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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 17

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"Stay and hang out with us."

"Thanks, but I can't." Jessica was hesitating in the middle of the street, her eyes wide with outrage and betrayal.

"Oh, just a few minutes."

I shook my head, and turned to rejoin Jessica.

"Let's go eat," I suggested, barely glancing at her. Though I appeared to be, for the moment, freed of the zombie abstraction, I was just as distant. My mind was preoccupied. The safe, numb deadness did not come back, and I got more anxious with every minute that passed without its return.

"What were you thinking?" Jessica snapped. "You don't know them��they could have been psychopaths!"

I shrugged, wishing she would let it go. "I just thought I knew the one guy."

"You are so odd, Bella Swan. I feel like I don't know who you are."

"Sorry." I didn't know what else to say to that.

We walked to McDonald's in silence. I'd bet that she was wishing we'd taken her car instead of walking the short distance from the theater, so that she could use the drive-through. She was just as anxious now for this evening to be over as I had been from the beginning.

I tried to start a conversation a few times while we ate, but Jessica was not cooperative. I must have really offended her.

When we go back in the car, she tuned the stereo back to her favorite station and turned the volume too loud to allow easy conversation.

I didn't have to struggle as hard as usual to ignore the music. Even though my mind, for once, was not carefully numb and empty, I had too much to think about to hear the lyrics.

I waited for the numbness to return, or the pain. Because the pain must be coming. I'd broken my personal rules. Instead of shying away from the memories, I'd walked forward and greeted them. I'd heard his voice, so clearly, in my head. That was going to cost me, I was sure of it. Especially if I couldn't reclaim the haze to protect myself. I felt too alert, and that frightened me.

But relief was still the strongest emotion in my body��relief that came from the very core of my being.

As much as I struggled not to think of him, I did not struggle to forget. I worried��late in the night, when the exhaustion of sleep deprivation broke down my defenses��that it was all slipping away. That my mind was a sieve, and I would someday not be able to remember the precise color of his eyes, the feel of his cool skin, or the texture of his voice. I could not think of them, but I must remember them.

Because there was just one thing that I had to believe to be able to live��I had to know that he existed. That was all. Everything else I could endure. So long as he existed.

That's why I was more trapped in Forks than I ever had been before, why I'd fought with Charlie when he suggested a change. Honestly, it shouldn't matter; no one was ever coming back here.

But if I were to go to Jacksonville, or anywhere else bright and unfamiliar, how could I be sure he was real? In a place where I could never imagine him, the conviction might fade�� and that I could not live through.

Forbidden to remember, terrified to forget; it was a hard line to walk.

I was surprised when Jessica stopped the car in front of my house. The ride had not taken long, but, short as it seemed, I wouldn't have thought that Jessica could go that long without speaking.

"Thanks for going out with me, Jess," I said as I opened my door. "That was��fun." I hoped that fun was the appropriate word.

"Sure," she muttered.

"I'm sorry about�� after the movie."

"Whatever, Bella." She glared out the windshield instead of looking at me. She seemed to be growing angrier rather than getting over it.

"See you Monday?"

"Yeah. Bye."

I gave up and shut the door. She drove away, still without looking at me.

I'd forgotten her by the time I was inside.

Charlie was waiting for me in the middle of the hall, his arms folded tight over his chest with his hands balled into fists.

"Hey, Dad," I said absentmindedly as I ducked around Charlie, heading for the stairs. I'd been thinking about him for too long, and I wanted to be upstairs before it caught up with me.

"Where have you been?" Charlie demanded.

I looked at my dad, surprised. "I went to a movie in Port Angeles with Jessica. Like I told you this morning."

"Humph," he grunted.

"Is that okay?"

He studied my face, his eyes widening as if he saw something unexpected. "Yeah, that's fine. Did you havefun?"

"Sure," I said. "We watched zombies eat people. It was great."

His eyes narrowed.

"'Night, Dad."

He let me pass. I hurried to my room.

I lay in my bed a few minutes later, resigned as the pain finally made its appearance.

It was a crippling thing, this sensation that a huge hole had been punched through my chest, excising my most vital organs and leaving ragged, unhealed gashes around the edges that continued to throb and bleed despite the passage of time. Rationally, I knew my lungs must still be intact, yet I gasped for air and my head spun like my efforts yielded me nothing. My heart must have been beating, too, but I couldn't hear the sound of my pulse in my ears; my hands felt blue with cold. I curled inward, hugging my ribs to hold myself together
. I scrambled for my numbness, my denial, but it evaded me.

And yet, I found I could survive. I was alert, I felt the pain��the aching loss that radiated out from my chest, sending wracking waves of hurt through my limbs and head��but it was manageable. I could live through it. It didn't feel like the pain had weakened over time, rather that I'd grown strong enough to bear it.

Whatever it was that had happened tonight��and whether it was the zombies, the adrenaline, or the hallucinations that were responsible��it had woken me up.

For the first time in a long time, I didn't know what to expect in the morning.

"BELLA, WHY DON'T YOU TAKE OFF," MIKE SUGGESTED, his eyes focused off to the side, not really looking at me. I wondered how long that had been going on without me noticing.

It was a slow afternoon at Newton's. At the moment there were only two patrons in the store, dedicated backpackers from the sound of their conversation. Mike had spent the last hour going through the pros and cons of two brands of lightweight packs with them. But they'd taken a break from serious pricing to indulge in trying to one-up each other with their latest tales from the trail. Their distraction had given Mike a chance to escape.

"I don't mind staying," I said. I still hadn't been able to sink back into my protective shell of numbness, and everything seemed oddly close and loud today, like I'd taken cotton out of my ears. I tried to tune out the laughing hikers without success.

"I'm telling you," said the thickset man with the orange beard that didn't match his dark brown hair. "I've seen grizzlies pretty close up in Yellowstone, but they had nothing on this brute." His hair was matted, and his clothes looked like they'd been on his back for more than a few days. Fresh from the mountains.

"Not a chance. Black bears don't get that big. The grizzlies you saw were probably cubs." The second man was tall and lean, his face tanned and wind-whipped into an impressive leathery crust.

"Seriously, Bella, as soon as these two give up, I'm closing the place down," Mike murmured.

"If you want me to go��" I shrugged.

"On all fours it was taller than you," the bearded man insisted while I gathered my things together. "Big as a house and pitch-black. I'm going to report it to the ranger here. People ought to be warned��this wasn't up on the mountain, mind you��this was only a few miles from the trailhead."

Leather-face laughed and rolled his eyes. "Let me guess��you were on your way in? Hadn't eaten real food or slept off the ground in a week, right?"

"Hey, uh, Mike, right?" the bearded man called, looking toward us.

"See you Monday," I mumbled.

"Yes, sir," Mike replied, turning away.

"Say, have there been any warnings around here recently��about black bears?"

"No, sir. But it's always good to keep your distance and store your food correctly. Have you seen the new bear-safe canisters? They only weigh two pounds��"

The doors slid open to let me out into the rain. I hunched over inside my jacket as I dashed for my truck. The rain hammering against my hood sounded unusually loud, too, but soon the roar of the engine drowned out everything else.

I didn't want to go back to Charlie's empty house. Last night had been particularly brutal, and I had no desire to revisit the scene of the suffering. Even after the pain had subsided enough for me to sleep, it wasn't over. Like I'd told Jessica after the movie, there was never any doubt that I would have nightmares.

I always had nightmares now, every night. Not nightmares really, not in the plural, because it was always the same nightmare. You'd think I'd get bored after so many months, grow immune to it.

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