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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 23

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There was an edge to her voice that caught my interest.

Jess, not so much. "That's too bad," she said, about to launch into her story. But I wasn't the only one who was paying attention.

"What happened?" Lauren asked curiously.

"Well," Angela said, seeming more hesitant than usual, though she was always reserved, "we drove up north, almost to the hot springs��there's a good spot just about a mile up the trail. But, when we were halfway there�� we saw something."

"Saw something? What?" Lauren's pale eyebrows pulled together. Even Jess seemed to be listening now.

"I don't know," Angela said. "We think it was a bear. It was black, anyway, but it seemed�� too big."

Lauren snorted. "Oh, not you, too!" Her eyes turned mocking, and I decided I didn't need to give her the benefit of the doubt. Obviously her personality had not changed as much as her hair. "Tyler tried to sell me that one last week."

"You're not going to see any bears that close to the resort," Jessica said, siding with Lauren.

"Really," Angela protested in a low voice, looking down at the table. "We did see it."

Lauren snickered.
Mike was still talking to Conner, not paying attention to the girls.

"No, she's right," I threw in impatiently. "We had a hiker in just Saturday who saw the bear, too, Angela. He said it was huge and black and just outside of town, didn't he, Mike?"

There was a moment of silence. Every pair of eyes at the table turned to stare at me in shock. The new girl, Katie, had her mouth hanging open like she'd just witnessed an explosion. Nobody moved.

"Mike?" I muttered, mortified. "Remember the guy with the bear story?"

"S-sure," Mike stuttered after a second. I didn't know why he was looking at me so strangely. I talked to him at work, didn't I? Did I? I thought so��

Mike recovered. "Yeah, there was a guy who said he saw a huge black bear right at the trailhead��bigger than a grizzly," he confirmed.

"Hmph." Lauren turned to Jessica, her shoulders stiff, and changed the subject.

"Did you hear back from USC?" she asked.

Everyone else looked away, too, except for Mike and Angela. Angela smiled at me tentatively, and I hurried to return the smile.

"So, what did you do this weekend, Bella?" Mike asked, curious, but oddly wary.

Everyone but Lauren looked back, waiting for my response.

"Friday night, Jessica and I went to a movie in Port Angeles. And then I spent Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday down at La Push."

The eyes flickered to Jessica and back to me. Jess looked irritated. I wondered if she didn't want anyone to know she'd gone out with me, or whether she just wanted to be the one to tell the story.

"What movie did you see?" Mike asked, starting to smile.

"Dead End��the one with the zombies." I grinned in encouragement. Maybe some of the damage I'd done in these past zombie months was reparable.

"I heard that was scary. Did you think so?" Mike was eager to continue the conversation.

"Bella had to leave at the end, she was so freaked," Jessica inserted with a sly smile.

I nodded, trying to look embarrassed. "It was pretty scary."

Mike didn't stop asking me questions till lunch was over. Gradually, the others were able to start up their own conversations again, though they still looked at me a lot. Angela talked mostly to Mike and me, and, when I got up to dump my tray, she followed.

"Thanks," she said in a low voice when we were away from the table.

"For what?"

"Speaking up, sticking up for me."

"No problem."

She looked at me with concern, but not the offensive, maybe-she's-lost-it kind. "Are you okay?"

This is why I'd picked Jessica over Angela��though I'd always liked Angela more��for the girls' night movie. Angela was too perceptive.

"Not completely," I admitted. "But I'm a little bit better."

"I'm glad," she said. "I've missed you."

Lauren and Jessica strolled by us then, and I heard Lauren whisper loudly, "Oh, joy Bella's back."

Angela rolled her eyes at them, and smiled at me in encouragement.

I sighed It was like I was starting all over again.

"What's today's date?" I wondered suddenly.

"It's January nineteenth."


"What is it?" Angela asked.

"It was a year ago yesterday that I had my first day here," I mused.

"Nothing's changed much," Angela muttered, looking after Lauren and Jessica.

"I know, I agreed I was just thinking the same thing."

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I WASN'T SURE WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING HERE Was I trying to push myself back into the zombie stupor? Had I turned masochistic��developed a taste for torture? I should have gone straight down to La Push I felt much, much healthier around Jacob This was not a healthy thing to do.

But I continued to drive slowly down the overgrown lane, twisting through the trees that arched over me like a green, living tunnel My hands were shaking, so I tightened my grip on the steering wheel.

I knew that part of the reason I did this was the nightmare, now that I was really awake, the nothingness of the dream gnawed on my nerves, a dog worrying a bone.

There was something to search for. Unattainable and impossible, uncaring and distracted�� but he was out there, somewhere. I had to believe that.

The other part was the strange sense of repetition I'd felt at school today, the coincidence of the date. The feeling that I was starting over��perhaps the way my first day would have gone if I'd really been the most unusual person in the cafeteria that afternoon.

The words ran through my head, tonelessly, like I was reading them rather than hearing them spoken:

It will be as if I'd never existed.

I was lying to myself by splitting my reason for coming here into just two parts. I didn't want to admit the strongest motivation. Because it was mentally unsound.

The truth was that I wanted to hear his voice again, like I had in the strange delusion Friday night. For that brief moment, when his voice came from some other part of me than my conscious memory, when his voice was perfect and honey smooth rather than the pale echo my memories usually produced, I was able to remember without pain. It hadn't lasted; the pain had caught up with me, as I was sure it would for this fool's errand. But those precious moments when I could hear him again were an irresistible lure. I had to find some way to repeat the experience�� or maybe the better word was episode.

I was hoping that d��j�� vu was the key. So I was going to his home, a place I hadn't been since my ill-fated birthday party, so many months ago.

The thick, almost jungle-like growth crawled slowly past my windows. The drive wound on and on. I started to go faster, getting edgy. How long had I been driving? Shouldn't I have reached the house yet? The lane was so overgrown that it did not look familiar.

What if I couldn't find it? I shivered. What if there was no tangible proof at all?

Then there was the break in the trees that I was looking for, only it was not so pronounced as before. The flora here did not wait long to reclaim any land that was left unguarded. The tall ferns had infiltrated the meadow around the house, crowding against the trunks of the cedars, even the wide porch. It was like the lawn had been flooded��waist-high��with green, feathery waves.

And the house was there, but it was not the same. Though nothing had changed on the outside, the emptiness screamed from the blank windows. It was creepy. For the first time since I'd seen the beautiful house, it looked like a fitting haunt for vampires.

I hit the brakes, looking away. I was afraid to go farther.

But nothing happened. No voice in my head.

So I left the engine running and jumped out into the fern sea. Maybe, like Friday night, if I walked forward��

I approached the barren, vacant face slowly, my truck rumbling out a comforting roar behind me. I stopped when I got to the porch stairs, because there was nothing here. No lingering sense of their presence�� of his presence. The house was solidly here, but it meant little. Its concrete reality would not counteract the nothingness of the nightmares.

I didn't go any closer. I didn't want to look in the windows. I wasn't sure which would be harder to see. If the rooms were bare, echoing empty from floor to ceiling, that would certainly hurt. Like my grandmother's funeral, when my mother had insisted that I stay outside during the viewing. She had said that I didn't need to see Gran that way, to remember her that way, rather than alive.

But wouldn't it be worse if there were no change? If the couches sat just as I'd last seen them, the paintings on the walls��worse still, the piano on its low platform? It would be second only to the house disappearing all together, to see that there was no physical possession that tied them in anyway. That everything remained, untouched and forgotten, behind them.

Just like me.

I turned my back on the gaping emptiness and hurried to my truck.

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