've already written the essays."
"You're going way overboard with this, you know." I whispered on the off chance that Charlie wasn't completely lost in his game. "I really don't need to apply anywhere else. I've been accepted in Alaska. I can almost afford the first semester's tuition. It's as good an alibi as any. There's no need to throw away a bunch of money, no matter whose it is."
A pained look tightened his face. "Bella --"
"Don't start. I agree that I need to go through the motions for Charlie's sake, but we both know I'm not going to be in any condition to go to school next fall. To be anywhere near people."
My knowledge of those first few years as a new vampire was sketchy. Edward had never gone into details -- it wasn't his favorite subject -- but I knew it wasn't pretty. Self-control was apparently an acquired skill. Anything more than correspondence school was out of the question.
"I thought the timing was still undecided," Edward reminded me softly. "You might enjoy a semester or two of college. There are a lot of human experiences you've never had."
"I'll get to those afterward."
"They won't be human experiences afterward. You don't get a second chance at humanity, Bella."
I sighed. "You've got to be reasonable about the timing, Edward. It's just too dangerous to mess around with."
"There's no danger yet," he insisted.
I glared at him. No danger? Sure. I only had a sadistic vampire trying to avenge her mate's death with my own, preferably through some slow and torturous method. Who was worried about Victoria? And, oh yeah, the Volturi -- the vampire royal family with their small army of vampire warriors -- who insisted that my heart stop beating one way or another in the near future, because humans weren't allowed to know they existed. Right. No reason at all to panic.
Even with Alice keeping watch -- Edward was relying on her uncannily accurate visions of the future to give us advance warning -- it was insane to take chances.
Besides, I'd already won this argument. The date for my transformation was tentatively set for shortly after my graduation from high school, only a handful of weeks away.
A sharp jolt of unease pierced my stomach as I realized how short the time really was. Of course this change was necessary -- and the key to what I wanted more than everything else in the world put together -- but I was deeply conscious of Charlie sitting in the other room enjoying his game, just like every other night. And my mother, Ren?e, far away in sunny Florida, still pleading with me to spend the summer on the beach with her and her new husband. And Jacob, who, unlike my parents, would know exactly what was going on when I disappeared to some distant school. Even if my parents didn't grow suspicious for a long time, even if I could put off visits with excuses about travel expenses or study loads or illnesses, Jacob would know the truth.
For a moment, the idea of Jacob's certain revulsion overshadowed every other pain.
"Bella," Edward murmured, his face twisting when he read the distress in mine. "There's no hurry. I won't let anyone hurt you. You can take all the time you need."
"I want to hurry," I whispered, smiling weakly, trying to make a joke of it. "I want to be a monster, too."
His teeth clenched; he spoke through them. "You have no idea what you're saying." Abruptly, he flung the damp newspaper onto the table in between us. His finger stabbed the headline on the front page:
DEATH TOLL ON THE RISE, POLICE FEAR GANG ACTIVITY
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Monsters are not a joke, Bella."
I stared at the headline again, and then up to his hard expression. "A . . . a vampire is doing this?" I whispered.
He smiled without humor. His voice was low and cold. "You'd be surprised, Bella, at how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news. It's easy to recognize, when you know what to look for. The information here indicates a newborn vampire is loose in Seattle. Bloodthirsty, wild, out of control. The way we all were."
About the book:
As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob --- knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?
Snippet from A Fine Balance
- Rohinton Mistry
Snippet from Fathers and Sons
- Ivan Turgenev