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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 2
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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 ignored.
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.
"Getting older," I answered anyway, and my voice was not as steady as I wanted it to be.
Beside me, Edward's smile tightened into a hard line.
"Eighteen isn't very old," Alice said. "Don't women usually wait till they're twenty-nine to get upset over birthdays?"
"It's older than Edward," I mumbled.
"Technically," she said, keeping her tone light. "Just by one little year, though."
And I supposed�� if I could be sure of the future I wanted, sure that I would get to spend forever with Edward, and Alice and the rest of the Cullens (preferably not as a wrinkled little old lady)�� then a year or two one direction or the other wouldn't matter to me so much. But Edward was dead set against any future that changed me. Any future that made me like him��that made me immortal, too.
An impasse, he called it.
I couldn't really see Edward's point, to be honest. What was so great about mortality? Being a vampire didn't look like such a terrible thing��not the way the Cullens did it, anyway.
"What time will you be at the house?" Alice continued, changing the subject. From her expression, she was up to exactly the kind of thing I'd been hoping to avoid.
"I didn't know I had plans to be there."
"Oh, be fair, Bella!" she complained. "You aren't going to ruin all our fun like that, are you?"
"I thought my birthday was about what I want."
"I'll get her from Charlie's right after school," Edward told her, ignoring me altogether.
"I have to work," I protested.
"You don't, actually," Alice told me smugly. "I already spoke to Mrs. Newton about it. She's trading your shifts. She said to tell you 'Happy Birthday.'"
"I��I still can't come over," I stammered, scrambling for an excuse. "I, well, I haven't watched Romeo and Juliet yet for English."
Alice snorted. "You have Romeo and Juliet memorized."
"But Mr. Berty said we needed to see it performed to fully appreciate it��that's how Shakespeare intended it to be presented."
Edward rolled his eyes.
"You've already seen the movie," Alice accused.
"But not the nineteen-sixties version. Mr. Berty said it was the best."
Finally, Alice lost the smug smile and glared at me. "This can be easy, or this can be hard, Bella, but one way or the other��"
Edward interrupted her threat. "Relax, Alice. If Bella wants to watch a movie, then she can. It's her birthday."
"So there," I added.
"I'll bring her over around seven," he continued. "That will give you more time to set up."
Alice's laughter chimed again. "Sounds good. See you tonight, Bella! It'll be fun, you'll see." She grinned��the wide smile exposed all her perfect, glistening teeth��then pecked me on the cheek and danced off toward her first class before I could respond.
"Edward, please��" I started to beg, but he pressed one cool finger to my lips.
"Let's discuss it later. We're going to be late for class."
No one bothered to stare at us as we took our usual seats in the back of the classroom (we had almost every class together now��it was amazing the favors Edward could get the female administrators to do for him). Edward and I had been together too long now to be an object of gossip anymore. Even Mike Newton didn't bother to give me the glum stare that used to make me feel a little guilty. He smiled now instead, and I was glad he seemed to have accepted that we could only be friends. Mike had changed over the summer��his face had lost some of the roundness, making his cheekbones more prominent, and he was wearing his pale blond hair a new way; instead of bristly, it was longer and gelled into a carefully casual disarray. It was easy to see where his inspiration came from��but Edward's look wasn't something that could be achieved through imitation.
As the day progressed, I considered ways to get out of whatever was going down at the Cullen house tonight. It would be bad enough to have to celebrate when I was in the mood to mourn. But, worse than that, this was sure to involve attention and gifts.
Attention is never a good thing, as any other accident-prone klutz would agree. No one wants a spotlight when they're likely to fall on their face.
And I'd very pointedly asked��well, ordered really��that no one give me any presents this year. It looked like Charlie and Renee weren't the only ones who had decided to overlook that.
I'd never had much money, and that had never bothered me. Renee had raised me on a kindergarten teacher's salary. Charlie wasn't getting rich at his job, either��he was the police chief here in the tiny town of Forks. My only personal income came from the three days a week I worked at the local sporting goods store. In a town this small, I was lucky to have a job. Every penny I made went into my microscopic college fund. (College was Plan B. I was still hoping for Plan A, but Edward was just so stubborn about leaving me human��)
Edward had a lot of money��I didn't even want to think about how much. Money meant next to nothing to Edward or the rest of the Cullens. It was just something that accumulated when you had unlimited time on your hands and a sister who had an uncanny ability to predict trends in the stock market. Edward didn't seem to understand why I objected to him spending money on me��why it made me uncomfortable if he took me to an expensive restaurant in Seattle, why he wasn't allowed to buy me a car that could reach speeds over fifty-five miles an hour, or why I wouldn't let him pay my college tuition (he was ridiculously enthusiastic about Plan B). Edward thought I was being unnecessarily difficult.
But how could I let him give me things when I had nothing to reciprocate with? He, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to be with me. Anything he gave me on top of that just threw us more out of balance.
As the day went on, neither Edward nor Alice brought my birthday up again, and I began to relax a little.
We sat at our usual table for lunch.
A strange kind of truce existed at that table. The three of us��Edward, Alice, and I��sat on the extreme southern end of the table. Now that the "older" and somewhat scarier (in Emmett's case, certainly) Cullen siblings had graduated, Alice and Edward did not seem quite so intimidating, and we did not sit here alone. My other friends, Mike and Jessica (who were in the awkward post-breakup friendship phase), Angela and Ben (whose relationship had survived the summer), Eric, Conner, Tyler, and Lauren (though that last one didn't really count in the friend category) all sat at the same table, on the other side of an invisible line.
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